When Words are Wrong

A bird perched on the corner of my roof and did nothing but be a bird. I imagine she sat tasting the breeze and listening to the sounds of invisible bugs, pausing for a moment to enjoy nothingness  until the right sound called to her and she flew away.

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I envy her.

I opened to my Google home page where I always check the weather, look at a piece of art, perhaps read Calvin and Hobbes and yes, I admit, read my horoscope. Here’s what today’s said:

My Horoscope AstroSync
Pisces

Pisces

You may feel unsettled today because you know something is about to change. Your feelings are quite volatile now and you don’t know where they are leading you. Unfortunately, your attempts to suppress your needs could provoke you to unconsciously act out. Trying to control the situation by limiting your interactions with others will only make you feel lonely. Remember that you are a Fish and should know that it’s easier to swim with the currents instead of resisting the tide.

This one rang true.
I feel lost. I feel alone. And I feel like my words are wrong.
I wish I could have a birdbrain moment, where nothing mattered but the cool wind and the bugs and my ability to fly.
The pictures were all taken by my brother at different times. For more of his fabulous photography visit him at Thru My Eyes

When Students Don’t Want to Learn

Ugh!

I’m supposed to be grading papers right now.

I’m trying. I really am, but there are a couple of things working against me at the moment.

Challenge # 1: My head is full of crud. I feel kind of like this:

But that’s not the real problem. Even feeling like this, I would be able to grade papers if my students had made any effort to actually revise their papers for quality.

Challenge #2: My students don’t seem to care. Seriously. I am trying to grade the papers from the one class where I thought I had students who cared, and even they have let me down. Or maybe I’ve let them down. I don’t know anymore.

Let me back up. This semester I have been teaching four classes, and each of them have been a journey in patience, flexibility and trying to maintain high expectations in the face of low expectations. To be specific:

  • My Theater Appreciation class has confronted me with numerous challenges. I had several students who actually wanted to learn. A few foreign students who struggled to learn. 3/4 of the basketball team who had to learn (even if they weren’t really interested). Several football players who were too macho to learn (as were the basketball players). And a corner full of potheads who seemed to think they needed to indulge themselves before my class in order to learn. This class has been full of race issues, prejudice issues, anti-gay issues, sexual harassment issues and any other issue that you can think of  that doesn’t come with your normal Theater Appreciation syllabus. I have had students cheat. I have had students do minimal work and expect high grades. Currently the students are supposed to be working on final projects. 5 of them showed up for the work day. 5 out of 25.
  • Stage Makeup has actually been fun. I was supposed to have three students, but ended up with one, so she and I adjusted the schedule and the learning goals for one-on-one teaching. The biggest challenge has been sticking to the schedule. But, we’ve had fun, and I think she’s learned a lot. Here are some of the applications she has done:

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  • I have been teaching two sections of Comp 1, one live and one on-line. The live one has been plagued with snow days, and students who turn in work late (despite my no late policy). For each major paper, I have draft workshop days. They either don’t come, or don’t bring drafts. This time I set up individual meetings (which was supposed to happen each time, but the snow days and some sick days messed that up). Only 5 students signed up. Only 4 came. The On-Line section has been going pretty well, except for a few students who have disappeared, and one student who believes he has nothing to learn. Until this paper. For this class, I have them turn in and read each others drafts, and comment. I also read the drafts and provide copious comments and notes. This time, it seems, they only paid minimal attention to my notes–basically only the grammar notes. I’m sure some of them tried, but some really didn’t. What do I do with that. These are the papers that I am supposed to be grading today. And they make me want to cry.

So what do you do when you feel like your students don’t want to learn? I for one am going back to bed!

Sometimes I Wish . . .

Sometimes I wish
I could just let go.
Let my mind fall into the
secret world of insanity
where life takes on the shapes of your dreams.

But I know those dreams could easily turn into nightmares.

Sometimes I wish
I could just let go
of responsibility and appropriateness
of doing good in the face of bad
of my sense of decency and justice
that other people find so easy to ignore.

But then my heart weeps.

Sometimes I wish I could just let go
of the fears that hold me back
and the kindness that does the same.
I wish I could become the tigress
fighting for her family despite
the pain she may inflict
on others.
Or the secret viper whose poisonous bite
destroys without care.

Sometimes I wish . . .

But then

Lessons Learned on a Sunday Morning

No, I didn’t suddenly discover a belief in Jesus on this Easter Sunday, although I do wish a lovely day to all of you out their who believe and celebrate.

But, I have only been up a short time (after forcing myself to go back to sleep) and I have gotten a few lessons on this Sunday morning that I thought I would share.

Lesson #1: On-Line Bank Statements are annoying. Yes, I know they help the environment, but when something comes up that you need to find in past records, paper statements are easier to use. I woke up focused on a mortgage malfunction that I learned about yesterday but cannot deal with until tomorrow. Nothing major, but frustrating all the same, and enough to send me into a tailspin of worrying about the future, and money, and all those things that I wish I could purge out of my brain. I went on-line to find the evidence that they are wrong and I am right, and it took me forever (of course I just figured it out as I was typing this, so maybe the real lesson here is don’t try to deal with financial stress on a Sunday morning after a weird night sleep. 😀

Lesson #2: Stats are Meaningless: I have been feeling a little down lately, ever since I dropped Post A Day and gave up the A to Z Challenge. Not because I dropped them, however. It was what I needed to do for my own creativity and sanity. But, I am still lured by the call of the blog stats, and as soon as I dropped them my stats began to drop as well. I felt like all the writing I have been doing was useless, because people would not come unless I linked to one of the Challenges. I felt like I haven’t found my voice or my readers. (I know, this is all in my mind because some of you read me regularly).  But then, today, I was given another reward by a lovely blogger, Heather at Little Red Henry. She gave me this:

But the words she used to explain this award for me have taught me the greater lesson.

“To lkramer14, who makes me stop and think and wonder.”

If I can make a few people “stop and think and wonder” then I am doing something good in this world. Thank you, Heather, for a wonderful lesson learned. Go visit her site, Heather tells wonderful stories through words and pictures that bring peace and joy to my day.

Lesson #3: Nobody Really Knows Where the Easter Bunny Came From: But I guess that doesn’t matter as long as he brings me chocolate. But he never really brings me any. Sigh. 😦 Does the Easter Bunny have to be a he? For some humorous takes on the Easter Bunny, check out these posts from Arvik and Spirit Lights the Way.

I wonder what other lessons this Sunday might bring.

I Want to Be Selfish

For just one day, or maybe two, I want the world to revolve around me.

Not in the, “Mommy pay attention to me” way. Not in the, “I miss you, can you help me” way.

No, I want the world to revolve around me in the “I respect that you are an individual person” way.

I want to turn off the schedule that is in my brain. The one that keeps everyone on track. I want to forget who needs what when where why and how.

I want to sleep uninterrupted by creatures (human and canine) looking for safety from a storm. I want to wake up when my body is fully rested, not because dreams and concerns haunt me.

I want one day where I don’t have to pick someone up or take someone somewhere. I want one day where I can immerse myself in my own projects regardless of time and obligations. I want to not worry about the food I put in my mouth, or the fact that there is no food, or the house needs cleaning, or laundry needs to be done, or papers need to be graded. I want one day where time has no meaning.

I want to be selfish.

But maybe that is a selfish thing to want.

The Spark of Creativity

Yesterday Sparks In Shadow asked some difficult question in response to my questions about my blog. She said:

As to the topics I find most interesting to read about here — for me it would be anything to do with the writing or artistic process, because I like hearing how other artists tackle the issues I’m also dealing with. (I’ve really got to get back to your previous post about the play writing class/workshop. I need to get back to it when I can immerse myself without distraction.) How do we tend to shape our stories or art? How much do we consider the way our art is experienced by others? Is our goal to make things only with ourselves in mind, or do we want to grow into wider acceptance by incorporating aspects of feedback and certain kinds of structure? How does that feel? How do we handle re-writes or other changes? How much and how do we want to be different, in terms of pushing the limits or heading into abstraction, or do we want to excel at more accepted norms? What does that even mean?”

Ah that Sparks, she likes to ask the difficult questions. 😉

This morning as I lay in bed trying to ignore the insistent whining of Lizzy that I get up and feed her, I thought about the mystery of creativity. 

Two nights ago I crawled into bed to read a little after declaring my intent to write because I want to. I’m reading a book called Literary Women:The Great Writers by Ellen Moers. This somewhat dated book takes a feminist look at the women writers who had influence on writing today, although they may not have had as much recognition as the men. I say it is dated because it was written in 1976 and I think that more women have made impact on the writing world since that time, and received more recognition for that impact. But, I bought this book at a library sale, hoping to find more ideas about women who have been swallowed up into history as written by men.

I’ve been finding lots of interesting things. But as I read two nights ago something sparked in me. A simple phrase formed itself in my mind, “She was not allowed words.” The phrase kept repeating itself in my head, and then grew in urgency. A voice called to me, “You must write this down now or you will regret it!” and the phrase repeated itself again. I jumped out of bed, having moved my dream journal a few days ago when I used it for something else and forgotten to return it, and scrambled around for something to write on. I found two  large index cards and then searched for a pen.

Then I wrote. “She was not allowed words. No woman was.” And a story started pouring out, or at least the beginnings of one. I’m not ready to share more of it yet, but maybe one of these days.

I wrote, filling three sides of the index cards. Then I put them aside until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I woke up thinking about those cards and that story. I’ve heard that story before, I thought to myself. Where have I heard that story? Then I remembered. Several years back I took an advanced course in writing books for young people through The Institute of Children’s Literature. The end result of that course was Giving up the Ghosts the book that still hasn’t found a home. In the beginning of the course, I had to write several book proposals so that my instructor could help me choose the best one to work on. Sadly, I seem to have deleted some of that work accidentally, but I still have hard copies of most of it. At first I proposed ideas for two fiction books and two non-fiction (both having something to do with the arts and theater, one I think about perfectionism). My instructor, after reading my lengthy letter describing my life, nixed the non-fiction saying that it sounded like I needed a break from that stress and pressure. She had me write proposals for four fantasy fiction books that I might be interested in writing. One of them was called Judith of Lexiconia, and told the story of a girl who had the power of words even though girls were not allowed to read them. She discovered that her power extended to being able to write about something, and have that thing come true. [No offense, but I would like to remind you about copyright for a moment. ;)]

My story started years ago, and now it wants to be told. I’m not sure yet if it will take the same form, or where it is going, but somehow the words spoke through me urging me to listen.

Where do those ideas come from? What sparked that moment and made me get up and actually follow that urge? I’ve had plenty of ideas pop into my head during the night, but often (much to my own regret) I am simply too tired or too annoyed to actually write them down. But this time the call could not be ignored.

I remember reading long ago in The Artist’s Way the idea that creative energy surrounds us, with all the ideas floating around waiting to be plucked from the energetic mix. I’m obviously paraphrasing from a long ago memory here; I would quote the book directly, but I don’t know where my copy is at the moment. 😦 I believe that we are all connected by that creative energy and that some people have more easy access than others.

I don’t always have access, but once in a while the spark ignites and takes me on a journey that is both terrifying and joyful. This time, however, I think I am truly excited for this journey and ready for it, because of the warm support system I have found in the blogging world.

Where does the spark come from? What are some of your answers to Sparks In Shadows questions?


Images of Joy

Thanks to my brother, I got a little reminder of the joy found in childhood.  Sarah and I have been having a rough time lately, so I thought I would remind myself of the joy found in her. I am stealing some of the images he has taken of my daughter (plus adding a few of my own) to celebrate this joy.

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Goal Setting and Re-focusing

“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” (William Zinserr)

Sometimes I feel like I can't see the forest for the trees.

Now that I have freed myself of the obligatory blogging I’ve been doing, I feel the need to reflect on and establish some goals for myself in terms of writing and blogging. I started this blog with a purpose that included (according to what I wrote on my About page)

” . . .  a place for me to explore life and practice writing. It is a motivator for myself to sit down and write as often as possible. It is also a place to explore ideas, issues, and questions. Sometimes it is a place to vent. Sometimes it is a place to cry. Sometimes it is a place to laugh. To me, it is a sacred place, so please treat it with respect.”

I think that still holds true, but now the blog has become so much more. It has become a place of community and support, where I am meeting wonderful people who boldly express their dreams and trust that this environment is a safe one where dreams will not be mocked. It is a place where I have discovered my inner artist, my hidden poet, my passionate advocate, and my angry rebel.  It is a place where I have learned to recognize my strengths as a teacher, a mentor, a mother, an artist, and a friend. It is a place where I have discovered the parts of myself that need strengthening or changing; the darker parts that I do not love but I need to accept. It is a place where my dreams have begun to shift and reform so that I see more possibilities instead of only obstacles.

So now the question becomes, what do I want next? Where do I want this blog to go?

I’m not sure yet, but I do have a few goals:

  • I want to continue writing daily, but not just blog posts. I want to get back to writing stories or articles and working toward publication.
  • I would like to find a way for this circle of wonderful people to support each other in their publishing goals, a way that somehow bypasses the bureaucracy of traditional publishing and allows us to nurture each other toward success.
  • I want to continue to write about things like arts advocacy, arts in education, challenging social injustice, and creating a more peaceful world.
  • I want to continue to nurture the relationships I have started as well as develop new ones.
  • I want to find the balance between writing, reading, responding and growing as a writer
  • I want to do research on and perhaps start writing two projects that have called to me for a long time. One that reflects on women’s voices through some form of historical fiction or drama, as I discuss here. And one that shares stories of people who have fought through no guarantees to thrive and grow and create their dreams–a story which I’ve begun to explore in my other blog, Living Life Without Tenure

But, despite that list, I’m still struggling with focus. So I have some questions for you, my readers. I feel a little lost in confusion and would appreciate some help clarifying my focus.

Which posts or topics do you find the most interesting to read about on my site?

What do you think Woman Wielding Words is really about?

Q is for Quitting

From Natalie Dee

I am a quitter.

I quit.

I am quitting!

You may notice a missing button on my blog today because I am officially quitting the Post A Day 2011 challenge.

Call me quitter if you want, but I think it is the right thing to do.

Why, you ask? For a number of reasons which I will now share:

  • Sure it has helped me commit to daily writing. But about the only daily writing I am doing is the posts. Have I started any new projects? No. Have I focused on any of the projects I already started? No. Have I gotten my book published? No. Have I written query letters or books proposals? No. (Although I have done some letter writing and other writing for work).
  • If you look at my Tag cloud, the tag that stands out is Postaday2011. I don’t really want to be a blog known for posting. I want to be someone who posts about art and education, about life and people, about creativity and imagination, about concerns and dreams. I want people to visit me because they think I have interesting things to say; and that I say things in interesting ways.
  • As I read comments on other people’s posts who seem to be struggling with Post a Day, I’ve come to question the commitment. Was this challenge started to help us find our voices or to help WordPress boost its numbers? I don’t want to obsess about numbers anymore. Yes, I would like to be able to, someday, make a living with my writing. But the chances of me being discovered because I have a zillion hits on my blog (which I don’t but I actually am approaching 10,000) are probably a zillion to one. The only way I am ever going to get published and paid for that work is to actually work on projects that people want to pay for.
  • That doesn’t mean I’m giving up blogging. I’ve discovered something wonderful here. I’ve discovered a group of friends. I’ve discovered a joy in the diversity of ideas and the exchange of support. I want to continue to build those relationships and grow from this sharing of ideas, thoughts, memories and dreams. But I don’t want to do this because I committed to a challenge that I’ve moved beyond. I want this relationship to grow because it is really a relationship, and because I have something to say that someone wants to read, and vice versa.
  • I may even quit the A to Z challenge, but there are only 9 letters left, so I may consider that a writing assignment and keep going. It depends on how I feel tomorrow.

So there you have it folks. I am officially a quitter, but I’m okay with that.

Anyone care to join me?

P is for Pooped

So I’m

Image from Aligaeta’s Blog. Thanks again.

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