Perfectly laid plans often go awry.
I'm relaxing in a hotel, prepared to write, but enjoying the coffee and the calm far too much to engage my brain deeply.
I'm violating all of the writer rules. I immersed myself in my story last week, and haven't been back to it in days. I'm going to lose my mojo, if I have not already.
But the coffee is good and the calm is quiet, and writing is really hard work.
How badly do I really want this? I want it badly. This blog may be my warmup. It may be my day. I'm not sure yet. But for another five minutes. I'm going to let William Faulkner's, Ernest Hemingway's, Stephen King's, and Michael Connelly's advice bits remind me of what I should be doing, until I'm ready to do it.
It's a beautiful morning. Maybe it's time to get cracking.
Peace out, homies. Have a good one, wherever you are.
The danger in using people you know and love or once loved as characters in your murder mystery is that you must analyze them...how would they speak, think, act? And what if they are considered a suspect or a culprit? It's a curious thing, this writing thing. I am dreading writing a scene between two people I care about very much, but I don't think I've made my audience care about them. I could write anything I wanted. I could make the audience hate them. I could make the audience love them, and weep when I kill them off. There is so much power in words. So much power in the art of storytelling. I love it.
But back to my point. Danger. People. Murder. Mystery. And the art of avoiding being sued. Dare I publish that on this blog? Does anyone read this blog any longer? I feel isolated, and the murder in my story is a fascinating way to examine that. Don't think I'm the victim. I'm actually a part of each and every single one of these characters. That is probably the most fascinating piece...that I do empathize with each of them. Each person contains a piece of me as the author. What a trip.
The End of December. That is my plan. You can buy it then. Hey. Maybe that's a great title.
Love you, boo. Have a great day, wherever you are.
When there is conflict all around you and a complete sense of disillusionment and a feeling that you can’t trust anyone, then maybe it is time to examine the source of that. You are, after all, the center of that. What about you could be to blame?
If you stop to rationally observe and realize that forces beyond your control are things causing this reaction in you, then perhaps you need to change your environment. If, however, in your reflections, you realize that it is you after all, then you need to take steps to make change.
Perhaps you relax your perspective. Perhaps you take a break. Perhaps you simply close your mouth—stop giving voice to the irritants. When we name them, we give them power. When we name them to coworkers, we give our coworkers power. When you say something to a coworker who then violates your trust, you lose control and your emotions begin to react to that new scenario. Slow down. Find the source of your discontent and plug the leak.
The hardest thing to rebound from is hatred. Hating your job can work like cancer in your blood. It is toxic and contagious. Find ways to love it again. Work harder. That seems counter-intuitive, but do more of the things you once enjoyed and seek the pleasure you once felt. Go back to your roots.
Avoid other toxic people like the plague. If it means polishing extra silverware, researching an extra market, writing a new report, or shoveling more manure, do it. Get yourself focused. Like Tommy Shelby said on Peaky Blinders when asked why he was doing grunt work, “to remind meself of who I’d be if I wasn’t who I am.” Get it back. Find your joy.
The problem is recognizing when distaste for a job has turned to contempt. If you are repeating, “I hate my job” as if it were a mantra, then the odds are, you hate it. It doesn’t mean it can’t get better from there, though. It just means you might have to work a little harder at finding joy.
In one job I had, I was always tired. I had anxiety after the night was over and often could not sleep. My legs were restless and my fingers always felt swollen. The work was hard and physically demanding, and I began to notice that I felt hunched over. My shoulders slumped because I was always in pain. It may have been that I needed new shoes, but it may also have been an attitude adjustment that was most necessary. That and a lot of ibuprofen. My attitude was lousy. I felt like I was working with greedy children and I could see ways to make things better, but I just came off as bossy and snappish and moody. I had to re-evaluate how I interacted with others and how I comported myself. Constant self-reflection is valuable, but can be frustrating, too. In the end, to figure out how to feel better, it might be a checklist of things that we have to do to figure out how to straighten our spine again.
When human interactions with coworkers are tense and superficial, and there isn’t a connection or a sense of depth, it can lead to frustration. Without a sense of trust and a sense of having a compadre, it can be stressful to complete a job. This stress can create a lack of desire to work hard. And it can lead to a breakdown of the team. You are only responsible for yourself. Well, unless you are the boss. Then you better figure something out.
Follow your own advice, too. You know yourself better than anyone knows you. Listen to the things you tell yourself and then hold yourself accountable. You are the first to criticize yourself and the first to beat yourself up. Why can’t you also be the first to cheer for yourself? Why not do something amazing, and then clap yourself on the back for having been successful at doing it.
Congratulate others, too. Notice when they work hard, do something new, or succeed at something they attempted. You would be surprised at how great that feels, and it may cause change in your own attitude. Even if no one else notices what you have accomplished or done, you did. Even if nobody else notices your colleague, you did. Growth will happen, and you just might find yourself looking forward to something at work. It just might be the jolt you need to find peace in your job again.
I am a master at self-sabotage.
I recently began teaching English to Foreign Language Learners through an online platform. It's been a lot of training and it's been more than a little intimidating. Yeah. I know. Intimidating...to me. Well, when you are working with people you can't see who may or may not understand a word you say, it can be a little, well, intimidating.
I beat the first obstacle and learned to do the group messages. That was fun. I still was stressed when I would log in, but I realized that most of the time, we just laughed most of the time anyway. They were learning just through speaking, and there is extraordinary value in that.
So the second obstacle was the PL, or Private Lesson. And this is video based. Oy vey. Stressful as F. So, I had my first THREE today. I had opened my scheduling for a brief amount of time, and lo and behold, I have 3 sessions scheduled back to back in that time.
I reviewed the process and procedures, and made sure my technology worked, I packed up my headphones...and then I put my computer in my desk and left it at school.
Fortunately for my students, I had recently bought a Google Chromebook, but I thought it was not going to work out. But it did. So unfortunately for me, I had to rock those PLs. And I think I did.
But now I need to figure out why I tried to sabotage my experience there.
At any rate, homies, I am back. And I am ready to start killing this blog. Thanks for reading. Note to you: Don't sabotage yourself. It isn't worth it.
Senioritis is a real thing.
Seniors begin to feel it the winter of their junior year, to hear them tell it. Having taught seniors for so many years, I know that February, March, and especially April, are the hardest months to pull them through.
By about March, I have to have a real “come to Jesus” moment with them about the work quality that I am receiving. I was up most of the night thinking about how I needed to do that with this group. Today, it was the cat in the sunlight. Here is my story.
I was feeling frustrated, and I didn't know where to begin, so I did what I always do. I took the scenic route.
“You know how a cat will seek out any sliver of sunlight to lie in? Do you know any cats who are content with just the sliver?” Many of them raised their hands to say that yes, in fact, their cats are content with that tiny bit of space of sunlight.
“Well, my cat has been sick recently, and so I’ve been observing her at great length, and here is what I know about her. She is never content with just a sliver of sunlight. She wants the full deal. She doesn’t want just the inch, she wants the whole mile.”
I paced a bit to make sure everyone was included, and I saw some of them glazing over, maybe thinking about their own cat, maybe imagining my cat, but probably imagining lunch, instead.
“So my cat will go for the inch, but she digs at the curtains until she can get into the windowsill. She will pull those layers of curtains down if she needs to in order to get to the sunlight.”
“Yeah, so?” I can see them wondering what the heck I mean, and what am I getting at, anyway?
So I told them.
“You see, guys, it’s only March. You aren’t done yet. You can’t be done yet. You can’t just stop because you are tired, or you’ve been at it since August, or there is so much to read and you don’t want to, or because you just want to be a little kid again, or you just want to be an adult already, or whatever it is that is going on in your head. You have to keep giving a little more.
“I chose this text because I admire and respect this author, and he worked so hard to bring you this beautiful story. I think that for you to sit there and give it just a piecemeal and scattered bit of attention isn’t fair to this story or to this author.” (We were reading “Killings” by Andre Dubus, which is pronounced, dyuh-buse) “This story takes an ordinary man and an ordinary family—your family, your sister, your brother, YOU, maybe, and makes these normal people do horrible and horrifying things. That is the brilliance of Dubus.
“I know I am passionate about this. I know that I care about the story, the author, the brilliance and absolute beauty of the storytelling. I mean, he wrote a line that says, ‘he shuddered with a sob that he kept silent in his heart.’ And that is absolute genius. How many of you have ever felt that?”
They kind of responded, some nodded, some looked up at me, others looked down at their hands on the table, or at their book, or at each other. To admit to feeling that kind of grief and pain is difficult for many 17 and 18 year olds to share.
“So anyway, when I think about this story, and I think about my cat and her desire for the sunlight, I know that I want to be like her. You should want to be like her. You should not let this story rest until it washes over you and fills you so that you can see what Dubus has done to you as a reader and as a thinker, as a citizen, in fact. Dubus is so brilliant that he has taken a normal man and a crime of passion and a premeditated murder and made it seem as if it could happen to you and it could happen in your living room. Be like my cat and dig in, guys, redeem yourselves. Be an active participant in your own learning, and don’t settle for just a simple answer. Don’t settle for the sliver of sunlight.”
Now let’s get started.
And that was how it went. I’d like to say it resulted in miracles, but I can definitely say that it did stoke some of the embers that some of the kids have been allowing to die out. I heard from several of them later in the day to say that it stayed with them. It reminded them that they were beginning to shut down, and that they needed to find a way to get it back.
Brittany told me that she appreciated that I didn’t yell at them, but I made them want to re-engage. Or she did, at any rate. Sofia felt the same. Sofia appreciated the imagery of the story and decided that she wanted to be like the cat too.
That speech was for the kids, but I think it may also have partly been for me too. If I cheerlead for them, it inspires me to work harder to give them the last few weeks of energy too. If I demand it of them, I must demand it of myself.
Thanks for reading.
Operation Beautiful is an initiative to create a better, more positive attitude for people through the use of simple messages on post-it notes. Years ago, a boyfriend I loved broke my heart and I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and somehow, a stroke of luck, the universe looking down on me, something…I found Operation Beautiful. And I started making little post-its of my own and I plastered my school with them. Teachers and students seemed to notice them, but I didn’t tell anyone it had been me until the following year, when I asked some girls to do it when they had a hard time and were seeking ways to find their own positive self image.
In the second semester of the second year of this initiative at our school, one of my kids found out I had initiated the program. Now trust me, I wasn’t the originator of this idea, I only brought it to my school, but it had a larger effect than I ever realized. When that boy found out that I had written all of the notes the first time around, he pulled a ratty old note out of his wallet with my handwriting on it. He told me that one day, he was just kind of moping around, and as he walked out of the boys’ bathroom, he found the note that must have come from the girls’ room. He read it, and he said it made him tear up, so he put it in his wallet because it was just what he needed that day. He carried it for a year and a half after—at least long enough to show me that he had it on that day. He said that he often took it out and looked at it to remind himself of his own worth. That touched me, and I will never forget that moment.
We tried the initiative again this year, and some of the kids in the school community were very negative about it. They didn’t like it. They felt that it was giving trophies out for participation. But there have been moments where I know that some other kids have gotten a note about something they needed to hear. This year, in fact, has been so much more valuable for the adults on this campus to read those notes. I took one out of the blue to our Disciplinarian, and it just happened that at that moment she was embroiled in a heated conversation with a student where neither was winning. She stopped what she was doing and said, “your timing is impeccable.” She glanced at the note, and looked at me, then, “Really.”
I just smiled and walked out, well, because I didn’t have to stay, but really, because that little tiny note that said, “You are good at what you do” reminded her that she had the strength to help this kid, and that this, whatever it was, could be resolved.
It is amazing what a tiny little note of good vibes can do for a person. It is so fascinating how just receiving a bright pink sticky with a sharpied note can change the current in the room. I love to watch the kids read them. I have one a student wrote for me on my bulletin board. Those little notes can really change a mood. They are not to be underestimated.
Years ago when I split up with that man that I was so in love with, Operation Beautiful came to me and helped me through it by helping others. It reduced my pain by forcing my attention onto other people. It worked to soothe student angst in even just one case, and that makes me feel like I did something great.
If you want to know more about Operation Beautiful, go to www.operationbeautiful.com and see the initiative itself. Take it to your place of work, or your apartment building, or to your favorite place to hang out. Don’t be wasteful, but be optimistic. It’s amazing what it does for the self when we give to others.
Coffee cups are a cool marker of time spent in the classroom. That's one of the favorite gifts of students to a teacher. That and chocolate, which I can't complain about.
But I have a couple of coffee cups (and a coffee maker) that I especially treasure.
One was given to me by a little old Mexican immigrant woman who ran a daycare out of her house. She was the sweetest little lady, and I made her cry. She gave me a coffee mug because it was Christmas and I had taught her to write a fluid essay using proper grammar. I say that actually, she just took the tools I gave her and she ran with it, but I'll take it.
She handed me the mug, told me how much I meant to her, and her tears began to flow. And so did mine. She only had one eye. Her hands were arthritic, and she was deeply and honestly compassionate. She was a woman I would have loved to have taking care of my son. I wonder often what she did with her education...where is she now? Does she still have her daycare, or has she moved on to other things?
I have the PEACE coffee cup given to me by the group of seniors who were so much fun. We had coffee club every day of winter, and it worked to get them focused. At least, it seemed to. It did get them off the energy drinks. One girl would polish off four Red Bulls before 1st period was even over. I threatened to call her mom if she didn't lay off the juice. She and Charles bought me the coffee maker to celebrate our morning of community.
I HAD one that said, "I have a black belt...and argyle socks" that the kids loved. That group was full of kids destined to be lawyers. The mug disappeared.
And then the one I bought the year I had seniors who made me dread my day. It says, "The answer: G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N" and the inside lip says, "How do you spell RELIEF?" I was not connected to that group. We made each others' lives miserable. They fought just as hard not to do the work as I fought to get them to do the work. I couldn't wait for May. I couldn't wait for January. January meant the spring would fly.
I have the white mug with the pink Oriental design that a student left behind, the yellow happy face another purposely left for me, and the brown and pink ceramic mug given to me by a graduate as her graduation present to me.
And I have the travel mug with the pictures of two girls who were best friends all along the way. I let them use my computer their junior year and was treated to a lovely image of the two as my screensaver. And then they carried that over their senior year when I didn't have them in class. At the semester break, they came back with a present for me. A travel mug with images of the two of them from their freshman year through. They even added a sticker that said, "Laugh until the mascara runs" which made me laugh and became a unique inside joke for the three of us.
All of them have meaning, and all of them are lovely, each in their own way. Or silly, or serious, or large, or small...much like each of my students. They all have their own personalities, and when I leave this classroom for the last time, I ponder whether the coffee mugs will go, or whether they will stay. Like my students, some go, some stick around to make sure I know they care.
Student Council was always something I enjoyed in both High School and in College. It allowed me the opportunity to be involved, to meet new people, and to get good seats at all of the great events. In College, I traveled to several different states and even to Canada for conferences, and I was able to hold a National office, which was pretty impressive for a little girl from NY/NM. I loved it.
Now, I sponsor a Student Council, and it is hard work. Rewarding, to be sure, and I have incredible officers who make my job a little easier, but it is hard work.
Recently we went to a conference in Las Cruces, and watching those kids work through the challenges of a new experience, along with facing down their own insecurities and learning new things about themselves was probably the most rewarding part of all of it. I also learned that by Day 2, I'm pretty exhausted and if you aren't going to feed me, I turn into a gigantic jerk. I mean, I guess we already kind of knew that anyway.
The kids were wonderful. We didn't win any competitions, but the overwhelming response from my little delegation was excitement at the energy and spirit of community and the desire to bring a little piece of that home. I can't wait to see what they do with it.
Wait, wait, wait…before you close this page, never to open it again because you think I’m one of those crazy “if you can’t do, teach” kind of people, hear me out.
What I mean, is that when I teach, I am so busy planning, creating, assessing, cajoling, consoling, observing, redirecting, focusing and all the other -ing words you can think of, I have no time to think about the things that bother me. I can direct all of my energy completely and wholeheartedly into a bunch of people who may or may not want to hear me, but who will benefit from me. And it’s liberating to do it.
Last year around this time, I was having a miserable day—you know the kind—mid-February blahs, kids fighting about who gets to say which line of the play we were reading, other kids swearing and drawing on the tables, basketball games canceled, six kids directing me in six directions all at the same time and one of them my son…and then I sat down and spoke to one student all by himself. I looked him in the eye and talked about the lesson we were working on.
And he stopped me and said, “you love to teach, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I can see it. One minute your fangs were showing and the next minute, you’re teaching me something and it’s like you’re a different person.”
“Oh. Well, thank you.”
Today, it was my third period losing their MINDS after lunch. I'm not sure what they ate, or what they did, or why they were so nuts, but I could not corral them to get them to think about poetry. THEN, I couldn't spell "unmistakable." I tried it "unmistakeable." They teased me mercilessly. Mind you, these are the kids I had to add a bonus 5 points to get them to spell things correctly on a quiz...
One kid tried to make it better by reminding me, "well, they both have a mistake in them..." And another smirked as he said, "it should have 's-t-e-a-k' in it." You gotta love 'em.
So, I do love to teach. It’s in my blood. It's hard to step away from it, for sure. The kids make it worth it. They are the ones who make it something I enjoy--even when I'm directing traffic and herding cats. Thanks kids.
Wanted: a good set of sentences to grab you from the depths of the internet. I keep trying to catch your eye.