Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Love more

Today, more details emerge about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. Tears fell on my keyboard. I know we're all asking ourselves "How does someone do that?"

The answer, of course, is too complicated to pin down, though for several days, maybe even weeks, we'll try.  Essays will be written about gun legislation, violent video games, and broken homes.  I get it.  Because, well , here I am, playing with words like they're part of a puzzle, try to make them fit in just the right way so that I can understand. 
As is the way these days, people reacted on Facebook and in comments sections on articles. We tweeted and "liked" and "shared".  We mourned and cried.  We hugged and sighed.  We worried and  "whyed". 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Unhappy Hypocrite

I'm in speech teacher mode again today.  I've taken great pains to avoid being "political" during this election season.  My day to day of world of carting kids and dance class and work and church and whatever else comes my way is filled with people from all across the political spectrum.  I am sure many of us have very strong beliefs and very opposing beliefs, but when you're talking about ear infections and birthday parties and course scheduling, it doesn't really matter.
However, I've been biting my tongue on how political discourse and interpersonal communication are not playing well with each other.  With the election only a few days away, my tongue is practically bleeding, so it's time to let it wag.
Throughout the election season, the role of social networking has been undeniable.  A while back, I talked about using fact checking before forwarding or re-posting ideas, and it goes beyond that.  I love social networking for its ability to keep me connected to people with whom I might otherwise lose touch, but as a means of discussing politics with friends, it sucks.  I'm going to talk about two negative effects. 

Friday, October 19, 2012


Today is Spirit Day, a day when folks are asked to wear purple to speak out against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. This event was spawned by a wave of suicides among gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth.  Specific statistics have been difficult to attain, in large part because people haven't always been able to be open about their identity; however, it's estimated that LGBTQ youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual counterparts. 
Over the past couple of years, many celebrities and other individuals have participated in the "It Gets Better" campaign, wherein they share inspirational messages of hope to GLBT youth who may be bullied or just feel lost. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More in the Middle

Yesterday, the new semester started.  Wait.  Actually, tomorrow marks the start of the fifth week of the semester.  What the heck?  How did that happen?  I'm assuming I must have missed a time warp in September because there is no way October begins tomorrow.  Excuse me while I stomp my feet and shake my fists at the universe for allowing time to pass so dang quickly.
I guess I should have known we'd breezed out of the beginning and into the middle based on how swamped and frazzled I am.  Forget about writing or editing or anything other than just getting through the day right now. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Long Run

With my mom's arthritis, she'll never run even a half a mile with me, but last week, I carried her for five. No, more like I took her for four, and she pushed me to go one more. Because of course, that's what mom's do.  Maybe it's all the talk about the American Dream in the convention speeches the past few  weeks, but I was thinking a lot about this whole life journey on my run that day.  There's no simpler way to say it.  My mom's childhood sucked.
Don't ask her about it because she doesn't want to talk about it.   Among other things, they called her dirty.

A little dirt never hurt anyone, and in my opinion, it's a sign of good play. Of course, they weren't really talking about the mud on a cheek. It was a deeper mess. Caked on so hard, maybe it never really comes off even with vigorous scrubbing.  No, I imagine no matter how far she traveled from that childhood, she always carried that dirt with her, a heavy burden.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Summer Vacation

The end is a matter of hours away.  I know I've said I love beginnings, so I'm sure I will be excited once I walk into my classrooms tomorrow.  However, that doesn't mean I like the fact that summer is over.  This was a particularly good one for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm a college professor which means I'm not on contract, but typically, that doesn't mean much for me.  This year, I took it more seriously, doing next to nothing for work.  Second, I stepped back from my lists and goals and just lived a lot.  I had so much fun.

Now, of course with the end about to smack me upside the head, I feel guilty. I didn't do enough. I revised my goals too far in the other direction, and now I'll never get it all done.  Doesn't matter that many items on my to do list are arbitrarily placed there by me.  I still feel like I failed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Be a better idea shopper

It's safe to say I love the internet. For at least twelve years, it's been an integral part of my daily life.  I've used the internet to build new relationships and to maintain old ones.  I can give credit to the web for my trip planning expertise. I would not be writing fiction or a blog (obviously) today if it weren't for the various communities I've encountered.  I quite literally can't imagine my life without a search engine or a social network.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to ruin a hobby

I haven't blogged in a long time, so I feel obligated to write something. I sat here for a few minutes trying to decide what to write about.  I ended up with a list of things that annoy me.  It included everything from fallacious reasoning on the internet (and let me tell you the sub-list on that one could end up covering blog topics for the rest of my life) to the trend of bad fanfiction taking over the publishing world (ask me what I think.  Come on, give me a reason!). 
Sure, I've got a lot to say on a lot of topics, but as I faced that blank screen, it was the sense of obligation that hit me.  Why did I HAVE to write this blog today?  Why is it even on my "to do" list?

Because I'm a writer and writers blog, right?  It's what I SHOULD do. 
And if I'm a writer, that means, I better start adding more writing tasks to my daily list as well.  Edit three more chapters, write more, network more, query more.  All of which sound like work. Writing began as a hobby for me—a sidetrack of a reading hobby.  It was fun. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Making Progress

I know it's a shock, but I'm still here.

It's been forever and a day since I last blogged. I spent June immersed in teaching summer school, carting kids to swim lessons and dance, and of course, participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.  I'm happy to report that I survived and managed to complete the first draft of my third novel.  I'm just now settling into summer though we've already reached the halfway point.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Camp

I know I said I was going to start a series on beginnings/expectations, etc., and it's not been something like a umpteen bazillion years since I blogged.  The thing is, I have an excuse.  I got caught up in both endings and beginnings.  The end of the school year for my girls was filled with track meets and retrospectives and previews for next year.  Then, I walked immediately into my summer class, a fresh start and another chance for overly high expectations.

What really threw me off, though, was that at the last minute, I decided to go away to summer camp, Camp Nano, that is.  Just like November's NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. 

Guess what that means?  Yup, another beginning.  Thirteen days in, and I'm still on track.  Given the word counts of middle grade fiction, if I meet the goals, it should mean finishing it by the end of the month.  Thankfully, that will  allow me to tick off one of two summer writing goals earlier than expected.  I plan to write one novel and finish editing one short story. A novel this month will leave me plenty of time for the latter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

(Much Too) Great Expectations

Comm Studies Award winner!
The fact that it's been almost a month since my last post can only mean one thing: a semester has ended. The past month has flown by in a flurry of presentations and papers and grading and excuses and more grading.  Last week, my eyes watered listening to Pomp and Circumstance. Yesterday, I uploaded the last of the final grades.   Today, I give myself a reflection pause.

It was an interesting semester, one that started really strong. My students were active and engaged.  They read before class and tested well.  By midterm, either they were fading, or I was.  Regardless, Spring Semester 2012 fizzled out, puttered to a stop, limped into home.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Squirrels and Shiny Objects

You:       Hey, T, how's that modified single tasking going?  Did you finish revising that short story you were planning to work on this month?

Me:        SQUIRREL! (runs off chasing real and imaginary playthings).

I used to be highly efficient and extremely productive.  No, really, I did.  I don't know what happened.  I could blame lots of things.  For example, my students in Pop Culture will be debating the influence of digital culture on productivity Monday. I giggled when one admitted that she HAS to check Facebook before she starts writing a paper.  Guilty. Of course, I've been a cyber-junkie for at least ten years, so I'm not sure it's fair to look in that direction.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Last night, I was chatting with a friend, and I informed her that I’d be sending her a short story draft in the near future.  I have a particularly high level of respect for this friend’s opinion of my writing, so I told her I was nervous.  Her response: “Drafts are … drafty.  Even when they’re final drafts.”
I tilted my head and smiled.  There was so much to love about that statement, and I instantly knew I needed to blog about it.   At surface level, this would appear to be one of my writing blogs, but stick with me a minute.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Insecure Writer's Group Post: Trends

I am definitely not a trendsetter.  I'm sure I follow trends, however, though I've always been uncomfortable being obvious about it.  In high school, for example, if someone had the same shirt or same pair of jeans, I retired that item of clothing, too concerned about being exactly the same as another person (while desperately trying to fit in at the same time—go figure).  Today, I am less concerned about either following the pack or setting the pace.  I'm generally happy to fall somewhere in the middle.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Travyon Martin and the Hunger Games have in common

In today's blog, I use my communication professor voice rather than my fiction writer voice. I started a different The Hunger Games inspired blog yesterday, and I'll get back to that later.  Today, a friend tweeted this link, and I needed to talk a little about it. Please take a moment to read the link.
Racist Hunger Games Fans are Very Disappointed

The article showcases several tweets which reveal the way some fans reacted to the casting of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, in particular. A few examples are beyond vile, but they can be summed up with this one,
"I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue."

Friday, March 16, 2012


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. 

Yes, I am a dreamer, and I can totally see myself in Tubman's quotation.  Strength and passion might as well be my hyphenated middle name. Here I go off to change the world. Wait. There was something else?  Patience.  Oh crud. Me and patience?  No so much.

I'm sure there are dreamers who are good at that waiting thing, but I'm not one of them.  I'm more likely to attack the situation.  I also tend to want pretty fast results, and if they don't come, I may get bored and move on.  I realize it's a fundamental flaw.

This morning Elana Johnson's blog that talked about failure, and one of the things she said in failure we learn our weaknesses.  I loved that sentiment.  I tend to think I'm pretty good about figuring out my weaknesses but my lack of patience means I usually either barrel through them or find ways around them rather than taking the time to fix them. (No, I'm not just talking about writing.)A friend of mine began to query her novel.  The requests poured in.  I believe she ended up with a forty percent rate of request for her manuscript.  The agents commented on the strength of her writing.  I might have taken that as a sign to mass mail my query to every agent in the querytracker database, but she did not.  In fact, she stopped querying altogether so she could embark on a substantial revision she believes will make the book better.  Yes, she wants to publish, but she has the patience to wait until her novel is exactly where it needs to be.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Post: Is it done yet?

Once in a while, I have to run out while something is cooking or baking.  I will ask my husband to take it out when it's done.  "How will I know?" He'll ask. Then, I have to figure out how to describe something that is often subjective.
  • It's exactly golden brown. 
  • It springs back to the touch.
  • It's crispy just around the edges.
There's a lot of pressure in knowing when something is ready. You can hover around the stove, opening the door every few seconds, maybe even pulling the meal out when it's just a little underdone.  Or maybe you take a laissez faire approach and until someone asks, "What's that smell?"  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Too many voices

It’s a busy world. It’s a loud world.  Everyone is talking.  Is anyone listening?  I'm part of the problem. The very notion of a blog epitomizes the issue.  We all want to put our two cents in.  We’ve all got something to say.  

With so many voices trying to be heard, it’s hard to filter all of the information coming out way. Focusing on anything is a challenge so we end up focusing on nothing at all. Information overload causes us to shut down.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I don’t remember how this started in my house but it’s been happening for a few months.  It goes something like this:
We’re all eating dinner, and someone will say, “I remember that time we had Chinese in Hawaii.”  Then someone will add to it.  Suddenly, the kids start bouncing up and down, yelling, "Story time! Story time!"

So, we keep going.  One story leads to another.  Maybe about Hawaii.  Maybe about another trip we took or our favorite local Chinese restaurant.  It doesn’t matter.  We don’t stop until the kids have either lost interest or we’ve run out of ideas for the moment.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Whew, by the skin of my teeth, it's January which means I can still get away with a beginning of the year post.  I love beginnings.  One of the best parts of my job is that I get at least two new "starts" a year.  Every semester, I get the thrill of new students, a fresh chance to get everything right.

Inevitably, after a month, things stagnate, and most professors begin the semi-annual "Is it the end of the semester yet?" lament. Just hurry up and get here already so we can move on. 
I suppose my love of beginnings is why I have the starts of four novels but have only completed two.  It's fun to develop new characters and plots.  It's less fun in the middle—where everything is more complicated and murky.  I get bored.  Then, I want to rush to get to the end, but I tend to be disappointed when it's over. I've been thinking what a common phenomenon this is.  Think about how often we end up finding the end of the series to be the most disappointing—Star Wars, Godfather, Harry Potter, Hunger Games

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Noticing the Universe

I am a bit obsessed with death. There I said it.  I often struggle to fall asleep because I can't quite get my mind off of it—when, how, and then what? Obviously, it doesn't stop me from actually living, but I just have so much to do, so many things to see, you know?  I think you do. I continue to blame it on my mid-life crisis, and I hope it'll fade soon. In the meantime, I blog about the purpose of my life and share all my struggles with you. Enjoy! 

A few months ago, a friend posted this blog link on Facebook, and I believe she linked it in the comments of my blog at some point, too.  I found the message that the universe doesn't care about about me and that I should do epic shit as a result to be equal parts depressing and inspiring.  Perhaps, that's why I've been so focused on lists and what I have yet to do.  It's certainly one of the reasons I hope to publish my fiction.

Then comes John Green.  He makes me think maybe how I'm defining epic shit is limited. I've enjoyed his work for a while, but his widely popular The Fault in Our Stars was released this month. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief which I contend is one of the best books of all time, said on the back flap, "A novel of life and death and the people caught in between . . .  You laugh, you cry, and then you come back for more."  Yup, sounds about right to me.

It once again raises the question of the relationship between humans and the universe, something not taken lightly when the main characters are terminally ill.  Near the end, Augustus sums up the most valuable messages I took away from the novel.  He said, "I want to leave a mark." Sigh. I identify with that sentiment. That little piece of immortality despite the inevitability of our mortality. But then he argues that leaving a mark does as much to scar the universe. He says of Hazel:

People will say it's sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But … Isn't that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.

The real heroes anyway aren't the people doing things; the real heroes are people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn't actually invent anything.  He just noticed that people with cowpox didn't get smallpox (p. 312).

What I love is the idea that to do anything worthwhile in this life, you have to pay attention first.  You must listen more and see more and feel more.

I don't think it means you stop doing, but it changes why. Doing something because you noticed it needed doing usually turns out better than doing something because you wanted to be noticed for doing it.

Then again, in today's world, paying attention may well be epic in and of itself.  I invite you to put yourself on notice with me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Forget the list. Fill the bucket.

I love lists. Currently, at least a half a dozen of them populate my desk on scratch paper, old envelopes, and notebooks.  Things to do, groceries to buy, menus to plan, candidates to interview, and places to travel.  My hard drive contains lists of chapters to revise and writing ideas to … well … write. 

Last week, in honor of my 40th birthday, I began construction on a new list.  A big one. I planned to name forty accomplishments in my life and then to identify forty more I still plan to achieve. On Saturday morning, I opened a file, fully intending to use the quiet of the morning before anyone has awoken to complete my task: write something meaningful regarding the lists and post my blog entry for the week.  Easy peasy.

Except I only got to 16.  Hmm.  Really? 

A bit dejected and not wanting to spoil the birthday buzz I'd worked up, I closed the file rapidly.  A few days later, I tried again, adding only five more items to the list.

I spent a couple of more days kind of beating myself up over it.  How could I not have more to write down? Had I not done anything worthwhile or is my memory so bad that I just can't remember it? Why bother with a list of 40 more things I want to do when I haven't managed much in the first place? And what the heck am I going to write about in the blog now?

After stewing a bit on that, I came to a pretty important conclusion.  Screw the list. Perhaps, I've overstated that.  I do still have a desk full of lists, after all.  It's just that maybe this particular list is less important than I thought.

I can't really live my life by whether or not an accomplishment is list-worthy. In part, I realized that the list was so hard because I spent too much time analyzing what would sound like an accomplishment to other people. I don't believe for a second that I haven't done many more than forty good things.  It doesn't make all those unremembered achievements less valuable because they didn't make it onto this oh-so-irrelevant blog posting.

Just like the novels I write are worthwhile even if they're never published.

I found this article which argued that a bucket list keeps you on track—helps you see the big picture.  Sure.  I agree.  But I think I liked the sentiment in the picture more.

 Time to stop making lists and fill the damn bucket. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Are you a lone nut?

The end of the year comes with a hodge podge of thoughts.  No talk about goals or resolutions right now.  I'll save that for the other milestone coming this week (how many of you know what it is?).

Instead, I want to share a little speech with you that I adore.