August 21, 2011

"Just Jena" or "Linchpins are cool, but not cool enough"

Grad school has many surprises for me. Even my name is subject to scrutiny.

Today is my 24th birthday, and according to my Grandpa, I still have four years to prepare for my career-phase (28-42). The career I think I want is teaching ESL. That's what my masters degree will be in, anyway. My preparation at NAU includes graduate level coursework and a teaching assistantship in the English department teaching "Reading and Writing for the Academy Community"--essentially, it's a required writing class for freshman.

I'm a week away from starting my classes, and even though the lesson planning is daunting, it's the small things that give me the biggest hang-ups. For example, what should I have students call me? I want to have authority, but not intimidation. My instinct says "Jena" because I like my first name, and I don't feel like a Miss, Ms. or Mrs., and definitely not a Prof. or Dr.. I could go with "Ms. Lynch", but I've never been all that fond of "Lynch". I think of lynchings or lynch mobs, neither of which suggest that I am a nice or reasonable person. I could always say, "Lynch" like "linchpin", but I think my aversion to the name is more than semantic.

I am not close to the "Lynch" side of my family. When my parents divorced, I had my dad's last name, but little else. When my Mom has remarried, I became the only Lynch in the Griesel family. A few years back, I seriously contemplated legally changing my last name. First I thought of practical changes, "Jena Griesel", "Jena Moore" (Mom's maiden name), or even "Jena Keim" (Grandma's maiden name). None of these choices sounded very natural, so I tried to tap into the Italian-ness of "Gina". "Jena Bonati" (our one-time foreign exchange student) "Jena Marzetti" (a salad dressing) or "Jena Lorenzetti" (Still has the L).  These seemed a little far-fetched, since I have no relation to Italy.

As a teacher, I want a name that has a positive connotation, (preferably something not connected to killing) like "Teegarden", "Goodheart", or "Coffee". A German name would also fit me: "Ms. Braun", "Ms. Ritter", "Ms. Garten", etc.

But alas. Here I am Jena Lynch. Rather than be called by a name that I don't really like, I think I'll stick with just Jena.

Or I could really go for it and be "Lady Lynch".

August 10, 2011

Welcome to Grad School--Sort of!

I'm officially a grad student. I wrote my first paper, well, "response" to a reading. An informal one-pager full of my thoughts on David Bartholomae's "Inventing the University". I feel so grad student-y now.

Actually, the text had a lot of tough ideas and I spent about two hours trying to figure out what to put in or leave out of my response. I want to start strong. Or at least with minimal typos.

I really like grad school so far. I'm a whopping two days into my graduate teaching assistant (GTA) training/orientation that should prepare me to teach Freshman Composition. The instructors are helpful and organized, and the new GTA's are fun and smart. I'm still getting used to sharing my thoughts and questions in front of 30+ people (why do the dumb questions make me raise my hand?). I will also get back in the Writing Center this fall, and I might even get to do some writing tutoring outside of the WC. Oh yeah, and I'll be taking graduate courses in TESL. It will be a lot of work.

I've been riding my bike to campus. It's 20 invigorating minutes of rolling hills each way. Pant Pant Pant. Helmet hair. Sweat on my dress pants. Heavy backpack. No big deal. The weather is gorgeous, it's Flagstaff, and I'm getting exercise without going to the gym.

Life is good.

August 5, 2011

Something to accompany the pictures of last post

It’s much harder to blog about things that went well. That’s my excuse for not writing much lately. Flagstaff is incredible, the weather is a temperature so perfect that my body doesn’t even register it, and I’m no longer alone all day every day.

What is there to write about? My boyfriend came to visit me with his fractured elbow in a sling. Although I found his left-handed motions awkward and funny, I enjoyed the chance to help him out with day-to-day things that are hard with one hand, like picking up heavy things, carrying laundry baskets and opening bottles.

Despite the broken arm, and my better judgment, my boyfriend and I tried to experience Arizona’s outdoor pleasures. It turns out that my ability to whine about anything was more of a hindrance than the broken arm. We drove to Sedona and took a short, hot hike on Wilson Mountain—named for Mr. Wilson who was gobbled up by a bear at the turn of the last century. We slid down steep rocks to Oak Creek. We even took a scenic route by Red Rock High School to get an up-close view of the thunderstorm moving into Sedona, at which time I became jealous of the Red Rock school district and paranoid about getting struck by lightning. Closer to Flagstaff, we explored a hike trail near Mormon lake that I renamed “1000 Ways to Break an Ankle.” I’m not exactly an outdoor enthusiast, but I do my best to keep up with a guy with one arm.

When we weren’t out trying to break other body parts on the cliffs of Arizona, we took turns winning Scrabble until he figured out the “Bingo” rule (if you can play all of your tiles in one turn, you get to add 50 to your total score). After that, I had to fudge on the rules if I wanted to come even within 50 points of his score. For some reason, my background in English doesn’t translate into creating a crossword puzzle on the spot. The wine didn’t help either.

My roommate and a few guests also arrived during the week my boyfriend visited. Stress. Having been alone for several weeks and then suddenly being surrounded by people was a shock to my system. They were all very friendly and wonderful people, so my stress soon melted into much needed social interaction.

I also got to share more than I planned with my new roommate the day after my boyfriend left. After two afternoons of severe stomach cramping, fatigue and mild headache, I decided to get a professional opinion. Well, decided, as in I began crying in my roommate’s car while I was on the phone with a family friend asking about walk-in clinics. The decision was made for me, really. I can’t imagine how terrifying for my new roommate to have me crying and clutching my abdomen on her third day in Flagstaff. Bless her heart, she put in the address of the clinic to her GPS, drove me there, and sat with me in the lobby as my stomach churned and gurgled.

As I sat on the doctor’s table I expected that all of my internal organs were complete mush and that I would need some scary procedure involving a transplant. To my delight, I was diagnosed with altitude sickness, an affliction common to hikers and those who move to high altitude cities like Flagstaff. The doctor said that the pain in my stomach was most likely due to dehydration caused by the altitude, and that physical exertion and the Scrabble wine were exacerbating the problem. At this altitude you have to drink a lot more water than usual. Seriously? That’s it?

Seriously, one Gatorade and a couple glasses of water later, I was feeling better. I just needed to know what was wrong to fix it!

There's no real moral to this story. I had a lot of fun and I got altitude sickness. Welcome to Flagstaff.

August 3, 2011

Most fun you can have while getting altitude sickness

Outside Sedona, Arizona

Did I mention that I live in Arizona?

Red Rocks in the rain

Candidate for best picture ever

11,000 feet up.

Near Mormon Lake