Oddly Enough, Your Life Is Based On A True Story

Yesterday I read Duana Easley’s post The Comfort? Zone in which she discusses a conference that posited how the world better place if we lived our lives like a story.  She writes, “If we give the way we live our lives the same thought and importance that we would use on a story we are writing, the world would become a better place. Donald Miller, the conference speaker, said, ‘The best way to change the world is to tell a good story with your life.'” She continues her post by recounting a lesson she presented to her students about what it means to be “comfortable” and how ultimately, comfort holds us back.

The idea of living our lives as if they were stories resonated with me, for it boils down the messiness of life into literary terms: characters, setting, theme, conflict, plot, and tone (if you prefer your life to be a poem, then mood).  We are all characters, and we must ask, like Dicken’s David Copperfield, if we will “turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else…?” We alone can only decide what kind of people we wish to be and determine if we are in control of our lives or give that power to others.  Much of the setting we find ourselves in, we cannot control.  We cannot control what year it is nor can we control the beliefs, customs, and rules in the area that we live in.  We can control our responses to them.  If we live in an ugly setting, we can beautify it.  Even To Kill A Mockingbird‘s Mayella Ewell attempted to add beauty to her junkyard house by planting geraniums.  But will the setting be the hero of your story?  Will you let it define you?   Mayella’s, unfortunately, defined her.  With theme, we can think about what message our lives should represent.  What lessons can be taken from our everyday actions or our eulogies?  For some us it’s about kindness; for others, perseverance.  But deciding on our life’s message can help in shaping our conflicts, plot, and tone.  Granted, we cannot always control the issues and events that life throws at us, but by having a theme, it can lead us to decide which battles we really want to fight and the things we want to participate in.  All of this boils down to the tone of your life.  What is the attitude your life will take?  Is life a journey or to be endured?

This philosophy of life as story makes a lot of sense, especially today when there is so much talk about being “present in the moment” and emphasis on living “the good life” and “having it all”.  But what does all of this mean?  What is “the” good life?  What does “all” encompass?  I have a home, a job, and a loving husband.  Is this good enough?  Is it “all” or am I missing something?  Isn’t more important to live “a” good life?  To compound this issue, there are a variety books, articles, and programs out there designed to make you happy with your life.  How many people have you heard about participating in “happiness projects”?  Does organizing family photos or bills really make one happy?  It may actually feel a bit stressful.  I once read an article that said that people who focused on their own happiness were less happy than those who didn’t. Happiness, or having it all, cannot be commodified and made into a product.  One cannot fill a happiness piggy-bank and expect it to gain interest, nor is there a guaranteed return on one’s investment.  Doing projects to make oneself happy or going after the ideal of “having it all” do not necessarily breed contentment; instead they make other things the hero of one’s life.

But thinking of your life as a story places you as the hero.  You can determine how your story will be written.  If you do not like the way your story is being written, you can change it. There’s a reason why plot twists exist.  Granted, this is easier said than done, which is why some people’s themes might be perseverance, but imagine how much happier we would be.  This doesn’t mean that your life would have a story book ending or that each day would be full of adventure and glory– to recount a discussion between two of my lit professors, one who claimed Dickens was episodic and the other who retorted, “Life is episodic!”.  But being in control of your own episodic life is much more satisfying than being a slave to other’s.

Easley’s second point was about comfort and how it holds us back.  We are often loathe to try new things because they are uncomfortable, or we stay in toxic situations because it’s what we know.  Comfort, though, weaves its spell and prevents us from being the hero of our own stories.  It gives us the illusion that we’re in control, but really it holds the reins.  Just like writing in real life is hard and challenging, if we wish to be authentic, we must challenge ourselves to move beyond what is comfortable if we wish to be our own heroes.

Galavanting

Hi all!  I am currently playing chaperone to four awesome teens, and the pace we’re keeping is not conducive to writing.  Even one of my charges is stressed out for being three days behind on his journal. I will be back with our tales by the end of the week, and I will catch up on all of your stories, too!

Amy

The Punctuation Dating Guide: What You Need To Know

Chapter 12:

Using Puctuation To Define Relationships

As we have learned from previous chapters, the only way to be successful sentence is to be an independent clauseand have the ability to stand on your own.  You have your syntactical parts in order with your subject, verb, and complete idea.  Now that you are healthy and whole, you can choose to rock your independent self or make connections with other clauses.

Hooking up with other sentences is tricky business.  You can easily land in messy territory not knowing if you’re friends, friends with potential, actually an item, or fear of all fears, finding yourself in that relationship with no boundaries and no one can tell where you end and the other begins. Not every sentence is the same, so you can’t use the same punctuation with each. Let’s take a look at the different punctuation and see how you can use them to define your relationships.

The Period: This is the most common type of relationship, and therefore the one you will use the most.  Most other sentences are going to just be friends and acquaintances.  There’s no need to hook up, and the period says “I am me and you are you”.  You remain single, but value what others have to offer.

The Semi-Colon:  The semi-colon is reserved for friends with potential.  This is for when being separated by a dot and two spaces is not enough, because you have found another independent clause that you connect with.  You share the same ideas.  The other completes or elaborates on your thoughts.  It’s wonderful and magical to have found someone who has the same interests you do.  However, the semi-colon is for special relationships only.

It’s easy to get confused and muddled with the semi-colon, especially on those nights when you wear the grammar goggles, think everyone is special, and want to insert your semi-colon into each and every clause, phrase, and word.  This is the quickest way to develop a reeputation you do not want.  Be mindful of whom you give your semi-colon.  Remember, practice safe syntax and when in doubt, leave it out!

The Conjunction: This is the ultimate conjugal hook-up. You have scrapped the period and semi-colon and have said, “We belong together!”  But before you get too excited at finding your soul mate, the conjunction helps you determine what kind of relationship you have: not all marriages are the same.  Sure you may always agree, and for you, the comma + and is perfect.  Some relationships aren’t as happy, nor do they agree on everything.  They may not agree on everything, but they will try to see eye to eye.  They learn to live with it, or they don’t.  They can always go back to the period.   Mostly they try to work things out, for they don’t want to break up.  If you can learn from their examples, then you’re ready to take your ready to take your relationship to the next level, or if you can’t, stay with the period. Entering a new relationship is thrilling, yet you have to know where you stand.  These are the rules for how punctuation can define your relationships, so there you have it!

Unhealthy Relationships 

Sometimes we end up in unhealthy, toxic relationships.  One defining feature of unhealthy relationships is the lack of boundaries.  They are either unclear or nonexistent.  These relationships challenge meaning and leave everyone baffled.  There are two types of punctuation-gone-bad scenarios that you want to avoid.

The Comma Splice:  This is an example of unclear boundaries.  This is when you are connected to another sentence using a comma.  This puts the comma in an awkward position, because it’s not its job to connect you.  If the comma is followed by a conjunction, then it’s happy to connect you; you’re relationship is clearly defined.  Without the conjunction, it means that you really don’t know what your connection is.  In the meantime, you are confusing everyone around you.  It’s best to ditch the comma and move onto the period until you have things worked out.

The Run-On: This is the biggest relationship mess of all.  There are no clear boundaries, and you have lost all sense of self.  It is not clear where you end and the other begins.  What’s worse is that you go on and on.  When will it ever end?  Once you start a run-on relationship, you begin to pull in innocent independent clauses who don’t want anything to do with your mess.  Please step back, find yourself, and determine some boundaries.   It is best to just use a period until you can get a grasp on healthy relationships.

Following these rules will guarantee happy and fulfilling syntax, and isn’t that what we all want?

Stay tuned for the next chapter: Dependent Clauses and Why They Can Never Be Alone.

100 Posts And A Three Month Anniversary?! Am I Still A Newbie?

For someone who started a blog on a whim, this has been pretty incredible.  This is my 100th post and my three month anniversary.  I wondered if I would last this long or have this much to say.  What surprises me more is all of you who read my work and keep coming back.  Without all of you this whole endeavor would be no fun at all.  I appreciate your feedback, support, and comments, and I look forward to them with each post (my husband can attest to this).  So thank you for making this obsession hobby such a pleasure– without you I wouldn’t have stuck with it.

Blogging has had a big impact on my life.  For one, I haven’t written this much since grad school.  Even though I have done a lot of writing in my life, blogging has made me think like a writer and pay attention to how others write.  It has made me more observant of human behavior, my reaction to things, and stuff that might be blogworthy.  It has taught me a lot about technology as I overcame my fear of linking (seriously).  Now I have an iPad and a wireless keyboard, so I can blog everywhere.  I even care about Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.   I have also worried less and have been more positive in my outlook.

The blogging community here at WP has been awesome.  I’ve learned more about life and living through all of you.  Even though we are so different, we share the same experiences, joys, frustrations.  It’s nice to know that I am not alone.   Through everyone’s pictures I’ve been introduced to places and ideas I never knew existed. Blogging allows all of us to go beyond the scope of our everyday existence.

My goals for my next three months and hundred posts (if I did it once, I can do it again) are to stick with the parameters I set for myself on day one.  They are that I stay true to me; be positive in my posts (with the exception of Reno); and that each post is resolved and has a purpose.

So thank you again for giving me something to write for.  I’d like to hear from you:  what feedback or comments do you have to help me make these next three months blog-tastic?

You Guys Spoil Me!

Sisterhood of the pedicure! I, of course, shunned bright, summery colors for Russian Navy.

Is this a coincidence?!  Fate?  Happenstance?  Whatever it is, all I know is that it freaking rocks!  Today I hung out with my girlfriends (sisters if you will) going out to lunch and getting a pedi (isn’t that what sisters do?), and then I also discovered that Jodi Ambrose, a blogging sister of mine, nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award.  Just like the “my side of the computer screen” friends, Jodi is smart, sassy, and keeps me laughing. We also have the same weird habits of peeling off all of the chocolate on our favorite candies and not mixing our food– so we must be related somehow. If you have yet to check out her blog, please do so.

Pretty cool!

However, I’m feeling the love all over with you guys.  Since I’ve started less than three months ago (June 7th will be the “official” anniversary), you have all decided to follow my meanderings about teaching, travel, books, my family, boobies, and whatever else has crossed my mind, and you have stayed with me through it all. All of you and my Facebook readers have made me this close to 5,000 views, and I remember being excited when I had 13. Who’da thunk it?  Not me, for sure. None of this could have happened without you, and I am very grateful for all of your comments, support, and advice you have given me.  I feel spoiled.

Now to the award.  One of the rules for this award is for me to share 7 random facts about myself and to nominate others.

My 7 random things:

1.  I do not like to eat off of yellow plates.  Hubby will never live down the time he decided to serve fish sticks and creamed corn on a yellow plate, and he hasn’t made that meal or given me the yellow plate since.

2.  I have a huge thing for men with bows and arrows.  Errol Flynn, Robin Hood (any will do, but I think Russell Crowe just might be the winner followed by the Disney fox), Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings (the only redeeming factor of all 75 hours of those films), and most recently, Jeremy Renner in The Avengers.

Sigh.
via Marvel-movie.wikia

3.  I visited Alcatraz when I was 10 (?), and I believed that Al Capone’s spirit latched onto me, followed me home and would kill me in my sleep.  I literally scared myself sick. Don’t believe me? Ask my mom, she remembers it well. It would have been nice had someone clued me into the fact that he died in Florida of syphilis.

Whew! Not out to get me!
via alcatrazcruises.com

4.  My first pet was a cockatiel.  His name was Mister Feathers.

5.  One of my all time favorite books growing up was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  I connected with her ambivalence at growing up and trying to figure out how she fit in in the world.

I don’t know how many times I read this book. Margaret really spoke to me.
via jenisbooks.com

6.  I have four romance novels that I like to read when I want to escape from it all. Hubby will ask, “You’re reading Sweet Liar again?  How many times have you read that book?”  (The other three are Knight in Shining ArmorDreaming of You, and Once and Always.  If I could find it again, I would add Perfect to that list.  Yes, I know, I’m a total sap.)

7. I almost dumped my husband when we first started dating because I thought he laughed too much at my jokes.  I’m not that funny.  He apparently thinks I am.

Now for the main part: my nominees.  I have recently made some new blogging friends and all of them provide great posts and unique perspectives on the world. A couple of them are new to WordPress, and they have made promising starts. Please check them out!  Since this is a “sisterhood” award, it’s going to the ladies. Maybe we should start a “Bromance Blog Award” for the gents.

http://simplystephanieblog.wordpress.com

http://kiradault.wordpress.com

http://chatrishe.wordpress.com

http://lastladystanding.wordpress.com

http://emcmemoir.wordpress.com

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/

Last, but not least, I want to give my mom a shout out for reading all of my posts and being a great resource.

The New Breed

It is strange how an off-hand comment can take on a life of its own.  What means nothing really to you may end up inspiring someone else. For example my off-hand comment to a student has become his mantra, motto, and future clothing line.

A couple of weeks ago my students were working on their essays in class.  A couple of boys, Jesse and Marty, know my weakness as a teacher is that I’m easily distracted and lured me into a conversation about their favorite dog breeds. Jesse favors the Pomeranian and we launched into a discussion about cute, fluffy dogs.  Marty favors big dogs (“real dogs”), and so we  yarned about those, too. Realizing that I had been complicit in their being off-task, I stated that I had a favorite breed, too.

“What is it?” they asked.

“The diligent essay-writing breed.  I like those the most.”

They smiled at me and tried to deflect my meaning, “We’ve never heard of such a breed.”

“It’s a new breed.”

They continued to pretend like they had no clue what I was talking about.

“Be the new breed.” I warned.

Marty’s eyes lit up, “That’s it! That’s going to be the name of my new line!  The New Breed!  And ‘be the new breed’ will be my motto!”

I thought it was a passing fancy until the next day I saw that he had practiced different designs of his new label.  Everything with him now is “the new breed”. He even wrote a poem about what it stands for:

If this is the meaning behind the new breed, then I say, breed on!

Recognizing Others

One of the things that makes the blogging world rock way more than the “real” world (no, not the one on MTV, but the one on your side of the computer screen) is that we can openly recognize and appreciate each other.  In the real world we work and toil, wipe the sweat off our brow, and maybe the boss, client, student says “thank you for _____________ (fill in the blank with whatever you excel in)”.  A little “thank you”or recognition every now and then goes a long way.  It lets us know that we’re on the right track and that we matter.

It is very cool that there are a variety of “awards” that bloggers can use to recognize each other.  This week I have been fortunate enough to receive the Liebster Award from Nomadic Noesis (who also has another blog Gen BLT). Her first blog is made up of her poems and excellent book lists.  If you want a book to read that is of high quality, check out her blog.  Her second blog is for the “sandwich generation”, those who are in the middle with grown kids and aging parents.  She provides many resources and support for those who are making the difficult transition into parenting the parent.

The Liebster Blogger Award rules are:
1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
2. Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.
3. Let your nominees know by leaving a comment on their sites.
4. Add the award image to your site.

Jodi Ambrose , a very fun sass mouth who helps people get the most out of their relationships, nominated me for the Sunshine Blog Award.  She blogs about more than just relationships, and each post is always entertaining.

Rules to Accept the Award:

  1. Include the award logo in a post or somewhere on your blog.
  2. Answer 10 questions about yourself.
  3. Nominate 10 to 12 other fabulous bloggers.
  4. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blog, letting them know about the award.
  5. Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

Answers to the Ten Questions About Me:

1. What is a favorite childhood memory?

Eating zucchini bread with Country Crock butter spread at my grandparent’s house in the summer while watching Bewitched and the Beverly Hillbillies.

2. What is a real fear you have?

Gravity letting go.

3. How would you describe yourself?

Short.

4. What states have you lived in?

California.

5. What is your style?

Preferably jeans, t-shirt, Converse.  No muss-no fuss.

6. What is your favorite breakfast food?

Oatmeal with apples, walnuts, and cinnamon.

7. What are some of your hobbies?

Reading.  Writing.  Walking. Napping.

8. If you could tell people anything…what would be the most important thing to say?

Do good and do well.

9. What is one of your “passions”?

Helping kids do good and do well.

10. What is one truth that you have learned?

There’s always more to learn, books to read, and roads to walk.  It’s never finished.

I have been very fortunate to have been nominated for awards before, and I have nominated many others (see this post, this post, and this post).  My list this time is a bit small since I am currently befriending new bloggers, but here are some new ones that I have enjoyed and hope you will, too.

Angela Vierling-Claassen

Good Old Girl

Hashi-What?

All That Charms

Alirthome

Also, make it a daily challenge to yourself to find a couple new bloggers a day and comment on their posts, because the next best thing to an award is a comment.  It’s a great way to recognize others and make a new friend.

What To Do, What To Do…

blog.adw.org

Alright fellow bloggers and readers, I need your input and advice. I have been feeling very melancholy and reflective of late as the graduation of the class of 2012 nears.  Of all the graduating classes I’ve taught, I have connected to this class the most, and I am sad to think of going to work next year and not having all of their friendly faces around me.  Then there is also the intimidation of two months of blogging a post a day without my source material.  Like my students, I need some summer “work”.  Left to my own devices I may just write about my daily routine all summer long (yoga, oatmeal, walking, reading, nap), and this might get really old for all of you really quick– especially if you’re working and not doing yoga or napping.  I don’t want you shun my blog thinking, “My gosh, it’s yet another pigeon pose post!”  While I have some ideas floating around my noggin, I’d like to get some from you for my brain to play with.  So fess up and give me some suggestions of things to write about, things that inspire writing, or ask a question.  Thanks!

The Man With The Red Pen (aka Dad)

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be when your child doesn’t respond to you when you speak to her.  It must be like you’re invisible or don’t exist.  This behavior is common in teenagers, but not so much in three-year olds.  Then imagine having a doctor tell you that your daughter suffers from hearing loss (10% hearing in the left ear, 65% in the right) and makes the recommendation that you send her to a special school.  This is what happened to my parents when they struggled to get  a reaction out of me if they were to call name when I wasn’t looking at them.  Instead of sending me to a special school, they decided to send me to public school just to see how I would do.  My childhood, they determined, would be as normal as possible.

My dad didn’t want me to be limited by my hearing loss.  He envisioned having an out-going, active, gregarious child. What I was was quiet, shy, bookish.  He always encouraged me to go make friends and “be myself”, but being myself was counter-intuitive to his aim: I wanted to grab a book to read quietly in the corner or watch TV.  He wanted me to speak clearly; I have a quiet voice.  He wanted me to foster an interest in sports.  He tried to teach me how to golf.  Fail.  Softball.  Fail.  Enrolled me in gymnastics.  Fail.  Ride a bike.  Fail. I preferred to walk aimlessly by myself (although, I did teach myself how to ride a bike when I was in the fourth grade.  When I finally rode it down the street, Chris, a neighborhood kid, dropped his toys in his yard and screamed, “Amy’s riding a bike!”). For the first 10 years of my life I must have seemed a disappointment, or a conundrum at least.  What would he teach me?  What would I amount to?

Then I had to start writing essays for school.  Here was something he could help me with, and not only that, it was something I needed (unlike a softball to the nose).  When he was younger my dad served as a reporter for his local news paper, and writing was his forte.  When I had an essay due, he would prepare to read it by saying to me, “Go get me the red pen.”  This was akin to saying “Go find a switch in the yard for me to apply to your bottom.”  Like any kid, I had just finished the essay and, really, wasn’t that enough?  Did I really have to look at it again?  Make changes?  Really?

But my dad read away, making marks here and there.  The torture came after he finished, because that meant that I had to think.  He never passed back a paper saying, “Here, just make these changes.”  He went over it with me and carefully explained the rules of subject-verb agreement, pronoun references, and the use of “this”.  He made me focus on the logic of my organization and the clarity of my thoughts.  He made me think about what I wanted to say and how I was saying it. He made me feel responsible for my words.  This was way more valuable to me than swinging a golf club.

Even throughout college he read my essays (after they had been graded by the professors), but I didn’t feel like I had ever graduated from the school of Dad until I went to graduate school.  I showed him my paper about Walt Whitman that had been accepted for presentation at a conference.  He read it, put it down, and remarked, “Wow.  I’ve never written anything like that before.”  That was when I knew I had arrived.

Growing up it took me a while to figure out what I was interested in, but it turned out to be books, history and people.  My first volunteer job was as a Sunday Social Director at a convalescent home and my second volunteer job was as a docent at a historical home museum.  I slowly evolved into the  out-going child my dad envisioned. My hearing never held me back from what I wanted to do; as a matter of fact, it gave me “street-cred” with the old folks when I showed them my hearing aid.  But as always, I had to figure out my passions on my own.

Now that I teach, I put many of my students through the red pen treatment.  Over their groans of agony as I point out their dangling modifiers, I tell them that I was once in their shoes and their mistakes are normal because I had made them myself.  I tell them the story of my dad reading my essays and how much I hated it then, but am so grateful for it now.