Friday, July 25, 2014

My thoughts on my high school reunion and why I write what I write.

This year marks 20 years after my high school class graduated. There’s a whole reunion and everything. And, no, I’m not going.

Aside from the fact that I’m all the way across the pond, I’m really not interested. Granted, I have some nice people who I wouldn’t mind saying “Hello” to if I saw them, but spending all day at the beach, or the park, and an evening of drinking (and putting Steve through the whole thing) isn’t something I’m into.

You see, I was not typical in school, I guess. I hated it. I don’t mean, resented going, I mean from Second Grade on, I detested school. I hated that I was locked in a prison every day, doing what someone else thought I should be doing.

The whole cast system annoyed the crap out of me. Preppies, and goths, and in-betweens (me) and band/choir girls and, ugh. My whole mission during my high school days was to be left the heck alone. I skipped school constantly, I hid out in the library and read Seventeen and YM magazines, writing to the editor on recycled notebook paper about how grunge was not a trendy fashion choice.

I distinctly remember members of the SGA in the library one day talking about anyone who wasn’t in upper level classes not counting at the school. (Hello, Breakfast Club much?) I was in upper level classes (except math) and I couldn’t care less about Student Government, or who was Prom Queen.

I didn’t go to prom. I never had a boyfriend and everyone of my gal friends did, so I didn’t even consider going anywhere stag with no one to talk to. I did the freshman and sophomore dance thing with all my freaky friends (bless them) but my wearing Doc Martins with a lacy party dress was a discussion the next week at school. (And, oh, how I loved to make the normal people wonder.)

Anyway, so all this week, my friends on Facebook have been posting graduation and school trip pictures and going “Oh, wow, I feel old. It’s been 20 years?”

I left school, got my diploma at night school and went straight into community college that was included in the university’s four year degree program. For the last part of my high school year I was just gone. I would still see my friends, but I was in no way going to attempt the whole “Oh, let’s get your college applications ready.” I had bad grades. I had no idea what I was going to do in the future. I could read books and write on my own (though I loved my English and Creative Writing classes, obviously.) I didn’t miss school and once I left, I never wished I’d been involved with all of that.

Later, in college and after we all started teaching (pretty much), my friends from other schools would go on about the overnight slumber party at the school and the overnight Disney trips. I never did any of that and I’m sure if they’d have invited me to partake in any of it, I wouldn’t have bothered. Any of my friends, a lot of them a year or so younger, wouldn’t have been there either, so, yeah, not interested.

This is why I became a teacher. I understand how much it sucks. I was never good at being a high school teacher because I saw through the busy work and arbitrary rules set for students because it was “in their best interest.” Even when I’m at the elementary schools now, I feel bad for the kids who are always told to stay on task, do their work, and not do all the fun things I use to do like look out the window and write stories during a math lesson.

I’m so glad to be out of school, I can’t even tell you. And that’s why I write the kinds of characters that I write. The preppy, happy, always involved in things kind of girls is not who I knew and not what I was a part of. The ones who hated authority, who wanted to do their own thing – that’s my kind of high school student.

This is also why I stick with Facebook. I like that all that old school crap is over and I can talk to people from my old high school as adults. I can share travel and cat pictures and know how everyone is doing back home. It could be 20 years or 200 and I’d still not look back to reminiscence.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dear Writer's Block, It's not you, it’s me …


Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me.

The truth is, I was never really that into you. Sure, you have some appealing traits, like how you make me not to worry about anything other than when I take a nap, or how many missions I get done in Watch Dogs, or how many episodes of Gossip Girl I can watch in a day, but, it really doesn’t make me feel good. I dread having to spend time with you each day. It’s just so boring. You never want to do anything worthwhile or fun. You just want to distract me. It’s selfish, Writer’s Block, and I’m sick your tricks.

Even if I have a few words down for the day, it’s better than nothing, so no, Writer’s Block, we can’t keep this up.

I’m going to write notes and plot ideas, and outlines for scenes, just to get back in the mind-set of being without you, Writer’s Block. I’m tired of having good ideas, and then sitting at the computer, stuck, not knowing how to get down the great ideas I had that morning. I have too many things I need to do, and I can’t do them with you always needing attention, and trying to get your way. I’m tired of Netflix, and free games on the Kindle. I want to do my own thing, a productive thing, and you just aren’t interested in the same things I am.

I’m going to make a pot of coffee in the morning, sit down, and get work done. I’ve lived without you, Writer’s Block, for a long time before, and it’s time for me to do it again.

Don’t take it personally, Writer’s Block. You’re just not my type. (Get it? Type? Eh, you never did appreciate my dopey sense of humor.)



From: The Writing Prompt Boot Camp

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Catch up before summer break

Star Wars pinball. #NERG

Things I’ve done lately:

  • Watched the director’s cut of Alien at the Tyneside.
  • Kept up with World Cup semi-finals.
  • Watched Kasabian, Metallica, Jack White, and Dolly Parton at Glastonbury. (Lana Del Ray was so boring live.)
  • Baked cupcakes for 4th of July (even though I’m in England.)
  • Taken down and put up displays in the classroom (cutting and pasting are not my forte.)
  • Read Never Let Me Go, and started Age of Miracles.
  • Started my gym membership again.
  • Went to the North East Retro Gaming event (lots and lots of pinball and old arcade games to play.)
  • Watched some more of Breaking Bad and finished Fargo.
  • Had two of my ten objectives for my Teaching Assistant course signed off.
  • Ben Folds. (Planning on seeing him Friday – Steve’s choice. He’s trying to show me why I should be a fan. All I know is ((awful)) Brick and You Don’t Know Me.)

Things I’ll do over break:

  • Write. (Enough said.)
  • Read. (Ditto.)
  • Edit. (I have a project that I’m putting off a 2nd draft because I just hate the story and don’t think it’s worth bothering.)
  • Maybe go to London on a day trip. (Super excited about this one.)
  • Try to go to Maths and English classes somewhere other than where I was going (my TA instructor agreed that I had every right to be angry about how stupidly those tutor sessions were being handled.)
  • Get my hair done.
  • Go to the nurse to ask her about my stupid knee.
  • Exercise. (Swimming is on the agenda.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Discrimination, bullying, and other white people problems


At the elementary/primary school where I am volunteering, the teaching assistant and teaching assistant trainees (like me) have their own little lunch room to sit in.

I’ve been there for, oh, a couple of months now and never ever had anyone act as if they couldn’t understand my accent. Generally people are interested and ask me about American schools, sports, amusement parks, etc. (The kids always ask me about corn dogs – I don’t know what the fascination is, but I assured them that corn dogs are awesome.)

Anyway, so there are a lot of trainee teachers and teaching assistants who come and go at my school, so we can have anywhere from two to six or seven volunteers sitting in that little lunchroom at a time. Most of the girls are from a local college, some already have a degree and are getting work experience, and some are like me who are taking adult ed classes to get a certificate as a teaching assistant.

Well, last week there was a new, quiet girl sitting at our lunch table. Myself and another lady who volunteers there chatted with the girl and she told us she was a high/secondary school student who was just there for a few weeks to get job experience in the nursery before she graduated.

When I went into the lunch room on Tuesday, the regular group was there, plus another high school girl sitting with the one I’d met before. I sat down and started chatting to everyone as usual, when the new girl started laughing about something. The girl from the college, who I’d been talking to about her course, stopped and we sat there, awkwardly asking what we’d said that was funny.

One of the adults was giggling along too and said, “Oh no. You’re just funny.”

So, we continued to talk, still confused, but we dismissed it. Then every time I would speak, the high school girl would nudge her friend and they’d giggle, staring right at me. I quickly realized it was my accent – something I never think about. I mean, seriously, most people have seen a ton of American TV and movies to know how we sound. It isn’t some kind of new concept. In Florida we generally went, “Oh, wow, cool! An English accent!”

Now, in that situation I had no choice, really. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but when someone’s acting incredibly rude, I’d say something. If it had been at the mall, or on the street, I would have told her to blank off. But in that situation, I had to ignore her and let everyone at the table feel really uncomfortable until the new high school girl left the room. While I know I was acting like an adult, I felt incredibly sad, hurt, and embarrassed because I’ve never had anyone do anything like that to me before.

I have had high/secondary students mock my accent once and be done with it when I taught a class. When it happened during my first English teaching job here, the teachers were very supportive and said, “No, no, that’s really discriminatory and racist. We don’t tolerate that.”

Other teachers who had Scottish and other regional English accents assured me that kids did that and they brushed it off because they didn’t mean it to be hateful.

This situation, however, was hateful, not to mention, rude and childish.

I told Steve in text about what happened and he said for me to report it and not feel like I don’t have the right to do so. I waited until the end of the day (the kids were painting and trying to put sentences in past tense, so I was thankfully distracted for that afternoon) but I did mention this to my classroom teacher before I left. When I told her she said, “What? How rude!” and jumped up out of her chair saying, “Well, I’m going to find out who she is!”

The office told my teacher that the girl was only going to be there for the week, which was fine by my because I wouldn’t be there to deal with it. The teacher asked if I was sure the girl wasn’t just “being silly” and I said, “No, she was clearly laughing at me and trying to get her friend to join in the laughter ever time I spoke.” It never happened at any other time. They would even make me stop talking because their laughing would be so loud it distracted me.

Anyway, when I mentioned this to my family and friends on Facebook in Florida, most people were very blasé about the whole thing. “Oh, she’s just a teenager. Ignore her.” or “It’s not racist because you’re all white. It’s just a jerk thing to do.”

I quickly pointed out that I have to indicate that I am “White – Other” in this country – just like every Canadian, Australian, and European. My ethnicity is not British, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish.  I am “Other.” That means that if I had a Polish, Russian, or German accent and someone laughed at me in a work situation, it would be less of an issue because we’re all white? No, that’s not right at all.

I told my teacher that I mentioned this situation because, as a person working with children, there are many students and teachers who have various accents. My hope was that the office would report the girl to her and whoever had sent her to that school to work, but I seriously doubt anything like that was done.

Also, if they spoke to the girl, would she have come back to the lunch room and told all the other volunteers that I had reported her? Would I be ridiculed for that too?

It’s really a lonely and depressing situation to be in, to be made to feel like you’re different and being publically humiliated and harassed is okay in certain situations.

It bothered me a lot that day, but I just felt mad. I can’t shout at a teenager in a work-type situation (or can I) without someone getting on my case about it. I mean, if she had been a year older and in college, would that be more of a discrimination situation, or would people tell me to overlook it then as well?

Anyway, I just want to let people know that, no, white people, you are not exempt from someone being a jerk to you and treating you like you’re “other.” It’s totally not cool to do it to anyone and I don’t like that most people don’t immediately say, “No! It’s not right!”

I wanted to make sure that I wrote this out, not only to get the situation out of my head, but to let people know that this kind of stuff does happen and a lot of people think it’s not a big deal even if it makes the other person feel rotten and self-conscious. I can only imagine what happens in other companies where some idiot decides to make fun of the resident American.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How busy is too busy?

I want to be a ninja.

I kind of knew when I signed up to do this Teaching Assistant training jazz, that I’d have extra things to go during the week. That was fine because I just have to go to school two days a week, then my class for one morning. I would have Wednesdays and Thursdays to hole up in my computer room and get my writing and my editing done. Plus, getting out of the house and focusing on something in the real world is good for my brains (and my eyes – they love to get strained when I’m at the computer too long.)

But when I started with that stupid Maths and English malarkey on Wednesdays, that left me with just Thursdays free. When you’re trying to write books, edit your Critique Partner’s chapters, do homework, and read (just to name a few things on my daily To-Do List), one day a week just ain’t going to cut it.

So I quit the Maths and English tutor for now. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a waste of time. Granted, I needed practice with the metric system and the math, but the whole “you need to use more semi-colons in order for us to think you’re functional in English” just made me mad every week. English is not a weak point in my life, but they made it seem like it was.

The only reason I was doing it was because my TA instructor said I should have recent Level 2 qualifications to put on my application when I do apply for jobs. I understand the logic, but since there are no basic skills tests for a TA like their are for professional teachers (and I already did those tests in Florida, mind you), I just don’t see a pressing need. Granted, I’m not a British Headteacher and I don’t know if my not having these Maths and English tests done this year are a big deal or not. I can always go back and do them later, I guess.

But, with my mid-week free, I can now go back to locking myself in the house and getting stuff done. Hooray!

Today I have the day off due to a teacher in-service, so I’m working through my poor, neglected CP edits.

I’ve put a Joyce Meyer quote down here, about saying “no” because I’ve also put more on my plate than I can manage. Now that I’ve spoken to a couple of new CPs for my YA work, this means not only will I have to finish the NA book that my 1st CP is giving me suggestions on now, but I’ll also have to work on the YA fantasy series I was going to do.

Also, I have the old NA thriller that I have to go back and clean up for Draft 2 – there just isn’t enough time. I can only muster writing one book and editing another at a time.

So, yeah, think twice before added something else to your To-Do List. I’m perfectly fine with editing other’s chapters, but as far as my own work is concerned, I have to stick to writing one and editing another. I can’t sell half-manuscripts, I’ve learned that lesson, so I have to keep working until I get stuff done. The more I mess with that formula, the more apt I am to go out of my boundaries, then nothing will get done.

Plus, I like having time in the evening and on the weekends when Steve’s home to read and watch TV with him. Family is the #1 priority – the writing comes 2nd.

Don't Be Overcommitted 

Do you have too much to do? This seems to be the number one complaint I hear today. When I ask people how they are, about 50 percent respond, "I'm busy." Common sense tells us that God isn’t going to stress us out and lead us to do more than we can. Therefore, if we’re being led by God's Spirit, saying yes when He says yes and no when He says no, we should be able to accomplish what He gives us to do and walk in peace. Do you need to say no more often? We should be sure when our heart says no that our mouth isn’t saying yes. Sometimes trying to keep other people happy can make us very unhappy. A person must be really careful in this area, especially if he has a tendency toward being a people pleaser. 

Don’t be a people pleaser. You need to say no sometimes.