Saturday, December 10, 2011

Crazy Carpool

Okay guys. Some crazy shizznit went down in the carpool line this week.

Trust me, *Pours glasses of tea* you're gonna need this.

I don't know how you all do carpool, but at my school it works like this...

Every parent has a car tag with their child's name and class name on it and our secretary goes out and calls the names on a walkie talkie while the children wait inside with the assistant teachers. When I hear a child from our class we gather up ALL THE THINGS and walk them out to the cars. The teachers are MORE than ready to throw (sometimes literally) the kids in the cars with a wave and a smile and a quick "Had a great day!", and get them the heck outta there.

We make a point to keep the line moving as quickly as possible, so we don't talk much unless there's something really important to say, or unless the line ahead isn't moving.

Well, earlier this week, I had something important to say to a parent AND the line wasn't moving. As I was talking to the parent and putting (TWO) kids in the car, the line ahead shifted half a car length. Not even a full car length. Seriously. There was a six foot gap and two more cars ahead of us. The line wasn't going anywhere.

But APPARENTLY the mom in the car right behind us thought I was wagging my tongue too long and she HONKED AT ME! Y'all know how carpools work. There is NOWHERE for her to go. What's worse, is that I had her kid last year and she was nuttier than squirrel poo then.

If there weren't so many witnesses I'd have gone over there and knocked her teeth in. Which would have been fine, really, she could have been twins with her kid who's only four and is missing all of his front teeth due to cavities. (Word to the wise: Send more than CAKE to school for lunch AND snack! I told you, squirrel poo.)

Well, that riled me up enough as it was, but after carpool, I was walking back to my classroom and passed our Director. She said, "So, I heard somebody was talking too much during carpool. What's that about?"

I told her about the mom honking at me and she giggled. "I know," she said, "She called me just now to explain that she had to honk at you because you were talking too much. She said she timed you and you were talking for FOUR minutes. Which is impossible. There's no way you were talking that long."

Yes. This woman not only HONKED during carpool, but she took it upon herself to CALL THE DIRECTOR and bitch me out! Of course, our Director is the

BEST BOSS IN THE WORLD

...and she took my side. My head was about to explode. She said she should charge the mom the price of a pedicure and treat me. I told her that was a fantastic idea.

So, dear readers, here are some tips for making one of the most stressful times of the day a little easier on everyone:

Carpool Tip #1: Do NOT honk your horn unless there is a child running out in front of your car. For realz, it is SO unbelievably impolite. We are all doing our best, and those little preschoolers' legs can only move so fast!

Carpool Tip #2: Please do not leave TEN FEET OF SPACE between you and the car in front of you. Nobody does that in the McDonald's drive-thru line. There's no reason to do it in carpool either.

Carpool Tip #3: If you have a car tag like at our school, make sure it is clearly visible in the window. Laying it flat on the front dash does not enable us to see it.

Above all: Be KIND. Be COURTEOUS. BE PATIENT!

We are SO sorry that it is SUCH a burden to you to sit through a 30 minute car line, but you are MORE than welcome to come line up early and wait in the comfort of your air conditioned (or heated, depending on the season) car.

Might I suggest possibly watching a movie on the TELEVISION you have in your car? Or listening to an Audiobook? Or even reading a book while you wait? Catch up on email, or Twitter, or Facebook on your cell phone. Knit a sweater for your dog! There are LOADS of things to do to pass the time.

And please remember: You are not the one out there in the freezing cold (or burning sun, depending on the season) wrangling three-year-olds with folders, and artwork, and jackets, and backpacks bigger than they are.

So, relax.

And thank the people who care for your child, and love them, and put them safely back into your car at the end of the day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Overachievers

*Full Disclosure: I will not reveal names of the people I'm gossiping about. If you know me and you know the people I am discussing, please keep your mouth shut.

I'm a pre-school teacher. I have a class of fourteen three year old children Monday-Thursday from 9am-1pm.  I'd like to say they're sweet little angels who bring a smile to my face and fill my heart with joy. Every now and again that actually happens.

Most of the time, they're busy excavating their nasal cavity with sticky little fingers like they're part of the Gold Rush of '49. If only the stuff they dug out and wiped on the carpet, their shirt, my shirt, and any other nearby surface was made of REAL gold, I'd be able to buy more jets than Richard Branson. It isn't. (But if the formula I'm working on in my super secret ungerground lair does the trick, I won't be driving my Civic to work much longer. Boogers to gold, baby! MUWAHAHA!)

Anyway. The kids are mostly fun and great. The most aggravation I get is from the parents. I know I don't have much right to speak on parenting skills, seeing as how I have no kids of my own. Aside from this little four legged hunk of cutie pie...


But I have been teaching for five years. I've had over 70 kids come through my class alone, plus interacted with the other 200 kids in the rest of the school each year. So I'd like to think that gives me at least some authority on what I have to say here. 

I pass the parents and their kids in the hallway. I see them during carpool. And let me tell you, we teachers luuuuuv to talk. The first thing we do as soon as we get our class lists at the beginning of each school year is sit down and compare notes. 

"Who did you get? OH! I had him last year. Get LOTS of hand sanitizer. That finger never left his nose. Make sure you don't reuse the play-doh either. OH! Yeah, that one dropped trou on the playground and peed on the slide. She is SO CUTE, just don't give her scissors unless you want somebody to end up bald."

Seriously.

So, let me fill you in on the LATEST gossip, Dear Reader. *Sits down on porch with glass of iced tea*

This morning I had breakfast with one of the teachers from school at this quaint little hole in the wall bakery place. The coffee was so awful it was undrinkable, and the food wasn't anything to write in to Atlanta Magazine about, but the conversation was absolutely delicious.

We got to talking to the owner (we were the only customers in there) and when we mentioned where we worked, she said that she was catering a party there soon, but she didn't know exactly what it was for. I promptly filled her in, because I'd gotten the full dish yesterday from another friend (it pays to treat your friends for birthday lunches and breakfasts, trust me).

Here it is:
This mother, who had a child in my class last year is having an outside caterer come in and do the class Christmas party. For four-year-olds. I know a lot of you won't blink at this idea. My sister teaches in Manhattan and they hired a live clown come in to her class and scare the shit out of her kids for a First Birthday party. I'm not even kidding.

But this is Georgia. We do things differently here.

Tip: Do not go above and beyond with expensive outside help. It will only make other parents (and especially teachers) think you are stupid and wasting money. 
At our school, catering a Christmas party is a ridiculous idea. We live in the South. We don't hire other people to do our cooking. It's a matter of pride. We purposefully try to outdo each other with our mad baking skillz. Paula Deen style.

Another Tip: This is Preschool and you are not Martha Stewart.
You are not impressing anyone with the hand knitted Irish lace table cloth that you whipped up last night just because you thought it would add a little extra something to the atmosphere

So please, if you are a Room Mom or are helping to plan a Holiday Party for your child's class, do not go psycho crazy with it. They will not remember this. Especially if they are little. There's a slim chance they'll recall pulling the eyes off the candy cane reindeer before they shove it in their mouth, but that's a whole other thing. At this point, all you need to do is show up. Your kids will not judge you for ordering pizza. In fact, they will probably love you even more for it.


What are some of your class party experiences? Have you, or someone you know, gone above and beyond the call of duty when planning a class party? Do tell! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sit. Write.

There's no writing advice I've ever received that was better than this:

Sit your butt in a chair and do it.

I'd heard it before. Oh, had I HEARD those words before. But they never sank in. Faster than a Who on his way to get some Roast Beast, they went in one ear and out the other.

Why?

Because I didn't want to hear them.



I wanted it to be EASIER than that. I wanted to tap into the great MUSE and have the words magically flow from some mysterious and exciting PLACE OF INSPIRATION. I thought somehow that I would be the one to find it, like Ponce de Leon or Captain Jack Sparrow hunting down the Fountain of Youth.

Pfft. Yeah.

The only way to finish any piece of writing is to:

Sit. Write.

For a brief and glorious time at the University of Tennessee *GO VOLS!*, I had the privilege of knowing Elizabeth Gilbert. Uh, yup. THAT Elizabeth Gilbert. The one who's best friends with OPRAH. Auntie Liz (She told me to call her that. No, really.) mentioned once that she'd rather sort clothes, wash them, fold them, put them all away, and then take them all back out again and repeat the process than sit down and write. And she hates doing laundry as much as I do.

If only that great and mysterious PLACE OF INSPIRATION would come to us more often. If only it would knock us over the head with a sledgehammer and beat us into that chair, chain us down, and force our fingers to the keyboard to write, WRITE, WRITE!



It really would make our lives easier, wouldn't it?

Every now and then, however, we don't need to be dragged to that chair. We're struck with that sudden genius idea, the strong urge to take a flying leap at the keyboard and get to business.

Why does that moment so often come at the worst, most inconvenient times? Why does that spark happen in the middle of the grocery store check out lane when the Super Coupon Savings Superstar in front of you KNOWS she put that coupon for five cents off Funions right there in her file-o-fax somewhere. If only she could find it so you could check out, run to the car, speed home and catch that moment of grand INSPIRATION before it flits away.

Except when you get home, you've got to put the milk away so it doesn't spoil. And when you open the fridge to put the milk away, oh, what IS that SMELL? You have to clean out the fridge. But you need to WRITE. But it STINKS! After you throw the science experiment in the trash, you come back in and realize the milk is STILL sitting on the counter and then your MOM calls...

You see where I'm going with this?

Seriously, there IS no perfect time to tap into the PLACE OF INSPIRATION. The only time I ever found myself truly inspired was after getting out my laptop and staring at that terrifying blank page for awhile. After tentatively writing a bunch of seriously awful sentences. After focusing on my story long enough that the characters woke up and came alive inside my brain.

There are SO many reasons to sit down at your computer and open Twitter or Facebook or Hulu, or in my case all three, instead of bring forth that vast blank canvas and put words on it. Most of the times when I'm writing these days, I'd really rather be snuggled up on the couch, elbow deep in a bag of potato chips watching the latest episode of REVENGE


But that's not going to get my next book finished. Or the one after that.

The truth is, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, writing is a love/hate relationship. When it's hard, it's damn hard. But when that feeling hits, when we find our PLACE OF INSPIRATION, and the words flow, it really IS like magic. But the only way we're ever going to get to that place, is to...

Sit. Write.


What is your PLACE OF INSPIRATION? How do you get your butt in that chair and write? Once you start writing more often, do you find it easier to get back to your PLACE OF INSPIRATION the next time you sit down to write?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lighting the Fire

I promised myself I was going to stay out of this. I promised myself I wasn't even going to dignify the issue by acknowledging it at all. I thought I'd simply pretend that it doesn't even exist.

I'm talking about Twilight.

I can't even tell you how many seconds I sat here just now, not wanting to type that word. I really, really, really do not like the books. Add about a hundred more reallys and that's how much I abhor the movies. Full disclosure: I read the first book. I TRIED to read the second book and couldn't get past the first chapter. I saw the first movie, and I even saw the second movie AT MIDNIGHT. I seriously TRIED to like this series. I don't.

I'm not going to reiterate all the extensive discussions. I'm sure you've already read them. Some people think the books are worth reading. Some think they should be avoided like the plague. And there's a myriad different reasons people hate on the series or like the series and are justified in their feelings either way. Whatever.

I'm going to discuss what nobody else has seemed to mention. Why I simultaneously want to bang my head against the wall and also throw a parade for Stephenie Meyer.

The simple fact is: She created characters and a world that people are talking about. Whether it's the characters, the reality they live in, the sparkle factor, zombie vampire babies, or the effect the books might have on young girls and their outlook on life and relationships: people are having extensive and heated discussions about what she wrote.

Good or bad, whatever you think of these books, the point is, you're THINKING about them. Whatever "team" you're on, it doesn't matter. People care enough CHOOSE a team.

Stephenie Meyer (whether she intended to or not) has written books that have lit fires in the hearts of readers everywhere. Fires of romantic passion or fires of passionate fury, it really doesn't matter. They're lit, and they're going to be smoldering for awhile.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Chicken Theory

I had a writing professor in college who told us a story about his own college writing days and how he and his friends came up with a theory. A theory that holds true, but one you really have to pay attention closely to make note of. It is this:

Every successful piece of writing (novel, memoir, short story, film, television show, play, etc.) somewhere, at some point, always has a chicken or a chicken reference in it.

Seriously, think about it. How often do you see a chicken in a movie or TV show, whether live or in the background as a set decoration? How often do characters eat eggs? How often is the word 'chicken' or 'egg' referred to in poetry, or novels, or any other pieces of writing? Chances are, at least once.

Ever since this idea was introduced to me, I've always kept an eye out for the Chicken Theory to hold true. As a quiet nod to my professor, I made sure to include a mention of eggs in my novel. If I ever manage to get it published, keep an eye out for it.

Speaking of eggs and getting published...

A couple of weeks ago, an agent held a contest of sorts to try and gain some new clients. The idea was that for one hour only, she would accept any and all queries, and reply to them all with her honest opinion. I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for getting some feedback on my query letter, so that it would be the best it could be.

So, on Tuesday, November 1, I sent my first ever (and only) query.

That Friday, I was making breakfast with the eggs I get from my local farmer's co-op, that come from free range, organic, happy hens. All of these eggs come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, which is one of the things I enjoy about them. Nature makes things different, and I don't think eggs should all be stark white and exactly the same size. It's weird. It's unnatural.

Anyway. One of my eggs was a little more oblong than the others, so I chose that one because it was so unique. I cracked it in the pan and TWO yolks came out! I've never in my life cracked open an egg with two yolks inside. At first, I was a little terrified, and then I was really excited. I didn't think much of it, other than it was so unique and special, until I told my friend later. She said it was a sign of good luck. According to the Encyclopedia of Superstitions, she was right. I thought it was neat. We can all use a little good luck in life, right?

On Saturday morning, I woke up and checked my e-mail right away on my phone (something I'd done every day that week, anxiously awaiting my query reply). The reply was there...

...and the agent requested my FULL MANUSCRIPT!!!

I was so excited I started jumping up and down on the bed, much to the chagrin of my sleeping Hubby. Then I remembered the double yolked egg.

I definitely don't believe that a double yolked egg made the agent want to read my book. Nothing but the three years of sitting my butt down in a chair and typing 63,000 words (more like 120,000+ if you count my scrap file), agonizing over the tough decisions my characters had to face, and then researching how to write a query, what makes a query successful, and writing no fewer than six drafts of my own query before I got it just right could have made that agent want to say, "It sounds awesome. I'm interested."

But I most certainly believe that cracking open that egg and seeing those two, beautiful, perfect golden yolks was a sign that good things are about to happen in my life.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

No Excuses

There's a new app for blogger that I am currently using to post this blog. It's so easy to make posts now that I have no excuse not to.
I have officially completed the first draft of my novel!!!!
I've never given birth before, but I imagine the feeling is pretty close. It's difficult to hide the glow of pride and everyone is telling me congratulations. My friends and family have been beyond supportive in this process so far. The feelings of love and gratitude I have for them all are almost overwhelming. Crazy, I know, but I truly feel like a different person. I can't stop thinking about when Harry Potter cast his first full-fledged Patronus charm. He knew he could do it, because he'd already done it. No book will ever be the same as this first one. I can't wait to get started on the next. It will be difficult, but I know I can finish it because I've already done it.
There are revisions to be made. I need to polish and shine up my creation so I can send it out to agents and pray they will think it's good enough to share with everyone else. My characters feel like my kids and I want them to have the best chance at success in life. For that, I need an agent and an editor to help me turn this into the best book it can be. That's why I am planning to pursue the traditional route of publishing first. If it doesn't work out, I'll consider self-publishing an e-book, but all that is still a long way off...

It's football night in America and we're opening the Season with the Saints at Packers. As far as I'm concerned, the best part of this game is the pre-game concert Maroon 5 is playing right now.
I hope to be posting more if I can get this app to work properly. For now, I'm gonna go watch a bunch of dudes beat the living crap out of each other. Yay football!!!