Friday, December 31, 2010

8th Race Into the New Year 5K...

I was really, really excited to finish this race...

Mainly because I hadn't trained all month. Trained? That verb might be too strong. I barely got off the couch this month. Plus, I consumed a ridiculous amount of Christmas cookies, Christmas ham, Christmas desserts, and um, they're not really Christmasy, but I pretty much ate my weight in potato chips.

So yeah, this wasn't the easiest race for me to run in 2010.

So the above picture is of me smiling when the finish line FINALLY pops into view. I have no idea how I did, as, for some reason, the finish clock was not up. (Maybe it broke? Or maybe God ordained that it not be present, as He knew in His Almighty Wisdom that it would be the worst race of the season for me, and a terrible blow to my self confidence to receive my worst time during my most recent endeavor?) At any rate, I'm glad that race is behind me, and I'm looking forward to 2011.

Today was not only my final race of 2010: It was Kaliah's first race EVER. She was so adorable! And awesome. I'll post a much cuter picture of her tomorrow. Her running is, thankfully, much easier on the eyes than mine is. :)

Happy New Year, readers!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wow, 2010...

So... if you live in the area known as Delmarva, you may have noticed that, apparently, the entire peninsula has been mysteriously transported to the Arctic region.

I am very excited that we experienced a white Christmas. The first one I can remember being blessed with, although, of course, we may have had one or two during the years that I was too little to now remember. I know it was Kaliah's first white Christmas.

I am significantly less excited that there seems to be nearly a foot of snow outside at the moment, gusting around in what can only be described as "crucial" winds, which are, I have heard, reaching speeds of forty miles per hour.

I dunno, perhaps the snow is just far less appealing to me right now than I might normally find it because I am, of course, already on my winter hiatus from teaching. Something about a colossal dump of snow outside and no additional time off from work is wildly unfortunate. Of course, I shouldn't be complaining. After all, I am relaxing at home instead of working, regardless of the reason. And actually, when the "first" storm of the season left us about an inch of snow last week, we started our winter vacation a day and a half early.

But perhaps I'm less excited about this wintry mess simply because I want to scream, "ENOUGH ALREADY, 2010!!" This crazy year has brought more snow, I'm pretty sure, than the Eastern shore has seen within all other years' of my lifetime's total snowfalls COMBINED. And probably, that's only a slight exaggeration.

So, in closing--it was a beautiful white Christmas. But, 2010, you made your point. You will go down in history as the year of three blizzards (two within a week of each other) to all us Delmarvians. And now, could we kindly be teleported somewhere with less severe weather? Or if its gotta be an extreme... I vote for extreme heat. Seriously. I'd probably prefer a desert to the bitter cold, wet, slushy disaster that has become my backyard.

Oh well. At least it's pretty.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And whoever was dreaming of the white Christmas... can you please wake up now? And tell your connections in slumber land that we've had enough?


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty-One Books for 2011

For those of you who don't know what to get me for Christmas yet (kidding... unless you are, of course, looking for gift ideas for me...), let's compile a list of must-reads for 2011:

1. Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone--So a few months ago I read I Know This Much Is True... Can I just say this was an amazing, beautiful novel? I can't wait to read something else by Lamb. Friends have recommended She's Come Undone, which I believe was his debut novel. As an aspiring novelist, I am always interested in reading successful authors' first published works.

2. Speaking of first published works, as much as I love Jodi Picoult, I have never read her debut novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale. Almost everything I've read by Picoult has grabbed me and not let go, from the very first page--with two exceptions: Keeping Faith and Harvesting the Heart. Harvesting the Heart was another early work (her second novel, I believe), so I'm interested to see how I would feel about her first book. While I did enjoy aspects of Keeping Faith, it didn't leave me breathless in the way The Pact, Nineteen Minutes, or My Sister's Keeper did.

World Lit Classics: As a teacher of world literature, I feel obligated to read the following, which are listed in many compilations of college bound reading lists. Not to mention it feels as though there are gaping holes in my education for having not read some of them:

3. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Required reading for 9th grade honors students at my school. I've started it, but never finished it. Still with a title like that, sounds relevant regardlesss of culture, time period, etc., eh?

4. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This was assigned reading for a film lit class I took in college... but I found out pretty early on we weren't actually held accountable for doing the reading, therefore, like any diligent college senior, I didn't... um... do the reading. Now, yes, I know, for an English teacher who loves to read, this is a terrible admission to make. But in fairness to me, I was taking 18 credit hours that semester, most of them coming from classes in which we WERE held accountable for the reading (and had to write long, in-depth papers in response to such readings). So I don't feel too bad for skipping this one back then, but I've heard such great things about it, that I do feel inclined to pick this one up now. Plus, I probably owe it to Dr. Lidh. Sorry bout that.

5. Feodor Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment. Another piece of evidence pointing toward the gaping holes in the education of an English major with a B.A. and M.A. Never even picked it up. (And no, it wasn't ever assigned, either).

6. Hermann Hesse--Sidhartha

7. Franz Kaftka--The Trial (I have read Metamorphosis--point for me!)

8. Orwell--Animal Farm (I have NO excuse for not reading this. I'm currently rereading 1984 as I teach it with two of my classes. I love 1984, and I can't think of a good reason as to why I've never read the much shorter Animal Farm).

9. Erich Maria Remarque-- All Quiet on the Western Front

10. Sir Walter Scott--Ivanhoe

11. Jonathan Swift--Gulliver's Travels

12. H.G. Wells--The Time Machine

13. Laura Esquivel--Like Water for Chocolate

14. Charlotte Bronte--Jane Eyre

15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez--One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read Love in the Time of Cholera a couple of summers ago. It was fairly enjoyable.

16. F. Scott Fitzgerald--The Great Gatsby

17. Stephen Crane--The Red Badge of Courage

18. Amy Tan--The Joy Luck Club. I've started it probably no less than a dozen times. I will finish it next year!

19. Ernest Hemingway--The Sun Also Rises.

Wow, the classics I've been shirking took up an awful lot of space on my list!

20. Jeanine Cummins A Rip in Heaven. I went to one of Jeanine's readings for her novel The Outside Boy, which I would highly recommend, by the way. A Rip in Heaven was her first work-- a memoir. I have heard only amazing things about it.

21. Mark Winegardner--The Godfather Returns. I loved, loved, loved, Winegardner's Crooked River Burning. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. And I also loved The Godfather (the book, not the movie(s), which I've never really given a chance, to be fair). Therefore, this is a must read for me this year.

I can think of others, but let's keep this list manageable. After all, seventeen classics might be a fairly lofty goal, considering I still have a job, and a daughter, and, you know, a life.

What must-reads am I missing? Comment and let me know!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eleven: A Tribute.

Eleven is my favorite number. Always has been. Probably always will be.

I used to want to have eleven children, back when I was a kid. But that was before I realized, um, how they came out. And that carrying them inside of your for nine months was a long, involved, uncomfortable process. And it was before I realized that once they come out, the long, involved, uncomfortable process (rewarding as it is), has only just begun, when you actually begin raising the child. And the process gets a lot more expensive, what with diapers, food, clothing, Christmas presents, college tuition...

But I digress.

I love the number eleven. I love the way it sounds. I love the fact that it is composed of two number ones. Of all the digits from one to one hundred, only eleven and twelve have completely unique names, and twelve sounds like a dog barking. Or puking. Or something.

But eleven flows off your tongue in a magical way. Eleven is the best number, the first number, put together! And since two is better than one, but we all know it's better to come in first then second... eleven is the best of both worlds. Two number ones.

I tell you all of this not so that you think I have nothing better to do than to blog about my strange interest in numbers (specifically number eleven). I tell you all of this so that you know why I am so EXCITED about the year 2011.

It is going to be a great year. Know why? Because I have decided that it will be.

Here are 11 Reasons why I'm Stoked for 2011:

1. This is the year I will find a literary agent! (Just a personal goal I'm setting here. I am being optimistic, perhaps naively so, but I feel it is better to be an optimist than a pessemist, so I'm placing this goal of mine at number one).
2. I will finish at least two additional novels in 2011. I'm already working on two. I'm enjoying both of them equally. There was the work-in-progress that was putzing along at a leisurely rate since early last year... and my disastrous endeavour during National Novel Writing Month, which came nowhere near the finish line... but did, in my humble opinion, produce some really intriguing characters and a modest start for what may shape up to be a pretty decent manuscript this coming year.... Hmmm....
3. Kaliah will start FIRST GRADE in 2011. My baby is growing up! *Cries*
4. Oak Ridge Baptist Church is doing AMAZING things in 2011. I may have to wait till 2012 to go on a missions trip, but even if I can't be personally involved overseas, God is going to do many incredible things through our church this year, both abroad and here locally.
5. I am going to bust my butt to get out of debt, starting this year. I've been following the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Plan, and I've got my emergency savings fund in place. That was step one, thank you 2010! Step Two: Elminate all debt. Now, this is going to take a few years, but just watch and see what 2011 and I will do to you, stupid school loans and other random debt! I am getting serious. Time to pay these loans off and stop squirreling all my money away on interest and other nonsense.
6. I am going to, by the end of the summer, be running 5ks in or under 24 minutes. Hopefully this is not an overly ambitious goal. Since I began competing last spring, I managed to bring my time down from a first race of 28:45 to my most recent record of 26:40. If I can continue to shave off two minutes per season, this should be doable. If I don't plateau, and my body doesn't declare it quits as I begin to approach those lower times...
7. Looking forward to going back home! I mean, home, home. Tentatively planning on moving into the house I grew up in during the month of May, 2011. While it will require LOTS of fixing up, it will be a labor of love. Home sweet home, what will you have in store for Kaliah and I?
8. In 2011, I will choose to fall in love. With all aspects of my life. If it's God's will for me to be single, I will be thankful I get to stretch out in the bed and not worry if I'm snoring or not this year. :) I will be grateful that I have a job, and put my all into teaching my students, each day, each class, no matter what the challenges. I have a great group of kids this year, who are truly a pleasure to work with. I will push them and myself as hard as I can while trying to model generosity, compassion, and concern for them. I will try to cherish each and every moment with my daughter, and with the rest of my family. I will try to take nothing for granted, living life with an attitude of gratitude.
9. My friends! I have such wonderful friends, both new and old, in my life. I will strive to spend more time with them in 2011.
10. Books! If there's one simple pleasure in life that I love, it is reading. I am going to compile a list of books that are absolute must-reads for 2011. If you have any suggestions for me, let me know.
11. And the eleventh reason why I'm looking forward to 2011 is...


I am hopeful through all seasons of my life, good and bad. My hope comes not from me, but from Jesus Christ, who guides me in all that I do. He's responsible for the good that I do, and He's there for me when I screw up.

It's a pretty sweet deal.

I say it lightly, but I mean it fully and completely. Christianity, the real thing, is not just another religion. It is so much more. If you've never known love that never fails, I challenge you to ask yourself, honestly: Have you given real Christianity a chance? I'm not talking just going through the motions here. Have you ever experienced God in a powerful way?

It could change your life.

I know it did mine...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free to Procrastinate


My start on NaNoWriMo was pretty strong.

But that went all to hell pretty quickly.

So, before I get into how far behind my word count goal I am right now, a list of things I have accomplished so far this November:

1. Calculated no less than 123 final grades for first quarter for my sophomores.
2. Graded 40 book projects in two different classes (and it also may be worth noting that each book project actually consists of three smaller projects and a presentation--all of which I graded using separate rubrics. So I actually graded something like 120 projects).
3. Successfully got my daughter to and from school each day of the past week by myself. (No, this isn't anything I don't usually do. But still. If you have ever shuffled a five-year-old to and from daycare or a school without a bus system, then you understand--it can be quite a feat!)
4. Went off my diet. (This is not, technically, something that requires time, effort, or talent. But it seemed like a good enough time for confession).
5. Served at the ten o'clock service at church as opposed to the 11:30 (and yes, we did gain an hour from daylight savings time... but still... oh, nevermind. This argument is just falling all apart, hmm?)
6. I really haven't accomplished all that much in November.
7. But #1 and 2 on this list really were quite time-consuming.
8. And I also had planning to do, you know, for my real job.
9. And this one IS a good one--Kaliah is learning to read! And no, my role in this isn't major, but I am sitting next to her, reading homework in front of us, being amazed by her actually sounding the words out! And, you know, she's really getting it! I am truly in awe of the process of seeing her go from just going through the motions of sounding out individual letters to being able to actually put the words together. And you should SEE the smile on her face when that happens. Oh, it lights up my whole world. I could not be more proud of her.
10. And also, I drive her to and from ballet...

I feel like if blogs had sound effects... you guys would hear crickets right about now. Or somebody coughing.

Sure, I've had a busy November... but I promised I would write me some words.

My grand total of words in my new novel, which I have entitled Missing Melody is currently...


Which isn't.... bad. I guess.

Except that The Powers That Be over at National Novel Writing Month suggest that to finish on time, I should be at 18,334 words right now.


But, ya know... as much as I dream of being a published writer... some things have to come first. Like my daughter. AND my job. AND church. AND, without making anymore excuses for myself...

I am pretty proud of my near 10,000 words.

10,000 words shaping a story that I had not even conceived, not even had the slimmest tracings of the beginings of it in my mind, before November 1st.

10,000 words that did not exist strung together before the past eleven days.

That is something. If not something to be boasting of, at least something to be considered.

So. Enough procrastinating. 11 is my favorite number. Perhaps today, I'll do the impossible and double that wordcount, and get myself right back on track to finishing in time.

And if I don't, at least I had the freedom to try.

Which reminds me to say a huge thank you to all the Veterans out there. I truly am appreciative of all of you who so bravely serve or have served our country. I really believe this is the most amazing country in the world, and I feel so truly blessed to live in the land that many have given their lives to protect. While America is far from perfect, I feel priveledged to be a small part of how far we have come, and how far we are going. It is an honor to know those of you who give your lives so freely, so that we may enjoy so many freedoms.

God bless to all!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNo, NaNo, It's Off to WRITE I Go!

So I know I have one billion and twenty-three other endeavors going on right now, but this challenge is too tempting to walk away from.

November is, apparently, National Novel Writing Month. Or, if you prefer, NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words entirely in the month of November. The idea is, in a word, awesome.

A global community of writers individually write themselves silly and document their progress online. Last year, I believe 30,000 writers met the goal. Can you believe that? 30,000 novels produced in a single month???

I feel that my chances of getting published are pretty slim. They just got even smaller, knowing that 30,000 novels were written in November alone, last year (and that's not even considering all the writers finishing books not part of the NaNoWriMo phenomenon, in November and all other months of the year).

Afterall, I have not been wildly successful in getting my first novel (Like Joe and Marilyn, 70,000 words, commercial fiction) noticed. And sheesh, that one took me seven years to write. Granted, I was also having babies and getting a B.A. and an M.A. and teaching college and teaching high school and parenting and waitressing and blah blah blah...

But still, now, I'm attempting to pop out another book in thirty days? After the first one took seven years?

Sure. Why not. Call me crazy. Along with the thousands of other nutty writers participating.

The emphasis is on quantity of words produced over quality, anyway. And it should really be a neat undertaking to force myself to write every single day this month.

Because while I love it, writing is a luxury I can't usually afford.

But here's the thing... if I'm serious about being a career writer, I can't treat it as a hobby. I have to give it the time it deserves.

And even if the next thirty days produce nothing but thirty days worth of crappy writing, at least I will have shown myself that I DO have the discipline necessary to be a novelist.

Discipline? I think so. Only the next thirty days will tell.

Talent? Well, that's a whole other story.

But I do have the heart. That much I know.

So, if you are interested in joining me and writing your own self delirious, click here.

If you yourself are not interested in this bout of literary insanity, but you'd like to show me some support by checking on my progress, you can click here.

And if you aren't particularly interested in any of this... here's a story for YOU (which, I promise, I did not make up).

Late Saturday night, just past midnight, so moving into Halloween morning, technically, my brother and I were on our way back from our restaraunt jobs at the beach. We're jabbering along, enjoying hypothetical, philisophical conversation that may or may not have been partly fueled by alcohol consumed by one of us (not the driver) when out of absolutely nowhere, these huge DOGS, wild dogs, come flying out of the woods across Rt. 50.

So I brake as fast as I possibly can, which was nowhere near fast enough, and THUD, I hit the first of the two creatures head on.

I won't get into all the grizzly details, but I kid you not when I say that thing had a deathwish, to use my brother's words. I mean, this puppy SAILED through the air before coming to it's sad and, for my brother and I, shocking, demise.

I was screaming my head off, and then laughing, as I tend to crack up in really inappropriate scenarios occuring in the ridiculous happenings that seem to plague my life.

I really thought it was a wolf.

I mean, who hits a WOLF! On Halloween? Seriously?? Do we even have them around here?

Yes, this really is my life.

I have since been told it probably was a coyote, which makes me feel NO better about the situation. Whatever it was, the animal was the size of a husky (WAY bigger than a fox, or Johnny's helpful suggestion, an armadillo), at least, and after I killed it dead with my little Honda Fit, there was NO WAY I was going back to check that bad boy's corpse out. Particularly since there were two of them, and the other one was still alive, and, so far as I could guess, probably pretty irritated that I just killed its partner.

Anybody else feel like the only thing missing in your life to turn it into a slap-stick comedy movie is a co-star along the lines of Chris Farley or Jimmy Fallon?

Or am I the only one?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Falling into Place

Do you ever feel that everything is finally coming together? That all the pieces of your life are finally, gloriously, falling into place?

Apparently, I felt that so much so last evening, I decided to demonstrate this symbolically.

By literally falling down the steps.

I have to say, that while I didn't have the best view of this event, I am quite confident that it had to have been one of the funniest sights lucky observers were priveledged enough to witness.

I was exiting a brand new small group meeting (my church's version of Bible study). Honestly, it was our inaugural gathering. Now, two of the members (other than myself) were not perfect strangers--they were members of our previous small group that had...well, become a large group. So we split 'er up and branched 'er out. But yes, there were also two brand new people present in this group, and yes, I did make a total moron out of myself in front of them and my two close friends from our old group.

We'd had a great night discussing the Word, forming friendships, laughing, and just generally making merry, but alas, it was time to go. So I slung my schoolbag over my shoulder, (I should mention that this contained, among other items, my laptop, my Bible, and a stack of papers yet to be graded), said my farewells, and headed out for the front door, clicking along confidently in my high-heeled, open-toed shoes.

I didn't get too far.

I wish I could see it in slow motion, because it happened so fast--I didn't even know I was falling until I was on the ground.

No kidding.

And not just a little stumble.

Total, utter faceplant.

I missed the first step in my heels, so consequently, I missed all of them. (Luckily, I think there were only three--but then again, I don't know--I missed them all!)

All I know is that it was dark, and I was literally FLYING, and then I was on the ground, staring at the concrete, wondering how the heck did this just happen?

And then: Oh, please, tell me that did NOT just happen.

But it did. And I really wish I could get a slow-mo instant replay. Seriously, it would have to be priceless. The expression on my face alone would probably be enough to induce tears of hysterical laughter--poor sap, she never even saw it coming! Really--I don't think my expression changed until I actually picked myself up off the ground.

But I'm no worse for the wear if you ignore the nicked ankle, the slight bruise on my knee, and the slightly bigger bruise to my ego.

And, hey--somebody had to lighten the mood.

And perhaps I should also go lighten my bag, to avoid future catastrophes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And now, for a rant of a completely different nature...

I would just like to state, that, for the record:

A) It is rude to take something that is not yours.
B) It is even more ridiculously rude to leave evidence of your having stolen said item in the face of the person you stole it from.
C) Everyone should learn, by age six, that you don't put something back into the fridge if you empty the container. And might I add... DUH!

So to whichever of my family members confiscated and consumed the remnant of my wine (white merlot, chilling in the fridge)... and that had the AUDACITY to put the bottle BACK in the fridge--

What's up with that?

Is it like, oh, look, I drank the last of your wine, and at the exact moment that I know you'll most desire a glass, when your daughter is finally asleep, and your papers are finally graded, and you want... hmmm.... ten seconds to yourself to relax, and think, wow, it might be nice to enjoy an adult beverage whilst relaxing... I hope you open the fridge and fine a well-chilled EMPTY bottle of wine??

How not cool.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Take the Hatred Elsewhere...

Today, the Aryan Nations are planning a public rally to be held in, of all places, the Bethany Beach Bandstand.

I am so disgusted by this, I barely know what to say, except that I feel something must be said.

The town officials say that the group had the right to get access to the Bandstand because of freedom of speech.

I understand that the same freedom of speech that allows me to express my personal, religious, and moral beliefs protects others, allowing them this right. I know it is what our country is built on, and that this has to apply to everyone, no matter how sickening or twisted their beliefs may be. Freedom of speech allows freedom of beliefs, and that founding principle of freedom is what makes our country such an amazing place.

I just can't believe, however, that a group so blatantly racist and discriminatory can be granted permission to broadcast their message of hatred in a public, town-sanctioned, family-friendly venue such as the Bandstand.

I grew up five miles from Bethany. I work there, still, at a lovely restaurant, the last Saturday of every month through the school year, and more often in the summer time. Waitressing puts a little extra cash in my pocket, and even though I live a good forty minutes from Bethany now, I make the trip once a month, even in the off-season, not just for the cash, but for the nostalgia of my hometown. The bustling, touristy, summer days under a shining July sun, the sparkling waves, the salty smell of the ocean--they all bring me directly back to my childhood. The smell of DB's Fries, best french fries in Bethany Beach, thank you very much--that was my very first job, as a fry cook at DB's in the late 90's, when I was just fourteen. The brightly colored shops, the clunking sounds of quarters being deposited into meters, the parents yelling after the children, the scuffling scrape of beach chairs being dragged across the sidewalk and off to the boardwalk, the teens rolling by on skateboards and the leashed dogs being proudly shown off by their owners... all of these make up a million priceless memoriese for me, as I gradually transitioned from child to teen to young adult to where I am now, slowly preparing to exit my twenties.

My whole life, Bethany Beach has been a part of who I am. The Summer Bethany, which I have always known, have always visited, even if I've lived elsewhere. I have always returned to the summers that have shaped my experience of my favorite season. The autumns there, where the tourists grow fewer, dwindling down to retirees and those from surrounding states who take a quick weekend getaway. The fall sun still beams down over a cooler, quieter Atlantic. The winters, where the town is all but deserted, yet you can still go to the beach and watch the wind whip over the waves. Spring time, when the stroller pushing mothers resume the streets, the restaurants begin to open again, and life pumps back into the town.

I have always loved Bethany. I have always been proud of where I come.

Today, I am not proud to claim Bethany.

I grew up believing that people should not be judged by the color of our skin. It is a view I have defended many times, as I entered into a relationship with a man whom I love deeply, who happens to be African-American. Thankfully, we live in a time when our relationship is possible. But racism is still very much alive today, and many of us choose not to admit this. Some of those who remain in the prisons of their prejudiced views fear voicing them in this age of tolerance.

The sad thing is, their prejudices which they are afraid to air are most often born from fear. Fear of differences, fear of change.

I say to those people: My daughter, a biracial, beautiful five-year-old gem, would change your mind, should you spend an afternoon watching her play. She is a fierce ball of energy-- play a game of tag, hide-or-seek, or catch, and see who gets tired first. Give her a topic, and she can ask you a question that you won't be able to answer. She is a laughing, hyper, squealing, gorgeous little girl, who can already write her name, help me pack a picnic, and "read" her favorite book (Five Little Ghosts--but she prounounces it "Five Little Ghost-es). She ran one and a half miles with me last week. She takes tap and ballet lessons. She wants to be a cheerleader, a ballerina, a farmer, and a geologist. She can recite multiple Bible stories, and the beginning of the 23rd Psalm.

She knows that God loves us. All of us.

She is kind, compassionate, and generous. To everyone she meets. Without question.

How I wish we could all see the world through the eyes of my daughter.

I pray for those misguided people who claim the revolting message that the Aryan Nations cling to. I pray that they realize the destructive error of their ways. I pray no one attends their rally, so that no one's ears may be poisoned by their message of hatred.

Again, freedom of speech, religion, and beliefs are beautiful rights. People have died to protect those rights, and I am not ungrateful. I realize that some might be offended by my religious views, if I decided to rent out the bandstand and preach about Christ. Others might be offended should a different religious group take the stage, sharing their views. I believe that the right to air views publicly, regardless of what those views are, and whether or not I agree with them, should remain a right.

Except in the case where the message is one of blatant racism, prejudice, and hatred. Toward any group of people. For any reason, disguised as any message. In a family-friendly venue, this should not be a right.

If my daughter and I planned to go the Boardwalk today, as we do often in the summer and September, we should be able to go to that public place without fear for her safety, or fear of the evil message, directed against her and many others, by those disillusioned people.

I sincerely hope this group never returns to Bethany. I plead with the town officials that if at all possible, they revisit their operational guidelines to see if something cannot be done to prevent this from happening in the future.

"This is my commandment: That you love one another, even as I have loved you." --John 15:12.

Please, let us keep injustice out of Bethany.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I Write: A Literacy Autobiography

It might be easier to define my life in terms of what it would be without being literate, than to describe myself in terms of being a literate person. Reading and writing are so much a part of who I am, that without my love for them, I could not possibly be the person I am today. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I venture to say that I am so much a reader and writer, that to take away literacy from my life would be to take away my self.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read and I have loved stories in all forms. It may have started when my grandmother read to me as a baby, and when a few years later I “read” the books myself, making up stories to go with the illustrations. Some may have thought it unlikely that I would care so much about reading, and later on, writing. My father, after all, was a very bright man, but he was illiterate. And while my brothers and my childhood friends would be scrambling around outside engaging in any physical activity they could find, I was more often than not planted in the corner, nose stuck firmly in a book. Of course I have other interests, but whenever I have to fill out any kind of form requiring me to name my interests, reading and writing are what I list first, without even thinking about it.

Therefore, since literacy has been so ingrained in my lifestyle for such a long time, it’s difficult to pinpoint “milestones” which led to this quality’s importance to me. I won local library’s summer reading contests by reading anything and everything I could find, I had an original poem printed by the local newspaper when I was nine, I wrote (mostly crappy) poetry all through high school. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I decided to major in English and education in college. I was so carried away with my identity as a writer, that during my senior year, I actually switched my major from the reliable field of education in order to concentrate on my literature classes and add a creative writing minor. I went on to attend graduate school and major in Rhetoric and Composition, winning a teaching assistantship and writing all the while. Of course, when I decided to start my family, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into public school teaching despite my somewhat unorthodox college background--being a starving artist tends to work out better if one’s daughter isn’t starving alongside beside you!

To date, I’ve not been published (unless you count that brilliant fourth-grade poem—“A Christmas Tree Mystery”), but I have completed one novel, and several short stories, so I hope to see my name in print someday. However, if that’s never the case, I am still a writer—I write because I need to write, not because I need to impress an audience. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to develop my love of teaching as well—I’ve taught everything from English 101 at ********* University to Inclusion 10th Grade English at ****** High School. I’ve taught Honors World Literature to high school sophomores and Basic Writing to community college students. The constant for all of these experiences is my joy of passing on my love of reading and writing to others—be they aspiring writers such as myself, or struggling readers with learning disabilities, such as my father, who passed away three years ago. Despite his difficulty with reading and writing, my dad loved a good story—who among us does not? I believe that all of us, regardless of past experiences, innate ability, or any other factors, can relate to each other and better understand ourselves through a sharing of our stories.

I know that’s why I read, and why I write. And I am a writer—regardless of whether or not I ever sign a contract, or get to choose the cover of that first novel. I am a writer, because if I was not a writer, I don’t know who I would be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Perfect Day

Perhaps those perfect moments we're in search of, those ones that are so elusive, are so rare because our standards are so high.

It's easy to long for those breathtaking snapshots of time during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I close my eyes and remember that moment I got engaged, when the man I love told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Or the moment I first held my darling daughter in my arms. Or calling my grandmother, squealing in uncontainable excitement, about my twenty thousand dollar scholarship.

And then there are the other moments--the ones that make up the majority of our lifetimes.

Right now, for instance. My overly energetic four-year old is rushing around my grandmother's house in improvised pajamas-- a tie-dyed t-shirt, belonging to my mother, that fits her like a slightly large dress. She will not, despite my numerous requests, leave our dog, poor Sue Yung, alone. School has, for the third time this week, been cancelled due to inclement weather, which would be fantastic... except that instead of Christmas in July, I shall most likely be Teaching in July.

I have taken a hiatus from my South Beach Lifestyle (I like Lifestyle more than Diet; it's less restricting) during these cabin-feverish days trapped inside, during which I have existed mainly off of potato chips, cookies, and soda. Consequently, I feel sluggish and disgusting.

I have answered endless inquiries regarding dog's brains, the merit of eggs as part of a healthy diet, the function of and title of "Snow Plows" (as opposed to "Pushing Trucks," as my daughter would call them), requests regarding purchasing Honey Nut Cheerios, and why dogs need tails (can anyone help me out with this one?) from my pre-schooler, and it's not quite eleven o'clock.

I'm faced with, on my lovely agenda today, having forms from my insurance company notarized to move forward the settlement from totaling my SUV last month, taking my persistant daughter out to play in the cold, wet, snow; dropping by the dreary, empty high school to try and figure out just where exactly I left off with my teaching before Delaware got blasted with snow last weekend, and, I suppose... trying to restart my South Beach Lifestyle (Anything before eleven doesn't count... as I've already indulged in Dorritoes and Dark Chocolate Peanut M & Ms).

A less than perfect day.

Or maybe not. Maybe perfection is all around us, if we open our eyes to see it. I know this is no ground-breaking philosophy, that I'm not the first person to preach about seeing a glass as half-full as opposed to half-empty. But sometimes I just need to remind myself of that, in between telling my kid for the four hundreth time in two hours to just please leave the dog alone, in the midst of no less than twenty buzzing interruptions on my Blackberry, most of which contain random Facebook comments on other people's status alerts that really pertain to me in no way at all... sometimes you just need to remind yourself.

So maybe it is a perfect day, of sorts. Because of my daughter's dimples, and her giggle. Because of Sue Yung the dog's exteme, unfathomable patience with having a four-year old attempt to plait her hair. Because of being inside, snuggled up with my daughter and my dog on the loveseat, my beloved grandmother sipping coffee in the other room. Because of the hope that I have in the fact that the latest agent to view my manuscript has yet to reject it. :) Because I have my health, my happiness, and so many people who love me. Because the snow is beautiful (and even though it will turn to a disgusting dirty mush, it hasn't yet!) Because I can read my Bible and reflect on His word. Because my precious child and I have a full, wonderful day to spend together, and she still wants to do that with me, even if her constant chattering distracts me from my blogging, and even if she wants to drag her summer-loving mother into the cold, wet snow. And even if every other phrase out of her mouth is "Why does..." or "How come..." or "I want..." and she hasn't stopped talking or moving for three and three quarter years and I'm going gray at 27.... I'm blessed to have a healthy, beautiful, SMART little girl.

And here's to today, perfect day to spend with her :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Starting the New Year Off with a Bang

So... I managed to have a pretty eventful start to TwentyTen (sidebar: I love saying TwentyTen. It's so futuriffic).

It was the last day of Christmas Vacation (one of the many things I love about being a teacher). After two relaxing weeks off full of fun, family, and cheer, I was on my way from my mother's to school, to, well, um... start grading papers. (Procrastinating is one of my many talents).

So on a cold, bright, January Sunday, I'm driving along on the highway, singing along with my Blackberry as it's playing Bette Middler's "The Rose." My taste in music, by the way, is not normally quite so atrocious, but I'm singing this song at a friend's wedding tomorrow, so dork that I am, I was practicing in my car, belting out "Some say Love/ It is a River--" when all of the sudden, I came to a sudden realization:

Which was, terrifyingly... my brakes were no longer braking.

I pushed the pedal, once, twice... and they were just gone.

So hysterical young woman that I am, I prayed, calling out to Jesus, then (I am ashamed to admit) yelled a bad four letter word (a REALLY bad one... twice), and in a desperate last moment attempt to stop my car, threw it into park just before slamming full speed into the truck ahead of me.

It didn't occur to me until later, at a friend's questioning as to why I didn't use the emergency brake, that I realized I probably should have used the emergency brake.

The story ended happily. No one was hurt, or even that angry. I was shaken up, but mostly so, so thankful that no one was hurt. But here's the kicker. The truck in front of me?

Being driven by no other than the one and only superintendant of my small-town school district.

You can't make this stuff up folks.

Long story short: I'm really blessed to be here. I hit his truck at fifty miles an hour while he was stopped at a red light. The air bags didn't even deploy. Thank God for seatbelts, but furthermore... I know He was watching over me. My truck (a used Hyundai Santa Fe) was pronounced totaled a few days later. Thank God, no one was hurt. Thank God, my daughter wasn't with me. But mostly, God, thank you for guiding me through one of the scariest situations I've ever been in. And even letting me see a little humor in it.

Superintendant?? REALLY? Of ALL the people in the world??

Quite a way to cap off my Christmas Vacation. I feel like Chevvy Chase would be proud....

So, smashing start to my twentyten... but grateful to still be here to ring this year in. Also, just finished a unit on irony with my sophomores... nothing like real life examples, eh?