Diary of An Unmotivated Writer (Week 5)

I've been off for the past week and it hasn't been quite what I imagined- I'm sure those of you who have worked or been in school feel so very sad for me. At least we've got two week and then finals, and then two more weeks off. A do over, I suppose. I did get quite a bit of reading and writing in this week, at least. Here's the update:

Week 5
Words: 25,078 (+770 words, -430 from goal)
Actions: several blog posts (some scheduled), two books finished
Plan: 400 words (I have a ton of grading to do!)

Congrats to those of you who met your NaNoWriMo goals!

A Holiday Bookish Wish List- For Me

I haven't bought many books for myself this year (although I have gotten some free to review, in the interest of full disclosure), so there are a few on my holiday wishlist. Here's what I'm wanting this year:

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward- I know it's from last year (or the year before?) but I just kept forgetting about it.

California: An Novel by Edan Lepucki- The first line of the snyopsis "what does a marriage look like after the world ends?" got me.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned'" by Lena Dunham- I'm intrigued, both because I love The Girls and because of the hefty advance she received.

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson- Set in West Africa, this one seems to be written well and a little different from what I usually read.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris- An athiest dentist. It all makes sense now.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabet Stout- For some reason I had always thought it was about something else, but then I read about it and was instantly interested.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan- I'll read anything by him...

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro- I need to read her!

Zeitoun by Dave Eggars- After I read Five Days at Memorial one of you lovely people recommended this for me.

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney- I've been wanting this for months!

Simply Delish by Jessica Merhcant- I have made many things off her blog, so I've been anticipating her cookbook.

What's on your list? 

25 Days of Christmas Reading

When I was little my siblings and I had a felt advent calendar that my mom made that we would take turns doing every day. We'd carefully apply tape to the back and place whatever little shape was in the day's pouch onto the Christmas scene above. It was adorable. In fact, we were all about Christmas traditions growing up, so much so that I tend to feel very nostalgic (and borderline homesick) every year at Christmas time. We'd put up the tree and other decorations after Thanksgiving, we'd drive down the festively lit Christmas Tree Lane, we'd decorate Christmas cookies, we'd go to the Christmas Eve service at the church we used to attend (despite none of us really being religious). Every year my mom bought us a new ornament to add to our collection, which now resides on my tree. My family had basically no disposable income, but we made it work.

So now I have this kid of mine and it's time for me to start putting in place some of our own traditions. I'll of course buy him an ornament every year, we'll see Santa, we already put up our tree, and we've planned a few other local outings. But the one I'm most excited about is the once inspired by the advent calendar I mentioned above- I'm going to read a Christmas book to Sawyer every day. 

I know. Super creative. I am such a special little snowflake. I'm sure no mother has ever done this before (except all the ones on Pinterest who not only do this, every year, but also package everything neatly in a box along with pajamas, organic hot chocolate, and lots and lots and lots of love).

Luckily, I have gobs of Christmas books back from my elementary school teaching days (I always used to save my classroom Scholastic points for them). I did buy some more, though, to round out the number, and because there are some super cute ones that have come out since then. 

What we'll be reading:

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hello! And happy Thanksgiving Eve, if that's your thing. I've got the Day of the Turkey on the brain, so that's what you're getting today. Make sure to link below and tag back if you play along!

1.  The past two years we have had hosted 20+ people at our home for Thanksgiving and I've done a majority of the cooking. This year we're having Scott's parents and his sister's family, plus my brother, bringing the grand total to ten, if you count Sawyer. I'm only doing the turkey, gravy, stuffing, and pies. I know it seems like a lot, but it's a lot less than the past.

2. I love making pies, I do, but I hate making new ones that I can't sample before serving. They might suck. Who are we kidding? The ones I've made before might suck.

3. This year's pies (I make them from scratch- anything less won't do): caramel apple, classic pumpkin, and then pumpkin with a pecan streusel topping. The last one is the new one and the pumpkin base is different than normal (it has cream cheese). We'll see.

4. It took me a little over 3 hours to bake the pies, and crust, and clean up my kitchen. Sawyer played my himself the entire time. How did I get this lucky? He rolled around the living room for two and a half hours, playing with toys and the dogs (and learning to kick the wall), and then in his little exersaucer for the last thirty minutes. I am so thankful and lucky that I have such an easy-going little guy.

5. My house is a disaster. It has to be cleaned by 2 pm tomorrow.

6. There are very few people that I have over to my house that I don't think are judging me for... everything. Seriously. Like one friend and my brother. Everyone else I'm convinced is silently critiquing my housekeeping, cooking, and now mothering. And yet I love to host dinners. Riddle me that.

7. I love this video about cooking turkeys. It's so true.

8. Before the pie madness started, we went to the park and played on the swings for awhile (before my like 4th trip to the store in five days). This is the third time since we went on break, actually. The weather has been great and we have a park right now the road. I foresee many future hours there in the years to come.

9. I serve dinner on paper plates. But the nice ones that don't require you to double-up. We also use plastic cutlery and Solo cups. THE FOOD STILL TASTES THE SAME DAMMIT!

10. Despite the fact that I've cooked decent food and so on and so forth the only thing people seem to remember about past Thanksgivings is the year I burnt myself, pretty severely, on the hip with turkey drippings (I still have scars). Haters.  

Top Ten Tuesday- Winter Reads

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask up what our upcoming winter reads are. I rarely stick to these lists (at least not in their entirety), but they're still fun to think about.

1. The Round House by Louise Erdrich- This one is for book club

2. 25 Children's Christmas books- more on that later!

3. I Am Radar by Reif Larsen- I started this already and then put it on a temporary hold to read some dystopian lit for work

4. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka- I'll be teaching this at the start of next semester

5. Lena  Finkle's Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich- I feel bad- I just remembered I had a review copy from forever ago.

6. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner- I've had it for awhile!

7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsen- might as well finish off the trilogy

8. Home by Toni Morison- It's short. Sometimes you need a short book.

9. Something I get for Christmas...  (just assuming)

10. Something I get for Christmas... 

Diary of An Unmotivated Writer (Week 4)

Oops. I've got nothing.

I knew that it was going to be a busy week, and busy it was. A late day at work one day, the reading at UCR, a baby with a cold... I've got excuses, man. 

Oh, excuses. I'm notorious/revered (depends on whom you're talking to) for my lack of empathy towards excuses. So me clocking in at 0 words is pretty pathetic. But I'm not going to sit down and bust out a few hundred words of crap, just to save face. I'm just not. 

Which brings up an interesting question that I ponder often in the blogging world- why do people think posting crap is better than posting nothing at all? I much rather not waste my time clicking on a post to learn that it's heavily sponsored, recycled content, or, even worse, bland musings about doing nothing. Take a healthy-living blogger I read on occasion. She frequently does "day in the life" posts, yet they're all the same. She eats. Takes care of her baby. Works out. Answers email. Watches TV. And this is how she makes money! I just don't understand. 

Oh hey! I'm here to tell you I did nothing. Kettle? It's me, pot. I'm calling you black. 

This week:

Week 4
Words: 24,308 (0 words; -300 from goal)
Actions: 3 blog posts, 1 book read
Plan: 1,200 words (I'm off this week)

Reading: Rebecca Skloot

Christmas has come early: I actually went to a reading/lecture this past Thursday. She could have been terrible and I still would have been happy- I was at a big university, on a weeknight, with old students, knowing that my baby was in good hands (with his dad). Plus there was traffic, so I got to listen to Serial

Early last week an old student/friend told me that Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was going to be giving a talk at UCR. After further investigation I found out that it was totally free (even parking), and the fact that it was local added to the appeal. 

So I went, and it was great. 

The two people I was going with lined up early, so we had pretty decent seats (they should have done it in a lecture hall, though not a huge conference room). Skloot talked for about forty-five minutes, first describing Henrietta's story (if you haven't read it, read it) and then about the process that led her to writing it. She had heard about Lacks when she was a high school student taking community college classes (she had failed out of the traditional system) and was instantly intrigued. Lacks stayed with her as she entered her veterinarian studies in college, and after she was convinced to pursue science writing instead of animals, she started investigating Lack and the HeLa sells even more. Originally she planned to use this as her thesis, but the process took over a decade (she ended up turning it in a getting a degree eventually).

She spoke mainly for the students in the room, encouraging them to not get "tunnel vision," the condition that plagues so many students, forcing them to think they "have to study law" or "they must be a doctor." Her lecture was very polished- she's obviously done this a time or two (I must say that I do prefer readings  that seem a bit more organic, or natural, but I understand that she's been on the circuit for two or so years). She took several questions afterward, two of which came from little girls that appeared to be in elementary school. They were more articulate that many of my students... and peers. It was pretty adorable.

If you can ever hear her speak I highly recommend it. For someone like me who enjoys both the literary and scientific arenas it was perfect. 

Did I mention I got out of the house, alone, on a week night? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Write post --> Link up (below) --> Link back (thanks) --> Become famous (not really)

1. Why do people ruin things with raisins?

2. I'm currently reading The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion and while it's a quick read, and mildly entertaining, I think it's a bit silly and lackluster so far.

3. I've been listening to Serial, the Podcast by This American Life (NPR) and am completely hooked. For those unfamiliar with it, it's a true-life murder mystery from over a decade ago being investigated. The host, Sarah Koenig is perfect and the pacing so far impeccable. I actually don't mind being stuck in moderate traffic on the way home, since it means I get to listen longer (as long as Sawyer is quiet/happy/asleep).

4. I think I'm taking a stance against those little pouches of baby food that are all the rage. I've read a few articles that they're really bad for kids' teeth, plus are crazy expensive. Not to mention that I have a massive aversion to Gogurt, and these seem a lot like that. The one thing that is a bummer is that they have some really great, healthy flavors (like kale quinoa). Time to bring out the Baby Bullet!

5. Speaking the offspring, we've been reading Skippy John Jones Snow What and the Curious George Thanksgiving book. I am such a sucker for cute holiday books.

6. My husband and I made a small splurge on our financial diet. We shelled out the $16 to sign up for Cards Against Humanity's Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa. Basically, they send you presents for ten days, and in the past they've been pretty cool. I love getting mail, so this should be pretty great. Sometimes you just need some comic relief.

7. I made this cake for my grandpa's 83rd birthday last week. I made the template for the numbers out of wax paper and everything. Alert the Pinterest.

[octogenarians love sprinkles]

8. I've started reading the Best American Short Stories of 2014, edited by Jennifer Egan and have really enjoyed some of the ones I've read so far, including those by TC Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, and Lauren Groff. I give so much credit to short story writers- it's so difficult to write a good one.

9. My husband and I watched the first episode of Jane the Virgin on Hulu the other day and it's pretty safe to say we'll be watching the rest. I can't believe something that witty and satirical is on the CW. Also, in TV news, what the heck Parenthood? WHAT THE HECK? You leave me hanging about Julia and Joel and then the next episode they're not even mentioned? What a bunch of ratings-grabbing crap.

10. I save the best for last: I think I'm going to a reading tomorrow night! The first since the little bambino was born. Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is going to be at the University of California, Riverside campus tomorrow giving a free lecture, so I'm going to attempt to go. Fingers crossed the baby cooperates and I can leave him with my husband for a few hours.

Books on Your Back

[Me and My Tee Shop; $40]

It's been awhile since I've done one of these! I saw this shop on etsy the other day and instantly fell in love. 



Diary of an Unmotivated Writer (Week 3)

[sub out "caffeinated" for "drunk"]

Time for a weekly check up! This week has been weird- we had Tuesday off for Veteran's Day, and then I was in meetings all day Thursday and Friday. Sawyer had a few incredibly rough nights at the beginning of the week, but seems to be thankfully back on track. That being said, I actually got done more than I thought I would this week.

One interesting thing that I noted this week while writing is that I write much better about bad/negative/depressing things than good/positive/happy things. The dialogue flows so much easier in those situations, as well. Honestly, I'm not surprised. When I daydream or worry it's always these elaborate scenes that involve worst-case scenarios. 

This week:

Week 3
Words: 24,308 (+680, +180 from goal)
Actions: 3 blog posts (1 scheduled), 680 words, 3 books read
Plan: 300 words (this week is crazy)

My Crash Course in Dystopian Literature

[Fabulous print from Kevin Tong]
After the last ten days of reading, researching, and unit-building I'm fairly confident that we're all going to end up robotic, brainwashed servants of the government devoid of morality, ethics, and originality. Guys, we're screwed. Let's just all pop some soma and watch everything burn.

I'm on a committee that's redesigning the curriculum for The Common Core changes- I'm sure you've heard me complain about it before. This month's task wasn't so bad, though. Dare I say... fun? The unit we decided we'd work on next dealt with dystopias, suggesting that the tenth grade teachers in our district use the texts Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, 1984, and Brave New World. I had only read Fahrenheit 451, but know enough about the other three to BS my way through basic conversation. Knowing we'd have to get a little specific I decided that I'd hurry up and read the three I never had, both because I'd need the knowledge, but also because it was pathetic and strange that I had not.*

I read Animal Farm first and of course appreciated the allegorical and satirical aspects. Orwell is a genius and his book has become so engrained into pop culture that most people don't even realize how heavily it's referred to. I do have to confess that I hate the notion of talking animals. And animals that build things. Animals that write. Animals that sing. You get the picture. This is a "me" issue- I have  deep-rooted dislike for cartoons, so I think it's connected. 

1984 was next, and while it took me awhile to get into it, I ended up really enjoying it in the end (not quite as much as I like Fahrenheit, but probably more than the other two). I adore reading what the future is like when the future being written about has already gone. The propaganda component would provide an infinite number of possible lessons, and so many great conversations could arise in a classroom about the government's influence over us (plus the idea of spying and the NSA).

Finally, I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Sex! Drugs! Rock and roll! Machines that emit sound and smell! The idea of creating a "designer population" was disturbing and the juxtaposition between London and New Mexico well done. Watching the changes in John (aka The Savage) and Bernard was simultaneously predictable and fascinating. I am curious how a more reserved, conservative teacher would approach this, though, since there is a great deal of promiscuity and drug use.

After reading these three and reviewing Fahrenheit 451, I met with my team and we designed a series of lessons that were centered around dystopian literature. The goal is to create four (or so) tasks and a larger project that could be used with any book, or series of short stories (like "The Lottery," "The Waters of Babylon" and "The Pedestrian"). Basically, they have to be generic... but specific. We ended up having students do some basic activities like a Socratic Seminar, using a graphic organizer to compare what was going on in the writer's time period to the events in the text to our current time period, and some deep reading activities. At the end of the unit they will be given a scenario about the government wanting to put tracking devices into citizens and will have to either create a series of editorials or commercials arguing for or against (along with providing textual support and all those other things English teachers require). We found a lot of interesting non-fiction resources and I'm thinking that there's potential for the kids to actually really like this one. Unfortunately, I'm not teaching it, since IB has their own curriculum, but that's another story for another time. 

I don't want to launch into a huge discussion of Common Core, but I will say there's a lot of misinformation floating around out there, both within the educational community and outside of it. I am by no means an expert, but I think this sort of unit is a good representation of a sort of shift that is occurring, and for the better. We're still using literature, we're still teaching important reading and writing standards, and we're still bringing in creativity. We are bringing in informational text, though, and we are trying to bring in real-world aspects (like creating more than just a standard written essay). Just my take. 

As a whole, I enjoyed catching up with some classics. This isn't my normal genre of choice (although I do love Atwood), so it was a nice opportunity to get outside my literary comfort zone. While reading I became really reflective on the idea of patriotism, though, and what it means to love your country... or love your country. How does intellect connect? Can you love your country and still hate the government? How much control should the government have? At what point to we sacrifice safety for privacy? Or vice versa? Obviously thought-provoking literature. 

*I hate the idea of feeling guilty for not have reading a certain text that "everyone" who is well-read has. Guys, there are a lot of books. We cannot read them all. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey there! It's time for the weekly BS (but in a good way, yes?)- link up below so everyone can read yours too! 

1. What the eff is this nonsense? This is completely unacceptable and opens the door (much like the Hobby Lobby fiasco) for additional discrimination.

2. I put my big-girl panties on a updated my phone to the newest IOS. This is dramatic stuff for me- first I had to back it up on my computer, which I then had to backup on my external hard drive, and then I had to delete a shit-ton of stuff to make room. Once everything finished my first order of business was taking off the ridiculous emoji function of my keyboard. When do I need a little image of a man wearing a turban? A VHS player? A mailbox? Unless I lose the ability to use speech (Broca's Area? Or something like that?) and desperately need to convey to someone that a turbaned man put a VHS in my mailbox we will all be fine.

3. Don't tell Sawyer, but I bought him these for Christmas:

4. Any good recommendations for boardgames for two? Other than Yahtzee and Scrabble.

5. The hours from 6-9 am are some of the most happiest for me. Why? Because that is when I am mostly heavily caffeinated. 6-9 pm doesn't suck either, since I'm home in my yoga pants with my little guy.

6. I'm working on helping to develop a Dystopian Unit of study for the Common Core committee and it's a little fun (despite the fact that I won't be teaching it in the foreseeable future because of the courses I teach). We're focusing on Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and 1984. I have my Master's in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, so I feel like maybe a tiny bit of that is being utilized. I think working for a -gasp- textbook company would someday maybe be kind of... neat (and dirty, at the same time).

7. My child woke up every hour or two allllll night long last night. He doesn't need to eat, so I stand by him, pop his pacifier in and pat his belly. He goes back to sleep withing a few minutes, while I'm up for at least fifteen more. He was sleeping through the night up until a week or two ago, so I suppose we're going through one of those little sleep regressions everyone warns about. Or, MY BABY IS THE DEVIL AND HATES ME. There's that.

[for the record, this is not my child. And I will sleep... just not after 7 am]

 8. I got my hands on a some of the PiYo videos, to try them out to see if they'd ever be something I'd want. I did the introductory video last night and was pleased to see that a lot of the moves, while renamed, are just yoga moves I've done a million times. I was less than pleased to feel sore today. Actually, I lie, I was a little pleased- that means it works!

9. One of my old students, who just happens to be my favorite kid ever taught, surprised me the other night (with her friend, who is also very high up my list) at my house (yes... she know where I live- she should probably be a PI or something) with the sweetest gift EVER. Her and her friend took all these crazy inside jokes we have and spelled them out with Scrabble letters that they displayed in a frame. It was so, so sweet. 

10. The only show that I'm up-to-date on is Parenthood and I'm so pissed that they left the Joel/Julia drama on a cliffhanger last week. In fact, I think I may have blurted out "those fucking bastards!" as soon as it left with the two of them facing each other at the door. This is why you just wait and binge watch things.

Diary of An Unmotivated Writer (Week 2)

Happy Saturday! If you missed it last week, I'm trying to get back on track with my personal writing project, so I'm starting weekend updates. I'm obviously most concerned with writing on the actual project, but I think any other work I do is also important, in terms of inspiration and motivation.  This week has been one of those weeks that simultaneously flew and dragged- I'll spare you the details. I did get more reading done this week, which was awesome, and a little bit of writing. This week:

Week 2
Words: 23,628 words (+340, -160 from goal)
Actions: four blog posts, 340 words, Amazon new-book perusing 
Plan: 500 words

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

As always, hello, welcome, thank you for playing, link up below, tell your friends, link back (por favor).

1. Halloween came and went- Sawyer was an adorable Han Solo, Cordie was was Princess Leia, and Chomsky was Chewbacca.

2. As Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks approach I always have to decide how much work to give my students for homework. I can go three routes: 1) give them a ton- they're in an advanced class and should be held accountable for a tough work load. Survival of the fittest! 2) none- that way I don't have to be harsh to those that don't do the assignments and it means nothing for me to grade, or 3) somewhere in between. We'll see how good they are. I'm like God Santa.

3. I was at a wedding last weekend and the place was absolutely beautiful- the grounds were amazing. My personal favorite was the enormous tree the ceremony was held under. It gets better- there were two swings attached to the branches. Damn my need to look pretty and wear a dress! I was so jealous of the kids (and grown men, later in the evening) playing on it.

[they're in the fancy yellow circles- trust me]

4. I also wore red lipstick for the first time ever to the wedding. I had no idea how high maintenance it is. No thanks. Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers for life.

5. I've been reading a lot more than usual. I'm taking a tiny break from I am Radar in order to get for a few things for work. I just finished Their Eyes Were Watching God and am almost done with Animal Farm. I'm on a roll. 

6. I found my Listography book yesterday that only has like five lists done. Oops. I've also totally slacked off on my Question a Day (or whatever it's called) book since having Sawyer. Every night when I go to bed I just want to sleeeeeeeeep. I am sad that I've neglected it, though, and aim to get back on the train by the end of the year.

7. I pretty much love all baby hoodies with various ears and scales attached. 

[baby dinosaur!]
8. Another wedding afterthought. The day after I said to my husband, "I love weddings because that's the happiest a husband and wife will ever be in their marriage." Ouch. Cynical, much? But I still stand by it. There so much enthusiasm, love, and optimism on one's wedding day. You're in it together. You're a team. You'll help each other out and be each other's best friend. And so on and so forth. I'm not saying that the decline is rapid, and that it can't stay at some sort of plateau for years and years, but I think for most couples the wedding day is this moment of unbridled happiness and hope that's hard to completely ever get back. Maybe this is why I want to be a wedding planner in my next life.

9. There is a campus supervisor at our school who writes in a notebook all the time, when he's on duty between classes. It's so intriguing! What is he writing? Poetry? Songs? A novel? Observations? I'd never ask, and I'm pretty sure knowing would ruin everything.

10. I'm fascinated with the new workout craze Piyo, a program by the Beach Body cult. It's yoga and pilates rolled into one: get it? Pi-yo? Original. Nonetheless, it's shorter workouts with a focus on flexibility and strength training, without much impact. It sounds perfect, but it's pricey, and I haven't done the extensive research I always do before buying anything more than $15.

[I hate her already]

Top Ten Tuesday- Reread

The Broke and the Bookish ask us (again-?) what books we'd reread. I'm not much of a rereader, but I do have to admit that when it does happen it's generally a much richer, comprehensive process. Duh.

This week I'm listing book that I remember reading, and loving during my adolescence and young adult years (not to be confused with YA reading).

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- I first reread this between 8th and 9th grade for summer homework. The teacher gave us 100 accompanying questions. As a teacher I now know he was trying to weed out the slackers. 

2. Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- I read, and loved, these in fourth grade and would like to see if it's still as magical.

3. Price of Tides by Pat Conroy- I read this freshman or sophomore year in high school and was a little surprised at some of the more graphic parts. 

4. Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky- I read this my junior year in high school, and again freshman year of college. If being asked to pick a "favorite book" this is the one I usually give. Confession: is it still?

5. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole- I read this in college and thought it was hysterical.

6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens- One of the few Dickens books I've read, and liked. 

7. Spark! by John Ratey- I read this almost seven or so years ago to get units to move over in the pay column and remember being really inspired about exercise and it's neurological impact.

8. Emma by Jane Austen- This is an eighth grade read- I have to admit to buying it because I thought the matte white cover with Gwyneth Paltrow on it was pretty.

9. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende- I read this sophomore year in high school and was blown away that they were letting us read something with bestiality. I also wrote my hometown newspaper years later defending out IB teachers' decision to use it (it was published and people came up to my mom asking her about it and she had no clue whatsoever what was going on, haha).

10. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon- I read this as kind of a stop-and-go read in college, so I'd like to go back and give it a more serious time.

You Are Here


A senior student at our school who is applying to the University of Chicago asked me to take a quick look at some of her application essays and one of the prompts struck me: Why are you here and not somewhere else? The quote is taken from artist Jeppe Hein's neon sign, an installation piece in his current show. It made me think. As it was supposed to. God, I'm such a sucker.

But seriously, why am I here? And what is here? Geographical Here as in the United States? California? Corona? Personally My family? My marriage? My career? A mom? A blogger? A friend? A reader? A writer? Professionally A teacher? A mentor? A person who doesn't say no to committees?

Some of it is choice, some of it is not. And the things that are should be handled accordingly. If you don't want to be where you are then make the necessary changes. Super easy, right? Sure.

I think I took this more seriously than I was supposed to. 

November Reigns Supreme

[in Oak Glen apple picking a few years ago]

1. The month of my birth. Thank you, mom. You're welcome, world.
2. Thanksgiving
3. My juvenile obsession with stepping on crunchy leaves
4. Veteran's Day --> random Tuesday off
5. People get all warm and fuzzy about gratitude; yes, it should be done all year, but still, it's nice to pause and say thanks
6. Soup. Lots and lots of soup.
7. We gain an hour (at least it will be lighter when I drive in to work)
8. Hoodies galore
9. Cooler temperatures
10. Warmer beverages

[what is that? Fall colors in California?]
11. A week off for Thanksgiving.
12. The calm before the Christmas shopping storm
13. Tasteful decorations- Halloween and Christmas can be so gaudy
14. Apple cider
15. Boots. Sweaters. Shorts. Tank tops. SoCal November weather is crazy.
16. Evening walks
17. I can scorn anyone who dares to play Christmas music already
18. Donations to soup kitchens and food banks start to increase!
19. The need to use blankets while laying around the house
20. Pumpkin (but not of the Spiced Latte variety)

Diary of an Unmotivated Writer (Week 1)

When I grow up I want to be a novelist. Unfortunately, at thirty-years-old, we're starting to broach "grown up territory" and I should probably shit or get off the pot (see, I'm already practicing my literary language). I have found that public accountability can be a pretty effective motivator, for me. If I was forced to display my weight on Facebook everyday I'd be super-model thin. If someone said that all my workouts were going to be blasted on the school marquee at work, I'd live on the treadmill. So, in order to motivate myself to get into writing, I thought I'd start a new weekly feature here. NaNoWriMo also kicks off today, and while true participation is not a realistic option this year, November still seems like a good time to refocus. 

I may joke, and fantasize about how I'll react when my pretend agent informs me my novel is up for auction at Christie's between three of the Big Ones, but I know that the chances of me publishing a finished novel are incredibly slim. But this is something I don't want to die wondering if I could have accomplished. In actuality, I just want to finish a draft. And then we'll proceed accordingly.  I am the type of person that finishes what she starts, and the fact that I have started and stopped writing so many times is downright irritating.

Each weekend I'll update the two or three of you that read these posts about what I've done during the week to move things along. Some weeks I may write thousands of words on my "project" (calling it a "novel" seems so presumptuous and douchey), some weeks there might be absolutely nothing, except me saying "I graded student writing... does that count?"

I started my current project over a year ago, and while I'm not going to go into specifics (#vagueblogging), it was, and is, something I was really excited about. I have somewhere around 23,000 words so far, so I definitely have a decent start. I also know where it's going pretty precisely, so that helps matters to. 

So, to recap:

Week 1
Words: 23,288
Actions: Thought about making this blog post
Plan: Write 500 words (it's going to be a busy week), start a Pinterest board full of writing quotes (probably not), keep reading (field work, duh)