Thursday, January 18, 2018

What NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—Taught Me

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In November, I committed to NaNoWriMo—to write a book in a month or less.  I’d had an image in my mind for a long time of two characters in conversation.  I often fell asleep thinking about them, but I never explored their story beyond that.  I always just kept it for myself. 

But in November of 2017, I wanted to know more.  I knew it was NaNoWriMo, that month when writers are crazy enough to try to write an entire book in a month.  It’s an easy thing to say one is going to do, but nothing short of exhausting to complete, especially when time seems to slip away like a melting ice cream cone.  But I wanted to know their story, and I chose NaNoWriMo to have them tell it to me from beginning to end.  I’d tried it before, but never finished, sometimes never got started good.  Would I finish it this time?

I started with the scene I’d envisioned so many times,  and it ended up being several pages in.  I committed to writing every single day whether the characters were speaking up, telling me their story (in which I wrote upwards of 4,000 words a day) or not (in which it was a struggle to get 700+ words).  It was nearly impossible to miss a day because if I did, that would be double the work the day after.  I made the choice to just do it and had to make sacrifices, sometimes, with that choice.  I was teaching three classes online where I would have fifteen new essays to grade every few days.  And Connor and Lydia were still my first priority and so taking care of them—whether it was getting them to school or picking them up, taking them to lessons or appointments, remembering school responsibilities, due dates, helping with homework, reading stories or making art together—took precedence.  Then there was the everyday domestic work of cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  Oh, and we volunteer to teach Sunday School once a month for our church and we hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year.

I had to make sacrifices.  There were a lot of nights I didn’t get a lot of sleep, days I didn’t go for my daily run because I made the choice to write instead.  I’d be falling asleep writing, my carpal tunnel killing me, bones aching and nauseated because I’ve been awake and pushing my body for too long—it’s not easy, but the feeling after is nothing short of wonderful.  It’s like after a run—wonderfully exhausting. 

But despite the exhaustion and sacrifices, something this called to mind and reminded me of from when I had a lot of time to write is that it’s freeing, also.  You write every day, you stay with the characters in their minds, in their stories, you go with the ideas that come next and sometimes (not always) those are the best because they’re your first instinct and more often than not, first instinct is best. 

I’m usually thoughtful after I write.  I need time to think and process and maybe just dwell with my characters a little so something I learned, also, is that night time is a good time for me to write because when I’m done, I can set my laptop aside, lay down and just let these thoughts open up in my mind before sleeping and then when I get up the next day, I’m fresh enough to look over what I’ve written with new eyes or have thought enough about it to be ready to start the next scene.

So, writing every day (no matter how tired I am) and at night has been a new goal, a 2018 resolution if you will.  It won’t be easy, with teaching a new class, taking two, learning a new job and still keeping up with best thing that ever happened to me J .  But, it’ll be wonderfully exhausting.  I can’t write a book in a month (maybe next November, though), but  every day—even if it’s a little.  

Saturday, October 14, 2017


*October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month.

I lost our first child on May 29, 2010.  The date is ingrained in my memory because it was two days before Memorial Day.  It was a Saturday, and the cramps and the bleeding started early.  I probably would have thought it was my period overdue if I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test weeks earlier and excitedly presented it to my husband in a box as a five-year anniversary present.  But, I knew the truth.  My body was busy creating a life, and I convinced myself of what the books told me—that what I was feeling was simple growing pains and spotting associated with early pregnancy. 

But, they—the blood and the pain—were too much, I realized later that afternoon.  Something was wrong.  I told Mark we need to go to the ER.  We had no choice.  It was Saturday, and my doctor’s office was closed.

We were quiet on the way to the hospital, listening to Stevie Nicks’ lovely and haunting song “Rhiannon” on the radio.  She’s always been one of my favorite singers, and I listened to the song as I hadn’t before, about a woman taken by the sky, and I began to think of my baby that I was willing to stay inside of me as Rhiannon.

“Well, I don’t see anything that looks like a pregnancy,” the ultrasound tech said two hours later as she squinted at the screen before us.  She was tired, cranky, and ill-equipped to give the news. 
I was quiet as I stared at the black screen that showed my womb.  Maybe she was right.  The bleeding hadn’t stopped and the cramps were still ballooning—made worse by the catheter and ice cold water emptied into my bladder so she could stick a wand inside of me to get a clear view of my uterus. 
But if she was right, why was the pregnancy test they’d done when I first got there positive?  I clung to the thought of it—my one little rope as I dangled off the side of the Empire State Building. 
It took days to know for sure.  Hours later, a tired, gray-haired doctor came in and said there appeared to be something still inside my womb, but that they’d need to do a blood test in a couple of days to see if my HCG levels had dropped (meaning I’d lost the baby) or if they remained steady (I was still pregnant).

So, we went home without news and on Memorial Day, I went in and watched while they stuck a needle in my arm and drew blood.  Then we went to a barbeque joint and ate sandwiches, continuing to lie to ourselves about good news to come.  At least the bleeding and cramps had stopped.
I was at work when the nurse called me.  She was kind and quiet as she told me the HCG numbers had gone down.  She never said the words “miscarriage” or “lost pregnancy.”  I wondered how often she was burdened with delivering news like that to someone. 

My bosses were accommodating, one of them having lost a baby, herself.  They offered me time off work, put up signs to say my classes were cancelled due to illness.  When I was able to get back in front of the class to teach them composition skills they’d take with them, one student said, brightly, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

I stared at her a second too long.  They didn’t know, and they never would.  Grief, I’ve always felt, is a most personal emotion, something one must feel alone before sharing it, and my grief was alive and well where Rhiannon had once been.  It was mine, and mine alone.  I thanked my student, and began my lesson for the day.

Connor saw me through the mountain of losing Rhiannon, and he was with me when we found out we were pregnant for a third time.  It was a surprise, but a happy one.  I only stilled when the ultrasound tech told us the due date: January 19, the same date Rhiannon had been due. 
But that stillness eventually gave way to joy when we heard the baby’s heartbeat and saw on the monitor little movements from the tiny baby curled into a ball.  We took those priceless first pictures with us, and I proudly showed them to my co-worker, one of only a few people who knew this little sweet secret.  I suggested the name January to Mark, and he liked it. 

In the early stages of pregnancy, one goes in for checkups about once a month.  When I went in for my second, the doctor ran the little portable monitor over my still-flat stomach.  And he couldn’t hear a thing.  He was kind, told me everything should be fine, but that he was sending me down the hall to the ultrasound room because he was having just a bit of trouble finding the heartbeat. 

A bit of trouble. 

I gathered my things and went down the hall where I sat on a bench.  I’d worn pink that day—a faded top and earrings.  It was a subconscious decision but was it a premonition?  Was this baby a girl?  I prayed that she (or he) was fine, the way I’d frantically pray in math class the day we got tests back. 

“I’m sorry,” the tech said as she removed the wand, the same kind that the previous tech had used to tell me she didn’t see a pregnancy.  I hate those wands. 

The doctor called it a missed miscarriage as I sat across from him in his office minutes later.  Just like that, January was gone.  He or she had died peacefully, nestled in my womb, but my body had trouble believing it, just as my mind did at that moment, and therefore still carried my child inside of me, still released hormones that made my emotions and breasts sensitive.
I accepted the doctor’s hug and looked at the floor as enormously pregnant women discreetly looked my way, probably curious as to why I was in silent tears, probably correctly guessing why, and most likely grateful it wasn’t them.

I was still holding Connor when  Mark came in with Papa John’s pizza and cheese sticks—my favorite—for dinner hours later, this one little thing he felt he could do to help me out.  We’d had Papa John’s for dinner at one a.m. after our emergency room visit two years prior, I’d considered.

A few days later I went in to have a dilation and curettage.  It was still dark when I arrived at the same wing of the hospital where I’d had Connor.   The nurses were kind, speaking in kind of hushed tones as they stuck a needle in my arm and wheeled me to a room I hadn’t been to in my visit before.  It was all white and lights, colder and more sterile than the room where I’d had Connor.  I hadn’t had a reason to be in this room before.  This was a place to lose a child, not to have one.
I watched the ceiling as they pushed the medicine into the needle in my hand and when I awoke, January was gone.  I mumbled through sleep and anesthesia, asking if they could tell whether it was a boy or a girl.  The nurse shook her head sadly as she helped me off the bed.  She probably had to answer that question a lot. 

That night and for several nights after, I fell asleep on a pallet in Connor’s room, right next to him, and we ate a lot of takeout.  I returned to work a few days later and found some peace lilies on my desk.  The grief wasn’t mine, alone, this time, though it did linger with me for a long time, just like it had with Rhiannon.

It took my body a long time to readjust, too.  This pregnancy wasn’t released, like before, but rather taken from me, and so the weight gain and the hormones, the sensitivity, and the pain, both physical and emotional, stayed right where they were for a long time.
Until one day they weren’t.  I eventually began cooking for my family again.  I went jogging like I used to.  I saw movies with Mark, read novels, took Connor to the park and out for ice cream, worked on my new stories. 

And about eight months later, I was pregnant with my sweet Lydia.

So, we never got to meet Connor and Lydia’s siblings.  Those prayers went unanswered, but God did answer my prayers about Connor and Lydia, proving that He knows, of course He knows, what He’s doing.  We’ll get to meet them eventually. 

It’ll just be a little later than I’d originally hoped. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Truth and Beauty

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about beauty in fiction.  When I was a college writer, I always felt the need to have something stand out physically about my characters to make them beautiful or handsome.  Usually, it was gorgeous eyes.  But, as the saying goes, I digress.  I guess it’s a given in romantic fiction a lot of times that one or both of the main characters are attractive.  But the reason I’ve been thinking so much about this topic lately is probably the current book I’m reading called The Chosen.  In this book, there is an anti-hero (okay, a former villain) warrior named Xcor who is on the road to redemption if he can survive the many who are out to kill him.  He is in love with a woman named Layla who, with long, wavy blonde hair and jade-green eyes is, yes, described as incredibly beautiful.  But the thing is, Xcor is not.  He is scarred and was born with a cleft palate.  His father disowned him at birth because of this and he is so repulsed by his own appearance that when he first meets Layla, he only allows her to see him in shadow.  He is not the only one revolted by his appearance.  Maybe it’s because he’s initially a villain, but many characters describe him as ugly.  

However, when the narrative switches to Layla’s point of view, she never once shies away or turns her face from his.  She sees nothing wrong with his appearance, is attracted to him, even, after talking with him and the more time they spend together, the more she falls in love with him.  In essence, she sees what others do not.  There is a moment when, after lovemaking, she reflects on the idea of beauty.  She thinks about how Xcor would not allow her to see him even during that act (as in, lights out), but later, the way he looked at her and talked to her made her feel—you guessed it—more beautiful than she ever had.  But, her observation didn’t stop at this.  She goes on to explore these feelings more deeply and arrives at the conclusion that beauty is a state of mind.  No one else made her feel the way Xcor did, and she’d been around a lot of handsome men who’d told her she was beautiful.  In the end, it was he, a man described as repulsive, who unlocked the idea of true beauty in her.  And likewise what she saw when she looked at him was beautiful. 

I suppose it’s only fitting that when she told him she loved him for the first time, it was while looking directly at him, in full light.  It seems there’s a certain theme running through this book, huh? And I must say, the more I read Xcor, the more I am inside his head, the more attractive I find him.

There’s another character in the same series of books called Rhage and the man is so good-looking that all of his friends nicknamed him “Hollywood.”  No joke.  I was a little bored in the beginning of his story because I found him just a little one-dimensional.  What changed it for me, though, were two scenes in the novel.  First, when he is instantaneously attracted to a woman named Mary, a woman who others see as plain.  But not Rhage.  He sees her cloudy gray eyes as gunmetal gray; he describes her brown hair as mahogany; her makeup-free face holds an expression of strength and a secret hurt he needs to know.  Bottom line, he sees past what others see and that is what is attractive about him.  Second, when Mary asks him why he chooses to do such a dangerous job rather than capitalizing on his looks (like modeling or something of that nature), he has a succinct answer: that he’d rather be useful than decorative.  Nice.  He won me over, and not with his looks.  That ended up being a bonus that is enhanced by the attractive soul he carries inside. 

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I could go on with other examples in my mind, but it’s probably not necessary.  My topic today is hardly groundbreaking, as true beauty, most people already know, lies within.  I read a Facebook post a few months ago that talked about how a person’s real, inner beauty is reflected when they are doing something they love or maybe something they’re good at doing.  Layla’s love for Xcor and his love for her made her realize what beauty really is, and made her see what no one else did—in herself as well as within him.  I thought about her saying beauty is a state of mind when I read that Facebook post, and how I feel best when I’m writing, which is what I love to do.  When I’m writing, I don’t think about my fading hair, the lines around my eyes and mouth, the extra pounds on my hips and thighs—all the things I see when I look in the mirror.  I feel good, the same way I feel when I’m having fun with my kids or reading a good book. 

State of mind.

As I close, I’ll do so with something my favorite undergraduate writing professor once told me—she said that I don’t have to create beautiful characters to make my readers like them.  Just give them a few interesting traits and readers will fall for them.  In the end, that’s why I found Xcor, Layla, and Rhage interesting—as much inner beauty as all have, they have their interesting flaws as well (Xcor has a dark past haunting him, Rhage is a womanizer, and Layla has some pretty hefty secrets), and those flaws as much as their inner beauty kept going back for more on their stories.  And it’s something I find myself working toward in my own characters—giving them those interesting traits inside, not outside; seeing their truth, not just their beauty.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Winter is Coming

I’m so excited for people to finally see Winter Rain!  It was a story that took a while to write, and I always used to say that the reason for that was that my characters were a little shy.  That’s the way I think of my stories—my characters tell them to me and I write them down.  But as I found my way through the story of Winter Rain, I discovered that the sometimes difficult road it led me down had nothing to do with shyness. 

The story centers on Isabel, a gifted but shy musician and singer who is called back for a reunion with Shiloh Ridge, the band she played with six years earlier.  She is hesitant to go back, as are other band members, and through a series of flashbacks, it becomes evident as to why.

When she initially landed a gig playing with Shiloh Ridge, Isabel was almost immediately drawn to Spencer, the most rugged and talented in the band, and he to her.  They shared a moment together in which they dance slowly at a party thrown by Thomas, the band’s lead singer, and learn they have much more in common than music.  However, before their relationship can even take shape, Thomas makes a claim over her, even teasing her (maybe) by telling her he’ll hire her if she goes out with him.

This was the easy part, probably because it was the romantic part.  The ideas were coming fast and strong, like they do when we’re telling a good story we like to someone.  The building friendship and attraction between Spencer and Isabel, their first romantic meeting, was enjoyable to tell, so it wasn’t difficult.  It was fun.  I loved it, just like I loved the characters.  All good things must come to an end, however, and Isabel Spencer, and Thomas’s story was no exception.

Isabel tries to like Thomas while unbeknownst to her, he begins cheating on her with an ex-girlfriend.  Meanwhile, the friendship and attraction between her and Spencer grows.  But Thomas isn’t giving Isabel up without a fight.  His intense jealousy at Spencer’s natural musical talent makes him all the more possessive of Isabel and leads to a confrontation that renders each of them forever changed. 

This is where the story became difficult to write.  I knew something bad had happened between these three people, bad enough for them to separate without the thought of seeing one another again, but . . . what was it?  I didn’t know, and the characters weren’t telling me.

Tragic things are sometimes harder to talk about.  I can’t help thinking about a scene in the film Frankie & Johnny, when Michelle Pfeiffer is trying to tell Al Pacino about what her ex-husband did to her.  She begins, but can’t get the words out, only tears and hand gestures to imply her devastating past.  Long story short, he is patient with her, understands, and because he does, and so do the viewers. 

In the end, that’s the way I think of Isabel and Spencer.  It wasn’t that they were too shy to tell me what had happened years before, it was that it was difficult, maybe too difficult to get the words out right away and what was needed on my part was patience.  I’m glad I had it (like I had a choice! J), because once they told me what happened to tear them apart, I fully understood.  The trouble was, could time and the unburdening of painful secrets heal them enough to bring them back together? 

My hope was that they would.  As with many of my characters, I fell in love with them and if I told their story in a way that gives it justice, I feel as though my readers will, too. 

Happy reading, whether it’s my book or another!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Lovely Moment

 Hi there . . . remember me?  Yeah, I know it’s been a long while and another long day of teaching that’s worn me down in more ways than one--a primary reason I haven’t been able to post in a while, but that’s another blog for another day.  Right now, I just want to write about something that made me smile for a bit.

I just heard the 70’s song, “Dreamweaver” on the radio.  It was never a song that I particularly loved (though I liked it well enough) until recently, and the reason is because of a novel I read last year and loved.  And when I heard it this time, I was immediately taken back to that lovely story.

The novel centers on a young woman named Mary who has just learned that the leukemia she’d survived years ago might be back.  At the same time, a wonderful and handsome man has come into her life, almost not taking no for an answer when he asks her out.  Not wanting to scare him away with her possibly tragic news, but not sure if she’s ready for a relationship, either, Mary decides to keep the burden of her sickness inside and take a chance on going out with him, just once.  She feels this small escape might do her even the smallest amount of good.     

When the man, Rhage, picks her up in his 1970s muscle car and escorts her like the gentleman he is, she is filled almost to the brim with sadness, anger and worry over the possibility of her leukemia returning.  But as he starts the engine and begins to drive to the restaurant where he made reservations to take her, Mary describes the song, “Dreamweaver” as coming through the speakers.  

As he drives and the song plays, she closes her eyes, tells him to go faster, puts down her window and lets the cool evening air blow her hair all around.  And for a fleeting moment, Rhage takes her away from everything that is troubling her even if he doesn’t know it.  He’s given her a precious gift, a brief moment of reprieve a moment that is one of the most lovely in the book.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When a Movie is Almost Good

I haven’t watched many movies lately, but one that kept nagging at me recently was the remake of Point Break.  Now, before I get started, let me just say that I’ve heard and read all of the reviews of it and I know how bad they were.  I was already let down by that because I love (LOVE) the first Point Break and so, despite the reviews, I had to see the remake.  I felt like I owed it to the first one and myself as a moviegoer.  And, I admit, sometimes if a film is very poorly reviewed, that piques my interest—weird, I know, but what can I say?  So, here it goes. 

The film opens with fantastic views of two men on dirt bikes in the desert.  They’re evaluating a daring stunt that ultimately turns out tragic for one of them and leaves the other, Johnny Utah (played here by Luke Bracey, Keanu Reeves in the original), scarred for life and feeling responsible.  Right away, I see that this film is going to be a lot of style and a little substance (sigh).  The acting is only average, the writing, probably slightly below and the scene transitions quickly, possibly a little too quickly to seven years later.  We don’t get a chance to fully take in what has just happened and what it has done to our protagonist, and this is a theme that is resonating throughout.  I’ll explain more about that later.

We next see Utah training to work as a Field Agent for the FBI.  He is studying the FBI’s most recent headache: a series of fantastic robberies carried out in death-defying capacity by daredevils who distribute the stolen goods to the less fortunate.  A former motor cross star and extreme athlete, Utah immediately comes to the conclusion that the robbers are, too.  His instructor has a few lines before simply saying “Okay,” and taking this rookie’s word, giving him a gun, and a pass to seek out these Robin Hood-like thrill seekers.  Not sure if that would be policy, but the plot has to keep moving somehow.

Utah finds himself in France and in a matter of a couple of short, choppy scenes, is surfing waves in the middle of the ocean during a competition while people party and watch from an immense yacht.  The scenery and cinematography is absolutely gorgeous here, but the focus is too much on the action and for too long.  There are a couple of other skydiving and rock-climbing scenes where this takes place again.  The scenery is beautiful, but I can only look at it so long before I want story, characterization, and depth.

Back to the surfing scene in the ocean, it becomes choppy and confusing again when focusing on story because the next thing we know, Johnny is underwater, faint and clearly about to drown until we see an unknown dark angel pull him from the depths and bring him back.  There is a similar scene in the original but it is a woman, Tyler (Lori Petty), who saves Johnny.  Here, it is none other than Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze in the original, Edgar Ramirez here) who saves Johnny’s life.  We are briefly introduced to Bodhi, who is still an ocean-washed, philosophical surfer in this remake, but played very differently by Edgar Ramirez, who, I believe, is the best part of this remake.   

The writing, as I mentioned, is not great, but Ramirez does the best job with what he is given.  There is a seriousness to his stare, an intensity in his eyes, a lovely inflection in his Venezuelan accent.  He is intelligent, grave, and confident.  I believed him as someone these men would follow, as someone anyone would be drawn to.  I just wish there had been more to his scenes to get to know him better.  Most of his lines are philosophical in nature, and short at that. 

On the flip side, Utah is not nearly as serious as he was portrayed in the original, and I think that was one thing that was lacking with him. 

Now to the love interest.  Tyler was the original.  She was tough, straightforward, didn’t buy into Bodhi’s philosophies, and believed “big wave-riding is for macho assholes with a death wish.”  In other words, she carried a logic of her own.  Here, the female is given a more exotic name of Samsara.  She hangs around Bodhi and the rest, takes part in big wave riding and with her long, flowing hair and dive from the highest part of a yacht into an ocean at night, she has an ethereal, gracefulness about her.  Johnny, of course, is immediately smitten.  What is her part in this?  Well, that’s another thing I like about this remake.  Later, after another bank heist in which most of Bodhi’s friends are killed by Johnny and his fellow agents, it is discovered that Samsara was working with Bodhi the whole time.  She not only bought into Bodhi’s philosophies, she worked with him.  She might very well have been his lover, still, but that is not something the film delves into and I wish it had.  It would have deepened her character, made her part in the robbery clearer and, I think, more appealing.  But, we will never know.

The film ends much like the original does, with Utah allowing Bodhi to surf into a magnificent storm to his death instead of facing trial for his crimes, but again, choppy dialogue and scenes that focus too much on style get in the way. 

The film had a few good points—like I said, the different take on the love interest was appealing and Edgar Ramirez is worth watching, but the intense focus on scenery and style far overshadowed what the story could have been, thereby proving that too much of something can be just that—too much.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Getting Back (or trying to get back) in the Saddle Again

Well, I knew these first few weeks of teaching, starting school, and Connor starting a new school were going to be tough, and it looks like I wasn’t wrong.  This past week has perfectly illustrated that point.  Day 1: not bad, considering it consisted mostly of a meeting, me bustling around getting decals, IDs, books, figuring out where I was going to park my car so I don’t get towed or fined, finding my classrooms, making sure my syllabi printed correctly (two typos on one—argh!), figuring out the new printer and new copier.  But, all of that worked out, just the stress (and standing out in the sun waiting to get a decal and ID) gave me a migraine for my very first face-to-face class, leaving me to gobble Ibuprofen, down coffee, and sniff my Young Living M-Grain oil until it dulled enough for me to coherently speak to a group of expectant faces about what to expect of me and my class.  Luckily enough, the Ibuprofen, coffee, and M-Grain came through and I made it through my first couple of classes.  My second went even better—I planned a good lesson consisting of watching a couple of small videos, a writing prompt and group work, and discussion—I the same for this class as I was the previous day, so I didn’t sweat it.  I probably should have.  Class started well enough (not that it can really go wrong taking roll and explaining changes to the schedule, I guess).  But then, as the students got started working on their writing assignment, I started to boot up the computer and find the videos I wanted to show, only . . . nothing was happening.  Despite continuously pressing the power button and checking the plug-ins and mentally cursing the machine, I was consistently met with a blank screen.  Nothing.  Nada.  I checked the controls.  They were locked behind a screen, but they looked on and working.  Little lights were on, anyway.  Okay.  The kids finished their work, I put them into their groups to discuss their prompts while I tried a little longer.  Ten minutes later the kids had moved on from discussing their work to chitchatting and I was no closer to booting up that machine than I was to winning the Pulitzer Prize.  Okay, so this is why I went into English instead of Computer Science.  Well, I had to accept the fact that my lesson was NOT going to go as planned.  I wouldn’t be able to show them the videos I had worked over an hour to find—and was proud of myself for finding—and started up the class discussion.  Needless to say, the trip and distraction that technology gave me that morning led to a stumble in my discussion and though it may not have been as bad as I think it was, I still verbally felt like Otis Campbell on The Andy Griffith Show, trying as best I could to find my footing while I stumbled all over creation.  I wasn’t as articulate and didn’t say some of the things I was proud of saying the day before because my mind had gotten distracted and tripped.  I felt like I’d let my students down.  Plus, I was greeted with bored looks and someone so eloquently saying “This sucks,” when I handed out the first essay assignment.  At least it ended well, with students signing up for conferences for their essay, and I determined from my department head what to do when technology fails me once again.  So, back in a positive frame of mind, I re-learned what I can and should do and I was ready for the next part of the day.  I picked up the kids, only to be told at our next stop not once, but twice, by two different people, that parking was prohibited where I'd tried to park.  Okay, now normally this would not bother me--everyone makes simple mistakes.  I smiled, apologized twice, and said I would remember that for future reference but internally, I couldn’t believe I’d made yet another error.  So, after a little stress-cry that I kept from the kids, I felt a little clearer and knew that it wasn’t just one thing, but multiple things that had added up.  I’ve taken on a lot in a short amount of time, and the things I’ve taken on are not easy and require a lot of time and energy.  And also, I’m at the beginning—in new places, with new people, new rules, and a new schedule (and new technology).  That can be daunting.  The terrain is unfamiliar right now—I don’t always see the bumps or cracks in the road, so hitting a few are inevitable.  And I will probably hit a few more, but that’s okay.  The longer I travel this new road, the more familiar and comfortable I will become.  I’ll learn (I hope!).