Wednesday, December 08, 2010

[Tips on Succeeding in Niki's Classroom]

Or... Acknowledging Your Adulthood

1. It is not my responsibility to let you know I've received your email or submission.  Whether you use the school webmail or Outlook, you have the option to request an automatic read receipt; if you do so, my computer will automatically send you a notification that I've opened the message.

2. Save or print your read receipts. E-mail gets lost, accidentally deleted, or misfiled from time to time (because I'm human), but if you can provide a receipt or forward the original sent item, I can fix the error.  If you cannot, it will be difficult to take your word for it.

3. Set aside a time, early in the week, for posting blog entries and comments.  Do not wait until the last minute or you may forget or your internet may be down or your hard drive will crash..........

4. Do not hesitate to utilize the writing center if you get stuck at any stage of the writing process, even at the point of coming up with a topic.  That's what it's there for: to help you.  Also, do not wait until conferencing periods to come to me to clarify how to do the assignment or reshape your argument.  I have office hours for that reason. Bring your notes and/or drafts with you so we can look at what you've got so far.  A lot of these issues can be fixed early on, and then we can focus on simply improving your writing.

5. Do not neglect the reading assignments.  I assign them to help clear up confusion on certain assignments or techniques, especially when the author is able to explain it more clearly than I can.  I do not assign reading to keep you busy.  I really do understand how hectic college can be (I did it for seven years straight, and I haven't been out for all that long), but I'm also preparing you for more advanced classes. A little harder work now makes the really hard work later come easier.

6. Do not take my class if you are expecting to do little or no writing. This is a writing course, and I will push you to aim higher than you think you can, and 99 times out of a hundred, my students achieve that level if they trust me and try. Also, do not take my class if you have no intention of showing up almost every day or being on time.  There's a level of spontaneity in my teaching style, due to my background as both a scholar and teacher, so you never know what you might miss.

7. Do not panic.  Seriously, do not panic.  Sometimes I get behind in tallying up blog points.  You only receive half of the rough draft points when you email me your drafts; you do not get the other half until you come to the conference.  Your grade at midterm is based on approximately 15-20% of your final grade, and rough drafts count for most of that grade, though later on, they will only count for a few percent.  The critical analysis is a difficult concept that many people struggle with until they try it out and conference over the rough draft; at that point, a light bulb will likely turn on in your head and it will all make sense. I may not have announced a due date yet. So, do not panic.

8. You are adults. If you decide not to participate, that's your choice and your grade.  It is your responsibility to come to me if you are confused. It is your responsibility to email me if your absence is due to an excusable reason.  It is your responsibility to contact your classmates (particularly your accountability partners chosen the first week of school) if you miss class to find out what you missed, and only contact me if they were all absent as well with no knowledge of what transpired in class. I'm happy to help you, but I do expect you to use common sense and explore your options.

9. Always, before emailing me or coming to talk to me and asking a question, double check to make sure the syllabus or assignment sheet does not already answer that question.  Then, ask a classmate.  If those fail to provide answers (i.e. due dates, page limits, etc.), then by all means come chat with me or drop me a line; just do the responsible thing and make sure it's a question that can't be answered by rereading the assignment sheet or checking the book.

10. You may disagree with my suggestions for your papers--you have every right to do so.  However, please remember that I've been focusing on this subject for years now, and I am the teacher and therefore the executor of your grade.  If nothing else, humor me and try it out.  Whatever you do, however, please don't start a debate with me over it.  You'll find, in time, that almost any advice I give you on your papers will be also given to you by upper level instructors and professors with even more drastic consequences. Often, I have found this out the hard way and am trying to save you grief later on.

11. Always come to class with a writing utensil, paper, any drafts you're working on, and your Prentice Hall Reference Guide.  At times, we will do activities that, with no prior announcement, will need all these items and that will benefit you greatly. 

12. Have trouble waking up for class?  Try one of the following options: sign up for a later period, get a louder alarm clock, set your alarm clock across the room, or even set multiple alarm clocks.  Oversleeping once or twice in a semester is understandable.  Oversleeping once or twice most weeks is not being proactive in ensuring your own success.

13. Reread the syllabus at least three times thoughout the semester.  Reread assignment sheets once or twice a week.  Double check the schedule as it's updated throughout the semester.  Check Blackboard daily for announcements.  Unless you've been gifted with a rare and true photographic memory, you WILL forget things from time to time.  Don't wait to find out what you've forgotten or overlooked after you've gotten a grade.  The claim, "But I didn't know it had to be that long [or that topic]!" gains no sympathy from me when it's a fact clearly stated on a distributed document.

14. You're not too cool or old to do a silly activity in class.  Most of the time, there's a method to the madness, and if you just relax, make the most of the break from routine, and keep your sense of humor intact, you'll get a lot out of it.

15. Class is boring?  Brace yourself for this: it may be you.  While from time to time activities may lose their luster, and my lectures, as I'm not exactly a champion speaker, may be less than Pulitzer Prize-worthy, more often boredom stems from a lack of student involvement and interaction.  Come to class with a good attitude, an eagerness to learn a topic that may or may not come naturally to you, and get to know your classmates, and I think you'll find that writing class becomes somewhat less painful than water torture.

16. The rules and assignments apply to everyone.  As such, please do not come to me asking if I can change the rules or assignment requirements just for you because you're finding it a challenge or you've over-committed yourself to a very complex topic.  Too many sources to explain in your annotated bibliography?  Consider whether or not you're using the best sources or if you're doing any of the speaking.  You may need to rethink your topic or use of sources (only one line from a source, without discussing context, is not the most in-depth use of a resource).  You don't like the assignment?  Well, and I mean this in the nicest way possible: tough. Stick it out, do your best, and you might actually *gasp* learn something beneficial from doing it the way I assigned it.

17. In the words of my favorite teacher in high school, Mr. Mike Collins: "Do not mistake kindness for weakness."  I am a nice person, and I understand that life happens, and I'm not beyond making adjustments when disaster strikes.  However, that being said, do not take advantage of my sweet or easy-going nature, or you may lose that side of me for good.  90% of the rules I have now are due to students in the past taking advantage of me.  I'm a creative writer both by profession and by nature, so it's not instinct for me to be strict; however, with each passing semester, I've had to adapt.  Please do not push me further down that path, for your own sakes.

18. I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently I have to: Do your own work. Write your own papers, create your own media projects, do your own share of group work, and do not EVER try to pass off something someone else did as your own. It's not just an ethical issue; it's also a legal issue. Cite all references both in the text and on your works cited page.  Not doing so is misleading and even plagiarizing, and it will lead to an automatic zero.

19. I said it earlier, but I'll say it again: use the writing center!

20. Treat class like you would a job that you want to keep: be on time, fulfill your responsibilities, and show respect to your teacher, your classmates, and yourself.

21. When asked to try something new, unfamiliar, or outside of your comfort zone, rather than panicking, take the risk and try it.  The first try may flop, but that's okay. That's how you learn to be a better writer (and a braver individual).  Revision is part of the writing process, and so is experimenting.  You should feel comfortable trying new things in my class.  Yes, you will eventually receive a grade, but you'll get feedback and plenty of chances for revision before that comes to pass, and you will probably find I'm not as mean of a grader as you may have anticipated.

22. Above all, remember, whether you're 18 or 81, you're in a college classroom and therefore an adult.  Act accordingly with common sense and responsibility, and you should be fine.

Have a great semester, everyone!

This is a list of Dos and Don'ts (with potential for revision and addendums) that will be going in my syllabi from now on, largely due to some maddening moments over the past year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

[Time Keeps Slipping Away!]

My apologies, dear readers, for my spotty correspondence!  It's been a nutty semester, and I've actually been steering clear of the internet when not working specifically on class/work-related items.  With a few resistant students and periodic drama that's new to me as a teacher to this extent, I've been feeling a wee bit overstimulated.  As such, I haven't had much brain left over for writing, fiction or blogging. There are about three weeks left, including finals, plus a couple days, but after that point, I should have a few more coherent thoughts and ideas that aren't going to slip right into rants and whines.  Lately, though, I've had so much happening at once that I knew I needed to hold off lest I'd alienate everyone who knows me.  I'm not a negative person, but my mood has been negative, and even some of my Facebook friends have expressed annoyance with some of my updates.

Sorry, guys, but I've got to express it somewhere or lose it entirely. If it annoys you, just do what I do and scroll past those updates that irritate.  Unfortunately, these days, I have very little existence outside of work, besides Sassy, who's been a little drama queen herself lately, so there's not much else for me to update or discuss.  I'm working on the whole social life thing, but it's a slow process, and until a few things change (or the stress of having such an unreliable job from semester-to-semester with no benefits changes to a full time job), I'm just going to have to ask you to bear with me.  Let's face it: I live alone with a possessive dog and come home from work just to keep working until bedtime.  It's the nature of the college teaching beast and being single.  Not a whole lot of distractions.  Even the house has reaching the point where the honeymoon is over, as I've done most of the painting and major construction projects that I'll be doing for awhile (especially since I don't get paid in January, and at present, I only have three classes scheduled for the spring and therefore a much, much tighter budget). 

In news: I did turn 27 (yay! Glad to put 26 behind me), and I put up my first full-size Christmas tree on Sunday.  I'm finishing the details on it, but it looks cool. Outside of that, there's nothing really to report on, since my mystery lump next to my ear seems to be innocuous.

Until next time, which is when I'm planning to post a list of "Do's and Don't's" that's eventually going, edited, into future syllabi.  If you read between the lines, you'll start to understand the type of semester I've had. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

[Grumble]

*Snarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl*

Let's see:
  • Didn't hear my alarm clock.  Woke up at 6:30--I usually leave the house at 6:30 on MWF.  Made it on time, but stressed
  • The new attendance policy isn't doing a whole lot to improve attendance--at least not in my classes.
  • Found out I'm doing something else wrong.  What's new?
  • Didn't get my coffee at home, so I had to settle for weaker, more "blah" coffee at work.  Call me Lorelai Gilmore, because I like it stronger than most people can handle.
  • I'm going to have to hang out near the computer all afternoon as I'll undoubtedly be getting emails from those absent requesting conferencing times.
  • I didn't get my morning cuddle with Sassy, which usually lightens my mood, since that's when she's at her sweetest.
  • I feel fat today.
  • I need more coffee.
On the plus side:
  • Lovely weather is in store, beginning today.
  • It's fall.
  • I've got a good chunk of my Halloween decorations up.  Pictures coming once I've got the look complete.
  • Dog Fest is tomorrow at Chesterfield Park.
  • It's Friday.
  • The snacks I grabbed on the way out the door have chocolate chips in them.  That was purely luck of the draw.
  • The rain should help with allergies, and I may be able to open the windows this afternoon.
  • I'm wearing a cute new shirt. 
  • I feel a little less under the weather than I did yesterday.  And the lump by my ear doesn't seem any bigger.  Perhaps it really is just a very swollen bug bite that doesn't itch.  I hope.
  • I don't have to use my push mower anymore--I've got a riding lawn mower (old, but effective).
  • I turn 27 in just over two weeks.  Good-bye 26!
  • I'm no longer 4 weeks behind in grading.  Just 4 days, and that's only on blogging.
  • I still have an intact enough sense of humor to see how pathetic I sound in the first half of this entry.  I'm still stressed, but I can at least laugh at myself.
All this before 9 in the morning.  What a Friday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

[A Recurring Dream]

The circumstances change in this dream, but the setting largely remains the same:

I enter the Jefferson Ave. house I lived in while in Kirksville, and that's in the past in my dream, so I'm going back to it, but it's now located in my childhood neighborhood in the place of the Stevens's house.  When I go downstairs, I actually enter from the direction of my Uncle Bert's basement entrance, but it more resembles Beauton and Alvin Day's basement (all childhood hangouts in St. Louis).  Upstairs, though, the Jefferson house is magnified in its hidden rooms and weird Day house inserts (like the dining room, which the J.H. didn't have).  I've realized that there are tons more bedrooms I could choose from, so I wander the amplified hall[s] glancing in different bedrooms, hoping to pick out a new one, but most of them are taken.  Finally, I find a hidden panel in the wall, and I'm not surprised to find a spiral staircase behind it that leads to a bell tower of sorts.  I decide to move into that room, but in secret--I'm petrified someone else will claim it first.  As I go back to get my belongings, I'm panicking, realizing I'm racing a houseful of people, and they all now know about the room.  Now I can't remember where the panel is.  I think I do, but I'm wrong everywhere I try.

Sometimes I wander out of the house and end up back in MO Hall, though the dreams go in very different directions when that happens.

Okay, dream analyzers, any ideas?

Friday, September 17, 2010

[Tidbits and Chitchat]

Yesterday, I began my day by absentmindedly pouring water on my cereal instead of almond milk and followed that up by a dental appointment. It's been days like these that have thwarted any attempts to blog lately, so my apologies.

I did finally get my first-time home-buyers' tax credit--it only took eight months after filing my taxes and a six-month audit.  What this means is that I've finally managed to pay back my parents for helping buy my house and some of its repairs.  Now all I owe them for (financially) is the rest of the $10,000 they loaned me for my car.  This is why I want a full-time position.  Well, that, and insurance.  I can't get it.  Apparently, if I'm not a perfect physical specimen, I can't get health insurance. 

I'm still plugging away at my book, though right now, I'm in a research stage.  I need to familiarize myself with camping and botany before I can do anything more than scribble out some early drafts of pivotal conversations.  I've got a little written, but not enough to post, as there's too much of a gap in the action to understand the context of the convos.  I'm determined to see this one through though.  I've started many projects in the past, but none have survived past the third chapter or so, so I guess it's a good omen that I've gotten to chapter five. :)

Unfortunately, just being out of the writing mode for a couple of weeks really puts one out of the mode, so my thoughts seem to have run out.  I'm going to have to go back to setting up a set time for writing every day so I can regain my footing. 

Over and out!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

[Literazzi]

01: What author do you own the most books by?
It's a draw between JRR Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.  I could probably count and find out, but it's pretty close. 

02: What book do you own the most copies of?
All of Jane Austen's books (I have two of each)

03: Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Only a little, though I was tempted to proofread.

04: What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Faramir--the book version, not the ring-tempted movie version 

 05: What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Probably The Chronicles of Narnia, Stonewords: A Ghost Story, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter 1-5 (6 and 7 are too new), Lord of the Rings... Okay, let's face it--I'm a chronic repeat-reader.

06: What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Stonewords: A Ghost Story.  I borrowed it from the classroom library at least once a week all through fourth grade.

07: What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
I couldn't get into Gulliver's Travels. That makes me a bad English teacher, I know.
  
08: What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Lord of the Rings, indisputably, tops them all, no matter how many times I've read it. 

09: If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
I didn't tag anyone, but The Hobbit plus Lord of the Rings plus The Silmarillion

10: Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I don't read enough recent work to answer this one.

11: What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Ooh, it'd be so off the wall: The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. 

12: What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Uhhh.....  

13: Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I recently reread the Harry Potter series (though I'd read six and seven, I barely remembered them--and for that I blame my most recent surgery), and I dreamt that I was Harry Potter for the next week straight, every night, trying to work out how to finally vanquish Voldemort.  

14: What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
I don't give that much thought--if I like it, I like it, quality unimportant.

15: What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
It's a tie between Don Quixote (which I attempted senior year of high school) and Gulliver's Travels (which I attempted last summer).  I got about halfway to two-thirds in each before I threw the white flag.

16: What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
I've only seen Romeo and Juliet in person, though I did watch two different version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (one old, one recent) on tv.   

17: Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
French

18: Roth or Updike?
I'd have to read one.

19: David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris

20: Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, but I'll let you know for sure after I read Chaucer (crap, I knew I should've bought that used copy last week)

21: Austen or Eliot?
Austen. Terrible question. Eliot annoys the hell out of me with all his allusions.

22: What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
There are quite a few, but the biggest is recent literature.  I tend to stick with the classics.

23: What is your favorite novel?
Lord of the Rings.  Duh.

24: Play?
Measure for Measure or As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing or...

25: Poem?
Lucille Clifton's Ode to Hips:
                        these hips are big hips
                        they need space to
                        move around in.
                        they don’t fit into little
                        petty places. these hips
                        are free hips.
                        they don’t like to be held back.
                        these hips have never been enslaved,
                        they go where they want to go
                        they do what they want to do.
                        these hips are mighty hips.
                        these hips are magic hips.
                        i have known them
                        to put a spell on a man and
                        spin him like a top! 

26: Essay?
Letter from Birmingham Jail (Martin Luther King, Jr.) 

27: Short story?
I'd have to get back to you on that one.

28: Work of nonfiction?
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.  That's a given. 

29: Who is your favorite writer?
That's like asking me which chocolate I like... Jane Austen, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Donald Miller, Douglas Adams... anyone who can create a world in which I can believe.

 30: Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
 Stephanie Meyers. Sorry, Twilight fans.

31: What is your desert island book?
The Lord of the Rings.  It's wonderful, complex, and long enough I can restart it without feeling like I just read that page.

32: And... what are you reading right now?
Nothing, actually.  Except for long weekends, when I can sneak in a quick read, I don't get a chance to read when classes are in session.  Yet another reason I need a full-time position--summers off, and lots more reading and writing accomplished!

Monday, August 02, 2010

[Guest Blog by the Dog]

Hiya, humans! I'm Sassy, Niki's baby, and I'm filling in for her today.  She's had a bad bellyache for a couple days since she's newly lacnose--latcos--milk intolerant and thought a little cheese couldn't hurt her.  She says, Hey, it's cheese, and who can blame her for trying? I know I can't. For example, I'd try chocolate if I could, but no one will let me, probably for the same reason.  Anyway, she's still recovering her strength, so it's my turn to speak!

Today I want to talk abut my second-favorite place to visit: the dog park (click the link to find out about ours)! My favorite place, of course, is the lake... Lake?! I wanna go! Let's go! Oh, Niki says we'll be going tonight. I'll get back to my story now.

Anyway, Niki and I went to the park last night, but for a long time, we were the only ones there.  Generally, I don't mind that.  It's fun for me just to venture out a couple hundred yards, checking everyone's pee-mail, and then come charging back at my favorite person while she dodges out of the way because I'm not stopping for anything.  However, since Niki's belly still felt "raw," as she put it, she wasn't as much fun as normal, so I started to get hot and bored.

After awhile, some other puppies started to come, but I didn't recognize any of them.  I'm a little shy and skittish around my own kind, you see.  Niki thinks I might have been separated from my litter too early or something.  So anyway, since I didn't know these dogs, I threw my hackles up to prove to those strange dogs that I'm a big dog and can protect my Niki from them or die trying. She, as always, rolled her eyes at me and told me to just worry about guarding her from people, since she knows how to handle dogs, but I ignored her, leaned my back up against her, and kept a tense eye out. I know my role.  Nobody touches my girl, capisce?

Now, I may be shy around dogs I don't know, but I'm relentlessly ready to play with my park pals, and finally, two of my puppy buddies and my puppy crush did come: a doberman pup named Daisy (who, after a short romp, was more interested in her frisbee, though we did race each other a little bit), my crush Tank (a sexy boxer who doesn't know I'm alive, even though I lick his face and throw myself at him every time I see him), and a big chocolate lab with a curly tail called Penny.

Penny is definitely one of my favorite wrestling partners.  She's almost twice my weight, but she's slower and calmer, so we're pretty well-matched.  She plays like me, too; we mouth each other's ears and lips (her mom almost always has to give her a bath after we play, because she's covered in my slobber), and we run reallyreally fast at each other and away from each other.  Then she lays down (she tires faster than me, since I'm mixed with a herding breed and can go for hours) and I tackle her from above, trying to egg her into chasing me so more.  I do the same thing to Niki, but it just makes her mad because, "Dammit, dog, your paws are like sandpaper! Ow! My arms are still raw from last night when you did this!" and I'm relentless.

Last night, though, Penny kept getting distracted by this bird that was obviously mocking her outright. I don't know if you humans know this, but we dogs do: birds are jerks.  That's why I catch them in the backyard and rip out their entrails.  But this bird wasn't just trying to escape after annoying Penny.  No, this bird kept flying in figure-eights around the dog park while Penny chased it.  It would slow down if Penny fell behind, then zip on ahead when she caught up.  Our people kept laughing, but I knew how she felt.  I told her, Penny, wait for it to rest in a bush--then they're easy to catch. But she kept chasing it. I can't blame her--it did look delicious. Finally, I tried to distract her by running alongside her and nipping at her ears and knocking her off course.  Penny, I explained, it's pointless to chase this bird; besides, how much more fun is to just live in the moment and enjoy doing what you can--wrestle with me!  Eventually, the bird got tired and left, and once Penny got her second wind, we had one last romp before she left.

Well, next time, I'll tell you about the lake, but for now, Niki says she needs to pack, and I know that means I need to get wrapped up under her feet so she doesn't forget to take me too.

Bye, now!

Friday, July 30, 2010

[Why the Name?]

I named my blog "Holding Onto the Magic" to symbolize a daily struggle I face.  When I lost my mom while I was still such a young child, I was forced, in a way, to grow up overnight.  I lost a core piece of my innocence that April afternoon.  Suddenly, I knew something most of my peers would not understand for many years to come: the transient nature of life.  Suddenly, at nine years old, I understood the Old English elegiac poems that lamented the ephemeral state of this world, that nothing stays the same, and sooner or later, everything I know (myself included) will pass away, like leaves on the trees.

Such a jarringly abrupt maturation made me skittish and desperate to cling to whatever vestiges of childhood and mystery that yet remained.  For this reason, I refused to stop believing in Santa Claus until junior high.  I still keep looking for a hidden portals to a magical world, however implausible they may be. And I never could understand friends' rush to become adults.  I knew our childhood would fade before I was ready, so why rush the moments?

So the name of my site is a core element of my identity.  I've lost so much over the years: precious loved ones, too much of my health, a feeling of "normalcy", too many of my hopes and dreams... So, I hold onto what still remains: faith in something intangible.  Yes, God (of course!), but also magic in general: that something can happen that no one saw coming and that utterly defies logic... the mysterious, the mystical, the achingly beautiful (a la Lewis's being "surprised by joy"), and that, perhaps, I won't always have to watch from a distance.  Maybe someday that magic will involve... me.

So I have to hold on to something or go crazy.  With this site and my life, I spit in the face of cynical reality and choose the magic.  I'm not going to let go for anything.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

[Good-morning, Starshine, the earth says, "Hello!"]

*chuckle* I just said that to Sassy, a la Johnny Depp's Wonka, and she stopped in her tracks, reared around, stared at me for a moment, then cocked her head in confusion.  That was the perfect reaction.

I think she may be a ghost dog. One second before writing the last sentence of the first paragraph, I looked over, and she was stretched out on the floor along the couch.  I typed that sentence, fairly quickly I might add, turned back around, and she was gone.  I looked a little further behind me, and she was already curled up on the pillows on my bed on the opposite side of my bedroom from where she was laying here in the living room.  How did she do that so quickly?

Oh, and now she's plopped on the tile in front of the door.  Antsy, anyone?

Aaand, she's back on the couch.

Today's the last day of classes (and finals) for my first foray into teaching summer classes.  I'll miss this class, but I'm definitely needing those three weeks off.  I teach a 7 a.m. class in the fall, and I'm not going to lie--I'm dreading the 5 a.m. wake-up.  My biological sleep clock is very much tied to the sun, and let's face it, the sun is still beyond the horizon at that time of day, even in the summer.  Does anyone have any hidden, mysterious secret for transforming oneself into a morning person?  Please, do divulge!  I'd rather not have to invest in four or five back-up alarm clocks to make sure I don't roll back over and bury my face in the pillow for "five more minutes, or better yet, five more hours, please!"

Sunday is new cell phone day.  Friends who want me to have their numbers should contact me if their phone numbers have changed within the past two years so my contact list is up to date. I hand-copied my contacts list out of my phone to be safe.

Incidentally, while doing so, I laughed out loud at how many times I had to revise names of my fellow ladies.  There has definitely been a wedding epidemic lately!  I probably edited half of my female contact list.

My coffee is ridiculously fabulous this morning, which may or may not explain my perkier-than-normal morning meander.  I didn't sleep so great last night, so that's not going to explain my energy.  In fact, I woke up this morning around 3 to Sassy shaking her ears (it's more effective than an alarm clock, by the way), and I pretty much tossed and turned the rest of the night, feeling just "off" from comfortable.  I did eventually doze, apparently, since when my alarm went off, I woke out of a sound sleep, but it was definitely a punctuated, weird-dream kind of slumber.

I have done a little creative writing in the past two days, but none of it is ready to share.  Even what I post on my book blog, while rough, has gone through some minor revision or polishing before I let anyone see it.  I have an opening for chapter five, but it sounds odd to me somehow.  I'll have to give it another go tonight and see what I can salvage out of it.  I like the tone (light-hearted), but some of the phrasing sounds... off.  So, stay tuned.

Well, kids, I gotta go hunt down some munchies and work clothes before I leave in an hour, so I'm off.  Have a fabulous day!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

[Still Alive]

I'm still writing, guys, just not free-style. :) I've been knocking some pages out on my book (and therefore my book blog), so I haven't been doing much in the way of ranting, whining, or rambling for a few days.  As long as my creative juices hold out, that should remain the case.  While I hardly expect to finish writing my book this year, I would like to get through a full first draft of it by then.  It's true, everyone, I'm writing for FUN.  No thesis, no creative writing class, no research essay... something I want to do.  It's nice.  It's also hard to stay focused.  I'm getting better at it though.  It really helps to set aside an hour each day just to write, even if what I write ends up on the cutting room floor.

If you'd like to keep up with my book as it evolves from loose ideas to a tight plotline and, hopefully, well-developed characters, drop me an email or message with your email address, and I'll send you a Blogger invitation for that site.  I keep it private, in the off-chance that I do have a good idea, because I want to be the one to flesh it out.  I would love feedback from friends though (so, please, if you're a reader, comment!).  When you get an invitation, accept it and set up an account (if you don't already have one) right away, because the invitation only stays open for a couple weeks or a month.

My most recent entry is not an actual chapter, but rather a collection of some loose thoughts running through my head pertaining to plot development and character development.  I do have a full, very rough, draft of chapters one through four, though.  They're still short, as I'll flesh them out when I get a full draft, but they do at least lay out the direction the story is going.  I'm getting into it.  I am going to have to take a couple days away from writing, though, as finals are tomorrow and Thursday, and I have to grade all the portfolios and final exams (and figure final grades) by Monday morning.  Then, hopefully, I'll be back in action with some interesting scribblings from now until then.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[Fodder for a Potential Fictional Story?]

It was the twelfth wedding invitation that drove me to doing it.

I'm sure Ashley meant well when, on my personalized invitation, she assured me that I shouldn't feel pressured to bring a date, that she'd just be happy to see me at her wedding.  (After all, it's not her fault I've been single all my twenty-seven years.  Oh, I've gone a date here and there, but none of them led to a second date.  For some reason, I seem to attract the gents with whom I have nothing whatsoever in common.)  It was just that it was the twelfth (TWELFTH!) wedding invitation I'd received in six months.  I couldn't help it. I snapped.  I was done. I was gone.

I hastily scribbled an apologetic note on my R.S.V.P., with the vague explanation that I planned to be out of the country that weekend.  And it's true--I did.  Of course, I hadn't planned to do any world traveling a half an hour before opening the envelope, but I certainly planned on it now.  As I sealed the envelope, I flipped on my laptop and began the search for a cheap flat in Edinbourgh, Scotland, and posted an ad for a subletter on Gregslist.  I knew I needed more than a vacation.

A month later, with everything we owned sold or stored in my old bedroom at my parents' house, my dog and I were headed through international customs at Heathrow International Airport.  In her crate, waiting to be let out, Lilly still snored.  I, on the other hand, shook with excitement.  A short train ride to go, then our new life would begin!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

[The Bucket/Dream List]

In trying to revive my dreams and ambitions that, in trying to find security, have sort of fallen by the wayside, I spent some time this afternoon compiling the list.  It got really fun after awhile, and I'm feeling adventurous again. I'll be adding to this list on The Nikster page (link just below the header on this page on the blog) over time, but here's what I have so far:


The Bucket/Dream List:
Some are actual planned goals, some are dreams that I would love to be able to do.
  • Spend a significant period of time in the U.K. (especially Scotland).  Maybe even live there for awhile
  • Finish my novel and get it published
  • Travel through Europe
    • Ride a gondola
    • Visit Pompeii
    • Tour Vlad Dracula's castle
    • See the Tower of London again, preferably when I haven't been awake for almost 48 hours
    • Paint the Eiffel Tower... in person
    • Paint a seascape of Greece
    • Enjoy a meal (or several) at The Eagle and the Child and write a story there
  • Fall in love with and marry someone who will join me in the adventure and make sure we both live
  • Participate (probably not run... haha!) in a marathon
  • See all 50 states (and I don't just mean passing through them)
  • Get a meaningful tattoo and get my nose pierced
  • Go to culinary school and spend some time as a food critic
  • Since I have the basics out of the way, go back and get a bachelor's degree in art, music, and/or history
  • Learn how to sew and make my own clothes
  • Become fluent in Spanish and French
  • Build and live in a real-life hobbit hole for awhile

Thursday, July 15, 2010

[When Did I Become a Supporting Role?]

I have a habit of letting the things that happen to me create my "identity."  It tends to be the big events for me: losing my mom at such a young age, my seventeen surgeries, my lousy immune system, twenty-six years of perpetual singleness, etc.  It's silly, really, since I've had no control over any of these things.

See, I have my students write, for their persuasive paper, a diagnosis-solution paper for a fictional character of their choice.  I have to caution them to not let their solutions revolve around the characters' outside events (i.e. the plot), but rather focus on helping the characters fix a personal flaw or weakness that causes them to make lousy decisions. It's good advice for writing, but it's applicable to life as well.  It's also a lesson that's pretty tough to follow, particularly for me.  Instead of writing my story, my novel, I'm letting the plot write me. That's not how it's supposed to work.

It isn't the things that happen to me that make me who I am--it's what I choose to do when they happen.  What would change in my life, I wonder, if I took my own advice?  Would I be sitting home almost every Friday and Saturday night, wondering why some people have lives, but social activity seems to evade my very existence?  Would I let myself become paralyzed when faced with a personal confrontation?

The thing is that I'm not sure who I am these days.  I'm not writing my story, so to speak, I'm just letting it write itself.  Why did I go to college?  It was expected of me (though I did enjoy the whole learning process). Why did I become a teacher? One door after another closed in my face--it was hardly a dream of mine growing up.  Why do I have no social life?  I wait around for someone to invite me along instead of getting off my arse and doing something.  I don't do it intentionally, but I think I sometimes invoke the victim mentality.

You know, I'd hoped that when I got a job, a real, post-graduate school job, I would stop feeling like I was in a state of transition, but I'm beginning to believe that this is something that won't change for a long time.  Even if I get hired on full-time, I'll be thinking of getting a PhD.  If I do that, I'll be waiting for milestones like marriage and starting a family.  Then as my kids grow up, I'll be awaiting their milestones.  It doesn't stop.  Of course, if I never get out of the house, I'll be stuck right where I am right now.

Something does need to change, though.  I'm getting entirely too isolated.  Why do I never say anything interesting anymore? Well, I'm not even getting out of the house to observe people as writing material, much less socializing.  Nothing happens other than me making a different dish, Sassy doing something funny, or a student encouraging or discouraging me. I pick up the literal pen all the time to write my stories and blog rants, but I think I misplaced my metaphorical pen sometime in the last year at Truman.  I stopped dreaming and just floated along with the current.  Yes, I know, I'm mixing metaphors, but it gets the point across anyway.  I've stopped being a lead character in my own story.  I've become a stock character.

That needs to change.

The only trick? Figuring out that first step.



Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

[The Partly Sunny Side of the Street]

Well, my mood is somewhat cheerier than yesterday.  For one thing, I did check with the IRS, and they've at least received my latest correspondence (unlike last time, when, in spite of its being certified and receiving post office confirmation, they claimed to have never gotten it).  I don't know if they'll consider it sufficient, but if they don't, I might just lose it. Maybe.  Mom probably will first.

And whole student thing, after thinking about it (and having a more positive experience yesterday), I'm more inclined to suspect that many of them from whom I felt "hostility" were probably thinking of the class and the work as an inconvenience.  Still annoying (since I'm not teaching out of desperation--I like my subject and what I do), but less threatening.  I can't help but wonder, though, if school is such an inconvenience, particularly college, why bother?  If your attitude is going to be negative, why not wait until you can appreciate what you're learning and the opportunities higher education will afford you?  Meh.  It's not like I can do much about their attitudes.  And really, it's not all of them, but sometimes it feels that way.  Maybe I'm too sensitive. :)

Oof... this dog of mine is in sore need of a trip to the groomer's.  Her "doggy" smell is getting distinct.

You know, I really do have some intelligent, thoughtful ideas floating around my brain somewhere, and eventually, they're going to see the light of day.  Right now, though, with the stress onslaught still going strong (even if it is finally decreasing), for the sake of sanity and preventing myself from becoming a full-on cynic, I need to rant a bit.  The good thing is that after this week, there are only two weeks left in the semester, and since midterm, I've been keeping up on entering in grades, so it should be a lot less hectic *knock on wood*. Perhaps upon finishing the summer semester and getting a new phone toy on August first, my mood will lighten and I'll have interesting, coherent thoughts to share with the world.  In the meantime, I'm using the storm clouds as fodder for creating my novel's character's trauma (unavoidable to put her in the right place), so this madness shouldn't be a complete waste. :)

See? There's always a bright side, especially when one is an artist or a writer.  Grief, stress, anger, etc., can all be powerful muses to create art with an impact.  After all, what's going to be more convincing: me writing a character under stress when my life is hunky-dory, or me writing a character under stress when I'm about to go mad myself?  You got it.  All things work together, right?

Yeah, I'm definitely in a sunnier place.  The clouds haven't disappeared yet, but I'm getting the shafts of light again.

Over and out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[The Sphere of Stress]

Seriously, I just feel like one big ball of stress lately, and it's not just one big thing. Rather, it seems to be the culmination of about a million small-to-midsize things that have tripped me up.  It's robbed me of my ability to function normally.  I try not to let these things get to me, but when they all seem to hit at once, well, I can't defend myself anymore.

I do know I need this semester to be over. In some ways, I prefer summer classes, especially when I have a smaller group, but I can also get the flip side of the coin when I get a class that's a little intimidating.  It's not everyone, but for some reason, I feel like I keep saying the wrong thing to that class, while with the other, I keep getting things right.  They're identical except for the days of the week and the size of the class, but apparently, it makes all the difference.

Meh... I think I just have case of the blahs combined with anxiety.  I'm probably imagining half of what I sense.

Okay, I'm finished being a boring writer for the morning.  I keep meaning to write something worth discussing, but these days, I can't seem to think beyond the daily worries.  I'll try to be more interesting tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

[When Doubts Assail]

I began my Christian walk in an independent fundamental Baptist church; I'd grown up in church, don't get me wrong, and I'd always believed in some form, but when I decided to commit my life to Christ, I went to that church.  A lot of what was taught in that church has troubled my walk for many years.  It was a literal translation of the Bible, or nothing.  If you had doubts, well, that meant that you weren't really saved. Dinosaurs existed in the Garden of Eden, and the earth was only six thousand years old.  These tenets, I have no doubt, were well-meant, but in the long run, they have hindered my walk, especially when faced with doubts and a nagging belief that perhaps the earth is a little [lot] bit older than I'd been taught.  So, often, I found myself asking God to save me again and again.  I had doubts, after all!

Eventually, I walked away from that life, but not my faith entirely.  I've never been able to do that, even when I wanted to.  Through reading, praying, and studying how the Holy Writ was written, I've learned that my doubts don't necessarily mean eternal condemnation, and perhaps believing in old earth creation is an even stronger belief in God's omnipotence (after all, what's more intricate: snapping One's fingers and it all being as it is today, more or less, or starting the ball rolling billions of years ago, with an end in mind, and somehow allowing it all to happen naturally as it was always intended?  I lean toward the latter.).  I believe in ghosts and that, in spite of what I was taught, they aren't all demonic.  Sometimes, I believe, we linger--some even until judgment day.  But I digress...

I'm extremely grateful to Truman State for providing a class on Hebrew scriptures that detailed how the books of the OT came to be today.  By understanding the different storytelling techniques used in the Bible, such as history AND oral tradition.................................................

Okay, so I'm not going to detail it all. I don't currently have the presence of mind to state things exactly right this morning.  Instead, I'll get to the point.  This is who I am today:

I'm a doubter.  And that's okay.  Because in spite of these doubts, I still believe.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  I doubt that the earth was created in six days, but I don't doubt that God created the earth; and yes, I do doubt that homosexuality is a sin (and, no, that is not a thinly veiled confession of my own homosexuality, because I'm still quite annoyingly boy-crazy and show no signs of changing there).  Yes, I know what it says in Leviticus, but I'm thinking of when it was written down, and I'm more inclined to suspect that scholars at a later date recorded a lot of the Pharisaically detailed laws and regulations in response to surrounding culture than necessarily direct revelation.  I'll admit that I could very well be wrong there (and no, I'm not interested in debating the topic... I find debate exhausting and stressing), but as ever, I would rather err on the side of giving too much grace.  Either way, on this side of eternity, I don't believe we can be certain.  So what do I take literally?  Well, Christ's words, for one.  Paul's teachings that aren't specific to individual issues that had risen in certain churches (i.e., those related to gender, I believe, had more to do with culture and striving for peace within the body of the church, rather than some universal dictate on how all men and all women in all times should correlate in the church).

In other words, I believe faith to have a lot more gray than black or white.  It's complex.  I do know that I have to believe.  My heart and soul yearn for Christ, quite sincerely.  That doesn't mean I don't have doubts, and sometimes they're stronger than I'd like.  All the same, both manage to coexist within me, and I welcome that.  If I didn't, and if I never doubted, I wouldn't have faith; I would be brainwashed. It is a real, changing, growing, developing faith; sometimes weaker, sometimes stronger.  I try to learn as much as I can, pray about it, think about it, study about it, and hope that I'm on the right path.

That's where I stand today, and I hope it made some sense.

Next time I write, I expect to be a little more lighthearted. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to have no spare time when you're on vacation than, say, when you're teaching and should be grading?  That, in a nutshell, is why I haven't posted in a while (not to mention, just did the laundry on Sunday night and still have several half-finished projects around the house). 

But, now I'm back teaching for the summer (yay summer school...), so I should have plenty of time to update... if only I can think of what to write.  I have office hours, before and after class, and not much to do yet, so don't be surprised if I post twice a day on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.   Today may be one of them, too.

For now, my Mickey-D's coffee is just starting to kick in, so all the thoughts I've been meaning to blog are lost in a sea of sleep-mush.  By this afternoon, though, I should be a little bit sharper.  I hope.

One thing of note: Sassy's already in the swing of my new schedule.  We get up at nine, she goes out for 45 minutes to an hour while I peter around on my computer, checking emails, then she comes back in and curls up in my bed, waits for me to put on my make-up and do my hair so we can have five minutes of cuddle/wrestle time (usually cuddling in the morning, but sometimes she's ornery) before I close the bedroom door, grab coffee and lunch, and head out for the day.  What a trooper.  I try to make it up to her by taking her to the dog park in the evening when the weather is decent.  \

Well, I'm off to class.  Over and out.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

[Hickory Dickory Dock]

I had a mouse in my house yesterday, and I'm embarrassed to confess that I did all the girly, mouse-phobic things I used to make fun of others for doing.

More details to follow soon (as in, after the class I need to be preparing for right now).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

[The Twenty-Sixth Year]

Normally, I write this post on April 14, but as I think we're all aware of by now, it's not exactly been a normal year.  Besides, there's a certain parallel present this year that I think has made it more difficult to let myself think about this topic more than necessary.

Because this year, I turned 26.  Don't get the significance?  Well, let me put it this way: 17 years ago, on Wednesday, April 14, 1993 (even the days of the week are the same), my mom passed away at the age of 26.  Yeah, that'll do it.

In all my years of birthday festivities, this was the one I did not celebrate.

The crazy thing is that this year, though the most dreaded of all, has been probably my most successful year to date:

I got a job.  Career-related job.
I bought a home.
I graduated with my master's degree.

And I still have five months left in the year.

All the same, it's been hard to think about her this year, knowing that once I complete the ninth month of this birth year, I will have already lived a longer life than my mom did.  For me, that's a bit traumatizing.  On top of all this, I've gotten to see people from our past that I've not seen in years--some even since she was alive.  They knew her when she was a young teen.  They watched her succumb to paralysis.  

They can remember her better than I can.

That's the part that hurts the most--the fact that I can't remember much anymore.

Do I have a point beyond this?  No, not today.  I just wanted to clarify that, yes, it still sucks, perhaps this year more so than many others.

Monday, May 03, 2010

[Snapping Point, or, The Joys of Teaching]

Well, I finally reached breaking point with my 8:00 a.m. class this morning and sent out the following bright and cheery letter this morning:

It is 8:03 a.m. Monday morning of the last week of the semester before finals, and so far, four people have shown up out of 18. This has been a terrible pattern lately. I realize this is a little bit after the fact, but you should not be missing class. Oversleeping, outside of the rare one or two occurrences, is not an excuse--set your alarm across the room or set two alarms. There are practical ways to ensure that you get up on time. In a real world job scenario, if you did not make it to work, you would be let go without much ceremony. Again, serious illness is a valid excuse, as is a close death in the family, but otherwise you should be here if you want to pass the class, especially now. Workshop days, though they lack the lecture element, are important--you get out of them what you put into them.


Guys, I hate to be the mean teacher who lectures her class on courtesy, but when 4-7 students are the average for three weeks straight, when there are 18 students enrolled in the class, we have a problem.

I expect to see any of you that want to take the remainder of the semester seriously on Wednesday morning, Friday morning, and the morning of the final exam. Otherwise, do not be surprised when you get your grades and find that you're going to have to retake 101.

Again, guys, I don't say these things to be mean or harsh; however, they need to be said and to be taken seriously.

Sigh.

Niki

Friday, April 30, 2010

[New Site URL--A Real Domain Name!]

So I'm thinking of upgrading (fairly inexpensively, I must say!) to a domain name, but I want some feedback from you guys on what sounds best to you (I'm not always the best judge of what might sound too cheesy or emo):

www.dryadniki.com (a throwback to The Chronicles of Narnia, along with classic mythology)
www.the-ethereal-portal.com (a throwback to She-ra, who lived on Etheria, as well as my working novel title)
www.blackmagicmore.com (based on my ode to caffeine)
www.holdingontothemagic.com (a commentary on how there's a part of me that won't let go of the fairy tales, because so many other things have gotten lost along the way).

Vote in the new poll on my blog's sidebar --> and in one week, I'll make a choice!

Monday, April 26, 2010

[Ludicrous Grace]

At church yesterday, Rich preached on being filled with the Holy Spirit.  I'm glad and irritated that he did.  Why? It's wise, it's good, it's powerful... and it's terrifying.

To ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to surrender, to give up all the selfishness and ways of the world.  That surrender means that I might end up going down a path that scares the s**t out of me.  It might mean giving up my independence.  It might mean accepting that all my dreams (marriage, a career, etc.) might not come to pass because He has other plans.  They may be better plans (actually, there's no "may" in this situation), but they're different than I have in mind for myself.  And that, my friends, is scary.

I'm just going to be totally and vaguely honest here.  I've got some pet sins.  These are the sins that I don't like controlling my life, but I enjoy when I commit them.  That sounds horrible, right?  But that's the thing about sin.  It wouldn't be tempting if it didn't feel good in the moment.  But I know what it does to me, and I see the wall that's gone up over the past two and a half years in which I've lost a certain amount of control over that sin.  I felt guilty (still do) and embarrassed.  Too embarrassed to do anything more than turn my head slightly to the side and upward and say, "Um, sorry, God.  My bad.  I'm a jerk," and then do the same thing a few days later.

I need to pray that the Spirit fill my soul and defeat this sin, but I'm not going to lie.  I'm afraid to.  It's silly, I know, since God's grace is so abundant and His love so much better than my little made-up world.  But here I sit, knowing what I need to do, but holding back for a little while more.

I'll give in soon, I promise.  I don't like being controlled by these unholy desires.  In God's grace is freedom, and I do still remember that.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I could just give up on my faith--just accept that I have so many doubts and say, "Nah, I don't really believe."  I've even tried.  Yeah, this is the first time I admit that.  I've tried to not believe.  But here's the thing: I can't help it.  My spirit has seen too much.  He's real, He's there, and He's... God.  I can't NOT believe.  I can choose to ignore Him, but that doesn't change His existence or my belief.

I don't like struggling with these sins, but as in all things negative, God has a way of working them into greater miracles.  I grew up a goody-two shoes.  Being a "good kid," though I theologically understood the need for grace, I didn't necessarily feel it (except for a few brief spurts during adolescence).  However, in facing doubts and intense temptations (and failing miserably at times) I fully understand Grace now.  I can recognize my wretchedness in a way I did not before.  The fact that He can still love me after all I've done in my heart to shut Him out just shows the scandalous extent of His love.  So, in a way, I'm glad that I've struggled.  I hate the guilt and consequences, but I'm grateful for the chance to appreciate His grace.

I'm a writer... so it helps me to write out what I'm feeling before I act on it.  I have a feeling things are going to be different soon. It's a good thing... but I'm still terrified.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

[Sassy Video!]

[You Know Teaching English is Taking Over Your Life When...]

  • You have nightmares that comma splices are trying to splice you.
  • You're so broken up over a beloved author mixing up "your" and "you're" in his blog entry that you come thisclose to removing his blog feed from your list (but loyalty finally wins out)
  • You're crushed when your crush writes an email or posts a Facebook update and replaces "you" with "u," and you promptly decided it's time to move on.
  • In spite of a backache, you sit for six hours in a crowded, noisy commons area waiting for four students who might or might not show up for conferencing, then wake up the next morning with a massive migraine.
  • After finals, you have nightmares that all your classes, past and present, have marched up to your doorstep, torches and pitchforks in hand, demanding a recount.
  • You feel giddy when your favorite writing textbook comes out with a revised edition.
  • The real reason you're still single is because, without fail, every opportunity to leave the house is trumped by the need to grade a four-foot high pile of grammar assignments.
  • The real reason that pile of grammar assignments has gotten so high is because you dread finding out that no one listened to a word you lectured for two months straight, and when you finally got up the nerve to tackle the first chapter, it proved your fear founded.
  • You break into whirling dervishes out of the joy of finding out that some of your current students are signed up to take another class with you next semester (they don't all hate me!), and really, who needs a social life anyway?  
  • You wake up the next morning, remembering why you need a social life anyway, when you realize that less than half of your class has shown up that morning for class... again... and if this is supposed to be a source of joy, it's an epic fail.
  • Your excuse for missing your best friend's party?  "I need to make lesson plans for next semester."
  • You have nightmares that instead of parmigiana cheese, you just sprinkled your meal with cheesy cliches submitted by your students.
  • You fall asleep at night crying over a particularly moving story written by one of your students.
  • In church, you find yourself taking notes, not over the content of the sermon, like you should, but over transition techniques you want to suggest to your students.
  • Your tongue is constantly bleeding from biting it to keep from editing your friends' and family's grammar mistakes when they speak.
  • You take two weeks to respond to a friend's email because you have to resist the urge not to give him or her writing suggestions and not to proofread his or her spelling and punctuation.
  • In spite of finding a good job, good students, your own home, and a solid footing at last, and in spite of intense scholastic burnout, you still find yourself filling out graduate school applications to get a PhD.  You can only stop yourself from sending them off when you remember the hellishness of writing a 50-page thesis and you further remember that you'd have to write a 100-page dissertation.  You still have to keep yourself from picking the application back up and sending it out, anyway.
  • You realize that your blog has become nothing more than a day-by-day account of teaching, how tired you are, and when your dog wags her tail harder than normal.  It's official--you have no life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

[Pondering and Wondering and Meandering]

With three weeks left of the semester, including finals week, I'm definitely spread a bit thin.  Once again, I anticipate grading everyone's work down to the last minute, as I did at midterm.  I'm hoping by the summer semester that I'll have my home pretty much organized and that I'll be be able to be more focused.  There's no telling on that, really, but I keep hoping, anyway.

I've felt crazy-tired lately, and I'm not sure why.  I know I'm busy, but I seem to be getting a reasonable amount of sleep and, for the most part, pretty decent nutrition.  Still, I continue with the sleepies.  It'd be nice if my three week break would rejuvenate. I guess we'll see.

I need to write a decent update this week, but right now, I've got fifteen students sitting in front of me, going through their journaling period, and it's mildly distracting to say the least.

Until next time, kids, stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's never a good sign when I wake up sneezing.  I'm definitely in the midst of the caffeine withdrawal headaches, and after three hours of sneezing almost nonstop this morning, I caved and took an Aleve-D Cold and Sinus.  I did take it with a glass of milk, though, so I'm hoping that will lower its negative effects on my stomach.  I'm still sneezing, but it's starting to slow down, and I think the milk did help. 

Sassy's been pretty understanding this morning.  She's stayed quiet and drowsy, not aggravating me too much about playing or wanting to go outside.  I think she can tell I'm not feeling so great.  I love this girl.

I did find out that I will be teaching a second class this summer--I just won't find out which one until after spring break.  Whatever the case, it's a relief to have that answer.

I"m getting excited about painting my walls.  I've got the paint.  Now, I'm just waiting for a good weekend that my cousins can come out and help me out.

Well, this is about the limit to my ability to be coherent today.  The nose-burning is getting distracting.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

[For Your Own Safety, Steer Clear!]

Well, I finished posting midterms this morning around 2:00 a.m.  I, obviously, did not sleep much last night, and I will say that the grade stats are a bit of a downer this semester.  Then again, so are the attendance rates.  Well, it's over, and now, it's time to counsel students on how not to, well, flunk.  Good times all around.

In other news, I've got an ulcer.  Yup, seriously.  No, not doctor-diagnosed, but based on what I've read, my symptoms match tit for tat all across the board, and since they've been around longer than three days, I'm prety sure it's not heartburn sitting just below my sternum.  I'm trying some homeopathic/holistic remedies first, hoping to avoid nutty health bills.  I stopped by an herbal store this afternoon and picked up some Aloe Vera Plus solution (meant for internal digestion) and ginger tea, both of which are supposed to help digestion and ulcers.  It's a little early to tell, but at this point, after the second dose and at the start of the first cup of ginger tea, I'm not having the pain or gnawing feeling that was pushing me to overeat for the past week or two. 

One thing is going to be hard about this, though: no caffeine or pain relievers until the ulcer is gone.  These next two weeks are going to be hellish with the withdrawal symptoms I will undoubtedly endure.  I've done the cold-turkey thing before, and it was not a pretty sight.  In fact, I'm starting to get the first wave, as I haven't had any caffeine since noon-ish, and my head is starting to ache.

My apologies if you're forced to be in my presence during this time period.

In the end, though, I know it will be healthier.  I'll probably lose a few pounds and have more energy after the addiction is out of my system.  It's just that time between then and now that's going to be epic.  Oh well. 

Well, I have some list-updating to do before bed, and tomorrow an early class, so I'm calling it quits for now.  Good night, all!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

[A Wee Reminder]

I haven't forgotten you, dear blog readers.  Unfortunately, I find myself in the midst of the throes of midterm grading time topped off with one of the worst colds I've had in years (I even had a fever Friday! 101 degrees!  That doesn't happen outside of surgeries for me!), and it's an ordeal, to say the least.

However, after Thursday, I should be back in the saddle again, much more balanced and caught up, so just hang tight.

I also wanted to remind my beloved readers that I do have a literary blog in which I'm working* on a novel.  If you want to be a reader/critiquer and watch a masterpiece** unfold, drop me an email, and I'll send you a reader invitation.  It is private, just in case my ideas are actually any good, so no one tries to rip me off. :)  So far, I've only got two or three readers, and I'd love to have some more--especially fellow scribblers. 

Okay, back to grammar grading.  It's alternately painful and encouraging, depending on whether or not the student has actually followed directions.

*I'm actually temporarily on hiatus, until I can get a few more details about the semester ironed out, but I've been doing some mental writing, so I should have something new soon.
**Read this word with the appropriate level of irony, please. 

Sunday, February 28, 2010

[Oh, the Irony.]

Maybe it's the acid churning in my stomach since this morning when I took two Aleve without enough food on my stomach, but I definitely am feeling a sense of "not good enough."  It's silly, I know, and I completely recognize (and chuckle at) the irony that just three posts ago I roared with feminine independence.  Still, head knowledge does little to dissipate the sense of frustration that I feel at the moment. 

Yes, friends, it's been awhile, but it's going to be another single rant.  I realize they're not my most popular posts, but what is a blog journal for if not for getting emotions off my chest and metaphorically clunking my head on the proverbial wall?  So, bear with me, I beg.

I don't necessarily regret not having been in a serious relationship up to this point.  Well, for one thing, it's not like I chose it, but I also realize that it's saved me a certain amount of heartache and temptation that I have a sinking suspicion might be a very intense temptation on my part.  What I do regret, however, is that I've not actually dated.  Again, not my choice, so regret might not be the optimal word here, but hey, it's midterm season, and my mind is a little on the shaky side these days.  I feel like, to some degree, it has stunted my emotional growth. Truthfully, I wouldn't recognize a guy showing interest in me if it happened.  It doesn't help, either, that while I've overcome much of my shyness from grade school and high school, I still find myself doing the "duck and run" after one good conversation with a guy in whom I've developed a romantic interest.  I don't exactly give these gents much of a chance.  With the exception of the relationship I have with my mom, when it comes to difficult situations, I tend to be on the flee side of flight or fight. 

I'm stuck in a vicious cycle.  I'm so afraid of rejection now, having experienced it so consistently over the years, that I instinctively run away from any opportunities of allowing a good guy to, well, not reject me for once.  And I hate it. 

I guess if God has romance in mind for me (marriage, love, etc.), He's going to have to give the guy some serious pursuit instincts in order to get past my idiocy. 

So yeah, here I am, in the tenth year of writing on this blog, and I'm still saying, "Oh, woe, I'm [insert age here] and still single!"  My perspective has matured enormously over the years (I know, for example, that it's not a bad thing), but the ache has gotten worse.  I guess it would help if I'd at least get to go out on a coffee date now and again, just to give me that little bit of confidence in my, shall we say, allure. 

It's kind of funny, actually.  Today at the park, someone was talking about being 25 and feeling a little outside the loop as many people in her class were talking about their spouses.  I couldn't resist interjecting with, "Don't feel bad... I'm 26 and, and I've yet to go on a date, much less consider marriage."  At that moment, I heard a very genuine "Whoa" or "Wow" out of the guy involved in the conversation. 

I pretended not to notice. :)

Okay, here come the comments.  Guys, remember, I am aware that singleness is a blessing, and that this is far better than being in a crappy relationship, and that, God willing, when the time is right, Mr. Right will come marching in my life.  Just to be clear on that.  But like I said, the ache is there, as well as the frustration, and geez louise, it would be nice to go out on an occasional Friday night for a first or second date, even if it never goes any further.  I'm just sayin'. 

Over and out.