Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good riddance 2008!

Well well, here it is, the last day of 2008. I must say I am not sad at all to see this year end! While no year passes without ANY good happening, it seems this year was extra full of challenges for myself and this family, not to mention the nation and world as a whole. All in all, this has been a rough year for a heck of a lot of people!

Of course the bad things that have happened to me and this family have been well-documented on this blog, at least the major stuff. The whole situation with the house is the obvious winner for bad news and gets 2009 off to a rough start. A lot of the grief I have had with certain people at Kent State has had a shadowing effect as well and again, some of that will carry into 2009 too. The house situation seems to be related to a lot of the other problems we have, family relations in particular, but the good news is that it will almost certainly be resolved in 2009. Whether or not that resolution is to our liking remains to be seen of course. The only thing that could make finding out about this situation any worse would be actually losing the house. What I do find interesting is that while most of our major problems have to do with money, they are largely unrelated to the economic problems around the world. Even in the 1990's when the country was booming, we were never that well off.

For me, the biggest thing I am looking forward to is graduating in May, though before I get to that point two things have to happen: I have to pass student teaching satisfactorily and I have to pass another section the Praxis. Both are things I am certainly capable of, but nevertheless they are hardly simple things, especially student teaching. The good news is that I already know most of the students I will be teaching and they know me, so going in come January 26 won't be a huge event or much of a mystery. Once I get through that part of my life, I can finally move beyond being independent, something I have longed for.

With all the bad stuff that has happened, though, I thought I'd look back at the year and reflect on the good that has happened. First, we are still in the house and I am grateful for that. When Dad told us in May there were fears we would be out of the house by the end of the summer. Only when that didn't actually look imminent did I finally start taking care of summer projects, most of which I did after I bought a much-needed chainsaw. Another plus for 2008 was graduate school even though it has brought it's fair share of frustration and stress. My summer classes were things I actually enjoyed going to and the people I was around were people that made me feel good about myself. That carried over into Fall, and while I really almost detested all of my undergraduate classes (except the Instrument for Choral Majors class), I enjoyed at least being at my graduate classes . Not only did I enjoy the people I was around, but I also enjoyed the class structure and actually having meaningful discussions. My undergrad classes really lacked that. Along with that, I have enjoyed being at Southeast Middle School and Southeast Intermediate School and am mostly looking forward to student teaching there at the end of January.

One of the biggest things I was grateful for and got to do a lot of in 2008 was sing, particularly the national anthem. I lost count how many times I did it in 2008 as I sang for almost every home game for both the men's and women's basketball teams at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio and I got my fair share of KSU games too. The game in January against Akron was a highlight, but I thought I did better at the game against Miami just over a month later, which had almost as big a crowd as the Akron game. I have been able to sing at 2 more KSU men's games already this season, plus I got to sing at this community breakfast in Stow on July 3 which was a lot of fun and a great experience. It's funny yet sad that the biggest chances I've had to sing, despite being a music major, have been in athletics, not in anything from the KSU School of Music or the BYU-Idaho Department of Music. The only solo time I ever had at either school was in studio class (called "master class" at BYU-Idaho) and my own recital in December 2006 where about 15 or less people showed up. It wasn't that I didn't try out for solos (though eventually I did), but I was just never "what they were looking for" I guess. Along with singing the national anthem, I got to go to a TON of sporting events this year, mostly high school and college and a few Cleveland Indians games. I always enjoy attending sporting events, though too often I do so alone!

Of course I got a good amount of singing time in church too both at my ward and at the stake level too. It was pretty exciting to sing for a stake meeting, which I did back in September. I really enjoyed singing in the Christmas program at Church on December 21st as well. I love to sing and while songs like the "Star-Spangled Banner" can be very difficult, I really enjoy singing them. The "Star-Spangled Banner" in particular can be very difficult for even experienced singers, but I have come to really like it (come to think of it I always have) because it opens itself to a lot of creativity and interpretation, plus I have always thought my voice fits it pretty well.

Another highlight for me was the trip I took with Katie to visit Andy and Heather in the Washington, DC area during Spring Break in March. Not only did I get to see several sites that I had been wanting to see, but I got to spend a lot of time with Katie and of course Andy and Heather. It's funny how being apart changes relationships. Growing up my brother and I were very different people who had similar interests. I couldn't stand to be around him, particularly in high school. It was bad enough that, as I have mentioned before, I only wrote him a few times while he was on his mission because I really didn't have that much to say to him. Well, since he got back from his mission, we have gotten along much better and enjoy being around each other, though since then we haven't been together much over a week. Even during Andy and Heather's latest Christmas visit, we didn't see them every day (they were here for a week). Added to the better relationship with Andy is Heather. She's just someone I enjoy being around because she's so genuine. Even though we really didn't spend a whole lot of time with either of them while we were in the area (they were both busy with work and school), the time we were able was a lot of fun. I'm very anxious to see where they end up for Heather's residency!

There are many other joys in my life that I experienced or began in 2008. For one, I'm still in Primary playing the piano, plus I have had the awesome experience of being executive secretary and all that comes with that calling, plus as acting choir director, I have been able to do a lot more now that we have Brother Brian Ebie at the helm of our music program and at the organ. What a difference! I've also really enjoyed teaching piano to my three students. The family is a joy to be around and I'm learning a lot about being a teacher at the same time (plus it keeps me on my toes with my own piano playing along with Primary). And let's not forget the purchase of my Ipod Touch and my super awesome laptop. Both are things that I have used and enjoyed since getting them this summer.

There are many little things I need to focus on this coming year, mostly things like reading my scriptures regularly, writing in my journal regularly again, and getting to bed at a consistent time, epsecially since I'll be at school so much from now on. Once school starts I'll get on a pretty regular schedule since every day will be the same classes for me and time I need to leave. But anyway, there were definitely lots of wonderful things (sure there are more I'll remember soon!) that happened in 2008, but it goes to show the magnitude of our current situation and how much it is hanging over us. Here's to a better 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Evolution of Christmas

I can't help but look back at Christmases past every year and compare them, especially lately. This year's Christmas was a great time-- don't get me wrong-- but it certainly has lost the magic it had when I was a kid. Of course the best part of Christmas is getting together as a family and seeing each other, especially seeing those people I don't see much at all during the year like my brother and sister-in-law and my sister and brother-in-law since they don't live close by. But even with that, as much fun as it is to give on Christmas, it is still fun to receive, especially in tough times like this.

Christmas Eve was-- and continues to be-- spent with our Derby grandparents. This year we actually hosted the Derbys here at our house, something we haven't done for several years. The last time we hosted any family event was Thanksgiving 2003 with them and I have no idea the last time we had Christmas dinner at our house. Now that we have a fully-functioning (and less crowded) living room, it made sense to have it here, though having more people than ever (thanks to two marriages of course) made it pretty tight. Even then, it was still fun and we had a little bit of a blast from the past as the Derbys bought presents this year instead of giving us the traditional $25 we have gotten the last 10 years or so. It certainly created some anticipation! All in all, our Christmas Eve routine has largely stayed the same over the years. That isn't the case for Christmas Day, which has seen the biggest changes over the years.

Left: Katie "escaping" from the stress; Right: the setup in the living room for dinner (and dust on my camera!)

Me waiting for dinner to start; Becky and David opening their present from Derbys

I have no idea what I'm thinking, but my expression is funny!; Andy and Heather opening presents from Derbys

Back in the "good old days" Christmas Day was quite the event, like so exciting I couldn't fall asleep Christmas Eve. Of course growing up has a lot to do with how it's changed, but economics have played an even bigger role. When we were younger, Christmas at our Ridinger grandparents house was probably the highlight of our holiday, most due to the fact that more people came to the Ridinger Christmas (since virtually the entire family lives in Ohio) and since we were the only kids until 1989, we got a LOT of presents. That's not to say our Christmas at home was devoid of wonderful gifts and great memories, but since we had so little money growing up, I think what we got at home were much more in the way of needed gifts and what we got at Ridingers were more pleasure gifts and expensive things that my mom just couldn't afford. But seriously, we were very blessed and there was always great anticipation on Christmas morning no matter where we were. Two things started making Christmas at Ridingers a less-anticipated event: first, other kids were born, so not only were there more people to buy presents for, but there was less money to do it with, so in terms of getting exciting things, there was less to look forward too. Yeah, I know there's more to Christmas than just getting, but being poor my whole life has made getting exciting things even more meaningful! Second, although age had much to do with it, the decision by the Ridinger side to forego the giving of presents for anyone over 18 a few years ago really took a lot out of the anticipation and the whole experience. That decision was driven by the economics of job losses and kids growing up of course. True, not having to get presents for the aunts, uncles, and cousins was a huge money saver, but we have ALWAYS been poor, so it was always a sacrifice to get presents for them and no one ever said a word or even asked us what we thought about the whole thing. I always enjoyed seeing the reactions to what we got them, plus it's always satisfying when I go to their houses and see a present I got them being used or on display. But anyway, that's the way it is now. While I enjoy spending time with all of my family, the Christmas celebration at the Ridingers has definitely lost its luster especially since we all get together just two days before for the annual cookie day where we also celebrate Katie's and Andy's birthdays. In contrast, Christmas morning at our house is probably what I look forward to the most now (though it's hardly ever been something I didn't look forward to). Even this year, where money is as tight as it's ever been for every one of us, we were still able to come together and give each other fun, meaningful and useful gifts. Let's just say I'm looking forward to having more money to be able to buy more gifts for family and friends and I'm looking forward to having young kids (whether they be my own or nieces and nephews) at Christmas again.

Left: The setup Christmas morning; Right: Mom getting her new bed set from all of us!

Me getting Cities and Knights of Catan...YES!!; Andy, Heather, and David watch Becky open a present for her and David

I'd say Christmas this year went pretty well all things considered, though it did seem to be overshadowed by the whole house situation and how little money we all have. I got things I needed and the presents I got (or helped to get) were well received by those that got them. Of course it has been nice seeing Andy, Heather, David, and Becky too, which has probably been the most enjoyable aspect of the holiday (not having to worry about classes for a few weeks hasn't hurt either!).

Notes on larger pictures: 1. the four of us just happened to not only sit together at Christmas dinner at Ridingers, but we also sat in order of age, so my grandma got a picture of it. From right (oldest to youngest) Andy, Me, Katie, and Becky; 2. the same picture with the spouses (David and Heather) added. NICE!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh the drama!

First things first: I did speak to the director of the School of Music today and while we really accomplished little in terms of my grade, I feel better about things. The biggest thing was that she spoke to me as an adult. She did not try to make excuses for my professor or try to make my concerns less than they were. It was very refreshing to say the least. One insight she did give me was that in one of my e-mails to my professor, I capitalized three words. She said my professor probably interpreted that as shouting, which had me shaking my head. While it is true that in written form shouting is shown by capitalizing, it is normally shown by capitalizing an entire message or sentence, not just one word here and there. Capitalizing one word is a way of showing emphasis, especially in the absence of italics and/or underlining. Everyone I've mentioned this to has said the same thing. So at least I know where the whole respect/"proper tone" thing came from. Basically, the director told me that it's a good thing that I currently have an "incomplete" because those are easier to change, plus it indicates my professor is at least willing to discuss it before giving a final grade. The director recommended I write to my professor and schedule an appointment as soon as classes start in January and get it all worked out. She also let me know what steps would need to be taken if it didn't work out, so at least I feel like someone is on my side. I enjoyed how she took a very subjective approach and simply got my side of it. She also recognized how hectic the last few weeks of the semester can be and how that fit into what happened. I got the impression she really wants to find a solution that helps me graduate without undermining the position of my professor.

The more I have thought about this and thinking back to other dealings I have had with this specific professor, the more I am led to believe that she really makes a lot of assumptions about me based on me being a white male from Ohio. I know it sounds extreme, but I first noticed it a few weeks ago when I did my music proficiency test with her. For that test we had to have 15 songs ready from a variety of different styles, appropriate age groups, and with different basic instrument accompaniments. The songs were supposed to be at least somewhat unfamiliar so we could expand or establish a personal collection of songs to use in future music classes. One of the songs I chose for a younger grade (can't remember what grade I chose it for, but it was K-2 at least) was Au Claire de la Lune. Now, I realize this is a pretty well-known song to just about everyone and while the beginning tune is familiar to me, the entire song was not nor were the words (which I did in French), so I was learning something. Well, she "failed" me on that song (each song was pass/fail) citing that it was "too easy" and basically assumed that I knew the song already or at least should've known the song and thus should've done better on it than I did. Based on what? Being white and raised in Ohio? I wouldn't go so far as to claim racism, but I would definitely label it as stereotyping. To be honest, I never heard that song even referenced by name until I was in high school college, though I heard its melody here and there growing up. My elementary music class was heavy on music appreciation, but I learned virtually nothing about music history and theory. She would be grossly offended if I assumed she knew something based solely on her race or background (she is of African descent) since that would immediately be labeled a stereotype. This whole thing with the e-mail just adds to that belief. Since she interprets putting any word in all caps as "shouting" she assumes that everyone holds that belief, when in fact, most do not. Anyway, I'm not sure how-- or if-- I will address this with her when we meet in January. Many of my private dealings with her have been positive, particularly in regards to the MAT program, but too many like this have been very negative.

In other news, due to some limited drama at the annual family cookie day, we have an update on the house. My dad did show up later and he and my mom ended up getting into an argument in the hallway regarding the current situation, particularly in regards to his relationship with Katie, which if you ask Katie doesn't exist. That's an entire different subject really though. The bottom line there is that we all need to step back and let Dad and Katie work things out themselves and if Dad is serious about maintaining a relationship with anyone, he needs to show that he cares more than simply sending messengers. Anyway, Mom and Dad ended up talking upstairs for a few hours. As for the house, the update is mixed. My dad did talk to the mortgage company and they were "gracious" enough to let him know they will be putting our house on the market beginning in January. So, yes, we will have a nice "for sale" sign in front of our house for three months while they try to sell it at its market value, which is listed at around $120,000. Now I have documented the many problems with this house, so I will be surprised if anyone offers to pay the full price for it, especially with the current economic situation. Even with that, though, we still have the inconvenience of having a realtor having access to our house and having to have visitors come over not to mention the possibilty that someone actually does decide to go ahead and buy it. If I'm here when visitors come I'll just be sure they know EXACTLY what they are looking at buying! Should the house not sell in 90 days, then the foreclosure proceedings will begin and that will last approximately 8 months, which takes us to next November or December. The hope, of course, is that by then I will have a full-time steady job and we can work out a plan for me to take over the house or some other miracle takes place by then. But seriously, can't I just have a peaceful holiday free from stress?? Just what I need...more stress for the upcoming semester!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trying the facial hair thing again

For those of you who see me on a regular basis, this post comes at no surprise...but for those who don't see me that often or haven't seen me in a few weeks may notice something different about me. Yes, I've grown pretty much full facial hair for the time being. Part of it is just for the experience, but it mostly came out of not shaving last week and deciding "what the heck?" This isn't the first time I've had facial hair, though, as I had a goatee at the end of summer 2004 that I shaved off shortly after arriving at BYU-Idaho that fall. I had it all of three weeks or so. This is the first time I've had anything close to a beard though. I don't know how long I'll keep this as it definitely takes some getting used to.

In other news, I'll be talking to the director of the school of music tomorrow morning about my grade. I'm thinking it might end up being more of me letting her know how I feel insulted and belittled by how this has been handled so far, particularly in how my e-mails have not been answered. I'm not sure how much I can challenge a grade when it's currently labeled as "incomplete" plus I've never formally challenged a grade before even though there are times I probably should have.

I was able to sing a few times on Sunday for our Christmas sacrament meeting. I sang a small solo with the Primary kids in a song called "What Can I Give Him?" and then sang "O Holy Night" with the organ accompaniment. I also directed the choir in singing "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" which I thought went pretty well. I thought the entire sacrament meeting went pretty well as we had six musical numbers separated by five speakers. We ended up going over by just 10 minutes or so. None of the speakers spoke for more than 5 minutes, so it flowed really well and didn't seem too long at all. I also sang the national anthem at the Kent State men's basketball game against UNC-Greensboro on Thursday. I thought I did a decent job and found out later some people from church were at the game and heard me sing as did Katie, Becky, and David.

Friday, December 19, 2008

One problem down...

Good news to report in terms of our furnace: it's fixed AND didn't need replaced. YES! We had to go about two days without central heat, but I was pleasantly surprised how warm we were able to keep the house in spite of that. Granted, it wasn't as good as having the furnace, but at least we weren't freezing or uncomfortable. It helped to have three space heaters and the oven going...not too efficient for the electricity, but it got the job done for the day and a half we had them. Turns out the furnace had some major blockage at the base of the chimney. Of course blockage like that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, but this furnace is designed to shut down if it detects blockage, which is exactly what it did (and yes, we also have a carbon monoxide detector in the house). The blockage was mostly dirt in the bottom of our chimney, which I got out with a garden shovel. We had the father of a friend of ours from church come over and look at it on Wednesday. While it wasn't free, it was much less expensive than if we had called the regular repairman or gone ahead and gotten a new furnace. I'm glad we don't have to worry about a new furnace for the time being. Not only is it not in the budget, but with the uncertainty of our future in this house, I'd hate to spend all that money on something like that and then lose the house.

I found it interesting that my dad had a comment on the furnace which I found out about via my grandmother yesterday when I was over there. I guess he told her the furnace isn't that old and shouldn't need replaced. While it isn't THAT old, it isn't exactly new anymore. I'm not sure exactly when we got it, but it was sometime while I was in elementary school and I finished there in 1993, so I'm guessing it was sometime around 1991 or 1992. The biggest problem it has, however, is that in January 1994 our basement flooded with nearly a foot of water after the basement drainage pipe collapsed and the snow melted. Because it was still the middle of winter, the furnace still had to run. The result was an incredibly damp and humid house at the time and now significant rusting in the furnace. On top of that the basement has always been a pretty damp place due to poor drainage and waterproofing, so that only contributes to the quicker deterioration of the metal and pretty much anything we store down there that isn't secured in plastic!

As for my grade issue, I have an appointment scheduled with the director of the School of Music on Tuesday at 11 AM. I checked my posted grades and the grade for this particular class is currently labeled as incomplete ("IN"). That's a good sign in that she has acknowledged my issue; however, she has not e-mailed me yet since that last one-liner about respect and appropriate tones, so I really don't have a choice but to go through a formal grade dispute with the director. On a side note, I noticed that KSU keeps my graduate and undergraduate grades separate, so I have two GPAs. I found it interesting-- and frustrating at the same time-- that the classes I liked the least and had the most trouble in were my undergrad classes. Most of my problems were due to simply how those classes were structured and what and how the material was covered. Let's just say I'm glad I never have to take an undergrad class ever again!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yahoo for Christmas!

Well I still haven't resolved this grading dispute, so I am gathering all my evidence and contacts so I can do what needs to be done as quickly as possible. I have already made an initial e-mail in regards to a formal grade dispute. In the meantime I am definitely enjoying being done with finals and the semester and finally having some time to myself. Katie and I went a got our Christmas tree on Friday. We did the "cut your own" variety at a place that is literally around the corner from our house. That made it a little easier getting the tree home. While I probably could have fit it into my trunk, I didn't want to risk breaking a bunch of the branches, so I just carried it home and Katie drove my car. It was a five-minute walk tops. Upon getting home and getting the tree stand out, I noticed the little set of spikes at the bottom was bent, so I used the pliers and bent them back to discover a small hole in the bottom of the already rusting stand. Well, that meant getting a new stand, which I promptly did at Wal-Mart. Not only is the new stand much wider (and plastic) but it was WAY easier to set the tree in...WAAAAAYYYY easier. The tree itself doesn't look too bad. Granted there weren't many choices, but in terms of budget, I'm happy with it. I'm REEEEALLLLY glad I have a chainsaw too. It made cutting the tree down VERY easy! That chainsaw has turned out to be a great investment for me so far!

Once I got the tree set up I took care of the outside lights. Normally I put up a lot of Christmas lights, but with our budget so tight this year, I toned it back, so I only put lights around the porch rather than the entire house. I also bought some new LED lights, which claim to use 66% less energy, last longer, and are brighter than traditional lights. So far I am very impressed with my LED lights. I bought blue "icicle" lights. While they have less lights than the set I replaced them with, these LED lights ARE much brighter and MUCH bluer! I continue to be amazed just how blue these lights are when they are on. The pictures I took of them do not do them justice. I couldn't help but notice the difference in blue when I compared them to a set of blue lights around our front door. The lights around the front door don't even seem blue after seeing the LED lights. WOW.

Today I finally put the lights on the tree so we can start decorating it. I wanted to give the tree time to settle and open up a little before putting the lights on, especially since we got it fresh. Let me just tell you how fragrant this tree is, and I would guess that has to do, again, with getting it fresh. The scent of pine was pretty easy to smell all the way across the house as if I were standing in the living room with the tree. Now it really feels-- and smells-- like Christmas in this house!

As I am writing this, we are dealing with one of the house issues I blogged about just the other day: our furnace. We have several older appliances that could pretty much go at any day, mostly due to them being old, and the furnace is one of them. In fact, finding out the furnace was in bad shape at the end of April and needed replacement was what finally caused the whole house situation to finally come to light since my dad had to explain why the furnace couldn't be replaced. Right now the furnace is simply "non responsive" meaning it's on and the pilot is lit, but it's not kicking on even when the thermostat is turned up. For now we're making do with two space heaters and the oven. Hardly the most cost-effective way to heat the house, but at least we won't freeze. Katie bought her own space heater and we borrowed one of those Quartz heaters from my Derby grandparents. Hopefully the problem is something that can be fixed, but I'm guessing the whole thing will need to be replaced. Just lovely! Good thing we're currently just rolling in cash right now!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh no not again

So I alluded to this in my last post, but now it's getting frustrating. As of today, it seems I'm having a repeat of how this semester began with my e-mails being called "inappropriate" and "disrespectful" and I sit here completely baffled. This all started last Friday when I turned in my observation journal and what I thought were my book reports. I'll admit I should've taken care of it earlier, but that's beside the point. I got them all done and got the clear plastic binder at Wal-Mart and turned them in at the School of Music Friday afternoon and figured I was done with that. Well Tuesday I was looking for another paper and suddenly found the book reports. The day I turned them in was a really hectic day for me and so there's a lot I honestly don't remember. I didn't remember printing off a second copy of the reports, but sometimes I do that because I notice a problem and have to print them again. Well, I immediately e-mailed my professor, who also is my advisor and will be my supervisor next semester when I student teach. This is the e-mail I sent, dated December 9, 2008 at 11:52 AM EST:

"I just wanted to make sure you received my book reports with my observation reports. I found my book reports, but honestly cannot remember if I printed a second copy. The day I turned it in was a very hectic and rushed day, so I just want to be sure I didn't forget that part. Thanks!"

I didn't hear back from my professor, so I figured I must've printed an extra copy. Well, Thursday night I checked my campus e-mail and realized that because my KSU e-mail finally switched over to the new gmail system, the forwarding command I had set up needed to be set up again and I had several e-mails sent to my KSU e-mail that I had missed since they are usually forwarded automatically to my AOL e-mail. One of those e-mails, which came Thursday, was from my professor which had my grade. It was a one-liner with no complete sentences, containing my final exam grade and "book reports: 0" and that I had gotten a D+ for the semster. A D+! Funny that I NEVER got a D on ANY assignment during the semester, yet somehow a D+ is supposed to adequately reflect my efforts and understanding in the class. Upon seeing that I was understandably shocked and upset, and sent this e-mail from my KSU address, dated December 11, 2008, 11:02 PM EST:

"Did you get my e-mail about the book reports? I asked if I had remembered to attach them because the day I turned them in was very hectic and somehow they got separated when I put them together. I did NOT spend hours on them to get a zero. I had assumed since I didn't hear from you that I had turned them in and had a second copy. I'm also confused what "add others" means in reference to my grade and SERIOUSLY question a D as an adequate representation of my actual performance in that class considering that I never got a D on ANY assignment."

Mom suggested that I just send her the electronic version of my book reports, so about 50 minutes later, at 11:52 PM, I sent another e-mail that included the Word 2007 document:

"In light of the missing reports, rather than make a trip to campus to put them in your mailbox and not even be sure you'll get them, here is the Word 2007 document. Again, I did e-mail you because I wasn't sure if I had accidentally forgotten to include them or not and since I didn't hear back I assumed that I must've printed an earlier copy and that's what I found in my folder. That day was very hectic and I honestly don't even remember half of it since so much happened and so fast."

I didn't hear back today, and knowing this professor is one who takes her vacations seriously (i.e. rarely answers e-mails while she's on vacations and pretty much has no contact) so I sent another e-mail this afternoon, dated December 12, 2008, 4:35 PM EST:

"Hello [professor's name]-
I would really appreciate a reply so I can get this all taken care of. The last thing I need going into this break and into student teaching in January is this grade hanging over my head and the possibility of having to take this class again. It is something I cannot afford in more ways than just tuition, especially considering that I did the required work and hardly "earned" a D grade. Please get back to me as soon as possible so we can discuss this and come to a mutually beneficial conclusion."

So, this afternoon at 4:50 PM I FINALLY get an e-mail from my professor and this is what it says:

"Jon, I would be happy to respond to an appropriate email from you, that is in a respectable tone, before my vacation begins."

It may come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but I was pretty irritated when I got this e-mail. You have all read the e-mails I sent. Honestly, what was inappropriate and/or in a disrespectful tone? I'm really tired of responses like that. Those of you who know me know that I'm a pretty laid back person. I guess the only things that really get to me is when people get like this and they avoid addressing the problem claiming "disrespect." I'm not a person who fires off angry e-mails; I think about what I want to say and what needs to be said and try to do so without sounding wimpy but not mean. This is what I replied back in an e-mail dated December 12, 2008 at 5:55 PM EST:

[professor's name]-
I'm sorry my tone came across as it did. One of the problems with e-mail is the tone I wrote the e-mail in doesn't always transmit when it is read since tone in any written form is only through interpretation of the recipient. That said, please understand this involves my grade and graduation, so I have every right to be a little upset as this has taken me completely by surprise. Wouldn't you be worried if I wasn't concerned with a grade that low? Having to take any class again will be very costly for myself and my family in many more ways than tuition.
Again, I did send an e-mail earlier in the week asking if you had received my book reports and I did not receive any response. I had no way to know if you had received them to even correct the problem, otherwise I would have addressed the issue as soon as possible.
Also, when something is inappropriate in an e-mail I send, please be specific as to what you saw as inappropriate. I cannot correct a problem that I do not see.

As I attended the Roosevelt boys basketball game tonight (a 71-44 Roosevelt win over Coventry...go Rough Riders!) I thought a lot about this and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that yes, some disrespect was shown, but it wasn't towards my professor; it was from her to me. Responding like that is INCREDIBLY condescending and downright insulting in my opinion. I am an adult who is paying a lot of money to be "educated" by her, not some middle school teenager with an attitude problem. Why is it OK for her to answer her e-mails whenever she feels like it (if at all), but not OK for me to show a little emotion in mine? Frankly, I consider her lack of an answer to my initial e-mail to be highly unprofessional. And what kind of teacher who cares about the well-being of her students doesn't notice something like this and pull the student aside or contact them and say "we have a problem" and try to work things out? Seriously, these people are supposed to be teaching me how to be a better teacher. I guess I at least know what NOT to do.

This, of course, brings back the memories of the beginning of the semester when I had such a difficult time with the College of Education. I still haven't gotten a decent explanation of what I did that was so awful other than addressing the person I e-mailed "as a peer." I know...what a crime. Two adults conversing as adults. How awful! I continue to be amazed and disgusted at the "fiefdoms" certain people establish in academia. Have they forgotten their real purpose? That's right: to educate! And who pays for them to educate us? Yep, the STUDENTS! I didn't sign up to pay over $10,000 in graduate tuition so I could be talked down to, belittled, and have my questions and concerns ignored! And as far as I know, I need a C to "pass" the class, so if I would have to take it again I would have to wait until next fall, meaning I couldn't graduate this May and would have to wait another year to find a job. Not only would that be hugely inconvenient, but it would virtually guarantee losing this house. It is sad how people in college fail to realize or even care about the consequences of their actions when they exercise their "authority" (better defined as "lordship") over students. Just having to take one class over again would be catastrophic to me and this family. And if I brought that up in a conversation, not only would it be virtually ignored, but it would also be labeled as "unprofessional." It just goes to show that too many college professors are more concerned with lording over their dominions than making sure their students are actually learning. Grades aren't used to show the outside world what level of understanding the student has, but are instead used as a weapon to keep students in line. That's what happens when things that have little to do with comprehension (like attendance) are attached to grades.

Two cars, one garage...WOW!

At long last I have an opporunity to blog again. There have been many things I wanted to blog about over the last two weeks, but I just have not had the time in worrying about and finishing the semester. As of right now I am done with all of my finals and projects; however, I just found out about a grade that I am very irritated about, so I can't totally close the book on this semester yet. Let's just say if things don't change in the next 24 hours in regard to my grade in my methods class, hell WILL be raised.

So, on to better things. Since Dad moved out at the end of October, we have slowly been reorganizing and cleaning out the house. Not only is it in anticipation for a possible relocation should things not work out, but just something we have needed to do for a long time. As I blogged last month, the first major project was moving mom's stuff out of the living room and into dad's old room and reorganizing the living room, something that was started the very day Dad officially moved out. It has been nice since then to actually have a fully functioning living room again that we feel comfortable inviting guests to and which we enjoy spending time in! Katie has been the main force behind the various other projects, which include the massive cleaning and reorganization of the basement and the cleaning and reorganization of the garage. The basement is still a work in progress, but Katie has done quite a bit of work down there with some help from me in moving heavier things as needed and taking out garbage and recycling. Last week we celebrated the completion of her garage project. Again, Katie did most of the work while I helped move the heavier things and figure out how to position things to make them all fit. In the end, we were finally able to do something that hasn't been done here in over 20 years: store two cars in our two car garage. WOW! While it may seem like an insignificant feat, it was pretty exciting when we not only fit both cars in, but fit them with the lawn mower and several other things still inside the garage. Of course my car is not one of the 2 cars inside, but it was still exciting because I didn't think we'd be able to fit 2 cars and the lawn mower. Guess the garage is bigger than we all thought! Now, if we could just get some more gravel so the driveway is a bit easier to maneuver for Katie's side of the garage. Right now it's a bunch of muddy ruts.

It has been interesting these last two months or so in the amount of stuff we have thrown out or put out to be recycled. I'm sure the garbage and recycling people are wondering where all this stuff is coming from! It was like Dad was the plug in the dam: as soon as he left, the floodgates opened and things have just been put into motion and the flood of garbage has been (and continues to be) emptied out of the house. Granted, there are still some major issues to be addressed here as we have several appliances which could go at any day (fridge, oven, dryer, furnace) and some repair issues (our tub has a crack in it, we still need a screen door for the back, and we have mice getting in some holes that need to be plugged!), but they don't seem so daunting. I just wish May would hurry up and get here so I can graduate and get a job. While money doesn't solve everything, I can't think of a better solution for most of our current major problems!

On a side note, today, December 12th, is the day I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in 2001. Hard to believe it's been seven years since then! The only reason I've really been thinking about it is because my cousin Cameron just entered the MTC Wednesday, so essentially the same week I did since new arrivals only come in to the MTC on Wednesdays. He is headed for Taiwan, but will be at the MTC in Provo, Utah for about 3 months learning Mandarin Chinese. For our extended family, he is the first close relative outside my immediate family to go on a mission, so this is exciting!

Notes on pictures: 1. Mom's car on the right and Katie's car on the left in the garage. I took it at night since that's the only time they've both been in the garage lately! 2. The garage empty so you can see how the rest of the stuff actually fits... 3. My brother Andy and me at the MTC in Provo, Utah the day I officially began my mission seven years ago today. I had no idea what was ahead of me in that picture...NO idea.