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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Sometimes I think back to when I first started this blog–eight years ago, if you can believe it!  I didn’t have a clue.  I didn’t know how to get people to read it.  I didn’t know anything about branding.  I had never heard of SEO.  I didn’t make pinnable images.  I didn’t have a Facebook Page.

If you aren’t a blogger, you may not even understand the first paragraph.  If you are, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Like it or not, if you want people to read what you write, all that stuff matters.  And it’s hard work, and takes time that you could be devoting to writing, and sometimes it just sucks the soul right out of you, to be honest.

I like writing guest posts, and participating in blog hops.  I like writing reviews and getting free things. I love what I am learning about branding and want my blog to be what it needs to be in order to open the door to future opportunities for me.

BUT . . . I also just love writing, telling stories, ranting about whatever, letting y’all know what I am doing and what I think about things.  I don’t like it when my stories don’t get told because I don’t have the time to edit pictures and create a featured image.

So this summer I am going to conduct a little experiment in less is more.  Yes, I am still going to do all that blogger stuff I mentioned above.  But not all the time.  Sometimes I am going to do what I am doing right now, just sharing thoughts and feelings with y’all the way I used to.  I hope that you will read and share even without all the bells and whistles, but even if you don’t, I will be WRITING instead of mostly not writing.  This will be my own little summer adventure!

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My daughter Emily, who graduated from Spring Hill College in 2013 with a major in Creative Writing, is an amazing writer of fiction and poetry.  I’ve shared her prize-winning poetry with you here before, and she had her first short story published last year.

Yesterday, her short story Sincerely, Persephone was published in the online journal Rose Red Review.  Writing is her career choice, and she has been working hard.

I would love for my readers to head over there to read and come back to tell me what you think, if you are so inclined.  I think you will see this isn’t just parental pride talking.

Emily embarking upon her writing career

Emily embarking upon her writing career

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All-Nighters

I may have mentioned a time or two that I was an English major.  So that meant I wrote lots and lots of papers in college.  And college being what it is, I rarely wrote any of them until the night before they were due.

I write really fast, so usually that wasn’t so painful.  My senior year I took four English classes at once.  By some evil twist of fate, my Southern Fiction and my Catholic Fiction class required four papers each that were always due on the same day.  Routinely I would start writing these papers around nine p.m. the night before the due date, and I’d be done by midnight.  This drove my roommate, who was in one of the classes with me and who was a much more painstaking writer, crazy.  She’d still be working on the first draft of her one paper and I would be all done.

If this sounds like bragging, it’s not meant that way.  Writing fast without the need for much revision is just a gift I have and I can’t claim any credit for it.  It’s a good gift for an English major–and a blogger!–to have.

Now these are five page papers I’m talking about.  When the assignment was longer, I did try to start sooner.  The problem with college (and now with life) is that things aren’t neatly ordered and often responsibilities fall on top of one another.  It was a mantra of mine in college to say “It has to get done so it will get done.”  And I would make myself do the most urgent thing first and then move on the the next.

So there were a few times when I waited too long to start a longer paper.  When I had so much to do in a given week that I just couldn’t get a head start.  When I started a ten-page paper at midnight (a paper that had to be written in longhand and then had to be TYPED ON A TYPEWRITER).  And that meant an all-nighter.

I remember one particular time, staying up all night writing and typing until dawn and then turning in the paper the following morning.  I was writing about Gulliver’s Travels, and I was so sleepy that I kept spelling the horse-people’s name a different way every time I mentioned it.  I won’t even try to remember how to spell it now, although it would be easy because Google.  I attached an apologetic note to my paper explaining that I was exhausted and the letters just kept running together before my eyes!

When I was a little girl about ten years old my mother and I stayed up all night one night to watch the sun rise in the morning, just for fun.  She made me sweet coffee with lots of milk and we stayed up and talked all night.  It was an adventure.  In high school I sometimes stayed up all night talking with friends.  Then there were those college all-nighters.  I’ve stayed up all night laboring with four babies.  But it’s been a long time since I can remember staying up all night on purpose, particularly pulling the kind of all-nighter that is followed by a  full day of responsibilities with no opportunity for sleep until late in the following day.

But guess what?  Jake has waited until the last minute to write his Western Civilization paper, a paper with such ridiculous parameters that you wouldn’t believe them if I read them to you.  And Jake does NOT write fast.  He is going to need a lot of moral support to finish this paper and Emily and I are providing it.  It looks like we will be up all night tonight.  I hope I still have it in me.

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Good Day Sunshine

I got an award, y’all!

sunshine-award-300x214

This comes courtesy of my friend Elizabeth Flora Ross, who writes at The Writer Revived AND is the founder of The Mom Pledge Blog.  She’s an awesome writer and a wonderful mother to her darling four-year-old, and I admire her very much.

So I was honored and excited to receive this award, which comes with fun questions I get to answer!

1. Why do you blog?

This is a two-parter.  Part one is why I started blogging.   And, as I’ve explained before, I began this blog when I lost my job as a columnist for The East Tennessee Catholic, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, for which I had been writing for several years about life issues.   I gave my blog the same name as my column, and expanded my focus a bit.   I had tried blogging a couple of times before but couldn’t figure out what to say.  This time things clicked.

Now for part two.  I continue to blog because I have things to say, and writing is the best way for me to express them.  I love writing my blog more than anything, and I wish that I had become a blogger during a different phase of my life when I would have had more time to devote to it,

2. What do you see as the top benefit to blogging?
It increases my reach.  Color me conceited, but I do think I have a few beneficial insights that I have always wanted to share with the world.  Now I have a wider audience for my rants. 🙂  I see my blogging (not every post but some of them) as an extension of the ministry I was engaged in with my column.  I like to educate and to inform others about issues that I believe are important.
3. What has been your biggest blogging challenge?
Unlike my first blogging efforts, I am never at a loss for words these days.  TIME is what I don’t have enough of.  I have several pages listing potential blog posts.  But even though I am blessed to be able to write extremely quickly and without second-guessing myself with much editing, it probably takes an hour to write each post, do all the links, and promote it in various places so it will be seen.  That’s an hour I just don’t have most days.
4. Your greatest blogging accomplishment?
I am going to go with being brave enough to participate in the “Things I Am Afraid to Tell You” challenge.  That was very scary.
5. What are you most proud of overall in your life?
My daughter suggests I should say my children.  And of course I am proud of them.  But the more I parent (especially teenagers!) the less I am convinced that I have the right to take credit for their successes.  I really don’t feel like I know what I am doing most of the time.
I can say for sure, though, that one of my proudest achievements was the vaginal delivery, after three C-sections, of my fourth child, who weighed 13 lbs. 5 oz.  I’m proud of that not only because the physical achievement of my body but for all the work I did beforehand to prepare, studying and learning and advocating for myself so that I would not be pushed into yet another surgery.  Pretty much anyone besides my extremely supportive husband–including my doctor–would have said that it was impossible but they were all wrong and maybe a few of them learned something.
6. Name one thing you hope to accomplish in the next year.
I would like to take better care of myself this year.  I have had a gym membership for a few months now and have only managed to attend the orientation session.  I’m fat, and would like to be less fat.  I’m getting to the age where I can no longer assume that I will continue to have the excellent health I have always enjoyed without making some positive changes.
7. My best qualities are _________________.
I am a person with principles and I try hard to live by them.  Practically speaking, I have an almost super-human ability to accomplish large amounts of important things when necessary.
8. I wish I was more ________________.
Holy.
9. If you could live anywhere, where would you choose and why?
This is an easy one.  Knoxville, Tennessee.  My hometown and my favorite place in the entire world.  (And yes, I have spent time elsewhere–four years in college in D.C. and one year after in Alexandria, Virginia.)  Knoxville is a beautiful town with lots of things to do and it’s full of friendly folks.  Most of my family has been in East Tennessee for over 200 years so maybe that’s why I feel so strongly attached to this place.  It’s home.
10. Where do you live now?
See above. 🙂  I’m currently located in West Knox County and one of these days I will blog about the neighborhood, which is not the sort of place I ever expected to end up.
*************

Now here is the catch that comes with the award!  There are rules to follow, y’all!  See below:

Include the Award Logo in your blog post

OK, did that!

Link to the person who nominated you

That’s covered.

Answer 10 questions about yourself

No problem there!

Nominate 10 bloggers and give them 10 questions to answer

ACK!  That’s the hard part, because Elizabeth and I travel in some of the same circles and she has already snagged some of my favorites.  So, let me think . . .

Back to Allen

A Day in the Life

My So-Called Sensory Life

Life’s Dewlaps

The Family Pants

The Eyedancers

Parenting Is Funny

Korinthia’s Quiet Corner

Allison Carmen

And now I will invent questions for them to answer!

1. How did you choose the name for your blog?
2. What kind of writing did you do in your pre-blogging life?
3. How do you define blogging in YOUR life?  A job, a vocation, a hobby?
4. Provide a link to your favorite blog post.
5. Provide a link to the post you think is the most popular.
6. What was your very first job and what did you learn from that experience?
7. Does your family read your blog and if so does this affect what you say or how you say it?
8. Have you made virtual friends because of blogging?
9. What is your dream job?
10. What do you do to take care of yourself?

I’m looking forward to learning more about y’all!  And thank you again, Elizabeth–I am honored that you thought of me and I enjoyed answering the questions (even though it took me forever–see above biggest blogging challenge!

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The title is in quotes because I utter that phrase frequently, mostly when complaining about something that has happened in one of my kids’ schools or when reading about the latest stupid educational fad.  (I also sometimes say “If I ran the world” but that is another post for another day!)

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order.

AT MY SCHOOL WE . . .

  • Would have Mass EVERY MORNING.  My parochial-schooled kids only went twice a week.  For most of my childhood it was every day, then later switched to three days.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to take more than thirty minutes.  I did not realize what a blessing and a privilege it was at the time, but I do now.
  • Would have gym EVERY DAY.  Physical exercise is important.  Kids are getting fatter.  Some kids don’t play sports and they need the exercise.  Taking breaks to move around aids in learning as well.  We had gym every day when I was a kid and I bet you did too, but my kids go twice a week, and sometimes it’s two days in a row!
  • Would have thirty minutes of recess EVERY DAY.  I don’t honestly know how much kids get these days but I’m sure it’s not that much.  They don’t have the freedom we did to rush through lunch to try to get as much playtime is possible, and half the time recess isn’t after lunch anyway. And my middle school child doesn’t get recess AT ALL.  Not only do kids need exercise, they also need nature.
  • Would not have a technology/computer class AT ALL.  I’m not saying that computers might not be available, maybe for enrichment activities of some kind, but the idea that we need to “prepare our kids for the future” by teaching them computer is laughable.  Were we in any way prepared for the digital age?  Are we doing okay anyway?  My kids get plenty of screen time at home and they don’t need anyone at school to teach them how computers work.  Besides, what we teach kids about today’s technology in kindergarten will be obsolete within a few years anyway.  Let’s use that time for things that really matter.
  • Would have regular art and music classes.  Because these things are fun and enhance academic learning besides.  HOWEVER, and I know the teachers of these subjects won’t like this, for the most part these subjects should be taught in the regular classroom, with the teacher rolling her materials in on a cart.  Why?  Because the “specials” schedule, with kids traveling to different rooms on different days, is confusing and disruptive and wastes huge amounts of instructional time because of the transition required, both for the movement of bodies and the settling down of them afterward.
  • Would treat Spanish as a serious academic subject or omit it all together.  My big kids had Spanish for nine years in grade school.  Now ask me if they are fluent.  Kids in Europe attain fluency in English so we know it’s possible.  Our schools teach kids colors and body parts and songs in Spanish year after year after year so they can show it off when they are applying for accreditation.  If the kids aren’t coming out fluent, it’s a waste of instructional time.
  • Would emphasize grammar and diagram sentences.  There is no better way to understand the structure of the English language.  And you can’t learn a foreign language later if you don’t understand the grammar of your own.
  • Would teach cursive and practice it daily.  Some studies have shown that learning cursive improves academic performance.  But it’s also close to becoming a lost art and it’s a civilized skill that an adult should possess, if only for writing thank you notes.
  • Would use a math book that is full of math problems, not distracting color photographs.  For homeschooling, we used the Saxon program.  Seriously, y’all, have you looked at your kids’ math books?  Why do we think we need to entertain kids constantly?  When it’s time for math, let’s do math,
  • Would teach spelling the old-fashioned way.  Because it works.  We used a speller from the 1940s at home.  You have a weekly list of words, you write sentences, you do activities with them, you take a pretest, you copy over the ones you miss, you do a post-test.  Over the years I have seen some incredibly stupid methods of teaching spelling.  I will write a whole post (rant) about that some time.
  • Would encourage creative writing.  My sister’s third-grade teacher gave them a writing prompt every morning in the form of a magazine photo she hung on the board.  They could write anything they wanted to.  Betsy brought home wonderful stories every day.
  • Would offer plenty of time for reading, with an engaging reading series like the Keys to Reading series that my classmates and I enjoyed at St. Joseph.
  • Would have no summer homework.  Enough said.
  • Would have, in fact, no homework at all.  Unless you goofed off and didn’t finish what you should have during the day, or with the possible exception of long-term projects.
  • Would require uniforms.
  • Would EXPECT good behavior, not reward it.
  • Would start later in the year, maybe later in the day, and would have a shorter day for kindergartners and first graders.  And don’t tell me we need more instructional time, not less. For one thing, I’m not buying it, and for another, I’ve freed up time by getting ride of Spanish and computers and unnecessary transit time.
  • Would have the option of writing a paper on a scientific subject rather than completing a science fair project.  A corollary:  projects with obvious parental involvement would get a WORSE grade than ones kids obviously did on their own.
  • Would offer every kid an opportunity to shine, whether they are athletes, mathletes, budding scientists, artists, musicians, or writers.  Rather than awarding everyone for everything, my school would instill the concept that everyone is especially good at something and celebrate that.  Yes, that means that some kids would go home ribbonless from Field Day. It’s painful (as I know from experience) but that’s life.

I will stop there for now since I DON’T have my own school and have to spend some time actually earning a living this morning.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Would you like my school?  How would YOUR school be different from mine, or different from the ones you’ve experienced?

7th grade

UPDATE:  For the past few years I have had my own school in that I am homeschooling Lorelei and just want to state for the record that it is sadly missing a lot of the above elements!

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It’ no news to me that my stats for this thing are way, way down.  And it’s no wonder, given the irregularity and infrequency of posts here lately.

Now I knew I wouldn’t be able to post much during the craziness that was most of April and all of May.   But I kind of expected that once summer got here I would settle into a once daily schedule again.  What a wealth of things I would have to tell y’all about!

I got off to a nice start when John and I went to his Reunion, but then we came home.  I started a post to wind up the story and have yet to finish it!

So what’s my problem?  It just came to me.

I’m an introvert, and I am still exhausted from all that socializing.  I want and need to crawl into a hole and be alone for a few weeks.  But I still have six other people living in this house. (Will any of them ever leave?)  It is summer–Lorelei and William are home ALL DAY.  The big kids are in and out.  Day in and day out they want and need things from me, and one of those things that some of them require more than others is emotional energy.  Energy that I can never get enough alone time to fully replenish.

And to complicate matters, I am an introvert married to an extrovert.  An extreme extrovert who wants to be AROUND PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.  When I could just SCREAM AT THE THOUGHT OF HAVING TO TALK TO ONE MORE PERSON.

To John, April and May were heaven on earth.  All the commotion!  All the parties!  All the people! (I am getting tireder just thinking about it.)  Now that it’s all over, he’s depressed. (Guess who supplies the emotional energy to help him recover from depression?  Hello!)

And today I realized that although I am alone (I hope) when I write my blog, it’s still a social activity of sorts.  I have an audience whom I hope to engage with my writing.  So it does require some of the same kind of energy that I use for socializing, the kind of energy that I don’t have nearly enough of. (And if you will recall, I also work at home.  So there’s that.)

And now I am off to finish getting ready for the Father’s Day cookout.  It’s a small affair–only 14 of us.

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I recently wrote about how cool it is when your kid is good at something that you aren’t able to do at all.  But how about when your kid is BETTER than you at something you are pretty good at? 🙂

My family are writers from way back.  My mother has a journalism degree; a former journalist for the Catholic press, she’s tried her hand at everything from children’s books to plays to feature articles on a variety of topics.  Her great-grandfather was the founder of the Kentucky Irish-American newspaper.    I know there are more and if she’s reading this she will probably chime in!

I like to think I am a good writer.  I’ve been making up stories before I could write them down.  I was co-editor of my high school paper and won awards back in the day.  I churned out A papers throughout college and got an Honors degree in English.  I was a reporter and columnist for the Catholic press for many years.  I wrote some pretty good X-Files fanfiction a few years back.  And of course there is this blog.

But my daughter Emily is the real writer.  She writes all the time–it’s necessary to her.  She fills up notebooks with partial stories, lists of names for characters, character sketches, story ideas.  She’s written two entire short novels.  She’s majoring in Creative Writing and plans to go to graduate school to continue studying writing.  All she wants to do is write.  I have no doubt that she will be a published author some day.  She is amazing.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so, because last week she was awarded the Rev. Andrew C. Smith, S.J. Poetry Prize at the Honors Convocation at Spring Hill College, where she is a Junior.

I cried when I read the poem, which hit pretty close to home (you’ll see) especially considering what I had just written myself the day before.  But Emily doesn’t think it’s that great, and I had to beg her to let me publish it here.  If you disagree with her, please leave some love in the comments.

The Future is Out of Reach When I am Holding the Past in My Hands
Nothing turns my stomach like the acrid odor
Of charred photo albums
And the five waterlogged childhoods
Lying smeared and ashy within.
The leather of the albums cracks
Like a battered body,
Housing secret pain.
What the flames did not get to,
The hoses made short work of.
Scorched snapshots
Bleed ink and memories
That my mother cannot face.
Twenty-two years of marriage
A life
A family
And a history
Leak into the whorls of my fingerprints;
My newborn face
Grandmother’s blouse
The green of the hospital walls
Swirl together and muddy the waters
And stain the skin on my hands
Coloring my calluses
Losing this picture feels like losing her twice.
There is mildew on my first birthday card
And I could drown in all this roasted ink;
These charbroiled mementos
Of a time when we had no idea
what real suffering was.
I salvage the past two decades that no one else will touch.
Great-grandmothers grandfathers friends cats Christmas trees rocking horses china dolls wedding gowns school uniforms jack o’lanterns baptisms
Form a fine layer of ash beneath my fingernails.
My hands are black with what we’ve lost.

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