Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can Stripping in Your Car Lead to True Love?

It was already dark by the time I circled the parking lot at the restaurant.
I was two hours late and I still had to change into my formal gown. I was afraid to go into the restaurant to put it on in case my date should see me before I was ready to see him.

I hoped to find a fast-food restaurant or a gas station nearby to change, but instead I drove past office building after office building with no luck.
Time was running out. With a deep sigh- what a long day it had been- I pulled into a dark parking lot and drove to the farthest corner I could find.

"Any Hobos out there?" I wondered. "Enjoy the show."

It went against at least 95% of my upbringing and training to strip in my car in a parking lot, but I decided to follow the 5% that told me not to stand up a date and suck it up and do it anyway.

By the way, formal gowns were not meant to be gotten into easily. There wasn't much room in my tiny, two door car, but I decided to make the best of it. My elbows kept slamming up against the windows, I kept tripping over the dress and body parts got free that I usually keep carefully contained. It was a sorry mess, but I go the dress on.

My cousin had done my hair at about 7AM that morning and suffice it to say, it wasn't looking so hot by 7PM.

So by the time I changed and finally found a parking spot half a mile away from the restaurant, I walked in with sore feet, sickly hair, and a formal dress that needed all the bows in the back retied....I wasn't feeling so glamorous.

My friends saw me,
"Oh Good! You're finally here. Your date is waiting for you!"
They helped me re-tie the bows in the back of my dress.
I did what I could to my hair in the bathroom at the restaurant.

Then, with my friends helping me, I walked to our table, where I met a polite, dark-haired young man who had a corsage for me. He pulled my chair out for me.

I sat at the table, still feeling jittery from the ordeal of just getting there, and took a deep breath.
He said, "Hi. I'm Anthony. It's nice to finally meet you."

"I'm Sandy." I said.

I don't really remember everything we talked about...just that in a whirwind of anxiety...I felt calm around him.

He didn't seem to notice that my hair was disheveled or my dress was rumpled or the slightly frantic look in my eyes.

Later, we drove in my car back together and he noticed we were out of gas. We stopped at a gas station that was almost closed. He took care of everything. He convinced the workers to keep the station open for one more car, he paid the scary homeless people some money so they would go away, and he paid for and pumped my gas for me.

As I sat in the car, feeling very much like a lady, very much taken care of, not anything like the jittery girl who had taken off all her clothes in the very same car only a few hours before- I thought, much to my own surprise, "If you want me, Anthony Hughes, I'm yours."

We were married about 3 years later.
We've been married now for almost 6 years.
I can't believe it's been almost 9 years since that night. Since the night I met my Anthony.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Would you like some cheese with that...

Warning: The following post is extremely whiny. If you are a "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-and-stop-whining sort of person, this post will merely irritate and enrage you.

I haven't written a poem in three months. My Alvinia short story is stalled. My Marilyn Marlin book will probably never see the light of day. This blog is supposed to be about trying to get published, and the various wacky adventures I face along the way...but I haven't submitted anything for publication in like 4 months. I've got nothing.

Do you think creativity is a finite resource? I think it must be. I only have so much of it, and I spend way too much on things that don't really matter (cough...yearbook...cough) and by the end of a long day teaching kids, directing a play, and creating this frustrating yearbook...I don't have much to write about.

I feel like I'm betraying myself by not putting my time and creativity towards writing, and putting it, instead, into parts of a job that quite frankly don't matter. There are people who love yearbooks. My cousin, Jennifer Pfeffer adores yearbooks...and she is a yearbook goddess. She loves them. Good for her. She needs to come take over my class. She's welcome to it.
This is my cousin, the yearbook goddess's blog: http://jenniferpfeffer.blogspot.com She's having a baby...so her blog is probably a lot more fun to read than this one, so just go on over. Click on the link...don't even bother to finish this whine-fest. It's fine...I understand. Her yearbooks are way better than mine anyway. And she like most of my friends and relatives, gets to have a baby, unlike me, whose biological clock is going cucko and who will probably never get to have my own children at the current rate our plan is going.

So why am I spending hours moving tiny little pictures around on a freaking computer screen to create a book that is going to sit on somebody's shelf for the next few years and collect dust instead of working on my own writing or my own things that I care about?

You may be asking yourself, "Aren't the kids supposed to be working on the yearbook?" Yes, yes they are...in a perfect world, where I know what I'm doing and can teach them how to be independent. So, yes, if I were a good yearbook teacher, the kids would be doing all the work...but I'm not.

I don't how to do this stuff, much less teach them. And I don't want to learn. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of every child in the school and their parents wanting something from me and pitching a fit when they don't get it. I'm sick of having no power over this book. My principal made many decisions about how this book was supposed to be, and now she's gone, and I'm stuck with her choices, and I don't like them.

So why am I not using my precious resources on writing? Or how about this- why I am I not spending 3 hours a day planning lessons for my 9th grade English classes, who desperately need to learn how to read, instead of working on this insipid picture book?

So what do you think? Is Creativity finite or limitless? How do I keep enough for me by the end of the day?

This is the end of my rant. Thanks for bearing with me. We will soon return to our regularly scheduled, less-whiny blog posts as soon as I finish this bloody yearbook.

Image Credit: http://www.linthesoutheast.com/2009/11/distinctly-american-holiday-of.html

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Comedia Dell Arte meets Thunder Lizard?

Comedia Del Arte' Harlequin by Jason Foster

In the high school drama classes I teach, we discuss Comedia Dell Arte. Also, Dinosaurs come up pretty frequently. One of my bright little darlings created this image today; I thought it was worth sharing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sometimes I'm just Idiot-Woman Again.

"Sheriff's Department, how can I help you?"

"I'm calling to report some vandalism. I teach at the high school and one of my tires was slashed."

"We'll send someone right over."

I hadn't wanted to call the Sheriff's Deparment. I had seen the slash mark on my tire, and it irritated me, but getting kids in trouble for slashing tires is like getting kids in trouble for having hormones.

There is a law of teaching high school, "Anything that can be destroyed...will be destroyed...even if it's your car."

So honestly, I wasn't too mad about it. In my experience, kids just break, maul, and slash for no really good reason except that they're kids and they are sometimes idiots. Sometimes they have a vendetta against you, but other times it's just random destruction.

But after a kindly young custodian changed my tired and I got home and told my husband about the whole thing, he gave me that "someone-has-threatened-my-wife-and-she-doesn't-think-it's-a-big-deal" look and told me,

"Go report it to the Sheriff's Department right away. Next time, report it while you're still in the parking lot."

"Anthony, these kinds of things happen all the time," I replied. "It's just kids- they do these things to teachers."

"Can you name a single other teacher this happened to?"

"Well, no," I admitted, "but Tammy got her car keyed a few years ago. The custodian said that in Bakersfield they would just steal the whole car."

"A key and a knife are two different things. This is a crime of violence and we need to try and figure out who did this."

"Okay, Okay, I'll call them," I agreed.

The nice young lady at the end of the line dispatched an officer. While we were waiting for him, my husband came over and investigated the tire. After a few moments, he got a little gleam in his eye.



"Did you notice the giant bolt sticking out of your tire?" Anthony asked me.

"Well, yes," I replied, " AND the slash mark."

"Is it possible that the bolt is what flattened your tire. I don't think that slash mark looks very deep."

So we filled the tire with air, and wouldn't you know it, he was right. The slash didn't go all the way through, and there was plenty of air hissing out from the bolt. The sheriff could be arriving any minute.

"I didn't want to call the sheriff to begin with," I accused my husband. "You made me."

"I know," he said, "but even if you think that your car has been vandalized, it's still important to report it. Let's call them and tell them it was a false alarm."

By then it was too late to call them. We heard the Sheriff's car drive up and saw his flashlight coming toward us.

"Are you the folks who called in a vandalism?"

"Yes," responded my husband, "but we are so, so, sorry...we were wrong, it was just a bolt that flattened her tire."

I gave the young officer my best "I'm-just-a-befuddled-idiot-woman" look and he said,

"No harm done. I'll be on my way."

"Thank You," we both called out as he left.

I need new tires anyway.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sure I'm trailer-trash- Do you have a problem with that?

One of the hardest questions that has plagued my writing has simply been, "What do I write about?"

I have often heard the advice, "Write about what you know."

Well, when I started writing and really putting my mind to it, I was only twenty-one.

Basically, all I knew was high school, college, and a few European countries I'd visited during college.

I didn't have very much to say for myself. I made myself write anyway with some good results, but nothing really stellar.

Starting this blog last year gave me an excellent lab to bounce my ideas off of readers.

By far my most popular peices have been about the wacky situations I manage to get myself into. I'm not a stupid person, but sometimes....I do some very silly things.

Anyway, I'm twenty-seven now and the past six years have helped me come up with some new ideas that I think will be very successful.

My husband and I have been building our own home and living in a 30 foot trailer in my in-law's front yard for the past 4 years. We have been saving every dime we can in the meantime.

We crush toilet paper rolls, wash plastic bags, save aluminum foil, shop at thrift stores, tolerate dial-up internet, etc.

In a few months, we will be completely debt free when we pay off my last student loan.

In a year, we will be living in our house, and it will be completed in two years.

My husband and his father are doing all the labor for the housebuilding themselves and we have not taken out any loans or put any building materials on credit.

This means that when the house is done, we won't have a mortgage. I will be 29, and my husband will be 36.

Needless to say, most people in our age group and with our education level won't be mortgage free until at least their 50's. They will still be paying on their mortgages when we are sitting back, enjoying our paid-for house.

Now that the house if finally coming together, I have begun telling some of my teacher friends about our plan.

At least three times in the last few months, people have said to me,

"That's incredible. You should write a book about that."

After the third person mentioned it, I thought, "They're right. I totally should."

So now I know what my new venture will be. It's going to be light-hearted, autobiographical, but at times painful in a funny way. I'll share all my embarassing failures like trying to bake whole wheat sourdough bread in a trailer with a broken oven, trying to collect cat-tail pollen to save money on flour, and even my ill-fated Ebay store that has done nothing but cost us money since I started it.

The only trouble is some of the most painfully funny characters in the story are still alive and I'm not sure just how to deal with that diplomatically. Also, the story hasn't really ended yet. There are still embarassing, painful, hard, and funny things yet to happen.

So we will see what happens. But I think the idea has a lot of potential.

What should I call it? "Sure I'm trailer trash- do you have a problem with that?" "Yes, Virginia, you can be debt-free in America, " "Living in a 30-foot trailer in my in-law's yard: Yes, it's as bad as it sounds."

Hmm...those are not quite perfected yet. What do you think? What would you title my book?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Please Rip my Work to Shreds."

A few years ago, I studied creative writing during my Semester at Oxford. I was at a turning point in my writing and really wanted to know if it was worth pursuing writing, basically, "do I have what it takes?" My creative writing tutor seemed pretty unimpressed and when I left England, it was with the impression that perhaps I did not have the "right stuff," to be a writer.

Thankfully, I didn't listen to my tutor. I wanted to write and no amount of insecurity was going to stop me. I still have a long road to go before I will be a good writer, but I have learned some valuable lessons through my attempts.

Over time I have discovered that there is no such thing as writing talent. There is no "it." There is only me, a blank computer screen, and my own persistence.

Successful writers write. and write. and write.
They improve. Succesful writers work and work and work and eventually their work turns into what someone else might see as "talent," but it was really persistence all along.

As an English teacher, I often have students ask me if I'm writing a book. I tell them, "Yes! I have actually finished one, and I'm working on a second." Then they proceed to tell me about their writing project. Sometimes they will even ask to see my work or bring me their work and ask me to look at it.

I see the hunger in their eyes. They want to know if they have, "it."

It's fun to share with these aspiring writers. Their work is sometimes good, sometimes awful, and sometimes blah. I always try to find at least one specific, positive thing to say about it (no matter how god-awful!) and encourage them to keep at it. I believe that honest positive feedback is much more powerful and productive than negative.

Yesterday, a young man brought me a page of his writing and asked me to be extremely critical of it. He wanted me to rip it to shreds, to criticize everything I could find, and to give lots of negative feedback. He seemed to believe that that would improve his writing. He is a pretty strange kid.

I told him, "I'll do my best, but that's not really how I work. If you're looking for extreme criticism, I'm just not the person to give it."

He left his page with me, and I was surprised to read it and find out how good it was. There just wasn't much to criticize! It was intriguing, mysterious, and simple to read. This student doesn't succeed much in his classes, so it's neat that he has this other ability that his teachers don't usually see.

I corrected a few grammar problems and fixed some errors- just cosmetic things, really.

I tried to ask him a few questions to help with his creative process like, "where is this story going?" and "what will make your story different than all the other dark magic stories out there?"

I even ended by saying, "You have writing talent. You need to pursue this."

I wondered later why I said that when I don't believe in writing talent anymore.
I guess it's because I want this kid to succeed so badly. I am hoping that if he believes me about his ability, he will keep trying, he will keep writing, and maybe it will be a way out of the hell-hole he lives in.

What do you think?

Is talent real or just a figment of our imaginations? Is it just an excuse for unsuccessful people to explain why they failed and someone else didn't?

Should I have told that kid he was talented even though I don't really believe in talent?