Saturday, November 19, 2011

WRITING - the namesake


WRITING – the namesake

Now the blog will take a turn towards...what it was intended.

Between Wednesdays

Come on, guys! I write a title that I am sure no one gets, and yet no one asks me about it!?!?!

The name of the blog has to do with the Columbia Writers writers group I attend the first and third Wednesday of every month. Ergo, “Between Wednesdays” refers to the time when I'm not at a writers group. Although equally important is the Martha Dailey Lookout Club I attend, too. --If I didn't say that, I know Karen would excoriate me at our upcoming meeting.

As the namesake is writers-group related, I'll give you some funny tidbits about Columbia Writers.

  Salt and Muse
For the first time ever, we decided to try a write-in. A write-in is simply getting together to write. Adam was really against the idea. Out of all of the discussion I've participated in with these people over the past year, no one was ever so against any idea as Adam was against this one. He looked like he was going to vomit. So when the time of the meeting came around, he said that he wouldn't go because the food there was too salty and he couldn't stomach writing in a restaurant full of people gorging themselves on all of that salty food.

  Strange encounters
At a different meeting, Katy said with complete sincerity that it was perfectly reasonable to believe that her brother, diagnosed with autism, was in fact an alien and that was why he behaves differently.

  Strange encounters part II
Brenda agreed.

  Back to school
Jessica is a first-year teacher in a middle school, and one of her students wrote on her test (that she then handed to the teacher): “I hope [you] die and burn in hell.” She got suspended.
Argh! That's kind of a teacher comment. I was promising myself I wouldn't do that.

  Kelly
And then there's Kelly. She's a good writer and is not visibly steeped in craziness. That seems nice. She probably eats babies.

  Strange encounters, revisited
Dude, she really said that. Seriously.

  Weird guy
Me. With school, Montgomery College on Saturdays, my wife's parents, and Espen, most of my day-to-day conversations are with people who have not mastered English. So I'm kind of surprised that I should still be the one teaching English. Or writing a novel in English. But I guess I can't write it in crazy gibberish. hmm...

Anyway, thanks for reading. With my college class wrapping up soon and Natasha getting her job more under her belt and taking 4 credits next semester as opposed to 6, I'll have more time to write! I can't wait! More blogging, more real writing, too!
I weihight, theihtieunderhkjmalon gmmkfkjiop grammarpodlo thenoohitinonlplace tehime! (see paragraph above - let me know if you think this has potential)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FAMILY - Espen speaks


FAMILY – Espen speaks

I'd like to start off by saying that the following statements about Espen are true.

I remember the golden days. Just babble. “Babblebabblebabblebabblebabble. Babblebabble. Babblebabblebabblebabbleba, babblebabblebabblebabble. Babblebabblebabblebabblebabblerabblebabblelabblebabble?... Babble!”

But now he only babbles 50% of the time. That might sound like a lot, but the remaining 50% is more interesting.

One of his first words was “Yes.” I think he was inspired by my consistently being so accommodating with my wife. Of course, the typical word is no, but he's much more open than that. Somehow, even before he was a year old, he could identify the sound of a question and respond – always in the affirmative.

He appeared willing. “Do you want some fruit?” “Yes.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Okay, open your mouth.” “Yes.” “Espen, you didn't open your mouth.” “Yes.” “Are you crazy?” “Yes.” “What do you want to eat?” “Yes.” “Do you want to eat your bib?” “Yes.” “Can you say no?” “Yes.”

okaaaayyyyy...

“Yes.”

But at least if you knew how to phrase your questions, he would agree to anything.

And he's great at ice-breakers. Most kids get nervous around crowds. If he is feeling a little gun shy, he just points to his feet and says: “Shoes.” That note will kick off any party.

We try to keep the phone away from him. For one thing, I'm concerned about radiation, etc. Also, we don't want him calling random people, which he has done. The rare times we used to let him answer the phone, he would just laugh and breathe heavily like a stalker. And we also have a variety of phones that he is allowed to use – cheap toy phone, better toy phone, real phone that no longer has a plan, TV remote that he treats like a phone, and finally the real, working phone that he somehow gets his hands on because we are bad parents.

The last time he got the real phone: “Hello? Hi, Kory! Babblebabblebabblebabblebabble. Hahahaha! Babblebabblebabblebabblebabble? Hahaha. Bye, Kory.” And he hung up.

I hadn't spoken to Kory in two weeks.

Last night he was being difficult, and I asked him: “Are you crazy, or are you young?” His response: “Young.”

That's better than yes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

FAMILY - Skull Mask

FAMILY - Skull Mask

It's really the eyes that get you. The whole idea of child psychology gets thrown out the window when they have eyes just like an adult's. They look around, look at you, look everywhere as if they know everything or are absorbing it all instantly.

There are some things I wouldn't expect Espen to do at age two, especially right upon turning two. But those eyes get you.

Then there's when you cover up the eyes.

With an adult-size skull mask.




glow-in-the-dark skull mask I've had since high school


We spent half an hour switching roles. One person wears the mask and makes scary noises while the other two run away and scream in terror.

After a while, Espen would take off the mask (from himself or right off someone else's face) and give it to the next person. “Mama mask,” “Dada mask,” - to say who he wanted to wear it.

Definitely one of the funnest half hours I've had in a long time. Plus – how the heck does someone who is 25 months old even want to do that?



at Bass Pro


He actually is truly scary when he wears that mask.
The disproportionate yet apt head helped add authenticity to our screams.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HOME - STUPID/ILLEGAL STUFF


HOME LIFE – STUPIDITY CONT'D

There is a man after my own heart. A hero. Maybe a superhero. There is someone doing great things. I must note, however, that I have no direct personal knowledge of this miraculous being. How do I know that he's a man, then, after all? Because he's that bad-ass awesome.

A few weeks ago, we were on our way to church and had to turn left onto our main road. If anyone knows our blinking light intersection, it can be dangerous turning left. Normally it's not a problem for us because during peak hours we're turning right. Anyway, it would have gone on like a normal Sunday had it not been for some obnoxious signs planted a little further down the road that completely blocked our view of oncoming traffic. How dangerous! They were ads for newly built houses and apartments. How inconsiderate! How traffic-confusing! How annoying!

How very, very dangerous! Help! Innocent drivers! Help!

“Never fear!”

Well, I didn't hear him, but he was there! We ended up making the turn fine and then an hour later after church we were going back past our intersection and saw those same signs strewn on the ground! Not only had someone ripped up the signs from the ground, but the posts for two of them were broken in half! Wow! What a man!

Those pieces of wood are really thick, too. You would think that they put up signs with some wimpy plywood, but then it turns out it's actually strong, thick wood. Let me remind the reader that I have no idea who pulled the three signs out of the ground, broke the wooden posts, and then left them there. I just saw that someone did it and am very proud. That wood was so thick, probably that guy's wife also pulled out a post and tried to break it herself but couldn't and then they just decided to leave. But she still had fun. That's my best guess.

Whoever this mysterious man is, I would like to personally commend him for his bravery in the face of extremely rude advertisers. He has made his neighborhood a little safer.

And he must have had so much fun breaking those signs!

– again, sorry that I don't have a pic here – hopefully my next post will! –  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

WRITING - Being Stupid


WRITING – EVERYTHING - AND STUPIDITY

What happens to us as we get older? To me it always seemed that people are fun and carefree as children, experiencing some hiccups in high school and college, and then they become fat, ugly, and boring. Naturally I didn't want to experience that change myself, but now at age 30, here I am.

Is it just having more challenging responsibilities? Now I have a job (actually two), a family, and a house. But is it just the weight of those obligations that makes us uninteresting? I don't think so. I know plenty of fun, interesting teachers. I try to hang out with them, but they repeatedly explain to me that I'm simply not cool enough. I understand that there is a coolness gap, but how is it that some adults keep having fun and others like myself lose it? - yes, I was interesting at some time -

A convincing answer: being stupid. You have to do stupid things from time to time, maybe often. As humans, we somehow have a biological/psychological/illogical need to do stupid crap on a regular basis.

When you're a child, you can decide to stand on your head for an afternoon, and no one will disrespect your use of your time. In fact, if you're among other kids, the stunt might make you popular.

This eternal truth came to me after September's writers group in Ellicott City. We had finished the critiques and were heading to Outback for our regular post-meeting snack. I was pulling out of my parking space at the Barnes and Noble when I stopped to see Mabel and Karen looking down at the parking lot paving. The were laughing – giggling! - and bobbing their heads around, linking arms, and half stumbling as if they had instantly become drunk. These gals are 40+ years old and giggling in a parking lot!

There was a praying mantis in the middle of the parking lot, and they wanted to save it. It was smack in the middle of a big parking lot. A big parking lot, from which its car-dodging escape was inconceivable. He needed help, and they wanted to be the ones to extend that helping hand. Yet they didn't want to touch it. Or let its disease-bearing appendages anywhere on them. With their poking towards the ground, spontaneous screaming, and wild laughter, their mix of hesitation and daring was like someone trying to turn on a light by connecting live wires.

                                           sorry - no pic of the epic praying mantis rescue

It was hilarious. Eventually I gave them a piece of paper that they used it to scoop him up so that they could escort him to the shrubs beyond the curb. They must have giggled all the way to the restaurant.

That's when I understood. You just have to do stupid things. Silly things. Things that SHOULD make any normal person look at you askew. The dumber, the better. If you aren't awkwardly rescuing insects from the parking lot, then you're fighting with your spouse or talking behind the back of your co-worker. The stupidity must come out! Therefore, better to have fun with it.

Then while we were waiting for our food at Outback, they kept talking about how they had seen another praying mantis at the main door and wanted to rescue that one, too. I was eventually wondering if they had jointly hallucinated the whole thing from start to finish. Maybe there had never been a praying mantis in the first place! But they were sure having fun.

So to honor the wisdom I saw in those two ladies, I stayed there past my bedtime and then at home stayed up until midnight even though I wake up at 5 every day. Now that was stupid. And as I staggered through the next day, it all made me very happy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

TEACHING - Saturdays are back


WRITING & TEACHING – The turn of the tide

Even when I win, I lose. And then when I lose, I win. No, I should have written that the other way around. Things are just not going as well as I wanted, or, er... they are exactly what I had asked for.

On Saturday I went to start my writing course at Montgomery College. I've been working there since 2007 and have always taught at least one course there every session (fall, winter, summer). For this fall, the enrollment for my writing class was super low, so low that we were almost sure to cancel. But they wanted me to come in for the first class at least, hoping for the slim chance that people would enroll that very morning and boost up the roster. This fall they had already canceled a few courses – things are really crazy, even at colleges.

We didn't have enough people. It was guaranteed. Plus, out of the people who do sign up, somehow not everyone comes. I will never understand this – people pay for a course and then don't even come or even try to contact the instructor on the first day. How crazy is that?! So we had to cancel the class. My colleague in charge of helping the students find other classes asked me if I wanted to keep waiting to see if more people would show up. She didn't want to cancel. Of course the students didn't want to change courses. But there was one person in the room who wanted the course to be canceled...

So 15 minutes after the class' starting time, we canceled. I wished everyone the best and went on my way. I was SOOOOOOOOOOOO happy! We finally don't really need the money. I mean, we're not wealthy or anything, but we're fine. Already this school year would be the first time in a years without me taking classes. Then for it to become the first time without a second job – who knows what I would do with my new found free time? It was the biggest rush you could get, like drinking 10 cups of coffee yet without jittery regret.

My head swam with all of the things I could do. I could spend more time with Espen and Natasha. I could write. My free time would almost be doubled! Wow! I could visit friends in Virginia. I could do anything. I was invincible.

I called Natasha. I called my parents. I called Brent and Gina about going to the Renaissance Festival now on a Saturday – “I'm free on Saturdays now!” I called Kory. I called as many people as I could without killing anyone on my way home.

Then I got a call from my boss.

(note ominous spacing above)

Naturally she was calling about compensating me for being present for the first class, having prepared my syllabus, etc. It's standard procedure and never involves any news that you would not want. Just the slightly sad news that your class is canceled.

Except this time the news was something I had never heard of – the class was UNcanceled. How is that even possible? I don't know. But someone new signed up, even after I was out of the building. Now, that's really dumb to sign up for a course 20 minutes after it starts, but in ESL at MC, it happens all of the time. The thing is that those students are usually not signing up for a course that has been canceled! So anyway, we'll have our first class next Saturday. I'm really disappointed, but of course I'll still do my best and it will no doubt be a great class, as they almost always are. It's just that the free time would have been nice.

So kind of in response to that, I had a party last night with some of the neighbors. It was also to break in the deck. We need to understand motivations, anyway – if my course had really been canceled, I would have had the party to celebrate my free Saturdays. It's like kids think they're smart so they don't check their work, or they think they're dumb, so they don't check their work. People will do what they do. Below is a picture of what we did.

We also took a 1am breakfast run – special thanks to Donna for being the only one there at the time who hadn't drunk.

So anyway, I think somehow this semester is going be our transition time, and we're just going to learn to do a million things and magically produce our own free time. Yes, I mean it and believe it. I have to believe it. Details to follow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

WRITING - time to write



WRITING – Time to write

I'm in quite a dilemma. I'm in such a quandary. Now I'm getting redundant, and that's not even my point!

The issue is writing. It's getting to be a big issue. I just can't get my shtuff [sic] together. It's not exactly even writers block. I have lots of really cool ideas. In fact, ideas keep flowing about stories, little scenes, and whole personalities – I just can't actually write about them!

I think I just can't concentrate because of stress. Last school year I worked soooooo much. It's really ridiculous. First of all, I worked my regular job. I took two grad classes. Then in the spring and summer semesters I taught a Saturday at Montgomery College in Rockville (as usual) as well as a Tuesday/Thursday night class there too (NOT usual or recommended)!

On top of that, Natasha has been super busy. She's been working on and off - now ON - and taking classes at an almost full-time rate. And when she's busy, that means I'm busy. Since she's basically just starting a career and I'm a couple steps into my career, I do as much as I can so that she can focus on her education and work. That means everything at the house, most things for our son Espen, doing dishes, and lots of lots of other things.

Even though I'm a teacher and periodically have breaks or long weekends, I'm so exhausted that on those breaks I either try to rest or, if it's a normal weekend, I take care of Espen. In case you haven't met him, taking care of Espen is the least restful activity you could ever imagine.

So in recent history my cycle tends to be that I work an extreme amount, including taking care of a crazy toddler and then just try to recoup at any given moment, then work again. Those times of freedom and true rest do come. It's not all of the time, but they come.

So then in those rare moments, Natasha says that I should write. It's kind of cruel, though. It's like suggesting a friendly game of tennis after someone just ran a marathon. Or maybe suggesting the marathon after the game. Okay, I don't really do either of those, but hopefully I get the idea across.

Thanks to my polite and patient explanations of my feelings, though, she is coming around to understanding. Or as they say in Maryland public schools these days, she is “approaching” understanding.

To cap things up, I have plenty of ideas – awesome, completely original and exciting ideas! I'm imagining them in my head and wishing: “Oh, yeah, I should write a story about that!” (in an absurdly moronic, self-mocking voice)

I can't believe that I just wrote this. This blog is maybe my new start. Or maybe it's another thing to do. Can't dwell too much on it, though – I have to finish staining the deck. On the left you can see where I left off pre-hurricane. Don't the rails look cool?! I love this color. Fall will be beautiful.

Just in case you don't get it – this is another reason why I don't write!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WRITING


WRITING - the Bum Magnet and Bums

As is often the case with me, it all starts with a mistaken identity of someone's bottom. K.L. Brady's guest appearance with Columbia Writers was an absolute delight. She spoke of her personal journey in self-publishing and how that led to her being picked up by Simon and Schuster. All the while, I was engaged by friendly demeanor, frankness about professional growing pains, and how her own story in the writing world could very well relate to mine. Eventually.

But the thing lingering in the back of my mind was the title of her big book: The Bum Magnet. Maybe it's because I talk with British people. Maybe it's because I just think of my wife's butt a lot. Well, by now you should see where I'm going with this - I thought the story was about a guy who just couldn't resist a woman with a nice ass.

Before the meeting I had even seen the cover.

Obviously – OBVIOUSLY – the book is about a woman and her relationship with a man. Or you might just assume several men and then eventually that one gem. Something like that. You would think that the cover is clear enough.

But even having seen the cover, I somehow had understood bum, like butt, or as they also say across the pond, rump. So I was actually imagining a story of a guy who goes from one ass to another, some of the dialogue provided by the females who happen to be attached to said asses.

Thus as Brady was going through her detailed stories of frustrations, triumphs, etc., I was kind of thinking: “She cannot be talking about a story with some super womanizing protagonist.” She even said something like: “I myself had just gotten out of a bad relationship,” yet I couldn't make sense of the title other than to think bum=butt

ergo, Bum Magnet = man who likes booty

Yet later I realized that really the booties themselves would be the magnet, and the man would be like some kind of iron thing, drawn to the magnets with irresistible force.

Eventually I got it. About an hour into talking with her, I got it. And now is a good time to admit that I had even read the back cover's synopsis and had simply wondered to myself: “I don't see how this is about a guy who loves big butts.”

But if you are reading this, K.L. Brady, please know that when I was smiling, it really was because of what you were saying and not because my mind was in the gutter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TEACHING


I’m not at all experienced with blogs. If you want to see a “real” blog, then check out my friend Megan’s blog: http://bangkokrealitysmackdown.wordpress.com/ It’s really cool. I especially like the cockroach story.

On Monday, 03/14/11, I attended a teachers rally in Annapolis. I’ll just say that I am teacher in Maryland. The point of the rally was to protest some upcoming legislation that would reduce the retirement quality of most workers who pay into the state system.

I make under $50,000 a year and I have Master’s degree and several years experience. It is CRAZY that people would do anything to make teaching less attractive than it already is. Some people somehow think that teachers make plenty of money. Compared to whom?  A job that requires a Master’s degree and involves educating children should not be compared to a job that takes no skills and has a workforce that could be drunk and high all day. Not a complaint or even a demand – just a sane opinion.

It’s also stupid when people suggest that teachers just get other jobs if they want more money. If that happened, then the five teachers left in Maryland would be the ones who think that a job should not take care of basic needs. Those people would not be good teachers, and the person making that suggestion is a selfish jerk who hates children.

Maryland is one of the few states that does not have a completely pathetic public school system, but apparently now people want us to become completely pathetic, too. Who will ever go into teaching when it becomes clearer and clearer that a teacher’s life will eventually involve rooting through the dumpster for dinner?

Okay, here’s a picture: this is where education is going when people don’t want to pay for it. I would have thrown in some vomit, though.

When I was in college, one of my friends and his family moved down to Georgia. The younger brother was in 11th grade. I’ll call him Steve. Steve drank, did recreational drugs, and was a C or D student. When he arrived in Georgia, though, everyone thought that he was a genius! He was moved to the top of the class. In a history class, one of his classmates asked: “Isn’t there some kind of theory that the land all around the Earth used to be connected?” The teacher looked intrigued and said: “Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that before.” Steve raised his hand and said: “Isn’t that called Pangaea?” The teacher had no idea. Steve was probably the only person in the whole building who had even heard of such a thing. Maybe all of Georgia.

If people want to compensate teachers even less than now, then the profession is going to turn into the equivalent of Walmart greeter. If you want to have teachers who can help students learn, you should really consider compensating them better than you would a person with little skills or education. If you don’t, then how are children supposed to value education, anyway?