Sunday, August 31, 2008


These are the money days.

I've just moved into a new apartment--need to make a good first impression on my roommates (she writes after spending an hour and a half writing email in her room alone). I enter the graduate program--that's a whole list of people to impress. I teach my class in two days--that mostly involves striking appropriate fear. I'm thinking about just failing someone straight out ("You! E! Get out of my class!") just to prove to them that I can. Yeah. That'll show 'em.

Though this is a bit nervy, pins and needles, I appreciate it. How many times in your life to you get to more-or-less remake yourself every year? This is probably why I liked moving apartment complexes all the time. It's very redemptive to make a first impression over and over again. Still, I can see how this could get old and why people "settle" into people who already know them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Althusserian Hailing and the Freshman Mind

They could teach us how to set up Blackboard. How to put together a tightly worded syllabus. The relative virtues of guest lecturers. But what the freshmen should call us, no one knows.

Dr. Hedengren: Of course not. I don't have a PhD. This title is a lie.

Professor Hedengren: This is not a lie, but it's an untruth. There's no real hard qualification to being called "Professor." Most "Professors" are actually assistant professors or associate professors, but no one calls themselves "Assistant Professor Smith." That's silly.

Instructor Hedengren: So per above, I'm technically an "instructor." However, this is a mouthful, and somehow has a futuristic-battle-academy favor to it. Maybe that's not altogether a bad thing, but still awkward.

Master Hedengren: MA students joke about this, but it's just as much of a lie as "Dr." because I haven't earned that MA yet. PhD candidates can maybe use this distinction, but they don't, strangely.

Bachelor Hedengren: No. No, that's just... no.

Sister Hedengren: Strangely enough, almost every young person I know objects to this title. Is it because we sound like our mothers? Is it because we think we're too cool or too academic for a religious form of address? Probably. And shockingly I've heard people say (twice) that they think that this name would make students tune out. One cringes to think what kind of Sunday School they attended that they were always tuning out. Also they think it might introduce a religious expectation for the class (like that they're going to open with a prayer or offer grading mercy to their students...psshhw.) While I liked who I was on my mission a lot, I might slip into that as a teacher. Still, unlike others, I have no pressing objection to this title.

Mary: This is the one that most of my contemporaries go for. I'm hesitant on it, and not just because everyone goes for it. This is more casual than Sister Hedengren, although no one seems to admit it. I belong to that old, pre-1960s school that values authority figureship and professionalism over cool and casual. I'm the teacher here. I know more than them. Can't I assert it some how? (Ironically, this is also the year I start calling my professors by their first names, although they are surely further above me than I am to my freshmen, but they're probably secure enough to not mind.)

Sister Mary: This is the one I keep telling people I'll use, but honestly, probably not. I dig the nunness of it in theory, but it's not a great idea for an entire MA teaching career. But I think that if my name was something like Jane, or if I were a man, it would be fun to go the old-time-Mormon route of Brother Joseph and Sister Emma.

Miss Hedengren: Although I feel like this is very not-even-high-schooly, this is probably the route I'll end up going. This is no more an affirmation of my (limited) qualifications than Sister Hedengren or Mary, but my freshmen will understand it as authority figure language and it does set me apart from the real professors. I feel like a preschool teacher, but I can get used to it.

Comrade/Citizen Hedengren: is really what I'm looking for. Gender-neutral, respectful, formal, but oh so red. Dang.

Maybe I'll just not say anything, let them figure it out. My freshman teacher did that, Kylie Turley, so I spent the entire semester calling her Kylie Turley. "Kylie Turley, I have a question."

I also encounter the weird "I want to call you by your last name, but my parents/friends use your first name, so I don't know which is right" situation. I had that with Kim Johnson, whom I also call by her full name, but often I call her "Kimmy-poo," which I'm pretty sure is definately not okay. Can I give my students a silly nickname to call me and bypass this whole thing? No, not when I'm a short young woman.

When I took my dad's class I didn't know whether to call him "Dad" or "Dr. Hedengren" so I gave up calling him anything at all. In study group I think I said "our professor" and in class I just raised my hand. So I guess there are even more confusing situations. Maybe I could ask my students to call me "Ma."

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Lists

So one of the magazines I was reading behind the sound machine today taught us about making life lists. So in case anyone's interested, here's my lists. We all need lists.

4 Things I'd Like to Do Before I Die:

1. Raise children of some sort (what sort? vampires?)
2. Temple-married
3. World's Leading Expert on X (where X is something, not that I'm a leading expert on the letter X, although it would put in the forefront of the Arts and Letters world)
4. Do me a little more travel: Thailand, get back to Russia, the Caribbean

4 Things I'd Like to Do Within the Next 6 Years:

1. Be PhD-ing
2. Significant Other-ed
3. Published
4. Go to Croatia

4 Things I'd Like to Do Within the Next 3-5 Months:

1. Make a short film/music video with my friends
2. Play intramural sports
3. Throw a dinner party
4. Rock the apple harvest. Old school.

4 Things I'd like to Do Every Week:

1. Have an adventure (go/do something new)
2. Watch a movie
3. Studerday! (Study a bit on Saturdays)
4. Write a sketch for Divine Comedy

4 Things I'd Like (to start doing, you know, when school starts) Every Day:

1. Study 9-5 daily
2.Clear room daily: Clean off desk, make bed, nothing on the floor
3. Write something literary
4. Have a musical moment of Zen (you know, singing along to the radio, car dancing, eyes closed in the dark dozing, that sort of thing)

So there you have it. The Lists. Daunting, no?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

7 Surprises in the Ladies' Home Journal and Good Housekeeping

1. You can prevent varicose veins through a baby aspirin (with your doctor's approval).

2. It turns out, yes, this marriage can be saved.

3. Dogs can make your fashionable clothes more stylish.

4. Princess Di truly was the people's princess.

5. "Super" and "Fabulous" used to be youthful slang misunderstood by Boomers' parents.

6. You can actually make money by stacking coupon savings on sales promotions on refunds on in-store credit cards.

7. It's really hard to be a mom; not just "take out the garbage, help with homework, go to soccer game" hard but "son commits suicide out of nowhere, sexual harassment of daughters at after school job, pool toys make drown children" hard.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Far, Far Better Thing

You may notice that my "What I'm Currently Reading" list has altered: yes, I've finished A Tale of Two Cities and really, that last book of (huh), reminds me why I started reading the book in the first place.

Sydney Carton.

Some girls have Mr. Darcy for a literary crush, me, maybe there's something hopeslessly fatalistic about my Romantic (or Victorian) fantasies, but I dig the Carton-man. Is it because I like the concept of the tragic sacrifice? Or is it that I romanticize the idea of wasted potential? Or is it just because Dickens writes a dickens of a snarky character?

This is not a good romantic ideal. My more persistent literary crush, Melville's Ishmael, is a much better match for me, seeing as he is not an unambitious and cynical drunk. But it's not like Ishmael is without significant emotional baggage himself. But neither of this is as dismal a beau as Heathcliff, but, really, girls who like Heathcliff kind of weird me out. No offence to anyone out there, he's just a jerk, that's all.

Then again, what which the fictional element of all this, it's all rather a moot point, isn't it?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Off the Deep End

I didn't want to look chicken in front of the twelve-year-old boys coming up the platform in front of me, so I jumped. That's the short of it. The long of it starts with my decision to focus on courage for a weekly goal last year which did two things for me (a) inspired me to take risks, live fully and move forward bravely and (b) convinced me that I am right-out yellow.

So fast forward several months and I'm swimming laps at the BYU pool thinking, "before this summer is over, I'm going off that huge platform, yeah, the big one." For those who don't know, this diving platform is roughly 400-miles from the water and only open twice a day, maybe to avoid conflicts with the other diving boards, but probably to decrease liability for wrongful death suits. But then I think, "hey, summer's almost over, why not now?"

Climbing up the platform, I didn't look down, but I kept thinking, "this is taking a long time to get up. This is taking way too long to climb up." I got up and looked over the edge, just, you know, so that I can make sure that the kid who just triple-backflipped off was making it out of the way safely. I got up to the wet spot where, I'm assuming, swimsuits dripped for a few moments before their wearers took the leap.

I'm not saying I took the leap. I took more of the "Well, it's not going to get any less scary standing here" jump and flying squirm.

When I was in fifth grade I was in the swimming lessons where they taught you how to dive. Maybe it was there or maybe it was cliff jumping with my youth conference that I heard that after a big jump, you should open your arms wide once you're in the water--slows your plunge and bouys you up. I may have done that too early, or not at all correctly, because I seem to remember being curled up, almost fetal, my feet grazing the bottom of the pool. Then I swam up with all my bursting lungs.

Once I was up, I confidently swam to the edge of the pool and got out, hoping the red marks where I hit wrong weren't too obvious to the pack of twelve-year-olds or the lifegaurd as I non-chalantly made my way to the lockerroom. Yeah, I could go off again, I hope my saunter told them, but I was headed out anyway.

In the lockerroom, showering, I held my hands up and yes, they were shaking. I'm glad I did it, but you know what? I'm still a coward.