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

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How the Publishing Industry Works...

(... um, if life were made of unicorns, rainbows, and cotton candy.)

As seen on Nathan Bransford's blog, who stole it from Adrienne Kress's blog, but, apparently, it originally comes from Jackson Pearce.

Ah, the wonderful world of links! It's six degrees of separation on acid. And hours and hours of time INSTANTLY GONE.

You see, my sister recently introduced me to the world of Google Reader (you can see part of the results at my nifty Shared Items widget to the right). Which is nice. Unless you feed it after midnight and then let it jump into an Olympic-sized pool.

I have come across a couple of writers' and agents' blogs through random chance or friends' blogs, but my lovely friend Google Reader has been so kind as to suggest MORE. The first day I started clicking around, my eyeballs slowly became suctioned to the screen - only to be pried away by the lure of Swiss chocolate and ice-cream.

Now, really, I can't really be faulted for this. I'm learning about The Business. What do agents like? What do they absolutely despise? Should I send blueberry or orange-cranberry muffins with my query?

The main thing I've been reading up on is, in fact, The Query. See, before, I had a vague idea of what this was. I knew I needed one. But it scared me a little. So I put it off... indefinitely. (Not that this was going to be a problem, since before I get to the point of querying I need to have a finished, polished, ready-to-submit novel... and the Edit Faeries have been seriously slacking on the job.) After all my late-night reading, however, I'm all pumped to write queries for my novels.

(BTW - my favorite agent blog right now is Pub Rants - which is not about drunken Irishmen. If you scroll down, you'll see her Labels, or you can keep scrolling down... way down... until you get to the last two sections, that give you examples of queries and her workshops on queries.)

I'm a Pantser. I try to outline, but it just doesn't work for me. My characters are way too rebellious (and they have better ideas, most of the time). So, no outlines, no plotting, no premeditation - just writing. Which works great, until you need to edit the whole thing into a coherent novel.

Writing queries and synopses for my novels should help me organize what I want my novel to be, what the key elements are, what needs to stay, what needs to (*sniff*) go, what needs to be highlighted, etc.

The plan right now: finish the editing/re-translating job (which might be a little challenging, considering Brainiac LEFT THE ORIGINAL TEXT ON THE PLANE this morning...), finish and submit my dissertation, then focus exclusively on Life Choices (my very first NaNo. Ah, memories...) I had already gone through about half the novel with first revisions, but that was so long ago I'll just have to start all over. Which is good, because I have all this New Knowledge now.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have neglected...

So, as you can see (by the rampant use of Stolen Material used as an excuse for a "post"), I have not been very dilligent about writing on this blog. But this will change! [she said, shaking her fist in the air and pounding her other fist on the table, for emphasis].

Things have been busy, and since I am a hopeless procrastinator, I sabotage myself by not letting myself do "fun" things (write on my blog, write on my stories, edit my novels) until I have done the "work" (the day job, paid writing assignments, laundry). So I end up not doing either, then feeling just awful about it as I watch another TiVOed episode of The Daily Show.

However, as you can see from the nifty new icon above, I'm committing to Blogging for Blood Cancer, where I will be blogging daily from August 11-18 to raise awareness for blood cancers and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's efforts to erradicate them.

As Joey pointed out to Phoebe, this will not be a selfless act. Most of my posts will probably, at some point in time, as you to make a donation to the LLS through my Team In Training fundraising page, for the triathlon I'm doing in October.

For more info on Blogging for Blood Cancer, or to join yourself, please visit this blog.