Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Setting (and achieving!) Goals

A few months ago, my husband and I were talking about something when he told me that I have dreams, not goals.  That irked me.  A lot.  So, I decided I needed a set, defined goal.  That's when I started training for the Lake Placid Half Marathon.  It's 13.1 miles, and I've been in training for about 7 weeks.  I'm actually training by using the Couch to 10K program which you can read about here.

I don't know why it irked (what a great word!) me so much that J told me that I don't set goals.  I mean, it's mostly true.  I often start sentences with "When we win the lottery..." but we don't even buy lottery tickets.  I really needed a solid goal to set, something tough, yet achievable.  I think running half marathon meets the specifications.

However, another challenge awaits.  This is another goal, tough yet achievable, sweat inducing yet fun.  What is this goal, you may ask? (Or maybe not, I don't think anyone reads this blog anyway!)  A 50,000 word novel in a month.  It's almost time for NaNoWriMo!!

What in the name of Jane Austen is NaNoWriMo, my invisible reader may be pondering.  It stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The brilliant folks over at The Office of Letters and Light started this program in 1999 for everyone that's ever said "Some day, I'd like to write a book."  That day is now!  It isn't about quality, just QUANTITY.  Just write, write, write!  You "win" just by hitting that 50,000 word mark.  The only prize is honor, and I think maybe a cute web badge or something.  They offer pep talks throughout the month, and there are forums where you can chat, whine, rant, and celebrate with other crazy Wrimos.  Because that's what we're called.  And it's awesome.

This will be my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I'm hoping this is my year to "win".  My first effort helped me reach about 25,000 words, and I revisited that novel last year ending with about 43,000 words.  Fail and fail.  Oh well, at least I tried!  My second year was laughable, only about 4,000 words (in my defense, I was pregnant and I could. not. think. of. anything. else.  I totally had baby brain!)  I already have a title for this year's novel, The Tribunal, but I may change it.  Or not.  We'll see.  I have a great back story, some good characters, and an awesome climax.  I really feel like this novel will be my winner.  It's my first foray in to the world of sci-fi/supernatural fiction, but I'm super excited about it.

I've been pushing this Nano thing on my students for years, and I finally got one to sign up!  I think I may host some write-ins at the college library, to boost that word count!  So, what do you say, invisible readers? Will you join in a month-long journey to 50,000?

If writing isn't your thing, you can sponsor me in this crazy endeavor!  Just click the link on the upper right hand side of my blog!  All donations are tax deductible, and it's for a really great not-for-profit group. 

If you do sign up for NaNoWriMo, leave me a comment with your screen name!  We can be writing buddies throughout the month!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Light Weekend for Travel

One of my very good friends got hitched on Sunday.  J and I drove down Sunday afternoon (about 2 hours), and checked in to the Inn where the hitching was to take place.  We left Little Toots with my mom and sister (a gutsy move, and I'm nothing if not daring).  I didn't cry, and Little Toots was totally oblivious to the fact that we left her.  My sister sent me picture periodically, so I knew everything was fine.

The wedding was small, and beautiful.  The bride lucked out and got an unseasonably warm day, so she didn't freeze her cute little butt off in her gorgeous strapless dress.  I couldn't actually hear the ceremony, but I assumed it went well since no one ran away, slapped anyone, or caused a scene.  They kissed and had new jewelry at the end of it, so... 

The reception was fun, lots of dancing (I opted out of the line dances, thankyouverymuch!) I was drinking gin and tonics like they were going out of style, while J guzzled bourbon by the gallon.  Seriously, in all of our years together, I have never seen him so drunk.  And he's a funny drunk!  He reallyreallyreallyreally wanted to borrow a canoe and go paddling.  He also reallyreallyreallyreally wanted to swim across the lake and meet the rich people whose house was all lit up.  I sang a stunning rendition of the Beatles "Oh, darling", karaoke-style, and some guy fell down the stairs and possibly broke his ankle.  All in all, a successful night!

The next morning, only slightly hung over, we drove back home (2 hours).  When we got home, I snuggled Little Toots as much as she would allow (which isn't much).  J dashed around the house and cleaned (house keeping is not one of my mother's skills), and I packed and got ready to head out again.  My mom, my sister and I were heading down state because I had an interview the next day.  I said bye to L. T., and she reached out and cried "Mommy! Mommy!"  so I lost it, and cried and said I couldn't go.  Well, mom and sis shuffled me in the car, and I was off.  When we finally got to mom's house (4 hours), we ate dinner and watched TV, then went to bed.

My interview was at 2:00 the next day, but I wasn't sure how long it would take me, so I left at 11:00.  It took me 2.5 hours.  The drive was okay, although I got a little nervous as I entered the city.  It may be a small city, but I'm coming from back woods USA, so it's a big difference!  I (finally) found the Human Resources building, and I felt like I was stepping off the boat from the old country or something.  The building was so bright and shiny, and new!  Totally high tech.  The work-study students were super polite and professional, I was very impressed.  I finally get called in to meet Michelle, the HR lady (official title [no, not really]).  She thanks me for coming allllllllllllllllllllllll this way, and I understand it's a temporary position, right?

Um, NO?!  Seriously, what. The. Fuck.
Well, it was aaaaaaadvertised as temporary. 
No, it definitely WASN'T!  I soooooo don't waste my time applying for temp jobs.  Are you kidding me?! 

She's looking at me, and I'm looking at her, forcing a smile, and she says "Well, I guess this changes things?"  No shit, Sherlock.  No offense to Human Resources people out there, but you're all fucking worthless.  I mean, do they teach you how to waste time in college??  I grit my teeth and say "I'm already here, so I might as well be interviewed."

The actual interview went well, and there is a chance that it could become permanent.  It pays really well, so if they offer it to me, I'll take it.  Either way, we have no plan after May, so we might as well have no plan down there instead of up here.  At least down there, there is more opportunity.  In the ADKs, jobs are pretty scarce.

After the interview, I drove back to my mom's house (2.5 hours).  I slept, and drove home the next day (4 hours).  If you've done the math, that's 17 hours traveling in just four days.  I hope it's worth it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dread, and other emotions

Why dread, you ask?  Well, it's because I receive rough drafts from my students tomorrow. These are students that have no work ethic, no desire for any higher level thinking, students that would rather be baking or chopping down trees than discover anything new about themselves.  The husband says I'm paying my dues, that he went through it for 10+ years, first at my college, then at the local community college.  Now, he's happily teaching at a fairly prestigious college, where the students jump at the chance to do extra work. *le sigh*

Meanwhile, I'm at po-dunk junction, trying to teach 18-yea-olds how to read.  The class I'm teaching is a section of first year seminar, and I called it From Zero to Hero.  I decided to make the theme heroes because it's so accessible.  Heroes in myth, heroes throughout history, heroes of today.  I picked out two books that I think really show how one person can change the world.  The first is Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder, and the other is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.  I specifically chose Three Cups of Tea because of the controversy surrounding it (mainly that he made most of it up, and the money is being ill-spent).

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a great book, and a fairly easy read.  I'm mean, it's not Faulkner or anything.  The story is really moving and it makes you think about the way 3rd world countries receive medical care, and how one person can not only change the way that diseases such as TB or AIDS is treated, but how the diseases are seen throughout the world.

I was so excited to teach this book!  Until we had our first reading quiz.  More than HALF of the students failed.  I didn't ask hard questions.  In fact, the questions I asked were so easy that you could have SKIMMED the chapters and gotten a 100.  The kids start complaining that they don't know what's important, they don't understand it, blah blah blah.  They just don't care.  I know that most of them came from a technical school, but is that an excuse for not being able to read??

Apparently, yes.  I was told that my reading schedule was "ambitious".  And that these kids aren't ready for a research paper.  Why the hell not?!  They graduated from high school, right?  They got into an expensive private college, right?  THEN WHY ARE WE NOT EXPECTING THEM TO BE AT A COLLEGE LEVEL??  This is seriously bothering me.  None of these kids are stupid.  Well.....maybe....no.  No.  None of them!  They are all capable of higher level thinking, and they are all capable of reading a book WRITTEN AT AN 8TH GRADE LEVEL, and they are ALL capable of writing a research paper.

Our education system is failing.  These students are a product of a failing system.

So, what can we do to change this?  It's not something that can be accomplished with baby steps.  We need to overhaul the entire system.  No Child Left Behind is leaving every child behind!  If education in something you care about, do your research.  Contact your local congress person and explain your concerns!  It's up to us to take action!

Get angry.  Get involved.  Get moving!