Work Hard

  I have a saying in my classroom: We work smarter not harder in Wanket World. (My name is Mrs. Wanket at work. I know. I know.)  That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. It just means we work with purpose and focus on our collective and individual goals. We don’t flail around with busy work. We have goals. We do more in such a way that we get more. More skill, more pages written, more ideas explored. The classroom scene gets me to thinking. . . .I can do so much more in all areas of my life with just a…

Embrace the Healing Crisis

When I’m about five days into a habit of healthy eating (no sugar whatsoever, little or no wheat products), my skin clears, my clothes loosen, my head aches. My head aches so I can taste metal in the back of my mouth. My head aches so that nothing makes it stop all the way. Even with coffee and analgesics, the headache lurks in the shadow. Its eyes are yellow and they glow in the dark. My energy is low. The dimmer switch is turning lower. Everything is getting on my nerves. My sense of humor is missing. I am taking…

Remember Savasana

Today is a Sunday with no plans. Nowhere to be. At some point I’ll need to venture to the grocery store for lunch fixin’s for the week. That will take maybe thirty minutes. I did a little laundry. Made eggs for my daughter and her friend. Straightened up a bit. Putzed. Now I’ll write a few letters. Read. Think about things. Wander into the backyard and marvel at the plants and trees. My sweetheart is a good gardener. Two of my favorite TV characters when I was little were Farmer Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island….

Just Say Thank You

This was me when Sue, the wonderful organizer of Sacramento Stories on Stage, first asked me to send her my work for consideration: “Oh, no.  Are you sure you really want it? I’m not that good.” My friend Valerie grabbed my arm. “When someone asks to see your work, always just say thank you.” Thanks, friend. I needed that. My first reaction to a compliment, a gift, a favor, or an offer, is some kind of waffle-mouthed “Oh no, surely you don’t mean it, I don’t want to be a bother, I couldn’t possibly accept.” Reader, it’s bullshit. I never…

Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

Stop Saying Sorry

I have a rule in my classroom that you can’t say you’re sorry unless you hit someone with a hammer on purpose or by mistake. Either scenario would warrant an apology. Otherwise, keep your “I’m sorry” to yourself. My high school students will preface a question with “I’m sorry, but–” as if: 1. It isn’t my paid job to help them, and 2. They are somehow hurting me by showing interest in what we’re doing. My students say sorry for passing me in the hallway.  Sorry for having to use the restroom.  Sorry for laughing too hard. So I made…

When I Spill Coffee on My Laptop Say Thanks

I had an entire year once of annoying events. It started on January 1st when a tree fell on our house in a terrible storm. Our kitchen floor became alarmingly spongy. The water heater broke. An airport van driver ran into my car door in the Safeway parking lot and drove off without even giving me her name. Money shrank as the list of wrong and broken things grew. A strange string of other distressing people and events served to vex us throughout the year. We invented a comforting mantra: Well, that was annoying but at least it wasn’t evil. As a sort of bookend…

Ask the Quarterback to the Prom

I have a novel coming out in July of this year. My publishers asked me if I knew a few authors who would be willing to give a blurb to help promote the book I know a few authors. I attend workshops, a writer’s group, and every literary event in my vicinity that I can. I’ll stand in line for an hour to exchange a few words with someone whose books have meant something to me. (My students have suggested I am overzealous in my admiration of authors. To that I say, I am always respectful of boundaries and if anyone minds my…

Meditate

Advice to myself: Meditate while the water for the coffee is boiling. Sit wrapped in a blanket, palms open, eyes closed.  Focus on the breath coming in and out of my nose. Relax my face. Notice I’m thinking of marathon runners from Kenya who have relaxed faces even in the final miles. Wonder how they accomplish such mastery of the self. Let the runners go. Return to breath. Notice I’m thinking of that thing that pisses me off. Return to breath. Notice I’m thinking about Peaky Blinders. Let Alfie Solomon go, crazy as he is. Return to breath. Notice I’m calmer…

Exercise Is Not Penance

Workouts don’t buy food. The idea that working out every day lets me eat whatever I want with no consequence was never true. Not for me. I can be pretty fit even when carrying thirty more pounds on my body than is strictly necessary. I can charge up a mountain and feel great doing it. But if I want my clothes to fit properly without having to buy all new clothes, I can’t expect even a rigorous exercise program to make up for a diet that has sugar in it. Also, the value of a good workout is not negated when I eat…