Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The big move-in

Before I took Ian (Mad Scientist) to college, I had already written in my head a piece about the horrors of college move-in day. Having experienced it on a small scale when I moved Brigid into the dorms at Radford for the Governor's school, not to mention the chaos that descends on Charlottesville when the UVA students come back to town, I felt I knew what I was in for. The Gov School move-in was insane, with parents trying to squeeze their cars into every available space and making multiple trips to the dorms with armloads of stuff--for a one month stay. At least two kids brought refrigerators. OH MY GOD. Ian's school, in an inner city neighborhood with virtually no parking and its dorm end located in a maze of crooked, narrow, one-way streets, would surely have the most nightmarish move-in of all.

I didn't take into account that Canisius College was founded by German Jesuits (in 1870). If anyone can transform a logistical nightmare into an efficient system it is the Germans. We presented ourselves, in our car, on the street we'd been told to use and were directed to get into a long line of cars hugging the left curb. Ian was sent to check in and pick up his key ("Which one of you is the student?" barked the guy directing traffic) while I waited in the car. The line crept forward and when we got to the front, we were directed to one of the parking spaces in front of the dorm and a horde of students descended on us, quickly took everything out of the car and in about three seconds we were standing outside Ian's door, slightly dazed, surrounded by all his personal possessions. An ancient Jesuit, bundled in a black coat, sat drowsing in a chair in the dorm lobby, presiding. The entire process, from the time we first entered the line, took about twenty minutes.

The rest of move-in day was a whirlwind of activities, with everything running so smoothly that we had time to stop in the bookstore and buy all Ian's books, and walk around the neighborhood, and unpack. There was a generous free lunch for all and Ian was introduced to all the "free" services he will enjoy at Canisius--unlimited free use of Buffalo's public transportation, tutoring, counseling, health clinic, etc. Ian was identified as a legacy student and photographed, with me, as such. There was an atmosphere of plushness, of No Expense Spared. Ian's dorm is gorgeous. I have seen plenty of dorm rooms that are little more than prison cells, but Ian's is thoughtfully designed, with a little jog in the wall so that when the boys are in bed they can't see each other, a lovely view, and generous storage. The common area is stunning. My pictures don't do it justice.

When I was a student at Canisius, I thought the modern buildings were hideous but now I see they have a certain retro charm. (The original 1870 school was in downtown Buffalo and moved to its current location in 1901 and expanded considerably in the 1960s.)

The day ended with a "convocation," a pompous ceremony in which the students were officially welcomed with speeches from campus worthies. Dinner followed, but we skipped it and went out to dinner downtown.

I had been anxious about everything, the logistics of move-in, the emotional adjustment of having a child move out, as well as concern for Ian's well-being and it was an enormous relief to see him so comfortably settled. We talk to him daily and he sounds happy, is hanging out with his Buffalo cousins, will be going to the family labor day party at my sister-in-law's house and is planning to apply for a job as an orderly at the hospital down the street--the same hospital where Jon and several of the cousins and uncles worked in college, and where his grandfather was a physician. Classes officially started yesterday and he likes them so far and is enthusiastic about being a classics major.

Now I will bore you with photos.

Waiting in line to move in
The neighborhood. It's not a very safe neighborhood, but there is plentiful campus security and there are shuttles and rides and enough resources so that no student need be walking alone at night.
Neighborhood around Canisius
We like the religious symbols embedded in the building.

Student Center

Ian in front of his dorm

Back end of Christ the King Chapel

Orientation stuff

The priests' house

"Old Main"
Dorm room
Ian's dorm room

Dorm common area
Common area again. I was daft not to get a photo that shows how this common area is actually a balcony open to the common area of the floor below.

If you look through the glass, you can see how the common areas alternate between full floor ones and balconies.

Fabulous retro '60s architecture
Another view

Lyons Hall

Monday, August 16, 2010

News from the interstate

Ohio's new license plates are...unfortunate.

New York, on the other hand, has returned to the bold gold and blue plates of my childhood. I approve!

Unfortunately, in order to get to New York, it is necessary to drive through Pennsylvania. I know I've ranted about Pennsylvania before, but I have a lot more to say, so indulge me. (And may the people of PA forgive me. I'm sure many of you are very nice, but your state is infuriating to drive through.) What is it about Pennsylvania that makes me crazy? The ceaseless barrage of inane road signs?







MY DADDY IS A ROAD WORKER (with the 'S' placed backwards for cuteness.)

SPEED LIMIT 55 MPH FOR NEXT 35 MILES (For no discernable reason)


My current non-favorite is the ramp leading into a construction zone. (Most areas of PA's highways are under construction, at all times. I think there is a law about it.) At the end of the ramp there will be a stop sign the size of Australia. Above it, equally large, is a sign saying RAMP, no doubt for the illumination of drivers who are thinking "What am I doing in a casino in my car? Oh wait, that's right, I'm on a RAMP."

Another source of unhappiness is the sign that says ALL TRUCKS AND BUSES USE LEFT LANE. This means you are about to drive through long, unhappy miles squeezed on both sides between concrete barriers with no shoulder and mere inches between the side of your car and instant death. Why it is safer for trucks and buses to be in the left lane in this situation is unclear to me, but there is always bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a single white solid line dividing the lanes (no passing, and I suspect the lane is literally not wide enough for an extra stripe of paint) and everybody is always going about 100mph while tailgating.

In addition to the signs, are satellite powered signs giving pointless updates about road conditions and a multiplicity of billboards: Bedford, Pennsylvania! Washington slept here! No doubt, Alexander Hamilton bedded many a lusty Bedford wench when he and Mr. Washington arrived to stamp out the Whiskey Rebellion, but history seems to have forgotten the colorful Mr. Hamilton. More's the pity.

Pennsylvania must have the busiest state legislature in the union. There are so many prissy laws, many of which pertain to alcohol. You can't buy alcohol on a Sunday, you can't buy more than two cases of beer at a time, it's unlawful to perform a marriage ceremony on someone who is drunk, police can do roadside blood alcohol testing without your consent. It is also unlawful to use milk crates for any purpose other than transporting milk. We stopped at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and my toilet stall had a brand new roll of toilet paper and it took me a few seconds to find the end of it and the toilet flushed on me because apparently I had been sitting on the toilet for as long as Pennsylvania Law allows.

Pennsylvania is, on a small scale, what the United States would be like if Sarah Palin were president: unlimited freedom for business, particularly ugly big box stores, coal mines and fast food chains, but personal liberty is so curtailed that you can't pick your own nose without applying for a permit.

Pennsylvania dispensed with, we are now at home and getting ready to send the kids back to farking school. I got a letter from the Charlottesville Public Schools central office demanding proof of academic progress and a new Intent to Homeschool form for Mad Scientist. I sent them a letter politely telling them to fuck off. I didn't exactly say "fuck off" but I did title the document "Bite me, CHS" when I saved it to my hard drive. I couldn't resist pointing out that Mad Scientist, the kid they labeled as a discipline problem, is a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist and has earned 59 college credits, a scholarship to a respected college in New York, and that he will finish his bachelor's degree in two years, (he'll be 19 when he graduates) no thanks to their backwards, shit-ass public school system and that they can take their demand for "academic progress" and shove it straight up their arses. (I wasn't that crude, of course, but I think they can read between the lines.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Anothe mom bites the dust

I've been tired lately, not the pleasant tiredness that comes after a good day's work, but the "I think I must have cancer" sort of tiredness. I can pull myself together and go to work and get through a 12 hour shift without collapsing, so I think the exhaustion might be psychological or related to the sheer, unadulterated HELL of rotating between day shift and night shift. The other night, after I struggled to turn a paraplegic patient, he asked me to move his bed so that he could see the TV better. The beds are on wheels and generally move without too much difficulty, but this patient had electrical cords blocking his bed's wheels and his room was so cramped I had to move three pieces of furniture (and knocked his phone and several other small items onto the floor in the process) and after I'd managed to tug the head of his bed a foot or so to the left I just wanted to lie down on the floor and sob. I confess, I told that patient that I simply did not have the strength to move his bed even another inch. There's probably nothing physical wrong with me. There might be, but I am too tired to care.

Speaking of being too tired to care, my one-year anniversary of working as a nurse is fast approaching, which means I will be promoted one level up the clinical ladder. In order to achieve that I have to write a portfolio which includes a cover letter, CV, self-evaluation, two specific examples of times when I did something super-human as a nurse--saved someone's life, that sort of thing-- and four peer reviews. It is a requirement that the portfolio be packaged correctly: in a three-ring binder with dividers between the different sections of the portfolio and plastic page protectors on all pages. The other day I spent at least fifteen minutes perusing the different types of page protectors and dividers at Staples. Eventually I made a purchase that I now realize is all wrong. My dividers are not classy enough. My page protectors are wrong too--I went with the type that have a hole-punched tab along the side, thinking it would be easier not to have to punch holes in all my pages, but now I see that the tabbed-type page protectors are less classy than the ones without tabs. I bought a red binder with a purple contrast lining because I figured everybody else would go with navy blue or black but now I see that my binder is garish. I actually considered buying a second set of dividers/binder at the classiest stationary store in town.

Not to mention the SHEER FREAKING WASTE of having to make this package just to present my credentials. There are, I believe, sixty or so new grad nurses in the nurse residency class of 2010. That's sixty plastic-coated three ring binders, and hundreds of plastic page protectors and dividers. The environmental impact of all those binders, year after year, on every nurse seeking advancement, boggles the mind. A single week's energy needs for the storage space for all those binders could probably power a third-world country for six months. I won't even go into the hell of actually writing the stupid thing. This is ME, writing about MYSELF, and even I am bored to tears.

The good news--the glorious, glorious good news--is that I am reducing my hours to part time, effective September 18th. I have also withdrawn from the RN-BSN program at UVA. There are people who will be aghast when they hear that, but I don't care. I remember Mr. McP bursting into tears and then locking himself in the coat closet when he heard I was going back to school. I tried to justify it, but my reasoning sounded thin, even to myself. Plus, I had been telling myself, "Well, it will just be two more years of hell and then I can enjoy life again," but that's what I was telling myself all through the first round of nursing school and then all this year. I want to enjoy life now, not two years from now. Not to mention that I already have a bachelor's degree, so the effort and expense of getting a BSN would be a giant waste. I am considering doing an RN-MSN program, which is more appropriate to my needs, and at any rate wouldn't start until next year because I'll need to apply all over again.

I half hope the electromagnetic tsunami from the sun we're supposed to get today will reduce us to the stone age and plastic binders with plastic page protectors will be seen as the fripperies they are. Or at least that I can stay awake long enough to maybe see the Northern Lights.

One other small source of happiness is that I made a trip to the Alderman library at UVA and now my nightstand it groaning with unread books. Hurrah! Here's what I'll be reading for the next several weeks:
HMS Surprise by Patrick O'Brian
The Common Reader by Virginia Woolfe
What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank
Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser
The Debut by Anita Brookner
Stars Fell on Alabama by Carl Carmer
My Five Cambridge Friends by Yuri Modin
When Blackbirds Sing by Martin Boyd
More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Any opinions about these selections?