Saturday, January 26, 2008

Brain Age and Other Puzzles

I've never been good at crossword puzzles or Scrabble (oh, the irony for an English/writing teacher!), so I've doing more crosswords and slowly getting better. The last time we went to Traverse City, I discovered that the Detroit Free Press has an acrostic puzzle every Saturday. I love acrostics! I like Sudoku, too, as I've mentioned before.

Last year my mom-in-law got a Nintendo DS Lite and a Brain Age 2 game for her birthday. The game is supposed to stimulate the cortex, improving memory. The games are challenging but fun.

As a reward for surviving the first three weeks of the semester and completing my Major Review, I bought myself a Nintendo DS Lite and Brain Age 1. Brain Age 1 has completely difference games than Brain Age 2, so Mom and I can trade. I'd like to get Ultimate Brain Games and Ultimate Card Games when they are released for the DS.

No doubt all this cortical stimulation will help me avoid perpetuating the absent-minded professor stereotype. :)


Whew! Things are finally getting back to normal for me. When my uncle died, I spent that week at the funeral home and frantically preparing to teach my Winter semester classes (which started following Monday). Since the semester started, whenever I wasn't in class I was frantically working on the materials for my first Major Review, which I finished and turned in yesterday.

All professors do an annual review. Since I'm non-tenure track, our union requires a Major Review every 3-5 years. A Major Review covers the previous three years. I had to complete and present in a notebook:

A Summary
The Review Form
My Vita
My Teaching Philosophy
Syllabi for every class I've taught over the last 3 years
Student evaluations for every class I've taught over the last 3 years
My Analysis of Student Evaluations
My Analysis of My Successes and Challenges
At least one Classroom Observation by someone who outranks me (I included 3!)
Any Additional Materials

For additional materials I included a couple of assignment sheets, unsolicited feedback from students (letters, cards, e-mail, etc., about how I helped them, changed their lives, etc.), Golden Apple Awards (award certificates students can give to their instructors each semester), feedback from my Department Chairman and Director of Writing Programs on my previous reviews, and the papers I presented or published during the past three years.

Whew! I'm glad that's over. I'm really glad that since I turned it in I haven't thought of anything I should have included but forgot.

What do I get for all this? A promotion from Lecturer III to Lecturer IV, a raise, and more job security -- but I won't know for sure for about 2 months. The good news is that everyone who has seen the notebook tells me I have nothing to worry about. In the meantime, I'm glad to return to my normal stress/workload!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas Cactus

Isn't this a beautiful Christmas Cactus? It is about 50 years old and was my grandma's. When we were preparing for my uncle's funeral we noticed that it was blooming. You may not be able to tell from this picture, but it is also full of buds! I've never had good luck with Christmas Cactuses (Cacti?) so I just hope we can keep it alive.

By the way, don't tell the plant it's supposed to bloom only at Christmas. It blooms from about Christmas to about Easter.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Year

Our new year is not starting well. My uncle was taken from rehab to the Emergency Room early in the morning on New Year's Day. He was recovering from a urinary tract infection but they had not yet entirely ruled out the possibility that he had another TIA (mini-stroke) or a stroke. He was admitted to hospital and died about 5 a.m. Jan. 2.

We're not sure whether the infection went systemic or whether his heart gave out, but his death was very quick and peaceful. It was so fast that my brother and I didn't make it back to the hospital in time to be with him. A very nice nurse, Nancy, was with him when he died. She said it was very peaceful and easy. He was not in any pain or struggling to breath and we are thankful for that and that such a compassionate nurse was with him.

We are also thankful that he was able to attend our usual family Christmas Eve celebration and that he got to meet his newest great-great-nephew.

After making funeral arrangements, visiting at the funeral home for two days, AND frantically getting ready for winter semester (which starts Monday), I am pretty tired. The funeral is today and it will hard to say good-bye to him for the last time.

Thank you to everyone who has e-mailed, called, sent flowers, cards, etc. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your kindness and moral support.