Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Resolutions:

1. Write some stuff.
2. Stop using smiley faces. :)
3. Continue to workout to those horrid Jillian Michaels tapes. I love/hate her.
4. Continue drinking coffee in abundance, but spend less money (no Starbucks)
5. Don't fall asleep in my contact lenses or on a bus.
6. Get Chris to workout by any means necessary.
7. Read as many books as I did in 2010, even if I find full-time work.
8. Say no every now and then just for practice, so it's not awkward when I really need to say the word (this will be fun).
9.  Come up with a bad-ass pen name so that I can write vampire erotica without anyone knowing. (I'm open to suggestions.)
  10. Blog regularly.                 


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Begin Again

To Begin Again is going into final editing within the month. I'm thrilled, and I think that given my experiences with Musical Chairs, I've learned a lot about what to do and not do when releasing a book. 
To do:
Tell people.

Don't do:
Tell people everything about my life. 
(I'm kidding.) 

This is a collection of short stories that capture lives in the midst of transition. Some of the pieces are fiction, others are essays. I don't label the pieces by genre. (Some are more obvious than others, but as you might know, I tend to use the first person narrator in fiction; hence, there's a little mystery to the work.)

If you are interested in reserving a signed copy of the first printing, click here and leave your information.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Result of Our Efforts

Ten minutes after completion.
Ten seconds after we placed the house by the tree.
I am reminded of those elaborate Zen gardens that monks spend days to create, only to then destroy their art and begin again. Our gingerbread house wasn't that impressive. It was harder than we anticipated. But, man, it was about the journey... it was so much fun to make.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Memories

This time of year, I'm always reminded of my grandfather, Homer, who used to dress up as Santa and sit in his recliner, belly up and at attention, red hat tilting to the side, watching the Toledo holiday parades on a small television in his living room. I remember stockings full of candy and trinkets: lip gloss, a journal small enough to fit on a key chain, perhaps a key chain... I remember the tree. I even remember realizing that Santa Claus was a calculated sham that the whole cruel world of adults was in on. I remember forgiving the adults. I remember the sticky sap all over everything; the divine smell of it, which stuck to the wrappers of the sweet, colored candy canes that hung from the tree. The thrill that my sister and I would have when we saw it snowing outside. No matter how many times Ohio had seen snow that year, if it snowed on Christmas, it was somehow special.
The model for our gingerbread house.
Image from Amen Resorts

This year, I will be spending my Christmas in Texas with my husband. It will not snow. We'll be constructing the most ridiculous gingerbread house imaginable. He wants to use Rice Krispy Treats for insulation, and we've decided to center the house in the middle of a ginger spice cake which will act as the front and backyard of the estate--which will require us to fashion the thing on candy cane stilts. If things go right, our house will parallel some of the finest in Papua New Guinea. More likely, however, our construction will be a disaster. I am also sure we'll have fun doing it. When we are  finished, I plan to drive around San Antonio, just like I used to drive around Columbus after starting college.

I can't wait to make this new memory with my husband, but I will also take the time to honor the family that I will not see as well as my grandfather, the first Santa I knew. I am most thankful to have this day to slow down and reflect, to cherish what I have and take a break. Christmas, to me, is about the only ritual I honor, but I'm truly enamored by it (especially now, seeing as how I no longer work in retail and have to hear Britney Spears or Justin Beiber singing Jingle Bells all day long). I associate this day more with family than religion, which means that to some, I'm missing the point. But, whether I have it right or wrong, I'm thankful for this holiday. Things are always changing: circumstance, family, finances, and things remain unpredictable day to day... for this reason, as I build my gingerbread house this year, as I watch movies, eat peppermint ice cream and call my family, I'll be all the more thankful for the roof over my own head, the people I love, the time to indulge memories, and the ability to pay a little something forward.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Beauty of Anxiety

I suffered from severe anxiety on and off from the time I was a small child, which peaked in 2003 with full-blown panic disorder. I wrote about this in my book. Panic, in fact, was the catalyst for my memoir because it was a desire to understand the source, to stop the fear that made me reflect on decisions that I thought consciously would best be forgotten. Up until I began writing, in fact, I was ashamed of myself and my decisions.

What happened when my panic disorder began placing me in emergency rooms and causing me to veer off the road when driving home, was that I was forced to revisit my past and to reevaluate my life. Believing I was going to die at any moment, I began to live in constant fear. And when one feels such things, it is difficult to talk out. Yes, I did engage in cognitive therapy and I meditated and began a religious yoga practice. I did everything people say to do, but the panic continued to arrive. It came on like an explosion from within, without warning, and it would color the world around me so that everything seemed threatening: the driver beside me, the customer in line at the bookstore, the song on the radio—would they be the last people I saw, the last song I heard, my last image of the world?

As quickly as my panic began to consume me that summer, toward the end of the year, it began to fade. I told myself mantras, told myself that I was safe, that death was not something to fear. I reconciled with my fear of death by accepting that death was inevitable, and it was not something to be combated with fear. This is all very logical, easy to say now; but trust me, it was no easy realization. I knew this same information while I was in the midst of panic, and yet, I couldn't see beyond my fear. So what changed? What clicked in my mind that allowed me to accept reality and not dwell in my fear?

It took, as any redeeming story, a journey. I went where I never thought I would to find the answer. I went within. Consequently, I began to write, honestly, without filters, without adding glamor. I wrote Musical Chairs.

Those who suffer from delusions or severe panic are highly creative. It takes a lot of mental energy to convince yourself of an altered reality, after all. So the key, in my experience, is to channel this energy into something else. To find the source and explore it through art, through expression in some medium, but to do so honestly. A metaphor can only do so much for a person. It is only when you look at your anxiety head on that its secrets will begin to emerge.

This is in no way a call for everyone to write a memoir. Not everyone is a writer, after all, but I think the lesson is transcendent. Panic means there’s some energy within that needs an outlet. It’s welling up inside, and therefore in order to get over it, it must be released. This energy is a remarkable gift, and can be utilized to do great things. For me, it fueled writing; for others, it may fuel a spiritual journey or a change of lifestyle. Whatever direction you’ve always wanted to go, and never did, your anxiety is yelling at you to go, do. Use the energy, it's a gift. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

what adjuncts can do for money during the holiday break

a few suggestions:

1. Donate plasma.
This is an option for those non-anemic professors, who have a strong stomach and a daring spirit. It is a viable option because it not only offers a small pile of money for an hour's time, but it is also a nice thing to do. When donating plasma, remember to eat a little something twenty minutes or so before you arrive. 
Warnings: This money-gathering technique will pay between $60-$90 for a first visit, but the donor risks bruising, fainting and must keep in mind that they pay you less if you are a repeat visitor. 

2. Sell personal items on Craigslist.
Much like donating plasma, there are a few things to consider when posting your possessions on Craigslist. Firstly, make sure it's something you really want to sell. Make sure the thing you're selling is portrayed accurately in the ad you place. Finally, screen anyone with whom you will be meeting to sell your stuff. If, say, when you talk to the individual on the phone, he is already trying to bargain with you, or worse, is breathing heavily and crying, it's best to not trust him. If, however, the potential buyer sounds a bit nervous about the transaction and asks understandable questions about the purchase, agree to meet him, but do so at a coffee shop or some other public place. If you are selling something big, like furniture, make sure to have a pair of MMA fighters answer your door.

3. Find a hustle. 
For those hipster teachers who live near-downtown somewhere, no, this does not mean sell weed. No. When I say hustle, I mean a game hustle. This requires a genuine interest in a game, say, Scrabble, pool, or darts. Also, it requires that you are amiable enough to strike up bar conversations and good enough at your game that if a small wager is placed, the out-of-work adjunct is sure to win. Please be warned, this could be illegal. So maybe you shouldn't do it, after all.

4. Trade in your Starbucks for a cup of coffee from Valero or some other gas station. 
This is just smart.

5. Ask neighbors. 
You can always pet-sit, house-sit, or rake leaves. But make sure the neighbor realizes that you expect payment for your work and are not just being nice. Imagine: "I thought you were just helping me out. I'm so sorry, but I don't have any cash on me," Mrs. Brown says kindly, offering you a cookie to ameliorate the effect of her comment. You take the cookie and walk off, head down, wondering how the gas bill will be paid, sore from cleaning out behind your sweet old neighbor's refrigerator as she told you all about her granddaughter's appearance on Jerry Springer last month--how they still haven't found the real baby's daddy, but she was glad because all the men on the show were downright lame.

6. There are other options, but I don't recommend any of them. 
Honestly, I don't recommend any of the above either. I've had bad experiences will all of them to a certain extent (except for the plasma donation--that really is a win-win). But, seeing as how most English adjuncts are writers, all life experience is valuable, no? 

7. I would say write your book, but that's cliché.

With any luck, we'll all be back to work Spring Term--albeit a few pounds lighter from only eating Ramen noodles--all the more thankful for our opportunity to do what we love: teach. 

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...