Tag: School

London Day Four: Gowns and Graduation

“At commencement you wear your square-shaped mortarboards.  My hope is that from time to time you will let your minds be bold, and wear sombreros.”
~ Paul Freund

This was our day to be Very Serious, kittens, since it was sort of the point of the whole trip.  We spent almost the whole day in Covent Garden with only a few meanderings into Soho.

Getting dressed for the occasion.
The director offers a few words of last minute advice.

I’m unbelievably proud of that guy.  He worked incredibly hard, and it wasn’t a fun nine months, but it paid off.

“This is no mere hanger-on in hero’s armor…”

“Ironically we were studing the scarlet letter. Isn’t it always the way? The book you read in class always seem to have strong connection with whatever angsty adolescence trauma is going on. Exept for Huckleberry Finn, ’cause I don’t know any teenage boy who ran away with big hulking black guy.”
“Did you hear than Brandon ran away from home?  Yeah, totally.  He left his parents a note that said, ‘I’m gay, *******!’ and then he skipped town with some big hulking black guy.”
“…My apologies to Mark Twain.”
– Easy A

Mum called last night because she’s going to throw Beowulf into the mix for her class on Western Civilization this term and needed to know the pronunciations for some of the names, as she’s more at home with Greek and Latin.

And I knew the answers.   ‘Cause I’m a nerd.

Foundation of an unlikely friendship.

My knowledge of Beowulf was what initially won over the seemingly alarming and crusty high school teacher who went on to become my mentor and good friend to this day.  I’d read it for the first time in 8th grade and fell in love with Early English literature, so I knew whereof I spoke when I confronted him (trembling) about a test question that I was sure I’d got right.  He turned a baleful eye on me before apparently deciding not to disembowel me, and decided that if I could show him the reason for my answer in the text, he’d give me the points.  I could and he did.

And as it turned out, for a special few students who showed a genuine love to literature and history, he had heart of butter.  And once he loved you, he loved you.  I was one of the few who could misbehave at all in his class, and my mates didn’t even mind me being a teacher’s pet because I alone could persuade him to postpone tests when more study time was needed.  We debated vigorously across four classes for two years.  He wrote me glowing recommendations when I was applying to universities.  I still send him Christmas presents, he sent me the most lovely card and note for my wedding, and we exchange lengthy emails every couple of months.

All because of Beowulf.

See, kids, those required readings pay off eventually.

Back To School

“I swear, the freshman get younger every year!”
– C.

We’re currently going through the brief pandemonium of a new term.  The roads are clogged – after a summer of near empty streets – as the population of both our university town and campus triples overnight.  There have already been several accidents and thefts.

And parents!  There have been many rabid parents, helicopter parents, fretting parents, clingy parents, and totally negligent parents.  The array of which gives rise to a multitude of headaches and funny stories.  Just as the freshman seem to get younger, the parents seem to get more overbearing,

However, I’m currently sleep deprived, stressed, and more than a little anxious about the fact that J. is leaving in two weeks.  So I’ll boil down a week’s worth of muffled snorts and eye bugging to handy, easy to read bullet point:


  • No, we cannot arrange an armed escort for your child to and from the dorms every morning.  However we do have a safe walk program, knock yourself out.
  • I am terribly sorry that your son left his brand new laptop at the library for an hour unsupervised and it got stolen.  But I categorically refuse to accept the charge that we had the ability to prevent that incident or that it’s “all our fault.”
  • No, I cannot run a background check on the boys in your precious daughter’s classes/congregation/dinner group.
  • No, I cannot call you and give you a weekly checkup on your child unless there is a legitimate medical, psychological, or law enforcement reason for me to do so.
  • No.  You’re child is not an exception.  Really.

Carry on, freshman.  Snip the umbilical cord and you’ll do alright.

Let’s Move

“If I’ve been here a long time, I think: I must go to London and speak to someone or see a bus.”
– Julian Clary

As a result of our recent announcement (to recapitulate: LONDON!), and as you have probably rightly assumed, we are going to be busy for the next few months.  Saving money, getting visas, selling most of what we own, packing up what’s left – horrifyingly, delightfully busy.  Travel junkie and pro that I am, I’m already straining at the lead to get started.

And so, we’re going to be having a theme here at Small Dog Inc. for the next 3 – 4 months: upping sticks.  We’ll be talking paperwork, packing, selling stuff, and about adventures abroad (past and future).

As you may recall, I’ve rather extensive experience in the matters of cross continental hops, but why shouldn’t you get to participate in the fun?  Vicariously, I mean, I would never ask it of you to haul furniture and sort kitchen utensils!  I have better uses for such lovely minions as yourselves than manual labor.  In fact, here’s an assignment, email me your travel tips and misadventures starting now, everyone’s invited to this blog party and I want to feature you and your good ideas and stories.

So sit back and enjoy the fun, my darlings!  I’m going to be asking your opinions on many things so do participate.  I will even try and get some of my mates to do guest posts about moving and their adventures abroad.  And when the boxes tumble and crush me, all of the appliances break last minute as we are trying to sell them, the car needs last minute repairs that wipe out our savings, and the locusts eat all our crops, you will be the first to know.

Weekend Wrap-up and Coming Week Countdown

“A host is like a general: calamities often reveal his genius.”
– Horace

There is very little that can crush the spirit of Small Dog, minions, but taking one’s car in to be serviced and having what one has long suspected confirmed as true – it needs new tires – is a spiritual and financial blow.  I handed over the credit card with clear eyes and teeth clenched.  It’s awfully hard to keep improving one’s savings when one’s car decides to be disagreeable.

And I absolutely did not mistake cyanide for baking powder. Enjoy!

And then, because my cup was not yet full, we had a couple of people visit from the parish yesterday.  I was just finishing up dicing cheeses and fruits to broil on french bread slices (Palm Sunday pretensions, kittens, because I was in no mood to cook a full meal) when they knocked.  I figured they wouldn’t be staying too long so I’d let the oven heat up while they visited.  Ten minutes later, I smelled burning and realized that I had left my pizza stone in the oven and that the oils in it were beginning to smoke.  The fire alarm went off.  All the windows had to be open.  I joked and laughed the whole thing off, but I was secretly mortified.

That pizza stone (which has given me no end of angst) is now at the bottom of the trash bin.  Cheap pieces of….

J. has only one more final and then we are done (free!) with his undergraduate degree!  Thursday and Friday are his graduation celebrations, and then we throw ourselves full time into grad school preparation – in spite of car related financial irritations.

How was your weekend, my loves?

Guilt. Trip.

“Guilt is the price we pay for doing what we are going to do anyway.”
– Isabelle Holland

We went to dinner with J.’s parents over the weekend and afterwards, after shooing the men off, my mother-in-law and I took in some shopping and talked a bit about friends, family, and the upcoming move to grad school.

It was good to get her take on it all, because I appreciate her points of view – usually she’s right.  But at one point, when talking about the move itself, which will be across the country/state, she started to tear up…and I froze, like the culturally confused, emotionally stunted useless lump that I am.  Because naturally I felt that somehow it was all my fault.  That I had lured her son into my bizarre world of regular continent-hopping, complicated familial relationship, and wanderlust, and out of  a stable clan homestead away from all he holds dear.  Heavy, Catholic-style-self-flagellating, corrosive guilt swamped me.

Of course I know that this is purely in my head.  Both my in-laws are extremely supportive, fantastic people and they are just sad because most of their kids have already moved further away than is convenient, and now J. is too, and J.’s the baby, etc.  But still, somehow I feel as if I’ve mucked up.  Actually, technically, J. did .  He picked the schools, but that didn’t matter.  If he hadn’t married me he’d never have been encouraged in this rash sort of behavior like leaving native states – to say nothing of countries!  “This,” my inner demon cackles, “is All Your Fault.  Homewrecker.”

J. of course finds my angst hilarious.
” I made her cry,” I exploded the second we left my godparents house where we’d been visiting.
“No you didn’t.”
“I contributed!  I’m a horrible daughter-in-law!  I’m encouraging you to go to some of the top schools in the world, supporting your decision fully, and I’m awful because of it!”
“Not exactly,” he soothed.

I was not to be dissuaded.  When debating whether to buy gas we decided against it because it was raining.  “Like your mother’s tears!” I wailed.  “She’s just going to miss us,” J. offered.  “Because I’m an academic Jezebel who’s lured you away,” I cried, digging around in my purse for a hair shirt.  “We’re close and it’s hard to see us move away,” he tried finally.  “But I want to go somewhere else…I hate myself for it!”  I probably would have leapt from the car to a quick death had the idea occurred to me then instead of just now.

Nearly two years as an exemplary daughter-in-law, torpedoed by a single crushing failure: I made my mother-in-law cry.

*Not really.  But still!

Hand Me That Paper Bag, Dear? Thank You. AUGHHHH!

“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”
~ Robert Orben

I’m calm.  I’m collected.  I’m poised.

I’m freaking out.

Today makes it officially one month until J.’s graduation.  Which means that it’s only five months until we’re off to grad school on the opposite side of the country/world.  Which means we’re 14 months away from being done with school entirely.  Which means we have to grow up, I suppose.

That coherrent look? The product of caffeine, pain killers, and my good friend there holding me upright.

I remember being almost entirely apathetic about my own graduation.  Granted, I just got home from a summer “study abroad” to the UK 24 hours previous to the ceremony and was jet-lagged out of my mind.  The only reason I participated in the whole cap-and-gown circus was because my parents happened to be in the country visiting friends and family and could actually show up.  They took pictures, met J. for the first time, and took us all and my godparents out to breakfast.  Fin.

Thus I’m much more excited about his graduation.  But just don’t let me think about what comes next…because there is too much to do and I’ll start hyperventilating.  Again.

Top Score

“Creditor. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.”
– Ambrose Bierce

As J. and I contemplate and plot for grad school, by far the biggest question we have is, “How in Pluto’s dark depths are we going to pay for this?!”  The response is, of course, financial aid and debt.  Out of curiosity and as a way to start looking into loans, we decided to get our credit scores.

Both are excellent…but mine is four points higher!

C. – 1
J. – 0

Financial. Aid.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
~ Andy McIntyre

Woof, ducklings!  I thought the application process for J.’s grad school was grueling and soul destroying…but it is as nothing compared to working out how to pay for it!

Where will we live?
How much can we contribute ourselves?
How much, then, will we need in loans?
Federal, private, or both?
and most importantly…
Will we have to sell any kidneys and/or future children to pull this off?

We must write such moving personal statements that the entire selection committe will be moved to tears/frenzy/generosity. See photo for desired effect.

Last night we stayed up past 1am writing (another!) personal statement, this time for a scholarship application.  Let me just say here, that between J.’s experience and my editing, we have streamlined this sort of midnight activity to a science.  In fact reading the earliest application essays and comparing them to the last one we put together was hilarious – especially considering that earliest and probably least polished piece of work is the one that got him into the school we’re most excited about.  Who can fathom the ways of grad school selection committees?

Naturally staying up that late working on something that will only decide the course of our destiny is not conducive to stress free and happy Small Dogs.  I was frighteningly stressed and humorless about it all, I’m afraid, but J. seems to find this sort of angst in me amusing – granted I was especially klutzy last night and after midnight all sorts of incoherent things start coming out of my mouth, so maybe I’m better company than I thought.

So far this work is paying off, though.  J. has one fabulous scholarship offer to school A and now we’re just waiting to see what school B will throw at us (we’re dreadful tarts, you see, money buys our affections).  We’ve callously kicked schools C and D to the curb.

We’ll be making a final decision sometime in the near future.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I simply have to go breathe into a paper bag just thinking about it…

Higher. Education.

“Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure has earned a lot of people graduate degrees.”
– Robyn Irving quotes

Yesterday was a big day, my loves.  Huge. Well, maybe just for us, but still.  Gargantuan.

And he's brilliant too!

We received word back from the last of the grad schools J. applied to, and he got in to all but one – which is completely fine because it’s their loss apparently.  He’s into two of the top ten schools for his program in the country, including the number one, and one of the best schools in the world!  I’m so ridiculously proud of him it’s a little dizzying.

Now, the fun bit.  I thought the hurry-up-and-wait period after submitting the applications was bad, but now we have to make a decision.  And after that we have to make a plan that includes a move, financing this adventure, maybe visas, and selling our soul (and possibly our firstborn child) to banks and governments to afford it.  That’s all a bit nerve-wracking.

But also incredibly exciting.