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What Summer is About

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On Sunday, I saw one of my students at the grocery store. We said hello to each other and I asked if she was having a good summer. She said she was, but lamented that it was going too fast and that it seemed to be nearly over already. I assured her that we had five weeks left – I had counted – and she has plenty of time to relax.

Of course, I have to remind myself of that as well. I don’t feel as stressed out as I did last summer, when I was trying to develop an entire new teacher induction program from scratch, but I’ve still been plenty busy, and certainly not ready to go back to the classroom yet.

Husband and I vacationed in Prince Edward Island at the end of May and beginning of June. It was a lot of driving – two days of driving there and two days back, plus quite a bit of time in the car as we explored the island. Husband drove every last mile of it, which made us both happy. He loves to drive; I prefer to gaze out the windows until the hum of the motor and the movement of the car lullaby me to sleep. (And then I wake up with a sore back and a stiff neck.) We listened to seven audiobooks on the trip. While we were there, we went sailing (sort of – the wind died so we were really just out on an engine-powered boat that has the ability to sail). We kayaked out into the ocean (with a guide) till we found a sand bar where we dug for clams, and then kayaked back and assisted our guide in making (and eating!) clam chowder. We visited Green Gables (walking through the Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane), toured an alpaca farm, walked along several beaches, and ate a lot of seafood. Lobster, clams, haddock, crab, mussels, and oysters.

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PEI is beautiful. Every single part of it is picturesque, and most of it is rural. I think Husband would like to live there. He’d have to live there without me, though, because one lady told us that last year, there was still snow on the ground at the beginning of June. No, thank you. Indiana might get miserably hot and humid, but at least our winter doesn’t last eight months. Of course, that’s one thing Husband would like about it.

Coming home made me happy. Everything is green here in the summer, and when the thunderstorms aren’t rolling through, the sun shines mightily.

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In June, Husband did some sand sculpting, and I picked raspberries and visited with friends I haven’t seen in ages. He worked on installing I-beams in the big carport we’d had put up in the spring, as part of setting up his wood shop to work on the timber frame house he is building.

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I went to a workshop on Project-Based Learning and started the second course in my Master’s program in Curriculum and Educational Technology. As July began, he drew designs for ice sculptures and house plans while he watched movies, and I listened to teacher podcasts while I washed the dishes or made dinner. We put up 13 bales of hay from our field, and then it rained three and a half inches in about two hours, and the hay – which we’d put in the barn but not in the hay loft – got wet because the barn floods. (Lesson learned.) He’s been playing soccer. I’ve been running and biking… and going to yoga, which seems a very middle-aged-woman-thing to do, but hey, I’m a middle-aged woman and I’m trying to embrace that. Besides, yoga helps keeps me flexible since I never remember to stretch after I run.

My book has languished. I’ve been waiting for feedback from a few of my students who promised to read my manuscript and let me know what they thought. And just like adults, when kids don’t have deadlines, sometimes they take a long time to get things done. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Most of my creative energies have gone into developing PBL unit plans, drafting emails to our new teachers and organizing their orientation, responding to online discussions for my class, and coming up with ways to redesign my classroom, both physically and culturally. Sometimes I play the ukulele. Sometimes I knit… and on days like today, I rip out twenty rows of knitting because I made a huge mistake waaaaay back there.

Summer, I’ve decided, isn’t about being lazy. It’s about giving my mind a rest by doing other things, by stretching it in new ways.

An Exciting Novel Update

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Word Count: 23,338.

The first draft of my novel, A Rainbow Above You, is finished!

Now I must embark upon the arduous journey of revision, revision, revision.  But for now, I’m going to bask in the joy that the first draft is DONE!

Screen time, writing time

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I spend much of my work time looking at a computer screen — writing lessons, updating grades, and reading student work submitted online.

Then, for the course I’m taking, I read online articles or type reflective summaries for the books I must read.  I contribute to online discussion boards.

I think this is one reason why it’s so hard to write in my free time.  It’s not that the ideas aren’t there.  I keep a running list of topics for blog posts.  And Bernadette, the main character in my novel, is always in the back of my mind somewhere.  But when I have time to think about writing, some days I just don’t want to haul out the laptop one more time.  I’d rather read a book — one with real pages!  Or play my ukulele.

And yet, I write much more fluidly on a computer than I do by hand.  I can type faster than I can write longhand, and it’s both easier to read and easier to edit, especially when it comes to the novel because so much is already written.  So I’m often torn.

Plus, there are no deadlines.  I have time frames for getting my lessons planned and the kids’ grades updated.  I have due dates for my coursework.  But there is no deadline for blog posts or for my novel.  And that’s kind of nice because I don’t have to feel stressed about it.  But it kind of stinks because sometimes I think I’d be more motivated if I had a deadline.

My neighbor is considering starting up a monthly community newsletter.  She mentioned that maybe she could have me write a short piece of fiction for each issue.  That made me panic just a little, but then I thought it might be good for me.  We’ll see if it happens.

In the meantime, if it’s a long time between blog posts, or if you’re wondering how the novel is coming, just know that the words are in my brain.  Sometimes my fingers itch to get them out.  But my eyes need a break from the screen.

Paralysis

The day yawns ahead of me

each tick of the clock tightening the jaws a smidge more.

So much to do.

I sit, paralyzed, not knowing where to start.

The knot in my stomach twists.

Connecting

I was never the popular girl.  There was a time in middle school when I ran around with five friends:  Amy, Lori, Leeanna, Kristi, and Missy.  But Amy was my best friend. (Except for the times when Leeanna was my best friend.)  Five was always the maximum, and even then, I felt more comfortable with one or two.  Never would you find me happily interacting with dozens of people.

Throughout high school and college, my friend groups swelled and receded, as I assume is part of life.  And never have I thrived on being the center of attention, on being surrounded by people.  Give me my little circle of friends.  Give me one or two individuals with whom I connect.  That’s all I want.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (and yes, WordPress) — these technologies make it easier to “connect” with a much larger group of people.  Maybe even people I’ve never met and never will meet in real life.  (Hi, strangers!)  Is this connecting?

I’m spending my weekend at a writing conference, and quite a few of the writers (novelists, poets, writers of memoir) have talked about the importance of connecting with others online.  And I get that.  In our modern culture, with so many people attached to their phones and tablets, this is what is expected.  You can’t expect to sell a book (especially a memoir) if no one knows who you are.  You can’t have an audience if you don’t write in a format that an audience wants.  If you don’t write to connect, then why are you writing?

But I like being invisible sometimes.  I don’t wanna put myself out there for the whole world to see.  After all, it’s not real connection, these social media “friendships.”

And yet.

Maybe it is a method that introverts like me (who, if given the opportunity, would stay in my house for weeks on end, meeting with no one) can expand horizons and connect with others while avoiding the overstimulation of people in my face.  Maybe it is a way I can reach out and have a larger impact on my world than I would if I simply remained the hermit I like to be.  Maybe social media serve as a bridge for me to cross the divide between isolation and community.

Even that is uncomfortable for me, and besides that, I don’t really know how I feel about it.

Please comment if you have a thought about this topic.  Maybe you’ll help me figure it out.

Twenty thousand

I had planned to spend the summer writing.  Writing and playing and enjoying the outdoors.  And I did some of that, but I also worked.  I was on hiring committees for two positions at my school, plus I agreed to develop a new teacher induction program.  (The first was volunteer, the second was paid… or at least it’s supposed to be.  I’ve not received any money for it yet.)

Anyway, all that really ate into my summer.  And I didn’t blog, didn’t work on my novel, didn’t spend time every day writing the way I’d planned and hoped to do.

Then, suddenly, the summer was gone.  School began.

And school was crazy.  There are many reasons — not the least of which is that I didn’t have a mental break from it all summer long — but the point is that I did not start the year well.  My awesome assistant principal had to talk me off the proverbial ledge more than once.

But now, the air is crisp with Octoberness.  The leaves are just beginning to think about changing colors.  Walnuts litter the ground, the chickens are going to bed early and sleeping late in the mornings, and Fall Break is here.

A few weeks ago, I was wailing to the husband about something.  The paperwork I had to do, or the essays I needed to grade, or how stressed out some of my students were making me.  And he said, “You’ve got to get away from here for Fall Break.”

So this Friday after school, I hopped into my packed car and made the drive to my parents’ house.  I promised myself that I would spend time writing.  I’d mostly work on my novel, but if there was time, I’d blog, start a short story that is in my head, and work on a one-sheet (kind of like a flyer about myself and my writing) that I’ll take to the writing conference I will be attending later this month.

I’m happy to say that my novel is now over 20,000 words long.

It’s still a bit disorganized (I didn’t write it in chronological order, but rather just as scenes came to me), and there are parts missing still, but wow.  Twenty thousand words.  That’s exciting to me.

While a long three months slipped away between the last time I really worked on my writing to now, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to keep working steadily from now on.  Sure, life happens, but writing makes life better.

Novel Update 5/26/16

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Thirty-one pages.

Questions about the plot.  The plot of the short story I started with seems to be taking a backseat to what I intended to be a subplot.  Perhaps the subplot should become the main plot.  Or maybe I should spend more time working on the main plot so it takes precedence again.

I was recently worried that my main character did not change, but I figured out what she needs to learn.  I was also concerned that she was too perfect — that I didn’t put in any unlikable qualities, which is unrealistic — but I think that I found her flaw (which is also the thing she needs to change.)  I would like to come up with at least one more flaw, I think, but I’m not sure what that will be.

I’ve written a lot of scenes, but they are not yet flowing together as a story.  I am hoping to get on the right track with that this summer.