Category Archives: Life

Goodbye, 28. 

Goodbye, 28. You were a good year. I spent 9 months of you pregnant (and therefore 9 months of you with no wine!). I only had to teach for about 7 months of you. And the last 3 months, spent birthing and raising Sam, have been some of my favorite months of my life–though also the hardest. I really really really miss sleep. Birthdays become kind of bittersweet as we age… it’s not solely a celebration of life, but also an awareness of life’s brevity. Did I accomplish enough this year? Did I grow at all as a person (and not just in my uterus)? Are there happier years to come? So many unknowns. Lots of hopes and regrets and dreams. I hope 29 is full of joy and achievements and peace. My grandpa says 29 is the last birthday I’ll want to acknowledge… hopefully that’s not true, haha. I want all my years of experience to build up something good, for me to be a woman who has lived life well. 
I still have 2 minutes until midnight, but there goes my newborn, wailing for food. He wakes up zero to sixty when he’s hungry. I will cuddle him close and pray over year 29. Maybe it will finally be the year I solidify my writing and chase down that elusive publishing goal…

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Happy Easter

Easter season is usually when I re-read Christopher Moore’s “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” It’s totally irreverent, but only if you allow yourself to be easily offended. I instead find it a powerful reminder of Christ’s humanity: that a real person went through everything he went through. We can fall into the trap of assuming it was all easy for him, but no–he had a human body with all the emotional and physical pain that goes along with a human life.

But this year I didn’t need to return to “Lamb” for help remembering that. Now I have a son of my own, and the impact on my understanding of God’s relationship to Jesus and both of their relationship to us, to humanity, is intense. The depth of my love for Sam is indescribable; he’s only 7 weeks old but I would still do anything to protect him, even if that meant trading my life for his. Suffering would be painful but worth it if it meant saving him; the suffering of losing him would be worse than whatever else I had to endure instead. I can empathize more clearly now with the pain God felt while Jesus was crucified for us, as well as the deep compassion they had in order to go through all of that for the trade-off of opening salvation to us.

Those were my deep thoughts at 5:00 a.m. this morning while feeding my tiny son. Life has been hard lately, so the hopefulness of Easter is encouraging!

 

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Remember when I was really good at blogging twice a week? I miss those days.

Time keeps flying! I had 4 different blog posts drafted in January and ran out of steam on all of them. Part of it is having to pay so much attention to politics right now–reading all the news and deciphering what the heck is going on in DC takes up a lot of time and energy (and is surely leading to stress that is not good for the baby).

Because yeah, this baby is due in like 3 weeks. WHAT. I can’t believe how quickly this time has gone by, or how lucky I have been. A lot of the pregnancy symptoms I expected to suffer through did not manifest, like heartburn and swollen ankles. It’s mostly been exhaustion, some carpal tunnel, and constant back pain/bladder pressure. There are some potential genetic health issues that we have to watch for, but there’s nothing we can check/do until he is actually here, so I have tried my best not to be overwhelmed with anxiety about it. (It’s difficult.)

Being pregnant is pretty magical when you aren’t overly sick. I first felt the baby’s movements while Jeff and I were eating at La Tolteca, our favorite little Mexican restaurant by our old college, so that felt special, haha. His kicks seem to have personality–like, he kicks when I haven’t eaten recently enough and he’s getting hungry, and he kicks whenever the Avett Brothers come on my Pandora or music shuffle (not sure if that means he loves them or hates them, but we’ll hope it’s love, since I think they’re awesome), and he freezes his kicks when it’s Daddy’s hand instead of mine. Stinker. I had also heard that when babies get hiccups you can feel them because of the shaky little rhythm. That’s what I woke up to on New Year’s Day! (And no, I did not drink champagne and get him drunk, haha. We subbed in ginger ale, so maybe that had enough bubbles to get him hiccuping.) He’s had hiccups just about once per day since then.

I’m really curious to see what he looks like, and really anxious now that it’s officially February… his due date month… when I can’t be in denial anymore. He has to come out! Eek! I hope that all goes well and I’m surrounded by skilled nurses and doctors. So much can go wrong for either of us, and I can’t imagine the devastation some families go through when they were instead expecting joy and celebration. Sigh. It’s all in God’s hands…

On the writing side of life, my NaNoWriMo 2016 project went well, and I am pleased with it… but also not certain if, even after extensive revision, it would really have an audience. A fantasy-style Jungle Book: is it for kids, YA, adults? I think I need to narrow my focus there before revisions will succeed. I also tried out a few different POV characters but I think one of them is getting chopped–it added words but not substance to the story. MAYBE my son will be a spectacular sleeper and I can finish the revision on my maternity leave! hahahahaha. Not likely. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that. :)

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2016, really?

Well, 2016 has not been the happiest. I suppose stating “bring it on!” was an inappropriate challenge. Let’s recap the year so far, shall we?

  • We lost the great David Bowie (I’ve been listening to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” on repeat quite often);
  • We lost the great Alan Rickman (Jeff and I re-watched a few of his great movies in his honor, like “Galaxy Quest” and “Die Hard,” and I ran a memorial 5K as well);
  • I had an early miscarriage of a very wanted little baby;
  • I have been too stressed and exhausted with life and work (teaching) to accomplish any writing, even though I figured out a creative way to fix the ending of my Copper manuscript.

So I’ve been a little bit depressed, but luckily, have had a lot of time for reading. I’ve read:

  • Kiera Cass’ “The Siren,” her first book, which was cute but pretty dragging plot-wise (a.k.a. not much happened).
  • I tore through four different Liane Moriarty books–“Big Little Lies,” “What Alice Forgot,” “The Last Anniversary,” and “The Husband’s Secret”–and loved them all. She’s great at creating unique, believable characters and intertwining their story lines in fascinating ways.
  • Marissa Meyer released an extra short story collection “Stars Above” to wrap up her Lunar Chronicles series, and it was wonderful. I heard she’s also writing a graphic novel series that will fit in to the world, as well, which I’m excited for. I am curious about graphic novels because I think my Phoebe & Fred story would fit that format a lot better than the novel format that I’ve currently been trying to shove it in.
  • “Zeroes” by Chuck Wendig was very creative, though a little nerve-wracking since it deals with hacking, haha. I’m still convinced that hackers are going to ruin everyone.
  • and I’m pretty sure I’m missing some, but those are all the books coming to mind right now. I’m currently reading “These Vicious Masks,” which was pitched as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” which is a marvelous combo.

So there. Lots going on, and yet also nothing. I hope the year looks up soon.

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Bring on 2016

I guess I forgot to update how NaNoWriMo 2015 went! I worked on a mixture of revising old words from the Copper manuscript and writing new scenes (from other characters’ perspectives as well as hers), so it wasn’t all 100% original writing, but I managed to get 60,000+ words this time–a personal record. I have a lot of work left to do on it… but once December 1st hit, I had to pay some attention to the stack of essays and other grading that I had been ignoring. :( Darn work.

2015 has been a good year as far as goals go. I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, because I vaguely think about it every year, and then summer hits and I’ve done nothing about it and get totally discouraged. So this time, I used MyFitnessPal regularly to log my calories, let myself splurge once in a while, walked the dog 5 days a week, and worked up to running with the dog… I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to huff and puff in January, I now run 5K mileage almost every Saturday without feeling like death at all! My total weight loss for the year is about 33 pounds, putting me well within a normal BMI range (I know there are a lot of issues with BMI charts, but being here in the “normal” makes me feel much better, as I was in the “overweight” category for my height last January 1st. Blech.)

As much as I love Christmas, I don’t love the holiday weight gain that comes with my difficulty in turning down delicious Christmas cookies. However, my sister and I got severe food poisoning on the 22nd, so I was too weak to enjoy any holiday food and therefore avoided all the potential weight gain! Way to find a silver lining in a horrible vomit-filled experience, right?

As far as writing goals go, well, I still don’t have any of my novel rough drafts fully revised… so that will have to be a focus for 2016. I don’t like to write strict resolutions because then I focus on how far I am from the goal line, rather than how much progress I’ve made toward the goal line, but I think forcing myself to fully revise Copper is a fair goal to publicize.

With life goals, I want to improve my 5K time (I’m a slow runner–but at least I’m running!) and… excuse my language… learn to stop giving a fuck about things that don’t fit into my fuck budget.

In case that sounds confusing, yesterday I sat down with my journal and a copy of Sarah Knight’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and figured out exactly what things bring me joy–things I want to devote my time, energy, and money to–and what things bring on the annoy–things I need to quit wasting my time, energy, and money on. What I appreciated most about her book is that she understands how much of a burden guilt is–how much we don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who (probably unconsciously) are draining our time, energy, or money. So she recommends a lot of word play, which my writer self can appreciate, to help mitigate potential sore feelings. The book is also split into sections to help you ramp up into the places it’s hardest to fight back against, moving from “things” to “work” to “friends/acquaintances” to “family.”

I highly recommend this book. I struggle so much to say “no!”, but after reading and completing the worksheets in her book, I feel much better equipped to face things that stress me out and make them stop. I hope to be much less overwhelmed (I often feel, like Bilbo, “butter over too much bread”) and therefore more pleasant in the upcoming months. The Pantone color of the year for 2016, by the way, is “serenity” (blue)… I’m thinking a “serenity” year is in my future! [Color and Seinfeld references welcome. No Firefly ones though. I like my Firefly completely free of the atrocious Serenity connection.] Maybe I will even look into the original book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Haha, who am I kidding? I’m messy! Let’s not overload the goals! ;)

So yeah! 2015 treated me well. I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring, as I become a better writer, faster runner, and more mentally healthy woman. I hope my readers conquer some goals in 2016 too.

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farewell, August. (Wake me up when September ends?)

The first week of teaching is over… and it was exhausting. Despite doing my best to wake up early all summer, it did not at all compare to 4:45 a.m. Yeesh. I was blessed with the gift of Starbucks coffee twice, once from a co-worker and once from a former student. That helped.

Let me take a moment to complain and vent:

  • Public speaking is still terrifying
  • I can’t believe I’m teaching 3 different grades again
  • Marking essays is miserable
  • Certain adults are buttheads of the highest degree

BUT, the good far outweighs the bad, and it is important for me to record that (in case I need a gentle reminder later on, in those desperate hours of early November and mid-March…)

  • This was the easiest, smoothest start of the year by far. I knew which procedures I needed to focus on, I knew how to balance the boring syllabus stuff with ice-breakers and anticipatory sets, and I knew to get to the copy machine a week before school started so I could actually be prepared.
  • My co-workers are awesome. It was really exciting to return to work and be, on both the giving and receiving ends, surrounded by genuine camaraderie.
  • I appear to have a good set of students, who are going to behave and be open to all the stuff we have to learn this year.
  • Despite the stress of attempting to teach three different grades well, at least nothing is brand new to me this year, so I can focus on adaptation and improvement rather than creation.
  • My career allows me to be a lifelong learner (Ravenclaw nerd time)!!!
    • Over the summer, I read “Engaging Ideas: the Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning” by John C. Bean and discovered a lot of good ideas for writing prompts and grading rubrics.
    • Currently, I’m reading “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates and gaining a lot of good ideas (as well as depression and empowerment… oh the perilous highs and lows of embracing feminism in the midst of our effed-up society) for Women’s Literature.
    • Up next is “So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to be and Why it Endures” by Maureen Corrigan. That will help with my American Literature class, I expect. Gatsby is such an amazing book and I don’t think I’ve conveyed that well to high schoolers yet.
  • The work hours are insanely long, much more than anyone who doesn’t live with a teacher will ever truly understand, but the vacation time truly does help. 118 days until Christmas! ;)
  • I get to talk about books, writing, grammar, and communication and someone pays me for it! And I’m helping make at least a few of the future civilians (voters/procreators/leaders/etc.) not be complete idiots! Hallelujah.

Of course, writing always gets placed on the back-burner when my teacher hat is on. Perhaps this year, my third full year/fourth sort-of year at AHS, I’ll be able to make significant time to work on writing and revisions outside of NaNoWriMos. Let us hope…

and let us sleep. Good night.

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Camp NaNoWriMo Summer 2015: Final Update

I finished the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad, 60,139-word first draft of my novel for the summer. Phew! I can rest knowing that I accomplished what I needed to this summer to head into the next school year with more confidence. Am I pleased with this draft? Obviously not. Hahaha. I tried to be a “pantser” instead of a “plotter” this time around. I opened a billion folders in Scrivener and just wrote scenes, trying to keep things fast-paced and action-filled. If I got bored, I went to a new scene. I realized new characters were necessary at certain points and added them in, fully aware that their introduction was in no way satisfactory. I changed the climax and end-point of the novel multiple times as the story grew more in-depth. 

So it doesn’t look pretty. I tried to string the resulting scenes all together, but that’s going to take a lot more work at a later time–it’s not just sticking on band aids that’s required, it’s a full plastic surgery so this sucker doesn’t look like Frankenstein’s monster anymore. It’s exciting and terrifying, as it should be. 

But that is a project for a different time. What I did achieve was psyching myself up for the very necessary bloody revision of “Copper,” the story that keeps evolving every time I think it’s done. We still haven’t found out what grades we’ll be teaching this year (which, depending on how many new grades I get, will affect how much time I can devote to writing), so I don’t know if I can finish that before the end of 2015. Twitter recently held the MSWL event, where agents describe their manuscript wish lists. A few hit some key points of Copper. I think a fighting chance is still out there. But how soon?! I want it to be soon! 

Arg. 

For now, I am celebrating my hard work–and my husband’s week of vacation–with a spontaneous road trip to Napa and San Francisco. We are driving now, and things were perfect until I started to write this… at which point my husband ran over a massive tire tread, which ripped off part of the bumper. When he went out to try to fix things, he scraped up his hands on the asphalt (we don’t have a first aid kit in this car!! Bad travelers) aaaaand ripped open his pants. Not an auspicious beginning. So, if you’re a praying type, please pray that things look up! He doesn’t like traveling in the first place, and I’ve worked hard to try to cultivate an adventurous spirit in him since that’s important to me. I want this to be a fun memory-making trip for our marriage, not a lousy one he only remembers for the crappy first leg of the road. :( We’re on the lookout for a Wal-Mart or Target to grab band-aids, duct tape, and new pants. 

What an adventure, right? 

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