Tuesday, May 16, 2017

post script

After all that travelogue, I find I'm not mentioning the shadow hovering just at the edge of my vision: I so wish my mother could have been here for this weekend, especially.  She was always, always encouraging me to go to back to school, and I know she would have been proud of me.  Then of course yesterday was Mother's Day, which is a Hallmark Holiday, wholly manufactured, sure, but still, a day when my family would get together and "open" the summer season with a big cookout at the Cape house, year after year.  That's how it was: Dad's birthday (May 4) and Mother's Day celebrated together, and  Mom's birthday (June 13) and Father's Day, celebrated together.  Forever.   No wonder I wanted bbq yesterday...

All 7 of us siblings were actively texting each other in the morning, and I had a good talk with one of my brothers, but this is a time that feels lonely for people I'll never see again.  I am more used to the feeling now.  I wish I didn't have to be.

Monday, May 15, 2017

graduation, etc

Not even half-way through the crazy times...

Last weekend was glorious.  I took Friday off from work, which meant late nights Wednesday and Thursday so everything would be ready for the substitute (the best one.)  The students have been energetic and not especially interested in instruction, which makes our jobs as teachers that much more difficult.  So the day off was most well-timed, in spite of the extra time at work it cost me.

Friday started with an early visit to physical therapy.  My lower back issues are about 98% resolved and my neck rarely bothers me, but my collarbone has become an issue as I do more upper-body work.  There is a lot of scar tissue there from my surgeries and it remains to be seen what really can be done -- but it is better, and we keep working on it.  I would like an exit strategy -- some way to know I'm done -- but at this point I don't know what that will look like.  It's kind of expensive but good for me in ways that going to the gym or taking a yoga class wouldn't be.

After the appointment, running around with a few errands, then home, and I'm not exactly sure where the time went, but then the kids were home from school and we were packing the car to head out.  We stopped at Trader Joe's for provisions for the trip, and got on the highway by 3pm, my goal.  My trip up to Flagstaff the previous week, on Monday afternoon for my Tuesday thesis defense, was at exactly the same time, but the traffic is different on Fridays!  Rush hour starts sooner, and it has been so long since I had to deal with any of it, I forgot about the Friday factor.  Fortunately, there were 3 of us in the car, so we could stay in the carpool lane for a big chunk of the ride and miss a lot of the traffic.Once we cleared Phoenix, the ride was smooth sailing the entire way, and we got to Flagstaff just before 6pm.

We stayed at a little motel just off campus, and walking distance to a lot of great restaurants.  On Friday night, DS1, DD, and I had dinner at Tinderbox Kitchen, sitting at the bar because they were still trying to accommodate reservations for post-graduation ceremony parties.  We obliged.  The bartender was both very charming and really skilled at her job, and it was very entertaining watching her work... plus I ordered two very different and delicious cocktails as a result.   (DS2 remained in Phoenix with DH for his ASP exam; he scored an Excellent from an extremely difficult adjudicator.)  The entire dinner was fantastic, then we headed back to the motel to wait for the boys, who got in just around midnight.

Saturday, graduation day, was a gorgeous day with temps in high 60s, a bright blue sky, and gusty winds.  We had breakfast in the room (I like having a fridge and a microwave!  We brought our own coffee maker... it just simplified things) and then tried to figure out how we would manage the day, unsure about parking and traffic and what-not.  We had a quick lunch at The Mayor, a quirky place with very good food, the sort that shows up often on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Then we headed over to campus to get a parking spot, and wandered around campus a bit.  We hit the bookstore and found DD's dorm -- she'll start in the fall, and is very excited to do so.

We decided to forego waiting for the shuttle bus and walked over the Sky Dome for the graduation ceremony.  I had to be there by 2pm, so I left the family and went off.  I had watched the earlier videos about how to wear the master's robe and hood, and I had a fair idea I was doing it right, but the master's hoods lack the buttons the doctoral hoods have, and it had a tendency to slide off my skinny shoulders.  I was very happy with my decision to wear my Keds rather than my black dress shoes, even though they are comfortable.  The instructions said, "Wear sensible shoes," and I just decided I would rather be able to do a lot of walking and not have to carry the other shoes around.

Graduation was fine -- it was nice being a master's candidate since we go between the PhDs (only about a dozen or so) and the bachelors (it felt like thousands -- probably was only one, though.)  In the staging area my adviser came by to visit and gave us navy stoles with the NAU logo on one side, and MAST on the other, a nice surprise.  She assured us that the administration is very good at this graduation thing, and they were, indeed.  The speakers were brief and relevant, and the awarding of degrees was pretty zippy.  Each of us had a card on which we wrote the name we wanted to be announced, and I was only a little peeved when the reader on my side of the stage skipped my middle name -- the reader on the other side read all the names each degree candidate wrote.  It was all over in a second, anyway, and then I was clutching a diploma folder and making the long trip around back to my seat.

After the master's candidates, the bachelors degrees took seeming forever.  There were rows and rows of them, but eventually it was over and then we all processed out in different directions, kind of like the arms of a starfish.  We met up outside for photos, and my faculty assured me that in a couple of years, when DS2 is out of high school, their PhD program will be up and running... sounds good to me, but 2 years is a long time, sometimes.  We'll see what happens.

Then we walked back to the car in the river of post-graduation ceremony happy people, and had a snack and hung out until our dinner reservation at 8 at the Cottage, a little French bistro just 3 minutes walk from the motel.  We had a spectacular meal.  DD was in heaven with her duck confit cassoulet, saying repeatedly it was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten.  Even DS1, who has eaten at very good French restaurants with us on several occasions, said he now "gets" French cuisine.  We had escargots for an appetizer and there were literally a dozen meaty snails in the order, enough for 4 people -- so rich!  I was trying to balance that out so I ordered the steak frites, but the rest of the family ordered the duck or coq au vin.  Desserts were an awesome chocolate cake and the truly weird but delightful iles flottant, meringues floating in creme anglaise.  Everyone was happy, then we headed back to the motel.  DH took off to come home and look after the cats, but the kids and I hung out and watched the penultimate episode of Samurai Jack, which is just killing me with how good it is. (sigh)

Sunday morning started off slightly disappointing, because we planned to go to a 9am mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel nearby, but when we arrived there we were told there was no mass, even though 3 different websites said there was!  So, change of plans: go to mass in the evening.  We packed up and headed out, and made great time getting home -- well under 3 hours.  Then, we attempted to go to the movies to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy, but I made a mistake!  The tickets I bought were for Saturday, not Sunday.  I admit, I was crushed.  I really wanted to see the movie, and I felt very foolish for making such a stupid mistake.  Of course there are no refunds in such a case, so money spent on nothing, another thing making me feel foolish.

I allowed myself a little time to feel sorry for myself but then pulled myself together and went out grocery shopping with DD, then I took the kids to the late mass at St. Mary's, and then I decided I wanted bbq for dinner so we got a ridiculous amount of food from Famous Dave's and it was all delicious, an undoubtedly good decision.

Somewhere in there, I made a final exam and end-of-year review for my 7th grade math class, because inexplicably there is no district version.  I am a little peeved about having to do that extra work, but I survived.  I also finally looked into ZipGrades, and it's going to make grading finals (all multiple choice...) a snap.  I even think I'll have fewer than 100 scans for all the finals I'm doing, so I won't have to pay until the beginning of next school year --- it's not that big a deal ($6.99), I just don't want to pay for something I'm not going to use for months because it's summer.

Only 9 days left of school, and I admit, my heart's not in it -- graduating has made my heart and head sync up to say, "I'm done!"  I want to relax and celebrate, but I have to wait a couple of weeks.  Really , the hard part is over.  I just have to hang in there.

I didn't expect to feel different when I graduated.  I thought it would be kind of like a birthday, where you feel exactly the same the day after as the day before.  I realize that it's not like that at all, because a birthday is something that happens to you simply because time is passing by.  It really has nothing to do with you, you just happen to be there.  Graduation is a completely purposeful thing, and now that it has happened, I feel lighter even than when my committee approved my thesis.  Every time I think of it, I get a big smile on my face, and it's hard for me to stay feathers-ruffled about anything for any length of time.  I don't really even know what it will be like to not be in grad school, since I feel like I've been doing the program forever.  It will be fun to find out.