Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Writing Goals

It's that time: the point in the year where I need to face up to whether nor not I reached some of my writing goals and what my writing goals will be for the coming year.

Last year, I had this to say about what I'd do with respect to writing in 2016:
So what's to be done for the coming year? Instead of individual goals, per se, I'm going for one word to encompass what my year will be. And that word? Revision. Revision of The Chocolate Garden, a short story called "Personal Chaos," After We've Fallen, blog posts, you name it, if it needs revising, I'm going to consider tackling it. I haven't quite figured out what will get revised first yet, but I have time to think that through.
Was I successful? I didn't revise The Chocolate Garden much, if at all, but After We've Fallen experienced extensive renovations. I also started the "Draft Makeover" series for the blog posts (meaning I've revised several posts), AND, I revised both "Personal Chaos" as well as a little ditty I call "Ushering Georgia." All revision aside, I published a profile, wrote an essay for Tribe, sucked up my angst over Trump's election, and edited more pieces than I can count. In fact, this past year, I stepped into the role of Senior Editor over at Literary Mama, so I'd say that yes, this year was quite successful, depending on how you look at it.

Which means I need to address what's to come in 2017. But to be honest, I'm not sure.

I feel like this coming year, more than anything, I need to listen to so many things with respect to my writing. And if I listen, I can then make a decision. What does that even mean, you ask? I think it means to live in the moment with respect to my writing. Write because I love to write, but don't always expect something in return. And if a subject comes up and I write a piece that I feel I must submit somewhere, then I will. But I won't pressure myself to do anything that might stifle my creative juices.

I suspect that if I listen to myself, I will eventually make my way through revising the things I didn't get to in 2016 as well as anything new I wrote this year (Just Be, for example).

This photo can be found here.
As for blogging, I'm unsure about that goal, too. The year I wrote every day was one of my best yet...the act of writing really honed my craft and kept the muse alive. But I'm not sure I can go back to that goal this year. I think only time will tell, and there, too, I'll need to listen to myself.

Until then, Happy New Year, and see you in 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cleaning House

This past Tuesday, the kids and I ventured into the basement and began to clean house. We started with the bookshelf that housed the games, many of which we hadn't reached for in years. "Keep or donate?" I'd say as I held up a box. Much of the time, the kids yelled, "Donate!" and a pile of very nice toys began to grow in the middle of our air hockey table.

We moved toward the next shelf, and the next, and by the time we'd made it through the blocks (keep), the dinosaurs (also keep), and the dress up clothes in the old white dresser (donate), we'd collected all of this:

It's not the greatest picture, I admit, but if I had been planning on putting the goods in my car--a Honda Pilot--said goods would have filled much of the back seat.

We then headed upstairs to my room, where we gathered another group of items: piles that Aaron had removed from his room as well as clothes from Melina and the twins.

After we were done, I looked at all the bags and boxes and realized that their sheer presence bothered me. So I signed onto, and scheduled a pickup for the very next day. Yay! These things would be gone in under 24 hours.

I felt much lighter at the physical cleaning out of the lower part of our house. We still have far to go, but so much of that "stuff" was just that: junk we didn't use, garbage that needed to be tossed, or toys that another child might enjoy. Someone would love the Groovy Girls Dolls and the Wonder Woman costume, as well as all the other garments and trinkets and craft items we donated. (Those pictures don't even include the three boxes of books I took to the Free basket at 2nd and Charles. By the time we'd gone through the store and out again, many of the books had been taken.)

But I realized that here and now, at the end of one year and the beginning of another, that I needed to clean my spiritual house as well. So I have plans, big plans, as they say. I'm saying goodbye to negative feelings. I'm leaving behind people I thought were friends but aren't. I'm looking at the beauty in each and every moment, and I'm focusing on others instead of just myself. By doing so, I'm inviting peace into my life, something I hope that you all experience more of.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The End

Margie had expected her sister, Carol, to call. It was Christmas Day after all. But as the hours went by, and the phone stood silent, the realization that her sister had once again snubbed her began to take root.

Why? What had Margie done? Those thoughts tumbled through her brain as she gathered her cup and saucer, poured the water she'd boiled over the tea bag, and sat down at the kitchen table. There, she spied the photo book she always liked to look at on holidays. The photos--all worn and faded at this point--reminded her that life hadn't always been so colorless and that at one time, she'd been happy. Or at least she thought she'd been happy...

The trill of the telephone pushed through Margie's thoughts and her hands trembled as she reached for the receiver.

"Hello?" Margie had forgotten to look at the Caller ID before she'd pushed the TALK button.

"Margie, it's me, Rita."

Margie's shoulders relaxed and she leaned back against the chair. She'd known Rita for almost as many years as she'd known her own sister, and she knew exactly why Rita had phoned.

"Hi Rita, and Merry Christmas to you and Ron."

"Thanks. He's watching TV with Jordan and has probably had too many glasses of wine at this point. I thought it was the perfect time to ring you."

"Thanks. I'm just sitting here, having some tea. The usual, you know."

A laugh sounded across the line. "Yeah, I know. You and that peppermint tea. Soothing, isn't it? Let me guess, Margie...Carol didn't call."

Margie swallowed her tears and tried to answer. ""

"When are you going to get it, Margie? When? I'm not trying to make you feel bad here, but she doesn't care about you. I'm not sure she ever has."

Margie wasn't quite sure what to say to Rita, so she sat there, phone in hand as she dabbed at her eyes, which had begun to water. "What do you want me to say, Rita? That you're right? She's my sister, dammit. Shouldn't she call me on Christmas?"

"Yes, she should." Rita's voice had taken on a low, calming tone. "But she should call you during the week, too, and she doesn't. She should visit you from time to time, check in and see how you're doing. She doesn't do any of that..."

"I know. And I don't know where I went wrong."

Now Rita's voice rose again. "Margie, you're my best friend and you have to believe me when I say that you did nothing wrong. I was there, remember? I saw you go out of your way to help Carol. I watched as she walked all over you day in and day out. I knew from the moment you had your accident that she wouldn't be the one to help you. And look, I'm right, you know? I have never minded coming to help you out as I do each week--I love you and that's what I want to do. But you know what? She's your sister. She should love you just as much, if not more so, than I do. She should be helping you..."

Sniffles overcame Margie as she tried to reply. "I...know..."

"And all she does is hurt you. Do you want me to come over?"

Through the haze of her tears, Margie looked at the wall clock. Seven o'clock on Christmas night probably wasn't the best time of the day for her to ask her best friend to come over. But Margie knew she'd have trouble settling in this evening and that the hours would pass by slowly. "Would you mind?"

"Ha! Anything to get away from those two lugs in front of the television! What better way to round out my day than with my best friend. Hang tight, lady. I'll be over within the hour. Is that okay?"

"That's great. And Rita?"


"Thank you."

"You're welcome. See you soon."

Margie hung up the phone, flipped the pages of the photo book past the pictures of her with Carol, and left the book open to the photo of her and Rita that had been taken before the accident. She rose and moved toward the kitchen sink, placed her mug on the counter, and stood, looking out the window at the dark night air. She saw her reflection in the window: the upturn of her lips, the brightness of her eyes. Having Rita's company for a few hours would help turn the defeat of the day into something more palatable. And she promised herself that in the new year, she'd try to forget that Carol ever existed. Life might be easier that way.

The trill of the telephone once again interrupted her thoughts. Had Rita changed her mind?

Margie shuffled to the phone, looked at the Caller ID, and whispered, "Carol." She pushed the END button and never felt better.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Unconnected, II

She didn't understand the fuss behind the Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas controversy. For years, people had been shouting out Merry Christmas! to her best friend--a Jew--and he'd never said a word. Just pasted a smile and shouted back, Merry Christmas! "It's the spirit of everything," he'd tell her when she asked if he was annoyed. "They're simply wishing me good vibes. Why should I complain about that?" Why should he indeed? She knew a few folks who would complain. Put the Christ back in Christmas, they'd say. But what about those who simply celebrate secular Christmas? Or Hanukkah? Or a whole host of other winter time holidays? Happy Holidays, she thought, pretty much covered everyone, so she'd be sticking with that phrase, thank you. After all, it wasn't always about her now, was it?

Math had never come easy to her. Never. She'd probably struggled to put two and two together at some point in her life. And here she was, some symbols and shapes in front of her, with a teacher who expected her to prove something. How could she prove that two triangles were congruent? She looked at the examples in the textbook and traced the outline of one of the triangles with her pencil, applying as much pressure as she could to the paper. With little strokes, she moved the tip of the pencil back and forth, causing minute tears that quickly morphed into a rather large gouge. She was never one for hurting a book, but a Geometry text? Yeah, somehow, that didn't quite count as a book.

The word your smacked her in the face like her mother did: hard and repeatedly. The man clearly had no idea how to use the words your or you're and as she sat at her desk, proofing the copy, she wanted to do nothing but poke her pencil through her burning eyes. How could he not know the difference between those two words? Even worse, how could he be teaching their children? Shaking her head, she gleefully ran her red pen over the paper again and again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Class Concerns

On 2/11/13, I wrote the following in the first draft of this blog post: "I gave my first exam on Saturday, and much to my surprise and delight, the students did well. Very well, in fact. The exam wasn't the hardest I've ever given, but it certainly wasn't easy. But it was a first exam. It served its purpose: to let me know what sort of class I have."

I laughed as I read that paragraph, for two reasons:
1. I'd forgotten that I taught a couple of Saturday courses a few years ago.
2. I'd forgotten that the students who take Saturday courses tend to do better in my classes.
I've put a lot of thought into that second statement over the last couple of years. Students who take Saturday courses tend to do better in my classes. Why might that be? I teach the exact same way to each and every set of students, and usually, we have exactly the same amount of time to cover our material. What I figured out, though, is that the students who sign up for Saturday (or evening) courses come in two varieties:
1. People who have so much on their plate, they're really good at juggling, and so adding a class on top of everything else really isn't that much more than what they are used to.
2. People who are coming back to school after a hiatus of some sort such that they're both dedicated to the class and to doing well.
I have to say that it's nice to have dedicated students in my courses. Teaching to an attentive crowd is way better than teaching to a bunch of students who are there because their folks or boss or someone else told them they should be. But at this point in my life, with the kids, the writing, the editing, and everything else, I'm not going back to teaching on the evenings or weekends. At least not yet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Yesterday was a fantastic day. Full of errands, but the sun was shining, so I couldn't complain. Until I could. Because as I sat at the dining room table taking care of this and that and the other, this song came on. And now, I can't get it out of my head.

You're welcome.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Broken Hearts Indeed Do Crack, Part III

To see parts I and II of this story, go here and here.

While the moment seemed to stretch indefinitely, Caroline knew it couldn't have. But during that time, when she stood on the steps of the church, tears staining her face, hands trembling, right after she'd whispered the words she knew Adam didn't want to hear, it was almost as if in the back of her mind, a clock began to tick. "I don't know" wasn't going to hold off Adam for long and he deserved more than that noncommittal answer. Even if he'd toyed with her heart, which she was pretty sure he had done, she didn't want to toy with his.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Adam's normally olive skin looked stark and drawn under the light of the street lamps. His hands shook as he placed the box back in his pocket and shifted his weight from one leg to the other.

"I..." Caroline wasn't sure what to say and tried again. "I can see it, Adam. I can see us growing old together. I can see the house and the kids and the minivan and everything. But..."


"But I'm not sure it's what I want."

Adam slumped against the stone wall as his breath seemed to leave him. "What do you mean? Don't you think you could have told me you didn't want to get married and have kids? How long have we been going out? I thought we wanted the same things. How did this never come up?"

Caroline sighed at the whine in his voice and leaned back on her heels. She closed her eyes and looked at the vision again. She could see it...the future or an image of what the future was like. But in that picture, she stood to the side, a wan smile on her face, fatigue stretching the skin of her face. And Caroline knew the weariness wasn't just from running around after kids and being tired. She knew in her heart that there was more to the story. Her gut told her so, but she had no evidence to give Adam, and he was all about the evidence.

"I do want to get married. I do want to have kids. It's just..." Her words trailed off and were replaced by the staccato drip of the rain against the slate.

"Just what?"

Should she say it? Should she tell him that she didn't want a marriage like the kind her folks had? She didn't want to consistently think about how she could have done better or whether or not a simple conversation would set him off. She didn't want to live together as companions when the true love of her life might be right up the street, or in Oklahoma, or listening to an aria at the Sydney Opera House. She wanted it all, but not with him.

Her hesitation said more than she ever could, and with a blink of his eyes and a twist of his lips, Caroline knew that Adam knew what was in her heart.

His voice quivered. "That's it, isn't it. You want the whole package, but I'm not that package, am I?" Adam's chin fell against his chest and his hands rubbed at the skin of his forehead.

Caroline swallowed back the acid that had risen into her throat. She'd been about to say those words, right? She was going to tell him anyway, so who cared that he figured it out? She hadn't meant to hurt him, but no matter what she said--except yes, of course--the words could hurt.

"Are you sure?" Adam lifted his head again and Caroline could see his dark eyes, glistening with unshed tears. "Are you really sure? I  can give you time, you know."

Caroline didn't think she needed time, but then again, what did she know? Maybe she needed to figure out what she really wanted. What if this was her last chance at a husband and children? She certainly wasn't getting any younger...

"Sure. I'd like some time." She placed her fingers onto his forearm and squeezed. "But you keep the ring for now."

Something that looked like hope flared in Adam's eyes, and for a moment, Caroline felt like running away. From the church, from Adam, from the ring, from her life. She glanced up the street and spied the haze of the rain making halos around the streetlamps. Horns blared, motors rumbled, small groups of people still littered the sidewalks. She could easily get lost among the life in this city. And if she did, maybe she'd feel alive.

"Give me time," she whispered. Then she placed a kiss on his cheek, turned her back to him, and walked away.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

New Friends, II

Yesterday, we went to meet a new friend. We brought the friend home, and we're hoping that the cats will tolerate her.

Say hi to Patty.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Friday Five

1. Entered in grades and had to assign far too many Fs for my tastes.
2. Made an appointment to go see this girl--see below--tonight.
3. Put together a presentation on the brain that I'll be giving to the third graders this afternoon. (I'm really excited about doing this!)
4. Spent a few hours watching This Is Us. The jury is still out on whether or not I'll finish out the rest of the episodes.
5. Thought very strongly about taking a hiatus from just about everything I can these days. I feel like the winter is already kicking me in the back end. And it's just started.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Four Years Later

Sometimes, I just don't know what to say. That's still how I feel, four years after I first started a draft of this post. You see, four years ago on this day, December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza tore through Sandy Hook elementary school and single-handedly managed to cause the deadliest mass shooting at a school in the United States. Prior to the shooting, he'd killed his mother. Afterwards, he killed himself.

I didn't address the shooting four years ago. It was too much for me to take in, I think. At the time, the girls were in fifth grade, Aaron in second grade, and Melina was in preschool. It wasn't as though the incident didn't affect me. It did. Too much, really, but I couldn't quite articulate how I felt about what happened, too many emotions were mixed together. All I could say, if I tried, was that I suffered from overwhelming feelings of sadness and anger.  But in truth, if there was (and is) something I should be long-winded about, it would be an episode like the Sandy Hook shooting.

But then I think, as much as I would have liked to give my two cents about this shooting, there was and still is no way I can do it justice. I can't imagine the pain the families of the victims went through at the time. I can't fathom how they still feel four years later. I can't wrap my mind around anyone who claims the Sandy Hook shooting involves a conspiracy. I don't understand why a young man of 20 years old would even choose to walk into a school and shoot anyone. These kinds of situations are always called senseless, but in my opinion, that term is a misnomer. Yes, these circumstances happen, but even if we're not sure why, there is a reason for why they happen. We just don't know what that reason is until afterwards.

In this case, though, I don't think the authorities ever figured out WHY Adam Lanza did what he did. Despite the fact collection, no one found out his reasoning for the rampage. And I wonder, now, if that's partially why I'm not sure what to say about what happened.

I remember at the time of the initial reports, thinking that I'd support increased security in the schools. And since that time, our schools have changed. When I walk into any one of our community's schools, we have security doors at the front. We need to be buzzed into the office and the entire office staff can see us from head to toe on camera. Prior to Sandy Hook, that wasn't the case.

Safety training has changed, too. When I was a kid, we had two types of drills: one for fire and one for tornado. Now, the kids have different levels of lockdowns and teachers know what to do when an active shooter is in the vicinity. My heart hurts when I think that my kids have to deal with the stress of knowing what to do if someone enters their school with the intent to kill, but I'll be honest. If the schools hadn't heightened security, or balked at training, my heart would hurt even more.

Have I said anything that anyone else hasn't already said? No, I haven't. But I think the one thing I should at least mention is that Lanza shot up the school with a semiautomatic rifle. And you know where I'm going with that. Where and how did he get that gun? According to many sources, including this article by Slate, the guns belonged to Lanza's mother. The woman is dead and I'm not going to  take a trip down the road of berating another parent. We, as parents, have all made our share of mistakes. But guns should not be accessible to minors. Guns should not be so easily bought. I am proponent of the 2nd amendment, but we seriously need some gun reform in this country.

But as I like to say, that, my friends, is for another post.

In the meantime, say a prayer for the families of the Sandy Hook shooting as they try to get through their days, and do what you can today to make this world a little bit better place.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Poetry

Draft Makeover #2. I had no idea I'd ever put this gem together. And by gem, you know what I really mean. In fact, I think I know why I never pushed the Publish button on this post.

(First saved in mid-December, 2012. You'll know what 2012 was all about once you get to the sixth stanza.)

Twas a Few Days Before Christmas
With SINCERE apologies to Clement C. Moore

Twas a few days before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse.
The winter coats were hung by the back door with care,
Only because I had just put them there.

The children were supposedly all snug in their beds,
While visions of iPods whirred through their heads.
And Tim with a beer and I in pajamas,
Had just settled down for a night without dramas.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Tim sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the back door Shadow flew like a bat.
Tim opened the door and almost fell flat.

The moon on the dead, brown, crusty old grass,
Gave the luster of mid-day to quite a landmass.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear
But an LED sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little red driver, so lively and darin',
I knew in a moment it must be my Aaron.
More rapid than flu his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Hashtag! now Gangnam, now, Ninja and Twitter!
On Earworm! On, Man Cave, on Ce Lo and Glitter!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

As dry leaves that before an epic hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of what? I never knew.

And then, in a jiffy, I heard on the shingles
The dancing and jumping.  And was that a jingle?
As I brought in my head and was turning around,
Down the chimney Dr. Who came with a bound.

Aaron came next, in dust head to toe.
Both were all tarnished, but still seemed to glow.
"I nabbed him!  I trapped him!  Oh I'm so fond.
But where in the heck did he put Amy Pond?"

Aaron's eyes, how they twinkled!  His smile, how merry!
Dr. Who was embarrassed, his cheeks like two cherries.
The doctor looked stern, confused, and so worried.
But he laughed at himself and Aaron's misdeed.

The stump of his screwdriver Who held in his teeth.
The light from it circled his head like a wreath.
He had a long face and a flat little belly,
He certainly needed a trip to the deli.

He was skinny and thin, not much of an elf,
I gasped when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A twist of his screwdriver, a cock of his head,
Soon let me know Aaron had so much to dread.

Who spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And tied Aaron up, then turned with a jerk.
He lay all his gifts down, then wiggled his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

Aaron gaped at what happened, so proud, so in awe.
"I had Dr. Who, Did you see it? You saw?"
I nodded and watched as Who drove out of sight,
"That's it, Aaron, I said, it's time to sleep tight."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Warmth in December

If you live anywhere near me, you know it's cold outside. And when it's cold, I seem to find comfort in a bit of warm food. So you might wonder why I'm posting a cobbler recipe now, in the early part of December. No, I haven't made this recipe recently. In fact, I've never made it. But a colleague did, and I'm posting it so that I can remind myself how to find that bit of warmth I need right now. This peach cobbler was delicious and I'm thinking that this warm fruity dessert (with a dash of cinnamon if I add it) would be a wonderful addition to a cold December night by the Christmas tree.

Crust Topping:

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar (my colleague cut it to 1/2 cup and it was sweet enough)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten


2 T flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 to 5 cups fresh or frozen peaches  or blackberries
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg. Mix until the topping is crumbly and set aside.
4. For the filling, mix flour and sugar in a small bowl. Place the fruit in a large bowl and sprinkle with the flour and sugar mixture. Toss the fruit gently until they are evenly covered with the flour and sugar mixture.
5. Butter a 9 x 9 x 2 baking dish and add the fruit. Sprinkle the topping over the berries and drizzle butter over the topping.
6. Place on a baking sheet before baking, and bake for 45 minutes.

I took this picture from the King Arthur website. You can find it here, along with a gluten-free cobbler recipe, for those of you who are interested. Both cobblers look pretty much like the picture above. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dear Student, XI

Twelve weeks ago, I wrote my last letter to you. I'm flummoxed by that number. Twelve? As in, it's been three (!) months since I felt the need to address you? I thought for sure that you'd manage to do something to disrupt the teaching balance I'd found and cause me to write a letter sometime throughout this semester, but apparently, you did not. And here we are, in the final week of class (the countdown that began that first day is ALMOST OVER!) and I'm writing a letter to let you know something important:

I will miss you.

Gah! Did I actually just write that sentence down? [Pause, gulp.] Yes, I did. In fact, let me write it again, a little larger this time:

I will miss you.

I know, I can't believe it either. I was so sure last August--when the countdown to December 9 began--that the semester would be full of arduous days and complaining, both on my part and yours. And for the majority of the semester, it was.

I heard about so many things from you: how the job was going (or not); what virus had hit your children (or you or your parents); how difficult the class could be (yes, it can be); how lives had been taken away too quickly (why so many deaths this semester?); the despondency you were feeling because of the election (for what it's worth, I felt it, too). And keeping up with five classes of students, their needs, as well as my needs and those of my children at home--that was some feat, let me tell you. I almost caved at one point early on in the semester, before I figured out what tasks won the top spots on my priority list. All of those negative thoughts and feelings, both from you and from me, could have hovered in a nebulous cloud inside that classroom, threatening to suffocate us. But miraculously, they didn't.

Why is that? I've thought a lot about that question, and while I'd like to take complete credit for the positive and nurturing environment inside the walls of room 4134, I can't. That's because you, dear Student, brought some light to the darkness that surrounded this semester for me. I can't say I looked forward to seeing you each day--I didn't bound out of bed in the morning and think Yes! This is the day I go to work and teach that inquiring mind!--but I can say that walking into that sardine can of a classroom and hearing your chatter or watching your eyes light up when a concept clicked made all the difference. The days when you laughed at my horrible puns (remember when we were talking about the lingual frenulum and I said that the word itself was awesome and that it just rolled off your tongue?) helped me feel alive at times. From behind the lectern, I'd look out at your eager (yet tired) face and think, Okay, maybe this will all be just fine.

And it was.

So thank you, dear Student, for making this fall semester just fine. Thank you for attending class as much as you did. Thank you for asking questions and listening attentively. Thank you for studying hard, or at least making me think that you studied hard. Thank you for respecting me and your fellow students, and thank you, especially, for reminding me why I decided to go into teaching at a community college 16 years ago. I had hoped then that it was the right decision, and I know now that it was.

January will be tough for us all, I think. You will head onto the more difficult phases of your education, and I'll be stuck in another room like 4134 with a bunch of unfamiliar faces and the cold bitterness of the winter at my back. But I want you to remember that if you made it through this course, you'll make it through the next one and the next one and the next. And if you come upon an answer you absolutely aren't sure of, always remember that maybe, just maybe, using common sense will help you scale that hurdle (or the answer is gap junction).

I wish you all the best as you make your way forward in life.


Your Teacher

Thursday, December 8, 2016


This is the first post encompassing my draft makeovers. I think the date recorded by Blogger indicated that I'd started it sometime in late December, 2012. That seems like a lifetime ago, but as I sat down to read the draft, I realized that while some things have changed since four years ago, much of my life (and the life surrounding me) is still the same. And if I could talk about standards then, I can probably still talk about standards now.

At school, we throw that word and variations of it around quite a bit. We need to have "standards" for the classes, or a "standard" comprehensive exam for everyone. Is the new instructor teaching to the "standards" that the college expects? Standards, standards, standards. We're so worried about them in the business and academic setting, but what about elsewhere?

Well, every once in a while, I think about whether or not I'm living my life up to the standards for which they are set.  And then I think, who sets the standards for living?  And should the standards that apply to me apply to everyone else? I'm sure you know the answer to that one.  All of us are different, so can we really try to set a certain standard for everyone?  Not really.  However, there is something called a moral code, right?  Is that moral code considered a standard for everyone? I would think so.

My brain hurts just thinking about the roundabout way I could go on with that line of thinking but lately, I find myself going there more and more. Because when I turn on the news or hop on the internet, and listen to or read about all the awful things that people are doing to one another, I have to think that there are no standards, and apparently, there's no moral code now, either. Do what you want when you want to do it and don't worry about who gets hurt. Furthermore, why not let your vile side show; it's your right, isn't it? And I'm not making that up, either. Go ahead and do a Google search and see how much violence is out there. Doesn't anyone understand that being kind to everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, country of origin, culture, heck even species, should be the standard?

The thought crosses my mind too often these days and then by blood pressure goes up. All I can do is try to be as kind as possible, teach my children to do the same, and hope that everyone starts to live to a better standard. Bring that moral code back, I say. Maybe I need to make that a goal of mine for 2017. Shoot, maybe you should, too.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Draft Makeovers

I have yet to determine what my writing goals will be for 2017, so I won't bore you here with my ramblings on that topic (but expect a post soon). But my semester ends this Thursday, so I'm hoping that I will find a bit of time to get back to regular blogging until the insanity of Christmas hits. After that, of course, all bets are off.

My plan for this month, then, is to take a page from Kelsey's playbook and go back through my blog drafts and finish some of what I have already started.

Clearly I didn't take this photo. I found it elsewhere and then again here.
That task won't be as easy as it sounds, though, because I have 133 drafts sitting in my folder. Can you believe that? I started something 133 times and didn't finish any of them. I find that number somewhat disheartening, because I'm the sort of person who likes to finish what I start. But my guess is that some of the posts are early incarnations of posts already published. At least I hope that's the case or I have a huge job ahead of me.

So when will the whole draft makeovers begin? Not sure yet. As I always like to say, Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, The End

Here we are--December 1, 2016--and NaNoWriMo ended as of 11:59 p.m last night. Just like last year, I managed to finish my 50,000 words by November 14, only two weeks in. And just like last year, I couldn't walk away from the draft. I felt compelled to add a few more words here, and tweak a few places there, until I made it to the same word count as last year: 61823. You know this already and I know you know this, but for any new readers (Ha! Like that will happen!) I'm providing some much-needed (and maybe unsuitably placed) backstory here.

I think I've now solidified the fact in my mind that I can write a draft of a novel in less than a month, which means that next year, if I participate in this fun game, I need to find a new challenge.

What is that challenge, you ask?

Some would think that I'd up the stakes and say to myself, If you can write a draft in two weeks, why not one week? But as crazy as you think I am, I am not that crazy, nor do I have the latitude to attempt that challenge. No, the challenge next year shall be for me to adhere to one rule and one rule only:

Stick to the recommended 1667 words a day, and then walk away from the draft until the next day.

What? I know, I know. You're probably shaking your head right now. But if you've been keeping up with me at all over the last 30 days, you know that I have a compulsion to write, especially when a challenge is set before me.

Trying to hit 1667 words a day? I'll go for 2000, just to have a cushion. Oh wait, I'm almost at 2800, so let's make it an even 3000. This year, the kids even got in on this issue. They'd stand next to me and mutter how close I was to the next hundred or thousand, then shoot me a gleeful grin and walk away. They knew I was done for.

In fact, I spent too much time in front of the computer screen for those two weeks, such that at the end of the day on November 14th (and well into the two days that followed), I had a headache. A screaming, full-blown backlash by the group of neurons that inhabit my skull.

Hence, the rule: write the 1667 words and walk away. If I can hold to that rule, then I will be able to do anything. (Famous last words.)

Which brings me back to the whole concept of a challenge in the first place. If you participated this year and won it, great. Fabulous. Good for you! But if you didn't make it to the 50,000-word goal, that's okay, too. And I really mean that, because any number of new words falls into the category of progress. Yes, you and I both know that you're so much farther along in a draft than you were on November 1, right? Sounds so trite, but it's true.

But I'd also like to say that without a doubt, if you didn't meet your goal this year, then next year, I'm sure you'll be able to do so. Just follow these instructions, and you'll find yourself the proud owner of a winner's badge as well.
  1. Get rid of all unnecessary work. I didn't clean my house for two weeks, and while we had food on the table, I also didn't go to the store for a full-fledged shopping run. If it didn't really need to be done, then I just didn't do it. (Keep in mind I still taught, subbed, and edited, so I didn't have eight hour stretches of time in front of me.)
  2. Get rid of your Wi-fi. Okay, I didn't really do this, considering I needed said Wi-fi to help me with some pertinent research. But I used the Wi-fi sparingly. Very sparingly. And some people recommend turning it off on the computer when you write.
  3. Get rid of social media. Absolutely. Do NOT even sign on to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or your site of choice until you've hit your word count for the day. Really. Or you'll end up spiraling down that rabbit hole so quickly that an hour later, you realize you could have finished those 1667 words but instead, you now know far more about Kanye West than you ever wanted to know.
  4. Get your butt in the chair. Or wherever you write. You can't start writing if you don't stop long enough to try.
  5. Get your hand on the keyboard or on the pencil. Just having the chair doesn't pass muster for writing. Find your utensil of choice, and begin at the beginning (or the middle or the end or wherever you want). Even I've overused Nike's words, but they are applicable now: JUST DO IT.
  6. And finally, always think positively. Even on those days when you're tired and crabby, a few minutes here or there over the course of the day can get you to your word count goal.
And just in case you're a more visual person, let someone else tell you what to do:

Of course now, my friends, comes the hard part: revision.

Good luck!