Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spring Break To-Do

There's a lot happening over here, but most important, it's Spring Break. I've got a to-do list as long as my arm, including an eye appointment and painting the trim in the upstairs hallway. And, obviously, other stuff because that little list is only as long as my fingernail.

Among the items, there's also this blog that I've been neglecting. I'm really wanting to get back to it with amusing anecdotes and musings on the writing life.

Here are three potentially entertaining tidbits:

  • I was once again a dance captain in the middle school teacher talent show act. A student emailed me afterward to tell me what a good dancer I am. I'm pretty sure, but not positive, the email was written without irony.
  • In the Mac zone, we've traded hockey parenting for lacrosse parenting. It's time for box lacrosse. Lacrosse is, I think, the most violent sport known to humankind. During the games, I find myself yelling things like, "WHACK HIM!" and there's sometimes blood.
  • I'm working out a synopsis for my next book. Before I get to the whole thing--even the whole synopsis-- I'm pretty sure there's an impending round of new edits on the old book. Isn't it funny that it seems old even though it still hasn't seen the light of day? Here's what I think to myself: the more rounds of edits I do, the fewer there still are to go. I think that's true no matter what. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Psoriasis Update. It's been awhile.

It hasn't seemed so hard to get through this particular Minnesota winter. It's been cold and snowy, yes. I felt typically overwhelmed by work, certainly.

But even in February, I wasn't too cranky with students.  I never took to my bed in exhaustion and despair. Well, except once last Friday night after parent-teacher conferences, I was slightly weepy. The conferences themselves went well, but I just got too tired.

One of the hardest moments of the whole season came this week when, after a five-day stretch of temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, the weather forecasters doomed and gloomed over a potential 8-inch snow dump. I felt bummed about the news, but then the schools got all hyped up before a single flake fell and called a snow day. After all that, we only got about five inches.

Also, and this part helps a lot, I started a new medication for my psoriasis. It's a shot that I have to give myself--a needle to the stomach. I'm not totally psyched about this, but I can do it. And the results?

It's been about five weeks since I started the medicine, and I have almost no spots on any place. The only thing is that if I drink alcohol or eat anything with food dye, I'll get some streaky things on my cheek and specks under my eyes. But even if that happens, the spots everywhere else keep fading. 

It's a miracle like the ones you've seen on the television commercials. Instead of the spots intensifying all through these dark months, they're going away. I won't spend all summer on the strictest diet known to humankind and exposing my skin to sunlight on a meticulous timetable. I won't have to explain to strangers that I haven't been chewed by rabid mosquitos or preemptively tell new friends, "It's not contagious."

They should probably sign me up for the promotional drug commercial. I'm ready to give my testimonial and share my before-and-after calf photos.

And I'm ready for the snow to melt now and spring to start. Probably only a month to go.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The February Blues

I usually write at least one blog post about teaching in February. Here we are in the last week of the month, however, and I've neglected to write about the perils of schools at this time of year.

It's a brutal combo, the lack of light, the ongoing winter, the crankiness of everyone in the building. Add in a mass school shooting and the president's asisnine suggestion that I pack heat while kneeling next to students during writing conferences, and it's enough to make us weep.

Just in case you're still wondering whether it's a good idea for teachers to carry weapons, I'll tell you definitively, it's not. Smart people who know about these things are documenting the reasons why, reasons like even the NYPD has only an 18% hit rate in active shooter situations.

Another reason that's inordinately clear to me personally is my responsibility to create warm, productive, and predictable relationships with kids. I can't do that with a constant threat of violence on my hip. Plus, where would I put it when I'm sitting on the floor, huddled together with an eleven year-old over his new poem?

No, no, and no.

I'm hoping the light gets better. Put some sunshine on the situation. Get a clue.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Annals of Medicine: Oregano Oil to the Resuce

I skipped #5amWritersClub today for the first time in a long, long time because I feel I'm battling an epic illness. I'm calling it epic because I've seen kids go down with it at school, and it looks ugly. To be fair, there are several strains of epicness going around. They all seem dire, and I keep getting emails from people that say things like, "Maybe I'll be back tomorrow, but maybe not."

So, yesterday when I came home with a bad headache and pains in my legs, I quickly rolled oregano oil all over the soles of my feet and took a power nap. I doused my feet again before bed, and again this morning when I woke up.

You might be feeling skeptical about the healing powers of oregano oil, and I used to be with you. But, no longer. Now, I'm totally convinced that if you rub diluted oregano oil on your feet every four hours while suffering from symptoms, those symptoms will be shorter lived and less severe. 

My family doesn't quite believe me, but they don't protest all that much when I ask them to take off their socks. I think we all know deep down that if you do the oregano thing, you won't become as sick as you might have. There are scientific reasons, but do we really care? I mean, in case you do, it's because oregano is high in phenols or something, which are anti-bacterial. It also has thymol and anti-oxidants. 

But, regardless of all of that, you can actually get a little roller bottle of diluted oregano oil at your local co-op for less than ten dollars, which is better than missing work and feeling awful.

Oregano oil to the feet! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Always Be Prepared

On Tuesday morning, I took Mac to the orthodontist's office. This is where we all smile politely at each other, the staff inflicts pain on my children, and I pay eleven-thousand dollars for them to do it.

Despite the nature of our relationship with the orthodontist, Mac and I were pretty content in the waiting room, just playing a game on my phone called Yazy. It's Yahtzee without the copyright, and I was winning.

Anyway, a kid came out of the torture chamber and tapped his dad, sitting across from us, on the shoulder.

"All done?" said the dad.

"Yep," said the kid. He grimaced a little bit, teeth flashing metal.

The dad stood up and something clattered to the floor. Neither he nor the kid noticed.

"Sir," I said, without looking, "you've dropped something." I stood up to grab it for him, planning to hand it up. But when I lunged toward it, I realized it was a huge knife.

A long, sharp knife! Like a hunting knife!

I paused.

"Oh," said the dad, and then realizing, "oh, geez!" He grabbed the knife and collapsed it and shoved it back into his pocket. I looked at his shoes. He didn't thank me for pointing out that he'd dropped a dangerous weapon in the lobby of the orthodontist's office.

I glanced over at him a few more times as we walked back toward the work stations. He seemed both sheepish and angry, like I might report to the over-friendly receptionist that he was packing. I didn't tattle, but I thought about it. Doesn't the orthodontist's office ban weapons? Why would that guy need the very sharp knife? Perhaps he was planning on negotiating a new payment plan?

It's not that I don't understand the impulse. But, violence is never the way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A (Short!) Break in My Characteristic Sunny Optimism.

Forget the new project for a moment, I'm in agony here over the old one.

Before I tell about the agony, I just want to say that regardless of whatever happens, I already did the thing I've always wanted to do. Which is, I wrote a book. I've got a whole story. And, if I feel like it, I can leave the whole thing there. Done and check. Bucket-list item totally kicked.

It helped me the other day to remind myself of this reality. "I actually finished this, and I don't have to do anything with it ever again to make that more true."

But, of course, that's not me. I'll revise it and perfect it and take more feeback and get it as close to 100% right and perfect as it can be. Nothing's ever just finished. I both like and despise this enduring personal quality.

But anyway, I'm starting to understand why some writers refuse to let anyone they know IRL get eyes on their manuscripts. I've had some readers - my freelance editor and my critique group, and then some friends and family.

Here's what's happening: Everyone has different ideas about how to make it better. There's no consensus in the existing feedback from people who've read it front to back. Other people haven't finished it, and I just want to say: "Ok, you don't like it. That's awkard, but it's fine. Just stop reading, and let's move forward. Maybe my next book will be better!"

I sometimes do say this, and the friend is like, "Oh no, no! I like it! I mean, you did it! You wrote a book! I'm sorry, I'm totally going to finish it!" And that just makes me feel worse. Like forcing their way through the pages is a chore they have to complete out of loyalty to me. It's like the slow clap you might muster for the last-place finisher in a fun run. The ol', "Isn't is wonderful that she's out here?"

To be honest, I just want to cry a little. Put the book down. Go back to playing violin at a 7th-grade level. Remember my hobby before was playing violin? Although, at this point, it would take me a year or so to catch back up to the 7th-graders. It'd be me and the 4th graders in group lessons, and that might feel worse than being a mediocre wannabe novelist.

At least - at least! - I'm pretty good at my day job. We've always got middle school teaching to fall back on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Writerly Wednesday: New Project Jitters

Well, I'm in an awkward stage with my own writing. I've "finished" my book. I'm calling it DETENTION these days, and "finished" really just means that I'm waiting for feedback and inspiration on how to change it for the zillionth time. I've have done some finagling in the first chapter in the last couple of weeks, and I think I'm finally moving in the right direction with those critical first pages. 

Of course, I sent the first draft of that new chapter to my sister and my mom before I'd really polished it. My sister said it was "choppy," and my mom wrote back with an entirely different idea for the opening. They were both right, so I tried it again. 

I'm pretty sure it's better now, but really, it could also be that I'm making the whole thing worse. No one actually knows at this point.

So, anyway, in times of limbo, it seems the only real thing to do let the first chapter in DETENTION rest and begin a new project. Everyone says this is the way to go. While you're waiting for critiques or querying agents or, if all goes well with those first two steps, out on submission to editors, you should write a new story.

Lucky for me, I have a new idea. I think I'm ready to outline it. Remember what I said about not retro-fitting a villain this time? I'm serious about that. The outline is coming first. I'm going to re-listen to a fabulous podcast called How Story Works and make sure Alice (remember Alice from #novelsnip? She's coming back, but she's becoming funny) hits all the marks. I think this'll make the whole process smoother - the drafting, the work with a developmental editor, the exchanging with the critique group, the copious revisions after all of that.

Maybe I can shrink the process from just over two years to just under? I'm excited to see.