Research Writing

29 06 2012

I have to admit, research for writing is so much simpler in the era of Internet and portable electronic devices. I’m sure many of my middle-aged cohorts can remember the hours spent in the library surrounded by encyclopedias and stacks of nonfiction books trying to find the exact quotation needed to highlight the main arguments of a persuasive essay.

Now we go to the library “virtually.” This is actual quite convenient since I also have virtual classes. If only such a thing as virtual homework existed, it would be a perfect world.

The sad part about all of this is that many libraries are closing their doors. The younger generation has no clue how to access information at a brick library. It’s just another instance where technology is detracting from the process. Part of this process generated a love of learning and the joy of interacting with a book. Or maybe my connectedness with these tomes is freakish and unnatural.

While I’m happy to use the Internet to do my research, it’s not any easier to sift through the possibilities to find what you need. In fact, it might even be more daunting. I just typed in my search phrase “comedic archetypes” and received 152,000 results. Good grief! That would be like the librarian putting half the library on my table.

Another thing is that the Internet is open to anyone. We all know that Wikipedia might sound like an encyclopedia, but there’s not a teacher in the world that will accept Wiki as a source in your bibliography. The same can be said of blogs and many e-zines. It makes determining what might be a viable source of information a little harried at best.

Needless to say, there should be a class on using search engines on the Internet effectively. It probably needs to occur in 5th or 6th grade.  I’m sad to say, with budget constraints and increased class sizes, students graduating from high school will be lucky to have learned this skill successfully.

Since I’ve never taken this non-existent course, I need to go to work finding sources and information for my first research paper of this new term. Can’t you hear that I’m thrilled beyond imagination at the prospect?



Prescription for a Headache: How do I pay for college?

21 06 2012

With summer underway, it’s time for college students everywhere to begin panicking wondering how to pay for the next year of higher education. Sadly, I’m no exception to that rule.

Right now, the financial aid letter from my college sits on the desk before me. I am eligible to borrow $5,500 in subsidized student loans and $7,000 in unsubsidized loans. These are just the Stafford student loans that are offered by the government. If that isn’t enough to cover the costs (it will cover my tuition costs, expected to be $11,200), a student must look to outside sources for financing.

Fortunately, my husband is an engineer and he supports our family with his salary. That means I’ll be able use all of my earnings to pay for my tuition, books and monthly pedicures. I might be able to scrape a few new clothes out of that amount, a great back-to-school haircut and color and save a few hundred for our fabulous 25th anniversary trip.

Last year, I borrowed $1500 in subsidized money and put that money toward our youngest son’s private education. I’m considering taking two terms of loans again this year ($1,800) so I can actually save enough money for our anniversary trip. I am usually the “fun master” at our house and save the big chunks of change needed for major trips. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, there hasn’t been nearly the “fun” around here with my big chunks of change heading to pay for my tuition at college.

Both of my sons will be taking student loans to finance their college again this year. I’m not sure how my youngest son is paying the $20,000 gap between the aid he’s been awarded and the necessary tuition and fees.

As I’m considering all this information, I thought I would share it with my readers. It may be nothing new, but it will help me with my decision process.

Direct Stafford Subsidized Loans

These loans are backed by the U.S. Government. I guess it’s up to you to decide if that’s really great security, or not. Perhaps, it would be more truthful to say these loans are financed by the Chinese. But I digress…

Subsidized loans accrue no interest until the note becomes due. As with all federal student loans, the note is due six months after the student is no longer a full or part-time student. At that time, I’m going to get the great interest rate of 3.4%. Many rates have jumped to 8.25%, which makes no sense with home lending rates at only 4%.

Direct Stafford Unsubsidized Loans

Unsubsidized means that you must make interest payments on your loan even while you’re in college. My oldest son took this sort of loan his sophomore year (he was the only one in college at that point) and has had to pay roughly $120 so far in interest on the $5,500 he borrowed that year. His interest rate is 6.4% on that loan, which is lower than if he’d borrowed from another source.

Private Sources

Thad and I will be checking out our local credit union for his student loan. I’m not sure what sort of rates or terms they offer.

I’ve also been checking with Discover Financial Services because I adore my Discover Card. I’ve been researching their student loan programs and their rates are 6.79% fixed or a variable rate that is currently 3.25%. I’ve had great success with Discover in the many years I’ve been with them and I’m leaning toward this avenue – if they will lend to my son, who is NOT a cardholder.

Check out their link:

What sort of financing do you use for college? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Fathers – I didn’t forget them

18 06 2012

Yesterday, I was busy honoring my husband and step-dad, so even though this post idea was percolating in my brain, it never made it on the page.

There are four fathers in my life. I’d like to take a moment to recognize them all.

Father #1 – Biological: I do have a biological father. I hardly ever see him and when I do, we don’t have much to say to each other. I’ve never really understood this, but I’ve accepted that it has nothing to do with me. He treats everyone with the same cool distance.

Father #2 – Stepfather: Some 30 or more years ago, my mother remarried. It was only a couple of years after my parents divorced, so I was rather opposed to it. The three of us, mom, Connie and I, were doing fine on our own. It didn’t turn out so well for me when I lived at home. Eventually, I moved away and I realized that this man loved my mother, would do anything for her. This was the reason he acted possessively and tried to sever our relationship. I’m glad my mom found someone to value her.

Father #3 – God: I grew up knowing all about God. He was everywhere and I completely believed in Him. Of course, the personal relationship thing was likely hindered by the fact that I didn’t know what a Father-Daughter relationship even looked like. I’ve come to realize that it has taken me many years to understand healthy love between a man and a woman. I don’t know why God loves me, or why he chose me to be His daughter, but I’ve learned more about love from Him than just about anyone else on the planet.

Father #4 – Father-in-Law: My husband’s father was a pretty demanding guy when I met him 25+ years ago. He didn’t really like me because I didn’t show proper respect (meaning I was mouthy). Eventually, we learned to tolerate each other. Now, we can tease each other and joke around. He’s become so much more relaxed since he retired from his job about 10 years ago.

Of course, my husband is also a father, but not MY father. He’s the ideal father, though; right next to God! I couldn’t have done a better job choosing the most loving dad for my sons. Someday, I hope they will pass that along to my grandchildren.  But, wait, that will be a LONG time from now. I’m much too young to be a grandmother!

Nature or Nurture

15 06 2012

I have to admit this subject really doesn’t have all that much to do with college life, but it has been central in my thoughts as I’ve been polishing my literary analysis for my Nature Writers literature class. The essay is entitled “Nature versus Nurture in White Fang” and it’s due on Saturday.

Considering Jack London was a card-carrying social evolutionist, I’m pretty sure he would be voting for nature to win the debate. Unfortunately, he didn’t write his story that way. He placed too much emphasis on environmental determinism and the use of molding and clay to represent the shaping process of the environment on the characters in the novel.

To a psychologist, the nature in this debate is hereditary qualities, not what the natural environment contributes to the situation. In essence, London’s constant harping on the molding of White Fang and other characters in the story by circumstances in their lives played directly into the hands of Team Nurture. Those psychologists believe that a person is shaped by learning from their environment and other people.

To me, the defining point is a matter of choice. Rather than going to his grave as a ferocious, unsociable wild animal, White Fang cautiously embraces domesticity. Even after five years of brutality from friend and foe, it takes only one man’s tenacious gentleness to overcome years of aloofness. Positive nurturing knocks the negative learned behaviors out of the ballpark.

What do you think? I spoke with a licensed psychologist today (a really nice guy, even if he is constantly analyzing over-analyzing everything), and he thinks it might be a 90-10 split, with nature weighing in on outcomes only 10 percent of the time. In extreme cases, nature might have a 25% foothold. Do you think that’s too high? Too low? About right?

New (and Maybe Improved) Villanelle

12 06 2012

Blogged down in Controversy

Better to think before you write

that post of haste you can’t recall,

knowing strong words can cause a fight

over some controversy you invite

with phrases carved upon your wall.


You might want to think before you write:

about the pen and all its might

stirring the pot, brewing rebellion small,

knowing strong words could cause a fight

joined by minions who in strife delight,

clawing others makes them feel tall.


Take a moment to think before you write,

about your reader and his delight

in picking at others until they fall

since your strong words caused a fight,

making violent passions ignite

contention and bickering from one and all.

Better to think before you write

those strong words, which might cause a fight.

A Cat’s Life

10 06 2012

Everyone is always using the phrase “it’s a dog’s life” as if that were the easiest thing in the world. Since I’m not much of a dog person, I’d rather think of the kind of life my cats have.

Surprise, surprise! The more I thought about it, the more I realize, that to someone else who’s looking at me, my life is pretty similar. Maybe it’s because today is Sunday or because I’ve been reading these devotionals our pastor gave us, but I felt a little irritated when I realized the connection. You know why? Read the rant I wrote yesterday and you’ll understand that my conscience was completely having a field day.

Cat = Me

Think about all the things your cat has:

  1. A place to stay – Sure, we might have a house or rent payment, but if we live by faith, we’re trusting in God to supply these needs
  2. Food to eat – We might have to put forth more effort – shopping and cooking – than our cat does, but we have it better than they did 50 years ago
  3. Family – I have a loving husband, two great sons, a sister and brother, parents and a first cousin I couldn’t live without. My cats have no one biological, but boy do I treat them like spoiled little babies!
  4. Companionship – My life is filled with people who I can interact with. I have three cats and most of the time they growl, spit and take swings at each other (sound like any of your relationships?) Sometimes though, they’re curled up on the bed sleeping together like it’s a campout.
  5. Health Plan – My cats sneeze and I wonder if they need to go to the vet. There’s someone who the Bible calls the Great Physician that’s looking out for me with even more scrutiny.
    1. Annoyances – If you’ve ever seen a cat with tape on their paws you know what I’m talking about. They hop around, crash into things and bite at the offending matter until they can get rid of it. (Don’t try this. My husband has done it many times and it makes me mad when he does it.)
      1. Let’s face it. What problem is in your life right now? Are you jumping all over the place like a cat with tape on its foot? Just like I can take the tape off, if only the cat will let me get close enough, God will take care of your problems. Sure, his minutes might be months, but He’s right beside us all the time.

    Sure, I don’t really have a cat’s life, nor do I want one. Is my life really more difficult? Only when I forget one important fact: I have a compassionate, caring “Owner” who’s waiting for me to stop running around like a crazy cat and just come to Him for assistance.

    Unfortunately, I try out my catlike independence much too often. You know the old saying: “Curiosity killed the cat.” Do I really want to go there?

Fried or Burned Out?

9 06 2012

Only five more days until I get two months off from my paid employment, so things should be looking up, right? Wrong. Before I can make it there, I have two (actually three if you count the Power point) divergent assignments for my two classes that are due the day after I get off for “summer break.” Break? Give me a break!

If this self-portrait strikes a chord with you – I understand. If you think I’m a weenie who needs to stop whining – feel free to stop reading, because I haven’t even started yet!

The Paper

Stressor #1 – I’m writing re-writing my literary analysis paper on Jack London’s White Fang. I’ve been trying to write the paper for three weeks and finally finished the rough draft two days ago only to realize it isn’t what I want to write.

I emailed my professor to see if my new thesis (the Nature vs. Nurture debate) would work. He loves it! Now I can start all over again (hopefully some of the research I spent 3 or 4 hours gathering will still be helpful) with this new and improved thesis. Did I mention it is an 8 – 10 page paper using at least three outside sources – other than the work itself?

Yeah – no stress right there.  Not even a smidgen (sarcasm, sarcasm)!

The Poem

Stressor #2 – The completely unrelated assignment that is also due next (actually Wednesday, and the paper isn’t due until Saturday) week is for my poetry writing workshop. I’m sure I mentioned this class at length in a post last month. I even posted an example of my sub-par work using an obsolete French form. (I hope I’m not sounding too negative here. If I am, get over it! I told you I was going to whine and welcomed you to stop reading at the outset.)

We’ve been posting single words or phrases over the past week. The assignment is to take these and make a coherent, cohesive and poetic verse. I challenge you to join me in this assignment. Here are the words/phrases:

  • idoneous (look it up if you don’t know what it means; it has nothing to do with idiots though!)
  • exile (completely related – NOT!)
  • sassafras (let’s have a cuppa tea)
  • anguish (starting to feel that)
  • idiocy (what this assignment is)
  • mediocre
  • epic epiphany (that is such an awesome alliteration!)
  • ostentatious (this word list, for one)
  • belligerent
  • absolution (doesn’t look as if I’ll be finding any of that)
  • compassion (not feeling that either)
  • astral projection
  • surreptitiously (if anyone’s poem carries off all these words in this manner, it’ll be amazing!)
  • ubiquitous (go ahead and look it up!)
  • champion (which is what I’ll be if I finish this assignment with a full head of hair!)

The Problem

I’m burned out on school. I’m burned out on working. I’m burned out on writing poetry. I’m burned out on doing anything that doesn’t lead directly to my dream. In fact, my brain is completely fried. I’d like to spend a week laying on the beach in Hawaii (Cozumel would also work) doing nothing at all!

Stressor #3 – I’m not going anywhere (unless you count taking my 18-year-old son to multiple medical appointments). My first week off from work is finals week for this term. The very next Monday I begin my classes for summer term. Need I remind anyone that “All work and no play” makes Shari a homicidal maniac?(Whoops! Think I completely misquoted Stephen King here, but since he’ll never read this – it’s all good.)

You know what, I understand everyone has problems. Your problems might even make my three stressors look like childproof scissors next to a switch blade. I’m not trying to bring anyone down. I just needed to get this off my chest.

Of course, what I really need to be doing is writing…

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