Monday, September 30, 2013

Voices

Thank you for not correcting me on my last post. As today is September 30, and NOT October 1, I will actually round out the month with 27 posts, a number which is also quite appealing. After all, three cubed is 27, and cubic numbers are just as cool as square numbers.

But that's not why I am posting.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about certain characters. As a writer (and I am going to call myself that, because even if I never publish anything, I do write. You can't argue with that statement.) it is part of my job to make my characters different from one another. No one wants to read about a couple of characters who are basically the same. Where's the conflict, the story, in that? And not everyone speaks the same way or thinks the same way, so what I try to do is find the character's distinct voice.

Is this character a girl or a boy? Are they rich or poor? What nationality are they? Do they come from the South or North Dakota? Do they come from a family with no dad? Twelve kids? Go to private school? Live in the ghetto? What was their childhood like? And how about their adulthood? Have they realized their dreams or always fallen short?

It's a tough thing to do, to get all of a person's personality onto a piece of paper. Think of yourself, and how you'd try to portray your voice if the only thing you could do is write about it. What sort of voice do you have?

I won't reveal much of my voice, which as changed over time, but I can say this: the writing process has been instrumental in the discovery of my true voice. No matter what happens with any of my stories, I know that my time has not been wasted.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Number Issues

I thought, very seriously, about not posting today. But I didn't post yesterday, and I really do try to write something every day. It isn't always something meaningful, but at least I put words to paper, so to speak.

When I looked at the number of postings for the month, though, my brain went into crisis mode. If I do not post today, the number of posts for the month of September will stand at 25. Twenty-five is a great number. I met Tim at the age of 25; I got a new license at 25; it is a square number; it is divisible by five. In my book, 25 is a number at which I could go into October feeling proud.

But If I do post today, I'll have 26 posts for September, a number that is lovely and even and twice the number 13; thirteen was one of my favorite years, ever. And so I sit here, torn between two numbers, knowing that Tara is going to laugh at the triviality of this whole post; that Gina will think I've gone a little off the deep end (understandably so, as the kitchen and bath, the whole house for that matter, are still in disarray); that anyone else will think Who gives a hoot?

I guess I just made my decision. In the end, it wasn't hard. Sometimes taking a leap is the best way to go.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Messages

Melina does a lot of coloring and writing at school. She tries her best to sound out words and brings home, almost every day, something she has written. Usually, it has a picture to accompany it, but not always.

Today, she brought home two messages without pictures, one for me and one for Tim.
Mine: Mommy, I love you.

Tim's: Daddy, you messed up my hair.
Apparently the messages were so important (Tim put his hand out at the bus stop and mussed Melina's tresses and of course, I am Melina's favorite person.) that Melina didn't have time to make the pictures.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

91-100

91. Frosted animal cookies.
92. Farrow & Ball Breakfast Room Green paint.
93. Pumpkin Pie frozen yogurt.
94. Warm socks on cool nights.
95. Reading a sentence you wrote and having a smile spread across your face.
96. Even better, reading a sentence your child wrote and having a smile spread across your face.
97. The sound of Peggy's laughter as it floats over our fence.
98. The feel of Aaron's little body, snuggling up against me, at 3:30 in the morning.
99. The scent of evergreen.
100. The Plot Sisters.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rejections

Burned muffins, I got my first rejection letter!

And I'm fine with it.

In the event you think I'm sobbing over here, I am not. Rejection is part and parcel of the whole writing gig and of life for that matter. While I would have appreciated a little more in terms of why the agent didn't want my manuscript, it wasn't given. In this case, I received a form letter from a person named Whitney who probably was pulled from the clerical pool to send out rejection emails.

The silver lining in all of this? The mere reception of a rejection letter, one that I highly anticipated, has made me think that after all is said and done, if I've filled my rejection folder to the brim, that maybe, just maybe, I will try to self-publish my story. That's a long time off; I have plans to inundate many more agents before I jump ship.

As usual, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Simple Errors

Melina decided she wanted to see the kitchen today. It is a fine day for that...the drywall is drying and the guys aren't scheduled to be here until tomorrow. So past the zippered plastic we crept. We looked around at the dust on the floor, and marveled at the space. Cool, so cool, to see rooms when they are bare.

 But then, I noticed a problem. As I stood before the wall with the window, something didn't seem right. Since there is nothing on the wall, it shouldn't be an issue. So I looked up, and was slammed with a very simple error that up until now, no one had caught. In fact, I posted a picture of the kitchen a few days ago, and no one found the problem. I'm putting it here again. Can you see what the error is?


Of course, you don't know what the plan for this kitchen is. But I do, as does the contractor, as should the crews that work for the contractor. And most of the time, when you do something that revolves around a sink, which would be beneath the window, you want symmetry. Well, if we look at the soffit, you can see that symmetry was not kept. On the right, we have a 45° angle under which an upper corner cabinet would fit. On the left, we have a 90° angle. My upper corner cabinet will not fit there.

As always, there is a lesson to be learned from this. Something that will apply directly to my kids, who have trouble with this same habit: double check everything. If the guys who installed the wood to create the soffit had double-checked; if the guys who installed the drywall had double checked; heck, if the contractor had come out and inspected the work each night, that would have been a double-check, and we'd be on our way forward, instead of stepping back.

I'm just glad I caught this now, before they painted, before they put in the floor, before they got to putting up the cabinets.

I wonder if they'll give me a slight discount. A girl can dream, can't she?

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Become a Saint

Last night was Religious Education Session #2. I don't know if I mentioned this, but I'm teaching not only my kids, but the two kids up the street. They are both girls; one is in Aaron's grade, the other in the girls' grade. I thought it would be fun for the kids to have some other children besides themselves in the class. I did not think ahead that having those kids, kids that they are friends with and very comfortable with, would make it a little harder to teach.

To be fair, we're meeting at 6 pm on a Sunday evening. By that time of the day, we're all tired, especially me. If I could find a video and press play, so that I could sit back and relax, I would. But that goes against what I'm trying to do. So instead, we try to cover the material that is in the books we bought from the church (in case we go back to actual RE classes, they will have covered everything) and then go ahead and discuss topics that I think will be interesting for the kids. It's the other subjects that have me worried.

For example, we talked a little about saints last night. I've grown up believing in saints, invoking the help of St. Anthony when I can't find something (he's always come through, by the way, except with respect to Fried Chicken Monkey, which means, I did actually give the beast away...shame on me), or whispering a few words to St. Jude, St. Theresa, a small list of other ones. So we did some internet digging, just to see what we could find on saints. Amazingly, the people that write the For Dummies books have a Catholicism for Dummies text. Here's a small sample of what we read:
First of all, a clarification: The Catholic Church doesn’t make saints like Hollywood makes movie stars. Catholic saints are men and women who lived holy lives in obedience to God’s will, and they became saints at the moment they entered heaven. However, the Church does recognize those souls that the Church can confirm are in heaven as saints.
This paragraph got me and, by default, the kids, thinking. First of all, what is heaven to the kids? And second of all, how does the Church confirm that the souls of these people are in heaven? I went ahead and asked the kids what they thought heaven was like. I wanted to hear what they had to say. All five of them gave me a standard answer, one that involved clouds and gates and everything anyone wanted. But at that point, they started to get a little silly. Each one tried to outdo the other one, and as I sat watching the kids describe their own person heaven, I wanted to roll my eyes, rap my ruler on their knuckles, and move on. I didn't do any of that, by the way. Instead, I made them wrap up the conversation and watch a short video that showed a tour of the Catholic Church. The video calmed them down enough that when it was time to go, we were back to normal.

Thankfully, we never got around to answering the second question: How does the Church confirm that the souls of the saints are in heaven? Care to take a guess? Because that is beyond my level of understanding, and one that I think I'd never find a satisfactory answer. I choose to believe in God and the saints, but I'm not certain anyone can give me proof that the souls of the saints are in heaven. Do they call up St. Peter and ask for a roster? You tell me.

All I know is that by the end of this academic year with these five kids, I might very well be able to prove that I've lead a life of heroic virtue. If I can come up with a miracle that can be attributed to me, perhaps someday I'll be on the path to sainthood, too.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kitchen Pictures III

It's not all lovely or anything yet, but the kitchen has some new lighting, a new plywood layer above the subfloor (they had to take everything, and I mean everything, off the floor, as it was too difficult to separate out the layers), an extended soffit and some wall repairs.  The holes in the bathroom wall have been repaired. We're making progress!




Friday, September 20, 2013

Mmmm...

Slutty brownies and a cup of coffee make a wonderful Friday breakfast.

Especially when you've made it through the first full week of a kitchen/bath renovation.

And you aren't sure when the guys will show up next.

And you only hope that the whole thing will be done on time so that the next time you make Slutty Brownies, you can make the layers (chocolate chip cookies and brownies) from scratch.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Serial Publishing

I've given a lot of thought lately to how I can get my writing out there. There, being anywhere but in my home. This blog is a great way to find new readers, but I don't broadcast that I write it, and I don't link it up to Facebook or Twitter, mostly because I don't really think anyone wants to hear about what I have to say. If my writing were more profound, or life-altering, or some other combination of Holy cats I need to read this every day, then I might find a way to put myself out there, so to speak. But we all know why you read this blog. You either like to feel sorry for me, or you like to laugh at me, or you like to say to yourself Thank goodness I'm not that chick. Right? (I see you nodding your head, by the way.)

Which of course, led me to think about Charles Dickens. I know, I know, you didn't quite get the leap from my blog to Charles. Well, neither did I. But I really did get thinking about Old Man Dickens, and how he published some of his stories serially. And then I thought, well, what if I did that? What if I throw a chapter out there and see what sort of fish I can bring in? Would I find a readership that says, Hey lady, feed me more! I need to get that book? Will you come write for me?

More fanciful things have happened, I am sure.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dear Agent

9/18/2013

Dear Agent:

I know what I am supposed to do. I've read the internet articles that state how to write a query letter. I've even written said query letter, and then edited it, multiple times, to the point that I've  got the letter memorized and fear that I will recite it the next time I stand up to lecture. I might start off this letter in some interesting way, hoping to find a hook and reel you right in with a bunch of bull crap, about how I found you or what it means to be a writer, but in the end, you know why I am writing: I have a book I want to have represented and I'd like to find someone to represent it. Let's cut to the chase, why don't we?

Now the question is, would I like that agent to be you? I guess I should address that fact right now. I could (and should) tell you why I think you might be just the person for the job, but to be honest (and as you can tell, I'm being very forthright here), I don't know if you are the right person for the job. I don't know if I'd like you to represent my book. I just want someone. Anyone, really. A warm body that has represented other books. A person who at least has a small pile of published titles on their curriculum vitae. Someone that wears the title of literary agent because, without you or someone like you, I might end up on Amazon at $0.99. Hell, I might still end up there, but at least, if I have you, I can say I tried my best to avoid that dismal fate.

Because in the end, I just want the novel that I have spent time, energy, and the usual blood, sweat, and tears on, to get published. I don't want to e-publish, self-publish, or not publish. I want a real literary agent to take my book, sell it to a publishing house, and get the damned thing into print. And I wouldn't mind both hardback and paperback editions, I might add. Then, once I'm established as a writer (or a one hit wonder, but I'd be in good company, i.e. Harper Lee), I can worry about whether or not you are right for the job. As long as you don't take too much of my money, I'll take you. (Sometimes I wonder if Tim didn't think that when we were dating, but that is of course, another story.)

So what do you say? Do you want to hear my story? I promise, promise, promise that it is far more eloquent than this letter. It isn't about vampires or werewolves; it doesn't involve BDSM; it's not another tale about a dystopian society in which we've lost all choice and some kids come along to question that fact. I'm not trying to corner the market on social issues or make a case for a certain religion. I wrote a story, one that my writing group says is worthy of publishing, and so I'd like to share it. And before you even ask the question,What credentials do the people in your writing group have to make such a statement? let me say this. The ladies of the group are writers, moms, teachers, musicians, athletes, and most of all, good representatives of all sorts of people that will, yes, buy books.

And while I may not be the next JK Rowling (who, by the way, didn't hold many people's interest with A Casual Vacancy but hey, we can't win them all), I'm certain, almost 100% certain, that my  writing is better than say, a Harlequin Romance. Or Twilight. Or The Vampire Diaries. Or City of Bones. Or countless other books I've picked up and put down because the sentences look like they've been strung together by kindergarteners. But wait, that statement isn't fair to those kids. Many children within the kindergarten set that I know can manage to come up with stories better than some of what I've seen out there.

So here we go. You know I'm looking for an agent, for a story that I've written. What was that story again? Well, we've got a girl. And a boy. And they happen to be the progeny (from different families) of some very famous people. People that, under ordinary circumstances, might have no reason to find one another. And yet, in my story, they do. The kids take a journey, both figuratively and literally, together and separately, only to find that the worlds they live in aren't quite as bad as they once thought. We've got humor, adventure, romance and a bit of eww factor, all in the span of 73,000 words. But if I tell you who these characters are and what they do, someone might run with my idea and write the book I already wrote. So, if you really want to hear more from me, send me an email. I'm waiting for you. (Or maybe not you, but we've already gone through this, right?)

Oh, and by the way, just in case it makes a difference, I am the author of several scientific journal articles, one coffee table book, and I won Honorable Mention in a writing contest this year. Plus, I have this spectacular blog. You should check it out, too, but don't be scared. My writing isn't nearly as crazy as my blog purports my life to be.

Respectfully yours.

CMC

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

81-90

81. Block parties with the neighbors.
82. Refrigerator boxes, oven boxes, television boxes, all kinds of boxes.
83. Healthy lungs, eyes, ears, noses, and all other body parts.
84. Fluffy towels straight from the dryer.
85. Sunday morning time with the ladies.
86. The first fallen leaf that signals the beginning of autumn.
87. Fall Farm Days.
88. Running long when you thought you wouldn't run at all that day.
89. The smell of vanilla extract.
90. Nights cool enough to throw a blanket on but warm enough that the ceiling fan also stays on.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One More Ball

Life is a juggling act.

Having twins first taught me that. Adding two more kids and an active husband reaffirmed it. Finding time for myself in the midst of the chaos drove the point home.

And figuring out how to write query letters, send the letters, teach the kids religion, coordinate the library volunteers for school, make sure breakfast, lunch, and dinner are on the table, make decisions for the kitchen, get the laundry done when the construction crew isn't around, and more, makes it apparent, to me at least, that I need to thank God that I'm a pretty good juggler.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Religious Education

Today, I became a religious educator. I guess I've always been that in some fashion to the kids, but this year, I am actually sitting down on Sunday nights to preach some catechism to Zoe, Talia, Aaron, and two neighbor kids. If I like it, and the kids like it, I might open it up to some other families. We'll see where it goes.

For tonight, I didn't have much planned. We looked at the textbooks, talked a bit about how to find Bible passages, and a little more about prayer. What prayers could the kids name? What prayers had they heard of but couldn't name? Did they pray at all? By the end of the night, I admitted that I had some homework for them. The assignment: to write a prayer.

And here is one that Zoe found online. She plans on writing her own, more serious prayer, but I like creativity of whomever wrote this little gem, so here we go:

The Whovian Prayer

Our time Lord, who art in Tardis,
The Doctor be thy name.
The Silence comes and demons run
On earth as it was in Galifrey.
Save us this day from the weeping angels
And prevent Cybermen from  upgrading all of us,
As we prevent Sontarans from conquering the planet.
Lead us not into the Vashta Nerada
But deliver us from Daleks.
For mine is the Tardis, the bow ties, and Fezzes.
Forever and ever,
Allons-y.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kitchen Pictures II

Last post, I forgot to add a picture of the bathroom before demolition. I placed that one at the top:


 The first three below are of the kitchen. Our sink was in front of the window. You can still see the plumbing. The blue color was the color we had on the walls when we first moved in. It was a nice color, but because the cabinets were light, there was little contrast. Hence the red color of the walls.


Here is a picture of where the secretary's desk stood. Apparently it needed to be moved, since it was against code even being there. The rectangle at the top is a lovely shade of green, the color that must have been on the walls when prior residents put up the cabinets. I'd like a darker green for my kitchen.

Here you can see the green again. This is the wall where the new refrigerator will go. We are all very excited about being able to open the doors of the refrigerator all the way and not hit the wall! (It's the little things, people!)

The last two pictures here are of the bathroom. Behind the big wall mirror, the guys found what looks to be a former medicine cabinet. The smaller holes were where soap holders were placed. (Who knows how long ago those were put in!) Now the construction team has a lot of wall work to do.


Look at the wallpaper that was once on the walls: pink and blue flowers!

 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kitchen Pictures

Day two of the remodel and here I am posting a few before pictures. You can't see that the tile floor is broken or that the counter top is crumbling in places. The fridge is on its last leg, but you can't tell that from the pictures, either. All in all, I was happy with the kitchen, but it was time to move on. So here we go...



 

I have absolutely no intention of going through this renovation step by step on the blog. However, I will post some pictures of the phases and the after. Next post will show the lovely walls after everything has been taken down. If only the walls could talk...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Changes

Today is a GINORMOUS day in our household.

The wrecking crew should arrive any minute to dismantle our kitchen, and within a month (hopefully under that) we'll have a brand new kitchen, 1/2 bath, and back hallway. I'll update this post with some pictures later today. Right now, I'm taking a breather from moving everything we need into the living room and study area. Everything we don't need is in our bedroom. Which means that I will be living for the next month (hopefully under that) in a state of heightened awareness.

Too much clutter? We normally have that, and now it's all in my space. Even in my bedroom! Yikes.

You might see me a lot here, whining about this first world problem (as they say). I'll try to keep it to a minimum. And give you some nice photos as a reward at the end.

All in all, big changes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spot On

Saturday afternoon, Talia came up to me as I was standing in the kitchen. She placed a soft hand against my arm, and then looked up at me, a question in her eyes.

"Mom, you have some bumps here. What are they?"

"I do?" I said, and felt my arm. Sure enough, a large patch of skin had what felt like raised welts on it. I walked to the bathroom and flicked on the light. Huh, the large patch was actually a whole bunch of little, red, raised dots. Almost hives, but not quite.

"Mom, you have some on your other arm, too," Talia informed me. Well then, the hunt was on. I found a few on my leg, some across my back, and a couple creeping up my neck. By the end of the next day, I had a few more scattered on my belly, and one or two on my feet.

I hadn't changed detergent; I hadn't come into contact with any poisonous plants, and at least to the best of my knowledge, I didn't have shingles. I had been eating quite a bit of chocolate (something that had, in the past, caused me to break out with hives). I had not been indulging in a ton of wheat products (another thing that has caused me to break out with hives). The verdict? Who knew what the problem was.

After countless online searches (to discover that my bumps really did look like many shingles rashes, but I had none of the other symptoms) and a trip to the doctor (who couldn't give me much information) I have been diagnosed with spots. Just kidding.

Apparently the rash looks like an allergy to the doctor, but to what, we still don't know. A shot of steroid and a packet of more steroids to ingest over the coming week, and now, I have big plans. BIG PLANS!

Why? Well of course, the bumps should go away if the diagnosis is correct, but that isn't that big. It's the reaction my body has to steroids. The 2nd to the last time I was on steroids, I upped my mileage and decreased my time when I ran. I can only imagine what might happen this time. Perhaps the burst of energy will translate into another novel written in the span of a few weeks! Or I could become superwoman! Or a whole host of other zany things might happen with my brain and body on drugs.

As I always say, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Best. Cheerleaders. Ever.

Yesterday was a good day. I went for a run, I attended part of a meeting, and I wrote 2000 words of my new story. My drive by moment has morphed into a living thing, something that I think will only be a short-story. But we can't always write novels now, can we?

So for much of the day yesterday, I thought about words, how to use them, where to put them, and which ones would come out of my characters' mouths. At the end of the day, I had an almost-finished short story. One that is spattered with cuss words (can you believe that?) but one that my kids would probably also like. What to do? Read it? Or not.

I chose to go ahead and read the first draft to the twins. They sat on the red thinking chair, in the dark, listening to the voices of Len and Barbie. "What happens now, Mom?" they said. "What does that mean? When will we know why he does that?"

Patience, grasshopper. Patience.

By the end of the reading, the girls were excited. "I want to know what happens, Mom. Please?!" Zoe said as she ran up to the bathroom, got ready for bed, and tried one more time. "Can you please let us know what Len does?"

Of course not, I thought. I don't know exactly what Len will do. When I sit down to write, I have a vision, but sometimes that vision doesn't come to fruition. Sometimes, the characters do something I didn't even expect. I said as much to Zoe and Talia, who only replied, "Oh." And then, "Well keep going then, please...we like it!"

Ever need someone on your side? I've got the girls for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Drive By

Today has been a glorious and hot late summer day. Of course, most of the pools are closed and so we cool off by staying inside of our house, heading to the grocery store, and out to the shopping malls. On our way back from tracking down some much needed essentials (fruit, shampoo, and a birthday card, if you must know), I had what I call a drive by moment.

What is a drive by moment? Well, it means that I drive by something that makes me think. Sometimes it's a garage sale where a bunch of random little kid things sit, making me remember when all of my kids were much smaller. Other times it's an older person out for a walk, at a snail's pace, proving that it doesn't matter how fast you go, but that you are going. The drive by moments are, I'm convinced, life's way of making me notice everything around me.

Which happens to be a fantastic quality for writers.

Something I am trying to be.

Well I can't give you details, but today, I drove by something we take for granted here in the United States, something I normally don't think twice about. But today, something was different. The moment said item came into view, an idea popped into my head. An idea for a kids short story, or possibly a novel, depending on how much I can develop the thought.

I shut the car off, put the bags in the kitchen, and hurried to my computer. I opened up a new document and plunked a few words down, hoping that I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say. Could this be something? Could I possibly have another idea that might fester into something more? The more these ideas come into my brain the more I can believe that maybe, just maybe, my hobby here will become something permanent.

As usual, I'll keep you posted. And by the way, keep your eyes open for your own drive by moments. They might be very fruitful.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Burned Muffins

Warning: Mature Content

(Sometimes I really think I am morphing into FRN. Really.)

I woke up this morning, early as usual, with the intention of sitting down at the computer and finishing up a critique. When I got to the kitchen, I realized that I left a muffin mix out last night. The kids love muffins, and those mixes, while not the greatest, are wonderful in a pinch. I'll make some muffins and then sit down, I thought.

Easy enough. Except when you forget to put the timer on. Oh, I thought I did, but apparently I didn't push the right button on my watch. (It was dark in the kitchen and I'm getting older, remember?) As I sat here, ready to open up my document (because of course I just wasted time checking email), I remembered the muffins. The muffins that just might be burned muffins.

Well, I lucked out. They are fine muffins. But the whole experience got me thinking. Burned muffins. That could be a novel title (watch out, you just might see me use it), or the title of an anthology, a painting, or an expression that one uses when things go wrong, as in:
  • Burned muffins! I hurt my toe.
  • I'm as sad as burned muffins right now.
  • I wouldn't wish burned muffins on anyone!
Of course, you can certainly (sort of) turn this around, too, as in:
  • The kids walked in on us last night and now, my muffin's burned.
Up too early. I'm stopping there. (That didn't really happen, by the way.)


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Headlines That Don't Make Me Think

Every once in a while I see a headline (or two) that causes me to chuckle and say, Are you kidding? Do we really need to ask that? There are others that I wonder how, if research is involved, the study ever got funded. Really.

This is what I've found recently:

Nonprofits Are Growing. What Is It They Do? (It is a good question, I guess.)

Is Your Job Killing Your Sleep? (No brainer here.)

Humans Do Blush in the Dark, German Scientists Reveal (Seriously? Someone studied this? And someone doubted it? Apparently the researchers never thought about all the people reading 50 Shades only by the light of their Kindles.)

Why You Shouldn't Wear Crocs, Even Secretly (No kidding.)

And my favorite:

Heavy Drinking Hurts Your Ability to Read Social Cues, Study Finds (Duh. Double duh!)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It Starts at the Top

So I checked my college mail yesterday morning, and I've been assigned a mentor. For a class I am no longer teaching.

This is the message I received (bear with me, or skip ahead. You decide):
Hey Christina,

I have been assigned to be your mentor, specifically for your courses of instruction that you teach for us here at X. Beginning this semester, all adjuncts now have an specifically assigned, full-time faculty member to assist you with content or course-related issues – this mentoring program effort includes every full and part-time member of the department – and it is my privilege to support you in that role. I realize that in the past I have not worked with you in this capacity, but let me assure you that the only purpose is to help make sure that all BIO course sections are taught and conducted in similar manner, particularly regarding course content, instructional pedagogy (lecture & lab), exam content (coverage and level of difficulty), as well as “extra credit” (if you indeed offer such).

As a part of this process, all Department mentor faculty are requesting electronic copies of their mentee’s impending lecture exams for the classes they are currently teaching this semester. I will be reviewing them to make sure they are level-appropriate. Remember, we are all tasked to participate – please do not feel I (nor the department [is-]) am singling you out! If it is easier, you may leave a hard copy of the exams in my mailbox.


The final course grades are to be assigned according to a (A)90%, (B)80%, (C)70%, (D)60%, (F)<60. Rounding-up a borderline percentage in favor of the student is reasonable and acceptable, but the addition of large numbers of points to inflate a grade is not. For BIO ZZZ/AAA you may offer not more than 25 extra credit points in the lecture portion of the course. If and how you choose to offer such is entirely up to you, but I would ask that you let me know your approach and “across the board” application to all your students. No extra credit can be offered in the lab portion of the courses.
The mentoring program will require very little extra meeting time; however, I would like to come to one lecture or lab in September and October (this will only be for 30 minutes).  Believe me, I realize how nervous I become when our chair, Dr. Y, visits my classroom to observe my instructional deportment.  Relax!  If it suits you, I would prefer to observe at the beginning of class (not on a test day, of course), wherein I could meet with you about 20 minutes before you begin so that we can talk about any concerns, difficulties or challenges you may have with your class, content and/or students.  Also, if you should need to speak with me prior to the dates and times you will provide me to observe your class, please don’t hesitate to email or call me (I have provided both my office and cell phone numbers).  Should you need or desire to, I am happy to meet with or talk further with you concerning any issue.
Thank you, and keep up the good work!  
What is so funny about this message?

Well, I've been teaching there almost 10 years. Over the course of that time, the department has never had a problem with the degree of difficulty of my exams, nor do I give out too much extra credit. I can appreciate that the department might need to have a certain standard, but in the process, they are most likely offending all of their long-standing adjunct faculty.

But that isn't what made me laugh. The message was carbon copied to the department chair, the same chair that I spoke with the day I handed over my course. The same chair that I spoke to, at length, about my goal to publish my story. The same chair that spent 15 minutes harassing me about how little he really knew about me, despite the fact that he'd been at the college almost five years (five fewer than I have been).

By golly, he really does know so very little about me; he doesn't even know that I'm not teaching the course.

And therein lies the problem with the college. I've always said that the students can be a handful, and not in a good way. They can be lazy and snide and clueless in many ways. Perhaps I see why now. They are simply mimicking the actions of their fearless leader.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Books on a Nook

I am the proud owner of a Nook.

Yes, I'm finally getting around to being a part of the 21st century. I still don't have a Smartphone, but who knows, one of those might be right around the corner.

Anyway, some lovely friends gave me a Nook for my birthday, and I've been having fun trying to figure out how the device works. Fun is a euphemism here for an ass of a time, pardon my language.
Day 1: Crap. I'm going to take this back. Who needs this anyway? I love the feel of a real book.
Day 2: I appreciate their sentiments, but how much time do I have to spend on this to figure it out?
Day 3: I can do this. A Nook can't possibly be that difficult. You buy a book, download it, and read it.
Day 4: Success! I can read the book.
Day 5: Oh, I can borrow from the library...
Day 6: Crap. I'm going to take this back. Who needs this anyway? I love the feel of a real book.
Day 7: I can see the library books on the Nook, but I can't read them.
Day 8: Timmy! The internet is a wonderful thing! I looked up "Why can't I read my library book on a Nook?" and a post from 2011 told me everything I needed to know about how to borrow from the library.
I expected Tim to say Welcome to 2013 or some other snarky comment. He politely refrained.

So here I am, still reading paper copies but also enjoying the ability to take a book with me without the bulk. Of course, other issues do crop up. Like last night, when I guess my finger grazed one of the chapters in the middle of a book I'd just downloaded. It took me a while to figure out why the beginning of this book really seemed like the end.

Thank goodness for the page numbers. I'll remember to look closely at them from  now on.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Timmy

On this day a year ago, I didn't have much to say.

I shouted out  a quick Happy Anniversary to Timmy, and that was that. As I often say, we've had wedded bliss: not all the years have been blissful, but we have been wedded for them all.

But if I say that, it sounds like I could take or leave marriage, and that isn't true. The day I found Timmy crawling out of the sand was the day my life was changed forever. Over the course of our 15 years together (13 of them married), I've gone from an insecure graduate student (who runs) to a confident professional mom (who runs). I've changed from  wanting to run a lab, to wanting to teach, to wanting to be a writer. My hair color has changed, I've gained and lost weight, I've become more extroverted in some ways and introverted in others. And this man has ridden the roller coaster, possibly holding on for the ride with white knuckles. (I don't really know, but I can imagine.)

Not once has Timmy ever said I can't do what I need to do; he's never laughed at my dreams or even called me fickle. You want to do it? he says. Then go ahead. It doesn't matter what the it is. He believes in me probably more than I believe in myself, and more importantly, he always has. From the moment I introduced myself to him.

So thank you, Timmy. For being you, for finding the me that I'm supposed to be, for supporting the amorphous mass that sometimes I am, and for believing in us. Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Story Titles

I write stories with titles such as:
Beyond the Trees
After We've Fallen
Hunting for Lilacs
Short Order Cook
The Gift of the Grim Reaper
If you look close enough, all of them except for the last are mostly three word titles. I've worked long and hard on the stories and even longer on the titles.

The kids have their own ideas about titles for stories. The winner?
The Story of the Toot That Came Alive
They worked neither hard, nor long on that one, and, I think it shows.