Monday, February 28, 2011

Soliciting "Giveaway" Advice ... Help!

So, my two year blogaversary is coming up on March 8th ...

I'm very excited and grateful and want to do a giveaway ... but having never done this before, would love some advice on how to proceed/organize/what sort of thing is good to give away?

Advice (I'm always soliciting advice ... it must get old sometimes ;-)) left in comments or via e-mail is much appreciated!

The Red-Tailed Hawk (And Taking The Time To See What's Right In Front Of You)

I have no common sense. Let's get that right out there. I am the person who can analyze poetry for hours, write term papers in two hours ... and who loses her keys at least once a day. I'll remind myself that I have to bring a toilet paper roll from the giant BJ's pack into the bathroom the next time I have to go, but still forget. I can understand Plato and Aristotle, but knock knock jokes go completely over my head.

One of my greatest weaknesses, as both a human being and as a writer, is that I miss the obvious, as I was reminded yesterday.

I've posted before about my dog Mollie and her affinity for balls.
My golden retriever, Mollie, is passive aggressive.

Most dogs I've owned are very sweet-tempered. My black lab, Sonja, for example, just kind of goes with the flow, is thrilled to see you when you get home at the end of the day, sits at your feet when you're reading a book, is thrilled when you take her outside to play, and so on.

Mollie is just crazy.

The best example of this, I guess, is her obsession with balls. She always has a ball in her mouth, and when you're inside the house, she'll drop the slimy thing on your lap as if to say, "Throw it, throw it, I want to play fetch!" The logical response to this action, of course, is to pick up the ball, walk outside, and start a rousing game of fetch.

Um ... nope. You throw the ball once and Mollie goes running after it, retrieves it, and comes back to dance around your feet ... and refuses to give you the ball. After you try to pry it out of her mouth a few times to no avail, you give up and go back inside ... at which point, Mollie comes and drops the slimy ball in your lap and the cycle continues.

Even more annoying, though, is when you give her the ball back and say, "No, not gonna do it right now" or something like that. She hides the ball under heavy pieces of furniture and scratches at it until you lift it up, straining back muscles in the process, so she can get the ball ... and, two minutes later, drop the slimy thing in your lap.

Well, I was having a lazy day yesterday. A very, very lazy day. I was engrossed in a book (Sammy the Bull's memoir, in case you're curious ... I do have the strangest literary journeys sometimes) and, when Mollie started barking, I figured I'd get to a good stopping point and start lifting up couches.

But Mollie kept barking consistently, which isn't like her, so I finally looked up, and she literally had her nose to the window. I got up to look out the window, and imagine my surprise to see a hawk in the tree right outside.

It was absolutely beautiful, something I'd never before realized about hawks. It was so close that I could see every detail, could easily identify it as a red-tailed hawk based on its tail feathers.

The hawk had put up with Mollie barking without comment but evidently sensed my movement when I went to get my camera. It flew to a higher tree, and I wasn't able to get a good shot of it. Still, I watched it until it flew away.

I was reminded of Stephen King's novella "The Body" (and of Rob Reiner's excellent movie adaptation, Stand By Me), the part where Gordie LaChance encounters an unspeakably beautiful doe, something so unexpected and purely, innocently, naturally gorgeous. He's on a journey with his friends to go find a dead body, and the doe shows up while he's "on watch". It is a moment of peace and awe that he often goes back to in times of tribulation.

This hawk was kind of like that for me ... and the fact that I almost missed out on seeing it because it's all too easy sometimes to ignore Mollie's yapping is not lost on me. It's strange where you get life lessons from sometimes ...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The Seven Deadly Sins Meme

"Sunday Stealing", which I get from Bud Weiser at WTIT, has become something of a guilty pleasure for me. I don't always participate, but I love to read them. I just couldn't say no to this one ;-)

If you feel compelled to do this yourself, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out :-)

1 - Pride. Seven great things about yourself.
* I have raised two remarkable daughters that are kind, smart, funny, and beautiful.
* I am a good teacher (you either connect with kids or you don't ... I do, possibly because my sense of humor never graduated from middle school)
* I have a very strong work ethic. I started babysitting when I was 11 or 12, got my first real job (at a local water park) when I was 15, and haven't stopped since.
* I am a talented writer. Maybe not good enough (and please feel free to weigh in here), but pretty good.
* I clean up well ;) (I honestly care very little about how I look on a given day ... as long as I'm clean and my clothes don't clash, it's all good. However, when I decide to put my all into dressing up and doing my hair and stuff, people are usually pretty surprised ... it's probably the contrast more than that I actually look especially good ;))
* My dogs love me. This might sound small, but dogs know whether people are good or not. They seriously do.
* "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

2 - Envy. Seven things you lack and covet.
* Publication for my novel. Can you tell I'm hung up on that this weekend ;)?
* A home of my own. Although my mother has been incredibly kind about letting the girls and I crash in on her (for going on three years now, gulp ...), it would be nice to have a place of my own.
* A fully functioning liver and pancreas.
* Somebody to plow my driveway. It's snowing again (this winter is seriously getting ridiculous), and Addie's at a show, so it looks like it's all me and the snow shovel. If it was my own home, I would totally suck it up and pay for someone to plow. Because it is my mom's home and she is weird about spending money on things you can do yourself (I believe they call it "Yankee frugality"), I am the shoveling queen.
* A car dock for my iPod. Mine broke. While it's kind of entertaining to rock the ghetto "driving with earbuds" look, I'm just too old, you know?
* Adventure. Sometimes my life gets a little bit dull. I need to work on this ...
* Time to write built into every day. I know this is something I need to do for myself, but life happens.

3 - Wrath. Seven things that piss you off.
* People who think they are right all the time and want to argue about it even when you're like, "Okay, you're right, just let it go" (despite the fact that they are definitely wrong).
* "Toppers". This is my word for people who have to top everything you say. As in,
"I had a hard time sleeping last night; I was up until two in the morning."
"I was up until three in the morning."
"There was a dead mouse in my garage this morning."
"There were FIVE dead mice in my garage this morning. My cat killed them all."
* People who choose to work with kids when they clearly don't enjoy it, aren't good at it, and don't care (or are oblivious to) the detrimental impact this has on children.
* Mind games.
* Liars.
* Intolerance.
* My mom's computer needs (she's always getting random viruses because she clicks on EVERYTHING then expects me to know how to fix it, she shuts her computer completely down then gets annoyed when the wireless isn't immediately up and ready and thinks I am crazy when I tell her to just hibernate her computer so it doesn't have to go through the entire start-up process every twenty minutes, and so on)

4 - Sloth. Seven things you neglect to do.
* Go through clothes with the end goal of a Goodwill run. It's a very daunting task ...
* Clean my car out.
* Organize my desk (and filing cabinets and closet and pretty much everything else) at school
* Stay on top of paperwork. I'm very bad about this ...
* Sort Belle's socks. That kid has a serious sock issue ... I swear, they disappear. I've tried buying packs of the "same" socks, getting really tacky and unique socks, and everything in between, but no matter what, there are huge piles of "singletons" everywhere that a really good sorting would probably take care of.
* Everyday stuff ... I'll get caught up in a good book and forget about the dishes or put off vacuuming because I'm grading papers and so on.
* Update my calendar. I was doing really well for awhile since I have a calendar on my Droid, but I've gotten sloppy about it.

5 - Greed. Seven worldly material desires.
* Note--I am really and truly not into material stuff. I have a Droid and a laptop and a car with heated seats, and that's about all I'd want. This is all "wouldn't it be nice ..." stuff*
* A new wardrobe, since most of my clothes are left over from high school and/or Goodwill finds (when you're a single mother with two daughters, one of them kind of a "material girl", you miss out on new clothes)
* A weekly pedicure.
* A Mercedes convertible
* Trust funds for my kids
* Lobster for every meal
* Books. All books.
* A trip to Ireland

6 - Gluttony. Seven guilty pleasures.
* Cheeseburgers.
* Bacardi 151
* Good books
* Milky Way candy bars
* Dunkin' Donuts coffee
* Hot showers that last for hours
* Good shoes.

7 - Lust. Seven love secrets.
* Note--I'm a teacher ... these are vague intentionally*
* Humor is key
* Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill"
* Go with the flow ... if swimming in the Atlantic in February or walking the streets of a city in the middle of a snowstorm or eating sushi for the first time or whatever comes up, go with it. Give it a shot. "Life is too short for cheap wine."
* "Yes, I actually LIKE to do ... that."
* Be a good person. The rest will come.
* "The number" needs to remain secret. On both sides.
* Be enthusiastic in all that you do. Enthusiasm is, of course, catching ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Writing Conundrum--Advice Appreciated

When I was in seventh grade, I had a really weird dream. It was incredibly vivid, it stayed with me for many days, almost haunting me, and then I decided to start writing what eventually became the first copy of what's now my completed novel manuscript.

That original piece bears little similarity to what exists now, of course. For one thing, the main character didn't exist at the time (talk about doing things back asswards, right?). Or one of the main characters. Or ... okay, guess I'd better explain this, because therein lies the base of my confusion.

The Gist of the Original Story:
A girl is hired to babysit for a neighboring family when the parents go away for a weekend. A ghost/witch/some sort of evil creature haunts the kids because she's the biological mother of one of the kids (who was, of course, adopted). Unfinished.

Now, this is of course a typical seventh grade story. It had kids banding together to fight an evil force. Period. Kabam. It really kind of stunk.

Gist of the Second Draft:
A girl with a really crappy home life is hired to babsit for a rich family that lives in town when the parents go away for a weekend. The oldest son of the family is, of course, hot ... and, of course, interested in the girl. They fall in love over the backdrop of protecting his little sister from the possessed spirit of his little sister's biological mother. Also unfinished.

I'm going to guess this was at approximately ninth grade or so. It was kind of soft core porn in parts written by a very inexperienced girl. I don't have an existing copy of this draft, but the parts I remember are just toe-curling.

Gist of the Third Draft:
Pretty much the same of the second draft, although better written (not that it was great, but it was a step up). The dialogue was pretty impressive in terms of capturing characterization and sounding realistic (which it should have ... I was, I think, a junior in high school and I'd of course aged my main characters to high school juniors, so I pretty much just wrote the way conversations I had with my friends would go ... this turned out to be a gift later on down the line). I also added several characters, the most notable being Roy Pentinicci.

I added a character named Roy into my novel as part of an ongoing joke with my brother and sister. I cannot divulge details about the back story of said sibling pact(it involves a gay porn magazine and idle chatter made by various relatives ... trust me, you don't want to know), but suffice it to say that the entire cast of unrealistic, formulaic characters would have died a long, slow death if Roy hadn't been created. Roy was initially a very small character that was the then-main character's best friend. He was kind of a jerk, a typical "bad boy", pretty much without limits. He was also, of course, hot (but in a different way than the Mr. Perfect "leading man").

Time goes by. I have a child, I go to college, I live, I laugh, I cry, I learn, I experience. I meet my friend Andy at a New Year's Eve party when I'm nineteen, and it occurs to me when we start hanging out a lot that he IS Roy. This motivates me to pull out the old manuscript and I realize, with both the eye of a slightly older me and my near-obsession with Andy, that Roy is really the most interesting part of the whole piece.

And so I started a new WiP, this one centered around Roy. It started with his childhood as the son of a quasi-exiled Mafia hitman and the abuse he suffered at the hands of both parents. It dealt with his sister's sexual abuse at the hands of his father and the murder of his younger brother. It was a great character sketch, and definitely the best writing that I'd ever done up to that point ... but nothing really happened. Nothing really happened, that is, until Roy became a high school junior and was spending the weekend at his best friend's house with a babysitter and an evil possessed spirit shows up, and ...

Well, you can see what happened. I had two stories that were really one story, and I couldn't figure out what to do. It seemed necessary to me that both Roy's point of view and Susy's (the babysitting girl) were significant to the bottom line of the story ...

And so I started again, the piece that ultimately became Unbreakable, and it had two narrators, and of course it was told via flashback because I was an adult by this point, so I had to turn my main characters into adults that were reflecting on their traumatic childhoods--and their dual salvation from their horrible lives by the rich family who are no longer perfectly too good to be true.

It changed in other ways, too (for example, I'd made this incredible villain in Roy's father who was much more diabolical--and much more realistic--than some random witch/ghost thing, so I changed it to him holding the kids captive), and I was right about the dual storytelling giving the story far richer perspective.

The problem? It's long. Very long. Like, 150,000 words worth of long. I queried it and had several bites--requests for the first three chapters, two subsequent requests for the first 100 words, and a heady solicitation of the entire manuscript.

And then nothing.

And so I've been sitting on this novel for quite awhile. It's good, I know that. Is it good enough? Everyone who reads it seems to think so, but then again, most of them know me in real life (they do all finish it, though, and finish it quickly, so I guess that means something).

Anyway, I'm toying with the idea of separating out the stories, of pulling a reverse Dark Crystal and turning two stories that became one story back into two stories in the interest of manuscript length.

Any suggestions, thoughts, feedback would be much appreciated here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Want to Know What I Am Reading Right Now?

You should, because it just might be the most eclectic collection of books being read by one person.

But seriously, I was tagged by Clearness at Just Another Blog (which is actually a very cool blog and much more than "just another blog") in a book meme, and since I can't say no to either memes or anything involving books, here you go :-)

So here are the rules:

1.Take a picture of the books you are reading currently and add to your post.

2.Describe the books and if you are enjoying them or not. Why?

3.For every book you are reading you have to tag one person.

4.Leave the person a comment letting them know you tagged them.

I can't take a picture of all the books I have going on because I am a book packrat ... seriously, I think it's unhealthy. I have a book going in virtually every room in my house, one in my car, several at school, and some in other locations that shall remain nameless. I'm going to do the next best thing, though, which is to put a picture of the book and a link to Amazon so you can read more about it after checking out my gems of witticisms if you're so inclined.

Okay, here we go ...

I was a huge fan of Patricia Cornwell when her Scarpetta books first came out. The protagonist, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, was a strong female solving mysteries that kept me wondering until the last page. Cornwell made characters that were unlikable and loaded her characters with faults. Plus, the twists and turns of the mysteries kept me wondering until the last page. Then ... the series got really weird. I don't know how to explain it any better than that. I stopped reading them for awhile, but my mother recently read The Scarpetta Factor and told me that it's pretty old-school Cornwell. So far, she seems to be right :-)

The Bobbsey Twins #11: The Scarecrow Mystery, which I actually posted about earlier today. I did take a picture of the cover and the inside cover (decorated by me when I was in the hospital as a child), so I guess it's photo-worthy.

I've discovered in the past few years how interesting non-fiction can be. Although I will always be a writer of fiction (it's just my thing), I've gained a lot of insight into how to write fiction better through reading books about history or biographies. I tend to fixate on certain topics (I'm nearing the end of a JFK kick) and read about them from every possible angle. This book has been my "bedside book", and I probably have to rotate it to a better-suited location. It's not that it's a bad book or even uninteresting, but it doesn't have that level of excitement (at least not yet) to keep me awake past one or two pages.

One of my eighth graders recommended this series to me, and I'm actually really into them. The main character, a boy named Will with dreams of "Battleschool", is chosen instead to apprentice with the Rangers, a shadowy and secret group that are both separate and more powerful than members of the army. I'm only about halfway through the first book, but I'm impressed. And because I only read this during silent reading time in my eighth grade classes, it's slow going.

During my seventh grade classes, I'm reading the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. I'm honestly less than impressed with these, but I make it a point to read through student recommendations. While there are some really neat details (the main character, a vampire, is provided with packs of donated blood by his guardian, a nurse, to keep his baser desires at bay), it's ... eh, another vampire book. It's neat to see what kids are into these days, though.

You would think I'd be sick of this book considering that I've probably read it over a hundred times, but it just keeps making me think. After over 99% of the population is wiped out by an accident at a U.S. Army biological warfare site, the survivors are led by vivid dreams to either the forces of good or those who follow "The Dark Man". Amazing book.

I have a morbid fascination with Charles Manson (not in a "Manson's cool" way but in a "Wow, it's amazing how powerful psychological domination can be"), and this is the book that started it for me. I've read extensively on both Manson the man and the crimes for which he is still in prison for today, and I find that my interest--and the questions in my mind for just *how* such a thing could have happened--still remain.

Teaching is a profession with a high burnout rate. Period. I am part of a group in my school district that goes to several retreats each year intended to "renew our passion" for teaching. I have been known at times to make "Kum Ba Ya" jokes about it (we open and close our retreats with a candle lighting ceremony), but honestly it's a really good experience. Parker Palmer's book is the basis of the retreats, and we do a lot of reading and connecting with the book while at our retreats. It sounds hokey, but I really buy in (and I'm evidently kind of cynical sometimes).

Those are the ones that are occupying most of my time at the moment. So by my count, that means I need to tag eight people to chronicle their current reading journey ...

The following are eight people that I find utterly fascinating. I'd like to see what they're reading because I suspect their lists might be ... well, utterly fascinating.

Rachel at Awkward Girl

The Frisky Virgin

Martin at From Sand to Glass

Mejis at Southern Discomfort

Jewels at Turning 30: A Journey of Self-Exploration

The Novelista Barista

Mrs. 4444 at Half Past Kissin' Time

Jane at The Maple Syrup Mob

Please know that I would love to see what you're reading. If you're reading this, please consider yourself tagged, complete the meme, and leave a link in the comments.

Happy reading :-)

Rediscovering "The Bobbsey Twins" Through My Daughter's Eyes

You know the books from childhood that you refind, reread, and reaffirm your belief that they are pretty amazing? It's a very cool experience ... but even better when you're able to bring a child along on the journey. Especially when it's your own child (although getting fifty seventh graders to love The Outsiders a couple of months ago was also pretty cool).

So a couple of nights ago, I asked Belle what she wanted for a bedtime story. She's at that awkward stage where the decoding part of reading takes away some of the joy in the storytelling. The books she reads on her own are kind of, uh, lacking in plot since they are limited in terms of word availability, and she's very into the "I'm reading YOU my bedtime story", so me getting to choose ... well, it was kind of a treat.

I took the task very seriously and started going through a pile of old books. Suddenly, I struck literary gold when I found The Bobbsey Twins 11-The Scarecrow Mystery.

Okay, let me explain. When I was right around Belle's age, I had a ruptured appendix and was in the hospital for a week (I don't get sick often, but when I do, it tends to be dramatic ... sigh). My grandmother had passed away just a few months before, so the hospital was kind of a hard place for my family to be, my grandfather in particular. Still, he wanted to make my days happier, so he bought a whole bunch of books for me, books that introduced me to the dual sets of twins, brunette Bert and Nan and blonde-haired Freddie and Flossie. Oh, and also this other lady:

Now, I know that The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew are not fine literature. They are formulaic, misogynistic, and kind of dated. However, those books made my days in the hospital much cheerier, and I eventually read the entire body of both series (and yes, I know they were, along with the Hardy Boys books, penned by ghostwriters working under the Stratemeyer Syndicate as Laura Lee Hope, Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon).

Anyway, my copy of The Scarecrow Mystery has doodlings that were done by a seven-year-old me while in the hospital on the inside front cover. And this particular Bobbsey mystery was my favorite, with the twins' random sighting of a scarecrow that seemed to move from one farm field to another somehow connecting with a stolen painting that was allegedly committed by the great French art thief La Fantom (obviously "The Phantom").

I read Belle the first chapter that night, the second chapter the next night, and two chapters (at her request) last night. I told her that, if I had a snow day today, we could finish the book.

Totally had a snow day. We finished the book, and the neatest part was that Belle kept stopping me to ask questions, to put forward her theories, and to make connections. It totally blew my mind and reminded me of how magical it is to be a child caught up in a story that was born in the brain of someone else.

Books are the most magical thing in the world. And yes, I'll be going to Barnes and Noble after it stops snowing to augment our Bobbsey Twin library since Belle is so enthused by these same characters that so enthused me fifteen years ago.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Strange Google Searches That Have Led People to My Blog

The internet has opened up endless opportunities for connections between things. Personally, I think this is a good thing. When you get right down to it, thinking and growing is all about making those connections, about realizing how everything you do kind of intersects with everything else into your own unique mosaic.

However, sometimes it's very entertaining. I've been playing around with some of the features on Blogger, and the highlight was unquestionably seeing the Google searches that have led people to my blog.

Evidently, my attempts at finding philosophy in everyday life, of sharing my journeys as a teacher and a writer, of delving deeper than I may have intended to into my personal life ... my blog of which I am very proud ... well, it evidently all boils down to this.

“people who complain about the weather”
Yeah, okay, I talk about complaining about the weather. I even complain about the weather. Evidently more than I knew ;) I certainly wouldn't have picked it as a driving force on this blog, but there you go.

“claudia kishi's mom”
This one comes up in response to a comment posted on a piece I wrote on a local book-banning controversy. Too funny!

“christa mcauliffe technology conference”
This is a big conference for teachers in New Hampshire, actually, and I had the great honor of attending it last year. I still think it's just bizarre how a Google search for this conference ends up at my blog. Wild!

“herb hantz”
This one is really far out. I wrote a post about teachers that make a difference, and there were a lot of comments that gave the name of an inspiring educator. Herb Hantz was one of those so honored in the comments section. Small world ...

“rettop yrrah”
I got the urge to reread the Harry Potter series one day, but I couldn't find the first couple of books to save my life. HP7 was taunting me from the bookshelf, though, so I ended up reading the books in reverse order ... very cool experience. I thought I'd be clever and original by writing "Harry Potter" backwards in the blog title ... hmm, not so much, I guess.

“’apples to apples game’ philosophical”
If you haven't ever played the game Apples to Apples, you really must. I don't know that I'd term it "philosophical", but it's tons of fun.

“dark heart care bears”
So I was watching one of the old Care Bears movies with Belle, and I suddenly realized all the religious references found in the film and felt compelled to write a post about it. Interestingly, these are the search words that most commonly get hits to my blog. It's just ... mind-boggling.

“do you think scarlett o hara is immature for marriage”
I love the character of Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, so it's only natural that I explored her characterization on this blog. Whether or not she's too immature for marriage? Once again, I think Google might have misinterpreted a thing or two here, but it's all good.

I hope you got a laugh or two out of this ... some of the things that led people to this blog really cracked me up :-)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Realization of the Day: The World Isn't Made for Single People

I just got home from my surgery, and as you can probably tell, I've lived to tell the tale. Seriously, it went very well and I'm hoping that the ERCP procedure will ease some of the pain. I did get a little goofy when they started talking about "starting the Propofol" and had to bite back Michael Jackson references, but other than the multiple IV attempts, it wasn't bad.

But the whole situation made me realize the disadvantages faced by single people, a thought that, believe it or not, had never really occurred to me before.

When I went to the gastroenterologist on Friday for an office visit following the agonizing and unspeakable physical pain of Wednesday, I knew I would be having an ERCP (I have chronic pancreatitis that has occasional hellish flare-ups). I assumed that it would be scheduled for next week, which would have been great because it's my school's winter break.

Nope. He wanted to get it done sooner than that, so the procedure was scheduled for Tuesday. Which was fine, although I wasn't thrilled about having to miss work. No, the really stressful part came when the check-out receptionist reminded me that I needed to have someone with me after the surgery to drive me home since I'd be loopy from the anesthesia.

This is the first time something like this has come up since I've been divorced, and it was crazy how shocked I was to realize that, when you're married to someone (or even in a serious relationship), you can say, "Hey, I'm scheduled for surgery on Tuesday, need to have someone with me since I can't drive myself home".

I have a very supportive family, but my mother had a very important meeting scheduled at work on Tuesday that she couldn't miss, and my father and his family are on vacation in Florida this week. My brother has a limited amount of sick time that he needs to save for his own family (although, to be honest, I suspect that he would have brought me if I'd called and asked him directly), and my sister lives in Maryland. Addie and Belle are on vacation this week, so Addie could have taken me ... but how fair is it to make her sit in a hospital waiting room for several hours, never mind trying to keep Belle occupied?

I am also blessed with wonderful, amazing, supportive friends. However, the friends that I would be comfortable asking a favor of this magnitude--and having to put up with me both before the procedure (I could not have coffee this morning ... it was not pretty) and afterwards (when I might well be loopy, to say the least)--all work. Most of them, in fact, work in my school. So, yeah, that wasn't really a viable option.

I spent the weekend really stressed out about this. The thing is, it had to be done; it's not like I had the option of pushing it back. I also hate--HATE--to ask for help. Finally, I put up a Facebook post asking if anyone would be near the hospital on Tuesday and be able to bring me home after the surgery.

And I learned that I also have wonderful, amazing, supportive friends (and family--my aunt was willing to drive down from northern Maine to take me if necessary) on Facebook. A number of people offered to help me out, although what came up as a challenge was that I didn't have specific times. Because the surgery was set up after hours on Friday afternoon and the office was closed on Monday, I did not have a start time to work with. This was further complicated by the fact that my gastro wanted an abdominal ultrasound done before the procedure itself, which I also didn't have a time for when I put up my desperate Facebook post.

As it turned out, the abdominal ultrasound was scheduled for 8:15 and the ERCP for 10:30, so there was a lot of sitting around time in between and I would have felt terrible making someone wait for that long at the hospital (I brought a book, so I was happy as a lark).

What ended up happening was that Addie (and Belle) dropped me off at the hospital early this morning then went back home (Addie had never driven home from the city that the hospital is in, so this was a big success for her), and then my mom left work after her important morning meeting to pick me up and bring me home. She also bought me coffee at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home, which was pretty wonderful :-)

It's funny, though ... my mom had to sign off on all the paperwork because I "can't make any major decisions" until the anesthesia has worn off. I felt like I was twelve or something. I'm not the most crazy-private person in the world, but I would have felt really awkward if one of my friends (or even Addie) had to sign off on my medical papers and assume responsibility for me post-surgery. It was bad enough to have my poor mother have to do it.

And then I got thinking about the people who are not as fortunate as I am, who might not have people willing to help them out in a situation like this. Okay, I don't have a husband (or even a boyfriend) to have the assumption of responsibility for this sort of thing, but I have family and friends that were willing to juggle.

A lot of people don't. So what about these people? Do they just say, "Sorry, guess I can't have the surgery because I don't have anyone to drive me home from"? I think that would be horribly humiliating ... trying to explain that my mommy was coming to pick me up was awkward enough.

There were a couple of other interesting observations from today, most notably the pregnancy test debacle. (TMI Warning) I am currently menstruating, ergo I am not pregnant, and yet they still insisted on doing a pregnancy test. Not to be gross, but the freaking urine sample was, like, tinged with menstrual blood (no tampons during surgery ... haha, maybe that's what that crazy label that Addie and I laughed so hard about meant), and they still felt it necessary to test it.

Me: Um, I, like, HAVE my period. Do you really need to do this?
Nurse: Is there any possibility you're pregnant?
Me: I literally have my period. As we speak.
Nurse: Have you had sex in the past month?
Me: (blushing) Um ...
Nurse: If there is any possibility you're pregnant, no matter how small, we have to do the test.
Me: That's fine, I understand, but ...
Nurse: (laughing) I hear you, but it's one of those lawsuit paranoia things.

So I did the test, but I still thought it was awkward and kind of unnecessary.

But discovering the strange and unexpected challenges that impact single people is what really struck me about today ... and made me grateful for the wonderful support system I have in place even as I'm suddenly feeling very sorry for single peeps that are not so lucky.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Infamous Promised Meme

Well, my life just gets more and more interesting ;-)  Another pancreatitis flare-up, having surgery on Tuesday, and just in general exhausted and continued overextended.

But I'm here now to post the odd collection of questions put together by my readers ... I had lots of fun with this :-)  Hope you enjoy!

(Oh, and there are some questions that were really not meant to be included here, but I felt inclined to include them anyway, just because they were either an interesting challenge to write about or made me think a lot ... or both)

1. Is there something most people find funny that you absolutely do not? (from David Batista)
Actually, there's quite a bit of stuff that evidently goes over my sense of humor ;)  I know I'm going to take some heat for this one, but I'm kind of lukewarm on Saturday Night Live (yes, even the older ones).  Parts of every show are LOL funny, but I've always wondered how people can sit at home and watch marathons.

Also, I tend not to laugh at the misfortune of others.  I know that sounds kind of "preachy" and I'm definitely not like that and would never judge anyone for finding a guy getting hit in the genitalia by a golf ball funny or chuckling when a baby bird is trying to get out of an egg and gets stuck instead.  A lot of people tend to laugh at those moments.  I don't.

2. What do you find funny that most people don't? (from Jane)
I find humor everywhere and will randomly just break out laughing.  I think it's because my brain connects odd things together, I don't know.  Here's an example.  Belle and I have a tollbooth game we play, where we have to guess the gender of the tollbooth attendant before reaching the booth (this is honestly why I haven't switched over to EZPass like the rest of the world).  She always guesses boy, leaving me with  girl (and there are a lot more men than women at the tollbooth we frequent).  We were driving home the other night after picking Addie up from practice, and Belle shockingly announced that she was "calling" boy and "Mommy, you have girl, and Addie, you have basket."  We got to the tollbooth, and honestly, the person at the tollbooth was so androgynous that I couldn't definitively say which gender it was.  I'm not one to judge somebody on appearances, but I was laughing so hard I cried when, as we drove off, Belle said, "So ... who won?"

Or Addie got hit in the nose with a flag during winterguard rehearsal, and it was pretty ugly.  While at the ER, we nearly lost it over the fact that the doctor's name was (honestly) John Smith.  And there was a drawer containing a label that said "TAMPONS PLEASE SCAN" (yes, I took a picture ... if anyone ever stole my phone, they would think that the owner was completely nuts based on the pics).  Needless to say, I'm surprised Addie and I didn't get kicked out of the hospital for laughing as we tried to figure out what in the world "TAMPONS PLEASE SCAN" might mean.

So I guess I take the time to find life funny, which is a little rare (I honestly don't think many people would notice the little "TAMPONS PLEASE SCAN" label) :-)

3.  If you could go back and do a romantic relationship over, with a different outcome, would you? (from J.J. in L.A.)

This was a hard one, actually.  I went through the whole stupid laundry list and contemplated briefly what I could have done differently and so on, but ultimately I realized that, no matter how hard and unpleasant and oddly twisted some of my romantic relationships have been, they have played a role in shaping who I am today.

And I'm starting to become pretty fond of who I am today.

4. What do you hate being asked? (from Martin Willoughby)
It's funny, I don't really mind being asked anything by complete strangers, but I get really annoyed when some of my relatives want to go on and on about the situation with Pythagorus.  "Why do you think he started drinking, Katie?"  "Can you believe that someone could change so much?" "Do you think he'll ever stop drinking?" "What could you have done differently?" "What is Pythagorus up to these days?"

I do not want to talk about Pythagorus with people that want to have the "before alcoholism" and "after alcoholism" conversation.  It's pointless.  I spent probably a year of my life keeping myself awake with these questions, and to have people ask me them--like, when I make it pretty clear that I do not want to talk about this--really irks me.

5. What is the funniest thing you ever did in front of your class? Was it planned or not? (from septembermom)
This cracked me up because I was voted "Funniest Teacher" in the yearbook superlatives section for this year ... and I never plan to be funny, it evidently just sort of happens.

My mouth has a tendency to work a lot faster than my brain, and my brain at times has a bit of a delay.  As an example, on my first day with a group of ninth graders five or six years ago, we were in a circle talking about the highlight of our summer.  There's an educational philosopher named Harry Wong, and I went on and on about how amazing Harry Wong was and how I wished I could spend more time with him after meeting him briefly and concluding with, "I think it's safe to say that I love Harry Wong" ... and having no idea why the kids were laughing so hard.

Then there was the day I was teaching the plot triangle.  I drew it on the board, talked about exposition, rising action, and climax, then asked, "What comes after the climax?" and an eighth grader raised his hand and said, "A cigarette."

And of course there was the infamous three-legged Romeo incident. I am the worst artist in the world, but visualization is something that kids today struggle with ... they are so used to movie adaptations that I sometimes think they are unable to come up with their own "mind movies".

Anyway, I was teaching Romeo and Juliet and talking about how the balcony scene, which has a reputation for being so romantic and stuff, is really very creepy. I drew Juliet on her balcony and Romeo hiding in the bushes in full peeping Tom mode checking her out, listening to her speak. But I drew Romeo as a stick figure ... and he appeared to have a third leg that could be interpreted a certain way given the context.

I could go on for hours ... something funny happens in my classroom at least once a day :-)

6. Who cares how many pickles Peter picked? (from Bud Weiser, WTIT)
I don't care a bit, as long as he keeps them far away from me ... I hate pickles.

7. Can you allow yourself to believe in love and trust? (from France Rants)
At this point in my life, nope. I hope it changes, though, I honestly do. I truly believe in the whole "happily ever after" dream and wish more than anything that it was a reality in my future. Time will tell, I guess.

8. From where your internal power comes from? (from getyourselfconnected)
I've been knocked to the ground a time or seven through some pretty unspeakable events. I think at some point, you have to make a choice on whether you want to stay on the ground and feel sorry for yourself or if you want to stand up and, yeah, risk getting knocked down again ... but being fully aware of all the beauty and goodness and laughter and living you'll miss out on if you lay "safe" on the ground curled in a fetal position. I did that for awhile, and knowing how amazing life can be has allowed me to get back up.

9. If you HAD to do it, what color would you dye your hair? (from Alleged Author)
I'd probably just dye it the same shade of dark brown it currently is, which might be happening soon because the grays are starting to really creep in. I wouldn't look good blonde or black-haired because of my coloring. I might go with green or purple or bright red as long as it was only temporary.

10. Which deceased author would you want to meet either in heaven or hell? (another one from Martin)
I would love to meet Shakespeare to find out if he really wrote the vast body of literature that is attributed to him. It is work that has brought me a great deal of pleasure as both a student, a teacher, and a human being, so talking about the universality of his works with the bard himself would be cool.

I'd also love to have a sit-down with J.D. Salinger ...

11. If you were on a desert island, would you prefer to have music only or books only? (And another from septembermom)
Wow, that's almost impossible to answer ... probably music, actually, which is surprising me (I made a list, haha). The thing is, books are only accessible when there is light to read by and, even though I'm a proponent of rereading, I personally read so quickly and voraciously that it'd be hard to keep me stocked in reading material on a desert island ... Music tells its own story and can be a constant source of comfort and light.

12. How was your weekend in Vermont? (from Marvin the Martian)
It was pretty fun ... way too much on my mind as a result, but what else is new, right?

I did walk the streets in a blizzard, and it was like being inside of a snow globe ... one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The company I was with thought I was odd, I think, because I'd forgotten my jacket at home (I'm pretty dumb sometimes) but still wanted to frolic in the snow.

13. Who played Wally on Leave It to Beaver ;-)? (from Mac)
Tony Dow, natch ;-) (I am a fountain of useless information)

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Well, in case you couldn't tell, it's been quite a week ... the reasons being thus:

1.  We had an educational consultant at our school for the week.  I had the opportunity to work a lot with her, which was incredible and I got a ton out of it, but I lost my planning period in the process.

2.  Which is just as well since there is a study hall in my classroom during my planning period, so it's hard to get anything done then anyway because the kids in the study hall want to talk to me and I feel bad saying, "Leave me alone, this is my planning time".  Here is a picture, in fact, of me in the school bathroom taking pictures during my planning period ... it was an upside down kind of day ;)

3.  I had afternoon duty this week.  That means, "Stand in the lobby and keep the kids from killing each other for fifteen minutes."  It's not very fun.

4.  I had late meetings on Monday and Tuesday.  Monday wasn't too bad (got home around 6:30 p.m.), but Tuesday was pretty rough because I had nobody to watch Belle, so I had to leave work promptly after lunch duty, drive an hour to Belle's school, drive an hour back to my school, hope and pray that Belle behaved during the two hour meeting (she did ... she was wonderful, in fact, because one of my friends got her set up on a computer in the back of the library with headphones, so she played PBS Kids games), drive 45 minutes to pick Addie up, and drive forty minutes home (and yes, in case you needed to ask, it was snowing and the driving was terrible).

5.  The migraine from you-know-where started to settle in on Tuesday, probably a combination of stress and a pretty severe bout with insomnia that kept me from sleeping for three nights straight.  Anyway, I took a sick day on Wednesday and slept all day.  Felt much better after that : )

6. I'm a class advisor, and my students are doing a lot of fundraising.  This week we had a Valentine's Day carnation sale, but it meant that I had to spend my lunch time in the cafeteria with my students while they were selling flowers, so I lost my lunch (as well as my planning time) all week.  On a positive note, the flower sale was AMAZING ... we sold well over a hundred flowers, which was awesome (I work at a very small school).

7.  My group of students are putting on a dance tonight, so trying to get everything organized for that has been stressful.  My co-advisor is out on maternity leave, and I have to be honest, I totally took for granted all the things she usually does.  It is very stressful trying to do all this stuff on your own.

8.  I went out with the gang from work last night.  I am no longer 21, which is a fact I sometimes forget ... days of thoughtlessly downing Scorpion Bowls and shots of McGillicuddy and 151 need to be in the past.  Oh, man ... it was a lot of fun, though :-)

So anyway, I have been neglecting this blog because there just hasn't been enough time this week ... to breathe, never mind write.  I'm working hard on my meme, by the way ... I'm quite excited about it, actually :)

How do you handle those weeks when everything just seems to pile into a perfect storm of stress and commitment that make you feel like you should have gone out of your way, at some point in time, to learn how to juggle?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Contribute Questions to The No-Holds-Barred Meme Here!

I am going to Vermont with some friends for the weekend. I'm pretty pumped, to say the least. We're supposed to be getting more snow--can you believe it????--so I'm leaving nice and early.

Anyway, I'm kind of excited about collaborating your questions for what I'm referring to as "The Patchwork Meme", also known as the no holds barred question collection, also known as the 100% honest guarantee, also known as ...

Well. It should be interesting.

These are the questions that exist thus far, but please feel free to add more in the comments or via e-mail. Bring 'em on ... the more questions, the more interesting this shall be : )

* Is there something most people find funny that you absolutely do not? (from David Batista)

* What do you find funny that most people don't? (from Jane)

* If you could go back and do a romantic relationship over, with a different outcome, would you? (from J.J. in L.A.)

* What do you hate being asked? (from Martin Willoughby)

* What is the funniest thing you ever did in front of your class? Was it planned or not? (from septembermom)

* Who cares how many pickles Peter picked? (from Bud Weiser, WTIT)

* Can you allow yourself to believe in love and trust? (from France Rants)

Why Would Anyone Sell Seashells By the Seashore?

Kids amaze me sometimes. Like, seriously blow my mind.

We were talking about alliteration the other day, and of course one student volunteered, "She sells seashells by the seashore" as an example. At this point, one of my students, one who doesn't often offer his opinion on things, raised his hand.

Thrilled to see him interacting with the class material, I called on him.

"Ms. Loud, why would anybody sell seashells by the seashore? It just doesn't make any sense."

I now call him my great philosopher ... and offer out his question to you.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Part I of the Ace Meme, Which Proves My Ineptitude at Math ... And An Offer for Y'All

Yes, I did Part II of the Ace Meme from Sunday Stealing on Monday. Yes, this is Part I. No, I'm not good at math ;). But David Batista of The Bimillennial Man posted Part I of this surprisingly interesting and telling meme, so I figured I'd do the same (the fact that I've already done Part II notwithstanding ;)).

Before I get down to it, though, I want to make an offer. I love memes, but I find that some of the questions are limiting or irrelevant to the poster or whatev. So I am planning on making a meme made up of questions that come from Y'ALL :-) Yup, leave questions in the comments or send an e-mail, and I will answer them in a weekend post. Nothing is off limits (*gulp*), and you'll have my 100% honesty in terms of replies and thoughts.

Anyway, back to The Ace Meme Part I ...

I had my appendix out when I was in second grade, a little two-inch slit on my lower right abdomen. Appendectomy scars are interesting because you can see in this fairly common surgery the advances in surgical practices over time. My aunt had her appendix out as a child, and her scar is easily three or four times the size of mine. When I had my gall bladder out in my mid-twenties, it was done laproscopically, and the scars are minuscule and almost impossible to see unless you're looking ... I guess most appendectomies are done that way nowadays.

I sleep in the attic of a barn, shared with a seven year old (Addie has a room in the main part of the house, and it looks like my mother is planning on converting the guest room into a bedroom for Belle). There is nothing on my walls. The barn beams are beautiful, though ;)

Not that I know of :-)

Anything (from rock to Irish folk and everything in between) but country and rap that exists just for shock value and to see how many superfluous swears you can fit into one song. I love rappers like Tupac Shakur and Eminem, for example, because their songs have far deeper meanings underneath the cursing.

7:30 a.m. So was my momma, and Addie was born at 8:30 a.m.

It's far too complicated to explain on a meme ;)

I miss the family members that are no longer here ... and the many and varied traditions that existed because of them which no longer take place.

Other than my children, probably my Droid :-)

5'2". Most of my students are taller than me. In fact, it's kind of a rite of passage to become taller than Ms. Loud.

Kind of. I have some control issues (it's why I'm scared to death of flying), and if I feel trapped, whether by closed walls or by having to trust some random pilot to fly carefully, I get incredibly upset.

No, but I do get bored in the dark. I have quite a bit of trouble with insomnia, and I've spent a lot of nights in the dark trying desperately to fall asleep. I usually end up falling asleep with the light on only because when I put out the light, I wake up. But scared? Nope.

You know, I don't know. Isn't that weird?


I'm don't usually judge on hair color, but I do have a thing for dark brown eyes.

I'm a girl, I don't propose, I dispose ;) (just kidding ... I really don't have a clue)

Coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think I must keep Dunkin' Donuts in business with my coffee addiction.

Cheese. I'm rather dull ;)

My mom just made a delicious breakfast casserole (eggs, cheese, a little bit of bacon, croutons, chopped tomatoes, onion, and green pepper), so I'm way too full to think about eating at the moment. I never say no to a lobster roll, though.

Red :-) I think it has to do with that Scorpio thing ...

That's horrible! Never!

My parents got me a gorgeous Seiko watch for my high school graduation. It was the first "grown-up" present I received, and I will always remember it.

A real life crush? Nope. I do enjoy Ben Affleck and Mark Harmon and Charlie Sheen (I know, it's that "bad boy" thing left over from my flaming youth) and Seth Rogan.

Nope ... I can do a split, though :)

I'm kind of impartial. I went through the whole "material girl" phase, and now I'm just sort of like, eh, whatever.

I love Angelina Jolie. She's very real, is honest about her flaws, is an incredibly gifted actress (seriously, check out Girl, Interrupted), and walks the humanitarian walk instead of just talking the talk or donating money or whatever.

Yup, two.

Dogs, a black lab and a golden retriever. Love them :-)

I'm not sure I believe in falling in love ... but assuming that it is possible, yes, I would. Life experiences aside, I very much want to believe in love.

Nineteen. (I'm suppressing the urge to yell, "69, dude", a la Bill and Ted.

Brunettes. There seem to be some many different shades of "brunette". Addie's hair is a beautiful color, somewhere between blonde and brown, and it's got shades of everything in it ... I could never get tired of looking at her hair (Belle's, like, white-blonde almost, but I assume it will darken because her father and I both have very dark hair).

"We are all terminal cases." --John Irving

Hampton Beach :-)

Coolest Idea Ever (If I Were An Inventor)

I have always envied people that are truly intelligent across the board. I mean, obviously everyone has some things they're smarter at than others (my sister, a brilliant microbiologist, put "toona" on a shopping list made after she'd received her PhD), but there are some that are just true renaissance peeps.

Sadly, I'm not one of them. I had a stroke of genius on my drive home last night, though, that made me wish I was.

So it snowed again (I'm sure you're shocked to hear that), and I had my typical white-knuckled run down the back roads of very, very rural New Hampshire. After I picked Addie up from school, I spent the entire drive home trying to explain to her how to drive in snow, which is a little bit tricky because my car has all wheel drive and hers doesn't (plus it's very small and light), so most of what I was telling her doesn't even apply.

Anyway, I dropped her off at home then went to get Belle, and while I was driving I couldn't help thinking about how fortunate the kids in driver's ed right now are. Addie took driver's ed in the late summer and early fall, so she had no formal instruction (beyond the book, which is of course very theoretical) in the fine art of driving in snow.

There are pros and cons to having an ADHD mind, but one thing that's essentially a wash is the ability to connect things together that have absolutely no relation to a normal person, and to do it in a matter of seconds. My brain synapses are always at hyperspeed unless I'm reading or writing (most ADHD folk have an activity that allows them to "hyper-focus" ... sadly it's video games a lot of the time, but for me it has always been reading). The overactive brain synapses, by the way, are very helpful when writing and explain a great deal about why I write in fits and spurts much of the time ... namely, I picture what happens next in my mind, often at night when I can't sleep, but don't write it down right away.

And I'm way off-topic, which is of course the hard-core downside to the ADHD brain ...

Anyway, I explain that because, in a matter of seconds, I came up with the coolest idea ever. The thought process went something like this:

1. The driving really sucks.
2. There are a lot of inexperienced drivers on the road. Even though I'm crazy overprotective and won't let Addie drive in snow, there are a lot of kids driving today that really shouldn't be.
3. I'm going to have to teach Addie to drive in the snow one of these days. It's going to be horrible.
4. Why isn't "snow-driving" a required part of driver's ed?
5. The space shuttle Challenger exploded twenty-five years ago this week.
6. My fourth grade teacher cried ... I had never seen a teacher cry before.
7. I'm surprised they haven't made a movie of the Challenger disaster yet ... after all, they did for Apollo 13.
8. Apollo 13 was a really neat movie.
9. Gary Sinise always seems to get that "unsung hero" role, which he's very good at.
10. Gary Sinise, playing the role of Ken Mattingly, is what stands out the most to me about that movie because he was stuck in that space simulator trying to figure out how to save his colleagues.
11. I watched an iCarly episode with Belle where Carly and her peeps were in a space simulator.

And ... *ka-bam*

12. How cool would it be if there was a "driving-in-snow" simulator? That would allow driving students to have the experience of driving in snow without being an any true danger. There are a certain number of required hours for nighttime driving, highway driving, and so on ... why not "snow driving", at least in areas where snow is a concern?

I wish I had some idea of how to actually go about doing this, because I think it would be very helpful :-)