Monthly Archives: January 2017

Support Your Public Schools

She lived in a car with her mother, until her mother OD’d. She sat next to a student whose parents owned a private airplane.

He slept on friends’ couches all senior year. He sat next to a girl whose dad commanded troops in Iraq.

She was a single mom trying to make ends meet. She sat next to a girl whose parents had come to the US to start a new life. They sat next to a foreign exchange student from the Republic of Georgia. They all attended class with three debutants, two kids who lived in the projects, a teacher’s kid and a doctor’s child.

All of them, regardless of background, learned. 

That’s public school, and the strength of public school is essential to our communities, states and the nation.

Today Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presided over the kick off to “choice” week. There they embraced and championed the idea that tax dollars should be used for private education and that charter schools could somehow fix what ails public schools.

Abbott and Patrick are wrong. That did not stop them from firing the shots that could destroy a system so essential to our democracy.

The best way to guarantee strong public schools is to vote for politicians who believe in strong public schools. Abbott used to, Patrick never did.

Neither of these men faced election this year. 

To contact Gov. Greg Abbott and tell him you support strong public schools not choice, click here.

To contact Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to say the same thing, click here.

To be clear, support for vouchers, tax credits or any other means of privatizing public school will kill the public school. Don’t let that happen.

And the next time Texas elections roll around, remember these men have every intention of destroying a true public school system. We can’t ignore this. 

Why I Will March

I will never say #NotMyPresident.

I understand the sentiment but do not embrace it.

I won’t say it because Donald J Trump IS my President.

I am a citizen of this great nation, and as such, this nation and its President belong to me.
That is why I will march.

Because I must join the voices of others to say racism is not acceptable, misogyny is not acceptable, the war against public education is not acceptable, vulgarity is not acceptable, bullying those who disagree with you is not acceptable, defunding Planned Parenthood is not acceptable, calling the media dishonest because they write and say things you don’t agree with is not acceptable, treating others as less than is not acceptable.

I do not march against my President.

I march against the ugliness unleashed by his words. I march against those who have embraced his nationalist speech and added white supremacy. I march against the idea that separation of church and state is a suggestion not a constitutional mandate. I march because we sit on the brink of returning to the age of back alley butchers performing abortions.

I march for my Muslim friends. I march for those terrified that they will be sent back to Mexico because they gave the government their names when the Dream Act started. I march because climate change is real. I march because deregulation leads to corruption like the housing crisis where so many lost their homes. I march because I shouldn’t have to carry my birth certificate to use the bathroom. I march because creationism doesn’t belong in a science textbook. I march because facts are facts. So yes, I will march.

I will do so in peaceful protest against policy and speech, but I do not march against the man.

I march because the constitution says congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I march because I must.

The Night Before

On this night before the inauguration of Donald Trump, I sit here after reading the news, the real news, and I worry.

Yes, tomorrow Mr. Trump will become President Trump. We have a process in this country, and the people spoke. 

I can go through the litany of reasons for why I worry, but I don’t need to. The reasons are many, and they came from Trump’s mouth throughout the campaign and in the days since.

I hope someone takes Trump’s phone away. Or even better, I hope HE puts the phone away. The end of the unpresidential tweet storms would be a good start. 

I hope my worry is completely misplaced. That my friends who say they voted for the businessman because we need that kind of leadership right now are right. I sincerely hope Mr. Trump’s words prove to be electioneering, and I hope from the moment he is sworn into office we see a different kind of Trump. A Presidential Trump.

There’s a Facebook post that has been making the rounds since election night. It basically says hoping from Trump to fail is like cutting off your nose to spite your face, and that is so, so true.

I honestly don’t know anyone who hopes Trump fails. Everyone I know is either on their knees in prayer or sending positive light and energy Trump’s way in the hope that our fears prove unfounded.

The thing is, so far it’s looking pretty grim. Many of the cabinet nominees make no sense.  The Russian hacks and current investigations followed by the Putin praise is more than unsettling, it’s downright scary. The press conference the other day has me trembling in my shoes, especially with the way so many people I know were quick to defend the accusation that CNN was fake news. 

The last eight years of the constant anti-Obama attacks, often from real fake news outlets, have left people I know and love fearful of everything from President Obama staging a coup and refusing to relinquish power to President Obama setting up death panels to kill off senior citizens. These fears were based on nothing real, but people believed them. And now those same people DON’T believe NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN. That’s terrifying. 

How did we get here? (Rhetorical. I know how.)

Tomorrow, I know we will see a peaceful transition of power, and it will be a symbol to the world that our nation is still great.

I won’t rejoice at the man who is taking the office, though. 

I’ve seen a lot of people say we need to stop paying attention to all the political junk in the news. To them I say, no. Now is the time we must be more aware than ever. The man’s words do matter. The man’s conduct does matter. The man’s promises do matter. 

Mr. Trump will be the President tomorrow, but  if you do not agree with his words, his actions, his policies, silence and acceptance are NOT the answers. Apathy is NOT the answer. 

The first amendment exists for a reason. 

And our government is of the people, for the people. Winning an election does not make you God, it does not make you right. 

The President of the United States is one of the most powerful people on earth. The citizens of this country must hold that person accountable for words and deeds.

And so tomorrow I will be praying for our nation and the rest of the world. It’s the beginning. Hopefully it’s not the beginning of the end.

First training sessionĀ 

OMG.

Today I learned how to do a squat. The trainer, Shane, told me I’d be doing this, and I laughed at him. Yeah right.

If you know me you understand.

But no, really, today I did squats. 

And I learned how to bend and sit.

If you’re someone who knows this stuff, it looks pretty easy.

If you’re me…OMG.

I didn’t actually realize how hard I was working until it was time to leave and I had to walk again. Lol.

My knees are jelly now. 

I’m proud of me, and I’m thankful for the trainer who says “You’re not broken” while he helps me start down this road to strength and real mobility.

*cool thing about the trainer: he did his master’s at MSU. Yay Midwestern!

Know Your Why

I’ve heard the statement know your Why three times in the last two weeks. It’s a powerful statement.

Knowing your why helps when you do a life spot check, helps you know when to say yes and no, keeps you from just going through life on autopilot. 

My why: to touch lives through the power of story. Whether that’s my books or in writing instruction or helping my kids capture the stories of their community, my why is seen in my work.

Knowing my why helped me start writing again once I had time to breathe, and it helps me focus on critiques of my students’ work. 

Know your why. It makes a difference.

Always Never Always

I write to music. Usually metal, orchestral metal or hard rock. The music I write to has words, but I don’t hear them. I hear the beat and write like the wind…sometimes.

When Ozzy starts singing or Jillian’s  (Within Temptation)  voice breaks over a heavy guitar riff or Angtoria’s Wise Woman sounds, I write fast.

It’s just how I do things.

I revise to Spaghetti Western soundtracks, Yo Yo Ma and other soft music with attitude.

It’s just how I do things.

I write best by using a combination of Fast Draft, rewrite, write as fast as you can, first three chapter hell and beats. I didn’t know they were called beats until I started listening to The Self Publishing Formula podcast. And then I revise, send to beta readers and revise and revise and send to an editor and edit. And then I publish.

This is my system. It works for me when I work it. I quit working it for awhile, but I’m back now.

I’m posting this because this week I’ve seen and heard several absolutes when it comes to writing. I’m not the self publishing expert or even the “write this way” expert, but I do know this: if someone says always do this or this is the only thing that works, they’re wrong.

Except sometimes they’re right. Because when they say the answer to writing is sitting at the computer or on your phone or tablet and writing, they are right. That’s the number one key.

But when they say you must use Story Magic, or the Snowflake Method, or Plot Stormers, or the blob, or Fast Draft, or 5k a Day! or any other method, they’re wrong. Those are tools, and maybe you fall in love with one of them and use it, but maybe you hate it too.

There is no magic formula for writing a book. You’ve got to find your own formula. And you do that by writing.

Want to write? Write. 

Study the craft, listen to podcasts, read Stephen King’s On Writing, study the structure of your favorite author’s work, check out The Gotham City Writers character worksheets, join a writing group (I highly recommend Romance Writers of America). Do all of that. But above all write. Find your method. Repeat.

*A message to myself and others like me.  

Gym Time

When I was nine we moved to Texas.

What I remember from that time: every girl could do a cartwheel and most wanted to be  cheerleaders. I could not do a cartwheel, but I did want to be a cheerleader.

In junior high we started gym classes. Nothing in my junior high world was worse than gym. 1. I was overweight. 2. I couldn’t run, shoot baskets, serve volleyballs, hit softballs, do cartwheels, climb ropes or any of that awfulness. I did love that parachute thing we bounced a ball around on, and scooter races were always fun. 

Today I went to the gym I joined before leaving on vacation. I’ve been one other time. That was to meet with the trainer last week.

The trainer told me I have a mental block where athletics is concerned. He thought it might have been because of a bad coach. But it isn’t that. I LOVED one of my junior high PE teachers. She absolutely believed in me. She believed in all of us. 

I don’t really know what the problem is. 

But I know the trainer is right about my mental block.

I know because I have to psych myself up to drive up the road to go, and then I have to psych myself up to get out of the car and go inside.

Today I sat in the parking lot and told myself to stop being so ridiculous.

And then I took this selfie.


I told myself one day I’d look back at the photo and laugh.

But I don’t know. I look at it now and don’t really feel very funny.

A million moons ago I started this blog because it was January, I’d started a diet and I wanted to develop my writing voice.

Going to the gym is just part of the story.

Improvement

The first step to improving is to FACE THE UGLY TRUTHS.

I do not do well with this one. Not in my job, not in my life. Ugly truths make me hurt inside. They rip my heart up. I take them personally even if they’re not directed at me. That is so weird. I know it.

Today I had an ugly truth meeting. It has me in a bitter mood and makes me feel hopeless. The meeting was not about me. It doesn’t matter. I feel dark inside and outside. 

It’s so dumb.

Maybe it’s menopause.

Or maybe it’s the ugly truth meeting I had with a trainer last night. The ugly truth of that: I can have a trainer for five sessions but that’s it because dang, their expertise is expensive.

As he said: training is an investment. But honestly, on my priority list it’s below a new car, a new computer and travel. Maybe that will change. Or maybe the truths weren’t ugly enough. (No, Universe, that is not a challenge.)

Maybe it’s just the cold and the snow falling despite my weather app’s 0% chance of snow.

Maybe I just need Starbucks.

It’s a good thing it’s the weekend. I need it.

The Week It Happened

Moi @ 47. 48 around the corner.


It took almost an entire semester, but when we returned from break I felt like me in the classroom.

How weird.

I would have never guessed I would have a mini identity crisis as an adviser after all these years, but setting matters. (The writer in me should have known that.)

I still have so much to learn about teaching, about journalism, about life in general.

At almost 50 it’s easy to just go through life’s motions instead of really living. I don’t want to do that. I want to be like Auntie Mame minus the Great Depression and those boots.šŸ˜Š

Live, Live, Live!

A Moment Part 2 UGH

The minute you blog about an awesome day, a Rockstar Teacher Moment, a classroom v-i-c-t-o-r-y, you can guaran-darn-tee the next day will be hell.

Nah.

It started with Pizza Hut. Or maybe it started with not getting enough sleep last night and noticing a bunch of sleepy heads who wanted to be on their phones in first period. Or maybe it started with The Question (props to Crane on that one).

Rewind.

My kids were tired this morning. I was too. Plus I’m trying this whole bonding thing: enter Pizza Hut. (The whole thing was recorded so this is probably on YouTube somewhere and maybe not exactly as I remember).

So, yeah. Pizza Hut.

“Stand up, stand up, stand up!” I said grapevining across the back of the classroom where I have to stand to teach since giant monitors block their eyes from me if I stand up front.

“Nooooo.” “Ugh.” Various other complaints and the passive aggressive ignore Mrs.Lee continue playing game on computer. 

Five of 30 totally in it, standing, ready to do whatever comes next.

“Oh come on you guys! This will be fun! I promise!” Me, looking at a class of kids who want me to just keep showing a PowerPoint so they can check out while looking like they’re totally into photo composition rules.

Nah. 

“Stand up!”

The sudden dawning realization that I’m not backing off this one. Three refusals still. Whatever.

(Aside: I have no idea where this whole idea of mine came from. One minute I was bored to tears. The next, Pizza Hut.)

“Okay.  You’ve gotta do this,” show drawing a square in the air; “this,” show chicken wings; and “this,” show McDonald’s arches in the air.

Interest alights. I’m suddenly hungry.

One kid in the back, or actually now front, “Hey Miss, how is this relevant?”

The. Question.

The class looks toward me expecting I’m not sure what exactly. I mean this is J class and we’re drawing boxes, doing the chicken dance and mimicking McDonald’s arches. 

It’s a good question. How is this relevant? It’s a question I should always, always have the answer to in my classroom.

And I do. But first, “Just follow along. I promise I’ll tell you how after.”

Then, “I’m gonna do it first then y’all do it too.” 

And I start the song with motions my daughter brought home from camp one summer.

“Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut.

“Join in!”

We sing. No. Three of us sing, most do the motions, the three abstainers look at us like we’re crazy.

“Faster.”

The same response.

“One last time.”

The crowd at the back has joined the abstainers, but the ones along for the ride are laughing. And then it’s over and most collapse to their seats like I’d asked them to start marathon practice or something.

And then I explain the relevance. 

“It’s fun. And groups that are silly together bond.”

They groan and tell me I’m wrong. 

But they’re never going to forget Pizza Hut, KFC or McDonald’s, I bet. And maybe they’ll remember photo composition too.

The rest of the story, and my real moment of almost failure (not the song and silliness, surprise!):

One of the kids I look at as a leader was an abstainer. I kept her after and said, “Ya know, I really need you to participate. When you don’t, others won’t.”

And she reminded me she has extreme back problems and neck problems and they had flared up today. 

I knew about those issues, but I forgot.

And then I justified: “next time just shout it out so the kids know WHY you’re sitting.” instead of “oh my gosh! I forgot.”

Ugh.

Bright side: yearbook loved it. And they did Maw-Hu-Saw-Sin today.

Tomorrow is Chicken Butt. The perfect journalism movie.

Because staffs that have fun together and are silly together are stronger. It’s relevant.