Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Get Busy Writing, Woman

Yep, it's the "I don't know what exactly to do with this blog yet" writer.  I guess this is what happens (or at least I am hoping this is what happens) when you decide to start a blog and watch the cursor blinking back at you.  Mine is saying, "Dude, seriously...come up with are a are can do this..."

So what I typically do when I don't know where it begin is I think about things for a while.  Where do I want to begin?  How do I want to begin?  What is it that I want to say?  And tonight, I stumbled across a blog that I found myself reading for longer than a quick glance.  It's actually a woman I've never even met before and only know "virtually" through images.  She was (and still is) writing about how she is trying to live a healthier, more balanced life.  And after I finished looking at some of her entries and images (she is also a photographer), I found myself in my kitchen putting together a healthy meal: an open-faced organic turkey and mozzarella sandwich drizzled in olive oil and topped with basil with a side of peaches. 

I'm not going to lie and say I didn't end that meal with a small bite of Heath can't change a sweet-o-holic overnight, people.  Ask my childhood friends what they remember about my house when they would come to visit and it's the fact that we always had cookies and candy on the counter...even if some of that candy was those inedible orange circus peanuts that my dad couldn't get enough of.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that I haven't written anything as of yet, because I didn't think anyone was looking...or that anyone had time to.  But the truth in my case, anyway, is that I did have the time, and on this night I actually stumbled across something that resonated with me.  And that for a split second, it inspired me to change some old habits that I'm trying to break.

I realized in that moment that my blog just has to be real.  That I need to do what it is that keeps me moving through life...and that is to sit down and write, whatever might come to me.  So perhaps one day I'll write about art.  Or watching a dozen squirrels come out onto a campus lawn after students are done passing through.  Or how I want to begin to live a healthier, more balanced life...and how someone else's writing inspired me to do so.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gilbert Meets Dobie

Recent Addiction to RSA Animation

The Blogging Dilemma

I was just reading from The Curious Writer for an upcoming composition class, and something suddenly occurred to me.  Now, being an English professor, this would be a good time to include the direct quote, but unfortunately, I left my book at the I'm relying off of memory and will paraphrase. 

What Bruce Ballenger argues is that he views public and private writing in different ways.  His more private writing is done in journals, and as a result, he doesn't feel as self conscious about what he is saying, how he is saying it, etc.  And this got me thinking about blogging.  Doesn't blogging blur the lines between the private and the public?  And if it does, how do you maneuver through this?  I find that I turn to the blog in the same way as I would a journal.  I want to write about what I am personally thinking inside one moment in time, but in that space, I also realize that these thoughts will be made public for others to read.  I want the mutual correspondence and collaborative feedback, but there is also this impending fear and doubt whether or not the words are polished enough to appear in this forum. 

So, I'm you experience these dilemmas as a blogger as well?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tonight I Can Write...

Tonight I can write about the last week I will spend in this apartment, filled with boxes, white walls, and muted sounds.

Tonight I can write about wondering when I will be in my lover's arms again, after deadlines have been met, and office lights no longer flicker.

Tonight I can write about news today of my cousin's death, and the woman whose make-up smeared when she crossed the median and didn't notice him there.

Tonight I can write...

But on nights such as these, I don't know where to begin, what pictures to paint, what brushes to use.  Because I haven't written for myself in so long, and this leaves words filled with dust, filled with hollowness.  I see others who have something to say.  Others whose colored walls light smiles on the page.  Whose memories will not be long forgotten after they have gone.  But mine?  Mine have stayed within me, and now I don't know where to begin.

So tonight, and I hope only this night, this is all that I have to say. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Generation's Length Away...

For Taunt Anne:

There's a great song by John Mayer that I've been thinking about today.  He talks about how he is "one generation's length away from finding life out on [his] own."  Hear for yourself:

Another one of my older relatives passed today.  It is becoming a lot more frequent these days, which I would expect.  That's been the tough part about "midlife."  As much as I'll deny that 40 is fast approaching, the reality is that it is.  What bothers me most is not the growing bags under my eyes or the course gray hairs that stick straight up or the fact that I now need help to get up off the floor.  It's that as time continues to pass, I am losing the "older and wiser" people in my life at a faster rate.  I am starting to look within myself more for the "answers" or turning to those around me who are also my age, struggling themselves to figure out life as it comes.

At these times, I miss those mornings when I was barely a teenager sitting in my grandmother's rocking chair in the corner of her kitchen.  I would hold a coffee cup that was more full of milk than coffee because it made me feel older.  I miss the nights that I would sit at the bar with my aunt as I asked all of the questions I had on my mind.  She never stopped the steady stream that came at her...not even at 2 or 3 in the morning.  I miss the fact that I could now sit with my father and ask him about what I have discovered as an adult.

And what I am discovering most of all is the brevity of life and the simplicity that is what makes it so special.  It is nothing new.  It is nothing noteworthy.  But what I need to work on is learning that lesson.  It is so easily forgotten amid the hectic work day.  The rain-filled day where I worry about getting cold or wet.  The day when I hit the snooze too many times because I am tired. 

My Aunt Anne taught me a great lesson in life, and on the day she passed, I now share it with you.  Shortly before she turned 90, her hot water heater exploded.  It was only inches away from where she was sitting watching TV.  Miraculously, it exploded upward, caught the roof on fire, and she escaped unharmed.  Her house, on the other hand, did not.  I remember walking through her home.  I remember smelling wet carpet and charred walls.  Anne had lost everything.  I saw her standing in front of a neighbor's home, and I didn't know what I was going to say.  I imagined she would be devastated and at a loss for words.  I walked over to her and gave her a hug.  I told her how sorry I was.  She said that she was very lucky and felt blessed.  She had come out alive.

As one of the many in my life who have taught me great lessons...thank you, Anne.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Absence of Presence

Yeah, this blog idea is working well for me...I think I may be averaging one post every other month.  Ah, we get busy, don't we?  And damn if life doesn't get in the way...which brings me to my topic for this post.

I've been thinking about articles I've read, news stories I've heard, and conversations I've had with friends of mine about Facebook...and the "dangers" it can have on people's self-esteem.  I know, you've heard the reports.  Too much time spent on FB can cause us to lose our ability to have actual face-to-face conversations, we spend too much time on the computer and not enough in the "real world," we start flipping through other people's posts and pictures and begin to think their lives are better than ours or more exciting...oh wait...go back to that last one for a second.

Does that happen to you?  Seriously...have you ever found yourself going through someone's recent pictures or posts and think, damn...why isn't my life like that?  She looks like she has her life together, and I feel like a loser for grading and doing laundry on a Friday night.  (Let the record show that tonight is different...I'm doing laundry, but I spiced things up a bit...and took out the trash.)

Here's my problem (if you say I have more than one by this point, we'll discuss that issue at a later time.). I tend to WANT to post on FB when my life ISN'T going all that great.  And if everyone else did once in a while, I wouldn't feel this pressure for my life to be perfect all the time.  I mean, don't you need "friends" the most when you are down and out?  (I say "friends"...because honestly, I probably only actually have conversations with about 20 out of my 200+)  Don't you feel better when other people's lives aren't all Mary Poppins?  I mean, really...the only birds flying around me are the ones that fly into my window and take an hour to recover.  Is it okay that I post that? 

So, yeah.  Life can be pretty good...but it's not all you'll ever see from me.  I can look in the mirror and chant, "I'm good enough.  I'm smart enough.  And, gosh darnit, people like me."  But the older I get, the more realistic I get.  And sometimes, I just need to see that I'm not the only one who finds life a challenge every now and again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Heart to Heart

The past week the South has seen some crazy weather.  Tuesday we were hit with an ice storm that lingered around due to freezing temps and then came several inches of snow to make life more interesting.  As a result, I found myself stuck inside for three days, home from work, trying to figure out how to occupy my "free" time.

I think it's interesting that I don't know what to do with myself when I don't have to go to work.  Work fills up my time so naturally, so easily.  When I'm not working, I feel like I'm not being productive.  I've forgotten how to just sit back, relax, sip on some tea, and pick up a book "just for fun."  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I am not comfortable with silence.  With stillness.  I think too much when it's quiet.  I find myself contemplating life, wondering if I'm doing everything I can be doing...doing everything I should be.

It's what I do best.

My family jokes with me all the time about that "quality."  And, to make it worse, I now have a Ph.D. in analyzing and critical thinking.  So, now I'm Dr. Analyze Everything and have made a living out of it.

Last night I found myself watching about hour 100 of TV (I needed the noise this week).  There was a Barbara Walters special on heart disease (yesterday was "Go Red" day in case you missed it).  She interviewed about five celebrities from Robin Williams to Bill Clinton, talking and sharing stories about their common experiences about open heart surgery.  All of them were somewhere in their 50's when this happened.  And, of course, I am reminded of my own father who never made it out of his 50's because of a heart attack. 

My mind immediately kicked into gear.

I'm now 14 years removed from his death, and the wounds have pretty much healed.  But what I continue to work on and struggle with is the ability to just go with life and enjoy it.  I've lost enough people in my life to know that life is only temporary.  I know that.  I know that friends can (and have) died, that people won't die in "chronological order," that I could very well not be here tomorrow.  So with that said, why then do I still find myself unable to just sit back, relax, and find peace in silence?  Just listen to the snow melting off of the rooftops.  Just listen to my breathing and be thankful that I am. 

Just listen.

Maybe I'll work on doing that today...right after I turn off the radio and stop looking over papers I need to finish up for school on Monday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm in Love with Saul Williams

On tap for my creative writing class tomorrow: slam poetry

Why Aren't You Writing?

I just realized that a week has passed, and I haven't written anything on my blog.  I always feel guilty when I don't find time to write...kind of like the guilt I feel when I don't exercise.  Problem there is that it's usually more than a week that has gone by, and I wonder if just watching the following will help me burn calories...sing know you know the words:

 And I used to think that was just a song about exercising...

All joking aside, it's usually a combination of things that keep me from writing anything: tired, stressed, heavy work load, stepping outside after being cooped up in my apartment all day because I've forgotten what fresh air feels/smells like, not wanting to go back in because that means I have more work to do.

Back in '98 or '99 (I wish I could remember), my aunt was dying of cancer.  It was one of those rare moments in life when I actually had the opportunity to "say goodbye" to someone I loved.  I always thought that would be easier.  But, truth be told, it wasn't.  My dad had died in '97 of a massive heart attack in the middle of eating lunch, and that was a shock to the system I can't even begin to describe.  There were no goodbyes there.  One day he was around and the next day he wasn't.  But given the chance to say goodbye is just "different," not "easier."  Not long before my aunt died, I walked into her room.  She was not having a good day, and she could barely motion me in.  I walked over to her bed and sat down gently.  She reached over and held my hand.  There was no, "Hello, how are you," or "How is school going," but instead she asked me:

"Are you writing?"

I shook my head.

"Why not?"

I didn't have an answer for her.

She looked at me and said, "Never stop writing.  Promise me?"

I promised.

But it's not a promise I always keep...

So tonight, I don't have anything particularly profound or insightful for my readers...I just felt the need to write...Mickey would have wanted me to.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are the Golden Globes Still "Golden?"

I can't remember the first time I sat down to watch the Golden Globes...and I'm not talking about the "fair-weather" viewer who turns the show on the first and last thirty minutes to see the "big" awards. (The producers have caught on in case you haven't noticed.  You have to wait a good hour between Best Supporting Actor and Actress these days).  I'm talking about sitting through the entire 3+ hours, only getting up to go to the bathroom or shake awake the foot that has fallen asleep.  Why?  I guess the simple answer is, I love films.  I always have.  And like thousands of other starving artists, I wanted (okay, still do) to be an actress.  I even wanted to go to an arts high school (I thought it would be just like Fame), but my parents wouldn't let me.  They said I wouldn't be able to find a career in the arts, and I should focus more on "academics."  (Insert irony here: I am, after all, a University Instructor teaching drama.)

Fine.  I'll repeat that story when I win my first Oscar. 

My first role was going to be Annie.  You know, the red-headed orphan.  Couple of problems there -- one, I don't have red hair, and two, I can't sing.  Okay, in the car I've belted out notes that I feel are deserving of the Grammy and the Tony.  (If you've been in the car with me, keep quiet.  I'm telling a story.)  But when I was sitting on my dresser with my comb or brush in my hand, I sounded just like this...

She was no Barbra Streisand, but it resonated with me.

As the years went on, my tastes began to change and a new standard was set in place: Meryl Streep.  Now how a kid goes from Annie to Meryl Streep is as big of a mystery to me as it might be to you, so I can't give a logical explanation there.  Maybe it's the same line of thinking that makes me enjoy a Monty Python film as much as Cinema Paradiso.  The first Meryl Streep film I remember seeing was Sophie's Choice.  I was blown away by her acting ability in that film and the ones that were to follow throughout the 1980s.  She truly defined "talented actress" to me, the same way Kate Winslet does today (think past Titanic here). 

Streep was brilliant.  Yes, she was a beautiful woman on the big screen, but this woman could really act.

And when I sit down to watch the Globes, I want to see real actors celebrated for real work.  What do I see instead?  Continuous shots of Brangelina (the most horrifying one -- if there was only one -- was when Angie decided that she needed to reapply her lip gloss during a brief filmography of Robert De Niro's work just before he received the Cecil B Demille award.)

Thank god for the last 30 minutes of the Globes when my faith was restored by the choices for Best Actor and Best Actress.  But as I was sitting there watching, I really started thinking about where awards shows have gone over the past thirty years (I'm just including the ones I've remembered seeing and experiencing).  Have tastes in what defines "best" just changed?  Was The Social Network really the best film had to offer this year?  And, yes, I know about the petitioning/political arena that surrounds these award shows...but the powers that be still manage to get it right once in while, don't they?

So what's changed here?

While you think about it, I'll put in The Social Network and think this over some more...or read this article on why Helena Bonham Carter's choice in shoes overshadowed her performance in The King's Speech.

Biggest News of the Night?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

enter here: take two

I just moved on to my third load of laundry this morning (being a teacher aka academic aka "Visiting Lecturer," my personal, "need-to-get-to" list fills up during the week more often than not). Somewhere in the sorting process, I began thinking about my trek through this blog.  I thought about where I'd like this to go, and I began thinking about creating a space for educators to "weigh in" on how things are going in the classroom.  We do it already, don't we?  In the break room, around the coffee machine (we love our coffee), on why not here as well?

I was joking with my creative writing students the other day after defining the apostrophe.  I told them about the now infamous, "O Captain, My Captain" line from Dead Poets Society:

And although this has never happened (it's Hollywood, folks...this is as likely to happen as the scarring, "You complete me" line from Jerry Maguire), it has come close.  When I had to leave my first teaching job in Selma, TX after the sudden passing of my father (those students are now sharing Facebook pictures of their pregnancies and weddings, by the way), I was saying goodbye and started to cry.  At that moment my students began singing a pronoun song that I had made up in class.  It was my "O Captain, My Captain" moment that has yet to be recreated quite that way since.

I have called myself a teacher now for over a decade.  But I am still a student when it comes to learning and would love to hear about your experiences as a teacher.

I often find myself telling potential teachers that you can't teach someone how to teach.  Think about it.  What we learn in the classroom as teachers comes so much more from doing than reading about it, doesn't it?  I'm not saying that I haven't picked up on new techniques or asked for advice from fellow teachers on certain issues that have come up.  It would be hypocritical of me to call myself a teacher and then close the door on learning anything new for myself.  But ideas that have worked for others may not necessarily work for me.  We bring our personalities into the classroom.  Our classes are, in turn, shaped by the personalities of the students themselves.  I always feel sad at the end of the semester when I've had the "perfect mix" of students and know that that will never be re-created again.  It reminds me of a story a musician told about his experiences at concerts -- thousands get together under one roof for one night, and this group will never be the same, the exact same, ever again.  It's what makes the experience unique, exciting, memorable. addition to talking about writing/art/creating, I'd also like to use this open forum to discuss the ups and downs of teaching in the 21st century.  Even though I said "what may work for you may not work for me," it still helps to know when other teachers are experiencing similar issues or dealing with some of the same issues that I am faced with.  And in the sharing of ideas, I may find a solution that fits my needs through our discussions and conversations online.  A virtual chat room for the educators/innovators.  A virtual classroom.

So, class...let's begin.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ekleksographia Is Here!

 Published Work(s) by yours truly and fellow U-La-La'ers:


enter here

Last night I was watching OWN...wait...maybe I shouldn't admit to that right off the bat.  Well.  Too late.   Can't go wrong with Oprah, right?  Debate.

Jay-Z was being featured on the new show Master Class.  He was talking about the "flow" in art...the words he uses, the way they weave in and out of rhythms and rhymes that he creates/(re)creates...and I began thinking about conversations I've been having with some of my fellow writers/artists/creators/innovators.  Why we write.  Why we stop writing.  What motivates us, unmotivates us.  How do we begin to measure the quality of our art in a world inundated by it?

I don't have all the answers, nor do I want them.  I see the world the only way I know how.  It seems normal for me to be sitting in a car wash, watching the purples/blues/greens of the soap falling down my windshield and immediately thinking, "This would be a great time to try out my new lens."  It seems normal to me to be driving on a long stretch of road and watching how the weeds are moving in rhythm on the side of the road for the next several miles.  It seems normal to me to be up late one night, begin to fall asleep, and come up with a poem in my head...that I never get up to write down and hope that one night in the future it will find itself there again.  You will not always see what I see...some of what I do is made public, some of it is not.  And I'd like to keep it that way.  I think that's why I've hesitated to create an online blog for so long.  But if this new outlet finds other outlets for creating/thinking/(re)creating, it's worth pursuing.

So, we'll see where this open forum takes me...takes us...