Friday, May 28, 2010

Allow Me to Clarify

So I recently had a conversation that sort of upset me. It went something like this:

Friend: What are you doing home on a Saturday night?
Me: Excuse me? I am home every Saturday night. And Friday too, for that matter.
Friend: You're young! Go out. Live life. When did you become such an old man?
Me: Um, when I stopped getting a paycheck.
Friend: Oh come on - surely you can afford to splurge once in a while.
Me: I do. Once a week. It's called filling my gas tank.
Friend: Oh stop. Can't be that bad. Don't you have savings?

You get the point...

As a result of this conversation, I realized some people just don't get it. This is by no means an insult to my friend; however, unless you are truly in it, you don't understand.

So, allow me to share what unemployment means for me:
1. Living at home (yes, I admit it)
2. Selling my car
3. No health/dental insurance
4. Not taking medication I am supposed to be taking
5. Canceling my personal trainer
6. Telling people no when I'm invited out
7. Taking detours to avoid paying tolls
8. Selling anything I can on, even if it is something I still want
9. Borrowing and borrowing and borrowing money from relatives
10. Cutting my own hair (hence the buzz cut)
11. Refilling the same Deer Park bottle each day before working out - (Yes, I kept my gym membership. I have to do SOMETHING)
12. Waiting to get my CVS coupons before buying any of the necessities
13. Using my credit card to accumulate points that I can redeem for gift cards
14. Wearing clothes/shoes that have seen better days
15. Not spending money on "frills." This includes, but is not limited to, going to the movies, vacationing, eating out, concerts, going to bars (unless it happens to be dollar night, and then maybe I'll consider making an exception), etc.

And you know what? I'm not complaining. Really. I have gotten used to it. I have come to accept the way things are and make the best of the situation. I'm provided with plenty of writing time to work on my book, and that my friends, is free. No, it isn't ideal, but this situation is currently beyond my control. I don't ask for sympathy; I don't ask for handouts. I just ask for a little understanding. Hopefully things will turn around one day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

See It. Hear It. STOP IT.

Given the nature of the book I am writing, I have read a lot of depressing research the past few months. And even after reading so many real accolades, it never gets easier to comprehend.

About a month ago, I stumbled upon the story of Alex Harrison. It was a story I hadn't heard of, and yet somehow, this one managed to strike an even deeper chord than some of the others I've reviewed.

After learning an entire organization had been developed to share Alex's story and advocate for an anti-bullying society, I started looking for ways to get involved. Having extra time on my hands these days, it is very rewarding to be able to get involved with something I support so passionately.

I began corresponding with a very nice woman who knew Alex personally. The other day, I received a package of bracelets from her with the campaign's logo. This morning, I worked on preparing a little blurb to attach to the bracelets and started distributing them to my co-workers. I am thrilled with how supportive everyone has been.

Furthermore, since putting mine on my wrist earlier today, I have been unexpectedly surpised by the number of people asking what the bracelet represents. And even better, after I tell them, they ask how they can get one. I'm feeling very hopeful at the moment that better days are coming. That schools will one day be safe - physically AND emotionally - for all kids attending. And that with the efforts of many, these types of tragedies will no longer occur. As educators, I think that is all we can ask for.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Inspiration is Everywhere

Every author has designed a customized writing process that works for them. For me, I always begin a writing session, regardless of how long I plan to work, by acquiring a bit of inspiration. I rely on the books I am reading, movies I've watched, songs on the radio - pretty much anything I can look at for about fifteen minutes that will get me pumped and put me get "in the zone."

This week, I found two video clips that really motivated me. I love the concept of unknown people who wake up one day and get to live their dream. That is why I am such a fan of shows like Idol - because essentially, those contestants are just regular people who have received their first opportunity. I love watching their journey and thinking one day, it could happen to me. It helps me remain hopeful that eventually, I will see my name printed on the cover of a novel.

Please check out the two videos below. I don't think it is possible to argue the amount of talent each of these individuals possess. All things aside, these performances are incredible!

Weekly Goals:
1. Finalize chapters 4 and 5 (almost there....just a bit more sculpting....)
2. Still need to wash that car....
3. 5 hardcore gym workouts (did 4 this past week - not too shabby)
4. Do some personal reading (Didn't do much this past week - not enough hours in the day)
5. Go for a run, especially now that the weather is nice!
6. 10 new facebook friends

Teaching Resource of the Week:

Persuasion Map: Online, interactive graphic organizer. Kids can use this tool to map out an argument in preparation for a persuasive essay. Their thoughts are automatically organized and they can print it out. The only downfall is their work cannot be saved, so it is important they finish and print before exiting the site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Up We Go, Down We Go

So I have to admit, I have been consistently watching American Idol this season. Part of it is boredom; the other part is that I do like the concept. The idea that regular unknown people can achieve overnight success is motivating. I wish someone would develop a reality show for writer's, though I can see how that would be difficult to pull off. I'm thinking episodes where people sit at computers and type away might not be that engaging.

Anyway, the season has been okay, but not my favorite. I've been waiting for that one performance that really gets me - one that inspires me and lifts my spirits. Lee's rendition of The Boxer was my favorite, but Tuesday night, that changed. Finally I got what I was waiting for:

In other news, this week has been very challenging emotionally. On a positive note, I've gotten in touch with a lot of people I'm close with but don't always get to speak to often - friends, former co-workers, and even former students. It's always a treat when people unexpectedly e-mail or call.

Unfortunately, this week also delivered what seemed like an abundance of sad news. I'm fine; it doesn't have a direct correlation to me. However, two different people I know from my past unfortunately passed away. And no matter how connected or disconnected you may be to a person, it is never easy to hear. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with their families. And on top of all that, I spent a lot of time working on the bullying pages of my site, which never puts me in a good mood.

With everything going on, I have clearly been distracted and my novel hasn't been touched since last weekend. I'm hoping to return to it at some point tomorrow. I definitely have to make up for lost time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A New Adventure

First, allow me to wish all the mom's (especially my own) a Happy Mother's Day! This morning I joined my parent's for the annual 5K Walk in their development to support breast cancer. The turnout was fantastic, though I think we were all disappointed the weather was so cold. Last week it was in the 90's; this morning, everyone was bundled in hoodies and coats. But I suppose the buffet of coffee and breakfast treats makes up for it.

It was only my second year walking with them, but I was really looking forward to the event. Besides promoting a worthy cause, it's one of the few times I see my neighbors during the year. It really reminds me how quickly time goes when you learn the kids you once babysat for now have a driver's license.

Second, I am officially welcoming myself into the blogging community. I must admit, it has been overwhelming trying to get this thing launched and looking somewhat decent. I'm still trying to learn the ropes. I consider my current site a work in progress.

So why did I do it? Simple. My dream is to break into the writing industry someday, and this seems like a step in the right direction. It's cool; I can express my ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc., interact with people all over the globe, and (hopefully) use it one day to promote my work. And since I have a lot of time on my hands these days, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to write a book. Writing is the only area I excelled in consistently. If I have the ability to do anything on a larger platform, this is the field it will be in.

My background: I am a certified history and English teacher and spent over two years teaching social studies in one of the best environments one could ask for. I loved every minute and truly wanted to stay forever. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. I was only filling in for a woman on maternity leave, and when she returned to work, I didn't. There's a lot more to the story, but let's just leave it at that. I'm trying this new thing where I don't spend my days filled with anger, hatred, and resentment.

Since then, the job search has yielded no prospects in my direction, but definitely plenty of heartache and depression.  Rather than do nothing but sob around and eat all day, and believe me - I have far too often, I decided to start using my time productively. In late August, I decided the time had come to start writing that book. And I did. I sat at the computer, started typing, and haven't stopped since. The rest is history.

I write every day. Some days are productive; others are painful. But I try to make some sort of daily progress, even if only a sentence gets typed. I've become addicted. I think about this book constantly. It keeps me up at night. It follows me wherever I go. No matter how hard I try to relax at times, I can't put it out of my mind. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have no idea what will happen, but the dream is to obviously one day see it published. Currently, I'd say I'm about 75% through my first draft. The book is targeted for young adults, though I do feel teachers, parents, and even adults can benefit from the message. I have assembled a wonderful team of pre-editors from all different walks of life. They provide thoughtful criticism that keeps me on my toes. I look forward to their feedback - it's truly motivating. And it has taken a long time to reach this realization, but I truly hope the Dalai Lama quote above will one day ring true. If I had gotten what I wanted, I never would have started writing; it would have remained a dream. If this works out, it truly would have been a wonderful stroke of luck.

I probably will not share much about the novel itself. For one, it is constantly changing. It has been such an experience to watch it evolve from my original starting point (which is no longer the starting point - actually, it is no longer in the book.) Second, I believe in my story. It is relevant to my field, timely, and topical. But it is also edgy and controversial - "heavy duty" as one woman told me this morning. Wouldn't have it any other way.