Friday, July 7, 2017

Deodorant and Term Papers

Three times now in the last week, I've experienced deodorant marks on my work clothes. And, not just the white marks. I'm talking greasy, residue marks that cannot be rubbed or washed out of a shirt.

The best part of deodorant marks on your work clothes is (1) if you notice it before you catch a morning flight and wash it out because you don't want to have to re-think an outfit in the dawn's early light and then, (2) you notice when you get to your destination, after you've walked through airports, sat on a flight and interacted with co-workers in a different city, that the stains are still there and look more like sweat stains than deodorant marks.

(The sweat could happen because I happen to live on the hottest place on earth and it is mid-July.)

(But, go with me on the embarrassment and that I had to facilitate a session in front of a group of people without flailing my arms around, rather keeping them pinned to my side so no one would notice the not-sweat, but deodorant stains.)

So, along with the deodorant marks landing on my work clothes, I've spent three evenings scrubbing out the damned spots. (Literature reference. This all fits in to what's to come in this writing.)

And, then, the scrubbing doesn't work. OK, it did on one of the shirts. The dress required another night of scrubbing. The other blouse is dry-clean only so now I have the deodorant stains mixed in with the water stains . . . Calgon. Or Tide stick. Or something take these stains away.

Welcome to my first, second and third part. These are the times I want and want for a fourth part.

You might be thinking. Wash out the spots and take them to the dry cleaner if that doesn't work and friend, you've got a fourth part.


I've a son in summer school. He took six hours the first session. Both online courses. Both basic requirements for his B.A. Welcome American Literature and Texas History to the Adams' house.

I mouthed off one evening early in the summer session that I would help my son because these were courses that really didn't contribute to his degree, and, hey, I have a Journalism degree and took many, many hours of English. The icing is his granddad was a History teacher.

Cake. With icing.

More like a natural disaster cake like my grandmother used to make. (Oh, I miss her. She named her desserts natural disasters because there was either a crack in the cake -- earthquake -- or something caved in -- sinkhole.)

When you squeeze in a semester's worth of work into four weeks, you get a lot of readings, a lot of writings and a lot of quizzes. And, a lot of late nights because your son works retail and typically closes, which means he gets home around 10:30 p.m.

All with a side of term paper. Only 1200 words. Again, cake. I can write 1200 words in a minute. I was a reporter who could knock out 10 to 15 inches of copy in a heartbeat. I was paid to write those words. This go-round, I paid to write these words. $500. We needed two As.

What did I learn this semester? I learned that there were Japanese internment camps in Kenedy and Crystal City. I learned the history of barbed wire. I learned about the journeys Texans took before the fall of the Alamo. I also learned that it is easy these days to cite sources.

Enter the term paper.

As many of you will fondly recall, in any English college course, there comes a requirement of demonstrating you are making progress on your term paper. The outline, the draft, the thesis statement and a sprinkling of potential sources. Gone are the days of going to the library and handwriting down the sources. Gone are the days of the MLA as we knew it.

Now, MLA is like on version 8 or something and you have web addresses to take into account. You also have to distinguish between print or web.

But guess what? Whenever you find the source you need, after hours of searching the only two allowable databases, you click this little button to the right of the source and up pops the MLA-approved citation. Come on. Easy. And, since the internet is always right, you don't double-check against any MLA information your history professor provides.

We (with a heavy emphasis on me) worked on the term paper preparation paper. We got an 86. I was astounded and disappointed. Apparently, the central question was two questions even though the second question began with 'and' and if that second sentence had been added to the first, it would have been a run-on.

(hmmm. . .some things never change.)

Put that 86 on the shelf. Or 86 it. Bring on the 1200 words comparing Native American creation stories to the original, Genesis 1.

(By the way, the Bible is a primary source and you don't cite it as 'God, The Bible.')

Chris began and I wrapped it up. We spent four evenings and a weekend pulling this bad boy together. We cited, we attributed, we quoted, we presented a fine analysis in 1300 words, give or take.

I got a 92. Oh, I mean, Chris earned a 92. 

An A. I was excited and thrilled. Chris told me his grades don't count, it just goes to credits and is indicated as a 'pass.'

My Grandmother would have named this natural disaster cake as 'the mom who hasn't enjoyed a fourth part in a week' volcano.

He passed. We're happy. We had As in those classes and we learned something. We discussed Thoreau's Resistance to Government (Civil Disobedience) and ways we step out and show our disagreement with our government (I don't buy garage sale permits). We talked about the internment camps and what that was and how it could happen today.

That's when I thought of the importance of these unnecessary, required courses. They spark conversation. Maybe not when you are in the middle of college and just wanting to get through these basics, but maybe when you are a parent having those late nights with your college student.

Today, Chris turned 20. The last few weeks have been time spent between the two of us working on homework, talking about the readings and yeah, griping about the grades. In only a few years, I won't have that time. He won't be home. He'll be away. He'll be having conversations about current affairs with other people.

Tonight, we'll have cake. It's not a natural disaster, but it is his favorite -- the yellow cake from a box with the chocolate icing from the tub. We'll go out to eat as a family. G will complain that the meal costs too much and Chris will order the most expensive item on the menu. We'll talk about the day Chris was born and birthday parties of the past. And, I may be a bit sentimental because I'll be wondering how I can remember the moment. I'll try to remember so I can attribute and cite the statements and conversation.

That's a perfect fourth part.


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