Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Dog Tweets

My last post was a bit glum so I feel the need to write something cheerful. One of the happiest parts of my life has always been my pets. Up until mid-high school I thought I would be a zoologist when I "grew up," and my parents let me have a small menagerie of animals to prepare for my future career. I had the normal childhood pets like hamsters and fish. I also had guinea pigs, hermit crabs, lizards, a hedgehog, and a chinchilla (though not all at once). We didn't get a dog until I was 14. She was a Bichon Frise named Sophie, and I called her my happy puppy. A year later, we rescued another dog, a Yorkie named Shooter, who still lives with my dad.

Fuzzy Sophie

Tropical Shooter

My husband and I have two dogs – Marley, a lab/poodle mix (aka labradoodle) and “her dog Melvin.” We don't know what breed Melvin is, some sort of scruffy terrier mixed with a pit bull terrier, probably. Marley and Melvin have definite personalities. Marley is a 60 pound lap dog who I call my snuggle bug. Poor Melvin was neglected for his first year or so before we rescued him, which left him with an insatiable need for attention. As I watched the different personalities in the dogs, I started giving voice to them. Eventually, I started writing emails from M&M, mainly from Marley, to my husband when he would go out of town for work. On several occasions Jason said that Marley should start a blog. I thought about it, but she just didn’t seem to have enough things to say for a blog. Eventually I decided on Twitter.

I figured I’d do it just for me. It’s a fun creative writing project and it makes me smile. I didn’t think anyone would follow her…. I was wrong. @TheMarleyBug now has over 1,700 followers. That’s crazy!

Here are some of my favorite Marley tweets. I hope they make you smile too.

i am napping upside down!

we went to the dog park! a dog licked my head!

i wish i was a cat! ha ha! #aprilfools!

my dog melvin sat on daddy’s keys and made the car go beep beep!

i could not decide where to hide my bone so I fell asleep with it under my head!

mommy thought my dog melvin ate her shoe! i just threw up part of it! i don’t know how that got there!

uh oh! i ate some of daddy’s skettios!

my dog melvin wants to tweet! Lllllllllllll.ij cf bn dyuhhhjbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbcxdgfb he isn’t good with the computer box!

when the #steelers #football men come on the tv box they say their name and school! i would say marley freyer! @petsmart!

i decorated my dog melvin for christmas!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Online Degree Slump

It's midday on Thursday and I'm wearing sweats and sitting on my couch. Day off? Actually, it's one of busiest school days of the week. I'm working full-time on a Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from the University of Pittsburgh, and I'm doing the entire degree online.

I decided to be an online student (and a full-time student) out of necessity. I work part-time at my local library and felt I had to do the degree online to have time for both work and school. There are a lot of benefits to an online degree. I can fit school to my schedule. I don't have to commute from the South Hills to Oakland. I don't have to try to park in Oakland. I save money on gas and parking. I can do school work in sweat pants (which, I guess, some on campus students do too). Lately, I've been feeling my enthusiasm for school waning, and I think part of that is due to the online format of the degree.

I've always been the nerdy girl who loves school. I may not have loved the experience of school (jr. high comes to mind), but I love learning. So, I was excited to start my MLIS last May. Summer semester went well. Last Autumn I had a lot of extra hours at work, which made balancing work and school a challenge. I did well, but was very happy for winter break. Now I am halfway through my degree and a bit into this semester. And I don't feel excited about school like I usually do. I'm on top of my schoolwork. I like what I'm learning - it is interesting and pertinent to my interest of working in public libraries. But, I feel kind of ready to be done working on this degree. Part of this is a halfway through slump. Part of it is just because the weather is gray and cold. But part of it is because I miss the personal interaction of going to class.

The way this degree works is that each class has online and on campus students. The on campus students meet each week, and the session is recorded then posted so that the online students can watch the video. So, I don't go to class; I watch class. Some online classes incorporate weekly live chats over an instant messaging system. All of my classes rely heavily on discussion boards. On campus students have discussions in class, online students type out their discussions asynchronously on discussion boards. I learn a lot through discussion boards, but for me - and extrovert - it just isn't the same. We do meet in person once a semester for one class session, which does give the opportunity to meet classmates and professors, but briefly.

It just hit me today how much I miss actually discussing the topic matter in person. I miss having professors who recognize me, who really know me. As an online student, what my professors know about me is what I show through the discussion boards, assignments, and emails. Since the professors don't actually know me in person, I feel like every time I start typing for class I have to prove that I'm a good student.

I looked up some articles about online learning. One said, "Without direct physical contact and interaction with other learners or an instructor, online students can lose their interest or motivation mid-way through their course or program." That's it! That is just what I'm feeling. I'm glad that I'm not alone. I read different studies and statistics about the quality of online learning. Some said that retention decreases in an online setting, some said online learning increases performance. All said that it requires a lot of personal direction and self-discipline. A professor at Robert Morris University stated that online 20% of people who attempt an entirely online degree actually complete it. 20%! That's a pretty low number.

Though I'm feeling a bit lackluster about school right now, come August 8th of this year, I will be in that 20%. I still love learning and I love libraries. Maybe I just need a little sunshine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hope Not Despair

I'm sure you've heard about the terrible shooting that took place in Arizona on Saturday. And you've probably heard the different political pundits pointing fingers saying that it happened because of the political climate caused by one side or the other. These accusations break my heart - that people would use a tragedy to propegate their political agenda and derogate the other side.

Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart reflected on this in a seldom seen serious moment. He said that political pundits "find the tidbit or two that will exonerate their side from blame or implicate the other...watching that is as predictable as it is dispiriting." As much as Stewart thinks that there are serious problems with the political system and the way political pundits act, he doesn't blame the system for the shooting. "Boy wouldn't that be nice?" he said, "if we just stop this [insert political problem here] the horrors will end." It would be nice to have a scapegoat, something specific to fix to ensure that a tragedy like this will never happen again, even better if that something is a thing that we strongly disagree with anyway. That would be nice, but it isn't true. There isn't one thing to fix. The situation is terribly disheartening, but Stewart said, "I refuse to give in to this feeling of despair."

I too refuse to give in to this feeling of despair. My heart breaks for the people who were hurt or lost their lives and for all of the friends and family. My heart breaks, but it will not despair. I cannot let go of hope for something better, or what is the point of this life? I agree with Jon Stewart that we need to take this tragedy as an inspiration to make our world better.

If you read my husband's blog you've read this news story related to the shooting. (I will note, that I found and was planning on blogging about this story before I read Jason's blog. Great minds think alike?) There is a group of people who call themselves a church who are planning to protest the funeral of Christina Green, the nine-year-old girl who was shot and killed, because she was Catholic and these people believe that God hates Catholics. I can't express the sorrow and rage that filled me when I read this. How easily could I have despaired? But I kept reading the article. There is another group of people who have planned an "angel action" in response. They are going to wear large angel wings and silently surround the outside of the church where the funeral will be held. This will surround the mourners in a protective shield from the protesters. The angel action participants are not planning a counter protest; they are simply allowing those affected to grieve in peace. What a beautiful, simple action coming from a horrible action!

I am not a Pollyanna, only looking at the good things and ignoring the bad. I see the bad, and I feel these things deeply. But I also see hope. I look for hope. Sometimes I have to desperately seek for it. But it is always there. And we are always able to create it. Which brings me back to one of my very favorite quotes, and a description of how I try to live my life:

"We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” -- Mohondas Ghandi