Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was finally able to post some more novel stuff today. Even better, my husband and I have a contract for a house where we're moving--a HUGE step completed, right in time for Thanksgiving. We've spent the last week touring every house within a ten-mile radius, but our search appears to be over, to the joy of all parties concerned.

Funny, this whole house buying thing. It's one of those few events that make everybody happy. We're happy to be getting this fantastic house to move into down in Georgia, the previous owners are happy to finally have only one mortgage (finally!), and the realtor(s) rejoice to have some income. Our realtor happens to have 3-year-old triplets, so helping support a family makes me even happier.

I'm still sick--my husband and I are taking turns going through tissue boxes--but today's a good day. We're finally getting things done, making friends, and putting all of the pieces together for our move. I'm supposedly on target to finish the novel two days before Christmas (nearly a month late, yes), but at this point, I'm okay with that. I've got a lot to be thankful for this year.

My kids were caught in the snow storms up in the Northeast, but they did so in quite an exciting way. They were out on their grandmother's fiance's boat, already having the time of their lives motoring around on Puget Sound, when the snow began. While all of the adults frantically ran around scraping snow off the windows so they could navigate back to the dock in the blizzard, my kids raptured over the snow, relishing two great adventures all at once.

My kids have it right. Life isn't always a pain. In fact, at least in my experience, it's usually more of a grand adventure. I'm hoping that all of you in the U.S. have a great Thanksgiving holiday (and the rest of you have a great Thursday), and if you've had enough adventure so far, here's to hoping the rest of your year is calm and relaxing.

And now, I need to get back to my novel. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Falling Behind, Getting Ahead

I'm leaving my calendar up (on the right, in case the red dots lining across this week haven't already caught your attention), even though its colors are rather depressing.

I was surviving through NaNoWriMo. But then I had papers. And more papers, and I was flying out of town on Wednesday, so I needed to get all of those papers back. And pack. And make lists of houses to see in Georgia. And set up appointments for dentists and doctors and optometrists right after Thanksgiving so the kids were all set before we moved.

And I got a cold. (Of COURSE I got a cold! How could I possibly NOT get a cold? I've hardly slept since the semester began.)

But now I'm sitting in my hotel room, with nothing to do except write (and cough and sniffle). And I visit my NaNoWriMo page, knowing it's bad, knowing I haven't written in several days, and I was already behind.

Only it's worse. I'm behind by more that 11,000 words, and at this rate, the stats tell me, I'll finish on December 17. Yikes!

Now what do I do? Give up? Go down to the lobby and eat a bunch of free cookies? Walk out to the highway and get myself hit by a trucker? Go over to the Wal-Mart and apply to be a people greeter, since my writing career is obviously not going to happen?

Nope. I'm going to write. Deadlines, schmeadlines, I've got to write. And write and write and write. Not to keep the red from showing up, but because I'm a writer. Yup, I'm not a people greeter, I'm a writer. And writer's write.

See you December 17! (Just kidding. I'm sure I'll be done by the 15th at least!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Day at a Time

As you can probably see from my calendar to the right, my NaNoWriMo effort has not been perfect so far. Some days it feels like I can barely get out 600 words, especially between all the other stuff going on in my life.

But I am actually meeting my goal: to write every day. Even if it means my eyes are crossing and I go to bed later than I would like, I write. I'm making it a habit, and I'm making time for it no matter what.

It's also helping me in other ways, especially in relieving stress. In the last few days I've had all sorts of things going on, some bad, some good--but all stressful.

For one thing, I had to rush my son in to the emergency room Sunday night. He couldn't breathe very well, and it turns out he has allergy-induced asthma. By the time he saw a doctor (which was actually pretty quick--way to go, ER!) his lungs were audibly squeaking. Now he is doing much better, and I know that the coughs he'd been having over the past year were actually less severe asthma attacks (nothing like guilt to add to my stress level). For a few years, at least, he will need to keep an inhaler handy, although one doctor said he could eventually grow out of it.

Better--though still stressful--news is that my husband, just this morning, signed on to be the president of a college down South. And that means we're MOVING... by JANUARY! Wow! Fantastic news, but for the next two months I'll be in a maelstrom of activity, packing, planning, and moving--and smiling, of course!

And in the meantime, while my kids and my classes are turning me in all sorts of directions, I'll also be writing. Every day. Without fail. No matter what.

At least something in my life needs to be predictable.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Favorite Day

I bet y'all thought today must be my birthday! You know it isn't Christmas, nor is it (American) Thanksgiving. No gifts will be exchanged, no parties planned, no cakes made (thank goodness!).

No, it's just my favorite day in the world, the one day of the year I get an extra hour to work on stuff. I've said about a million times before (on this very blog) that I wish I had a Timeturner (and if you don't know what that is, you need to read the Harry Potter books--or at least the third one). This is the one day when time is turned back for me.

Sure, it's only one hour. But that hour is one of the most precious things I have to use, and I have so much I can do with that one hour:

1. Read more to my kids.
2. Give them their piano lessons this week (unlike last week).
3. Go to zumba.
4. Write my day's installment of my NaNo novel.
5. Assess the 101 essays (okay, this will likely take two hours--but I can get half of it done).
6. Revise 3-4 pages of my Thomas novel.
7. Make and enjoy a gourmet, made-from-scratch dinner or cheesecake.
8. Cut out a dress or blouse to sew.
9. Finish reading The City of Ember.
10. Go through my daughter's clothing (or son's clothing, or my own clothing).

I have a much longer list of possibilities, but these are the most likely. What will you do with this blessed extra hour? Sleep? Whine? Watch the boob tube? Don't do that! Make the hour count for something!

Now I'm all done bossing. I don't want to waste anymore time, for that extra hour is awaiting me, needing all my energy and drive. Make your own hour count! I know I will!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Little Update

I didn't make my word count yesterday, though I did manage enough to change the day from red to yellow (you can see it in the calendar today). I'm pretty happy, still, for I wrote until my eyes were crossing last night, just to get something in, and I'm in a pretty exciting place in the novel--not sure which way it's going to go.

Unfortunately, given my tendency to be plot driven, I'm going to spend the next few days mapping out an outline of sorts, just to make sure I know the overall sweep of the novel I'm trying to write in a month. I hate it when nothing happens, when characters sit around and talk (or in my case, since it's about a mermaid, swim around and talk), so I have some planning to do.

I wish you luck on all that you are working on. Use your weekend wisely! (I intend to.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's Your Motivation?

Sure, my title is an acting question--I remember the times in college, when even actors with no lines had to figure out their motivation as we worked on a play. The truth is, though, we are all motivated differently, and my students show varied kinds of motivations, some of which I share.

Now, I do have a few students who lack motivation. I'll admit that right off. I just don't see these students very often, since they aren't motivated enough to come to class (or even motivated enough to drop the class so that they don't fail it). All the rest of my students are inspired by some form of motivation:

1. Judgment

This particular motivator is people-centered. Either students go to class because they know their mom will wonder why they are at home when class is happening (and they don't want to upset her) or they want to get good grades so the parents (or girlfriend, etc.) are proud (instead of disappointed), or they may even fear what their teacher thinks of them. I was a member of the latter, although I do understand that what a stranger thinks shouldn't really matter. The point is that these people are working hard, not because they really think it's important, but because other people do, and they want to be judged favorably by those people.

2. Competition

I can't say this is a motivating factor for me--the Navajo blood in me is too strong--but it certainly is for my students. Some of them want to know what everybody else's grade is--tests, quizzes, papers, everything. Envy is the name of the game here. These students might not care that much about what grade they receive, as long as it's the best grade I dish out. However, since I dislike this particular tendency, I never tell them anything. (Other students' grades are none of their damn business.)

3. Grade

For these students, the grade is a sign of whether or not they will make it to heaven. An "A" is average for these people (although a "C" is supposed to be the average), and anything less means they failed. Call them overachievers--I know I do--or perfectionists--I call them that, too--but they are also very hard workers, for they aren't competing against other students in class but against the perfection they imagine themselves capable of. The only problem with this motivation is that it causes students unnecessary stress, and it's stress on the GRADE, not on the LEARNING. Which leads to the (next to) last motivation.

4. Desire to Learn

This is my favorite, but it's not that common. Most students are in my classes because they have to be. They need so many English credits to get an associates or earn their certificate in welding, so they enroll because they have to. But the rare student comes in, takes a course, and then returns for another one which he doesn't need, just because the course will teach him something. I knew a class once--taught by an adjunct instructor--that was told three weeks before the end of the class that, to give them a break, the teacher was canceling the last few weeks and dropping the final research project. They walked, en masse, straight out of her classroom and to the Dean's office to report her. They were furious that she had robbed them of three weeks of learning. Such an event is rare, yet I do see small signs of this nearly every day, when students express frustration that they get a good grade in some class yet feel like the course itself didn't cover anything important. One student recently commented on a religion course, saying, "You know, I took the class because I wanted to learn about different religions--because it interested me--and I haven't learned anything. It's a complete waste of time."

Now I'm looking over at my little NaNoWriMo calendar, and I am glad I posted in my sidebar. I was unable to write on the novel until late last night, but seeing a red mark on day three was highly motivating. Is it because that calendar is public, and all of you might see it? Nope. Is it because my mom might check out the page? Nope. Am I competing with another NoWri? Nope. Is there a grade involved? Nope.

My drive comes from another source, one I haven't discussed, but one that drives nearly all of us, except for those rare students who never show up for class. It isn't what others think of us, but what we think of ourselves that matters most. I don't want to see my calendar filled with red marks. I care about what I think. That is my ultimate motivation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Those of you who have been regular visitors to my blog already know my son has issues.

(Isn't it weird that so many of us have "issues"? I think it's weird. Maybe I'm just weird. Or maybe I have issues.)

Anyway, today he came home with his first "PRIDE Slip," which pretty much means he was a creep-o in class today and upset a whole lot of kids. Said mean things, didn't pay attention, cut up in P.E., and the list goes on. Fortunately, the slip only gives three lines of explanation, so the teacher doesn't have to spend the whole afternoon writing it out.

My son and I have a talk, and we establish both what he did and what he should have done. And then I sign it. And he signs it. I even make him write out his last name, spelling it for him since he's in first grade (I told you he had issues).

Is he remorseful. Not really. More matter-of-fact that in the heat of the moment he made some stupid choices, and will try to do differently. But then he picks up the slip and--oh, the change in his demeanor!--his eyes widen with excitement, and then--

"Mom, my name! It's on the other sheet!" Yes, two pages are together, the bottom yellow form creating a lovely blue copy of the top white form.

I'd tell him what kind of paper it is, but I just don't know. It's that paper-that-when-written-on-gets-those-copied-blue-line-things-on-it.

"How does it do that?" he asks me.

Now, I can explain that... so I do... and, tickled, flapping the paper back and forth so that he can see over and over how well the yellow sheet has copied the white, he skips back to his room to put it lovingly into his backpack.

Yup, my son has issues.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My First Time

I don't have the time...

I am too stressed from this limbo land of my husband landing his first huge job...

My kids demand too much of my energy in the afternoons...

I need a nap...

I have three mounds of papers to grade by tomorrow...

I haven't eaten dinner...

My daughter's fundraiser needs a cake made...

My back is hurting...

I haven't watched Glee in three weeks...

I'd really rather eat some of the Halloween candy...

But I haven't finished my Thomas novel revision yet...

My classes are really heating up, and class doesn't end until December 8!

Whew! I'm glad that's over! I got all my excuses out (for now), leaving me ready and willing to take on this year's NaNoWriMo! Hurray for me! Hurray for everyone else taking the plunge, too, pledging to write 50,000 words by November 30!

I thought I would just work on my Thomas novel, missing my opportunity to participate in the National Novel Writing Month yet again. But I've decided against that. I'll work on the Thomas novel in addition to my new one, and I'll make this November my most productive month yet. I've never felt so official in my life.

Anyone else taking the plunge?