One Down, Five to Go

I have successfully concluded my first quarter. And, while my grades won’t be officially submitted until next week, I have reason to believe I’m getting A’s and a B. In January I would have sworn to you I was doomed for D’s, so it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Registration is done for next quarter and my schedule is… expedient. I am going to take classes I enjoy, but one will be interesting. I’m not looking forward to a debate class. My husband almost fell off the couch laughing when he heard I’d signed up for one. If nothing else it should be a source of amusement at my expense, but I’ll live with that. Awkward human brings forth awkward humor.

On a completely different note, I am watching The Flash on Netflix and I am genuinely enjoying the storytelling. The cast is fantastic, they have a great style and energy. The storytelling is complex, which you could expect, both from a superhero point of view and a timey-wimey point of view. Time travel always opens so many cans of worms at the same time, the complexity is easy to mess up. They are doing a fine job with it, though.

Things are going well on the writing front. Finals week took out my momentum at the knees, but as I approach Spring Break I have days devoted to finishing Typhon. Finding time and space to read out loud without bothering people has been challenging, so I’ve been working on other projects while I wait for break. I am working on a strange marriage of a sci-fi setting and an epic fantasy. I like where the story is going, but I’m worried about the voice. It doesn’t have the stylized speech patterns of an epic fantasy, which it did when I first started the work. On the other hand, the story is solid, so perhaps the stylized fantasy aspect was holding me back from finishing the piece. Ah, the life of a writer. Much like the complex storytelling aspects of time travel, if you’re going to try to work in two genres, you’d better be prepared to get both genres right. If you can’t write Pern, you’d better stick to one gun or the other.

But now, I must go. My son’s coding club is having an open house for parents today, and I’m going to investigate. He’s had so much fun in this club, we’re going to miss it while it’s on break!

Onward Spring

Last week the snowpocalypse showed up, snowing in my husband, my son, and me. My husband constantly physical, and being indoors for seven days was a trial. My son does love video games, and we took him to play outside, but after such a long time even he was missing school. My school, which never closes, was closed for three days, and my teachers cancelled classes even on some of the days the school was open. I was ready for a change of scene by the end of the week myself.

I’m going through some big shifts this first quarter at university. For starters, my grades aren’t where they’ve been at Whatcom. It’s frustrating, going from a school where I was on the Dean’s list to belly-flopping in the grade pool of Western. It’s also motivating me to find new ways to student. I’ve been blessed with a husband who knows many forms of getting information drilled into your head. He’s been coaching me along, giving me good suggestions for how to study more effectively.

Learning new techniques has been helpful. It’s also taught me a lot about what a good student really is, compared to what I thought being a good student was. I’ve had to face up to my prejudices and the standards I’ve held myself to, then take a step back and recognize that my old standards were crazy high and needed to be reset.

The time management has also become a thing – my schoolwork requires more time, which means that there’s less time for my son, my husband, and my house. I keep reminding myself that sacrifices would have to be made to get through school. This isn’t supposed to be forever, after all.

This does however put a shift in my blogging, as well, as I usually write about what happens to me, and currently there isn’t much going on with me outside of school and home. I don’t even have much time to write, which is ironic. I still try to make time to write, despite my challenges.

I took a walk with Toby yesterday. It was fifty degrees and felt balmy compared to the cold we’d had the week before. The sun was out, and we managed to see signs of spring. The lilac leaves were budding, and it looked like the willows were sprouting forth their fuzzy white buds. One neighbor had just mown his lawn, and the smell was divine. Seeing signs of life amidst the winter bracken gave me some hope that the next season would be coming quickly, with new sights and new stories.

Tetris, author edition

Today was insane, and an excellent example of how my days run currently. It’s all a balancing act of school and home. I had a huge pile of homework and a huge pile of housework and then of course I had to play Legos with my son because kids need attention too. My car had to go to the shop and I rented a car for the first time in my life.

I took a test today, and I estimate a high ‘B’ but we’ll see what the prof says. I always prefer to do better than a B but with the day I had today, I think a B will be outstanding.

University is a lot harder than community college. Of course, I’m a junior now (OMG) and 300 level courses are supposed to be harder than 200 level. I’m just feeling the level up this time around.

It’s a challenge to find a time to work on my writing. Even though this is the end result, wanting to do that for the rest of my life, there are so many obstacles to getting it done. Working and moonlighting as an author was easier. The take-home work is insane at university. I spend a lot of time on it. I had to read a Shakespearean play, a chapter on phonology, and study for a test today.

What’s gratifying is that this work seems to be paying off. Allie, a friend and colleague, pointed out the difference between my prior work and what I’m doing now at the last writer’s group, and it was good to be acknowledged, and to see that these hours spent are hours that are worthwhile.

Of course, there’s always the blog itself, which keeps me from writing my novels. However, I enjoy writing up blog posts. They are much faster than crafting a novel, or even a short story. They can be dashed off, which is sometimes a necessary form of writing. They clear the mind for deeper work.

I have so much going on, that it is difficult to find time to do anything else. I feel lucky that I can find time here or there to talk to a friend on the phone, or maybe my parents. I am worried that I’ll burn out before I make it to the prize.

Balancing my schedule requires a finesse one expects from playing high-level Tetris. Every day I try to find a way to work on my writing, but sometimes one just has to accept that they’ve been given a long piece when they needed a square.

 

 

High Note

We’ve almost made it through another year, and everyone is resetting. Everyone is looking at the new year as a new hope, and they’re trying to be positive. This is why I love the new year. I love it more than Christmas, more than any other holiday. Because at the end of the day, people are looking forward to something, whatever that might be for them.

Yes, bad things happened this year. A lot to celebrities that I respected died. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, Prince, and David Bowie. Advocates like Carrie Fischer. And honestly, celebrities I just felt attached too, like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. We live in a world where everyone is so visible to us. I am glad that I will have albums to listen to with Leonard’s rich, velvety voice when I feel sad. I am glad that I have Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m glad that I have Star Wars on Blu-ray. They are permanent reminders.

The new year is a time to take stock, to see where we are as we begin a new year. It feels like so little has gone right this year. However, when I looked back on it, I realized there are things to be proud of or happy for.

  • I graduated from college with my AA degree, after making straight A’s for the school year
  • I am staying on my path and headed for a Bachelor’s degree next
  • My relationship with Toby has improved
  • My husband’s construction company is growing
  • I wrote a book this year! It’s the next installment of The Gray Hat series and I’m excited to see it moving to the editing stage.
  • I had a wonderful talk with my editor regarding my next steps for my career

I’m sure there are more positive things, but it’s more usual to get lost in the day-to-day of managing life; appointments, maintenance, responsibilities. Not everything stands out but I know I’ve had more than a few good days this year.

Which is why it’s good to take a moment and look back and appreciate the good.

Winter Break

It has not happened in a long time, but this year my birthday was snowed out. Or, snowed in, I should say, as both my husband and my son had to stay home from work and school respectively. I’m on winter break, but doubtless my school would have closed, too.

The first day was fun. My menfolk played video games and entertained themselves while I wrote my newest installment for the Sanguinarian serial. Then Tuesday rolled around and my son’s school was closed again. My husband went out to brave the ice in my car instead of his truck, leaving us stuck to our own devices.

Eventually I bundled both of us up and took Toby out to play. The ice was bad on the roads but we walked over to the school field, and the powder was perfect for snowballs. So, we played. Toby had trouble making snowballs but I showed him how. We only had one rule – no aiming for the face.

We bumbled along, my son drawing happy faces in the snow, occasionally throwing snowballs at each other’s coats. Toby made snow angels.

I reached down for a fresh snowball when Toby raised his arms above his head and said, “Throw it at me, Mom! I want to show you something.”

Having already pelted him with a few good-natured snowballs, I complied. As I threw, I watched Toby drop to the ground, presumably to have the snowball fly over him. Which, if I had been aiming for his head, would have worked. However, because I threw the ball at his chest, as he dropped, he met the arc of the flying snowball with a perfect thwak of snow meeting cheek. This appeared to occur in slow motion as I watched in horror, realizing what was going to happen but unable to take it back.

“I’d like to go home now,” was all he said as I tore off my gloves and scooped snow off his cheek.

It was the perfect storm of events – the throw had been a light lob, which would have exploded harmlessly against his coat, but I had no inkling of what he wanted to show me. There was no way for me to have prevented it and my son wanted to show me a surprise, he wouldn’t have told me what his plan was.

It all had that vivid, ‘this is too real to be true’ moment that sort of echoes how a lot of people feel at the end of this year.

I’m preparing for some upheaval as we go into the new year. I’m hoping it will be beneficial upheaval, but given the nature of this year, I’m going into it expecting chaos and see what happens. The snowball is coming, it’s just whether I ducked fast enough has yet to be determined.

 

Moving Forward

I have two more weeks of school left. This is when finals happen, when final projects come due, and when people lose their will to live. It pushes on nerves and strains patience, but it’s designed to do that and the wise student doesn’t taper off.

I have started writing again. It took a month to recover my creative drive. I was terrified that it wouldn’t come back, but it seems no matter what the shock, my creativity will come back home. I have Typhon, Inc. out to beta readers, and with luck I’ll get some feedback over the holidays. I’ve already got some, but I’m waiting on the rest before making any big changes. This is the hardest part of writing for me, but it’s also a very exciting time as well. And at least I’ll be able to make the changes when the feedback comes in.

I started a Creative Writing class this quarter, and was surprised to discover that my writing capacity is at a higher level than I credited it. Writers are notorious for low self-esteem and don’t provide themselves with much credit for their ability. Seeing is believing, I guess, and I have an excellent grade in the class so far. I’m looking forward to classes in the University.

I’m terrified about going to University, I’ll tell you. Higher level courses, bigger course loads, and the competition for classes are 3 times more. Whatcom is a friendly college that is close to my end of town and has plenty of free parking. The professors are enthusiastic and focused on their students. I don’t know what to expect from the university except for what I’ve been told by my friends that started last quarter, and the reviews have been wanting. I’m sure I’ll learn to navigate but it’s that transition period that can be the doozy.

I haven’t done well this year with investing in the holidays. Halloween was barely noticeable and Thanksgiving was good but also very short. We had a five-day break and once Thanksgiving supper was done, it was over and moving on. We didn’t even participate in much Black Friday. We got a couple items we’d been planning on, online. Luke went to Best Buy and came back within an hour and I went to a little local shop called Spice Hut because we were out of thyme and they were having deals.

With luck, the future will hold some good things for us for 2017, even if they come from unexpected corners. I imagine that the road is going to be rocky for the foreseeable future, but life doesn’t come with a guarantee that things will always be good. We just have to find the good where we can.

Recovery

After the stumbling block that was 11/8, I spent a lot of time thinking. The future was shaping up a bit differently than I’d first imagined it, and it took a while to figure out how to proceed. What made things more difficult is that I’m at the crux of graduating with my Associates and moving up to University for my Bachelors.

I had to ask myself, do I still want to go for the English degree? Do I still want to go to school? Would it be better to take my Associates and run with it?

It’s good to examine your goals and make sure they are still what you want, but having to think that the kind of degree you’ll get might not matter, that was hard going. I had to have serious conversations with myself, determining what course of action would be best not just for me, but for my family.

At the end of the day I’m going to have a four-year degree, and that’s going to help me get a better job. The kind of degree I’m going to get, however, is how I’m chasing my dream. I want my son to see that going after your dream is not always easy going, but that you can’t give up.

“You can’t give up” is such an important message right now. There is a lot of negativity, and a lot of hate crimes occurring. People following the President-Elect who believe they’ve been given permission to instigate these crimes, and are taking full advantage of the situation. Being silent feeds their drive. Acquiescing to their actions gives them permission to take it another step further, and another. Giving up is high on many people’s minds, but giving up is the worst thing to do.

Despite wanting to give up, despite thinking that it would make things easier, I encourage everyone to reach into themselves and not give up. There are people who will, and they may rejoin the fight later, but we need everyone right now to keep fighting. It sounds small, but even making it out of bed in the morning is a victory. Not everyone can do that right now, so if you’re vertical with coffee in hand, you’re 100% more successful than some. If you’re out making connections and building community, you’re aces. These are small things, like hanging out at a coffee shop and saying hi, but these are the things that matter, maybe not in the moment but later.

I know it’s a small thing to decide to stay in school, to get an English degree. At the end of the day I’m just one person. I know it’s a small thing to show my son what it’s like to chase a dream. My son, and his classmates and friends, are the future. They’re part of a much bigger future which they are unaware of yet. They need to know what it’s like to dream. It’s a small lesson, but it’s the biggest lesson I can think of.