Monday, December 29, 2008

NON-fiction means it's NOT made up

If you want to write your life's story, then write your life's story. If your life's story is too boring to be written, then don't write your life's story.

This doesn't mean you can't write anything. It means that, when you write whatever it is you write -- which is not you actual life's story -- you have to call it "fiction." Because that's what it is. This is not a hard concept to grasp.

So, some guy made up a heart-warming story about how he and his wife met, so they could win a Valentine's Day contest. Oprah jumped on it (she seems to have a knack for these things - I'm sure you remember the James Frey debacle), and the guy ended up with a book-and-movie-to-follow deal.

He forgot to tell everybody the whole thing was FAKE.

In the article, the guy is quoted saying, "I wanted to bring happiness to people. I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world."

Good for you, dude. We all want to "bring happiness to people." (Okay, fine, maybe not all of us. But I'm sure some of you do.) You don't have to LIE to us to do that.

I'm sure your story is very pretty. I'd like to read it. But I'll have much more happiness brought to me if I know what I'm reading - if I read it and then find out it was all a BIG, FAT LIE, then I'm not going to be too "happiness." I'm not going to be full of hope, I'm going to be full of angriness for being lied to and duped. You don't "make good in this world" by deceiving people.

And, dude, when you're caught in your lie? Just admit it, and apologize. Don't try to feed us this "I just wanted to make people happy" crap. Your tale of triumph over adversity stops being inspirational when you lie about the level of adversity you overcame. Your tale of true love conquering all also suffers the same fate when you make up the circumstances your true love allegedly conquered. Nobody's saying you can't write that story -- write it, but don't sell it as a true story just to get it sold.

The lying gets to me. Am I being overly sensitive? What's wrong with calling fiction "fiction"?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Things I would do if I had unlimited time:

  • take photos (enough to justify the purchase of the Nikon D90)
  • oil paint
  • volunteer at a children's hospital, reading books
  • make prayer shawls
  • market my freelance business
  • get a Master's in French
  • get a Master's in creative writing (probably the bilingual program offered by UTEP)
  • get a PhD
  • learn Italian
  • learn German
  • scrapbook
  • yoga
  • read all the books I own
  • read all the books I want to read
  • tap dance
  • do theater shows
  • karaoke
  • hang out with my friends more
  • write more

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas, classy

Drove to Austin today, to hang out with the family for the holidays. Driving into my mom's neighborhood I saw all the pretty Christmas lights, hung from the rooftops with care. I passed the orange and white Bevo on the street leading up to my mom's, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the blow-up figures in my mom's next-door neighbor's yard, but I didn't look at them because I was counting cars and trying to find a parking space in the vicinity of my mom's driveway.

It wasn't until I got out of the car, and heard the tinny notes of classical music pieces featured in Fantasia (the first one), that I remembered the neighborhood's annual Christmas decorating contest. First, second, and third place awards are given for Best Street and for Best House.

This guy (Mom's neighbor) is a big fan of the gaudy blow-up yard decorations for each and every holiday; apparently this year he's found a way to add music to his lovely decorations.

My favorite part? The next morning, when the blow-up figures are lying on the grass, deflated, looking like the remains of a drive-by shooting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And speaking of books making great gifts...

... here's a few to add to my Christmas list: Books for the Word Lover, from Flashlight Worthy*.

I think the word nerd in me needs a few of those titles: Alphabet Juice (Roy Blount, Jr.); Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue(John MrWhorter); The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English (Henry Hitchings); and Verbatim: From the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for the word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists (Erin McKean).

*Now, I myself never did the hiding-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-just-to-sneak-some-extra-reading-time thing, but isn't this the most romantically apropos blog title?

Books make great gifts!

Okay, so you "responsible" people probably are all done with your Christmas shopping already. Because you're overachieving teacher's pets and all. Fine.

Now, for the rest of us... friends, procrastinators, lazy men (uh... and women), lend me your ears (uh... eyes)! Books make great gifts.

Really. books are awesome. It's so great to have them. To touch them, to smell them, to look at them all lined up so pretty on the bookshelf, and to read them. Owning books is fun. It's also expensive, if you're much of a reader. Especially if you're a fast reader, and finish the book in one weekend.

When you think about it, books are the perfect "pamper yourself" gift. It's something you'd like to buy for yourself, but you don't want to spend the money on it because you can just as easily get it from the library (of course, then you have to pay late fees, if you're like me, and forget to ever return the books on time). But owning a book of your very own? It's so much nicer!

They also make great personalized gifts - write a special note on the inside cover. But, please, write legibly, because when I find that book in my grandmother's collection or at some Half-Price Books or other second-hand store, I want to be able to read what you wrote. And please put the date, because that makes the find that much more fun.

If you're looking for some books to give, you can check out Meg Cabot's, Justine Larbalestier's or Moonrat's suggestions (courtesy of my Google Reader subs). If I have time this weekend I'll set up a Shelfari account (I have one under my teacher persona, and thought I was too lazy to make another one for myself as a person but then I decided I wanted to anyway) and you can see all the lovely things I've read that I like. Or the things I want to read, if you're looking to get something for me.

Because, yes, so many of you are - I can tell.

If you are shopping for Harry Potter fans, according to this blog J.K. Rowling is donating all proceeds from The Tales of Beedle the Bard "to an east European children's charity chaired by Rowling, called the Children's High Level Group." So there - the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Help save handmade toys

For the full story, go to Marcy's blog and read her post about it. For the jist, read below:

A new law will go into effect Feb 2009 giving strict guidelines for the manufacturing and testing of toys, to make sure they're safe. This is great, except that it will force small toy makers - especially handmade toy manufacturers, such as independent toy makers on Etsy - out of business, because they cannot afford all the third-party testing and labeling of the toys.

Small toy manufacturers in the US, Canada and Europe already comply with all the safety regulations, they just can't pay a third party to test all their toys to verify that their toys don't contain harmful chemicals used in large-scale (corrupt) toy-manufacturing.

To get more info, you can visit The Handmade Toy Alliance; on their site you will find a letter template to send to your Congresspeople, an online petition, and a proposal for safety guidelines for handmade toys that will not destroy independent toy makers.

If you're lazier, like I am, you can go here and enter your info, and they'll send the letter to your Congresspeople for you.

Thank you for taking action!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Christmas List

  • A new purse
  • A new pair of jeans
  • Nikon D90 SLR camera
  • Fancy lenses for the camera
  • Pretty, pink camera bag
  • Crochet markers (also acceptable: Lilac, or pretty much any pink/purple/pastel colors)
  • Those Sandra B-something crochet hooks
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
  • The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron
  • The Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde (Half-Price Books copies perfectly acceptable and welcome)
  • Pretty earrings
  • Pretty pendants: Alice and Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, All Wrapped Up, Mermaid, Clearance Lot Assortment (with can-can girls)
  • Skoy Cloths
  • A meeting with Meg Cabot's agent
  • Juicy blackmail material on Meg Cabot's agent
  • A hybrid bike, pink
  • 8x6 stogare shed (professionally installed by the storage-shed-installation elves)
  • A vegetable garden (maintained year-round by garden faeries)
  • A weekend visit from the wedding-scrapbook faeries
In case you're wondering what to get for Freddy, My Love, he would like a few bottles of Chateau Haut Brion, 1989.

Divine intervention via Twitter?

The past month or so, I've been seriously reconsidering my career choice. You know, that same career I decided to leave for good a year and a half ago... but then came back to six months later. I've been back for almost a year, and I'm doubting again whether I belong here.

I'm a pretty angry, negative person to begin with. And there are quite a few major problems with the public education system, so there is plenty to be angry and negative about.

Today I was having a particularly end-of-my-rope day, and thinking I was done for good with this (however, given the nature of my day job, I can't put in my two weeks' notice until two weeks before the school year's out). My mood lifted slightly in the last hour or so, then I read this post by Janet Reid, about the publishing industry and its naysayers, and the last two paragraphs struck me:

If you've worked for ten years in an industry you don't value or respect, with people you find distasteful, that says more about you than it does about the industry.

So take a piece of advice from me: quit your job. Leave the work to those of us who love this damn industry more than we should, despite its myriad flaws, against all odds and really for no good reason.

Shut up and get out.

I'm a couple of years shy of ten, but everything else fits. Is God trying to send me a message? (If so, he's pretty nifty - I clicked on her blog post link on Twitter.)

I have a bit of sorting out to do. And I have plenty of time to do it in, since I can't change my job status until June. But I think I should keep these words in mind as I sort.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Video by Andrea Dorfman, lyrics by Tanya Davis. (Found on the French Word-a-Day blog, even though there's no French in it. Meh.)

The daunting task of editing...

Some writers in our NaNo region have decided we want to stay in touch through the year, and edit all those lovely words we've written in November. I already have a weekly critique group, but I like the idea of keeping in touch with my NaNo buddies year-round, and a second set of eyes can't hurt.

So, as I start the daunting task of editing my 2004 NaNo, I'm asking for help. I posted this on the Google group we set up for the critique group (we'll meet in person, but have the Ggroup for organizational purposes), but I figured I could ask for help here, as well:

My first project (uh... first NaNo project; I have two other pesky things to get out of the way first) is my 2004 NaNo. I actually started editing it after I finished it, and when I printed it out I saw I'd gone through 152 of the 224 pages of the manuscript. This was three years ago, however; I remember few of the details and I know I know more now about writing than I did then.

How should I approach this project, then? Do I sit down and read it through, once, to know what I'm dealing with? See the big picture, then jump in and nitpick it? Or do I start nitpicking from the beginning, and let the big picture fall into place as I work with the novel? (Meaning, take it apart chapter by chapter, then worry about story arc, character development, plot, recurring threads, etc. as I work through it, or after the "detailing" is done?)

I feel that I should read the whole thing once through, just to get it all in my head, especially since it's been so long since I've touched it, but I also know that I'll be itching to grab that red pen even if I tell myself I'm not supposed to do that yet.

What are your thoughts, comments, suggestions? How will you attack your editing projects?

:) Criss.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I change

I decided to transfer all my Google products from one account to another.

I was doing everything under my original Google email address, even though I didn't use it much anymore. But I had all my other email addresses forwarded to that first inbox, and every time I signed in to Google I used that account, even though I didn't use that particular email address. So I decided to change it all. I think I might be almost at the "completed" stage of the process.

I still need to work on Google Reader. I figured I could share my old account with the new account, and that would let me see everything the old account had subscribed to, but no. That would have been too simple. So I'm doing it the slow way - logging in to the old account, writing all those blogs down, then typing them into the new account. Then I have to set up the shared items thing over again, but hopefully I'll manage.

I started every one of these paragraphs with the word "I," which is terribly bad form, but I'm too lazy to fix it. I hope you can deal with it.

Ode to the AlphaSmart is still coming, fear not. As is some more rambling on my job woes... I think. And another blog post that was on the tip of my fingers as I typed the last sentence, but by the time I got to the end of it and was ready to write it, it disappeared. Huh.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Hello! And welcome to my pity party."

I've been playing by The Rules this year. I've been working hard to be good. I've stayed on top of it - as much as I've been able to.

Even during NaNo, I made sure to put in my time for school stuff before going off to write-ins or doing NaNo-related stuff.

And it's still not working.

I like teaching. I discovered that the first time I quit it. It's all the other crap I can't handle.

I wish I could do my job part-time: that would give me enough time to get my job done well in a regular, 8-hour work day. If I could teach four, maybe five classes a day, all the same subject/level, I would have time to do everything that is expected of me without ignoring certain aspects or cutting corners or giving up my life.

Because that's the part that's killing me. I like teaching, but I like my life. I have other stuff going on. I refuse to give up my self in order to feel successful at my job. It's a day job, really. And it's not the only thing I have, or want, in my life.

Right now, doing this well and having a life outside the school are mutually exclusive. And that's not going to work for me.

Today, I had a half-give up day. This afternoon, I've spent a lot of it wasting time. I have not done this so far this year. I do not check my home email or browse my Google Reader subscriptions until I get home. Today? Nah.

Now, part of the reason for popping on over to the home email inbox was because we were discussing crucial matters (the who, what, when, where of Christmas - when you're family is as big and complicated as mine, this is a serious issue that demands time and your full attention. Trust me). But, before today - before last Friday, when the penny dropped - even that kind of discussion would have waited until later.

I had a conversation Friday that made me realize this job is stressing me out. And it's stressing me out more than normal, because this time I'm doing everything the way I am supposed to be doing it. Before, when I was behind on grading and overwhelmed by the endless to-do list and harrassed by parents, I knew part of it was my fault. I wasted my time instead of focusing on grading stuff early. I didn't plan out my lessons ahead of time. I didn't do X and Y and Z the way I should.

But now I'm doing all those things, and getting the same results. Actually, getting worse results than people who do a much crappier job than I do. So how the heck does that work out?

So, here's me. Here's the towel.

Here's me, contemplating throwing it.

Do I suck at my job?
Am I too angry and inflexible to be in this kind of job?
Is this just the December blues, and everybody's feeling it?
Do I need to get back on medication?
Or start doing yoga again?
Cut out sodas and other sugars?
Or maybe I should go the other direction, and start drinking heavily?

We'll think about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All Hail the Conquering Hero

This year, I was one of THOSE PEOPLE.
The people who hit 50k before the 25th, and are sitting around waiting for validation to open up.

The people who hit 50k, but yak on about needing to finish the story before the month is over.

I became one of THEM.
I hit 50k Sunday; I had been 1500 words short the night before; I decided not to check my word count and finish the scene I was on, then upload it to see if it was enough to push me through. MS Word gave me 49,961 words.
I wrote some more that day, but I did not update or upload until I was done with the story. I had three sections I wanted to write, and the first two, and the end of the third, are pretty much vry poor writing - a whole lotta telling, no showing. But I have the story down, and the format of this novel will include a lot of telling anyway. I have all the stuff I wanted to say down on paper, which is the important part. I can fill in the details (and, you know, little things like dialogue) later.
I should have the dissertation tweaked and edited by Monday, then I can write to my little heart's content without the guilt of "you should be working on this instead" hanging over my head. I will finally finish SENIOR YEAR, which will complete the "trilogy" (then I can go back and change all the details that need to sync up with the three novels - same three characters, slightly overlapping time periods), and I can focus on editing LIFE CHOICES. And giving it a less corny name.
So excited about regularly attending my writers group again, and having something to read every week! You know, like a writer would!

Now, to catch up on grading. And other stuff.
Coming soon: Ode to the AlphaSmart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Slowing down...

NaNo has been going swimmingly well... until now. Yesterday was okay, but today was crummy. I think I'm hitting the week 2 slump (even though it's week... past that), my story's dumb and it's not going anywhere. Because I'm starting to worry about where my story is going. I don't think it's going much of anywhere. I know where I want it to go, but I don't think it's moving in that direction. Or moving much at all.

Or maybe I just need to get some decent sleep. Two all-nighters in three weekends and late nights during the week do not a coherent brain make.

(*EDIT* There was something meaningful I was going to add, but I cannot for the life of me remember what that was. Huh. Going night-night now.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Change in POV

Twitter emailed me today, letting me know Heart_song was following me. So I followed back. And I found these two blog posts of hers, which I feel need to be shared:

Stop the Perfecution!
I don't want to be a groan up anymore!

I think I've slowly gotten over my perfectionism (I probably have NaNo to thank for that), but I could always use more help in letting it go. Now, the groan-up issue... this one is a bad weed. In early college, I think I was reading Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and read the chapter on negativity, where the guy suggested for every negative thought you have, you have to think of a positive one: if a guy cuts you off on the freeway and you call him a jerk, you have to think of three positive things to say about him. "He drives a fuel-efficient compact car, which is better for the environment;" "he might be late for work;" "his car is a pretty shade of blue." Yes, it can be hard to come up with three, but after a while your brain starts to think more positively (either that, or it learns to not think negatively, because then you have to pay for it with three nice things). I remember doing this and it working, but then I stopped... and went back to being my regular grumpy self.

The groan-up/grin-up thing is the same idea - replace your negative thought with a positive one. This is my challenge to myself. Lately, I've been griping about my job a lot. And it's easy to do, when other people gripe with you. But I like my job. I have fun there, most of the time. I like working with the kids, and I'm lucky that I do not teach a TAKS-tested subject, so admin leaves my department alone most of the time.

At times like this week, when grades are due, it can get hectic and stressful. Kids coming in Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, asking if there's anything they can do to bring their grade up... when the six weeks ends Friday at 3:45. Parents can see their kids' grades online, but not all of them know this or have signed up for it, so I need to call parents and let them know Johnny never turned in that big assignment. Do I have enough grades this six weeks? Do I have enough test grades? Did I call that parent to make sure she knows her daughter is failing because she sleeps in class or, when awake, plays Tetris on her computer? Why is it my resposibility to keep up with these things, when I have 179 students but the parents only have 2-4 kids each? Shouldn't it be the parents' responsibility to keep up with the kids' grades?

I get to work by 7:00 and usually don't leave until after 5:00, most of the time it's closer to 6:00. We do have meetings all the time (2-3 a week, most weeks). This cuts into grading/lesson planning time. There is not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do... Freddy and I had a more concrete (ie: we've set a tentative date) conversation about having kids; how's all that going to work, working this much (and still not getting it all done) and having a newborn? Will I be able to handle it? Will things get better next year, after I've taught a full year in this school, in this subject (I have a nasty habit of jumping grade levels or subjects every few years, which is starting over all over again)? Or am I just telling myself it will be easier?

It's easy to drown yourself in a glass of water... especially for me. I like drama. And personal pity parties. And I like to complain about injustices in the world, percieved or otherwise. The science department has to contact 2-3 parents a week, and TeleParent (and automated calling system with pre-recorded messages - student didn't turn in major project; sleeping in class; made an A on a test - doesn't count); the math department has to offer tutoring every day from 4-6 (don't know if they're getting paid extra; our contracts end at 4:00). My department doesn't have to do any of that, but I'll sit and whine about how unfair it is that they are required to do that - which is unfair, on top of everything else. And why doesn't TeleParent count as a way to contact parents about their kids' progress? The district is paying good money for it, we should use it! It's a great system/tool! Uh... but do I use it? It would be very easy to keep up with those parents (or cover my butt about keeping up with parents) if I used it, but I don't. Then, at the end of the six weeks, I complain that the parents should be checking up on grades, I shouldn't have to call each and every parent... when, really, all I have to do is click a few buttons on the computer. I focus on whining about things, instead of looking for solutions or focusing on the things that are going well.

And so we arrive at the end of my rambling. I should read over all this and check it for coherency, but I have to finish grading a few assignments for my level 3 classes, and I would like to hit 40K by tonight (probably won't happen; I'm at 34,356 at the moment). I'm still about a week ahead of schedule, but I want to keep my lead!!! (Have I mentioned how much I love my AlphaSmart? Because I love it lots.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From 52 to 48 / 48 to 52 with love

Great post on Adventures at Home and Abroad.

Or, if you're too lazy to click on that link, just go to this one directly.

In other news, NaNoWriMo is going stunningly well. I'm at the half-way point already, almost a full week ahead of where I'm supposed to be. This has never happened before.

Another thing that has never happened before? Barely a blog post all November. As Marcy pointed out to me last year (when I was still a loyal Xangan), I tended to blog more in November than any other time of year - because I wrote on my laptop, usually at places with Wi-Fi. So... I would hop on over to the blog between scenes, or in the middle of scenes, or after writing one sentence, or after writing no sentences because I needed to whine about the writing not going well.

This year?

This year, I haz an AlphaSmart. It haz no Internetz. Just wordz.

I lurvez it.

And, on a side note, I believe it is more ergonomical than a laptop. It feels more comfortable to write with the AlphaSmart on my lap than to write with a laptop on my lap.

So, Internetz peeps, I'm off to get another thousand words or so in before bedtime. 'Night!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And, in honor of last night, some celebratory music

(Also, I think my department chair was upset I posted a French video, so I have to counteract with a German one now... :P )

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In honor of all the Joes involved in this election - the Plumber, Six-Pack, and Biden - I offer you Joe le Taxi:

Hopefully this will inspire me to get back to my YWP French novel...

PS - dude, don't roll your eyes like that! You know you were TOTALLY jammin' out to this in eighth grade.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

And So Begins NaNoWriMo 2008

Last night I went to the Halloween Midnight Write-In, and met my word count goal for today before 6:00 AM.

This would be more impressive if the fact weren't that it took 6 hours to write 2,000 words.

The write-in was fun, but not only are write-ins not the most effective use of writing time (comaraderie, companionship, entertainment - yes; effective use of time - no), sleep-deprived write-ins are even less productive. But I had fun, and no concrete plans for today, so it was all good.

I went to the Coffee Haus this afternoon for another write-in, and FINISHED my dissertation. There are things I need to add, and I need to rework my introduction (now that I know how the rest of it goes), and I'm sure there is much editing and tweaking that needs to take place, but the monster is now a complete monster, a finished piece, and all I need to do is fiddle with details and attachments.

So, to recap: NaNo word count met, dissertation finished and marinating. Productive weekend?


I have not yet started my Young Writers Program novel. You know, the French one. That's the plan for tonight... but instead of starting it, I'm blogging to you nice people.

It's a cool idea and all, but rather intimidating. Even with my good friend WordReference waiting for me in the next window. J'ai peur !

(Also, there is a relatively large amount of grading that needs to get done. Today was not the day, and tomorrow's not looking good either. But we'll worry about that Monday morning.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where's an English teacher when you need one?!?

I know I wrote research papers in high school - didn't I?

But then again, that was back when the Internetz was something new and scary. It had games, and this wacky "e-mail" thing, but that was it. When you had to write research papers, you got your little butt down to the library and made friends with our good buddy Mr. Dewey, of Decimal System fame.

You grabbed your encyclopedias, a book or two - maybe even a magazine or newspaper if you were really cutting edge. (I was in all Honors classes, so yes, I used magazines, thankyouverymuch.) You looked at the notes your teacher gave you to cite an encyclopedia, a book, and a periodical, and you were set. Whoo-hoo!

I took one class in college where we had to write research papers (a grand total of three). Again, I used books. One citation format, and I was done. No, wait - I might have gotten online sources for the very last paper, because by the time I sat down to start it, the library was closed, and the all-night computer lab was my only recourse. Either way, that was still a nice, clean-cut "online source" citation. And it was a science class, so he wasn't that big on the mechanics of the paper.

Because I am that annoying G/T kid, all raw and cutting-edge, my dissertation is about a rock band. I already blew some people's minds when I asked how to cite a song from a CD (then again, that was at the local community college). I figured out how to adjust the "short story collection" citation format to fit "songs on a CD" - but what the heck do I do for YouTube videos of live performances of those songs??

Who's the author? The TV channel that aired the concert? The artist, who wrote the lyrics? The band, who composed the song (music and lyrics together, and performance)? The guy who took the TV footage and put it on YouTube? Does the guy who posted it on YouTube count as the "editor"? The "publisher"?


Sometimes, you gotta put it in perspective...

Janet Reid shared this blog post today. Sometimes we have to be reminded to focus on the positives.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

¡Yo voy a decir que NO!

(Yes, I know this is 20 years old, and from another country... but why does it seem to fit our current situation so well?)

Friday, October 17, 2008

I wantz to haz it...

You know how babies will get so tired they can't go to sleep? They're sleepy and crying, but they work themselves into these fits where they're angry that they're tired, and because they're angry and throwing the tantrum they can't relax enough to go to sleep. That's kind of where I am right now.
Freddy's out of town, visiting his buddies in CA. So I'm home alone, which I'm sure is adding to the blahness. I do have the cats for company, which is nice... except when they're howling at each other because Gus wants to play and nobody else does. But that's another post.
I'm being overly-sensitive and overly-defensive online. I feel everything is a personal attack, to me personally. In a way, reproductive rights is an issue that affects me directly, and attacking my reproductive rights is an attack on my person, so I'm not being paranoid... but I should stop reading blogs and the news. There's nothing I can do about it now, so I need to remove that toxicity from my life. Ignorance is sanity.
I made a donation to Planned Parenthood yesterday. Among all the other donation information, they asked for my political affiliation. Usually, I check Democrat - no, I do not agree with Democrats on every issue, but I do agree with them on my two highest priorities and that's the party whose candidates have a chance to win in our two-party system. Yesterday, however, I checked Socialist.
I'm so sick of the state of affairs, I don't even want to pretend to be civilized anymore. If Anarchist had been an option, I might have checked that. But I knew Socialist would make the GOP mad enough (yes, because they DO care about the box I check on the form), so I went with that.
The cat door just swung. That might have been Gus, remembering how to use the cat door to escape to the magical realm beyond The Kitchen. I should go find him... he's too little to be out on his own. And he's not very bright, so he won't remember how the door works by the time he decides he wants to come back to the safety and comfort of The Kitchen.
After I retrieve him, I'm going to bed. Maybe he'll be kind enough to curl up next to me and purr me to sleep (and purrvana)... instead of jumping about my head and licking the tip of my nose with his scratchy, stinky kitten tongue.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

(Maybe I should just go bury my head in the sand... make it all go away...)

Now, now... at least Gov. Palin didn't make you pay for your own rape kit. OH, WAIT -

If you don't want to read the whole thing, at least watch the last video.

Dear Cristina,

I about fell out of my chair when I heard John McCain say this during the presidential debate last night:
"Just again, the example of the eloquence of Sen. Obama. He's
'health for the mother.' You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health.'"— Sen. John McCain, during presidential debate
Since when did women's health become extreme?

What's really extreme here is that John McCain doesn't understand that women's health matters.

What John McCain said last night, in front of millions of viewers, was belittling to women. He not only mocked Barack Obama for supporting women's health, he mocked women across the country. The debate last night was just the most vivid example of what we've known all along: John McCain is out of touch on women's health.

The simple fact is that we need a president who wants to protect and promote women's health, not ridicule it. If John McCain doesn't understand that, then he's not prepared to govern this country.

Remember, this is not the only example where John McCain doesn't get it when it comes to women's health.

Just a couple months back, McCain had the deer-in-the-headlights look, and couldn't answer whether he thought it was fair that insurance companies that cover Viagra should also cover birth control.

And, remember the time when McCain was asked whether he thought condoms helped stopped the spread of HIV? McCain's response, "You've stumped me."

And there's more. Let's count the ways that John McCain is out of touch on women's health and women's rights:
  • He's voted 125 times against women's health.He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • He opposes funding to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies.
  • He opposes requiring health care plans to cover birth control.
  • He opposes equal pay legislation, saying it wouldn't do "anything to help the rights of women."
  • He's proposed a health care plan that will be worse for women.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, gets it. Obama talked about commonsense proposals to prevent unintended pregnancy. He talked about a woman, along with her family and her doctor, deciding what is best for her health care.

The simple fact is that Barack Obama is a passionate advocate for women's rights, and has a long and consistent record of standing up for women's health care. As president, he will improve access to quality health care for women, support and protect a woman's right to choose, support comprehensive sex education to keep our young people healthy and safe, and invest in prevention programs, including family planning services and breast cancer screenings.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Women voting for John McCain is like chickens voting for Col. Sanders.

Watch McCain's statement during the debate here.

Please stay involved:

Send a voter-to-voter note right now. Take two minutes, right now, to write a short personal note to an undecided voter about why a McCain/Palin administration would be disastrous for women's health — we'll get to work on delivering it for you! Not sure how to get started? Don't worry, we've got a sample note for you to use.

This weekend is our big push for on-the-ground volunteers. Join us in your own community to educate voters during our Mobilization Weekend.

Help us continue to educate voters in battleground states about how out of touch Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are on issues that matter to women. Watch our video, make a donation, and pass it on!

Forward this email to everyone you know who cares about women's health.

Thank you again.
Cecile Richards, President
Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seriously, people - remember the "Love one another as I have loved you" part?

Slowly clearing out my Google Reader backlog, I came across this post on The Swivet, regarding Prop 8 in California. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't try (aren't you relieved?) But I wil quote:
Let me be perfectly clear: Nobody who would truly claim to be a Christian
would ever support such a proposition. Why? Because it's not something that
Jesus Christ himself ever would have supported. The dude was a radical,
remember? He partied with whores and tax collectors and slept with twelve other
men for three years. I'd say he was pretty much okay with the whole same-sex
thing, wouldn't you???

Why is this so hard to understand?

Flash Drive, Flash Drive - O, Wherefore Art Thou?

Brainiac that I am, I lost my flash drive. I took it out of my purse one day at school, for a very silly reason; I am almost certain I put it back in my purse at the end of the day, and took it out again at home, but, since it's missing, I can't say for sure.

Personally, I blame the cat. Gus must have knocked the thing off the desk and killed it somewhere in the house. (He's very good at killing things, as most kittens are.) I keep asking him to bring it back to me, but he's too busy killing something else (usually Indy - who whines like a little baby and takes all the abuse) to listen. I have crawled all over the floor shining a tiny little flashlight under furniture and appliances, but alas, to no avail.

This sucks on multiple levels:

  • My sister gave me that flash drive. It was the first one of those contraptions I owned; I wanted to get one (floppies had gone the way of the dodo and re-writable CDs were moving in that direction as well - yes, this was back in the day when some of us still considered these archaic devices to be "viable options") but I felt I couldn't justify the expense. Then this little green thing came in the mail - and I knew it was a good one, because Marcy'd bought it. She and Zach read all those Consumer Reports magazines and such, and he's an enginerd to begin with - he knows about computer things, and stuff. In the card, Marcy had written that I could save my novels on the flash drive. My novels - because I was a writer.
  • For days after I discovered it was missing, I was too scared to look in My Documents and make sure I had backed up all my NaNos and other writings to my laptop. I was keeping all of that on that flash drive (I now have several drives, each one has its "job:" teaching stuff, creative writing stuff, wedding stuff...), and I should have been smart enough to BACK IT UP ON MY LAPTOP but sometimes I'm not as smart as I should be.
  • The latest version of my dissertation, for the Master's degree that's been on hold for years now, was on that flash drive. Most of it was still on my laptop, but I spent the better part of a Saturday re-organizing the paper and writing, and those words were like pulling teeth and then some. I was brilliant enough NOT to save the latest copy to my laptop... even though I had been working ON my laptop. See? I told you I'm not that smart sometimes...

This dissertation has been hanging over my head for years - and I have great excuses for each and every one of those years, but thankfully now I have a loving husband who's not going to let me get away with that much longer. If I don't get this thing finished by November, guess what's not going to happen for me. THIS IS NOT AN OPTION.

Yesterday I sat down to assess the damage. It helped a little that Saturday I'd gone to Target and bought a new, pink flash drive.

I have not opened any of the documents, but all NaNo folders (2004-present) were saved in My Documents, waiting for me, like good little children. So were other folders, labeled Novels, Stories, and Poems, which made me feel even giddier.

As for the dissertation, it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought. I must have saved halfway through that session, because the paper looked better than I remembered it; also, I was able to re-write the missing pages without removing any teeth. Always a plus.

I have about 10 pages to go; if I sit my butt in the chair long enough to get it done, I can do it this weekend (Freddy will be out of town, so there won't be much else to do). Which leaves me the next weekend to start getting ready for NaNo - yay! (I need the prep time this year: I'm "cheating" and finishing my NaNo from two years ago... which means I need to read what I wrote, to know where I was and where I need to keep going.)

Can she do it?

Only time will tell...

Friday, October 10, 2008

If I may clarify this misconception...

As you may have noticed from the photo to your right, I bear a slight resemblance to Tina Fey. (It's the glasses, mainly.)

I am not the only person who bears a slight resemblance to Tina Fey.

Now, you may have learned in math class that if a=b, and b=c, then a=c.

This intrinsic property of math does not, however, transfer to other areas of life (ironic - don't you think? - given it's the transitive property; nevertheless, I assure you this is the case).

Therefore, boys and girls:

I look like Tina Fey.

Sarah Palin looks like Tina Fey.

This DOES NOT, in any way, shape, or form, mean that I look like Sarah Palin. Regardless of what students, colleagues, and even my hairdresser may think.

And on that note, if I may share this with you nie people:

Monday, October 06, 2008

"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date - no time, no time!!"

I have a bazillion blog posts I need to write, but absolutely no time to even think about them. Grades are due tomorrow at 8:00 am and I am so far behind I want to cry.

Cliff Notes (not so much to keep you updated; more to remind me of what I want to write):

  • I lost my flash drive, and no, I was not smart enough to save the latest copy of my dissertation on my laptop as backup.
  • finally did the triathlon this weekend. Not so great. And it took up any and all free time this weekend (hence the obscene behindness on grading).
  • the hypocrisy of miscarriages and abortion: "life" begins as soon as the egg is fertilized - but when a woman miscarries, do we offer proper consolation for the "death"? No, we simply treat it as an unfortunate medical condition. If we talk about it at all.
  • NaNoWriMo is coming!!! (And yes, people on the forums are already starting to tick me off.)

Okay, break's over. Back to work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There's a silver lining in every spam folder...

Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl posted this brilliant idea: look in your spam folder to get ideas for character names! (Sure beats thumbing through the phone book!)

Check out her comics, too. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Best sex ed blog post EVER

The snitty part of me doesn't want to link to this post, because it is so well-written and I am horribly jealous that I did not write it. But it would be a disservice to society to not link it, so here it is.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must add Maureen Johnson to my endless Google Reader list.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ask, and you shall receive

After writing the post this weekend looking for cold-drink travel mugs, the baseketball team at my school begins selling them on Tuesday. One of my students walks into my 2nd-period class holding a 32-oz. travel mug (for cold stuff, with a straw - okay, the straw was not included, but Sonic straws fit perfectly), shaped like large to-go cups ("tapered" at the bottom so it fits in car cup-holders), in the school's colors, all shrink-wrapped and ready to move. I was giddy.

I bought it off him right there and then, even though I think that might have been his sample mug, to show everyone else how nice they are, don't you want to buy one? And because I only had a $20 on me and he didn't have change, I bought a Dallas Cowboys one for Freddy. I'm slowly converting him to the Green Side. (Don't give me too much credit - it's not because I want to save the planet; I'm going to offer him my Script Frenzy hot-drink travel mug so I can buy this year's NaNoWriMo hot-drink travel mug.)

I even got to use the mug that very afternoon, when one of the science teachers went on a Sonic run and brought me back a cherry limeade. I didn't need to use the plastic mug, since the drink already came in a styrofoam cup (therefore defeating the green purpose), but the Sonic cup was sticky and a pretty blatant violation of the no-food-or-drink policy... at least with a HighSchool mug I'm breaking the rules while showing school spirit.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Because we all need a smile once in a while...

(EDIT: I don't know what's up with the video; it won't play here, but you can go to YouTube itself and it played fine for me there...)

(Thanks to Things Younger Than John McCain for the video.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Blogosphere, I need your help on a dire, pressing matter.

Chillin' out at Panera Bread, enjoying an Asiago cheese bagel and free WiFi. About to get started on FINALLY finishing my bloody Master's dissertation.

But first, allow me to procrastinate just a bit:

I own two or three travel mugs, for hot drinks, one that I keep in the car so I have it whenever I stop at Starbucks or Borders and allow myself the indulgence of a Chai Latte, without generating more trash for our sad, abused environment (and, at the same time, promoting Script Frenzy in a hip and trend way).

However, I want an environmentally-friendly way to enjoy cold drinks (sodas and slushies). There's just something odd about filling a travel mug with Cherry Coke. I want to enjoy my Rockin' Red Raspberry slushie from QT without feeling like a louse for drinking it out of a #6 (non-recyclable in my area) plastic cup.

Yeah, QT has huge-o, 44 oz. clear plastic tanks (with a straw), but those are fugly. 7-11 has more reasonably-sized reusable cups (at least they can be reused once or twice), but those are rather fugly as well (so far they've had Hulk designs, and now football). Where can I find something cute and trendy (that fits in my car's cupholder)?

Have cold-drink travel mugs/cups disappeared from the market, or am I just blind? Please help! (Does Etsy have anything that can help my predicament? Because that would be quite rad.)

Okay, done procrastinating. Off to finish my Master's.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin, unplanned pregnancies, Planned Parenthood, and plans

I got a text message this afternoon from a friend - a young, unmarried friend - letting me know she's (unplannedly) pregnant.

This the day after McCain's brilliant choice for VP announced her seventeen-year-old daughter is also unplannedly pregnant. And, of course, just a few days before that, McCain announced that, as his VP, he had chosen a woman who had (unplannedly) had her fifth child at age 44, while serving her first year as governor of Alaska.

This woman, by the way, is supposed to be the female vote's consolation prize for losing Hillary. Regardless of the very obvious fact that this woman stands for the exact opposite of everything Hillary stands for - but that's a minor detail. Hillary and Palin both have vaginas and boobies (skip to 3:00), so they must be the same, right?

My friend said she skipped a couple months of birth control because she couldn't afford to pay for it. I can't argue with her on that; I've taken months off because I couldn't pay the $40+ my insurance charged me per month for the NuvaRing - and I'm a fully grown, adult woman with a full-time, full-paying job. She's a starving student how can she afford to play full price for birth control?

My first thought, when she told me she couldn't afford birth control, was DID YOU TRY PLANNED PARENTHOOD??? They charge for their services on a sliding scale, so people on low incomes (including students) can afford birth control. I used to get my pills for $10 a pack, if not less (they also allowed you to get several packs at once - I think they give you a discount if you buy "in bulk," and could get a whole year in one visit, so you don't have to worry about running out or having to find time in your schedule to get to a pharmacy or PP during their working hours, which always tend to coincide perfectly with my working hours).

I didn't voice that thought, because that little nugget of information was not going to help her in the least at this point in time. But I was filled with rage that the information was not so blatantly obvious to her when the information would have been helpful.

Why is this info not common knowledge for all young women?

Thanks to men like John McCain and women like Palin.

When you say "Planned Parenthood," there are people who hear "ABORTION." I don't have a number on this, but all the Planned Parenthood locations I have been to (in three different cities), none of them perform abortions. The only PP clinics that perform abortions are those in areas where there is no other abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood provides counseling on ALL the options available to you when you face an unplanned pregnancy. When I walked into my PP clinic, my mind was fully made up. I asked for information on getting an abortion, because that is what I had decided to do. I specifically asked for information on getting an abortion. They took me into a room, and the lady talked to me about ALL the options available to me. She told me about adoption services. She told me about government aid programs, to help single mothers. She made me take the information home. I almost felt that she was arguing with me, trying to convince me to change my mind and carry the pregnancy to term - I did not walk in undecided and receive information on ALL my options, I walked in FULLY DECIDED, specifically asked for information about the option I had already chosen, but they showed me ALL my options anyway. They made sure I had ALL the information.

Planned Parenthood also provides pre-natal care to millions of low-income women. This is pretty much the only medical care some of these women receive.

There is nothing "anti-life" about Planned Parenthood. They do a heck of a lot to improve and maintain the lives of women and children. How is that not "pro" life?

Birth control is a good thing. It is more than a good thing - it should be a damned right for every woman in this country. Every woman should have information and access to birth control - money should not be an obstacle to this aspect of basic woman's health care.

Sarah Palin is an adult woman. If she chooses not to use birth control (which I am extrapolating from the fact that her first three children are close in age, which would suggest they were planned; 6-7 years later, she has another child, randomly, and another 6-7 years later, when she is well past recommended child-bearing age AND during her first year in her first term as governor - a job that does not easily allow for maternity leave - she gets pregnant again, and then chooses to hide this fact from her constituency until the very last minute... does that seemed planned to you?), then that's her business and I have no right to say peep about it. I assume, because she is a 44-year-old adult, that she has the necessary information to make an informed decision on whether or not she wants to use birth control - if I personally disagree with her decision, who cares.

However, her poor planning resulted in the birth of a child. Another human being. (It also resulted in this pregnancy and birth taking place during her first year as Governor - if I were one of her constituents, I think I'd have a few choice words to say about her negligence. How well can you run the state when you're getting up 2-3 hours a night, for months on end, to feed your baby?) And neither she nor her husband have - from what I have seen, and I've been looking - taken responsibility for their action. She gave birth to the child, and now she's committing to running for Vice-President, and extremely time-consuming and stressful job. Who's left taking care of the baby?

Big Sis Bristol!

Which, as it turns out, might be a good thing - it's giving her some great training for her own child, which shall be arriving in about four months. It's almost too good to be true for Palin - since little Bristol will be home anyway, taking care of her own baby, Palin can go ahead and leave li'l Trig with Bristol and not even worry about day care! Now that's what I can some great social conservative family values.

Bristol's only 17. This child needed to be told about birth control. She needed to have a way to access information and acquire pills, condoms, Rings, whatever she wanted.

Instead, she was fed abstinence-only "education." Well, we can see how well that works!

When are you people going to wake up and realize that the kids who are going to have sex, are going to have sex whether we tell them about it or not. They're not waiting for our "permission." And, PLEASE, giving them information is NOT giving them "permission." It's giving them INFORMATION.

I have to admit I am disproportionately angry about these unplanned pregnancies. I should not care this much. It's not my problem, I should move on.

So why am I writing this eternally long blog post about it?

I have been waiting for a very long time to have a child. I have had several opportunities to get off birth control and get pregnant (and, at times, I have had to go through great pains to make sure I didn't get pregnant, because I could not access or afford birth control). But I have waited.

I've been waiting for so long, I'm getting pretty darn close to missing my chance (unlike certain people, I had comprehensive sex ed in school, and I realize that the older a woman is when she conceives the higher the risks of birth defects - such as Down's Syndrome - are, and I don't want to put my potential baby in that risk).

I also grew up with a mother who works with abused and abandoned children. I am too aware of what happens to unwanted pregnancies (not all unplanned pregnancies are unwanted, but all unwanted pregnancies were unplanned). I am too aware of the hoards of children out there waiting for a home.

The world is overpopulated as it is, and we're working so hard to deplete the resources we have left. So many people are bringing children into this world without thinking, why would I want to add to the insanity?

This is what I was thinking as I was driving home from work today, still texting with my friend. There are too many kids in the world already, I don't even want to be a part of that anymore.

Birthing and raising a child are hard. Part of me is thinking, with the excess of children already in the world, why do I want to go through all that work just to aggravate the problem?

What do I do with my students for the six weeks I'll be out on maternity leave (I wish I could take the full 12 weeks, but there's no way I can be out for two-thirds of the semester). Would I be able to breastfeed after I went back to work? Is there any way I could pump at work? (Yeah, that's going to work in a classroom of high-school boys...)

Part of me wants to give up on the dream I've had since I've been old enough to understand the concept. It's just too much. I can't deal with the irresponsible parenting, and I don't want to be a part of it.

But then, part of me want to scream, "When the fuck is it my turn, you damned people?"

How come everybody else gets away with it, and I'm sitting here, like an idiot, waiting until I'm in the right relationship and have my debt under control. Why am I still waiting? Is there even a point?

Unplanned pregnancies can work out. My sister did it. I don't know how; she has a strength I never knew, and I admire. She got pregnant in college, yet she gave birth and graduated without missing a beat. She was in a bad marriage, but she had the strength to get herself and her toddler daughter out of it. She's currently putting herself through law school as a single parent, and her daughter is one of the most well-put-together, smart, confident, well-behaved, mature kids I know. I don't know how she did it - how she does it. I'm in awe of her.

Hopefully things will work out that well for my friend. At least, unlike poor Bristol, my friend (and her parents) are smart enough to not aggravate an unplanned pregnancy by forcing her into a bad marriage, but the dad is going to be involved (so he says, now. Hopefully he'll be a man of his word, and one worth having involved).

It still makes me mad.

It can be avoided so easily. All we need is information - clear and accurate information - and a little bit of tolerance (yes, I recognize the hypocrisy of me asking for tolerance when I have been so intolerant in this post. But who ever said I was any sort of role model?)

Don't agree with abortion? Then don't have one. Also, give people birth control, so there won't be an unwanted pregnancy to abort.

Nobody wants to have an abortion. It is the lesser evil. Let's find a way to reach our common goal of no unwanted pregnancies.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Own Your Failure

I owned my failure. What about you?

In related news, I'll leave you with this video (stolen from this brilliant blog). I'll address this later on, once I figure out how to load the audio files I need onto Blackboard so my students can access them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My day, some reading material, and guns in schools

For those of you who were wondering, I finally went running today. Woke up at 7:00, ran, gave myself sore calves, met with my tutoring student, ate real food for lunch (cage-free eggs from vegetarian-fed hens), and took three massive crates of classroom stuff and a couple boxes of education books up to my classroom. All in all, a pretty productive day. (No, I didn't do anything with the stuff in my classroom. That's on the schedule for tomorrow.)

How did I accomplish all this in one day? I kept the laptop closed. (Until now, of course.) Remember my friend Google Reader? Yes, the one otherwise known as a blogger's crack-cocaine. Guess what I've found now?!?

Teacher blogs.

I could spend hours here.

This post, from The Daily Grind, made me think about how I view, and consquently treat, my students. Probably should print it out and keep it in my gradebook, so I'm constantly reminded to look at my students as what they have the potential to become, not merely as what they are (or what labels we've affixed to them).

Now, this other post, from On Teaching, made me cringe. (Not the post - the news story.) Harold ISD, somewhere north(ish?) of here, is going to allow its teachers to bring guns to school. Because of potential school shootings.

The district has a total of 110 students, in one building. But they're close to a highway, which makes them "a target." For what?!?

School shootings happen when a kid is mad at another kid - or, in Columbine's case, mad at a whole lot of kids. The mad kid then takes Daddy's gun (Daddy is a responsible gun-owner, but kids know how to gain access to things. That's what kids do), takes it to school, and kills someone. So now we're going to eliminate the middle man, and put the guns right there in the schools?

Kids are smarter than most adults tend to think they are. If your teacher is carrying a gun, the kids are going to know. They are going to find out - trust me. At the high school where I used to teach, not five minutes into the class period one of my students asked me if I'd gotten engaged over the winter break. She noticed I was wearing a ring on my left hand - not a traditional-looking engagement ring, just a ring. You think they're not going to notice a gun-shaped lump under my clothes?

An old boyfriend told me stories of how he and his buddies would hide Mrs. So-and-So's prized possession, a bust of Shakespeare. This became a game - she would always stash it somewhere safe and secure before class, because she knew the boys liked to take it from her, but the boys always found a way to get it. Always. Even though it was hidden under lock and key.

What's going to happen to a gun?

If any one of the boys at my high school decided he wanted to take my gun from me, he'd win. I can assure you a high school boy - especially those football players - can overpower me. What if four or five of them decide to play a little prank on me? On any teacher? They don't have to be doing it to be mean; they don't even need to have the intention to keep or use the gun after they wrestle it from you - mob mentality (and high school is, for the most part, mob mentality on steroids) doesn't need a reason or a rational train of thought. But guess what's very likely to happen during the scuffle.

Why open up this can of worms? Is this district really in that much danger? Why on Earth can't they take the money the "crisis training" (and lawsuits) will cost, and hire a cop? Or move the freaking building?

If you read the comments on the Star-Telegram story, they're appalling. The overwhelming majority of people think this is a good idea. Some even claim to be teachers. I don't what their classrooms look like, but in my classroom, carrying a gun would NOT make life easier in any way, shape, or form. I Googled Harold ISD, and found a "mommy" discussion board, which I was sure would condemn this action... nope, again, all the moms thought it was a great idea. Okay, not all the moms, but, again, the overwhelming majority supported it.

Why is this not more in the news? Are they actually going to go through with it?


School starts one week from today. Is Harold ISD actually going to go through with this? For no good reason (or, definitely, no good enough reason)?

What's going to happen to the rest of us, once this precedent is set?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blogging for Blood Cancer - Day 5

Here we are, Day 5.

I was supposed to write to you all, my lovely audience, basking in the glow of my profuse sweat, after running for the prescribed time. Alas, I sat on my fat butt instead.

No, that's not true: this morning, I lay on my fat whole body instead of getting up and running, and by the time I got up I didn't have enough time to run and shower, and be on time for my tutoring appointment. Then, this afternoon, I went to get a haircut instead of going for a run.

Tomorrow morning the group is meeting at 6:15 in the am for a brick (this is a bike followed immediately by a run). I want to go, but not only do they want me to be there at 6:15 in the morning, I no longer have the big, honking SUV that so nicely transported my bike. And I don't want to take the wheels of the bike, because I don't really know how to put them back on. Okay, I know how, in theory, and I can do the front tire (I've done it before, but I always think I'm not putting it on tighly enough, and that it will fly off mid-bike) and I don't know how to put the chain back on back tire. And I'll get bike-chain grease all over my hands doing it, too.

(Now, part of the reason I didn't make it out the door this morning and came home from the haircut too late this evening, was because we have a new child in the house, and we have to make sure the other cats learn to play nice with the new kitten.)

So, I've told you about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's research and the many advances they've made in the fight against cancer, and about their patient services. There's also a political aspect to all of this. And we need your help here, too.

Now, the good thing is that this does not require donations or physical activity from you - all you have to do it click a few links and send an email when it's needed, asking your legislators to support legislation to further cancer research and availability of health services related to cancer. On the site I don't see a "Subscribe for email action alerts here" button, but there is an RSS feed button. I get emails from the LLS Action Center, so I'll bet once you enter your info once, they will ask you if you want to receive the emails.

This takes so little of your time, and it makes such a big difference to everyone. Please look into this side of the LLS's mission.

You can also check out the Toolbox for Advocates page, or see how you can help by volunteering.

So, Day 5. The end.

I feel terrible saying I feel relieved. Part of the reason why is that I feel I've done a pretty poor job of "Blogging for Blood Cancer." I feel I used it to push my Team in Training fundraising campaign more than awareness of the LLS and its mission. But it's also been hard to write posts talking about why you should support the LLS. How can I convince you of something that is so obvious, innate to me? Any argument I give just sounds silly and redundant. It's like explaining why you should breathe air.

I've seen my brother go through cancer treatment, and I saw my family go through it with him. I've seen my grandparents go through it. My mom and step-dad have both had close calls, but modern medicine took care of them before things got ugly. I saw my father-in-law lose the battle. Now I'm seeing my mother-in-law go through cancer treatment - and with her, so go the rest of us, including her four grandchildren (who saw their Granddad go through this less than two years ago). How can I not support an organization responsible for helping these people get better?

If you've been through it, as a patient or a family member, then you know. If you haven't had to go through this, I hope you never do. Supporting organizations like the LLS can help keep you from going through it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blogging for Blood Cancer - Day 4

First things first -Ack!! Blogger looks different! What did they do to the dashboard page?!?

Now, in other news:

So I went running this morning. It sucked.

But I will go running again tomorrow morning. I might try 40 mins, doing 9/1 intervals. We'll see how I feel when I wake up.

Early in the summer, I tried motivating myself reminding myself that what I was doing was way easier than chemo. But I'm not selfless enough for that to work on me. I still focused on the heat and the suckiness.

Well, I just realized this is not the greatest advertisement for Team in Training, now is it?

Please remember the key point: DO NOT train during the summer. Especially if you live in Texas. When I was part of the Summer Team (even on May 26th), training went fine. Yes, it was a little hot starting in April, but it was doable. Not like now.

Either way - if Team in Training is not your cup of tea, there are many other ways to help the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Light the Night is a much less athletically intense event - just a nice, casual walk. Go here to find a walksite near you and find out when the walk will be.

If you're into hiking more than walking or running, Hike for Discovery is a new program for the LLS:
How does the program work? LLS will provide 14-18 weeks of
professional training and everything you'll need to make your hike fun and
successful. You will train in honor of an Honored Patient, a local blood cancer
patient whose struggle for survival will inspire and motivate you. LLS will also
provide transportation to and from the event, lodging and social events during
your stay. In return, you'll raise funds for lifesaving research and bring hope
to hundreds of thousands of people battling blood cancers.

And, because, really, what self-respecting program doesn't have one, let me present to you the Leukemia Cup Regatta.

If none of these float your boat, there are other ways to help the LLS continue their life-saving research and patient services.

(As always, you can just take the easy way out and make a donation to my fundraising campaign:

Since it's Day 4 and coherent thoughts are no longer emanating from my tired brain, I leave you with stories from alumni participants from the above-mentioned events.

B4BC - Day 3.5

Just came back from running.

I hate it.

Sprinted the last minute of my 30-min run.

It was a very stupid thing to do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blogging for Blood Cancer - Day 3

So... turns out five straight days of blogging about something is harder than it looks.

I commited to the CapTexTri in 2006 motivated by my brother's battle with cancer, but mostly I did it because I wanted the good karma and the bragging rights - not so much for having done the triathlon, but for having done something nice for Other People.

I also wanted to get in shape and all that jazz. Which I did, but I did not keep up with at all after the race. Because I have no self-discipline. (But that's another story.)

Two years later, I'm at it again - this time for the Toyota US Open Tri, right here in DFW, October 5th. Training has been a lot easier this time (first time I went for a 20-minute run I was able to run all the way, instead of run/walk/run/walk/run/walk it), but I've been slacking on training a little. Okay, a lot. I'm relying too much on those good genes, and part of the reason I decided to join this blogging event was to help jump-start my training.

I was doing well during the school year - set my alarm early, run/bike before school, so it would be done first thing in the morning. Even weekends were fine: Saturdays are group training days, and Sundays I'd bike before going to church. But once summer started, and my schedule went all over the place, I stopped. Oh, and the heat. When I say the heat is "killer," I am neither using slang nor hyperbole. This is Texas, folks.

I forgot to set my alarm early enough this morning, but I promise to set it for tomorrow, and run my 30 minutes (I should be at 40-45 min runs by now, I bet, but since I ran not a lick while I was in Switzerland, I figured I'd ease myself into it). I've realized I like the swimming and the biking, but the running... right now our love/hate relationship is firmly set in the HATE side.

Today I received the weekly email from my TNT Campaign Manager. To date, our North Texas team has raised $42,002, which I think is pretty nice. (We have until October to reach our goals, so there's still plenty of fundraising to do.) If you'd like to know where the money goes, here's some info from the email:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's volunteers and staff, as well as
patients and their families, actively support state and federal public policy
initiatives that will improve the lives of those with a blood cancer.
Thousands of Texans who are grassroots advocates with the Society are lending
their voices in support of the Access to Clinical Trials Act.

Patient Services

  • Patient & Family Support Groups
  • Provided more than $674,3000 to 1,857 patients in Financial Aid
  • More than 650 patients helped through Co-Pay Assistance Program
  • Patient & Family Education Programs
  • Texas Forum on Blood Cancers (annual conference)
  • Healthcare professional education programs
  • First Connection “Peer to Peer” Support Program
  • The Trish Greene Back to School Program for Children with Cancer
  • Information Resource Center
  • Clinical Trials Information


Blood Cancer Research Grants in Force Texas - $27.5 million (over a 5 year period)

Career Development Grants, Specialized Center of Research Grants & Translational Research Grants

  • University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center - Dallas
  • Baylor College of Medicine - Houston
  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Houston
  • University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio
  • Scott and White Memorial Hospital and Clinic - Temple

So that's where the money's going. And how much they're raising (just here in

If you would like to be a part of that, please visit the LLS website for info on all their fundraising programs, or you can go directly to Team in Training's site, or you can just make a tax-deductible donation to my campaign.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blogging for Blood Cancer - Day 2

I'm starting this at 11:46 pm, so by the time I actually post it'll be past midnight and I'll be late again. This is turning out to be rather defeating.

So, there I was at the informational meeting. They show you videos of people doing the various races - marathons (runs and walks), triathlons, century rides. Participants at the finish line. Family members and Honored Heroes. Images of their racing shirts hand-altered to honor their own Heroes and survivors. And the music. And the testimonials. And the cheering - lots and lots of cheering.

I wanted to be part of that.

I needed to be part of that; I'd already convinced myself I was going to do it before even entering the meeting room, but after all this I had to, or my limbs would fall off.

There was a small problem, though. Just a teensy-weensy little inconvenience. (Oh, apart from the fact that I had no athletic background and my idea of "working out" consisted of a 1-hour-a-week tap dance class.)

Of the five or so events Team in Training was doing for that season, only one of the local(ish) events worked with my schedule (I was going to be at my sister's graduation out of state for the others) - and that was a triathlon.

Me coming anywhere near completing a marathon was iffy... a triathlon? Really? What was I smoking?

Running I figured I could do, since it's just fast walking, and I knew I could walk, at least. But biking? I didn't own a bike. (I also had no idea how much road bikes cost... that might have influenced my rash decision had I had that information at the time.) I hadn't been on a bike since high school. And swimming? Oh, please! I could frog-stroke (I believe it's also referred to as "breast stroke," but it's the one where you swim like a frog), but that was it. And, again, when was the last time I'd even been in a pool?

"Oh, don't worry about that," the coach said. "We'll teach you how to swim."

I was so caught up in the moment. I wanted to be one of these people. I wanted to have a medal for finishing my race. I wanted the bragging rights - for finishing the race, and for taking on such a humanitarian deed.

I couldn't not do it. I had psyched myself up too much. I had to sign up for an event.

So I signed up. For the triathlon. Olympic-distance: 1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run. Yeah.

As a triathlon survivor, I can tell you now that the training and the experience were everything they promised at that meeting and more. They did teach me how to swim - from scratch, because I had never swum freestyle in my life (I'd tried, every now and then, but never succeeded). They taught me how to change a flat on my bike, all by myself. They got me running, consistently, successfully. They trained me for an Olympic-distance triathlon, with no injuries, barely any sore muscles, no pain the day after the triathlon.

Oh, and I raised over $2,600 for cancer research and parient services.

Team in Training is the biggest fundraising branch of the LLS. (Don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure that's right - if not the biggest, one of the biggest ways they receive funds.) It's an amazing program - they took someone like me and got me across the finish line in three hours and 43 minutes.

Oh, and helped me raise over $2,600 for cancer research and patient services.

There's really no way to explain the experience of training for an endurace sport event through Team in Training. It's everything the cheesy videos said it was. It's everything the coaches promised they'd do. It's so much more than what I thought I'd be able to do.

Whether you're a seasoned athlete or a complete and total newbie like I was, please consider becoming part of the Team. Or at least making a donation to mine:

Blogging for Blood Cancer - Day 1

Geez, Day 1 and I already fell down on the job. In my defense, I flew in from Europe Sunday, and the last leg of the flight, NY to DFW, was scheduled to arrive in DFW at 11:30 pm. The plane didn't leave NY until 11:45 pm, and I had a full day of work waiting for me here Monday morning. So when I came home from that, I crashed... and didn't remember about this venture until my cat came in to share some riveting news with us, at 5:00 am Tuesday.)

I first got to know the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2005. A friend of mine sent out an email at work, asking for donations to her Team in Training campaign. She was training for a marathon. I'm not sure if she had a personal connection to blood cancers specifically, or to cancer in general, or if she was doing it more for the physical challenge and commitment; regardless I was impressed and made a donation. And somewhere in the process I must have checked the "Send me more information" box.

Months later I received a flier inviting me to attend one of the many informational meetings Team in Training was holding for their new Summer Teams. I went.

They ask you to RSVP to the meetings. They hold several all over the Metroplex, and the one I had chosen to attend (which best fit my schedule and geography) was later on in the "meeting season." Which meant I had a couple of weeks to think about what I had decided I was going to do... I wanted to train for a marathon, to raise money for blood cancer research. A marathon - a long, eternal, grueling marathon, even though I had never successfully run around the block twice in a row. But I was going to train for a marathon this time. I'd decided.

The more I thought about it, the more I got it in my head that I had to do it. I imagined myself training. I imagined myself running. I imagined myself crossing the finish line (looking glamorous and accomplished, of course). I had to make those things happen.

The date finally came, and I went to the meeting. It pumped me up even more - if that was possible. It was like being in a high school pep rally, but this time the pep rally was for me, because I was there to make a commitment to battle cancer by providing funding for research and patient services. I was there to make a commitment to train for an endurance event to motivate friends, family, and strangers to give me money for the LLS.

I did not have a personal connection to blood cancers, but I did to cancer. My brother is a survivor - his last semester of college, after a year of feeling ill, the doctors found a tumor in his brain. They operated, removed the tumor, did chemo. He lost his hair, most of his body weight, and the hearing in his left ear. He had to use a walker for months, because his balance was affected when they removed the tumor. He almost lost his voice, at least temporarily, because his throat and tongue were affected as well, and had to have a feeding tube put in.

He's fully recovered now (except for the hearing, that's permanent - but he says he's okay with having traded the hearing in one ear for his life). He's past the 5-year mark, cancer-free, doing well.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is focused on finding a cure for blood cancers, and providing patient services to families who suffer from blood cancers. But they're also the largest cancer research facility, and, the way I see it, cancer is cancer. We don't know what causes it and we don't know how to stop it - no matter which organ it attacks, it works the same way. Research done in one field benefits all other fields.

The LLS is responsible for the research that led to chemotherapy, for starters, which is the main treatment cancer patients, of any form of cancer, receive. I like these folks; I believe in what they do and I am grateful for what they've done, and I trust them to be doing the right thing. This is why I have no problem asking people to give me money to help the LLS do what it does. If you'd like to find out more about what they've done, please visit their website. This link gives more technical info on some of the LLS's recent advances.

I'll let you know "tomorrow" (later on today, since it's already Day 2) what happened at that meeting. A little too much pep, not enough of my own brain cells.

In the meantime, feel free to visit my 2008 Fall Team in Training fundraising page:,.com/donate/tntntx/Criss4shay