One Final Year

chronicling my march towards graduation in 2012

So long

Well, I really am done. It’s time to say goodbye to this blog, too. When I started this blog, and I made a joke on the ‘about‘ page that it might be premature to call the blog One Final Year – after all, I still could flunk courses and have to do another year, I wasn’t really joking. I never thought I had this whole degree thing in the bag, not until I walked out of my last final exam and then it finally hit me that yeah, actually, I probably just did a degree.

Graduation ceremony, by the way, was wonderful. I encourage you to go to yours. It’s a powerful experience, and it’s a chance for you to bring a few friends and/or family members with you so they can share in that moment with you. That’s even more powerful, I think. It’s a little book-end on your university experience, and you earned it. VIU did a great job, too, with the ceremony. It was fun, warm, light-hearted, a time for joyous celebration. It was frankly delightful.

I graduated with distinction. I’m not telling you that to be boasty. I am telling you that because as I sat there, during the tail-end of the ceremony, looking at my degree, I realized that pretty much never in my life will it matter to anyone if I graduated with distinction or not. With the exception of you readers, no one will even ever know. But what I realized then is that will know. I will always know. And it’s not so much that I feel excessively proud of the with distinction but what I would feel is disappointment if I didn’t have it, because I would know, then, for me, that I could have worked harder. And what a waste it all would have been if I had just sort of floated through university, not really challenging myself, not really putting in the extra effort to do as well as I could. So I am telling you in case you’re in a position where you could put in a little more effort, just so you know how it feels when you actually get your degree. You are the only person who will care if it says with distinction or if there is nothing written after your degree announcement. But if you’re like me you will discover that you actually do care. Just don’t find out you care too late.

More than just about any experience in my life, with the exception of hanging out with my family, I have loved being at VIU. I loved learning here. I loved the people I met. I loved the content that I learned. I loved taking classes that freaked the hell out of me; I loved worrying I was going to flunk out and then not flunking out! I loved my professors. I loved the promise you feel when you’re in university; when in university, you look forward to a world that seems unimaginable in its vastness. I could do this, or this, or even this! You don’t know where you are going to end up in geography or in career. It is a magic time, and I loved every second of it.

Thank you, fellow students and thank you, professors. You all were so wonderfully patient and tolerant of me. Thank you, readers. I would get stopped by people I didn’t know in the library, or as I was wandering across campus. I read your blog, someone would say. That was always incredibly nice. But mostly, mostly, thank you, VIU. Thank you for existing. Thank you for the awesome people, the endless stairs, the promise, the hope, and the experience. I really did love absolutely every second of it. It’s been a marvelous three and a half years.

I did it!

Every once in a while someone comes up to me and says, “Man, I don’t know how you do it.”

“Do what?” is my screeched response.

Obviously whoever is speaking has failed to notice the cat hair pooling in the corners of the living room, the curious state of my bathroom baseboards, the creditors who leave progressively less-friendly messages on my answering machine. Seen from where I am standing, I usually feel like I am close to, if not successfully, failing at everything that I do.

This was particularly true when I was in school, I see now that I have been out of it for several weeks. For the last three and a half years my time was constantly pressed upon. Not so much by classes; as all university students know, classes themselves take up only fifteen or so hours out of every week. Fifteen hours! That’s it! But the homework – the constant aching press of homework … another story indeed.

As a history major, I usually had a number of readings to do each week, as well as research to do for any number of research papers. All the time, then, that I was not in class I spent brutally aware of all the work that I had to do. While playing with my children, cooking, cleaning the house, sleeping, or reading, I was silently getting increasingly anxious about the pile of homework pressing ever more upon me; while doing homework, I was crushingly aware of the time I was neither spending with my children nor attending to the cat hair.

Then I finished university. I finished. I didn’t fail! Suddenly all that pressure, that crippling blanket of all-I-am-failing-to-do lifted and I find myself floating through my days a relaxed and, frankly, new person. I feel like myself but a myself I’ve never been before. Today while driving to a meeting it suddenly hit me:

I went to university – I did an entire degree! – as a single parent to two children! They were both in hockey – I spent my weekends sitting in hockey rinks, driving to Victoria for games or Campbell River for games, responding to emails about surprise practices. And I did that. My children were five- and nine-years-old when I began university, and in the three and a half years that have passed, years that have seen them turn now into a nine- and thirteen-year-old, into the most lovely young women, our family relationship has become like a core of steel. We are a little triangle team, and that happened while I was going to school. My youngest daughter got a (unsurprising) high-functioning autism diagnosis while I was in university; I missed half my classes one semester out of going to all those doctor’s and assessment appointments. My youngest daughter got H1N1, I got MRSA , we’ve all gone through bouts of stomach flu. In short – life has happened while I was in university. Seen from here, one could argue I did do something after all. And while I was successful only because my children carry me and support me and are amazing, and my professors were tolerant and warm-hearted and encouraging, it is also true that were someone to say to me now, about my going to university, “I don’t know how you did it,” I would have to respond:

“Man, I have no idea how I did it, either.”

So for those of you who are feeling a little crushed under the weight of all that you have to do and all that you are not doing, know this: you are actually doing it. And soon you will look back and be amazed that you did it at all. But you did. You did it.

scholarships

Last week, last exam … I’m done. But for the technicality of graduation (which I look forward to very much), I have completed my degree. And that, let me tell you, feels like a million bucks!

Two years ago I almost dropped out of university. I didn’t want to drop out, I loved school, but I had been in university for a year and a half and still had two years left to go. I was also seriously out of money, as I remain to this day, and I just didn’t see how I could go forward. I wrote an essay about it called Gnawing, about how I would lie awake at night wanting to gnaw off my own hand.

And then I heard from financial aid. I’d been awarded the MacVille Charitable Foundation Award for Continuing Students – an award that paid my tuition for the 2010/2011 school year. I felt faint with relief. Suddenly I saw that perhaps I could go on, after all.

After my first semester of university, I was awarded $2500 from the Minerva Foundation for the 2009/2010 school year. The next year I was given the MacVille Award, and this last year, 2011/2012, I was again granted $2500 from Minerva. The scholarships were lovely – they meant I needed significantly less money in student loans than I might otherwise have,  but to me the real significance of the scholarships were not – and are not – about money.

When I was lying awake at night so overwhelmed with stress that I wanted to gnaw off my own hand, word of a scholarship came as a sign that perhaps I was not doing the wrong thing after all. Scholarships provided a light by which I could see my way forward. They were little gifts of hope; like little promises, ones that whispered, it’s okay. You are doing the right thing, after all.  While I couldn’t see my way all the way forward, each year they lit enough of the path in front of me that I could keep taking steps. I will do this until it doesn’t work any more, I would tell myself, and just when I thought it wouldn’t work any more, just when I was lying awake at night gnawing on my hand, something new and wonderful and promising would arrive so I could keep going a little bit farther.

And now I am done. The way was lighted enough. Time and again, it was lighted enough.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, to VIU Financial Aid and Awards, to the Minerva Foundation, and to the MacVille Charitable Foundation. Thank you for these gifts of hope. I say in no uncertain terms: I could not have done it without you.

And for you students: apply. There are grants and scholarships and bursaries out there – there are drawers full of them. Go spend some time in Financial Aid and apply for whatever you can. Perhaps you will not get anything – but perhaps you will. There are people out there who want – who want – to give money to support students like you; who want to help light the path before you. Help them find you – apply for whatever you can.

And when you get an award, pause for a moment amazed that there are people in this world who donate their money just to help out students like you, just so you can have, for a little while, the burden lifted, just to give you a breath of hope.  To this day, that takes my breath away.

Because of you, I made it through.

Thank you.

and…

…I just declined graduate school.

I have known for a while this was probably what I was going to need to do, but I promise you, if you had told me at any point in my life prior to just a few weeks ago that I would a) get into graduate school b) get offered money to attend and c) decline such an invitation, I would never have believed you. I would have questioned my mental health, certainly, which some of you may still be inclined to do.

I only applied to one graduate program, one that was so delightful to me I literally did a little jig there in the library when I discovered it. I assumed I would not get in, because this graduate school is so very awesome that surely it must be flooded with applicants each year, applicants who are not predisposed to overuse swear words and who do not show an affectionate disregard for appropriate comma placement. But I did get in, and they even offered me a little money to go along with their acceptance.

I just about passed out with delight. I told my children. We started informally planning a two-year long adventure in another part of the country. We graffitied Newfoundland in sharpie marker onto our bathroom wall, so that every time one of us was in there to shower or wash we could dream about showering or washing in Newfoundland less than a year from now. We thought of all the reasons living in Newfoundland would be wonderful: they would be closer to their Papa; it’s Newfoundland!; I’ve wanted to go there since I was a kid; I’d be attending the most fabulous graduate program, I’m quite certain, of all time.

My children were delighted. They got stars in their eyes as they dreamed of Newfoundland. We talked about how we would sell all of our stuff, how we would drive there with blow-up air mattresses in the back of our car. We would get little harnesses to put on the cats so we could let them out of the car at rest stops. We imagined a 12-hour long ferry ride. I thought about marrying, one day, a fisher. I lay awake at night and thought about the grad school program, dreamed of my Masters project.

For several weeks, we lived in a fog of surprise and delight. But these weeks were weeks on pause, because there is a residency requirement for the program – a period of study in a remote community that I would have to attend sans children. We lived in dream land for those weeks while I tried to figure out how to meet that requirement, while I wondered what to do with the kids. Where would they go? And how would I afford to maintain them and myself separately? How would they join me in the end? And in the pause while I tried to figure this out, I thought about these children of mine, and how they support me no matter what I do, and how their love for me eclipses everything else in their lives.

What, I wondered, would happen if for a while I stopped being single-minded about my academic progress and future academic career. What would happen if I didn’t farm them out for three weeks, didn’t go to grad school now, and instead got a job, and worked, and supported them, and gave back to them as they give so much to me? I know what it is like to be driven for the future, to dream of the ideal career, to want and want and want for yourself. I get that. I get how pursuing that could also be good for my family in the long-term – the promise of a higher income, or more job security perhaps, or something – but I also get how pausing – how not having to do everything right now – is good for them, too.

I don’t have to prove anything any more. But I do have to take care of my children, who will be with me for so brief a time. And so in the pause offered me by this hard-to-beat residency requirement came the gift of due consideration, and I duly decided to pass, for now, on this wonderful graduate program, and to build up a life for my children here instead. And in a few years when my children have flown away from me, as they shall do, I will apply to Newfoundland again. I will be older and weaker in the knees. I will fly briefly away for my own little adventure.

End of Classes

Now that classes have come to an end, now that I am just looking down the gun barrel at two exams separating me from my degree, I will share with you a list of things I wish I had known before this very moment. If I could go back to the me who started university three years and three months ago, this is what I would tell her:

University is actually not that hard. Don’t be afraid of it. You can actually do it. You can actually do university level math, for instance. You will not flunk out.

Go to class. Every day. Unless you have the flu, in which case, on behalf of all other students, I implore you to stay home. But don’t skip class, because that always sets off a doom spiral of shame.

Take notes. If your prof is talking, you should be paying attention. At the very least, it’s polite, but I can promise you it will make a big, big, big difference to you when it comes times for exams.

Everyone knows when you’re on Facebook in class. Yes, even your professor. Please. Stop.

There’s an elevator that goes from the parking lot at the top of fourth to the computer lab of the library. Really, you do not need to walk up all those stairs past the book store any more. There’s information I wish I had had three years ago.

When you run out of money, ask someone for help. Financial aid/student services is a good place to start.

When you feel like you’re failing at everything, there are counsellors who are awesome and who are available to listen to you melt down. Go see them. Tell them I say ‘hi’.

University is really, really fun. You will love it. You will hug yourself with glee, every day, that you get to do this.

You will wonder if you will make it through. Somehow, going to three hour of classes each day will occasionally feel like more than you can handle. You can handle it.

Your professors are awesome. But if you end up in a class with a professor with whom you just do not mix, it’s okay to drop it. You are an adult. And you will end up, I am quite sure, discovering yourself in class with a professor you adore. So don’t be afraid to mix it up a little bit, or to try something out and then to change your mind.

Take a variety of courses. I was a little single-minded about getting my degree, and while I love all the classes I took, I do wish, now, that I had taken the opportunity to take an art class, or a music class, or biology, or sturgeon studies. It’s good to try a few things out.

It’s always a good idea to sit next to someone who is a good student. If you sit next to someone who texts/talks/skips all the time, your inclination will be to do the same. But if your neighbour is actively taking notes and generally enjoying him/herself in class, your inclination will be to do the same. You are spending time and money to be in that class, you might as well get the most out of it that you can.

Learning should be fun. If it’s not fun, it’s okay to drop your class and find another class that makes your brain feel full of delightful little sparks. I only took classes that made my brain feel full of delighted little sparks, and I wish I had had the insight to do that the first time I took a stab at university, many years ago. My failure to do this may well account for my previous failures at university.

When you are looking down the barrel at your very last exams, you will be sad. That’s okay, too.

What do you wish you had known? What should someone have told you?

Sturgeon

In the midst of the last few weeks of my last semester as an undergraduate, I don’t even know how I feel. I love VIU. I don’t want to leave it. When I tell this to people, they remind me that it is a bubble, like an incubator if you will. But I love my incubator. I love the stairs. I love how kind Toni O’Keefe and Ralph Nilsson have been about the various ranting letters I have sent them over my tenure here. I love my professors and often make little Justin Beiber hearts with my hands whenever I see them.

I just got back – like two minutes ago – from a tour of the new sturgeon center and I realized – three and a half years after beginning a degree in history – that I love sturgeon. I love their beautiful black bodies, I love the three lines of scutes across their backs. I love my history and First Nations studies, but I’m thinking, suddenly, I should have been a marine biologist. I want to be sturgeon geek, I’m not going to lie, and I wonder how I didn’t get this memo until this morning, thirty-eight years old, about to graduate.

I love the grow-op situation they’ve got going on up there in the fish place, although I am pretty confident grow-op was not the term used by the technician who led us around. They were growing basil, and as I stood there in the hothouse, inhaling the vibrant scent of basil, I thought, you know, I would really like to make me some pesto right now, and now I’m wondering who exactly I need to beg or bribe in order to get my hands on some of that fish-grown basil from VIU. I’m just sayin’, if you’ve never taken a walk around the sturgeon center, you should give them a call and find out how you can. Cool stuff. (In full disclosure, I sheepishly confess that when VIU implemented its ‘no credit card policy’ I wrote them a shitogram complaining that they couldn’t afford to take credit card payments any more but they could afford to build a new sturgeon building… um, if it helps, I am now hanging my head in shame, and I’d like to take this moment to thank VIU for not booting my butt out of this school for being such a pain in the ass. Thanks, VIU. You guys are champs!)

So I love sturgeon, and basil, and VIU, and my professors, and the long-suffering adminstration. That’s a lot of love to walk away from, I’m not going to lie, and so I look to graduation with a sense of, well, sorrow. And I’m scared, too, because VIU is a bubble, it is a wonderful incubator, and this particular student is horrified, frankly, at the uncertainty of whatever comes next. I love that I got to do this. I know what comes next will be wonderful, but I am not sure that what comes next will inspire me to form Justin Bieber hearts several times a day.

I hope it does. I also hope it involves sturgeon.

why would they kill a singer?

The summer of 1983, when I was nine years old, my brother and sister and I accompanied our parents to an Operation Solidarity protest outside the Salmon Arm office of MLA Cliff Michael. I remember sitting that morning in our dining room drawing out protest signs, and I remember standing in a swarm of people singing “We Shall Overcome”. To this day, it remains one of those songs that gets my little heart going pitter-pat with just a few notes.

I don’t know if it was that experience of 1983 that triggered my great and unquenchable love for Pete Seeger, but love him I do. Whenever I hear this song I get a little tear in my eye.

But Pete Seeger is fairly old; he’ll be 93 this May. I realize that most of the people I am in school with have never heard of him, and that’s too bad. Not only does he have some pretty good work, but in my view one of the things that is so wonderful about Pete Seeger is how through his music I learn so much about other artists. Watching youtube videos of Pete Seeger led me to Malvina Reynolds, who wrote the song “Magic Penny.” You know. love is something if you give it away. I grew up singing that song at summer camp but I never realized it was written by someone, it seemed like one of those songs that was just there.

Malvina Reynolds is getting a new run of fame these days as her song Little Boxes is used as the introductory song for the TV show Weeds, but my favourite of her songs at the moment is Little Red Hen. The singing is a little unique, but I promise you you won’t be able to get it out of your head (in a good way). (That’s Pete Seeger along with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in the background). I like to play this song for my kids when I ask them if they’d like to help around the house and they decline. They’re plotting a revolt, I’m sure.

Because I’ve been enjoying Malvina so much on youtube, I decided to order a couple of her CDs through Amazon. On the re-release of her album Sings The Truth is a wonderful version of Little Boxes by Victor Jara.

On the CD, following Jara’s song, there’s a clip of Malvina Reynolds talking about how much she liked this version. She talks about how Victor Jara was a wonderful Chilean folk singer during Allende’s rule, and how later the junta broke his hands and said, “now sing for us,” before murdering him.

My daughter, who is eight, was stunned into a long and thoughtful silence upon hearing this. Finally she asked, “why would they kill a singer?”

I tried to explain about how there is music, and then there is music that is more than music, music that is social critique and commentary, music that is subversive, music that changes – or threatens to change – the world.

Now I can’t stop listening to Victor Jara. I wonder where he will lead.

Grad school, take two

In the end, I applied to one grad school. I hadn’t planned on it. Last semester, you may remember, I was sick, and mostly I was busy and overly stressed out, and I didn’t get around to even looking for grad schools, let alone applying for any. And this inadvertent failure felt quite peaceful to me. I will take a year off, I decided, and that felt good. If I find the perfect job, the job that just delights me, I might not apply to grad school at all, but if I am just paying the bills for the next year, perhaps I will revisit grad school later.

And then, around the end of January, I was killing one afternoon surfing the web, as one does, when I came across an MA program that was so perfect for me I burst into tears. I didn’t even know it was possible to get a degree in something so marvelous, and I did a little happy dance that I got to live in a world that was so immensely cool that one could get an MA degree in what I have been doing for fun for the entirety of my life.

The deadline for applications had come and gone by the time I happened across their webpage, but I was so delighted by the possibilities that I applied anyway. I applied anyway, knowing that I was weeks late, that my grades, while adequate, are by no means stellar; that is to say, I applied knowing that I would not get in.

And I have gone about my life. I happened across a posting for the perfect job for me, and I applied for it, desperately hoping they would see that it was the perfect job for me, too. I went to university and wrote silly blog posts and hung out with my children; for the first time in three years I began to look forward to school ending so that I might start to earn a little money, so that, for a while at least, the mental pressure I’ve been under these last years would begin to lift.

And then, last week, I got an email. It was an email from the MA program I applied for. It was an email informally letting me know I’d been accepted, and informally offering me a fair bit of cash.

I walked around for the next forty-eight hours feeling like I’d been hit by a mack truck. Of all the things that could occur in this world, I did not expect that.

There are reasons why I may not be able to go to this grad school and one indeed appears, at this moment, insurmountable to me. But in a way I am not, today, too worried about that. I love my life in Nanaimo; I am hopeful that I will be offered this wonderful job; and holy smokes, I got accepted into grad school, and holy smokes, they want to pay me to attend. For now, I get to just walk around in this amazing warping of the space-time continuum, a warping that has me in the beautiful position of, as my father put it, getting to choose between two really wonderful things, instead of one horrible thing and one unknown thing, which is where I was just over three years ago when I decided, with much trepidation, to come back to school.

I always thought grad school was what happened to other people. You know, other people who didn’t drop out of university at 18, or 19; people who had their stuff together; people who were smarter or more motivated or just, you know, better than me. But right now some place fabulous wants to pay me to come hang out with them for a little while. There is nothing more surreal nor more marvelous than that.

Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist

Let’s face it, you and I both know that one should never be seen in public wearing leisure wear unless one is actively leisuring. There’s no better place for sweat pants than at the gym or, better yet, in the privacy of your own home. Stretch pants do not belong out in public, unless you’re actively stretching, which is not, I don’t think, an activity one normally engages in at the mall, say, or the grocery store. Frankly, I’d prefer to never again have to look at anyone wearing stretch- and/or sweat-pants out in public. Activity wear is for activities, people, not for school/work/shopping.

This is the code by which I live my life. I live this code so fully that up until three weeks ago I didn’t even have athletic wear, given how disinclined I am to actually, you know, athleticize, but then my buddy Leslie showed up with a pair of black yoga pants. Here, she said. I saw these at the store and thought they looked like your size. I looked at them dubiously, but she convinced me to go try them on. They fit! Because I never dress in athletic wear, I am chronically uncomfortable in my own home (not to mention at school, in other people’s homes, and in the car), and so I accepted these yoga pants with absolute delight. At last I had something other than my pajamas to wear around the house. Seriously, this was the cause of no small amount of excitement for me.

Yesterday after the long drive home from Washington state, I did what any normal person would do at three in the afternoon: I immediately got into my pajamas and lay on the couch reading. Around about six p.m. I realized that all of our perishables had perished in the eleven days we were unexpectedly gone from the house, and I needed to go shopping if we were going to have anything for dinner other than dried cat food. I considered going to the store in my pajamas, but as I am not fifteen-years-old, I didn’t think I could pull that off. I went upstairs and gazed at my various wardrobe options and somehow I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting on my dress pants. I’ll wear the yoga pants, I thought. Other people do it. What could possibly go wrong? After all, I  just needed to buy some bananas, some milk, and some tortilla chips (because if those ingredients don’t sing dinner I just don’t know what does). I figured I’d dart out for a stealth trip to the store. Who would I run into, after all, at six pm in Quality Foods on Bowen Road?

I pulled my jacket down low as I walked through the aisles, hoping to cover up as much of the offending yoga-pants-in-public as possible. I put milk in the cart and looked up to meet, ever-so-briefly, the gaze of Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist*, on whom I harbour a secret formerly secret crush. He glanced away immediately, the way one glances away from a horrific car accident.

My God, I thought, the first time I leave my house wearing leisurewear in ten years I run into the only person in Nanaimes I would hate to see me in this condition. It’s like there is a God, and s/he’s pissed at me. I darted off through the grocery store away from Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist in a stealthy cat-and-mouse move that would make Jason Bourne look like Barney. I paused long enough to consider a loaf of bread and, lo!, Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist turned down the aisle behind me. My God, it’s bad enough to be seen in public in yoga pants but to be seen from behind whilst wearing yoga pants was enough to make me consider topping myself right there, in the bread aisle.

I leapt off towards the cashiers, shopping cart careening wildly before me. It was urgent to get away from him as quickly as possible so as he would not recognize me as the woman who very rarely comes into his store. To date, I have seen/talked to/interacted with Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist exactly three times.

The first time I was waiting while a friend got her prescription filled and I passed the time by begging Bob-the-elusive-pharmacist to lend me his mobile phone so I could text my sister to tell her that Amy Winehouse had died. (He did. She already knew.) The second time I told him, while he was filling a prescription that my youngest daughter, that “I have Healthy Kids.” I was saying that we were enrolled in the BC Healthy Kids program and was therefore suggesting that we should not be charged full price for our drugs. He thought I was boasting. “That’s good,” he said, handing over the antibiotics, thinking loudly that if they were so damn healthy I wouldn’t be needing antibiotics for one of them, would I? And the third time? The third time I was running away from him in the grocery store while wearing yoga pants, attempting to hide both the contents of my shopping cart and myself from his alarmed gaze.

I think this doesn’t bode well for the future of our relationship. It also may give me the slightest insight into my chronically single status.

*I have no idea what his name is. Probably not Bob. He’s so elusive his name eludes me.

Reading Break

It’s been a bit quiet here at onefinalyear as I spent the first two weeks of February quite sick. But I managed to rally just in time for reading break (which, frankly, sounds a bit suspicious but it is what it is, I swear) and headed off for an impromptu trip to Yakima, Washington with the girls to visit my brother. This seemed like a super idea.  I had a week off of classes (although with a fair amount of work to do what with all the sickness previously), the girls had a couple of pro-d days off from school, and me, two girls, a three hundred mile drive – what could possibly go wrong?

The weather in Nanaimo was fabulous. The weather in Yakima was fabulous. We packed up some peanut butter and jelly on homemade buns and headed off with due optimism. We took the Coho out of Victoria and hit Port Angeles 1230 last Friday. I was certain we’d be in Yakima by 430. We saw the “welcome, Twilight fans” signs, evidence that Port Angeles was optimistic about reaping the benefits of its close proximity to Forks, and wished we’d brought a camera. We drove south towards Tacoma and were enveloped in a rain so heavy my windshield wipers, on high, could not quite keep the windshield clean. I had to go to the bathroom, suddenly, in all that rain, but decided to wait until we got … somewhere. Somewhere where I wasn’t nervous about driving. The I5 was clogged; the 14 kilometres we needed to be on it took us 45 minutes, but at last we were heading towards Auburn, where we met the first of the snowfall that would beat against us the whole way across Snoqualmie Pass and right to my brother’s front door.  We arrived at 615; I’d had to go the bathroom for the last four hours. But what plagued me wasn’t my bladder. What plagued me was the realization that we had to drive all over again, that we were essentially trapped in the Washington desert until I was brave enough to cross the pass again.

I kept checking the weather report, and Snoqualmie kept getting winter storm advisories. We delayed our return, and delayed our return. This was not so arduous; staying in Yakima meant spending more time with my brother and his girlfriend, their two delightful dogs, their cats that purr energetically against your legs. We slept for hours and watched hulu.com and I read five A. Lee Martinez books and bought Easter candy at Target. I booked the Coho ferry for Sunday, figuring surely, surely, there would be a clear spot then. The weather report Friday morning suggested it would be so. But today I woke up and double checked the weather. It’s not looking so good for Sunday. Traction tires are required. What are traction tires? Are those winter tires? Because I have winter tires. Chains are required. I don’t have chains. I don’t know how to put chains on. I can buy chains today, and they will stay safely in my trunk unless I put on my pathetic face and flag down a passing motorist to help me put my chains on in the blinding snow of Snoqualmie Pass.

I’m wondering if we should come back on Monday, which would mean I would miss even more classes than I have already missed. I am supposed to graduate this semester, which means it is preferable, nay, necessary, that I don’t flunk any of my classes. But if we can’t get out Yakima, if we’re doomed to stay here, chasing dogs around the yard and overdosing on Hershey’s chocolate eggs, if I have no option but to spend another week sitting around in my underwear and my brother’s old tube socks playing Modern Warfare 3, I think my chances of graduation will exponentially decrease.

Oh, the knuckle-gnawing indecision. Oh, how I look forward to when my oldest daughter is sixteen and with a driver’s license, so I can dose up on Ativan and pass out in the backseat while she white-knuckles it over strange and unfamiliar mountain passes.