Friday, December 9, 2016

Dear Student, XI

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

I will miss you.

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

I will miss you.

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

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

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

And it was.

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

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

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


Your Teacher

Thursday, December 8, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Draft Makeovers

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, The End

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

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

What is that challenge, you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, Day 29

There's something about symmetry, and because I have updated most other days of the month, I will at least pretend to update you on my NaNoWriMo progress (or lack thereof). Actually, I made myself stop writing yesterday so that I can hold off the rest of the words for today. That way, I won't go even one word over the same count I made last year. I can't even remember how many words I wrote yesterday, and that's okay, because what I'd really like to do is simply ruminate on some other things.


Haven't seen a good ole Chameleon in a while.

I felt like this back on November 14.

I love the color here, but I see a lot of chaos, too, which is disturbing.

These represent the people I live with. Guess which one is Melina?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, Day 28

How did my day go?

Seriously, you can't tell me that these posts are even interesting anymore. If I do this again next year, I'm either going to come up with more creative updates, or I just won't update you at all. Instead, you can flounder in your curiosity about how I fare until the bitter end.

Ha! As if. Back to the task at hand...

The kids were back in school today. I was back in school. I had work to be done and as I said yesterday, I didn't really have any plans to add more words to my story. But plans...well...they're made to be changed, right? And asking me NOT to do something is the same thing as challenging me to do it, and so, I wrote. Not a lot, mind you, but I did add 597 words to the story. I also figured out that I'll need to add a few more (757 to be exact) to match up with my word count for next year. So, that's the plan for the 29th and 30th days of November.

I guess I won't need to update you now on those two days, will I?

I just felt the need to include this photo. I'm not sure why.

Monday, November 28, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, Day 27

How did my day go?

I'll tell you. These updates are getting to me, partially because I think my computer is on its last leg, and I'm too cheap to buy myself another one. I know, I know. That thinking is really idiotic, because I use this computer ALL THE TIME and much of what I need to do in my daily routine (update grades, edit a profile) involves my computer. So I either need to get on the "buy a new computer" bandwagon, or I need to park myself elsewhere for much of the day. Which would mean getting a full-time job, and I'd have no time for any of the editing and writing I wanted to do if I do go get the full-time job. (Who would hire me, anyway? That's the subject for another post, my dears.)

Sounds like a complaint, eh? It's not. I'm just stating a fact. Even with the computer issues, I managed 2003 words yesterday and I might be calling myself done. Do I really "need" to write 30 days in a row just to add a few hundred more words to my draft? I'm not sure. I'll let you know in tomorrow's update.