A List of Hobbies I Gave Up When I Got Serious About Writing

Baking Gardening Thai food cooking Garage sales Beadwork Jewelry making Watercolor painting T-shirt painting Apron painting Hot gluing used coffee filters to the tops of glass jars and stamping them with Amish-style stamp designs Hot gluing cotton balls to the tops of glass jars and then gluing fabric over the cotton balls to make the lids puffy and then filling the jars with candy Wreath-making from vines I cut from random bushes on the side of the road Knitting Cutting hearts out of the pages of old books and Mod Podging them to glass jars and putting candles inside Mod…

The Time I Fell Down In Dance Class

I fancied myself a dancer when I was a kid. Flashdance was important. I watched a lot of the television show Fame. I listened relentlessly to my Flashdance and Fame records every single day, filled with longing. I made my friends call me Alex for a while. My perms were tight as screws. I wore leg warmers long after they were stylish. I mean, long after. Even in the summer. I badgered my dad to take the car out of the garage so I could practice tap dancing on the smooth concrete. I made up my own dances, dancing for hours, practicing…

5 Weight Loss Rules I’m Glad I Followed

The before and after pictures I posted yesterday surprised me when I looked at them together. I’ve lost less than twenty pounds, but the difference in how I feel and look and feel about how I look is enormous. I almost didn’t post those pics out of embarrassment. I did decide to post them because I wanted to be honest about the dramatic effect sugar has on my health. I wanted to be honest about myself. The truth is, I was excited to be at Comic Con. But I was also exhausted. My clothes were uncomfortable. My skin was uncomfortable. The pics remind…

5 Weight Loss Rules I’m Glad I Broke

September is always a New Year’s season for me, and in honor of fresh starts I am embarking on a daily blog challenge for the month. My September challenge this year is called Back-To-School Issue, in which I recreate the magazines of my teenage years with the interests of my current self in mind. There will be journal activities at the end of each post for friends and followers who want to play this fun game with me. This was me at Sacramento Comic Con at the end of June: This is me tonight, eight weeks later: Body image has…

Back-To-School Issue

I used to be obsessed with magazines. My favorite? The Seventeen August issue. The Seventeen August issue was packed with advice on everything, gorgeous ads, and an East coast style sensibility that while super impractical for a California girl with no fashion budget, was the epitome of dreamy sophistication. As an adult, I’ve subscribed to Allure, Vogue, Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Domino, Shape, Fitness, Oxygen, and Women’s Health. I love going to my mailbox and finding a shiny new magazine. It’s old-fashioned and cool. The problem is too much of the content doesn’t apply to me anymore. My…

What I Said at the Prayer Service Today

In the beginning of the first Toy Story Buzz LightYear was excited about all of his power. He had the power of lasers, and flight, and the power of a star command ship that he talked to through his monitors. He had lots of gadgets and stuff and a mission. The problem was, it wasn’t real. It was all fake. But when he dropped his mask and breathed the real air, he grew to realize that it was only in cooperation with his friends that he had real powers and a true mission, and he was more powerful and capable…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Rock Star University: Show Up

If you haven’t yet, check out this clip of Prince sharing a stage with several other musicians at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2004. I get chills watching this. Prince is doing anything but dialing this performance in. Can you predict what I’m going to say? Prince is teaching me here to show up one hundred percent. No matter what everybody else is doing, no matter the occasion, no matter what, have the courage to show up with everything. Be overdressed rather than underdressed. Be enthusiastic rather than apathetic. Show the courage to revel in the full joy of the moment….

Rock Star University: Pursue Excellence

In a fog of mourning last week, perusing every Prince interview available on Youtube, I found an odd little visit he made to The View some years ago. The hosts harass him until he leaves, but before he does he drops an important piece of wisdom. After Barbara Walters leans in to say that Justin Beiber had told them that he wanted to have a career as long as his, Prince just smiles. She says it to flatter him, but he isn’t flattered. His look is gentle but deeply knowing. Prince says, “The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can. I…

One to Watch: Chantel Carnes

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. Chantel Carnes was in my Advanced Placement Language and Composition course five years ago when I taught at Sacramento Charter High School. She was one of those young writers whose papers I would place at the bottom of the stack when I was grading. It wasn’t fair to the other students for me to see hers first. She tended to set the bar pretty high….