Ready for Summer Break

30 05 2012

The sun is shining and I’m at my desk typing this post. If I wasn’t typing this post, I’d be doing something else – like working on my literary analysis of Jack London’s White Fang or editing four poems that are due this week. Instead, I’m glancing wistfully out the window and griping to you – my faithful readers (what? Are there about 5 of you now?)

Even though my youngest son has been home from college for three weeks, I am still doing work. Even though my older son will get done with his junior year at the same time my students at the middle school finish, I will still have homework. The biggest problem I have with being a non-traditional student is that there are very few breaks. I got mine during the Christmas season, so now there’s nothing until September.

My husband asked me, “Why don’t you just take a term off?” I’m pretty sure we can all answer that. Maybe even in unison. I want to get DONE! If I take time off, it just means that much longer before I’m done with my degree.

So, enough whining already. It must be about time for me to get back to work. Feel free to comment your own gripes or send me an encouraging word. I hope to begin posting at least once per week once I’m done with my job for the summer (June 15th – not that I’m counting down or anything!)


Writing a Blog (A Villanelle)

19 05 2012

Better to think before you write

The post of haste you can’t recall

Knowing strong words can cause a fight

Over controversy you invite

With phrases carved upon your wall.

Better to think before you write

About the pen and all its might

Sending out revolution’s call

Knowing strong words can cause a fight

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Prolonged all day and into the night

Until the final objectors fall.

Better to think before you write

Metaphors birthed from inner light

Beckoning, scoffing, affecting all

Knowing strong words can cause a fight,

Violent emotions to incite

Tumultuous thoughts like a squall.

Better to think before you write

Knowing strong words can cause a fight.

Happy Mother’s Day

13 05 2012

I wanted to take this opportunity to commend all the mothers out there who juggle so many varied tasks and still manage to get it all accomplished. In my mind, one day is not enough to celebrate all that the word “Mother” encompasses.

I was fortunate enough to have my oldest son drive over five hours to be with me for this special day. My youngest son was out of town with my mother until just this afternoon. However, he called at 8 a.m. this morning to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. Each year, my kids mature and become more responsible and I think maybe I didn’t mess them up too much. Either that or the fact that Mr. Wonderful is their father is showing through more and more.

So, if you’re a mother, take an inventory today. Instead of picking up your textbook or writing another paper, take some time to appreciate your kids. No matter their age right now, they will be grown up before you’re ready.

Are you Ready for Poetic Pontifications?

9 05 2012

This term I’m taking two classes, exactly as I have for the past however many terms I’ve been going to college (seems like 50 most days). As usual, the classes seem to complement each other; like there might be someone coordinating these things so the learning can flow more naturally. My literature class is “The Nature Writers” and my English class is a poetry writing workshop.

Writing poetry was a nearly daily occurrence in my life between my 14th and 18th year. Needless to say, that was awhile ago. In the past ten years, I may have written 10 poems. Four of those were for my introductory creative writing class last summer.


I’m a fan of rhyme and rhythm in poetry. This loosey-goosey free form poetry generally drives me batty. It just seems like a bunch of disconnected sentence fragments without punctuation or capitalization. Meter lends precision to a poem and rhyme tickles the ear’s expectation.

Today I wrote a poem with no rhyme or rhythm, 23 lines of free-style. In defense of my previous stance, it had form, though. It had a two-syllable word at the beginning, every sixth line and at the end.  There was alliteration within each five-line stanza. It flowed like melted butter from the end of my pencil onto the notebook paper.

One thing I know, I will be able to write some of the more difficult forms by the end of the class. We have to write a villanelle, sonnet and sestina (feel free to Google these, I did). I’ve already seen a triolet and tanka (yes, I used Goggle to define these, as well) in the first week’s “Poet’s Notebook.” Oh, there were two haikus, but everyone knows what those are! I submitted the pantoum I had written last summer for that other class.


The instructor posted the guidelines for constructive criticism as part of the class documents. After all, every week (starting next week), we will be expected to critique the two poems posted by the members of our group. That means I will read eight poems and have to give constructive criticism on them.

What do I know about poetry? I know if I like it or not. That’s really irrelevant, I think. After all, an enormous body of poetry has been published and lauded which I find droll or distasteful or downright dull. Some of it makes no sense. Some of it seems like meaningless drivel. Obviously, my opinion doesn’t line up with popular opinion.

Of course, this means that I will have four people reading my poems and constructively criticizing them. Will I be able to weather these continual barrages? Some of the responses might be trite, “Very well-written” comments, but the instructor is grading us on our responses and I’m pretty sure such bland remarks will not merit full points.


Does this course offer valuable experience for me? I believe it does. The ability to read any written work and offer a critical explanation of it seems important. Reading between the lines of poetry to determine symbolism and metaphor and deeper meaning will enable me to read all literature in a more evaluative light (I hope).

Week after week of commentary on my poetry (some of which I spent 15 minutes writing and two minutes polishing) should thicken my skin to criticism. Not in a way that means I can’t glean the worthwhile portions and apply them to improve my writing, but in a way that won’t make me curl into a fetal position and weep when I open another rejection letter from a publisher or agent. After all, maybe they just didn’t “get me” and the next person I mail my manuscript out to will.

One thing I’ve already noticed: going to sleep after thinking about crafting poetry isn’t very easy. I guess this means I need to write my poems early in the day or save them for weekends. I wrote two today! I’ve got my villanelle ready to go for next week. I’ve got a couple sketchy starts on sonnets.

Oh, and I’ve read Whitman and Snyder poems for the first week of my literature class and Hardy and Frost are on the docket for the second week. Needless to say, many of my poems may be nature poems.

A College Education Has Value Part 2

3 05 2012

I hope you enjoyed hearing about high school and college directly from the mouths of people who are living it now. Of course, I was happy to learn that my sons’ career choices were topping the chart for valuable degrees. Too bad the same can’t be said about my English and literature degree. However, since we’ve already established that I’m pursuing the degree to chase my dream of becoming a published author – it’s all good.

Finishing out the story, I spend some time talking about paying for college ( something which is at the forefront of most of our minds) and share some more statistical data about salaries and loan amounts.

Last time…
Tanner Hughson, 21, and Thad Hughson, 18, talked frankly about being prepared for college.  Let’s hear what they have to say about paying for college.

For many, paying for college seems like an insurmountable issue. Statistics show a positive correlation between rising tuition rates and the average amount of debt incurred while obtaining a bachelor’s degree.  While the tuition rates have increased 92 percent since 2000, the average debt per student rose 18 percent. The College Board now estimates that 60 percent of college graduates will owe $22,700 on average for their four years at university.

Tanner and Thad Hughson are among the numbers who are using student loans to help finance their college education.

“I’ve had summer jobs to pay for living expenses,” Tanner says, “and then loans to pay for school.” He expects he will owe around $20,000 when he graduates in 2013.

Thad didn’t have to worry about his freshman tuition because his parents agreed to pay for the first year of college for their sons. When asked how he would pay for the next three years, Thad replies, “I plan to have a job, scholarships and financial aid.”

Thad has some lofty career goals. “Ultimately, I want to be a business marketer between Japanese and American companies,” Thad explains. He visited Japan as a student ambassador when he was 14 years old and their culture impressed him enough that he hopes to return to Japan someday, possibly to even live there.

Prospects in the business field look bright. Over a million new jobs requiring business degrees are expected to be created between 2008 and 2018, an increase of 17.7 percent.  At $41,100, the median starting salary might keep Thad paying off student loans for quite some time if he incurs the $60,000 of debt he expects.


Even with this burden of debt, college seems like the best choice when comparing average salaries. People with a high school diploma or the equivalent earn an annual median salary of $30,000. The median starting salary for software engineers is $56,700. This makes Tanner’s projected college debt look like a solid investment in his future.


Only ten minutes after the interview ends, Tanner and Thad saunter out of the house to keep a semi-annual cleaning appointment with their dentist. As they drive away, a belt on Tanner’s white Hyundai Tiburon squeals loudly enough to provoke the dog across the street into a barking tirade.
SOURCES: Christian Science Monitor n-Karlsson/2012/0220/Unemployment-gap-in-education-shrinks-in-US;; Newsweek Daily Beast; The College Board and the Department of Education National Center for Education

A College Education Has Value – Part 1

1 05 2012

The next two entries are adaptations from my final assignment for the introduction to journalism class I just completed. There’s plenty of encouraging information here to keep you stoked for college. If there’s a little bit of pride shining through…I can’t help being a mother of two amazing sons, can I?

Reclining in a beige chair in his parents’ Columbia City home with a closed laptop resting on his thighs, Thad Hughson, 18, answers questions while drumming his fingers on the laptop case. He wears a faded green t-shirt advertising Mountain Dew. Ironically, he doesn’t even drink soda, as the tall aluminum can on the table beside him bearing the Arnold Palmer logo testifies.

Only a feet away from his younger brother, Tanner Hughson, 21, reclines on both cushions of the beige loveseat. His stonewashed jeans look well-loved, with frayed edges brushing the top of his black and white sneakers. White letters on the baggy, navy-blue hooded sweatshirt announce his college of choice: Oregon Tech. When he answers the first question, the deep tone of his voice gets drowned out by a lawn mower starting up outside his parents’ home.

These young men might be encouraged to learn that statistics provided by the National Center for Education prove people with a bachelor’s degree earn 50 percent more money annually than those with only a high school diploma. Unfortunately, high unemployment rates cause many people to wonder if college degrees are worth the money since they can’t guarantee job hunting success.

The Hughson brothers have opted for seeking a college degree and currently attend university. Both of them earned Honors diplomas from St. Helens High School in St. Helens, Oregon. Tanner graduated with a 4.0 and Thad earned a 3.5 grade point average.

Thad Hughson, business major, says high school gave him a diverse educational foundation. “I knew I had a solid understanding of a majority of things on a basic level.”

Tanner, software engineering major, felt unprepared for college after high school. “Most of the classes in high school didn’t really require much effort,” Tanner says. “I didn’t really have to do much stuff outside of school in order to get good grades.”

Tanner cited methods of preparing for and taking tests as a source where major discrepancies existed between high school and college. “Most of the classes in high school for review for the test, they pretty much just give you the test,” Tanner says. In his experience, college professors answer specific questions from students during a test review session. “They tell you what to expect, categories, but they don’t give you problems.”

Oregon is one of many states implementing more stringent requirements for high school graduation, including passing assessments in the areas of math, reading and writing. Some students struggle to reach this goal and might experience burnout after graduation. Others have focused so much energy on meeting those standards; they haven’t given any thought to what comes next.

College graduates still have the best success with job hunting

Unemployment rates should encourage students toward pursuing a college degree. According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor in February 2012, people with a bachelor’s degree have the lowest unemployment rate, 4.2 percent. On the other hand, high school graduates without any college face an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.

Looking at projected job markets might help some people decide on a college major. Described as practical and responsible by his family, Tanner recommends a more logical method for choosing a major field of study. His advice is to choose something you enjoy doing and have an insatiable curiosity about. He has always been interested in computers and planned to attend Oregon Institute of Technology because it was his father’s alma mater. The fact that among small colleges OIT’s computer engineering program receives national recognition? That’s simply icing on the cake.

In these challenging economic times choosing a profitable college major and one in demand by employers seems reasonable. reported on March 31, 2012: “There are 80,000 bartenders in America with B.A.s.” Such a statement emphasizes the necessity of choosing a degree program that employers find desirable. What degrees are in demand?

According to the Newsweek Daily Beast, the future looks bright for the Hughson boys. Both business and computer engineering degrees rank high on the list of useful college degrees. This means people with these degrees have more opportunities for finding a job. Business degrees ranked number two on the list behind biomedical engineering. Software engineering made the list at number four.

SOURCES: Christian Science Monitor n-Karlsson/2012/0220/Unemployment-gap-in-education-shrinks-in-US;; Newsweek Daily Beast; The College Board and the Department of Education National Center for Education

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