I’ve taken a chance on publishing a dozen stories that have been previously published into a collection of its own. It brings about an odd feeling because all these stories have appeared in other places over the years, but I’ve finally put it in one collection for sale. Do I think it’s headed towards the best sellers list? Of course not. I have no illusions on that account. But It’s giving me a platform to showcase the stories while I finish up the novel I started back in April, (uh, not really “started” in April. It was way before that, but we’ll leave that as it is).
Either way, I’ve published it and will start promoting it as a trial by fire way of learning some ins and outs of self-promoting and marketing. I was advised by someone to put out a press release. Immediately I had visions of Edina Monsoon in her manic display of PR’s PR call to PR things. I guess we’ll see how it goes. By the end of it, I, too, might need copious amounts of alcohol to get through the process.
I present it here, for all to enjoy. In the meantime, back to writing.
John Lennon once described an 18-month long period of his life in which he was absent from his wife and taken up with a mistress as his “lost weekend”. When I first heard this years ago I thought it was a bit of a copout to describe a time of listlessness and the inability to take accountability for his actions. Now that I’m older, have learned more about what made up his lost weekend, and have come face to face with certain aspects of my life and the toll which everyday adulting has taken upon me, I get it. Only, I’m sad to say, my lost weekend has lasted the last 4 years and I wasn’t as creative as Lennon during that time.
And even sadder to say, during that time, I neglected the aspect of my life which truly gives me that life to begin with. And that’s my writing.
Long story short, I went into teaching. And yes, everything you hear about the horrendous pressures which are placed upon teachers is true. I became an English teacher. I became an English teacher at a socio-economically disadvantaged school. I became a 10th grade English teacher to children who, on average, had a 7th grade reading level, at best. And, to add salt to the wound, I have been an English teacher during the worst pandemic in the last 100 years. Obviously, I go big or I go home. Except, I’ve been stuck at home for the better part of 5 months.
Five long months. And it’s about to get longer as schools across the country are deciding to delay the start of in class instruction.
Me, in my element
The truth of the matter, I really do love teaching. Outside of being a writer, I knew I wanted to be a teacher as far back as 1st grade, in which I would make lists of students in my classes, pretend to take roll and pretend to teach my collection of Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals. I just knew I had something in me that others needed to learn, and I needed to be the one to teach it to them. Maybe I still hold that philosophy. However, unlike Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals, real students talk back, on most days are disinterested in anything that isn’t on their cell phones, find education pointless in an ever evolving world of Instagram and TikTok fame, and deal with emotional issues that are not at all different than when I was a teenager, it’s just that there’s more of it and far more awareness. So over the last 4 years my teaching philosophy has morphed from something that I have to teach them to being there to support them if shit in their personal lives hits the fan, while teaching reading comprehension and writing. And even as I say that I wish it was as simplistic. Throw in a state mandated test that even I, along with my fellow English teachers, have trouble passing because we see how the test is rigged. My fellow English teachers all have brilliant minds. And most of the time I feel inferior knowing I have only a history degree, yet because I passed the English certification test, I was hired as an English teacher instead. But even with all that, we, highly educated individuals whose cognitive skills are off the charts, sit in meetings and argue over how in the world the test creators came up with the answers they have.
It’s disconcerting to say the least.
But this year was different. We had a pandemic. Or rather, we are having a pandemic. This is by no means over. And state mandated tests were waived. Children and teens are at home for the first time in their lives being held responsible and accountable for their own education. It’s an odd feeling as a teacher watching this play out. Some students are thriving in an online environment because the pressures of being in an American high school were way too challenging (fights, drugs, peer pressures, etc.). I see this and think finally a great solution. For those who are self-reliant to stay at home can now follow an online education. However, on the other side of the coin we have students who are suffering because home life is one disaster after another waiting to happen even before a global pandemic took over their lives. So, from a teaching standpoint, it’s hard to know exactly one’s place in all this when all you’ve known is a scheduled that keeps you busy from 4:30am until midnight worrying about lesson plans, school administrators who don’t know what’s going on in the classroom, whether certain students have eaten lately, or if they have anyone to tell them they love them before they fall asleep.
Teaching is hard. Not teaching, I’ve discovered, is even harder.
Yet, despite being in lockdown in the state of Texas, following social distancing mandates, wearing a mask everywhere I go when I leave my house, and yearning for interaction with my friends and family, I got back into my writing. It’s taken a while, to be honest. I went hard in the paint back in April and made some tremendous headway on a novel I began planning 5 years ago after the death of my father. I managed to knock out about 40,000 words of a planned 120,000 words. Although my concentration has once again been lacking, I am still proud of those 40k words. In the meantime, I’ve made an unbreakable promise to a friend that I have to have this finished within a year. In my head that’s no problem. The talent is never the problem, but I recognize that motivation has been my Achilles Heel. It always has been. I get stuck in patterns of doing something that brings about instant gratification such as binging a new Netflix or Hulu series, (or an old series. During the month of May I suddenly HAD to rewatch all 8 seasons of GOT all over again.) Or, I had to make jam for every single fruit I found on sale at the supermarket (which was detrimental on my part since I went KETO two years ago, but that’s for another blog). Or, of all things, learning French has been my new obsession (currently on a 100+ day streak on Duolingo). Either way, I recognize that I have distractions, and oftentimes I’m my biggest distractor.
However, I am here now. Writing my first blog in over 4 years, forcing myself to commit to writing on the public stage. I’m not sure if I have very many readers still left. This is primarily for my own benefit. A habit begins one step at a time. And it becomes a habit when you repeat it.
So I am writing, I am blogging, and I am publishing (yes, definitely more about that later.)
In the meantime, I hope someone is enjoying my words, and even more so, I hope someone out there is enjoying my new dedication. This is, after all, my personal affirmation.
(I would like to preface this in saying that I attempted to make this blog post about three and a half years ago and it never fully posted. My next blog post tomorrow will explain why, but nonetheless, I felt it was a decent piece of writing at the time. So, I’m completing the posting of it now.)
A New Hope (originally written December 28th, 2016)
The human body is a strange vehicle which encases our souls. That sounded so much better in my head earlier today as I inspected a weird little sore on my thigh near my knee. It was just an infected pore, really. It happens often with no rhyme or reason. It gets red, I scratch it, put some cortisone on it and call it a day. But then I think, out of all the millions of pores on my body (I’m sure I have quite a bit more than the average woman), why did that pore right there chose to volunteer as tribute? It’s a mystery and one I’m sure I’ll never quite figure out.
Well, I will someday, but I’m not sure I’ll be around to share the knowledge of it. Afterall, I would by then have shucked off this strange vehicle of a human body and will most likely be wandering the ethereal plane seeking out the next vehicle to inhabit. I’m a reincarnationist, after all. And what every higher power guides me with wisdom to pick out the next one, I’m sure I’ll be on the lookout for better, thinner, and less acne-prone genes.
One can hope. Perhaps one will never know.
The last time I blogged, aside from that little Super Bowl post, I was coming off of the shock of the passing of Alan Rickman and David Bowie within the same week. What can I say, not much has improved on that front. The year 2016 sucked. ASS. As if the passing of Bowie and Rickman wasn’t a big enough shock, the death of Prince a couple months later really threw me for a loop. You see, me and 2015 didn’t depart the best of friends. I really stared out 2016 with higher hopes. But nope. It had to take Prince. Nothing could beat that, right?
So here’s the deal. And I’m going to try to write this with as much reverence as I possibly can. I’m not a Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the movies, can quote a few good lines and can tell anybody with surprising accuracy the plot of pretty much all the movies. But it doesn’t consume me like other works of sci-fi/fantasy. However, comma, don’t let anyone mistake that for my disrespect for the franchise and what it means to others. I’m a nerd. My nerdiness honors and recognizes the nerdiness in you.
So, when I heard about Carrie Fisher’s hospitalization after the massive heart attack she suffered while flying back to the states a few days before Christmas, I understood the collective gasp heard around the world as the world prayed for her recovery. But, 2015 and the beginning of 2016 left me gun-shy. I felt little hope. I remember looking at my brother and husband and saying, “I bet she’ll be the last one of the year.” Yes, it was a morbid thing to say, but it was realistic. I didn’t want to see it happen. All of my friends, ALL OF MY FRIENDS, are Princess Leia fans. And to be fair, Carrie Fisher fans as well. Yet, as the world gathered for collective prayers for Carrie, as well as prayers for her mother who was worrying for her sick daughter, the world was left venerable to a very unlikely candidate.
On Christmas evening I scrolled through Facebook and settled on a post from The Irish Independent that announced the passing of George Michael. My first thought: what the holy fuck? I searched other news sources and none had picked up on it yet. Obviously it was a mistake. Maybe a bad joke. Perhaps a weird hack on the Irish Independent website. But slowly, and sadly, surely, I Heart Scotland posted about it next. Shortly CNN and Fox picked up on it and I sat on my mom’s couch totally dumbfounded.
Seriously, George Michael? Suddenly dead? From heart failure? None of the words were matching up. In fact, even a week later, the words still don’t seem to match up.
Georg Michael (courtesy of popexpresso.com)
Let’s talk about the 80s for a moment. I am a proud child of the 80s. I entered kindergarten in 1980 and for the next 10 years I relished in everything the 80s had to offer: the weird styles (day glow, anyone?), the toys (the Cabbage Patch craze just to name one), the music (Team Cyndi vs. Team Madonna, then later, hair band glory), the TV shows (where do I start?), the movies (again, where do I start?), the odd politics (the Reagan years), the American obsession with the British royal family – the whole thing. Well, I experienced as much as someone between the ages of 5-14 could experience. I might have watched John Hughes movies, but I was nowhere near experiencing a John Hughes movie life. I was the 80s and the 80s was me.
I even took a class in college dedicated to the 80s. I don’t want to brag, but I made an A.
And boy, Wham! I sometimes joke to others with “Remember, Wham! started out as a rap band.” (seriously, look it up). But say what you will, what wasn’t there to like about Wham? Cute, clean-cut accessible boys with adorable accents and a catchy pop rhythm you could dance to. But like all good things of the 80s, after a dozen or so hit songs, Wham! ended, but George Michael emerged as a powerhouse solo talent and the world never really looked back. And boy, did George throw off those cute, clean-cut shackles. A funny memory I have was getting the Faith album (on vinyl, no kidding) and telling my aunt about the song, “I Want Your Sex.” Horrified isn’t even close of an accurate description of her reaction. I can look back and laugh. And just think, this was only a year before Madonna put out a song with an accompanying video about giving fellatio to a saint. Damn, what wasn’t there to love about the 80s?
(By the way, did anyone realize that Pete Burns of Dead or Alive also passed away this year? That one kind of slipped under the radar.)
The year 2016 was without a doubt the year of the Loss of the 80s icon. That’s all I really know how to describe it. When I started writing this blog, I thought something more poignant would come to me whilst writing, but that’s what I have. Perhaps I still can’t put it all into words. This will have to do for now.
Yet, I want to leave this with a little hope. I ended 2015 with a calendar burning. I won’t be doing that this year. There was definitely a higher power at play other than a calendar. But I will go into 2017 with something resembling hope. To say it can’t get worse is clearly asking for a jinx and I simply won’t do that. (update from July 2020, how little did I know I love some good irony)