Category Archives: reading

Senior Pictures

Did you get your senior picture taken? Did you make your senior appointment? Don’t forget the senior deadline. Get your picture done. According to my records you have not had your senior picture taken. Hey guys, help me out. Here’s a list of seniors not pictured. Can you tell the kids in your classes to get their pictures made? Okay, Lifetouch will be on campus on THIS DATE to take your last minute senior pictures. 

Hello. This is Mary Beth Lee. According to my records your senior has not yet had their photo taken for the yearbook. Lifetouch will be on campus on THIS DATE to take all last minute senior photos. This is the LAST chance for your senior to be photographed for the yearbook.

Notes (168 of them last year) delivered in class the week before final chance photos. Appointments required. Appointments made. 

Library set up. Pictures taken. 

Yearbook day: I’m not in the senior section!! Did you get your picture taken? Well, I did, in January. I called you, sent you notes, made your teachers harass you, the counselors called you down AND I made announcements the entire time Lifetiuch was here for last chance photos in OCTOBER. You’re right. You’re not in the senior section.
My introduction to my new school came courtesy of senior pictures. EM-S ISD uses a company called Glamour Craft, and they were on campus this week taking senior pictures. My new admin wanted me in the building just in case I was needed. I wasn’t, and that’s probably a good thing.

Monday was tough. I started unpacking my boxes and setting up shop in the new digs. It doesn’t feel like home yet. Brian and I stayed at the Venetian once. It was the swankiest place I’ve ever been. We had a butler and a doorbell. But we were still happy when we got home to the old house. That’s what Monday felt like. My new school is like the Venetian. But I have to find a way to make IT home.

I grew up in black and gold. I chose to swap the black with purple.

When I finished unpacking Monday, I sat at the computer and said What the heck have you done, Mary Beth?

After a few tears, I shook the bad feelings off and reminded myself I always hate school before the kids get there. Then I made a list of things I needed, because lists make me happy.

A bookcase was at the top of the list. Walmart to the rescue. $15.96 for a Mainstay 3-shelf bookcase. Sign me up.

People who know me understand the hilarity that was about to ensue. When it comes to mechanical issues, I’m pretty sure I have a learning disability. The book case instructions were photos. No words. YouTube took care of that. Two videos later (random guy:awesome, Target, your video is foreign language to people like me who don’t speak assembly required!), I tackled the project. 

Step 1: go find a screw driver because I left my years of tool collecting in the old newsroom.

Step 2: arrange everything and make sure the pictures match.

Step 3: use the hammer

Steps 5-9: suck it up and get over being afraid of doing it wrong. Do the work.

Step 10: unpack the books and put them in alpha order in the new shelf.

And with those books, a whole lot of joy.

Because words are my business and books are my first friends and sharing books with my students makes me so happy. 

That bookcase changed everything as far as attitude goes. 

I’ve taken a huge leap and change is crazy scary, but I’m still me, and my new kids will be my kids just like my old kids are still my kids. And this year is going to be hard, so hard, but hard isn’t bad. 

I’ll always bleed black and gold. But adding a little purple to the mix is a good thing. 


*I’m missing so many books. I think I lost a box somewhere. 

*putting old staff photos up on the shelf helped.

*a screw lock or something like that fell off the case. I threw it away because the case seemed fine without it. I hope the case is still standing when I make it back to the newsroom next week.

*standing there and letting fear stop you from moving forward is always the wrong answer.

Proud Day Memory

College graduationThis is the one picture I have of college graduation in 1993. DH took it. I was sick as a dog, but at the time I thought I had a little headache. Turned out a tiny bit more that that. My one and only experience with strep that I can remember, and I’d put it up there with swine flu. (If you’ve followed this blog, you know I got that experience in 2009. Ugh.)

That little girl in my arms and the man taking the photo were the two biggest reasons I have degrees today.  The little girl was my daily inspiration to go to school, do the work and get done. ❤

Family reunionThe man taking the photo was my biggest cheerleader, motivator, calm in the storm ROCK.

(This is us in May this year. 21 years after my first MSU graduation. 15 after my second.)

It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it.

If you’re struggling right now with school or a career path, find a rock and an inspiration. If you don’t have one, use the comments here and let me be your rock. It’s easy to not go. School is expensive. It’s HARD. It seems so pointless to take classes like Zoology and Botany and College Algebra when what you want to do is teach journalism. But that degree is as much about persistence as it is about learning the content. And if school isn’t your path, that’s okay, too. But only if you have a path, a plan, a goal to a successful life. Research shows college graduates earn more over a lifetime, but college is definitely not the only answer. Find someone who successfully does what you want to do and ask the how to get there. People are incredibly helpful, but you’ve got to ask.

If you want to know about advising student media or writing, I can answer questions. I know there are others out there willing to help.

Whatever you do, don’t choose to let life live you. YOU LIVE LIFE. If you don’t know the difference, feel free to ask. I’ll explain. 🙂

*****

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Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3–Out July 20!!!!

 

 

 

So You Want to Write a Book

TWO WORDS OF ADVICE:

Start. Writing.

Okay, I lied. Two more words of advice:

Start. Reading.

If you’re not reading, you can’t write. If you’re not writing, you’re not writing. It really is that simple.

If you think you don’t have time, you’re wrong.

Screen-Shot-2013-11-11-at-6.44.50-PM-1024x768

 

 

 

 

If you want feedback on your writing, find someone to give it to you. I can, other writers can, your mom can. If you want some guidance, check out local writing groups and books like On Writing by Stephen King.

Just remember, you can want to write all day. You’ve got to DO it for it to count!

*****

legs 1600by2400smallDon’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here. (Giveaways and more!)

Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3–Out July 20!!!!

 

I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

Best class ever. Here’s why:

  1. Prerequisite: 1st Amendment understanding

Nuclear war left world devastated. Group left makes up Goodist society where the world is always Good. No violence. No poverty. No divorce. Supressive rules: censored music, censored education. Goodist Judges who speak for the people and serve for life once elected. No marriage until 25, but must live with parents until then and train for a true career so when they turn 25, they can have a good life, therefore no money problems, which is a leading cause of divorce. No open religious beliefs since religion is a huge cause of conflict; however, personal beliefs in your own home are perfectly fine. Those who don’t follow the rules or don’t want to try are sent to the nuclear wasteland. Outcasts must sit alone. The Goodists don’t let the Outcasts form a community at the beginning of the game for fear the Outcasts would try to overthrow them and their bubble. Point of project: convince those undecided to join a side. Outcasts also trying to convince Goodists to become Outcast. Goodists trying to convince undecides to join them, but they will not allow those Outcast to join them. (AT NO TIME IN THE SESSION CAN THE MODERATOR interfere with how this plays out. You MUST be like Jeff Probst. You can ask questions, but you can’t make things happen. )

THIS SESSION (end of 2012 semester Jan. 9-11)

1.  Most of class is Goodist. 3 judges chosen, they sit in front and face forward. Only judges speak for Goodists unless a judge sees a silent Goodist with their hand raised requesting the opportunity to speak.  One Outcast. About 10 undecided.

2. An absentee joins Outcasts. 2 against rest of class.

3. Debate begins by undecideds questioning the Goodists judges or the Outcasts. Only judges speak for the Goodists unless a judge calls on a Goodist society member. At any time, the Goodist judges can call for a 60-second Goodist discussion before answering a question. When that happens Goodists meet, discuss and come up with an answer, then judge responds. Outcasts can not talk to each other at all at first. They are solitary.

4. After twenty minutes of debate a Goodist who’s been reprimanded for speaking without judges’ consent three times is kicked out of Goodist community. Goodists cheer. These judges are great at letting their people talk, so they are liked.

5. Goodist judge and undercover operative of Outcasts operating as undecided gets in kerfuffle with Goodist judge over whether a Goodist teenager committing a crime would be Outcast. She says if that’s her child she will be leave with him. Half of Goodists leave. Undecided explains she’s really Outcast.

6. The original Outcast asks Goodist judges if he can have his own group and sign a peace treaty. Goodist judges agree. EVERY Outcast joins with original in new group even though he’s not given them the laws of his new society. End of Day 1

Day 2. Moderator starts by reminding groups where we were at end of day 1 and telling Outcasts we’re going to give them a chance to change their minds about the new society since they all joined without having a clue as to what they were joining. She tells original Outcast to take two minutes to come up with the laws of his society.  (AGAIN, moderator must let student draw his own conclusions. Do Not Get Involved)

7. Moderator takes the eight remaining Goodists to the hall to come up with treaty points while Outcast leader explains new law. Five minutes later Goodists come in to discover three girls left Outcasts and are solitary. Before the new leader speaks his group other than about five on the outside huddle and do a “Go Team!” chant then “1-2-3 break hand clap thing.”) New Outcasts are caller Murica and they are based on the USA and first amendment. One of remaining two undecideds joins Murica society. No one else changes sides.

8. Now President of Murica, his vice president and the three Goodists judges meet to go over peace accord. While they are signing the treaty, one of the three solitary Outcasts asks permission to speak to Murica President and Goodist judges. She requests that the three solitary outcasts be allowed to join together. President says yes. Judges say only if the three girls are willing to move far away so they won’t be a threat to the Goodists or the new Murica society.

9. Treaty signed, but before that one of the Goodist judges tells new president she thinks the three girls really want to assassinate him and take over Murica. President asks judges if he could please have armed  secret service agents to protect him. Judges say yes. Three Murica citizens are chosen to serve as new president’s protection. President tells one agent to go kill as many of the new group as possible; however, while the treaty was in the process of being signed, 1 of the girls in the new unnamed group was silently going to the outer areas of Murica and asking individuals to join her group.1st one she asks is the undercover Outcast who posed as an undecided. The group tells her if she doesn’t join them, they’ll “kill” her instead of letting her return to her group. (At this point they call me over and ask if that would be permissible. I decide yes and tell girl if that’s the case, she will need to sit next to the wall and not say anything. Since her leader and the judges are signing peace accords, no one really notices this conversation taking place. At this time new group also tells me they’re really a violent group set on overthrowing the Goodists because they want the bubble of non-nuclear wasteland world the Goodists have created. They just want to make sure that’s okay. It is. It’s THEIR game.) Girl chooses to join new group. New group sends girl over to Murica to start recruiting for their society.  Every individual who wasn’t part of the original huddle does so. The ones in the huddle do not. (interesting.) The girl originally recruited was actually one of the huddle leaders. (also interesting.) The new people in the group sit a little apart from the original third group except two people. One: the original recruit who chose not to die and a best friend of one of the girls.

10. While peace treaty being signed Goodists left at home sit silently watching and listening. They’ve never been given a voice, so they don’t try to use it now. Muricans from huddle keep talking to each other about what they want to make Murica and throwing out comments they hope President can hear. Three secret service agents pretend to have guns and keep pointing them at new group, but they say nothing about how some of their people are moving over there. Suddenly as the President and judges are signing the treaty, one of the new recruits (best friend) runs across the room and assassinates the most vocal of the Goodist judges.

11. CHAOS ensues. Kids are loud and confused and the everyone backs away from the judge except the other judges. The judge says “You can’t do that” then looks at me for confirmation.
Game over and we go back to a circle to discuss what’s happened over the course of the last two days and how the same thing happens all over the world. We discuss Utopias, WW2, 1984, The Hunger Games, dystopian literature in general. Tomorrow we’ll break it down even further and talk about WHY THIS MATTERS.

Every year this exercise AMAZES me. I’m stunned by how it plays out. It’s an RPG, so the students have to control the outcome. If the adviser tries to, it destroy the learning outcome. Don’t do it. Let the first amendment work. It will.

You do have to facilitate. Since it’s a debate and an RPG. You have to be in control of the classroom at all times. You can’t be too strict because you have to let things happen. Make sure the debate goes on for at least a day so you have plenty of discussion points. If for some reason the debate stalls say you’re taking off your moderator hat and become an undecided and ask questions that will lead to conflicted answers. If you empower the students, they will start taking part in the discussion. In all the years I’ve done this (almost two decades) only two classes ever didn’t make this work. One year every kid in the class went to the Outcast side.  (AWESOME year, by the way.) When that happened I let them lead the discussion on why. It turned into point/counter point. The usual second and third days were spent studying first amendment cases and high school students and how they affected kids in my school district.  The second year it didn’t work, I messed up. I did it at the end of my first set of first amendment lessons, so about three weeks into the semester. The students didn’t have enough confidence in their voice in my classroom yet, so they were afraid to debate each other and afraid to question me if I threw out those “devil’s advocate” type scenarios. Wait to do this until the end of the third six weeks and it should be fun.

I loved this week. Once again, the first amendment wins and once again my students leave the classroom with a lesson they’ll never forget.

It’s kind of like tricking them into working HARD without them realizing it. 🙂 Sneaky teacher. Yeah, that’s me.

*This lesson started as a lesson from the Freedom of Information in Texas organization. It was a freedom of religion exercise about the Church of Goodism. The kids never got into it like that, so I changed it. Turning it into a dystopia and making the religious element one of several points makes this a lot of fun.

Rape Culture

If a girl says no to sexual advances, it’s rape. If the girl can’t say no because she’s passed out, it’s still rape.

In case you missed it, on Jan. 1 Anonymous forced the hands of authorities who tried to minimize the crime that took place when a teenager was raped at a party this summer in Ohio.

New York Times reporters Juliet Macur and Nate Schweber had already posted  a solid story on the case that ran Dec. 17. Then after the Anonymous leaks the story broke nation-wide.

Spend some time looking at the comments following the initial CNN story, and you’ll know why I started my blog the way I did.

Today’s follow up concerns me more than anything else, I think.  From today’s story:

“On Thursday, the police chief who initially investigated the case before the Jefferson County prosecutor asked state officials to step in said he’s puzzled why no one intervened in the alleged assault.

“Why didn’t somebody stop it?” Steubenville police Chief William McCafferty said. “You simply don’t do that. … It’s not done.”

Someone might need to tell the police chief it IS done. ALL the time. And maybe it’s done all the time because most of the time the girls don’t go to the police. Maybe they don’t go to the police because instead of championing them, instead of saying we’re going to tell the truth about rape every day until people finally understand if they say no it’s rape, and if they’re drunk and can’t say no it’s still rape, we get this from the AG prosecuting:

“My heart goes out to the victim,” DeWine said. “The victim continues to be victimized every time something shows up on the Internet. There’s nothing I can do about that, but it is very, very sad.”

Newsflash: If something hadn’t shown up on the Internet, nothing would have happened. At least that’s the way it looks in the NYT story.

My heart goes out to the rape survivor, too. I hope she sees justice in a system that has a hard time dealing with acquaintance rape.

Here’s the deal. People go to parties. People drink. They shouldn’t have to worry that their “friends” are going to rape them because they’re drunk.

Here’s another deal: People, even teenagers, have the right to hook up…even if it’s casual. And that past sexual history should have no bearing on a case where they were raped.

I don’t know the facts about the Ohio case. I know I’ve seen this same thing play out over and over and over and every time people blame the girl and try to minimize the crime by saying she shouldn’t have…

When I was a freshman in college a police officer told us if a girl says no to sexual advances, it’s rape. If the girl can’t say no because she’s passed out, it’s still rape. At the time I wondered why on earth they had to tell us something so obvious. I wonder why we STILL have to say it.

***I’m not going to comment on Anonymous. That’s a whole different blog post.

 

 

Countdown

I’ve loved this year at school, but this break has been amazing. I’ve slept in, cleaned closets, found photos that made me laugh (on my Facebook if you want to see). I’ve spent time with family, lost Phase 10, eaten too much low carb food and created a “lowish” carb almond butter mousse to die for that’s now reserved for holidays only (recipe at end of post). I’ve spent hours with Emmie on my lap, survived another blizzard, and I’ve shared a million and twelve funny memes on Facebook, the best of which remains Grumpy Cat Star Wars. I’ve written (not enough) and read and read and read. I caught up to the end of the GRR Martin Game of Thrones series (SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!), I finished Peggy Browning’s Fifty Odd book (SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!), read Ally Carter’s Uncommon Criminals (Sooooooooooo Good!!!!!!!) and started the latest Dresden, which so far is….Soooooo good!!!

See a theme? That’s been this break. Sooooo Good.

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Recipe for Deadly “Lowish Carb” Almond Mousse

1.5 cups heavy whipping cream, splenda (I used four packets), a little vanilla: Whip it up

In a separate bowl combine 1 box cream cheese, 1/4 C almond butter (or more), sugar free chocolate syrup..just a little–maybe 2 TBSP, half that amount of sugar free carmel syrup.

TASTE that mix and see if it’s yummy. If it needs a little more sweet, add some splenda, one packet at a time. It doesn’t need to be super sweet because it’s rich, rich, rich.

 

Once it’s perfect, fold in the whipping cream you’ve already whipped up.

Top with dollop of whipped cream and a tiny bit of sugar free chocolate syrup.

OMG soooooooo good and sooooooooo bad.

Emmie Afghan

Even the Acknowledgments Made Me Laugh

by Peggy Browning

by Peggy Browning

I’m a follower of Peggy Browning’s Fifty Odd blog, so buying the book was an easy decision. I knew I’d laugh. I knew Browning would make me think and make me thankful for what I have. I had no idea I’d experience the full spectrum of emotions as I read. I took my time with the book, savoring each chapter like a weekly treat. It’s a collection of columns much like Sharon Randall writes, so Fifty Odd lends itself to leisurely reading; however, the deeper I got into the book, the more I found myself wanting to know more. Those weekly treats weren’t enough. I ended up reading the last half of the book in two days. Browning shares so many truths in this story. From love to loss to body image to motherhood to grandmotherhood to bucket lists, Browning delivers vignettes that touch the heart. It’s definitely a collection I’ll return to again and again. When you get to the end of the book, don’t forget to read the acknowledgments. Don’t read them first! Get through the book so you understand. When you close the book you’ll smile to yourself and you’ll cheer for Browning who chose the road less traveled.

I highly recommend this book, especially for women. In fact, I think I’ll buy another few copies for gifts.

Fifty Odd: Viewing Life After 50 Through Rose-Colored Bifocals by Peggy Browning available on Amazon.

Night Owl Retraining

Used with creative commons license. By Dave Stokes. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33909700@N02/3159761620/

It’s 1:24 a.m. and I don’t want to go to bed, but I start school in a week, so I better make myself remember NIGHTS are for sleeping. I’ve always been a night owl. I think it started when we got the Atari when I was a kid. I loved Pac Man. Mom loved Pac Man. We’d stay up all night gobbling up those little dots and trying to beat those pesky ghosts. That music is etched in my mind. My friends and I would have read-a-thons when we stayed at each other’s houses for sleepovers. Who could make themselves stay up all night to FINISH the book. Or we’d have write-a-thons. Who could write the most  chapters before crashing? When I first started writing commercial fiction, I could stay up until 2 a.m. working and function the next day no problem. That’s changed. So even though for some reason my creative brain works better after 10 p.m., it’s time to retrain. It’s going to be a great school year and great writing year. The school paper even made the local newspaper yesterday! ###

If you like my blog, I hope you’ll look at my books available in print everywhere and in eformat for kindle. I write YA as Elizabeth Lee (Honor and LiesDead Girl Walking: The Guardian Book 1) and christian fiction as Mary Beth Lee (Grace is Enough, Letting Go). Find out more on my Amazon author’s page.

What I’m Working On

It’s Revision Hell time for The Guardian Book 2 (Sharlene Gallagher). That’s the hard part. And the fun part. And the work part. And the part where I get to research and play with the words to make them their best. I’m doing this Fast Draft style. So far I’m loving everything about Fast Draft. I don’t think Revision Hell will change that. I’ll keep you posted.

This is also the week Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee debuts on Amazon. YAY! (blurb at the end).

Great news for one of my books: Honor & Lies has been in the top 50 almost all month for paid coming-of-age fiction stories on kindle. That’s awesome. In two more months the ebook will be available everywhere.

If you have questions about publishing, ask away. If I don’t have the answer, I might be able to help you find it. If you need motivation and encouragement, let me know. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I you’re like me and you’ve gotten bogged down with life and change and rejection, and you wanted to write but now you just don’t know, go get The Artist’s Way and do the work. It changed my life.

Letting Go blurb: Clarissa Dye doesn’t put down roots. Stearns, Oklahoma, is a stopping point on her path to self-reliance. And God? Don’t even get her started. Enter Mackenzie Dillon and her cowboy dad, Jed. From the moment Mackenzie runs into Clarissa, the little girl worms her way into Clarissa’s heart, which proves to be terrifying. The fact that her strong father happens to work his way in there, too, only scares Clarissa more. Letting Go: a story of forgiveness, second chances and finding a love that lasts forever.

Research and Revision: Jail Escape 101 and Fast Draft

Fast draft of Sharlene book 2 complete (LOVED writing this way. Hope I can survive the revisions)

Part of the Fast Draft method is not stopping to do research. Just write the book, get it drafted, then do research during revisions. I made me first pass through the manuscript just to take notes on what I needed to do during revisions.

My main character Sharlene is a guardian angel. She’s got quite the adventure in book 2.

RESEARCH DALLAS AREA around Mansion
RESEARCH: Spa in Belize (that one you want to go to!)
RESEARCH: French discussion
RESEARCH Mexican beach city with ruins
RESEARCH security systems
RESEARCH STOCK YARDS BAR
RESEARCH EMT procedure for finding someone injured after accident blows up building
RESEARCH hospital stay after big accident
RESEARCH POLICE INTERROGATION OF minors in high school???
RESEARCH jail escape
RESEARCH BOATS
RESEARCH criminal surrender
RESEARCH ANGEL myths
RESEARCH Valhalla, Olympus, Heaven compare/contrast

I love research. Hopefully this will be fun!

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The first Sharlene book, Dead Girl Walking by Elizabeth Lee, is available on kindle and in print.

Check out my Amazon author’s page for more info.