Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I’m not a big shopper, but I do like nice things and once and a while I treat myself to a pretty bag or a pair of designer sunglasses.   I don’t like paying full price, so I shop sales and I get alerts from some great off-price websites. My favorite is RueLaLa.  If you don’t know about RueLaLa, let me know and I will fill you in, but the short version is I will find beautiful, designer items at their two day boutiques that I can actually afford. (Two kids in college, need I say more)  I love when Rue has a Vera Bradley boutique, or when Kate Spade comes up for sale and I’ve gotten my daughters some beautiful clothes.

However, today was an eye opener for me and a wake-up call that I was indeed getting older. Rue has an expensive skin care line in one of their boutiques today. You know, creams and lotions and cleansers.   Anti-aging products and make-up designed to fix our flaws.  It was all there.  It was pricey stuff and I could get items at good prices.  And I got excited.  Really excited. 

I got excited over moisturizer.   Oh. My. God.

So the question is: why?  Why am I excited at the prospect of getting some expensive remedy for my crow’s feet?  And the answer is simple: I’m fighting the aging process with everything I have.  I have no problem with getting older as long as I don’t look older. I sincerely doubt I’d have actual surgery, that’s just me, but I'm not above using other methods to keep my skin looking young.

What else am I doing? I’m going out in a little while to join a gym.   I want to lose some weight and feel fit.  I’m healthy and I want to stay that way.  And if any of you actually believed all that, I have a bridge to sell.  You want to know my biggest motivator?  My 30th high school reunion is coming up this summer and while I have no delusions that I will be slipping into a single digit dress size any time soon, I would like to look better before I face these people.   I’m vain.  That’s it. The fitness and the health are nice side benefits, but I don’t want to be embarrassed.  And the thing is, I don’t know why I care.  I haven’t seen most of these people in thirty years.   I have a long list of accomplishments, both personal and professional and that should tell people who I am.  But yet I worry and I think so much of it is tied to the insecurity I felt when I was in high school.  I wasn’t bold, I wasn’t brave and I worried all the time about what people thought. 

We've forgetten how we felt when we were seventeen, but I have a feeling those memories are rushing back for a lot of people right now.  Maybe it’s not a bad thing.  If it gets me to exercise, I know I will feel better.  I’ll be able to climb the hills where my daughter goes to college and not feel winded.  My surgically repaired knee won’t give me trouble and guess what—I won’t just have to limit my purchases to bags and sunglasses and skin creams on my favorite sale sites.  Maybe I could buy a dress, or a pretty sweater or a belt.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

It’s possible I could change how I look and still worry.  Wrinkles, dress sizes? It might not matter.  I might still be an insecure mess where high school is concerned.  But for now, I'll let the insecurity motivate me. It’s not hurting anyone and in the long run it will help me.   

What did I buy today?  Make-up.  It made me happy and it made me realize that some of the things we experience when we're young never go away.  They go dormant and sneak up on us when we least expect it.     I will never look seventeen again.  I will never look like my yearbook picture, but then again neither will anyone else. 

Maybe this all means that I'm still a work in progress.  I'm not done growing or changing. So it's possible the insecurity I'm feeling is a good thing if it pushes me to better myself and deal with some of the demons. There are times in our lives that we have these personal epiphanies. Something triggers self-awareness.  The birth of a child, the death of someone important or facing your past can bring on a sense of understanding about who you are and who you want to be.

For the most part, I'm happy with the person I am. I have a wonderful husband, great kids, good friends and I do good work that I care about. Not a bad lot in life, even with some extra pounds and wrinkles. The challenge now is to embrace how I got here and accept the fact that I still have a way to go.  Don't we all?

I'm still joining the gym.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Sorry about the format changes, but I wanted to tweak the look of the blog.  Well?  What do you think?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Submissions, rejections and sleepless nights--oh my!

Sleepless nights.  We’ve all had them.  We toss and turn and watch the minutes click by on the clock.  It can be one of the most frustrating experiences.  We have to sleep to function the next day and each minute, each hours makes it harder to fall asleep.  We get tense, our minds race, we get agitated and then forget it…all chance of sleep is gone.

I can’t sleep right now. (Obvious, huh?) My darling hubby is out cold, bless his heart, but not me. So instead of watching the late-night Olympics,  here I sit, in my comfy chair at the computer writing this entry about not sleeping.  Ironic.  What I will do is open a manuscript I’ve been working on.  This book has giving me trouble for a while.  I like the characters, but they haven't been talking to me. I'm hearing some whispers, but I need these guys to start screaming so I can finish telling their story.  I’m 50,000 words into it and now I just don’t know where to take them.  When I joke about the voices in my head, I’m really not joking. Try not to let that scare you.  In order to write, to be that character, I need to hear them.  I take what I hear and put it on the page.  I don’t have novels come to me in a dream like a certain sparkling Vampire writer, but I do see images; I hear how my characters sound, I imagine what they smell, taste and feel, and it becomes a story. 

I've been doing this for a long time.  I always wrote.  My dad will mention from time to time how when I was a toddler I would take books off the shelf in the living room and write my name on the title page.  There is a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations out there someplace with “Jbon” scrawled in it.  I think that’s telling.  I always knew, even at two years old, that I would be an author. Why should I wait to get my name in a book?  But now I am waiting… and waiting…and waiting.

So here I am, it's the middle of the night and I’m waiting for these characters to start talking, but I’m also waiting for rejections.  There it is: the revelation.  Honestly, it's waiting for the rejections that's keeping me up at night.  I’ve got a bunch of query letters—some with pages, some without—floating around with agents and I’m waiting for them to get back to me and tell me that they just aren’t right for my project. I have gotten one request for a partial, but other than that, I’ve gotten a lot of things that say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m afraid I have to pass.”  Depressing, discouraging and yet I keep trying.  I’m proud of the book I’m shopping around right now.  It’s good work, but I have to find the person who agrees with me.  That’s the hard part and that’s what has my brain on overdrive.

I could quit.  I could pack it in and find something else to do with my time.  But every time I think about doing that, there’s a whisper, a voice pushing me to tell the story.  And I give in.  I crumble and sit at the keyboard and I write.  I follow this damned dream.  It may be futile, I may never get published, but I have to believe in myself before I can get anyone else to believe in me.  

I know I'm not dealing with anything major here. This isn't life or death, or world peace, but it's important to me. I have a lot of myself invested in this.  Now, if I can get my characters to start talking up a storm that would be perfect.  I could forget about the submissions and the rejections and worry about the story.  The story is at the heart of all of this and believe me, that’s always much more fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Days

Do you remember how it was?  The flakes would start to fall or you’d hear the forecast and you wondered if you would have school the next day.  The pajamas would be turned inside out, we’d say a prayer, get all our homework done and then wait. We’d listen to the radio in the morning, to the endless list of schools, and hope we didn’t miss hearing ours was closed.  When the word came, it was bliss.  When I was young it meant playing outside, sledding down the street, building a snowman or having a snowball fight. In high school it meant blessed sleep.  Now, it’s all about time.

I wonder if we ever get over it.   I have a snow day tomorrow. My second one in a row and I am so very happy.  It’s one of the perks of my job that if the roads are bad, more than likely I will not have to go to work.  I can sleep in, stay in my pajamas all day, catch up on my reading, or clean a long neglected closet…whatever I want. I know I could be one of those people who have to brave bad weather and go to work regardless.  My best friend is a nurse and she will be out on the road at 5:30 tomorrow morning to get to work for her 7 am shift.  

I’m lucky and I know it.

What always surprises me is how teachers are about snow days. We compulsively check websites to see if the district is closed and when the call comes, there is a massive status update on Facebook.  We’re giddy and as bad as the kids. I guess that’s part of the personality, part of us that never grew up. I can live with that; being an adult is tedious.

For me, tomorrow will be a quiet day.  My kids are older, so I won’t have to keep them occupied. My son will sleep in, my oldest daughter will make her way to classes, and my husband will go to work. As I nurse a cup of coffee, I’ll worry about my middle girl braving the hills at Lehigh to get to her 8 am class. Then I’ll decide what to do with my found time.  In this world where we are slaves to our BlackBerry's and our schedules, finding time is a luxury and something we should do for ourselves more often.  Once in a while, the weather does me a favor.  

I could attack one of those neglected closets, and Lord knows there’s plenty of laundry to do, but I’m thinking, maybe, I won’t make a plan and just see what happens.  After all, it’s a snow day--a gift.  I can do anything I want.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Art and Life

Last night, I watched a few of the senior drama students agonize over their own productions in our annual showcase called "Director's Cut."  The kids write, cast and direct the one act plays and, of course, there were tears, misunderstandings, frustrations, angry words and confusion, but in the end it all worked out and the plays went well.  I won't say the productions were perfect--adorably flawed would be a better description, but overall they did a good job.

The senior directors learned a lot from the experience and some of it had to do with the people in their lives.  They learned who was easy to work with, who respected others and that sometimes working with your friends isn't all it's cracked up to be.  They learned that if something appears easy, there is usually a tremendous amount of preparation behind the scenes so it will look that way.

Producing the shows ended up being a good life lesson for the three directors because they learned that life is all about layers.  What people see, whether it be a show, a paper for a class, a display in  a mall, a movie, a book, or a night out with friends, each "thing" has some complexity and if it goes well it's because something went into making it so before hand.

Last night, as they walked out of the theater feeling good about how the shows went, I hope they remember how hard it was and that the good feelings came from the hard work and the frustration of getting those layers in place. I hope they realize that they put themselves on the line, that they risked failure and succeeded.

Taking chances, leaving our comfort zone and really embracing risk is when growth takes place.  I'm a firm believer that I will be "growing-up" forever. There will always be new challenges, new things to learn and new ways to put myself out there. The young directors just began their adult journey, learning more about the people in their lives and about themselves.

It's a beginning and as they look down the road they should see that their lives will be made up of layers, just like the plays they directed--there will be a cast of characters, things to juggle and problems to solve.

And there will always be something new to learn.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hall duty and writing.

I work in a high school. People whine and complain, but actually, being a teacher is a really good gig.  Most of us like our jobs, we like the majority of the kids and the annoyances pale next to the really good things that happen. However, one of the things that sets off teachers like bottle rockets are duty periods--study hall, cafeteria duty and hall duty, to name a few.

Librarians, as a rule, won't get a duty period because we need the flexibility in our schedule to teach; however, this year I got lucky--I have hall duty.  To be honest, I haven't had a hall duty in years.  I keep joking with everyone that that last time was 1989.  That's a lie, of course, it was 1992.   I've changed schools three times since 1992.  I've gone from high school to elementary to high school again and I went from being a classroom teacher to a librarian.  

In 1992, airbags weren't standard on all cars, cell phones were rare, and the Internet was virtually unknown.  Digital readers?  iTouch? E-mail?  Nope.

But, for the most part, the kids are the same.

This is going to be an interesting study and I didn't expect it to be.  I can read or work on edits and not feel guilty. I see people I don't normally see and I get to observe.

Writing requires observation.  People, places and things all become fodder for the writer.  The sound heels make in a hall.  The smell of a hundred kids who have just come from phys ed.  Anything and everything can become part of a story.  The change of environment is good for me in that respect. Down the line I'll be setting one of my books in a high school, so the images, sounds and smells are all being filed away.

I never realized how much I stored up.  My life's experiences come flooding out when I put words on a page. I think about my character Laura in Games--she's an insecure sixteen-year-old.  She doesn't know where she fits in and when she makes a mistake, she makes a doozy, but we learn a lot about her.  I think we were all Laura once upon a time, some of us just dealt with it better than others. I have a journal full of things I felt when I was sixteen, and when I wrote this character I revisited some painful days and I'm better for it.

Life has become my personal hall duty.  I make a point each day to observe quietly and learn about my surroundings, learn about the people who are crossing my path and those who are on the periphery.  Hall duty is about making the best of a situation. So here's how I see this: I appreciate a cloudy day as much as a sunny day, a good cry as much as a good laugh and I try to enjoy each day for what it is, not for what it isn't.  Yes, there are times I hate Monday mornings, but in order to practice my craft, I need to experience a sucky Monday once in a while.

I'd like to be tucked away in my library, but getting out on a regular basis is good, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I suppose we all have to start somewhere.  But I feel like I've been at the beginning of this career forever. In reality, it has been a decade.  I started, I stopped and I started again, but I don't know that I ever really stopped.  I've always played with words. I've always been a writer.

I have these milestones I'm facing. I'm approaching twenty-five years as a teacher; my children are growing up and in a year my youngest will be off to college. My thirtieth high school reunion is this summer and I feel like I need to fulfill some destiny.  I pulled out old yearbooks and found poems I'd written in junior high.  People saw me as the class "poet laureate" in 1977.  Girls wept at my sentimentality and I garnered a lot of attention. All throughout junior high and high school I never felt important, but my writing, and the way people responded to it, made me feel special.

I floated through school.  I participated in activities and I had friends, but I wasn't the girl everyone was going to remember.  I pretty much flew below the radar until college. It was then that I bloomed. I was a journalist--I wrote for local papers, interviewed famous athletes and had a press pass at the Coliseum.  When I became a teacher, I felt like I had come home and I've done good work in the classroom.  However, my claim to fame as a fifteen-year-old was that I was a poet, a storyteller, a writer, and that's something that has never left me.

I need to find that girl again.  I rewrote a book I finished five years ago and I'm now submitting it to agents.  I've had one request for a few chapters, a few rejections and some submissions are floating around out there in various inboxes.  I need to be fearless; I need to be the person that took a chance, bared her soul and let the whole ninth grade see her heart.  I don't think anyone who read my poems back then knew how scared I was to have them published in the yearbook, or how happy I felt when everyone loved what I wrote.

I want that again...I want the fear and the happiness.  I want to be what I've always dreamed of being and I have no reason to wait any longer.