How to Keep Occupied on a Snowy Day

(Would you like to listen rather than read? Check out my podcast episode on this same topic here.)

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards...not so much. Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards…not so much.
Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

I wanted to keep this week’s post timely. Since storm Jonas is upon the US East coast, here are a few ideas on how to keep occupied while you’re snowed in, not just for this 2016 weekend, but also for other snow days as well.

I’ve broken the suggestions down into four categories: Netflix, Books, Art, and Being a Kid.

  1. Netflix: Here are my suggestions on fun shows to watch while sipping your warm beverage of choice.
    • If you’re in for thrills and psychological intrigue, watch Dexter & Criminal Minds.
    • The 100 provides a great sci-fi plot line and a diverse (and large!) cast of characters.
    • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Solving mysteries set in the 1920s. ‘Nuff said.
    • How Stuff Works gives a behind-the-scenes looks at, well, how stuff works. One of my favorite episodes was seeing how contacts were made.

The next few activity categories can be done with or without power.

      2. Books: Are you a bookworm? Curl up with one of these while watching the snow fall outside your window!

    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a whimsical yet mature tale that asks: Can a snow girl come to life?
    • The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman have fantastic artwork and have (in my opinion) a grittier storyline than the show.
    • The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde is a fun, quick read that will give you tools to spice up your yawn-inducing meeting notes.
    • The Olympians comic series by George O’Connor. Greek gods in comic form. Do you need more convincing? (If so, I don’t think we can be friends…. :-P)

      3. Art: Use the time off to get your hands dirty!

    • Fingerpaint.
    • Paint with coffee or tea.
    • Draw with whatever you have. Draw your meal, the scene outside your window, or your pets. Make the mundane frame worthy!
    • Play the squiggle game. This is pretty simple: Take out a piece of paper and draw a squiggle on it (any shape, size, etc). Have the next person add to it. You can go back and forth (or pass from person to person if there is a group of 3 or more) until the squiggle looks like something recognizable, like a person, a starfish, or a dragon.

      4. Be a kid!

    • Build a fort. Get pillows and blankets, then defend your territory!
    • Make shadow puppets.
    • Make hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows for a lovely sugar coma.
    • Tell (ghost) stories.
    • Play in the snow!

What are some activities you like to do when you’re snowed in? Share in the comments!

What Spraining My Ankle Taught Me About Comparison

Oh, you know, just chillin' on the grass with my stylish cast. (Photo courtesy of healthtap.com).

Oh, you know, just chillin’ on the grass with my stylish cast. (Photo courtesy of healthtap.com).

 

This past weekend, I did something silly. I tried showing off.

Now you might be thinking, “What’s silly about that? Tons of people do it.” Certainly this is true, especially in this age of social media. Everyone tries to show their best lives when no one is perfect. This leads to the cause of showing off: comparison.

That’s what I did this past weekend. I was at a friend’s house, and we were waiting for tea water to boil. While doing this, we did what any other self-respecting group of adults would do: tried to see how high we could kick.

We were in the kitchen at the time, and all of us wore socks on this slippery floor. This didn’t really register for me until later. A friend kicked pretty high, and I thought, “I kickbox. I should be able to kick at least that high!” So I tried. And the room spun.

Before I knew it, I was on the floor, with my left foot and ankle in quite a bit of pain. I saw several pairs of hands trying to help me up, but I needed a moment. I needed to get the strength to deal with the impending shot of pain that would result from getting up. I needed to orient myself in the kitchen. I also needed to deal with my embarrassment.

Why did I do this? I thought to myself. What in the world did I have to prove?

My ankle hurt for the rest of the night. The next day, I couldn’t walk on my foot, and I became worried, wondering if this injury might take weeks to heal (According to my illustrious Google research, a sprained ankle can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal. That’s a HUGE time window! Seriously, it’s almost “waiting for the cable guy” worthy…). I hopped around my apartment whenever I needed something and tried to make as few trips as possible. When my ankle started feeling a little better, I limped around, sometimes hopping because of a sudden shot of pain.

So why tell this story? To illustrate a point. We are hobbled when we compare ourselves to others. Had I just marveled at the fact that my friend could kick pretty high, I could have enjoyed a pain-free night and weekend. How many times do we compare ourselves to someone else’s looks, success, art, writing, etc, and feel inferior? How many times do we walk around feeling sorry for ourselves because we can’t do what “so and so” does?

This helps no one! We all have something unique to bring to the world. (*cue sentimental violin music*).

You have nothing to prove. You’ve got your own style, your own flair, your own flavah, so own it!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Is there a moment where you caught yourself comparing? What did you learn from the experience? Is comparison still a struggle (it still is for me!)?

 

 

Why I’m Ditching New Year’s Resolutions

Happy-New-Year-Clip-art-Images

Image courtesy six8seven5.com

I know, I know…”Not another resolutions post!” That’s what you’re probably thinking. I’m hoping this one has more of a twist, though, because (spoiler alert!), I’m ditching resolutions in 2016. More on that in a bit.

First a wrap up of 2015:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week: Didn’t do too great here. 2015 was the year of takeout for the hubs and I. I think it had to do with busy schedules, but really, that’s just an excuse. Hopefully this year’s schedules won’t fill up as fast (i.e., I’ll say “no” more often), and I’ll stay more on top of having healthier food options in the house.

2. Meditate once per day: I got SUPER lax with this because I started counting super short prayers as fitting the bill. Really, they don’t. I needed to be more intentional. Something to keep in mind for this year.

3. Work on art once per week: This one I actually did! I tried a bunch of different techniques and tools, particularly digital methods. I’m really happy with my art progress and want to continue this year.

4. Read 60 books: 48. Not quite, but so close!

5. Keep a steady writing practice: Nope. This one just didn’t happen. Visual art really took over, which isn’t a bad thing. This is just one example of how my priorities changed during the year.

So, that last note (“priorities change”) is exactly why I’m ditching New Year’s resolutions in favor of something else: a yearly word.

Resolutions are fine, and if they work for you, that’s fantastic! They just don’t work for me. Over the years, I’ve found myself working toward goals that start out really important and then fall by the wayside because after a few months, circumstances change and I just don’t have the energy to focus on goals that I don’t want to prioritize.

And then there’s the issue of guilt. I used to think, “Well, I set this priority for myself and I should see it through, right?” Usually, I’d say yes, but it’s so hard to predict what will happen in a year, (or even the next couple of months!). I didn’t want to be beholden to goals that would just weigh me down when I could actually make progress on things that mattered to me.

So how does a yearly word come in? The thing about single words or phrases is that they are versatile. They can be interpreted in many ways and take different shapes. Yearly words can grow with you.

Take my 2015 word for example: gather. This can be a verb or a noun. There can be a gathering of people. Or you can gather resources. It was such a nourishing word for me. I certainly gathered a lot in 2015! I gathered art techniques, I got together with friends and family often—and these are just a sampling of the ways I acted on my word!

I was so reluctant to let “gather” go in the new year, but I think my new word will be just as awesome. “What is it?” you ask. DELIGHT!

In 2016, I want to focus on delights, or people and moments that make me smile. I want to fill others with delight through my art. I’m sure come the end of the year, I will have tons of other ways I’ll interpret this word.

But do you see what I mean? Words are so versatile. At least to me, they aren’t weighty and clunky. I’m so excited to dive into delight this year!

If you’d like to hear a bit more about why I’m ditching resolutions (and ideas for how you can choose your own word!), check out my podcast’s (Roaring Out—yep, same as the blog) episode 11.

How about you? Do you stick with resolutions, do you choose a yearly word, or do you have a different yearly ritual?

The Stages of Grading, as Illustrated by Gollum

Left: How I look in front of the classroom; Right: How I look when grading Image courtesy of Tumblr

Left: How I look in front of the classroom; Right: How I look when grading
Image courtesy of Tumblr

I recently stumbled across this article that pretty accurately describes the stages of grading. It is loosely based on Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.

A while back, I actually collected a few images of Gollum with expressive faces (because that is what I do in my spare time) and decided to whip that up into a blog post. For your reading pleasure, here are Michelle Greco’s stages of grading, or what every teacher experiences when reading mounds of crappy papers.

  1. Students turn in freshly printed (though probably not proofread) papers in front of you. You are hopeful that, unlike last time, you will not leave these to the last minute to spare yourself from a glut of student writing.

    So doe-eyed. So naive. Image courtesy of Reddit.

    So doe-eyed. So naive.
    Image courtesy of Reddit

  2. You know you should begin grading…but you still need to finish that show on Netflix. Also, when was the last time the bathroom had a good scrub? This isn’t procrastination, it’s super productivity.

    Note the similarity in naivete to stage 1. Image courtesy of Giphy.com

    Note the similarity in naivete to stage 1.
    Image courtesy of Giphy.com

  3. You finally begin. And then you come across the first typo. Then the second. And then you read the sentence, “The two fictional short stories…are two great stories to compare life lesions,” and you know it’s going to be a long slog.

    Image courtesy of parismatch.com

    Dear God, why? Image courtesy of parismatch.com

  4. A student makes a logic jump in his or her argument that defies all rules of time and space. (Alternately, “You keep using that word/argument. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”)

    Image courtesy of filmicgames.com

    Image courtesy of filmicgames.com

  5. Can it be? It is! A well-written student paper that makes a solid argument!

    My precious! Image courtesy of geocaching.com

    My precious!
    Image courtesy of geocaching.com

  6. If you have to read one more sentence beginning with the words “this shows that,” “in my opinion,” or “this relates back to my point of…,” you may just run screaming for the hills and never look back.

    "I said don't compare and contrast! It's on the syllabus!" Image courtesy of cgw.com

    “I said don’t compare and contrast! It’s on the syllabus!”
    Image courtesy of cgw.com

  7. A student writes a paper so terrible that you can freely fail it. You feel no remorse for the easy grade.

    It is a fair decision...yet so diabolical. Image courtesy of motheringthemanic.com

    It is a fair decision…yet so diabolical.
    Image courtesy of motheringthemanic.com

  8. You are two-thirds of the way done. So close! …And yet, so far.

    Image courtesy of theathleticnerd.com

    Image courtesy of theathleticnerd.com

  9. You’ve made it. You were bloodied, bruised, and beaten senseless by the gross misuse of language and reason in all those papers, but dammit, you have risen from the ashes triumphant. Now for some ice cream and a nap.

    Image courtesy of pophangover.com

    Image courtesy of pophangover.com

Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model

IMG_2290

Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.

IMG_2285IMG_2288

IMG_2289IMG_2286

After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!

IMG_2294IMG_2295

IMG_2291

The teacher and a student

IMG_2292IMG_2296

IMG_2297

The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?

An Imagined WA (Workaholics Anonymous) Meeting

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

(Note: This post is the first of it’s kind for me—I wrote it in about five minutes. No editing. No nothing. Stream of consciousness. Makes me nervous, but I trust this is a safe place to let some of this out.)

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I’m a workaholic.

(All: Hi, Michelle).

It might be the result of being the only child of a single parent or just beginning my life with a type-A personality, but I tend to work myself to death. No one asks this of me—I demand it of myself.

And yet, as I get older, I realize I can’t keep up the frenetic pace. I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up break-neck speed. But it wasn’t until my husband said, “I’m worried about you” that I was willing to admit that it was my schedule and the pressure I put on myself that was the problem.

This means taking on less work. This means less money, which, as a former welfare recipient, honestly scares the shit out of me. I don’t ever want to rely on the system again. But that can’t be synonymous with not relying on those closest to me.

Yes, it means less of what I’ve grown used to, but what else might it mean? More free time for sure. More time to write, to make art, to sleep (oh, glorious sleep!). More energy for my students. More time with my husband. More reading. Kinda makes the old adage “Less is more” take on a whole new meaning.

Its tough redefining who you thought you were. I thought I was the perpetual happy-go-lucky person, then my depression worsened. I thought I was a type-A person through and through. I think it might be true to a certain extent, but it’s wiping me out. It’s wrecking my health.

I’m scared. I’ve been here before. But all the scary steps I’ve taken in the past have paid dividends, though not always right away. I have to trust (God, myself, the people in my life) that this will also turn out OK.

For the Ice Cream Connoisseur

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

I recently came across a nifty infographic, made by VanMonster, that details the evolution of the ice cream van. As an ice cream connoisseur, this was super interesting to me. I’ve thought a lot about the evolution of ice cream, but not the mode in which it was delivered to me as a child—the van with the ever-playing jingle. Enjoy the infographic.

Did you learn something new from this infograph? If so, post below!

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

What My Grade-School Self Taught Me About Owning My Art

I wasn't quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

I wasn’t quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

When I was in first or second grade, my class read a book and then did an art project based on it. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember that the main character was a ho-hum-looking man. The assignment was to draw clothes on the paper doll version of the main character in the style of any activity we wished. Some put leather jackets on him, some made him a painter or a fighter.

Keep in mind that this was the early cusp of the 90s, so 80s fashion was still prominent. I decided to do something a bit different and outfit the guy in workout clothes—short shorts, lemon-yellow headband, and all.

IMG_1282

“Funky Doodle” Colored Pencil and Micron Pen in sketchbook

There are two things I’ll never forget about this assignment after seeing the bulletin board with all of my classmates’ paper renditions of this book character. The first is how awesome my friend’s outfit came out. She was known for being a fantastic artist, even at that young age. Her paper doll looked like he was ready for the cover of a J. Crew catalog. He sported a smartly cut-out leather jacket made of brown construction paper, complete with a drawn-on zipper. Her paper doll had swagger.

The second thing is this: I admired the bulletin board behind two of my classmates. They pointed out their own work, then began commenting on the work of others. I’ll never forget what one of them said. He swept his eyes across the bulletin board and exclaimed to his friend, “I like all of them…except that one.” He was pointing to mine.

I don’t think the two boys knew I was behind them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know the paper doll outcast one of them had just singled out was mine. All I know is that one sentence rung so deep in me because it pointed out something I already felt: I’m no good at art.

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Writing was a different story. That has always come fairly easily to me. My mom recently told me that around this same time in my school career, the stories I wrote during free time were shown to the principal because my teachers thought they were that good.

Yet I was hung up on that paper man. I knew that, technically speaking, mine wasn’t the best or most attractive of the outfits. But, dammit, I’d spent time on it!

I’ve gone back to this memory a few times throughout my life, convincing myself that perhaps it meant I shouldn’t pursue art in the public eye because people will react like my classmate: love absolutely everything out there except what I make. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that praise isn’t what truly matters (though it is nice). Community does.

And I now accept that paper man with short shorts and headband that I made all those years ago (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the snow lady I drew around that same time. She had a red bandana and nunchucks, a la Ninja Turtle style).

"Circle Study" Micron Pen in Sketchbook

“Circle Study”
Micron Pen in Sketchbook

In years passed, I’ve set out to make art more regularly and it never quite worked out so well. This year, I’m making it one of my goals to do a bit of art once per week, even if it’s a little doodle and even if I end up doodling a male Jane Fonda like my grade-school self did. And, dammit, I will own every last bit of it.

(Note: all photos in this blog post are part of this project so far. Already on a roll!)

IMG_1276Want to join me in owning your art? Include the hashtag #arteveryweek2015 on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are no restrictions on the type of media you use. Just have fun! Let’s collect our creations via this hashtag and create a community of artists that says, “We love all of them!” No exceptions 🙂

Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

A while back, I read this post over at Radio Silencer. It’s so funny what people look up…and how it all can somehow lead to your blog.

When I look at the search terms now, I mostly see “unknown search terms.” Boring! So this post is dedicated to the good ‘ole days when I could see what hilarity led people to my blog:

  • Presidential badassery – …I…what? I mean, it seems like two words that don’t necessarily go together, unless you are referring to Ronald Regan riding a velociraptor. Then that all makes sense.
  • Distomance – A fun word that combines dystopia and romance. And I did write about Divergent, so yeah, this one makes sense.
  • Joe Weil poems – Another that’s reasonable. I have read a poem by Joe Weil on this blog.
  • комиксы predator – I can’t even. A Russian predator? As in, Predator wearing a fuzzy black hat and kicking out his feet to folk tunes? Now that I can get behind.
  • My 2014 new year – Another one that makes sense. My resolutions posts usually get good traffic.
  • Wesley Mcnair – *shoulder shrug*
  • Barefoot business – Ah yes, always be businessing…barefoot, if possible.
  • Dr Who and Jesus – Did I write a post comparing Jesus to Doctor Who (the tenth to be exact)? Yes, I did. You’re welcome.
  • How tall is Rachel Frederickson – I weighed in (see what I did there?) on this controversy because people bashed her because she was thin. I know that feels. Apparently many other people wanted opinions on this as well.
  • Dear Sister AK Press – I end on one I’m the most proud of because it was a huge step for me in a lot of ways not only to send my work to the Dear Sister anthology, but also to be published alongside some great artists.

 

What are some odd search terms that have led to your blog? Or what are random search terms you’ve entered?

If We Were Having Coffee…Wedding Edition!

Not sure what this feature is all about? Check out the first post here!

Blowing on my hot apple cider!

Blowing on my hot apple cider!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that the wedding went so well! Yes, I was stressed at the start of the day, but once we were underway, it was magic!

I nearly cried during the vows.

Vows

All wedding photos by Suzy Rahn

My goodness, the food was delicious!

Om nom nom!

Om nom nom!

The dancing was so fun!

IMG_8608

And I got to spend time with many of the people I care most about!

IMG_8038

Some of my closest friends. I couldn’t get everyone in one shot, alas.

Me and my husband with my side of the family

Me and my husband with my side of the family.

Oh yeah, and I get to spend the rest of my life with the man I love most 🙂

Dip Kiss

Ooh la la!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that the honeymoon was so lovely. My husband (still getting used to the title!) and I went on a cruise.

The weather wasn’t ideal, but we had some shining moments.

View from the room on the first full day.

Morning view from the room on the first full day.

View on the last full day.

Sunset on the last full day.

And we met some incredible people!

IMG_1099 IMG_1105 IMG_1108 IMG_1060 IMG_1041

This post would not be complete without a solo of "baby face" George.

This post would not be complete without a selfie of “baby face” George.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that coming back to reality after such an incredible week is difficult. But having great people to come back to (yes, even my students) is lovely.

I’d ask you what you think the hardest part of coming back from a vacation is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that while I enjoy teaching, I’m looking forward to the end of the semester and the holiday season.

I’d ask you what your favorite part of December is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you I’m behind on my Christmas shopping :-/

I’d ask you how the crazy holiday season is shaping up for you.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

If We Were Having Coffee…

A few days ago, I saw this post from Jamie over at Perpetual Page Turner. I thought, “What a super cool idea!” I love that, as a blogger, I can interact with my followers in a more personal way. So, I decided to follow suit and write my own “If We Were Having Coffee” post (thought I enjoy hot chocolate more. But, well, “If We Were Having Coffee” is a way more attractive blog post title than “If We Were Each Partaking in Our Warm Beverages of Choice”).

I've got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

I’ve got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

Here’s the idea: I share what’s going on with me right now with you, the reader, as if we were sitting together, cozy and sharing life over warm mugs 🙂 I’m going to ask you questions too, so feel free to respond via comment or e-mail (roaringout (at) gmail (dot) com). So grab a mug of your warm beverage of choice (hmm, maybe that alternate blog title would work…) and join me:

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I much prefer hot chocolate with cinnamon.

I’d ask you what your favorite warm beverage is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I felt like the absolute worst teacher yesterday. I was caught in horrendous traffic with no way of getting in touch with my 8 am class. I arrived 20 minutes late, and my students had understandably left (our classroom is locked and I’m the only one who can open it). They did leave a note with the names of all who were present, which was responsible of them. I felt like “such a fucking failure” (to quote myself from a 10-minute freewrite I did during class time since no students were present). I harp on my students to be on time and to not waste my time, their time, or their fellow classmates’ time, yet that’s exactly what I did, though not intentionally. Even after I e-mailed the class to explain, I felt like it was not enough.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I also practiced being kind to myself yesterday. Everyone makes mistakes. The semester is a month in, and I’ve extended grace to many of my students. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for a bit of grace as well.

I’d ask you about a time when you felt bad, but learned to practice being kind to yourself.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m super excited, though nervous, about selling my art at a local craft fair on Sunday. I’ve still got a bunch of prep to do, but it also means that I know I’ll prioritize fun, crafty work!

I’d ask you what opportunities are you excited about. What risks, however small or great, are you taking?

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you I’m also super excited yet nervous about getting married next month. I love that I get to spend the rest of my life with the most amazing man in the universe (I may or may not be biased…), but, oh boy, weddings are a lot of work! I’ve got most things under control, I just don’t like planning for long-term projects. I know everything will be worth it the day of; I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact.

I’d ask you to tell me about a time when you were nervous, but everything turned out OK.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m a bit frustrated with myself for not making more “me” time; that is, time to write, to be crafty, to read, to do things that I love.

I’d ask you what you like to do during “me” time. I’d also ask how you make time for the things you love to do, as opposed to the things you have to do.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m so excited about fall TV lineups starting again. I love so many shows (Supernatural and Walking Dead, anyone?) that I can barely keep track!

I’d ask you what your favorite fall shows are.

OK, I think that’s good for now. Your turn! Feel free to respond in the comments or via e-mail to me. I’m looking forward to your side of the conversation 🙂

You Like Me. You Really Like Me!

Photo courtesy of 101fundraising.org

Photo courtesy of 101fundraising.org

So back in 2011 and 2012, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by two bloggers. I responded to both of them, saying that I was honored they thought to give me this award. That’s the good part. The bad part is that it’s taken me the better part of two years to actually getting around to what the award entails.

First off, thank you PoeticJourney and Write, Wrong, and Everything In Between for nominating me for this!

Second, I’m supposed to list 15 blogs I like/regularly follow. I don’t know that I regularly follow that many, but here are a few I really like and regularly comment on:

Don Miller’s Storyline Blog

Tara Anderson’s The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shh!

Sarah Clare’s Behind on Books

Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half

Dave Williams’s Zooky World

(5 out of 15 ain’t bad, right?)

Lastly, I need to list 7 things about myself:

1. I think I overuse the word “anyhoo” when I write. I know I overuse the word “awesome” when I talk AND write.

2. When I was little, I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. I still do….

3. I think proper grammar is sexy (this includes the serial comma).

4. I’m a big sci fi nerd. Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Supernatural. Love it! (Haven’t gotten to Stargate yet, but I will.)

5. I hadn’t seen the movie The Goonies until last year (Stop judging me! I feel those stares…)

6. I love ice cream and milkshakes.

7. After some years of denial, I must admit that red is my favorite color, followed closely by midnight blue and black.

Thanks again for the award! Now ends my acceptance speech.

The Upside of Grading: Funny Student Typos

Sorry for the crappy quality, but I have to make sure I don't show students' names.

Sorry for the crappy quality, but I have to make sure I don’t show students’ names.

As a professor, one of my main duties is grading papers. With five classes, that averages to about 100 hundred papers, give or take, for any assignment. While I love reading student responses, grading and slogging through the slush pile is exhausting and can be tedious (and sometimes a little painful). I realized I needed to make it more fun somehow. So, I started tweeting funny typos (with the number of papers I grade, they happen often!). After tweeting them for about two months, I figured, “Why not share them with my blog audience as well?”

So sit back, relax, and laugh:

“The family charges everyone that came to see him, which leads Pelayo and his wife to become extremely wife.” (How do you become extremely wife? Is it like being Betty Crocker?)

“He looked like a normal man without any freaky fetuses, but ended up being a necrophiliac.” (I probably laughed for five minutes after reading this one. By the by, this is a response to Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, in case anyone was curious why fetishes—umm, I mean fetuses—were brought up.)

“The two fictional short stories…are two great stories to compare life lesions.” (That’s an unpleasant visual…)

“She goes and buys some men supplies and arsenic.” (…what are men supplies?)

“She lacked quilt…[because] she will kill again.”

“Behavior also has a hug role in the case of a serial killer.” (The softer side of serial killers.)

“They’re people we call our family, friends, and collages.”

“…Garcia Marquez makes the readers question if the old man is really an angle or not.” (The real question is if the old man is really obtuse or acute.)

“I literately have given up sleep to watch Dexter.” (Giving up sleep poetically? I’ve done that.)

OK, I couldn’t just end the blog with typos. Every now and then, students are really freaking awesome and say things I just have to document. So to end the blog, here are a few amazing student quotes (that were typo free!):

“Without fiction, life would be plain and to the point. Nothing creative and magical would exist.”

“Poetry is pretty darn cool. It’s like drawing with words.”

“Just because you guys both like listening to The Smiths and eating Razzles on a Friday night does not mean you have found ‘the one.'” (This one is probably my favorite!)

Conversation with a student, in which the student is trying to understand the “Significance” section of a research proposal:
Student: Say I’m writing about the difference between peanut butter and jelly. Is the “Significance” part where I would say that peanut butter is better than jelly?
Me: Yes, it would also be where you state why knowing that peanut butter is better than jelly would be helpful for the sandwich field.

Want to keep up with the hilarity/awesomeness of my student’s typos? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Weighing In on the “Biggest Loser” Controversy (and Bad Puns)

Biggest Loser_Rachel

A few years back, I watched the “Biggest Loser” regularly. I liked the feel-good stories and the fact that the cast of participants wanted to pursue a healthier lifestyle. But, as often happens, I got sidetracked with other shows.

The “Biggest Loser” recently came back to my attention because of the recent winner, Rachel Frederickson. There is a controversy centered around the question: “Did she lose too much weight?” I was going to write this off, but then I realized that the previous question is linked to “How thin is too thin?”—an inquiry that hits home for me.

As someone who has hovered between 110 and 115 pounds her entire adult life, this is an issue I face regularly. Because I’m on the taller side (or tall enough not to be counted as “short”), my slight frame seems unhealthy to some. I know what you may be thinking: “What do you have to complain about? You’re thin!” Yes, I know. And I’m grateful.  What I’m not grateful for are the remarks:

“There’s nothing to you!”

“Do you eat?”

“Oh, you’re thin…too thin.”

“I’ll have to feed you more so you can put a little weight on!”

While these remarks are generally well-intentioned or meant as a joke, they hurt. Am I less of a person because I’m slender? Do I look sick? Why can’t we focus on something else other than what I (or you or her or anyone else) looks like? I, and everyone else, are more than the sum of our body parts. But back to my main point…

Did Rachel lose too much weight? I feel I don’t have the proper information to say yes or no, largely because one must take into account two components (the physical and the emotional/mental).

First, the physical: If she is tall, weighing 105 pounds may not be healthy for her from a purely biological standpoint.  Additionally, when you are in the low 100 weight range, 5 or 10 pounds looks like a big difference and, depending on how tall you are, can impact you significantly. Lastly, losing a lot of weight is OK as long as it is spaced out. How long did it take her to lose the 155 pounds?

Now, the emotional: Perhaps my biggest concern is how does Rachel view her weight loss? Does she see herself as too thin or, perhaps, not thin enough?

While I have, thankfully, never had an issue with food, since Rachel began this journey overweight, I wonder if she now has a healthy body image. Losing weight (or trying to maintain it) is very much a psychological journey.

Though my weight isn’t too far off from Rachel’s current weight, I’m aware that there should be a balance. What I mean by this is because Rachel began at a heavy weight, my concern would be that she won’t find balance between a healthy weight and, perhaps, her desire to stay thin and not revert back to habits that could make her overweight again (which could cause her to overcompensate by continuing to lose weight even though she is healthy).

My personal conclusion: If Rachel’s weight is healthy for her height, if she lost the weight in a reasonable amount of time, and if she views herself in a good way and maintains a healthy lifestyle, let’s just be happy for her. (Well, we should be happy for her regardless, but I’m a huge proponent of taking action if a problem/misperception exists).

Time for you to weigh in: What are your thoughts on weight loss and/or this particular controversy? Do you have a particular weight that you deem “too thin” or “unhealthy”?

10 Lessons I Learned from Teaching

English: Sahab Library

English: Sahab Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s five days until Christmas, and while most people are thinking of presents and family, I’m rejoicing that my finals grades are in!

This semester was both the hardest and most rewarding for me. I taught five classes at two different colleges. It was a juggling act, and the past four months have felt like a crash course in time management and interpersonal relations. Now that I can look back in retrospect, it was totally worth it (in fact, I’m teaching five courses again next semester).

As with all experiences, I’ve learned a lot this semester, which marks my year and a half of teaching.  Here are the top points:

1. Be specific – Students forget things. Students can be dense. And you have to remember that this is, most likely, not a student’s only class.  There’s a lot to keep track of for both you and your lovely horde of 18 year olds, so make it easier on yourself and be specific. Let them know exactly what’s expected. If they break the rules, most will be good at admitting it. And be prepared to repeat yourself…a lot.

2. Know your students and yourself – One of my main goals at the beginning of the semester is to get every one of my student’s names down.  Knowing them makes students feel like you care (and makes it easier to call them out when they’re being silly 😉 ). As the semester goes on, you also get to know your students, their limits, and your limits. You’ll know which students try to get away with murder and which are just having a bad week. And you know when you just can’t accept another late paper because if you have to grade one more grammar-mistake-riddled assignment, you might just run screaming from the building.

3. It’s not you, it’s…no, it’s you – Some students (no matter how hard you try) just won’t give a shit.  Don’t take it personally. Pour your heart and resources into those who do care and who will listen to you.

4. Sometimes, you just have to commiserate – This might sound callous, but after a hard day of not one student listening/understanding you or a lesson plan flopping or a hard night of grading, you just need to sit in the teacher’s lounge and blow off some steam with colleagues. Sometimes, those you teach with turn out to be the best therapists and problem solvers.

5. Most likely, you study harder than quite a few of your students – I know I do. And it gets frustrating. “You mean I spent three hours prepping for this lesson with an additional three hours to catch up on grading, and you didn’t even take fifteen minutes to read the three-page essay for today?” Yeah, it happens. But you keep on trying your best. (See point 3).

English: The main reading romm of Graz Univers...

6. No one told me there’d be a paper party – I knew there’d be lesson planning and grading, but paperwork? I find myself constantly putting reams of forms in the “interoffice mail” bin. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. Will my description feel spot on if you are a teacher? Yes.

7. No one gets into teaching for the grading – I love being in front of the classroom. I love hearing what my students have to say. I even (usually) love reading what they have to say. But evaluating it all? Not so much. Though I do have to say that www.engrade.com makes my life infinitely easier by calculating all my grades. It’s a wonderful free resource (Hint for all my fellow teachers!). Hey, I’m an English professor. You do the math 😉

8. Teaching is like a zombie (it wants your brains) – Hours of lesson planning and grading can be all consuming. You will emerge from a long night of this and only be able to communicate using unintelligible grunts. Which brings me to number 9…

9. Be kind to yourself – Not all classes will be winners (i’m speaking of lesson plans here, not students). Some days, it will feel like all the work you are putting in is futile. Don’t beat yourself up, and, most importantly, take “you” time (because you will get burnt out). Take a weeknight or a weekend for yourself. Put the folder of papers and stacks of books away, get a bowl of ice cream, and marathon your favorite show (if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, go outside, see the sun, and, perhaps, even have a drink or two). Students can wait another few days to get a paper back. They really won’t mind, and they’ll appreciate having a well-rested, good-humored professor to show for it.

10. You get around to some students, even if it takes a while – I know I’ve griped quite a bit about students not listening or turning in assignments late. Every job has it’s rough moments. I got into teaching because I love it. I love diving into literature texts and discussing the serial comma. I love having discussions and answering students’ questions.

I love it even more when students answer each other’s questions, showing me that they “get” it. I love it even more when a student who only wrote in sentence fragments at the beginning of the semester can now making a cohesive argument. I love it even more when I get an e-mail from a student telling me that I made English bearable and even a little fun. That is why I do what I do—for even, just a moment, to show them the power of the written word. It sounds like some idealistic notion out of a work of fiction, but it does happen…and, for me, it makes the journey worth it.

If you teach, what wisdom do you have to share?  If you are (or have been) a student, what do you wish teachers knew?