Thursday, December 9, 2010

Computer Crisis (Again)

Some of you may recall a few months ago when my laptop bit the dust and I had to go on a brief hiatus. Well, the replacement computer which someone gave now no longer working. Very frustrating. Anyway, I do not know when I will update again. Hopefully in a few weeks we will get a new computer.

Thanks- Sandy

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another attempted suicide.

Is there a limit to the amount of sadness a school can absorb? We had another attempted suicide last night. Thank God she didn't succeed. They found her in time and she is in the hospital right now, recuperating. The first two students succeeded. That makes three attempts in the past 1 1/2 months. It's unreal. Everybody is kind of freaking out, including me. I have always heard that these things come in threes. Dear God, let this be the last.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

His Final Gift

Yesterday, I had two real-live, non-family people who actually know me face-to-face tell me they have read this blog and like it! That made my day. So, thank you Denise (one of my favorite students ever) and Brandon (local photographer for the Kern Valley Sun!

Also, I found $10 and .10 on the ground. That was also very nice.

As you know, I have been coping with the death of my grandfather this year. Writing poetry helps immeasurably. This is one of the more uplifting poems I have written about his death.

112. Final Gift. 11/7/10- 7 months after he died.

When your body shriveled into grasshopper legs and gaunt face-

When your mind wandered to places none of us could follow-

You were reduced to the core of what makes up a man.

You never complained, even when dying hurt.

You did not lash out, you did not whimper.

You died the way you had lived-

Quietly, with strength, and forbearance.

You who had already given me so much love, such a powerful past-

You gave me one last blessing, one final gift, grandfather,

You taught me how to die.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Mystery Cat

A few months ago, I told you all the story of Sippy, the tiny black kitten in our SIPS Panels. Sippy was around 3 or 4 weeks old when we found him, and he had been living in our construction materials, where it stays relatively warm. Unfortunately, there is very little to eat over there, and so Sippy was quickly starving to death. He cried piteously until we captured and fed him. We soon discovered that he was very personable and, once we put some weight on him, a cat with a very nice personality. Within a week, we found a forever home for him with a fellow animal lover, Nancy.

Well, some of the SIPS panels are still out there, and they are still a deliciously warm haven for cats in the middle of this cold spell. For the past few days, a new mystery cat has appeared in the panels. She (I think) stayed mainly in the panels, frightened of people, but occasionally we caught a little vision or her tail or face.

This morning, her hunger and loneliness drove her right to the steps of our trailer. She cried and cried and cried. I left the door ajar and a bowl of tuna and turkey directly inside and pretended that she wasn't there. After a few moments, she wandered in and, much to the dismay of my other cats, began to eat hungrily. She let me pet her and even purred a lot and rubbed her face against me. Currently, she is looking for other food in the trailer. She must be ravenous.

I am not sure what will happen now. I will try to find a way to slip her some food every day. I don't know how my in-laws will feel about the new cat, but a big part of me says, "I am NOT a person who lets animals go hungry on my doorstep- no matter what you say."

Other concerns: If she's a girl, which I think she is, but I could be wrong- she is about 8 months old. If she's been on the streets a little while already, she could be pregnant. The idea of helping her and dealing with kittens is a bit daunting for me. If we decide to make her a pet, then we will have to get her fixed.

Oh well, all these problems will sort themselves out. For now, I am just happy that she is fed and warm at the moment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Proudly Accepted by the Kern Valley Sun

I just had an article published in the Kern Valley Sun. It's not anything particularly exciting, but it is nice to get paid for writing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grateful for Grief

At a Thanksgiving Service last night, I thought back on this year, with all its ups and downs and asked myself, “What am I most thankful for?” I surprised myself with my response.

2010 was in many ways a successful year for me and my husband. We put up the walls and roof of our new house this year. We paid off thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt, and put ourselves in position to get all our loans paid off in six months. I directed my first musical with high schoolers and followed the Lord in leading my church on the first mission trip this church family has ever taken. The children’s ministries we’ve been working on for the past five years are finally growing, and I’ve continued to meet and befriend many interesting and even influential people in our community. Grant and Meghan moved up here this year to begin their ministry at Kernville Baptist Church and we’ve greatly enjoyed them. Anthony and I are both well-respected in our careers and it seems like everything we’ve tried our hands at this year has turned out well.

We’ve had many successes this year- but for me, it’s been a year of deep heartache. During the spring, my grandfather’s already weak condition suddenly became worse and he was put on Hospice. For six agonizing weeks, I watched him shrink as he became weaker and weaker. I watched his pain and discomfort. I watched as he struggled to maintain his dignity and composure through all the changes. And I watched as he took his last breath.

I also watched my mother and grandmother struggle to make the best choices in the midst of their deep pain. I watched them grapple with guilt, uncertainty, and hysteria. For the first time, I confronted a hard reality: everyone I know and love will someday die. In the next forty years, I will experience the death of both of my grandmothers and both my parents. For the first time, when I think about the future, I realize that Death is going to be a large part of it.

It makes me angry to watch the pillars of strength that I have leaned on crumble and fade. I want to freeze this moment in time and grasp my family and order them- “Stop getting old! Stop getting sick! You can’t leave me. I still need you.” It feels like trying to hold onto water.

Two students from my high school committed suicide this November. It ripped open the scabs from my grandfather’s death, just when time had been dulling the pain. Both students killed themselves over grief of one kind or another, and it made me realize that basically, all humans have three choices when it comes to dealing with grief.

We can choose, as they chose, to quit this life. We can choose a living death- where we let the bitterness overcome our joy, and close our hearts to keep ourselves from what we perceive to be more pain than we can bear. Or, finally, and this requires the most courage- we can embrace our grief, pray that our hearts will remain open, refuse to take the coward’s way out, and grow stronger and wiser for it.

So this year, I am thankful for my grandfather and his death. I am thankful for the pain, and for the lessons it’s taught me. He did not complain while he was dying. He tried not to lash out at the people who loved him, though he was often uncomfortable. Above all, he acted as a Christian gentleman should act. When his caregivers and nurses found out that he died- they cried with us, and I am grateful for that because it showed me that even at the end, he inspired love in the people that met him. I was privileged to watch the way that a truly great man dies.

Before this year, I had wondered if I would be strong enough to deal with Death when it finally came my way. Now I know that I will be. I will choose to walk bravely and love openly- and it will hurt a great deal. But there will be joy, too. And someday, when I am old and shrinking before my death, I pray that I will still have a core of strength, and above all, Love, just like my grandfather.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Desert

We wander side by side

Trudging through the sand

There are no monsters to slay out here.

There is no treasure to find.

The only food and water we have is what carry on our backs.

There was a time before the desert

When our quest was exciting and new

When we slept under green trees and bright stars

When we fought small battles and won.

Now it seems as if that time never existed.

All there is is sand and sun.

Our horses ran away a long time ago.

All we do is step, step, and step forward.

Every step is a step closer to the end of our desert.

Sometimes I forget just what it is we are questing for.

My legs ache.

My eyes are gritty with sand and tears.

I cannot help but think about what home used to be.

Sometimes we talk.

Mostly, we just trudge.

When we leave the desert,

There will be more monsters to fight.

There will be new aches and pains

But nothing will be as difficult as getting through this damn desert.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

more death

We had another student commit suicide from my school. Two in one month? It seems like too much to bear- and yet, here we are- bearing it- because there is simply no other choice. I am mad, sad, and confused. Sometimes I forget how fragile my students are. Jesus, how do I help these babies you've put in my care? I don't understand this world.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things I Wish I'd Learned in School.

I have a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Drama and a Major in English. I have an English-teaching Clear credential. I have been teaching now for five years. I did a lot of studying in school and worked as hard as I could...but I still don't know the really important things I need to know to be a successful teacher.

Here are some classes I wish I had taken.

1. Fundraising 101, 202, and 303.
This series of classes would cover how to succesfully run an effective, lucrative fundraiser without stepping on any other club's territory at an already fundraiser-saturated, state-controlled school.

2. Cardboard 235
This class would cover how to make stuff out of refrigerator boxes, like set pieces, props, book-shelves, etc. It would also cover basic tool usage, such as box cutters, packing tape, spray paint, and electric drills.

3. Motivation 504

This class would teach you how to get 100 surly high school students to not only WANT to work hard on a project, but also how to make them actually capable of doing it well, and how to make it all seem really, really FUN.

4. School Politics 855
This advanced class would teach you how to identify the powerful people (not always administrators- sometimes they're teachers) at your school who are capable of getting you fired or possibly making your life miserable. The class would teach you how to both avoid and suck-up to them. It would also go over the basics of What To Do When Someone is Bad-Mouthing your Administrators, and What To Do when Some Other Teacher Tells you How Great their Kids and Their Program are When you Hate yours.

5. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 205
This would be the last class in your degree program. It would basically consist of teaching you pre-designed scripts to help make your teaching life bearable. The students in this class would regularly repeat phrases such as,

a. "We'll do our best, but remember, it's only a _____________ (insert whatever extracurricular program is making you crazy here)."

For example, "It's only a yearbook." "It's only a club." "It's only a school play." "It's only my career." "They're only high school students."

b. "Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life. Teaching is not my life."

c. "I will go home before 6:00 tonight."

d. and finally, "This too shall pass. But my students probably won't."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trailer Love Poetry

Voluntary poverty is a great way to get ahead financially. Basically, the idea is that you and your household purposefully limit the amount of income you live on and save the rest. This works extremely well when you're trying to get out debt, save for a large purchase, or accumulate wealth. The idea is not to try to make more money- try to spend less.

My husband and I have been living in voluntary poverty for the past few years. We tithe 10% of our income, live on 30%, pay off debt with 20%, and save for our house with 40%.

Most of the time, it's really exciting and fun to see the progress we've made in building our house (sans building loan or mortgage), and paying off debt (the students loans will be gone by next August!) Sometimes, though, it really bites.

Trailer Love

I can feel the ball of my shoe wearing thin.

I thought that when I married you,

My handsome young husband,

That we’d arrived.

I thought I’d have new shoes from then on,

New shoes, nice bras, nice haircut.

But instead, here I am with tired shoes

In a tin-can trailer where the oven won’t work,

We use a fax machine as a telephone,

Do laundry at your mother’s house,

Have no space to entertain guests,

And wear hand-me-down clothes.

As you remind me- most of these things were my idea.

You know what I’ve learned?

Worn-out-shoes don’t matter

As long as I fall asleep next to you every night.

My haircut isn’t important

as long as we treat one another with kindness.

Our trailer is like a palace

And my shoes feel just fine

As long as we love each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Yearbook Blues/ Jill-of-all-Trades

It's been a while since my last post. Any yearbook advisors out there? Maybe you can feel my pain. I am a first year yearbook advisor. We have a huge deadline coming up and I've been pulling my hair out. I have been eating, sleeping, and drinking yearbook. In two weeks we have to submit 40 pages. I have personally completed about 12 pages. The other 28 pages are the students' responsibility and they are in various states of incompleteness.

Is it poor teaching to create so many of the pages myself? Definitely. Do I know how to get the kids to do it? Nope. How can I teach them something I have no idea how to do myself? Plus, 20 kids are sharing 5 computers and one camera.

Anyway, here is how I have been feeling about myself and my hyperactive hobbies lately.

Jill of All Trades.
I am Carol Ann’s daughter,

A sub-par potter.

I’m a slow-jogging-runner

And a never-would’ve been swimmer.

I’m a don’t-like-to-fighter,

And an undeveloped writer.

The child of a preacher,

I’m a tough-as-nails teacher.

I’m a going-nowhere-actor,

And an adequate director.

I’m a Jill-of-all-trades,

Mistress of none,

Lucky for me,

I never quit when I’m down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Nest Poem

110.Our Nest

In our nest- it’s safe and warm and dry.

Outside, it’s cold and rainy grey.

Stay with me, my love.

Don’t walk out that door to face the world.

I’ll find a way to stay- if you will.

Here, there is no one who can hurt you. Or me.

Safe and dry and warm and sleepy- Let’s stay this way.

Don’t leave to fight those dragons.

They’ll wait- believe me.

They’ll still be there tomorrow.

But for today- let’s stay here.

Safe in our nest where no one can hurt us.

Photo Link

The picture at the top of the page is actually a really neat piece of installation art by artist Nils-Udo during the 1970's.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Life and Death

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.

The sun for sorrow will not show his head.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned, and some punished.

-The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare.

I do not think I will teach Romeo and Juliet to my students this year.

Last night we got word that one of the students at my school committed suicide. She was a senior. I'd never taught her, but I'd seen her around. She was very involved in ASB and part of a fun group of friends. Her boyfriend, a boy who'd graduated a few years ago, had been deployed and, for some reason, broke up with her recently.

She didn't come to school yesterday, and when her parents came home in the late afternoon, they found her.

My students are in deep shock and mourning.

I found out about it last night-after my husband and I had gone out to celebrate the new baby my brother and his wife are having.

It will be the first baby on our side of the family- My parents will be grandparents!

These two things so close life...premature death...

We live in a strange, confusing world.

I sure hope Jesus can make sense of it all- because I sure can't.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

108. San Francisco

After a vast, lifeless desert

I find myself sitting in a green park in Washington Square

Listening to an Italian accordion

A friendly aging dog waddles past

With a stiff labored gait

I read some beat poetry

Glorious in its required tired anti-establishment vibe

Venerable Asians sit stretch Tai Chi

A tour bus drives by

I am desperately grateful to find an oasis in my pen

After passing through the wasteland

Friday, October 15, 2010

Proudly Accepted by the Kern Valley Sun

The Kern Valley Sun ran my article about Cheesy Bowls this week! I haven't gotten any feedback from readers yet, but I hope to soon. I promised I would post it after the Kern Valley Sun had used it, so here it is. Consider it a spoof on recipe blogs, such as my sister-in-law's excellent food blog, "Green Megs and Ham." Unlike the recipe below, you might actually want to try one of hers at home.

How to Make a Cheesy Bowl in the Trailer.

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Nutritional info: Figure it out yourself.

1. Come home from work at 6PM and notice that there is no food in your tiny pantry except for a half used jar of spaghetti sauce, some cheese, a can of beans, and a stack of corn tortillas.

2. Look in the sink full of dirty dishes for the two bowls you own. Evaluate whether they actually need to be washed. For example, if you ate something reddish last night, like spaghetti sauce, or watermelon, or sherbet, you might not actually need to wash the bowls. Give them a cursory rinse if you’re not sure. (The same rule applies when looking for spoons or other cutlery).

3. Heat the spaghetti sauce, and the beans, and throw in any spices you may have on hand. (I prefer cumin, but feel free to be creative! Cinnamon, perhaps?)

4. Layer a corn tortilla on the bottom of the bowl, and cover it with a hefty layer of cheese. Pour the beanie-spaghetti sauce into the bowl. Layer with more cheese, cover with another corn tortilla and complete the bowl with yet more cheese. (Most things can be substituted in this recipe; the cheese cannot. If you don’t have any cheese, it may be time to resort to the true last-ditch meal: peanut butter and honey on a corn tortilla. It’s a little chewy, but definitely edible).

5. Next, turn off all the lights, fans, and air conditioning or heating in the trailer so that you don’t overload the electrical system. If it’s winter, put on a jacket, because the trailer will soon turn into a walk-in-freezer. If it’s summer, take off as many clothes as you can (while still protecting yourself from the upcoming molten cheese) because the trailer will soon resemble a giant metal oven.

6. Put each bowl in the microwave and zap it for 2 minutes. More if the tortillas were still frozen when you put the bowl together and you were too lazy to defrost them.

7. When you remove the bowl, watch out for super-hot cheese! It can burn you, and this will create more work for you.

8. Repeat the micro-waving process with a second cheesy bowl. After it is done, you will need to scrape off the inside of the microwave because the beanie-spaghetti sauce may explode a little bit while cooking.

9. Turn the heater or cooler back on. Enjoy eating your cheesy bowl on the tiny table in your trailer.

10. If you have any beanie-spaghetti sauce left over, save it for the next time you’re desperate for food.

11. Lastly, try to get someone else to do the dishes. After all, you did just slave all day in front of the stove.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things You May not Know about Me

You may not know this about me- but over the past few years, I have become a tightwad. Yes, I am a plastic-bag washing, thrift-store shopping, aluminum-foil-hoarding, toilet-paper-roll-crushing cheapskate.

I wasn’t always this way. Sure, I always had saving tendencies. I enjoyed saving money as a child, and was raised in a family where, though we always had plenty to eat, money was tight.

My father was a Southern Baptist minister and my mother stayed at home for most of my childhood. With three children, this put us at the poverty level for most of my childhood. But we didn’t need new clothes, lots of toys, or nice cars- we had a mom who stayed at home, and that mattered much more than anything money could buy.

Once we were old enough to go to high school, my mother started working full time and we almost forgot that there was time when we couldn’t buy new clothes or have a nice car. Through a combination of student loans, parent loans, scholarships, and working, I went to a private Christian college. Though most of the money I earned at my part-time job was spent on tuition or school-books, I received enough gifts at Christmas and birthdays to take care of my needs.

When I got married after college, I quickly got my teaching credential and began teaching high school. My husband had already been working as a Physical Therapist for a few years, so we found ourselves in the rare position of having two career-sized incomes and no children yet. Of course, we still had our massive student loan debt (he had also gone to a private Christian university, and I had spent some time studying abroad at Oxford), so some of our income went to paying off debt, but there was still plenty to play around with.

We went out to eat at least two or three times a month. I bought lots of pretty clothes and got a fancy new hairstyle. We spent a lot on expensive presents for other people, and took a few nice vacations, too. These were all out-of-pocket expenses, and we figured that as long as we weren’t charging it to a credit-card, we should pamper ourselves. After all, we told ourselves- we both worked full time. We deserved it.

Finally, after two and half years of marriage- everything changed. My husband and I had long talked about building our own home on his family’s property, “someday,” and that Christmas, he told me that the timing was right to get started. Granted, he and I had been talking about this for years…and nothing had ever happened about it before, so when he discussed it with me- I didn’t honestly think it would happen so soon. But, three months later, to my shock and chagrin, we had moved out of our comfortable rental home, sold or gave away most of our things in a yard sale and put the rest in storage. We moved into 1973 thirty-foot travel trailer in the front yard of my mother and father-in-law’s house…for an indefinite amount of time.

It would be an understatement to say that I was a little upset by this. I wanted to support my husband and his dreams. I wanted to own a nice home of our own and be able to stay home when we had children. But for heaven’s sakes- I was living in a trailer in my in-law’s yard! I felt like poor white trash. I believed that since I had been responsible and gone to college and worked full time at a challenging career, I shouldn’t have to do things like this. I was more than uncomfortable and inconvenienced…I was embarrassed, too.

After a few months of moping, I decided that it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and deal with my current situation. We had a sizeable amount left on our student loans, and a 2400 square foot house to save for. Plus, we needed to do it all in less than five years so I could start having babies at a reasonable age. I started trying to figure out how we could accomplish all of this with our current incomes. Our budget was simple: we tithed 10%, lived on 30%, saved 40% towards the house, and spent 20% on debt.

Even with two paychecks, I knew that living on 30% of our income was going to be difficult, and I was still feeling a little sorry for myself, but I was willing to do what it would take to meet our goals. I bought a copy of an amazing book called, The Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn, and from the moment that I picked it up- I was sold on Tightwaddery.


Amy made it sound like Tightwaddery was a wonderful lifestyle choice- something that responsible, creative people such as myself could choose to do. Suddenly, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt proud. We were doing something that no one else I knew had ever attempted. I started thinking of my husband and me as brave frontier people, working hard and sacrificing for our future. Instead of feeling like I was stuck in a humiliating purgatory, Amy’s philosophy made me feel like I was playing some fun, challenging game…a game that I could win!

We began evaluating what we should and shouldn’t spend our money on. I stopped buying new clothes and got to know our local thrift stores. We started shopping at Winco and making all our food from scratch, which slashed our food bill in half. We had been using two cell phones, and we cut down to one that we share with a limited plan. Cable TV, drinking, or smoking have never been a part of our lives, so we didn’t have to give those things up. I discovered that line-drying our clothes saved a few dollars on electricity a month. I know it sounds extreme- what’s a few dollars- right? But according to Amy, “If you take care of the pence- the pounds will take care of themselves.”

Some expenses we have decided to keep are: Tithe and Charitable giving. We give more to charity now than we have ever before, and we hope to keep increasing the amount. We also decided to keep buying organic fruits and vegetables. Yes, it’s much more expensive to shop organic, but we decided that it’s worth it to support American farmers and to eat food that we know is good for us. I still can’t stomach the price of organic meat, so we’ve gone almost completely vegetarian.

We’ve been living in the trailer now for about two and a half years. In another six months, we will have all our student loan debt paid off. In two years, we’ll move into our completely new home, debt free.

Sometimes, I’ve wanted to scream and bang my head against the wall in frustration. Other times, I’ve been happy and excited about achieving our dreams and goals. I don’t want to downplay how hard it’s been to do this-it’s been extremely difficult

However, whenever I get discouraged, or hurt because a friend or family member treats us like we’re crazy, or upset that I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it- it all comes back to one question for me.

“What is the most that you would sacrifice to earn the freedom to give generously to God, to stay home with your children, to allow your husband to retire at 55, and to be free from the slavery of debt?”

My answer: I would sacrifice almost anything for that.

So my question for you today is- what are your financial goals? Are you still in the "we deserve it" mentality? Are you doing what you could be to reach your family's financial goals- or is watching sports on Cable TV more important to you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Have a Little Respect

106. Real Estate

God made us women with plenty of curb appeal

With windows and angles in all the right places.

So Adam would say, “Yowza! I want this one!”

But God didn’t stop there.

God gave us women more than just curb appeal,

Nice closet space and an amazing view.

He poured us a deep foundation with plenty of steel,

And extra insulation so we could keep our men and babies warm.

God gave us rooms within rooms of moods and questions and thoughts.

He gave us the power to nurture, to protect, to guard our families,

and even civilization as we know it against the cold.

The Master Architect created us in his image to have function, form, and much, much more.

Here is why I wrote this poem:

Respect is extremely important to me. I may be a cute young woman, but I don't want people to think that about me first and foremost.

I have been teaching high school for five years now, and during my college years, I travelled extensively. I may not be a mother yet, so I don't claim to know anything about children, but that doesn't make me completely ignorant. If you've never taught high school you might not know that 70% of teachers don't make it past the first five years. Getting to this point is difficult.

That's why I get a little rankled when people treat me like I'm dumb just because I'm young or female. Sometimes I think I have a sign on my head that says, "Please Tell Me What to Do," because older men I barely know love to boss me around. Sometimes older women, too.

I guess they just look at me, and think I'm like their kid, and don't know a thing. It bugs me.

But it's understandable- I mean, they're like 60 years old than I am, maybe they do know more than I do.

But what's NOT understandable is the media treating women like nothing more than bodies.

I guess I've been fairly sheltered these past few years in my little mountain community without billboards or television. My weekend in San Francisco was very cool, but I was continually shocked by how all the billboards and all the magazines and TV shows reduce women to nothing more than glorified sex toys. Now I'm not blaming the men here. I love the men, they're great. I think women are behind this as well. Why? Money.

An actual slogan plastered all over the city: "All Asses were Not Created Equal."

Billboards like this make me just want to wear a burka.

I mean, hey, we're women- we keep society going. Without the mothers and the wives and the girlfriends and the sisters- the world falls apart. Women are the glue that holds families together. The men NEED us. Adam wasn't complete in the garden of Eden without Eve. He lived in paradise and walked in a perfect relationship with GOD, but without Eve- he was still lonely.That's how important we are.

I am happy to say that my husband treats me with a great deal of respect, as do most of the men and women in my family and the people that know me well. It only takes my students about eight weeks to realize that I am force to be reckoned with, and though my bosses started out treating me like a dumb young thing, after five years, they have grown to respect me.

The above poem is actually the third revision about the same idea. The first two were just rants, and I liked this one because it's positive.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Pieces of Good News!

1. The editor of the Kern Valley Sun, Cathy Perfect, emailed me yesterday to say that the humorous article, "How to Make a Cheesy Bowl in a 30 Foot Travel Trailer," I sent her will probably appear in the Oct.20th edition of the KVSUN. I wrote it on a whim last week as a parody on recipe articles.

I liked it so well that I sent it off to her before posting it on my blog.

My husband thought it wouldn't make a good newspaper article, and that almost stopped me- but I decided to go with my first instinct on this one. I respect his opinion, but sometimes I have to be strong enough to follow my own judgement, especially when it comes to writing and submissions.

I haven't submitted many articles to the Sun lately, and I was afraid the editor would be like, "we haven't heard from you in a year- why should we publish your stupid article?" But she didn't say that at all! I think she liked it.

I wish I could churn the funny articles out once a week or even once a month, but I can't seem to control when or if they come to me. Sometimes I'm in a funny mood- sometimes I'm not. I will often spend months at a time not being in a funny mood. If I try to be funny when I'm not in the comes across all wrong and usually bitter.

How on earth does Dave Barry do it? I know it must be a lot of hard work.

Anyway, I will post the article here after the Sun publishes it.

2. The second piece of good news (does anyone else have difficulty spelling the word, "piece?" I am never sure if it's right or not,) is that upon inspection of my hands and feet today in the shower, I noticed that they are less hideous than they used to be, in fact, they are quite nice little hands and feet.

Either my viewpoint has changed, or maybe I finally grew into them? Can being 27 mean that your feet look less like Hobbit feet and your hands look less like sausages attached to a slab of meat? Or does it just mean that I'm finally coming to peace with my own skin?

Perhaps my twin can shed some light on this subject- Therapista? Any input?

Monday, October 4, 2010

City Lights

On my recent trip to San Francisco, I got to visit the world famous home of Beat Poetry- the City Lights Bookstore. This bookstore is famous (or infamous)for being the place where Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and all those other beat poets first got their start.

I am a pretty conservative person, but I do have a special place in my heart for poetry that deals with pain, idealism, and disgust with greed and arrogance.

I bought a little book called City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology. One poem in particular spoke to me. I wish I had written it.

#25- by Larwrence Ferlinghetti

The world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind happiness
not always being

so very much fun

if you don't mind a touch of hell

now and then

just when everything is fine

because even in heaven

they don't sing

all the time

The world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind some people dying

all the time

or maybe only starving

some of the time

which isn't half so bad

if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind

a few dead minds

in the higher places

or a bomb or two

now and then

in your upturned faces

or other such improprieties

as our Name Brand society

is prey to

with its men of distinction

and its men of extinction

and its priests

and other patrolmen

and its various segregations

and congressional investigations

and other constipations

that our fool flesh is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all

for a lot of such things as

making the fun scene

and making the love scene

and making the sad scene

and singing low songs and having inspirations

and walking around

looking at everything

and smelling flowers

and goosing statues

and even thinking

and kissing people and

making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics

in the middle of the summer

and just generally

'living it up'

but then right in the middle of it

comes the smiling


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Birthday Greetings!

Today is the anniversary of my birth.

As luck would have it, it is also the anniversary of Carolyn's birth!

Carolyn is my identical twin sister, and she also has a blog. Her blog is all about the struggles of being a young marriage and family therapist.

She is a poet, just like me, and she often posts her beautiful, funny, and thought provoking poetry on her blog. Check out La Therapista.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Break-Up- a Poem

104. The Break-Up 9/29/10

Poetry and I haven’t been on speaking terms for a while now.

Some ugly things were said, feelings were hurt, and

She stopped returning my calls a few months ago.

First, I tried to pretend I didn’t care.

I told myself she would call me back when we were both ready.

Then, I started to panic, and tried to call more often.

She answered the phone a few times, but I could tell her heart wasn’t really in it,

And all our conversations were glum, uninspired, nothing like they were before.

I spoke to a few people who know her,

And they all said she was fine, that she’d been returning their calls.

It’s very uncomfortable to need a friend who doesn’t need you.

Why should poetry speak to me when she has so many other, better friends?

I knew all I could do was wait.

I waited by the electric glow of the computer,

The threateningly blank page,

And I waited on walks,

talking to myself in the hopes that she might chime in.

After many months of wondering when I would talk with her again,

I had almost given up hope.

I was walking in another city, reading another writer’s conversation with her,

When suddenly- she was with me!

I tore off the back of a brown paper bag,

And, trying not to look too eager,

(I didn’t want to scare her away this time,)

We finally began to talk again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What will I be when I grow up...

I am currently enrolled in a class at my church called "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey. In one of the sessions, he challenged us with the question, "What would you do or what would you become if I didn’t have to work for money. If you could have any job in the world, regardless of money or education, what would it be?"

I thought about this, and I wondered if perhaps I should say, “I would be a writer.” But I didn’t feel like that was really true. It took me a few days to realize that this was because I already am a writer. Sure, I don’t make much money at it and my books have yet to appear in any bookstores, but I am a writer, simply because I write.

My other job as a high school English teacher is extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t change it. In fact, writing and teacher compliment each other well. I really enjoy my kids at school, and although they don’t always enjoy me- they have a grudging respect for me. It gives me a chance to get into someone else’s brain and they are great for brainstorming with. They’re my babies. I feel protective of them, and I desperately want them to succeed.

I’ll be sad to leave my job when it’s time for me to stay home with some babies of my own. But I’ll come back to it someday, richer, stronger, and with more to give. Somebody once said that the definition of happiness is finding what you are best at and doing that thing excellently. I think that somebody was right.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Harper Lee for President!

On the advice of my mother, I just finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I had read it in high school of course, and I remembered enjoying it then, but at the time I wasn't really sure what all the hype was about.

Anyway- It is an incredible book, an important book. It was written by a woman, but yet there is no hidden feminist agenda, proving that women can write books without constantly referring to the bitterness of our gender. It's a commentary on society, a love story, a coming of age story- so many things all rolled into one. I enjoyed it greatly. I laughed, I cried- I could hardly put it down. I definitely understand why we consider this book to be a great example of American Literature.

It got me to thinking- in forty years, which books will we be forcing our high schoolers to read from this era? I am well-read when it comes to the classics, but I am practically illiterate when it comes to anything written in the past ten years (except for Harry Potter of course- who didn't read those?) A teacher friend of mine had me read Lovely Bones, but I found it depressing and unredeeming. I once picked up a copy of Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. I only got about a third of the way through- but it made me want to vomit, it was so disgusting and horrifying. Some of today's fantasy is good- but too much of it seems to rely on sexy woodnymphs, or sexy elves, or sexy vampires.

So what truly great novels are being written right now? Novels that don't have to rely on sex or shocking violence to sell books- Novels that deal with the difficult concepts in today's society without losing their hope and vibrance.

I really don't know- do you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

80 rejections and counting

I was just perusing my duotrope submissions tracker. About two years ago I started really seriously sending out my books, poems and short stories for publication.

Since that time, I've had my fair share of rejections and no responses. In the past two years, I've had my poems rejected or not responded to at least 40 times, my short stories have been rejected or not responded to about 20 times, and The Cavey Journey has been rejected or not responded to at least 20 times.

I feel like I should win an award or something. Of course, there are probably writers out there who've been rejected much more than I have.

In all that time, I have had some successes, which keeps the bitterness of defeat away.

My work has appeared in The Kern Valley Sun, Concise Delight, Midnight Screaming, and the Blinking Cursor. In addition, one of my poems won first place in a valley-wide poetry competition.

4 out of 80...not the highest ratio in the world, but it's a really good start. Now if I could just get off my duff and write something new, maybe I could make some real progress!

Today I will share with you a monologue I wrote for my Drama 2 class. It's only loosely based on reality.

Husband-Hunting at the Baptist College

Not interested? Not interested? You all never said it, because I certainly would never have asked, but your body language tells me enough. You’re not interested in me. And what’s the matter with me, huh? I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m smart, I’m talented, I’m interesting, I’m a died-in-the-wool Southern Baptist girl.

I know…it’s because I can’t keep my mouth shut. When John was wrong about Abraham’s lineage in the book of Genesis, I shouldn’t have said anything. When Steven was wrong about the page numbers we were supposed to read for our “A History of Baptist Thought” class, I should have just smiled sweetly. That’s what a good future pastor’s wife is supposed to do, isn’t it? Maybe the History of Baptist Thought is that women don't get to.

Or maybe I’m not using the correct terminology. What are the Christian “buzz words,” right now? Let’s see, “Purpose Driven,” “Courtship,” “New-Testament Church.” Maybe if I work some of those words in more often. For that matter, I might as well lie when people ask me how I am, and just say, “Blessed,” regardless of how my day is really going. Do I have to act like a ditz to find a Southern Baptist husband?

It’s just too bad God made me smart. It would be much easier to find friends and boyfriends if I could just blindly accept the things these wanna-be-pastors keep spouting off about. But unfortunately, I know more about the Bible than they do, and from the things they keep saying, I think I must have considered my faith more than they have.

So, God, what am I supposed to do? I don’t respect these boys who think they know more than I do. And they are certainly not interested in a girl like me. If you don’t send me a good one soon, you know what I’ll do? I’ll marry a Methodist!

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy this article on Lark News. Yes, it's a joke.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sippy update.

The story of Sippy- the malnourished, dehydrated cat we found in our building materials- has a happy ending! I would have kept him if I had to, so that he could stay out of the shelters and off the streets, but I was concerned because I already have way too much on my plate already.

Anyway, our architect, Nancy Shebesta, dropped by this week and when we told her about the cat, she got very excited. She asked to meet him and was thrilled when we asked if she might want to take him home. Nancy is a very sweet lady with a good heart, and she loves animals deeply. She will probably be a better owner than I can be right now.

I won't say I didn't cry when Sippy left me, but I couldn't have asked for a better owner for him, and for a happier ending. Another cat rescued! Hooray!

Here is a poem I wrote way back in 2003 when I was in the middle of falling in love with my then-boyfriend, now husband, Anthony.

"Holding Hands"
As we hold hands in the crowd,
In theatres, at parks, at stores
You lead me with the twisting and tightening of your wrist.
Left, right, pause, charge.
Wait for those people to pass-
Go ahead through the gap-
There’s a car, stop now!-
With strength and purpose,
But without demanding, or rejecting,
Your warm, strong fingers
Hold mine, and direct me where to go.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marilyn Marlin, Chapter One, Part Two

I went to a women's meeting last night that meets in our community. A few of the women there know that I am an aspiring writer, and it was fun to talk about the projects I'm working on. Unfortunately, I didn't have much to report because my writing has been such a dead end lately. Fortunately, they were very encouraging, and I'm ready to try again.

Plot development seems to be my weakness. I love character development and exposition, but I can never seem to get the plot off the ground satisfactorily. That is why I'm only halfway through Marilyn Marlin. It doesn't help that several of the people who have read it hate the main character's name and personality. Well, I like her, and I like how dismal she is, and I'd rather have people hate her than be bored by her- so she stays the way she is.

I am going to try, try again. Here is the second half of chapter one.

So instead of quitting, she simply nodded and muttered under her breath, “I will take care of her for her sake, but never for yours. And I will do my best to make sure she turns out nothing like you.”

Miss Fanny arrived at Mrs. Marlin’s house every weekday at noon with her cats. She departed at four o’clock. During the four hours of her shift, she did her best to take care of Marilyn as much as possible. For those four hours, Marilyn was fed, clothed, and loved. Even the cats enjoyed lying next to her because she was such a quiet baby. She was on her own for weekends and for the other twenty hours of the day.

Mrs. Marlin was almost always home watching television or chatting on the phone, but she managed to ignore the cries of her baby girl.

Through no fault of Mrs. Marlin, Marilyn was a very practical child. When Marilyn was two weeks old, she learned not to cry anymore. It simply did no good. By the time she was one, she had figured out how to change her own diaper, and dress herself. At the age of five, after watching a television program that talked about children going to school, she enrolled herself in the local kindergarten, learned the route, fixed her own breakfast, and walked herself to school and back every day.
Miss Fanny was usually waiting for her when she came home, and between school and the afternoon hours with the housekeeper, her life was almost happy. Miss Fanny had one beautiful feature, and that was her smile. When Miss Fanny smiled, Marilyn could almost believe that the world was a less intimidating place than she had thought. Unfortunately, Miss Fanny rarely smiled.

Marilyn Marlin was mediocre at school. She brought home C’s on her report cards, and learned the basics, but she often felt just as invisible there as she did at home. It took almost the entire school year for the other students to learn her name, and teachers never seemed to call on her.

Sometimes she tried talking to her mother, but no matter what she said, her mother would always respond, “I’m busy, Sweetie-Pie, go see if Miss Fanny can help you.” Mrs. Marlin said this no matter what time of day it was.

Life fell into a predictable pattern for Marilyn, until one Tuesday when she was eight years old, something changed. Miss Fanny and her cats never arrived. Miss Fanny had never been late before.

Marilyn waited and waited, and worried.

That evening, she forced herself to try to talk to her mother.

“Mother,” she asked,“Do you know where Miss Fanny is?”

“I’m busy, Sweetie-Pie.”

“But, Miss Fanny never came to day,” Marilyn said hopelessly.

“Not now, Sweetie-Pie.”

“Mother, where is Miss Fanny?”

For a moment, it looked as if Mrs. Marlin would simply continue watching television and ignore Marilyn, but Marilyn was so desperate and worried, that she tried something she had never tried before. She stood in front of the television.

“Marilyn, what are you doing?!

“Where is Miss Fanny?” Marilyn asked again, looking down timidly at her undersized feet.

“Who? Oh…yes, sweetie-pie. She died. Dreadfully inconsiderate of her in the middle of the week.”

“She died?” Marilyn gasped weakly.

“Yes, but she was only a housekeeper. Close your mouth, Sweetie-pie, and move over. I’m missing my shows.”

Marilyn wandered weakly into her bedroom. She curled up in the crib that her mother had never bothered to replace with a bed and stared at the wall. She could not have known how drastically her life was about to change. She only knew that she had lost her only real mother, and the only person whose smile could make her feel that the world might not be such an intimidating place after all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marilyn Marlin- chapter one, part one

Last Christmas, I began a new writing project.

I kept thinking about some of the students in my classroom who are extremely undersized because of malnutrition or their mother's drug use while they were pregnant. These kids go through their days with their heads down, trying to stay out of trouble, trying not to attract attention. That is when I thought of the opening line of the book and wrote the first chapter in one sitting.

Since then, my pace has slowed down, but I am still excited about the premise. I have written 6 chapters, and the book should turn out to be about 12 chapters. I feel solid about exposition, but when it comes to plot development...I hit this horrible wall.

Anyway, here is the first half of the first chapter of Marilyn Marlin.

Chapter 1

Marilyn Marlin was unusually small for her age. She had spent the past eight years of her life trying to blend into the background, and it seemed as if she had succeeded. If she had had her way, no one would ever have taken a notice of her. With dull brown eyes, lanky brown hair, pale mottled skin and a slight frame, she sometimes felt like a chameleon. If she stood next to a wall long enough and quietly enough, no one seemed to notice her. Especially not her mother.

Mrs. Marlin was everything that Marilyn was not. Where Marilyn was unusually small, her mother was unusually large. Mrs. Marlin was very tall and round, and had to shop at the city’s only store for big women. She preferred to wear vivid floral prints and dyed her naturally brown hair a bright pink-tinted blonde. Once a week, she would tromp down to the beauty parlor and have long, claw-like nails applied in glittery shades that matched whatever holiday was coming up. She spoke in a loud voice out of the pancake of makeup applied to her face and addressed everyone around her as, “Sweetie-Pie.”

Marilyn had never met her father, and wondered sometimes if he, too, had just faded into the background and never returned. All she knew about him was that he had left behind a few books, which her mother had never had the determination to throw out.
When Marilyn was born, her mother had taken one look at her vague features and drab natural coloring and said to the nurse, “Well, that’s a pathetic little thing, isn’t it, Sweetie-Pie? You’d better take her to the nursery.” Then she mainly forgot about her.

Marilyn might never had survived if it hadn’t have been for the housekeeper, Miss Fanny, and Fanny’s two black cats, Romulus and Rema.

When Mrs. Marlin brought Marilyn back from the hospital, she promptly deposited her in a crib, left the room, and sat down to watch television. She was very put out because she had missed some of her favorite shows while she had been giving birth to Marilyn.

The housekeeper, Miss Fanny, noticed the situation and said, “Mrs. Marlin, that baby needs to be fed, clothed, and played with. You can’t just leave her in her crib.”
Mrs. Marlin sighed impatiently, smiled unpleasantly, and asked (in a question that was really a command) “Sweetie Pie, why don’t you just take care of all that, and write me a bill?”

Miss Fanny pursed her lips, nodded, and walked away. As she did so, she muttered something under her breath.

Miss Fanny was middle-aged and plain, with a stooped back. She wore black to commemorate her long-dead husband, and always wore her hair in a bun. She had ashy grayish skin and a rather off-putting nose.

She had signed on as a housekeeper, not as a babysitter, and she only worked four hours a day. She had no idea how she could take care of Marilyn during her shift. She considered telling Mrs. Marlin this and finding a better job, but then she looked at Marilyn’s tiny face. When Miss Fanny saw the baby’s face, she did not think of her as vague or drab, but rather sweet and delicate. She realized that if she did not care for the baby, no one would, especially not Mrs. Marlin.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitten update

Sippy has started playing! The first few days he was in too much shock to be interested in playing, but last night and this morning, he has been pouncing at anything that moves! Also, when I gave him a bath the first day, he hung there limply, not resisting, but when I gave him one yesterday, he was a force to be reckoned with.

These are sure signs that he is feeling much, much better. I can still feel his bones quite a bit, but not as much, and his belly is very round. He has also been pooping consistenly since yesterday. Unfortunately, he is nowhere near litter-box trained.

We have shown him the litter box, helped him scratch in the litter, made sure he can come in and out of the box easily...and he still poops in the dark corner under the desk. We have put the litter box in the dark corner under the desk...he pooped behind it this morning.

Our other two kittens understood the litter box concept almost immediately, but they were raised with big litters and humans caring for them. Who knows what this little baby's background is like?

I sure hope he learns soon, because he HATES going outside. When I carry him outside so I can keep him with me when I do my chores, his little claws dig into me, he fluffs up, and he tucks his head underneath my arm. I think he spent so much time outside when he was starving that now he is pretty frightened of it.

If he's going to be a primarily indoor cat- he has to be litter trained! Any advice? Perhaps he is still too young, and will learn soon?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A surprise in the SIPS, or How I became a crazy cat lady

As I drove home from school on Friday, I thought to myself,

"I am so relieved that all my pets have been fixed and vaccinated. We shouldn't have to pay another vet bill for a long time."

My 5 month old kitten got fixed a few weeks ago, and she has healed beautifully. It's worth the minimal cost to know that she won't get pregnant, and can run around at night without adding to the pet over-population problem.

Everyone should spay and neuter their animals unless you are a breeder, and then maybe you might need to re-think that. It's not like we have a lack of animals in the world- do you really need to contribute to it by adding more pure-bred, bug-eyed $200 chihuahua puppies that will someday sit in a shelter?

Anyway- I'll get off my soapbox now. I felt very satified as I drove home. When I walked over to the construction site to greet my husband, he said, "Sandy...there is a tiny black kitten hiding in the SIPS panels. See if you can get it out. It's been crying all day. If you go over there and meow at it, it will probably talk to you."

We live about two miles in the country out of town. Occasionally, people will choose to abandon animals near our property. Somehow they think this is better than taking them to a shelter or getting their pets fixed to avoid the problem entirely. There are coyotes, eagles, mountain lions, and bears near our property. People think they're "setting their animals free," but in reality, they are just feeding the local wildlife.

SIPS stands for Structural Insulated Panels, and they are what we are building our house out of. Currently there are seven or eight giant, blazing hot piles of these panels covered with black plastic sitting in our construction site.

I walked over to the piles and made some pathetic cat noises (I'm sure all those cat bloggers out there would be able to see right through them, but this little cat is very young.) Soon I heard some answering yowls.

It took me a while of hunting through the panels, but finally, in a far back corner, I saw two little bright eyes and a loud, crying, squaling voice. I could see the cat, and I knew it was hungry and probably dehydrated, but it wouldn't come out for food or water. I wondered if it was feral, but in any case, I knew I needed to catch to at least feed it even if it wouldn't ever be a pet.

After thirty minutes and the help of my husband and a broomstick, we gently pushed the kitten forward where we could reach him. I grabbed him, and was surprised at how little he weighed.

I could feel every bone in his little body. Ribs, hips, vertebrae...He looked like he couldn't be more than 3 or 4 weeks old.

I took him inside and gave him some cat food. I didn't have any kitten food, but he chowed down on the adult cat food. I gave him some tuna, and he lapped up the juice like crazy. Finally, he stopped eating and cried until I held him. For the last 2 days, he has wanted to sit in my lap constantly. He sits there and stares up at me for hours. His eyes are still blue, and his fur is long velvet black.

He is finally putting on a little weight. His little belly is round, like a kitten's should be, and as I write this...he is purring loudly in my lap.

Other than the hunger and dehydration (his skin still doesn't snap back quickly), he appears to be perfectly fine. He is lonely for other cats, and my two other cats, Bango and Tail-light, are unfortunately not willing to socialize with him. They are very upset.

My in-laws reminded me that I do not have to keep him. Three cats is an awful lot, after all. But this little boy is never going to an animal shelter. Ours are so full of kittens, chances are high they would either refuse to take him, or mercifully euthanize him. I can't stare into his big blue eyes and decide to abandon him.

I do plan to ask around at work this week to see if anyone wants a kitten. If someone does, and I trust and like that person, I will gladly give him away to them. But if that does not happen, which it probably won't, he has a forever home with me. We have decided to call him, "Sippy."

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Cavey Journey- end of Chapter 2

Here is the link for the picture on the left. It advertises a book I should probably check out:Help For Writer's Block by Donna Kakonge.

Here is the last section of chapter 2. I finished my rough draft about 3 years ago, and the book is now in its third stage of re-writes. It takes a lot of effort for me to work on it because I'm not sure the premise is even remotely marketable, however, as my first full-length endeavor, it's been really good for my writing ability.

So far, my queries have been rejected 10 times,and I've recieved no response about 10 times- really not much in the grand scheme of things.

Soon, I will post a few chapters from my new endeavor, a book called Marilyn Marlin. I feel better about this book, but it also has many, many rough edges, and my plot is currently stalled due to writer's block and a faulty computer.

Without further ado...the end of chapter 2!

Suddenly, there was a loud cracking noise coming from somewhere in the big house and a few seconds later, the cavies heard the sound of humans talking in gruff, angry voices.

“Hide! Hide! Hide!” yelped Macie, and, slipping and sliding on the floor, they both ran towards their towel behind the bookcase. Once they got inside, they shivered fearfully as they listened with their large round ears.

“I don’t think those are our humans,” whispered Donner to Macie through gritted teeth. “They sound…different…and scary. I don’t like how they smell, either.” As Donner and Macie listened fearfully, they heard crashing and thumping coming from beyond the door of their room.

“Hey Mike, look!” the cavies heard a human voice shout, “they left their VCR and their DVD player, that’s gotta be worth somethin’, huh?”

“Whatever you say, Jake,” answered another voice, “Let’s get this done quick.” The cavies couldn’t understand all of the words that the humans were saying, but they comprehended enough to know that both the voices they heard sounded mean and harsh. They could hear heavy things being moved around in the other rooms of the house, and it sounded as if the two men were stealing from their house.

“Hey man, these people aren’t coming back anytime soon. We can take our time looting this stuff.”

“Whatever. I’ll check the back rooms.”

Donner and Macie stood moved as far under their towel as they could and very still as they heard footsteps coming closer and closer to the room they were in. Cavies can hear incredibly well, and to their dismay, they heard the doorknob turn slowly and a man stomped into the room.

From their hiding spot under the blankets, Donner and Macie could only see two pairs of ugly black boots walking around on the wet tile. They stood rigid under their towel, trying not to breathe or attract any attention to themselves. The looters quickly walked around the room, tossing CD’s into a bag, ripping computer cords out of the walls, and boxing up the computer.

To the cavies, it seemed like the men were there forever. All Donner and Macie could do was shiver and stay as still as possible until the two men left. After a while, the cavies could no longer hear the men moving in the house, and they slowly crept out of hiding. What they saw next made them both stop and gasp.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Cavey Journey, Chapter Two, Part One

Chapter 2

What the cavies did not know was that a terrible thing had happened. Donner, Macie, and their humans lived in a little town called Lake Isabella. Lake Isabella was in a valley called the Kern River Valley, which had a beautiful blue lake in the middle of it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a natural lake. It used to be a river, and about fifty years before this story (which for cavies would be during their grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grandparent’s time) some people had decided it would be a good idea to dam up the river and turn it into a lake so the nearby city of Bakersfield could have drinking water and so that there would be lots of tourists who could come for boating and fishing on the lake.

Pretty soon, the humans got so used to the river being dammed up, that they started building houses and shops and businesses where the river used to be. They even planted crops there, because the soil was so rich and fertile. They did all these things believing that the dam would hold forever.

You have probably guessed what happened next. The dam broke. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of water came rushing out of the dirt wall of the dam. Water rushed in and flooded the whole valley. Many of the buildings that were right under the dam were completely swept away, but some of them, like Donner and Macie’s house, were only flooded.

Luckily, the people who lived in the town had known that the dam was going to break. No one found out in time to fix it, but they were able to warn all the people that lived there. Everyone was forced to evacuate, including Donner and Macie’s humans. Unfortunately, the humans were not allowed to bring their pets with them. That is why Donner and Macie were forced to leave their cage and try to find a way to survive.

For three or four days, Macie and Donner continued living on the floor near their cage. They had hay and pellets, and other than the layer of water on the cold tile, and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, they were comfortable. They began exploring the room around them, and soon got to know the layout of the bookshelves, cabinets, windows, computer desk, and closet. They nibbled on the books, took naps throughout the day and night, lapped up the water on the ground and went to the bathroom wherever they pleased. Using their large front teeth, they pulled the towel they were living in behind a small bookcase next to the computer where they could feel more protected.

Macie was very content living on the floor of the room, but Donner was not. Macie would find him staring up at their old cage, or standing by the closed door of the room. She tried to distract him and talked about how great it was to have food and to feel safe, but he still seemed like something was bothering him. On the morning of the fourth day, while she ran around happily, he simply grunted and lay down with his head on his paws. She snuggled up to him and finally asked,

“Donner…what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy? We have everything we need.”

“Macie, we have what we need for now,” Donner grunted in response, “but the food is not going to last very long. Some of the hay is already getting moldy and the pellets will run out sooner or later. Also, I don’t know how we will get away from the water and the cold. ” 1

1. Because guinea pigs are from South America, their bodies are used to a much warmer climate, and if they get too cold or wet, they run a big risk of getting sick.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Death- Poem #100

I will post more Guinea Pig adventures next time. I thought we needed a little break from all the treacle.

My New Year's resolution this year was to write a page a day. Have I achieved that so far? Absolutely not. I did get a lot of writing done this year, but not as much as I had hoped.

One of the things that happened was my grandfather's death. Since his illness and death, I have been pre-occupied with grief and feelings of loss. Anytime I try to write...that's all that will come out. I'd rather not look at it, so I just put the pen down instead.

It's time to break out of this, but I'm just not sure how. I don't like writing dark things so often- it makes me feel morbid. It's just not my style or my personality.

I haven't chosen to share very many of my sad writings on the blog because they are so dark, and also because my family supports me by checking on the blog regularly, and they are also dealing with so much grief that I don't want to further upset them. Some things are too personal to post on the internet or even to talk about.

As usual, when I'm feeling strong emotions about something, I wrote a poem about it, which incidentally happens to be the 100th poem I have saved! That makes over 10,000 words and 53 pages worth of poems. I started writing poetry in 1998. I know I have other old poems floating around out there in old journals and things, but I haven't yet succeeded in tracking them down.

How can I write when my pen is covered in death?

Not macabre, over-dramatic, glorious decay

That so many writers have profited by.

My pen is covered in loss, withering, fading, destitution.

Death, Death, Death.

It’s the only word I have to write.

I’d rather leave the page blank than write death onto the paper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chapter One, Part Two

Here is the end of chapter one. Can you guess how many agents/publishing houses rejected my query letter and first two chapters? I will tell you at the end of chapter 2.

When the humans at the rescue found him in her cage that day, they were very surprised, but they figured it must mean that the two guinea pigs wanted to be bonded. So from that time on, they had lived together at the rescue until their new family had come to adopt them.

Donner had often daydreamed about adventures, but had never really had any reason to try and get out of his cage in their new home, until now. Their home was roof-less, and the walls were not very tall.

Slowly, cautiously, their hearts beating fast, and their tiny legs trembling, Donner and Macie peered up at the edge of the cage wall. Macie watched, as Donner finished pushing their purple-plastic house up against the wall, shoved his favorite log tunnel against the side of the house with his nose and began climbing up the tunnel to scramble to the top of the purple house. From that height, it would be easy to jump out of the cage. However, he had no idea how they would get off of the tall cabinet their cage sat on.

Now it was Macie’s turn. Her smaller size made it a little easier for her to wriggle up the side of the log tunnel, and pull herself onto the house. The cavies looked around them. They could see their cage with its soon-empty water bottles, bare feeding dishes and hay rack, the plastic tubes they loved to run in and out of, the soiled wood chips that hadn’t been changed since the humans had left, and their soft fabric chair, which they had spent hours relaxing in. The whole cage smelled like home to them, and when they raised their heads to sniff the air above and away from the cage, it smelled cold, moldy, and foreign. They peered over the edge and saw a pile of towels, food, and extra plastic tubes their owners had left on the top of the cabinet next to the outside of the cage.

“Okay, Macie, this is it. We’re going to have to jump for it. I bet we can land on those towels.” Donner squeaked.

“But…you…you didn’t say anything about j-jumping! I hate jumping. I won’t do it!”

“Macie…” Donner sighed, trying to be patient. “We don’t have a choice. We have to.”

“No! You find another way, or I won’t do it! I’m too scared!”

“Fine,” muttered Donner. “I’ll try to find another way, but this would be much easier if you would just try.” Macie looked at him silently, climbed back down the log tunnel, and crawled into their house.

Donner wandered unhappily from one end of the cage to the other, looking for a way to get out without jumping. After several hours, he popcorned 4 into the air and let out a squeak.

“I’ve got it! Macie, get out here. I’m going to need your help.”

After a few directions from Donner, the two cavies set to work. Macie began shoving their ceramic food dishes toward the purple house and once the first dish was there, she and Donner set it upside and shoved it up onto the top of the house. The dish was tall enough for Macie to simply walk over the edge of the cage. The two pigs climbed their way up and stood on top of the food dish, looking over the edge.

“Okay, Macie, I’ll go first, and when you step over, you can land on my back.” Donner explained.

Donner summoned all his courage, stepped over the edge, and landed on the pile of towels a few inches below.

Macie could see Donner through the bars, and knew he had made it safely. He called to her, “Okay, your turn, now! Climb onto my back!” Macie felt tempted to jump off the house in the other direction and run inside it instead, but she didn’t dare lose sight of Donner. She closed her eyes, drew together the small amount of courage she had, and with a whimper, she walked over the edge onto Donner’s back, climbed off of Donner, and onto the pile of towels.

“You did it, Macie! We did it!” exclaimed Donner, and they both ran around on the towels. They ran in circles, hopped in the air and nuzzled each other.
What they didn’t know is that the more they ran around, the less steady the pile of towels became. The towels were resting on top of several plastic round tunnels 5 and bags of pellets and hay. Donner and Macie’s running and jumping was causing the round tubes to roll underneath the pile of towels, pushing the bags of hay and pellets off the side of the tall cabinet.

“Donner! The towels are moving!” shrieked Macie, and down the whole pile came, tubes, towels, hay and pellets, to the floor below. The Cavies yelped and squeaked and screamed with fear, as they rode the towels down to the floor. Macie and Donner rolled forward onto their faces, hitting their noses against the hard tile floor, and landing in the thin layer of water covering it. They righted themselves and stood, wet and shivering, next to one another.

“Oh, why is it so wet? And why did we fall so far? Why did we leave the cage?!” yelped Macie. Donner was too stunned to answer and simply nuzzled closer to Macie and squealed with her. After they had recovered from their fall, they tiptoed through the inch of water that covered the ground, and looked around them. With relief, they realized that several bags of hay and pellets were on the ground close to them. This meant that they would have enough food to survive for quite some time. Macie used her sharp front teeth to chew a hole in the plastic bags and they both ate the hay and pellets until they were full.

“It feels so good to not be hungry anymore,” squealed Donner.

“Yes,” yawned Macie, “but now I am very tired.” They wandered across the wet floor to a pile of towels and nuzzled their way into a dry corner of the pile. They curled up next to each other and slept for hours.

4. When guinea pigs are happy, playing or excited, they will sometimes jump straight up into the air; this is called “popcorning”. Baby guinea pigs do this often, and it is very cute.

5. Cavies love to run in and out of tunnels. This is because guinea pigs live in dirt tunnels and holes in-between rocks.

*The image above is not actually Macie, but it is what she looked like. Photo credit goes to

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Cavey Journey- Chapter One, Part One

A few years ago, I began writing my first children's book. I have revised it a few times since, and have gotten a lot of good feedback from my family and friends.

I am happy with it as my first endeavor. Here is the first half of the first chapter.

Chapter 1
“The humans are not coming back, Macie,” squeaked Donner as he pushed his plastic house up against the wall of their cage, “We might have to--”

“Don’t say it! Don’t say it!” Squealed Macie, “No, no, no, no, no!” Her big black eyes started to tear up and she curled up sadly on the floor of their cage.

Donner and Macie were two glossy, sweet-smelling guinea pigs, or as they thought of themselves, “Cavies.”1 They lived together in a large cage with a spacious purple plastic house and lots of wood shavings. They had been a bonded pair for almost two years.2 Donner and Macie loved each other very much.

The guinea pigs were used to getting everything they needed from their humans, and they were very happy. In fact, they were a little spoiled, particularly Donner. He was a dark brown guinea pig and he loved food, especially apples. He was actually sort of pudgy. He weighed about 4 and a half pounds, which for guinea pigs is definitely on the heavy side. He didn’t like to move very much, and his favorite thing to do was lie around the cage, thinking and daydreaming.

Macie was more active, and much smaller. She loved to run laps around their cage every morning as soon as the sun streamed through the window. She weighed about two and a half pounds, and she was a tri-colored, long-hair guinea pig with white, black, and orange curly hair.

Things had been going great for the cavies since they had been adopted from the Guinea Pig Adoption Agency, but about a week before our story begins, their humans had been acting very strangely. The humans had run around the house, throwing things in boxes and suitcases. The girl human ran up to Donner and Macie’s cage and quickly filled their bottles with water, their food dishes with pellets, lettuce and apples, and their hayrack with as much hay as it would hold. Then she had stared at them and petted them for a very long time. Tears streamed down her face, and after a few minutes, she turned out the lights and closed the door.

The only thing the cavies heard after that was a distant thundering crash of running water somewhere outside. Since then, they had watched water seep in from the door and come up almost to the top of the cabinet their cage sat on. After a few days, the water levels started getting lower and lower and Donner and Macie had started hoping the humans would come back soon.

“It’s been over a week, Macie. The pellets are all gone; we ran out of hay four days ago. I can’t even remember what apples taste like anymore. And the water bottles are almost empty.”

“D-Do you really think that if we leave our cage, we can find food, Donner?”

“Yes. Besides, we don’t have a choice. If we stay here, we starve. And Macie…it’ll be an adventure!”

As he spoke, Donner’s eyes shone in the dim light. He knew Macie was frightened, and he was too, but part of him was happy. Donner had always daydreamed about having adventures, and he knew this might be the start of one. His body shivered a little, half out of fear, and half out of excitement.

“But…but….Donner…” whined Macie, “I’m scared.”

“Don’t worry. I will always take care of you.” Donner said.
Macie did not have the same spirit of adventure that Donner did. She was about three months older than he was, and she had been abandoned at the guinea pig rescue after some very painful experiences with her first family. She had once wanted adventures, when she was very young, but things had been so unpleasant for her, that she now she was just afraid. However, she also knew that without the humans, they had to move on, or they would starve.

“Just remember, Macie,” Donner reassured her, “Last time I got out of my cage, really good things happened. If I had been scared then, you and I would never have been able to bond.”

Macie thought back to the first time she had met Donner. After her first family had abandoned her, the rescue workers had put her in a cage next to him. She was even skinnier then, and her fur was uneven and ragged. They would occasionally squeak at each other through the cage walls. She noticed that he didn’t seem to mind how bad she looked, and he was always kind to her. One day, Donner announced that if she wanted him to, he would be coming to visit. Before Donner, no cavy had ever figured out how to get from one cage to another at the Guinea Pig Rescue, but he knew he was already in love with Macie, and he was determined to be near her. He had spent days figuring out a way, and finally he realized that if he pushed his wooden log over to the edge of his cage, he could climb on it, and jump over the edge into Macie’s cage.3

The term “cavy” comes from the scientific name for guinea pigs: “Cavia Porcellus.”

For Cavies, being bonded means that they want to live together for the rest of their lives; it’s like being married for humans.

Unlike other rodents, such as hamsters, rats, or mice, cavies cannot usually climb very high. That is why many guinea pig cages do not have a roof on top of them. As long as their walls are at least two feet high, very few guinea pigs ever figure out how to get out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More about Sunflowers

The sunflowers I planted after you left us

are now taller than I am.

Three months have passed.

Yesterday, I thought of the too-long walk

I put you through-

I didn't really understand how close you were

to slipping away-

And for the first time,

I didn't feel quite so much

of that deep, embarassed guilty pain.

It was more like a throb than a stab.

The sunflowers will bloom soon.

Their roots are deep,

their stalks are thick.

They hardly even need the stakes anymore.

You have been gone longer than I realized.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy, Non-controversial poem

List 6/24/10

What makes my heart smile?

Sunflowers, kittens, blue skies.

Ladybugs, sunshine, cool breezes,

Hummingbirds, ice cream, big black dogs,

And you, you…especially you.

Blogger's Note: I am still on hiatus; I managed to borrow my mother's computer for a while, and just wanted to write about a few of my favorite things.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Brief Hiatus

Dear Readers,

Since I began this blog in January, I have done my best to update this blog two or three times a week. I will have to take a brief hiatus over the next few weeks. My husband and I are going to depart for Fairbanks, Alaska on a mission trip this Saturday. We will be gone for about a week. Unfortunately, our computer is in the process of dying and I may not be able to update until we get a new one.

I will update when I can. Thanks for you patience, and thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rejection Collection

I recieved a new letter this week to add to my pile of rejections. It was from a company called "Peachtree Publishers" I sent this manuscript off so long ago that I can't even remember what piece I sent them. This must have been before I discovered the joy that is

If you don't know what Duotrope is, you should really check it out. It's basically a database of publishing companies and it helps writers find what companies are looking for their work, and it has a handy submissions tracker which helps you keep track of which manuscripts you sent where.

Anyway, after much thought, I realize they must have rejected one of my children's stories. In my Children's Writers and Illustrators Market book, I had scrawled next to their name, "sent 9/6/2009." Unfortunately, I did not bother to write what I had sent.

It was probably a short story called, "Shelly the Brave and the Creature in her Closet."

I have posted very few of my children's stories on this blog because I can only post things on here that I do not intend to publish first elsewhere. I love my children's stories and I just can't give up on them yet. I think they're good...or at least have the potential to be good.

So my stories sit in my computer, waiting to be revised (yet again) and waiting for my courage to grow enough to send them out to more publishing companies.

The good news is...I am getting a much thicker skin when it comes to rejections. I've recieved almost 30 now for various pieces I have submitted over the past two years, and they just don't really upset me anymore. And they give me something to blog about.

Friday, June 11, 2010

As a Barely-blooming Girl of Twelve.

As a barely-blooming girl of twelve,

With freckles and brown straight chin-length hair,

I sat by the pond in my grandparents’ Camelot

And wished that I could talk to animals.

“You can come to me,” I would have said,

“I won’t hurt you. I only want to love you.”

And, I believed, if the animals could only understand,

The small yellow-black birds would sit on my shoulders,

The lean-eyed bobcats would lie at my feet,

And the fat bull-frog tadpoles would swim to the surface

Just to hear me sing.

Now, fourteen years later,

I walk through the tall grass with a kitten on my shoulder.

A lean-bellied black dog follows at my feet,

And a long white cat surfaces briefly from the brush

When I call her name.

I talk to these animals- and they understand me.

And I realize that I got my wish.

Of all the selves I have been,

I think she would have been happiest with who I have become.

Somehow my hair has slipped back into her style.

I don’t think the cosmopolitan me would be pleased with my choices.

The scholarly me would be disappointed,

And the feminist me might actually be appalled.

But she and I both knew that those three were always a little bit silly.

I've always liked twelve-year-old me best anyway.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

UPS just dropped off my copy!

Did you know that June is National Adopt a Cat/Kitten Month? This is my kitty; she has added so much to our lives. Will you open your heart to love a new cat this month?

Today I recieved my copy of "The Blinking Cursor" in the mail.

You can see my poem here. It's halfway through the book.