chrysscada

Just another WordPress.com site

The Last Goodbye December 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 6:42 pm

In the three days since a childhood friend of mine died, I’ve been trying to understand why I feel such a great sense of loss for someone I haven’t had a real conversation with in decades.

I think it’s because I didn’t ever tell him goodbye properly—and now I’ll never have the chance.

While the loss of his family and close friends is immeasurably greater, those of us who had Kevin in our life for a shorter time are also grappling for footing after his sudden exit from this world. He was skiing at Breckenridge with his family Monday (something they’ve surely done countless times before), when he hit a tree and died. Just like that his time came to an end.

Kevin Pitts and I met in middle school. He lived in the same neighborhood as several of my other close friends at the time and we shared interests like drama, debate, newspaper and French at school. It’s a friendship I don’t remember starting, it’s just feels like the comfort and love between us were always there.

Handsome and kind, he had his share of young women in his life, but they weren’t there for the same reason I was. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Kevin played a very important role in my adolescence: he was a brother to me when I needed one the most.

My brother, Mark, was a sensitive boy who looked out for his little sister as best he could in a world that wasn’t kind to him. He took his own life when he was 15 and I was 12.

At a time when my own family felt so empty, the Pitts home was full to the brim. His parents, Tom and Ena, were gregarious and full of Southern Charm. Erin, a year younger than Kevin, always had a welcome smile on her face and listened to me long after even the most gracious person would be expected to.

I loved them all, but Kevin was special.

I didn’t realize it at the time, and I still don’t know exactly how he did it, but Kevin always made me feel better.

Maybe it was his silly sense of humor (he had a t-shirt printed up that said “My Parents are the Pitts”).

Maybe it was the lightness of his being (he even seemed to walk on tip toes).

Maybe it was the way you could tell him anything and he was always on your side.

Maybe it was that fabulous hair.

Whatever it was about him, Kevin always made me feel that with people like him in it, the world was indeed a good place.

I never thanked him for that, and now I’ll never be able to. The problem is you rarely know when you are saying goodbye to someone for the last time. If you did know it was the last time you would talk, you would tell them things. You would tell him you are glad you met each other in the first place. You would tell her that you are thankful for the time you spent together. If it was the last time you were seeing your friend, you would say “I Love You.” That’s what you would do if you knew—but you don’t.

So I’m telling his wife and his children and his Mom and his sister and anyone else who cares to read this. But in my deepest heart I still really, really wish I could tell him myself.

 

The Worth of an Adjunct September 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 4:10 am

 

 

Labor Day, 2016

 

 

Tony Frank, President, Colorado State University

Benjamin C. Withers, Dean, College of Liberal Arts

Greg Luft, Chair, Department of Journalism and Media Communication

Rick Miranda, Provost and Executive Vice President

Dan Bush, Vice Provost

Grant Polzer, Business and Financial Services

 

Dear Gentlemen,

 

As a journalist of 30 years and an instructor in Colorado State’s Department of Journalism for 17, I thought I knew better than anyone the power of words. But I hadn’t experienced their full force until I received my offer letter for this academic year. It began:

 

We are pleased to offer you a part-time special 9-month appointment at the academic rank of special Instructor at Colorado State University at a starting 9-month salary of $40,120, plus benefits, and a start date of August 16, 2016.

 

That one sentence literally changed my life—as it would for any adjunct professor. It said the work I do with students has real value. It said that sharing three decades of excellence in my profession with people aspiring to join that profession meant as much to society as getting the toppings right on a person’s sandwich. That one sentence meant I could spend more time with my students and researching the many changes in my field and less time on projects to bring in much-needed supplemental income.

 

I spent last month living that new life, in a world where University officials recognized the contributions of adjuncts. And then payday arrived and that new life ended. My salary is half what the letter stated; roughly $5,000 per semester per class or $20,000 for the academic year. This was a shock considering that my offer letter nowhere mentioned the stated number was a full-time salary. I’m part-time and have been my entire tenure at the University.

 

As a freelance writer I’ve signed hundreds of contracts for my work. I have gotten paid by the hour, by the article, by the inch and even by the word. I understand contracts, but I’ve never seen one where I would be getting paid half the amount appearing in the contract. My last 32 offer letters were for the semester and have stated the amount I would make per class. That amount was roughly $4,000 when I started in 2000 and was $4,750 per class in the spring semester of this year.

Typically I would be thrilled with $60-a-month raise. After all, I’ve gotten used to teaching at the college level for compensation hovering near minimum wage. I’ve accepted this unacceptable wage because, like other adjuncts, I teach not for money, but because I love what I do.

 

 

I love the moment when a student who has struggled with a concept finally gets it. I cherish the letters from past students saying that my class set them on the road to the success they are now enjoying. And honestly I care for my students as individuals. Many of my students are freshman, away from home for the first time, and need to know that someone on this teeming campus sees them, hears them and cares if they are OK.

 

I’ve gotten used to teaching as an act of charity, but then I got this year’s offer letter and believed it could be something more. After a glimpse into that world, I’m finding it difficult to go back into a system that thrives on the unjust subservience of others. I find it difficult to explain why I work with such dedication for such little compensation. I find it difficult to explain to my students and my own daughters, because I would never want any of them to be exploited this way.

 

Perhaps most importantly, after finding out I won’t be receiving an equitable salary, I can no longer explain this exploitation to myself.

 

You most likely expect me to end this letter with my resignation. I’ve already met my students for the semester and will not put them in the position of losing an instructor once class has begun. Maybe I need to take a stand and quit before next semester starts. Maybe after I voice my opinions in this letter I won’t be asked back next academic year. Both of those options sadden me because I’m good at what I do, I love what I do and there are so many students out there yet to meet and usher into the noble profession of journalism.

 

Thank you for reading this letter and giving consideration to its contents.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Chryss Cada

Instructor, Department of Journalism and Media Communication

 

 

CC: Amparo Jeffrey, HR Liaison

Jennifer Aberle, Adjunct Committee

Newsdesk, Rocky Mountain Collegian

Newsdesk, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Newsdesk, The Denver Post

 

Paris, Je t’aime November 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 2:05 am

Not, Paris.

That was my first thought when I heard the DJ on my car radio say that her thoughts and prayers were with the people of the French capital.

“Why, what happened in Paris?” I asked out loud as my mind began a panicked race through the possibilities.

I only had time to type “Par” into my iPhone before the light turned green. Those three letters were enough to bring up headlines with the words “gunman,” “hostages” and “explosions.”

I know I should have focused more on the first two words, the human lives in danger, but the one that made me gasp was “explosions” — what had the cowards blown up now?

For me, the Eiffel Tower reduced to a pile of steel beams, flames coming out of Le Musee du Louvre or L’Arc du Triomphe reduced to rubble would signal the end of civilization.

Of course, our thoughts and condolences go first to the families who lost a loved one in a terrorist attack, but after the dust has settled there is another sense of loss to grapple with.

When cowardly terrorists attack we asses not only how much of our security we have lost and how much fear we have gained, but also what symbols have been taken from us.

On 9/11 it was two towering beacons of business and commerce.

At the Boston marathon it was the sense of accomplishment that a finish line banner represents.

By attacking Paris they tried to rob us of the beauty man can create.

How many of us went to the City of Lights to be exposed to great art, architecture and history on a large scale for the first time? And how many still dream of taking that trip someday?

Those who let was happened Nov. 13 stop them from pursuing that dream, make our loss all the greater.

My middle school French Teacher (J’taime Mme. Theisen) required all the 9th graders on her trip to Paris to take the stairs up the great monuments we visited. To experience them fully, we climbed up, down and all around L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, La Musee de Orsay, Le Musee du Louvre–and of course La Tour Eiffel (It’s 1,665 stairs to the top, but only the 719 to the second level are open to the public).

I love that tower because it doesn’t serve any purpose but to be a beautiful, fanciful attraction.

When it was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it was meant to be temporary (lasting 20 years tops). Yet here we are 126 years later with about 7 million people from around the world walking beneath it’s wrought iron arches and toasting champagne at the top.

To me it’s our most magnificent symbol of art for art’s sake–and I just can’t bear the thought of it being taken from us.

Before building the tower that bears his name, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel leant his engineering expertise to La Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty (As we call her here at home) is another work of art that exists only to symbolize one of our treasured values: freedom.

Perhaps it too soon to look for a positive from the attacks in Paris. Perhaps not. I know it couldn’t be any worse for 130 families, but for those of us who treasure our symbols of art, culture and freedom–it could have been absolutely devastating.

And the cowards didn’t stop Paris from being Paris. Residents and visitors to the city filled cafes and restaurants four days after the attacks in act of defiance. We should do the same and keep plans to visit Paris, or even make plans were there weren’t any before the attack.

I know I can’t wait to get there and visit Paris’ symbols of art, culture and freedom from fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Mini Van Window September 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 8:14 pm

They are there chatting through mini-van windows long after the second bell has rung and their children have begun the day’s lessons.

They linger, heads together in a close-knit circle post-PTA meeting.

They are early for pick-up because they volunteered to do some filing for the teacher.

They are the “Full-Time Moms.”

Well that isn’t really the right term, all Moms are on the clock 24/7.

Maybe I should say “Stay-at-Home Moms”? Or “Don’t Work Outside the Home Moms”? Or just plain “Lucky Moms”?

I’m not making judgements about these women, many of them are my friends–in fact many of them think I’m one of them.

Early this week I was sitting at a meeting of “Class Moms” (We plan the parties) discussing the best times to use the copier in the front office (well, I was sitting and thinking of the next opportunity to make a wisecrack–which is my primary function at meetings).

“There are a lot of politics about the copier at CSU too,” I whispered to the woman next to me.

YOU work at CSU!” she whispered back, not even trying to conceal her surprise. “I had NO idea!”

It was then I realized that I’m living a double life of sorts. I’m a journalist teaching two journalism courses at Colorado State University and freelancing for a variety of magazines and newspapers. But they only see “Mommy Me”: fussing over my daughter’s hair on picture day, weeding the flower bed in front of the school and discussing curriculum during parent meetings at school.

Maybe now they won’t think me quite so rude. They will forgive me for breaking into their conversations just to find out a needed bit of information or skipping out early from the planning meetings for “Teacher Appreciation Week” or (gasp) not getting involved with the “Fall Fun Festival” at all.

When juggling a career and family you always have to be light on your feet, ready to dash off to fulfill the other responsibilities in your life before a ball drops.

The thing is with the great juggling act, not all the balls actually hit the ground.

It’s not like I’ve forgotten a ballet rehearsal, I just got caught on the phone with my editor one time and arrived late to find her face stained with tears as she struggled through the performance. A lot of times I have to get my CSU students talking about the latest celebrity news the first five minutes of class so I can figure out a lesson plan for the rest of it. And I’ve blown more than a couple of deadlines because my daughters needed help with their homework, fell down or just generally needed their Mama.

In the “Mommy Wars” between those who work and those who stay home the ammunition is guilt. Guilt that we aren’t directing at each other, but at ourselves.

I see those Moms huddling after the kids are dropped off and I wonder if I shouldn’t be with them. On Wednesday I heard them discussing their middle schoolers math homework; problem by problem. I didn’t even realize my middle schooler had math homework the night before.

Does that mean I’m dropping the “Mom Ball?” Some would say so. There are also those who would say the problem-by-problem moms are overly involved. Whose right? My best guess is all of us–and none of us.

The main thing is that the vast majority of moms out there are doing their best and we should all pat them on the back for it–right after we get done patting our own.

 

At the Middle School Door February 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 6:02 pm
Tags: ,

A collective gasp sucked the air out of the elementary school library when the middle school counselor said “2022.”

It was the first time that many of us had associated our 5th graders with those numbers–as in the graduating class of.

The mom on my right put her head on the table, the dad on my left shook his head in disbelief, I took the “too shocked to respond” approach and sat in stunned silence.

You mean to tell me that my daughter is going to graduate high school and leave home?! That the 10-year-old at home in her butterfly bedroom playing with dolls is going to be GROWN UP?!  Didn’t the little stump from her umbilical cord just fall out to reveal her belly button?!? (BTW: If you think revealing one’s belly button for the first time should only be mentioned in conjunction with the name “Taylor Swift,” you should probably be reading a different post–pass this one along to your mother)

Sure, they tell you your kids are going to grow up, but a lot of moms (myself included) don’t really believe it.

Out of the 100 or so families of 5th graders at my daughters’ elementary school, less than a dozen were represented at the PTA program on “Transitioning to Middle School.”  We are the parents who are accused of hovering over our child like a helicopter as they make their way through life. We hang out before and/or after school to talk to our child’s teacher, in fact we know their coffee order because we meet with them so often.

Maybe it’s because our child is different (#stayweird), maybe they struggle with being organized or being social or just being. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the parent that has an issue. Most likely it’s a combination of both.

Every year since my now-5th grader entered preschool, I’ve gotten a call or e-mail from her teacher a week or two after classes commenced.  They all begin, “Hi, I’m Mrs./Ms./Miss/Mr. XYZ and I need to talk to you about Chloe….”.

Chloe is brilliant, she wants to do things in her own way, she’s off in her own little world and rest of us, teachers included, are just visiting. This makes her equal parts awesome and a real “challenge” (although a variety of other more colorful words have been used to describe her) to deal with. Therefore, I have had a close, personal relationship with all of her homeroom teachers. These relationships involve not only early morning coffee meetings, but many late night e-mail exchanges.

Next year she won’t have a homeroom teacher. Next year she’ll take the bus, so I won’t be peeking my head in the classroom door before of after school. Next year will be awesome for her and traumatic for me and parents like me.

It doesn’t help that “middle school” starts a year earlier than it did when I was a near-teen going off to 7th grade in “junior high.” Chloe’s birthday is in August, so she’ll turn 11 about a week before her first day of middle school. I’ll still do her hair in the morning, cut the apples in her lunch and include a note about how proud I am of her.

I know it’s time to let go, to see what she’s learned about being responsible for her own schoolwork and social life. I know, I know–but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

I’ll try my best to let go, because that’s best for my daughter–but odds are I’ll still know a couple of teacher’s coffee orders by the end of next school year.  But, how about this: I won’t cut her apples.

 

 

Getting Sauced January 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 6:27 pm

About halfway to the donut shop, I realized what they meant by “the long lasting effects” of marijuana edibles.

I’m usually a Special K low-calorie pastry “crisps” kind of gal in the morning, yet here I was driving to Lamar’s–and I wasn’t going to order just one.

There were other signs: like the fact I was squinting into the sun for 20 minutes before I thought to put on my sunglasses or that my girls were running late to school as usual and I didn’t even yell at them to “HURRY UP!!” once. In fact I didn’t feel like yelling about anything the morning after my friend slipped a little special “herb” into the tomato sauce.

As we pushed back from the table after a delicious meal, I noticed our host eyeing my husband and I expectantly.

“How are feeling?” he asked us.

I thought it an unusual question for a chef to ask after we had just finished his latest creation.

“If you mean how did it taste, it was delicious,” I responded.

“No, I mean how do you feel?”

“Uh…Full?”

It wasn’t until all three of us were singing “She ran crying Willlldfirrre” at the top at our lungs that I realized there might be something more than a couple of glasses of wine in play.

Even though pot has been legal in my home state of Colorado for a year now, I still feel like I shouldn’t talk about my experience with my friend’s “Mile High Sauce.” What if folks in the PTA found out? Or my writing students at Colorado State University?

My students would probably ask me for the recipe–and the PTA members too, now that I think about it.

The more time I spend hanging out with moms on the school yard after the tardy bell rings, the more I realize that I’m not the only one who has been electrified with stress by all this parenting stuff.

This past week alone I’ve had to assure my 10-year-old daughter that she doesn’t have to “decide what she wants to be when she grows up by the end of the month when the middle school counselors come in to help them set up their schedule” and monitor eight 8-year-olds as they created terrariums so they wouldn’t shatter the glass jars they were planting them in.

Quietly some parents “tailgate” before ice skating shows, school plays or other events that stir up sympathetic performance anxiety among parents.

“Gee, that’s not actually coffee in that thermos is it? (Pause) Did you bring another styrofoam cup?”

Even more quietly, stressed-out parents go running to the shelter of “Mother’s Little Helper.” Back in the 60s when the Stones wrote that song for mothers like mine, they were talking about Valium. These days moms pop a wide variety of antidepressant/anti-anxiety drugs instead.

I know because I’m one of them. Sure the stuff helps me from freaking out over every missed homework assignment or botched performance, but I don’t like taking something everyday.

So my therapist suggested Pot. But I just couldn’t bring myself to the dispensary. Even though it’s legal and I would have a legitimate reason for a prescription, it just feels wrong.

I mean what am I supposed to to do, fire up a joint in the bleachers at my daughter’s next synchronized swim meet? Bring a bong to the next parent-teacher conference? Might be a bit much.

So I guess next time I’m stressed about a child-rearing situation, I’ll just have my friend fix me a batch of his special sauce–and I’ll bring the donuts.

 

Sporting Lipstick July 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 9:30 pm

I’m going to say it’s a good thing that I don’t know how to put lipstick on a 7-year-old.

 

Of all the sports in all the world, my youngest daughter chose the one that requires lipstick as basic equipment. As I mentioned in my last post, Neve has taken a dive into the world of synchronized swimming this summer. As it turns out she actually jumps in feet first, but either way we’re in deep.

 

Synchro, which you may have caught on the summer Olympics, requires swimmers to rely on each other to perform elaborate gymnastic moves and lifts in the water—without ever touching the bottom.

 

It’s been a great choice for a girl establishing her independence from her older sister. In return for a drive across town every morning I have a daughter who is strong, skilled, confident and surrounded by a new group of friends. This tangential discipline of the aquatic world was all pros for us—until water show night.

 

Coach Hayley asked the “Novice Moms” to be at the pool more than an hour before the performance for prepping. No, the moms weren’t the ones being prepped, but we were definitely the novices in the whole process.

 

The focus of the time right before a synchronized swimming event is not stretching, drylanding (going through the routines on the pool deck) or any other deeply physical endeavor. No, the work to be done before a synchro swimmer dives or jumps in is all about the surface.

 

To aid the continuity among swimmers, they all strive to appear as similar as possible. I was a little worried that the costumes would be, shall we say, too risqué for the younger set (we could also say too “Prostitot”, but that wouldn’t be nearly as polite). As it turns out the suits are basic one pieces decked out with a little bling. Whew.

 

My daughter was more worried about the hair process than I was—and with good reason. In order to achieve the perfect, bulletproof bun you see atop all synchronized swimmers, they must have their hair “Knoxxed.” The process involves dragging a comb coated with unflavored gelation (Knox) through the hair until nothing moves. This was a learning process for me as the last experience I had with Knox Gelatin was making Jell-O shots before college football games.

 

Once all loose hairs are securely shellacked to the swimmers head, the resulting pony tail is turned into a bun with rubber bands, a bun form, a hair net and “at least 40” bobby pins. Then comes the actually headpiece and even more bobby pins.

 

My daughter endured the hair torture to get to the real prize, the make-up table. Here swimmers apply coordinating eye shadow, lipstick etcetera to complete their synchronized look. I was OK putting a little mascara on the thick lashes above Neve’s baby blues, but when it came to the lipstick I choked. Not only was I not good at getting the deep red stuff on, I didn’t want to in the first place. Images of young beauty queens filled my head and I found myself wondering if I had become a kind of Mom I didn’t want to be.

 

I had put lipstick on my older daughter for theater performances, but that was to change her into a character. I felt like the only thing make-up was doing in this situation was changing my baby into a woman. She loved wearing light make-up and maybe it gave her performance a little boost, but the jury is still out with this Mom.

 

For now I’ve stored the lipstick high in the medicine cabinet with all the other things that might be dangerous for my girls to get ahold of.