Return to the six word story

Having my own classroom: utter joy.

Posted in Six Word Stories | Tagged | 2 Comments

Brevity thrust upon me: be afraid.

Did I mention my professor is really good at getting me writing?  About a month ago she was telling us about this thing called six word stories. This was something I had heard about before but completely forgotten, which is quite a shame because it’s incredibly cool. Basically, sixwordstories.net is a collection of short stories consisting of just six words. As the creator of the website explains, it was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous challenge and first six word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Some of these stories say so much with so little: “Born a twin; Graduated only child.” “You’re not a good artist, Adolf.” “The smallest coffins are the heaviest.” “Found true love. Married someone else.” These are powerful words. Also? Depressing. Obviously brevity can be a good outlet for sadness and tragedy and grief, and that’s a good thing. I suppose in dark times when it seems like there’s no words at all, you’ve got to cling to any that you can find.

But I’m an optimist. An optimist who’s lived a pretty happy life so far. An optimist who does not do brevity well. At all. Ever. Why use six words when you can use 600? So when challenged to write not just any story but my life story in six words, I was pretty stumped. There were just too many words. So many words! And when I finally did write one, to my utter dismay, it was horribly depressing. That’s just not me. I refuse to believe that at our core, when everything in our lives is stripped away to the six most important words that define our true self, we are destined to tell sad stories.

So I’ve decided to take baby steps. I’m not ready to tackle my whole life in six words, but maybe I can take a stab at a few pieces of it here and there. In theory it would be a good way to write a quick blog post when I don’t have a lot of time, but I know in reality that brevity usually takes more time than my normal babble.

With all that said (and isn’t it just like me to take nearly 400 words to introduce a six word story), here is today’s six word story: “Assembled tiny starships. Accumulated vast joy.”

IMG_3143.JPG

And aren’t I a little cheater for adding in a picture?

 

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A birthday gift

It’s my birthday. The first day of my 29th year. And I was given an awesome gift: the chance to write. The prompt came from a Chrysler commercial of all things, so of course it’s all kind of cheesy:

This is the text of the commercial:

“I got a question for ya. What does this city know about luxury, huh? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well I’ll tell ya: more than most. You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction and the know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are. That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in the papers. The one being written by folks who’ve never even been here, who don’t know what we’re capable of. Because when it comes to luxury, it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for. Now we’re from America. But this isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City. Or Sin City. And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City. This is the Motor City. And this is what we do.”

Our professor asked us to write our own piece that started with the first sentence and ended with the last sentence of the commercial. We only had about 10 minutes, which was pure torture. I managed to grind out something I was halfway pleased with, but when I got home from my soccer game after class I decided I had to write it out to my complete satisfaction. Well, I say complete…I’m rarely 100% satisfied with my writing (Case in point: Since I posted this five minutes ago, I’ve already rewritten the previous sentence twice). But as my favorite prof says, “your writing might never be done, but it is due.” I decided after who knows how many months, my blog was due some new content. So here it is:

“I got a question for ya. What does a kid who grew up in the sticks know about the finer things in life? We’ll I’ll tell ya: more than most. You see, it’s you city folk who really missed out on a childhood. Yeah, y’all had fancy restaurants and tall buildings. A Starbucks on every corner and a patch of grass with some multi-million dollar jungle gym next door. But did you have a backyard that went on for miles? Have you ever known the freedom of being 8 years old and setting off to explore the woods with only your dog for company? Have you ever tried to ice skate with tennis shoes on your very own pond? Did you regularly roast marshmallows over a giant bonfire that your dad built with wood he chopped earlier that day? After a big snow, did your neighbor plow your gravel driveway with his tractor and expect nothing in return but a simple thanks and maybe one of your mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls? Add hard work and self-sufficiency and the touch of local pride that runs generations deep in every last one of us country kids. That’s who we are. That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve heard about us poor rednecks who are poor as dirt and twice as stupid. The one being told by folks who’ve never even been in a small town, who don’t know what we’re capable of. Because when it comes to living, it’s as much about where you’re from as where you’re going. Now we’re from America. But this isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City. Or any city. This is small town America. And this is what we do.”

Of course mine is way longer than the commercial. And I probably went a little overboard using the same wording as the commercial throughout my own version. But writing it made for a great end to my birthday. And who knows, maybe next time I’m visiting my parents in my hometown I’ll shoot some video and make my own commercial!

Posted in Nuttin' | 1 Comment

A question of significance

Warning: the following post veers into the political, which I usually avoid like the plague on this blog. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming next post.

Dear Don,

There I was minding my own business, sorting most of my mail into the recycling bin, when I came across your lovely direct mailer:

Don's Direct Mailer

Well congratulations Don, you’ve managed in one phrase to completely sum up why I normally hate when people talk about “women’s issues.” Perhaps you think taking the time to send me something outlining your stance on “issues that are significant to women” will sway my vote your way. Spoiler alert: you’re going to be disappointed.

You see Don, you actually have no freaking clue what issues are significant to me, much less how I feel about those issues. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the same is true for 98% of the women who received your lovely mailer. Maybe abortion is their top issue and they probably do support expanded family leave and equal pay. But guess what? Those aren’t the only things that are significant to them. Some of them are pretty worried about our national debt. To some, the environment is the most significant issue. For others, education has the most significance in their life. There’s a lot of significant stuff out there Don, and perhaps it comes as a shock to you, but some of it has absolutely nothing to do with gender. Believe it or not, we women don’t actually all get together and decide that there are only four standard issues we’re allowed to care about. In fact, we don’t even get together and decide which side to collectively take on the issues we do care about!

Next time maybe try telling me what issues are significant to you, instead of trying to tell me and every other woman what issues you think we should find significant based solely on our gender.

Sincerely,

A Woman Who Questions Your Significance

This rant is brought to you by the writing adrenaline rush Megan gets when people really annoy her.

Posted in That's Very Irksome | 2 Comments

Balloon Fiestas Past

Last year when my Mom and I went to the 2013 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Patrick Nilz offered us both the tremendous opportunity to fly with him. I can honestly say it was the most serene 15 minutes of my entire life.

After we left Albuquerque, I made a video about the two days we spent with the Nilz family hot air balloon crew. I had always planned on writing a big post about every amazing detail of the experience to go with the video, but somehow it never happened. Considering the fact that it has now been a year and I just got back in town for this year’s fiesta, I figured I should probably just throw this thing up. At the moment I’m so tired from my 18 straight hours of travel to get here today that any post I write would butcher the beauty of those two wonderful days.

Hopefully the video will make up for my lack of words to describe just how monumentally cool the whole thing turned out to be.

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The joys of taking the bus

I have been having car trouble for about two months now. I’m not going to go into that whole story because honestly it is a doozy of a blog post all on its own. Suffice it to say for the past two months, every morning when I got in my car I have had serious doubts about whether it would start. That has been problematic for many reasons, including:

  • I nanny so unlike other jobs, “my car wouldn’t start” is not a valid excuse for being late to work – especially when you are picking a 3-year-old up from preschool as I do every day at 11:50 a.m.
  • I speak the language of car repair about as well as I speak the language of hair stylists or the language of ancient Mesopotamia. When I take my car into the shop I know how to say hello and ask where the bathroom is and that is about it.
  • I can’t just leave my car at the shop during the week and even using a loaner car is not a great option because of the need to switch out two car seats and answer a million questions about the new car situation from kids. For those of you who don’t know, answering the question of a 3-year-old does not stop him from asking it again. And again. And again. And then coming up with 20 more variations of the question and asking them each about a dozen times. It is amazing the lengths one will go to to avoid this cycle of questions. Also the people at the school start to question if you’re actually the nanny when you keep showing up in different vehicles.

So the fact that I am flying out of town tomorrow and will be gone for six days seemed liked a golden opportunity for someone to finally figure out what the heck is wrong and maybe even, if the stars were truly aligned, actually fix it. Several places have tried and failed at this task already so I decided to take the recommendation of one of the dads I nanny for when he suggested his friend who is a mechanic. This meant dropping my car off at this guy’s service station tonight after my class got over at 7:30 and somehow finding my way home from there.

And that’s how I found myself standing in the dark, in the rain, in an unfamiliar place, waiting for a bus that I wasn’t sure would ever come.

Let me just start by saying that I am not a novice bus rider. When I moved five miles off campus without a car at the end of my sophomore year of college, I mastered the town’s bus system and spent two and a half years riding it at least twice a day. When I moved to DC without a job and was working for minimum wage at Target, you better believe I took the bus that was less than half the cost of the metro, even if I did have to wait on a semi-shady corner late at night sometimes.

The problem is, there is a huge difference between taking a certain bus that you are familiar with and trying to take a new-to-you bus for the first time. Buses are like people: each one is different, each one has its own quirks, each one takes a different path on its journey, and each one is operating on its own schedule – although they all make appointments they don’t keep.

Just like you can’t predict how a person will behave the first time you meet them, you never know just how a new bus works until after you’ve taken it a couple times. You may think you’ve done your research on the bus, but you can never understand how it really operates until you experience it for yourself.

So once I saw that the service station was about equidistant between two metro stops and not really walkable to either, I began mentally preparing myself for a super exciting new bus adventure. I thought I had accepted the fact that it was going to take forever to get home, but I still ended up underestimating just how long forever can be.

My troubles began when I got in my car at George Mason after class and realized that somehow my phone battery was down to 4%. Since I use my phone obsessively all day every day this is a regular occurrence, but I was a little worried because I knew I was going to need my GPS app just to get to the service station. It was a harrowing trip, but I pulled into the right place with my brave little battery hanging on at 1%. Sadly, this meant my ability to alleviate boredom was extremely diminished, which would play an important role in ramping up my frustration and impatience with the whole situation.

My only tiny beacon of hope at skipping the bus scenario was that someone at the service station would give me a ride to the metro. But when I showed up at 8 p.m. and saw that there was only one employee still there, that hope was extinguished. Scowling at the rain, I crossed the street and started walking down the block to where I thought I remembered the bus stop being when I had done my research online the night before.

Then something that is so rare as to be considered a miracle happened: just as I approached the intersection where the stop was supposed to be, I saw a bus approaching. Perhaps the gods favored me after all! I started jogging and frantically looking around for the bus stop sign. I sprinted towards what I thought was it and got there just as the bus pulled up.

And kept going.

A closer inspection of the “sign” revealed that it was in fact a crosswalk signal. In my haste to get there in time, I had run right past the actual bus stop and blew my one chance at an easy ride home. Getting there just in time to watch your bus drive by is so much worse than missing it by several minutes: it’s the sharp, lingering, self-critical pain that comes from having a miracle be snatched right out of your hands and being left to wonder where you went wrong. Of course in this case I knew exactly where I went wrong and was left to wonder how I could have been such an idiot.

Thus began the wait. In the dark. In the rain. I was soon joined by several others, all who were clearly much more experienced in this bus system than me. All I could think was where were these people 10 minutes before when I needed them to be here so the bus would stop? After about 20 minutes I got desperate enough to try and wave down a cab – and for how much I hate cabs in every way that is possible to hate them, that is VERY desperate. Of course each of the five or so cabs that passed by could sense my hatred and desperation, not to mention my poor hailing technique, and therefore refused to stop.

Waiting for the next bus when you’re not sure when it’s supposed to come is kind of like looking for water in the desert (Okay, without the threat of a slow death by thirst – unless you count my thirst to be home). When you know when the next bus is coming you can relax, have a seat (that is if the bench isn’t soaked from rain), pull out your phone (that is if the battery isn’t dead). When it could come at any second you are constantly on high alert, shifting around for the best view, and jumping when someone else moves in a way that might indicate they have seen it.

All you can do is squint and peer into the distance for as far as you can see, trying to catch a tiny glimpse of that oasis. After a while, you start to see them even when they aren’t there. After waiting at that stop for about 30 minutes, I could have sworn that every single pair of headlights headed in my direction belonged to a bus – until they got about 100 feet away and I noticed they belonged to a Honda Civic.

About 50 minutes after seeing that first bus pass me by, the next one finally came. I got on and barely suppressed the urge to laugh hysterically when the bus stopped and waited for an extra minute just to make sure they weren’t leaving anyone behind.

Happily I did experience a different kind of transportation miracle later that night: I caught the metro with no wait on a weeknight! Two hours and 15 minutes after I left school, I’m home and can finally get started on that packing thing. Sadly, I have to be at the airport tomorrow at 5 a.m., before the metro even starts running.

I already called a cab.

Posted in That's Very Irksome | 1 Comment

Why I blog

When I started blogging again (you know, about a week and a half ago), I promised myself I would make every effort to post once a week. That really doesn’t seem like that big of a commitment, right? I used to blog every day! Yet here I am, looking at a calendar and discovering it has in fact been seven days since my last post. Time sure flies when you’re in grad school and working full time, even when having fun is not always involved. So you’ll have to excuse me if this post is even more stream of consciousness than usual.

This afternoon I finished a project for one of my classes looking at how my perspective on writing was (and continues to be) formed compared to how a particular teenager’s perspective on writing was (and continues to be) formed. One of the questions that we were to consider was what we believed the purposes of writing to be. In thinking over my answer, I gained a ton of new insight and self-reflections on why I write and what I’m trying to accomplish when I write. Here’s the list I came up with of my main purposes:

I write…

  • To force myself to think through my ideas
  • To communicate my thoughts and emotions in a deliberate way
  • To sway other people’s interests or opinions
  • To create art and beauty

As I mentioned in the presentation, the very best blog posts I’ve written accomplished all four of these things at once. Right this second as I type, I’m realizing that there’s another big purpose I forgot: to entertain. I want people to enjoy reading my blog so I spend time (the amount varying from a fair amount to a crapton) trying to make my posts entertaining. Well great. Now I’ve gone and thought of something cool to add and I’ve already turned it in! As my new favorite professor says, projects are due but never done.

This whole thought process coincides with the reasons why I decided to start blogging again. I want to be a great high school English teacher and a big part of that is helping my students to build their writing identities. Each one will be unique, but I want them all to in some way be creative, thoughtful, organized, confident, personal, flexible, and resilient. I want students to leave my classes knowing and being proud of who they are as writers.

That is no small task, but I think it starts with me knowing and being proud of who I am as a writer. How else can I do that but by writing myself on a regular basis?

So that’s the deep, profound answer to why I started blogging again. Also, I just really love it. For me, blogging is one of those things that you somehow get out of the habit of doing and then when you do it again you are like MAN! THIS IS AMAZING! Why don’t I do this every day?!? It’s right up there with soccer in being the best natural high I know. And blogging doesn’t even leave me out of breath or bathed in my own sweat (usually). So there’s another reason why I write – to bring myself joy (I really should have written this post before I submitted my project).

This is why I’m determined to somehow carve out an hour or two per week to do this blogging thing. That will bring the number of activities I do outside of work and school up to three. In the time it took me to write the last sentence I had automatically categorized each of those three activities into different type of outlets: blogging is creative, soccer is physical, having dinner with Cecily is social. Folks, this is what reading adolescent development and psychology textbooks will do to your brain.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go write an entire mock lesson plan and read five freakishly long chapters…

Posted in Becoming a Teacher, Writing | 2 Comments