Friday, November 26, 2010

This says it all!

And with a few days to spare!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Oh, I'm such a liar...

A "few days" turned into almost two weeks. Sorry. Between grading papers and writing for NaNo, I don't always remember to blog. And, of course, I spend waaaaay too much time on Facebook.

Anyway, my current NaNo count is 38,099. I should have written that one extra word to make this 38,100. Maybe in a few minutes, I'll add a bit more.

My word count is higher than in normally would be at this point because I haven't had many papers to grade this week. Of course, the week after Thanksgiving is another story, and, then, the week after that is finals week, so I'll have quite a bit to do then. The semester will end, Christmas will come, and I will be slogging away, creating my new courses for the spring. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to teach summer school, then I'll white-knuckle it until I find out if the college has enough money in its budget to hire me for another year.

I hate this budget crisis, and I hate this short-sighted legislature and this glory-hound governor who doesn't care about the state of Louisiana, except that it's a stepping stone to something else. I only hope the greater public sees him as the joke he is (along with Sarah Palin!) and laughs him back to the swamp in defeat.

One can dream. I've lost my faith in the general electorate; I don't think it votes with its mind engaged. It's a sad commentary on America.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

NaNo Update

Sorry! I've been so busy that I haven't had time to update my word count. I haven't posted a total for today yet, but last night my total was 10,324. I wrote for two hours this morning, so my total today should be good.

I'll update in the next day or so.

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNo Update--Day One

I have written the first chapter of my NaNo novel, The Book of Hannah. Word count: 2,302.

To meet my NaNo goal of 50,000 word by Nov. 30, I need to write 1,667 words a day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's NaNoWriMo Time Again!

Beginning November 1, I will, once again, plunge into the madness of NaNoWriMo, or, for those of you who don't know, National Novel Writing Month.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of deranged people try to write a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, during the month of November. I have done it twice--yes, twice! It averages to about 1800 words a day, a bit more, I think, but I aim for about 2000 words a day. In a good two hour period, that's not hard at all.
What's hard is coming up with an idea. The last two years, I already had my novels plotted out in my head. This year, I'm not sure. I have an idea for a post-apocalyptic novel, but I'm afraid it would be too derivative, since I just finished reading Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Apocalyptic, indeed. I think I'll try it anyway.
This year, I won't be pounding this out on my laptop; I'll be using my new desktop, unless we have a "write-in" at Barnes and Noble, or some other place. I say "we" because I'm not the only lunatic in this area who participates. I might be one of the few who finishes, though!
I always manage to work this around my courses. I'm well-organized, but I become hyper-organized during this time, reserving either early morning or late night hours for writing. I'm going to get those hours in, regardless of what else I have to do.
So, happy NaNo, to those of my friends who participate. To everyone else, see you Nov. 30!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time to Update...

I don't keep up with my blogs (I have three) the way I keep up with my Facebook page. Most of the time, I don't think about my blogs until I check student blogs on Sunday. Then, I'm too busy grading to think about writing.

Today, though, I decided to stop and post. I know change is a good thing, but, as with most people, it drives me up a wall, especially when I can't "plan" for it.

That sounds odd--planning for change. But, sometimes, we can see it coming and adapt our lives and routines to accommodate it.

Several months ago--before summer, actually--I saw these signs go up on the vacant lot across the street from me--"Motel Coming Soon--Make Advanced Reservations Now," with the obligatory phone number underneath. And, while the owner/manager/builder did some preliminary work during the summer, not much happened until recently.

The town brought a backhoe on my property and proceeded to tear down the plants and flowers on the side of my property--there's a ditch on one side of my lot, and the town mayor told me the state ordered them to clean the ditch out. Of course, no one bothered to tell me this was going to happen, so I had a long, angry talk with the mayor about bringing heavy equipment on my property without telling me.

So, once the motel work started hot and heavy, what did I encounter? A "Bobcat" sitting in my front yard one Thursday afternoon. The town and the motel builder have two deep, huge holes dug in my front yard, exposing the sewer and water pipes. I have Bobcat tracks all over my front yard and mounds of dirt and orange markers everywhere.

I bought my house because it is in the town, yet, because the lot is about an acre, it's "country," too. Even though I live in the city, it's been quiet and peaceful. Well, until the motel building began. Now, I wake every morning to the sound of beeping and dump trucks, or hammers pounding on the roof of the motel. For a while, I awakened to the grinding of a huge crane lifting "boxes" that formed the rooms of this motel. While an interesting sight, the noise annoyed me to no end. Some days, I could hardly hear myself think.

This worries me. I don't like the idea of a motel across the street from me, but, again, no one asked me how I felt about it. I'm hoping the owner puts a huge fence around it to block the noise and the sight, but I doubt that will happen. My idyllic homestead is becoming a casualty of progress, and I don't like it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Finding Time

I have a small white dry-erase board I keep at my desk. On Thursdays, I write every assignment coming due from my classes for the next week. This is especially important for the weekend, which, for me, goes from Friday through Monday, as that is when I have the most work to do.

When I wrote out my assignments for this "weekend," I thought, "I will never finish these by Monday." But, because I take this seriously, I knuckled down and started reading/grading assignments. Thursday, I spent most of the night trying to catch up with things students sent me that they should have sent earlier. Friday, I graded a set of freshman essays. Saturday, I read a set of Eng. 226 drafts, then graded a set of reading journals. This morning, Sunday, I posted scores for a quiz, read two sets of blogs and posted those grades, and handled assorted other assignments. I have a set of assignments for a freshman class, portfolios, and a quiz left to grade. I'll tackle the freshmen assignments in a few minutes; I'll save the portfolios and Eng. 215 quiz for tomorrow, which should leave me some time to mow the grass, and take care of household tasks.

As I complete my tasks, I give myself a break. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie; sometimes, I'll go outside and sit for a while and watch the birds. Today, I went out and set up my new composting box--I put in a bottom for it, then shovelled in the compost from the heap in my yard. That wasn't the most relaxing break, but I accomplished something, at least.

Every time I tell myself, "I don't have time," I need to look at my white board and remember how I handle tasks. I have as much time as I make, as long as I plan well.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

On the Blog, Again...

I haven't written here for a while--I guess life just overran everything! Summer wasn't that busy or exciting, unless I count my first driving experience in Houston (awful) and the trip I took to Colorado (excellent). My parents' and my brother's illnesses and operations dominated the months from May to August, and that's not something I wanted to write about at the time.

It's hard for me to realize how much time has passed for me. I am reminded, though, each time I look at my parents, or send a birthday card to one of my children. My son will be 30 this year; I can't believe that. My mother will be 80; that's even harder to believe.

Of course, as they get older, so do I, but I can't grasp that, either. I don't feel my age, except on those days after I've overdone it in the yard or the house. Some days, I feel my age. Most of the time, though, I don't.

I suppose the adage, "You're only as old as you feel," is true to some extent. But, then, I think that our physical age can't be ignored. If I have "three score and ten" years, I'm staring at the short end of a life. I prefer to not think about it, though, and just live as though I have unlimited time. I'm not sure that's the smart thing to do!

On a happy note, here's a random photo to cheer us up. Coushatta after a rainstorm!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "Secluded" Garden

My daughter came in from Austin for my birthday. While she was with me, she helped me work on a project I've been planning for two years--a "secret" garden, which isn't so secret! We managed to complete a flower bed, place an arbor and fence pieces, and plant 28 plants. Here are a couple of pics.
I'm not done, but this is a great beginning.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

To Blog, or Not to Blog...

I don't seriously think that's the question, but I realize I haven't done this for a while. I spend more time on Facebook than I do blogging, and, since few of my students read my blog this past spring, I just stopped posting.

I thought about it yesterday, and then, this morning, a former student asked me if I still blogged. I have gotten used to the short status updates on FB, and usually don't think about writing anything more than a few sentences long, unless I'm working on a poem or novel.

So, what's been going on? Too much to summarize here, really. Besides a truly busy spring semester, my dad's surgery, and gardening, not much else. I haven't planned anything beyond next weekend, but maybe I'll get in a few trips this summer to Houston and Austin. Maybe I'll be able to persuade my family members to take a trek back to Durango. Maybe not.

But here's what I worked on this morning--the "bottle gardens." My friends saved their beer and wine bottles for me so I could use them to edge my gardens. I think they look good.

This is the "flower garden." It has a camellia bush, black-eyed Susans, irises, wandering Jew, an Esperanza bush, some other plants my sister gave me (one of which is called a "butterfly" bush), sweet William, zinnias and sunflowers.

I call this one the "vegetable" garden, but only one side of it has vegetables--right now, cabbage, one lettuce plant, strawberries, tomatoes, squash, raspberries and blueberries, and a potato plant. I might have a few onions, but something has chewed the tops off of them.

That's what I've been doing--planting plants, seeds and bottles! And learning to use my new chainsaw and mowing the grass. Exciting, huh?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gardening Day...

So, I've graded everything I need to grade for the moment.  I have some papers coming in tonight, but today was a "free" day.  I worked in my gardens.

I'm what you might call a "haphazard" gardener.  I'm not a big planner.  I plant what I want, and just try to fit it all in.  And, yes, I planted before Easter (gasp!), so I might have to replant, but the Farmer's Almanac said today was a good day to plant anything that bears above ground (well, I planted onions, too).

So, here are some pictures of my gardens--the one for the veggies and the herb garden.

garden315007It's hard to see the tomatoes in this picture, but I planted three today--two bush tomatoes and one that's more viney.





This is the Greek oregano, the lemon thyme and chives in the herb garden.  The chives have been here for two years; the other plants are new.

Those are just two pics.  I could upload more, but they would be a bit redundant!


But here's a view of the bottle border.  I need more beer bottles, which my friends are working hard to get them to me.

I'll keep you posted on how the garden does, since I planted early.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Better Late Than Never...

but my students can't use that excuse!

My last post was eons ago, the day after that surprising and wonderful snow we had. So, to balance that, I want to show you what's going on in my yard, now that spring is nudging into the landscape. I took some time today to go out and snap some picks of what's coming up and/or blooming around my house.

This first picture is of the wild violets growing at the edge of my firepit. They're some of my favorite flowers. If I could gather enough of them, I'd try to make violet jelly--if such a thing exists.

The second picture is of the camellia bush. I love camellias, but this is the only camellia plant I have. Waxy, beautiful. When the petals fall, the ground seems snow-covered.

I only have this plant because, when my neighbor resurveyed his property for sale, he moved the property line over, giving me more land. I also added a second Mayhaw tree in the resurvey--which is good, because I love to make Mayhaw jelly.

The third picture is of one of the Japonica bushes on my property. I love the word "Japonica," but you may know this plant as "Flowering Quince." It doesn't have a smell, but the flowers are just the right shade of pink/rose, and the bees love it. I have to be careful when I cut from these bushes, or I might get stung.

I also took pictures of the paperwhites, the daffodils, and some little yellow flower that resembles a paperwhite, but is smaller and smells sweeter. But I won't upload those in this post. I'll do that in the next one.

I need to ready the mower. The grass is beginning to pop out in places under the leaves. The yard seems covered in white and blue flowers--I don't want to mow yet. I want to encourage the honeybees, and they love all these flowers.

I'm enjoying these first harbingers of spring, but not the oak pollen! If I have to put up with the pollen to have all these georgeous flowers, that's a price I'm willing to pay!

Friday, February 12, 2010


I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took this morning of the lovely snow before it began to melt.

These are various pictures I took around my house. It looked so beautiful, at least, until it began to melt and the limbs began to fall out of the trees!

Sunday, February 07, 2010


It's no secret to my friends and family that I will not watch the Superbowl.  I have not ever deliberately watched any sport on television.  If I'm at someone's house when a game is on, I'm only peripherally aware of what's going on.  Watching sports on TV is boring, and, frankly, I think it's a waste.  It's a waste of money and time.

If you ask me why I'm not supporting the Saints (or the Colts, for that matter), I can give you a long list.  Most of my friends will say I'm being righteous and making myself out to be better than others.  I say, "Bollocks" to that.  I think people are judged, rightly or wrongly, on where they put their energies.  In this country, I think we put our energies in the wrong place.

We pay millions of dollars each year for entertainment, and, while I think we all need to be entertained, I think we can find better things to spend our money on.  Frankly, I haven't seen a sport's figure who deserves the money he/she makes.  I think the US president and teachers deserve more money than guys who run down a field, holding a pigskin, or guys who run across a gym, dribbling a basketball.  Ditto golf, baseball, soccer, skiing, etc.  I think the people who clean up after us deserve more than they make.  Our idea of what's valuable in this country is skewed.  And I think it says a great deal about us as a people and a country.

And I don't just boycott sports programming; I boycott "reality" shows on TV.  Nothing "real" about them.  They are vapid and stupid.  If people want reality, they can come watch me try to balance my checkbook and stretch my paltry salary to cover the rising costs of everything from groceries to gas for my car.  My reality is not pretty, nor does it have a high entertainment factor.  I don't want to see someone pitch a fit because the florist didn't sprinkle red roses on the church carpet for her wedding.  That's just dumb.

All the people jumping on the Saints' bandwagon anger me.  How many of them supported the Saints through all of their losing seasons?  How many of them donned fleur-de-lis jerseys every time the Saints played in the past?  How many of them will support the Saints next year if they have a losing season?  A loyal fan supports his/her team whether it wins or loses. 

I would love to see the people in this state expend as much time and energy on providing excellent healthcare and education, providing employment, saving neglected children, ensuring the safety of battered and abused persons, providing shelter and support for the homeless...on anything other than football. What could we do as a state if each of us focused on our problems the way we focus on a winning football team? 

What will winning the Superbowl do for us?  Well, for New Orleans, it might bring in a few more tourists, until they see that half the city still isn't rebuilt and crime is out of control...I don't know that it's going to help the rest of us much.  New Orleans would be better served if the Ninth Ward was restored so the people who used to live there could go back home and if the Corps of Engineers rebuilt the levees to withstand another category 5 hurricane.  New Orleans would be better off with more jobs and more reasons for people to return and rebuild.  I don't see how the Superbowl is going to do that.

My friends say I'm a killjoy.  I prefer to think of myself as a realist, in that I'm not a person who jumps on any frivolous bandwagon that comes along.  I prefer to watch the parade and choose my bandwagons carefully.  Football isn't one of them.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Using My Imagination...

My desk takes up a small corner of my living room.  It is next to a window, which is a good thing and a bad thing.  The window provides much needed light for my work, but it also provides as much distraction as a television.  The least thing pulls my attention away from what I should be doing.

I have noticed, the past few days, a number of circling vultures above the woods behind my neighbors' and my properties.  This morning, I noticed a large contingent of them sitting in the trees in my neighbors' yard.

In the country, such a sight is not that odd.  Animals die--cats, dogs, skunks, coyotes--it happens.  The vultures are nature's disposals; they take care of the waste.

But, when I see a large group of them so close to home, my imagination starts to work.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen my neighbors--either of them--in at least a month.  The person who seems to be staying there has stayed at the house before; these neighbors seem to travel a great deal.  So he's not a stranger.  Yet...

The problem with being a writer is that my imagination tends to take me on these wild journeys through what might be possible.  The writer in me says, "Suppose the person staying there has murdered the homeowners?  There's that privacy fence they put up.  The nosy neighbor could get a stool or ladder and look over the fence in the backyard..."  And, thus, the premise for a short story or novel rears its head. 

And that's fine.  Writers have to get their ideas somewhere.  But it's also distracting...I should be working on coursework, and I'm sitting here dreaming up a novel or story.  Usually, I just write myself a note for later and go back to what I was doing.  But, sometimes, the idea is so compelling that it derails me...and that's not always a good thing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spring Semester Begins...

Yes, it's that time again. A new semester is off and running.  Usually, the first week of class is rather wild and unsettled.  For the first two weeks, I feel, at times, as though I have an entirely new class every time I show up.  Students add and drop for about two weeks.  They shop classes.  If the class seems to require too much work, students will drop it and search for one that doesn't seem so involved.

I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with dropped students lingering on my Moodle courses.  Even after I delete them, they show up again until the administrator runs a purge against the registration records.  I checked some of my classes today, and they showed I had many, many more students in my classes than the Compass roster showed.  I get so confused!

Normally, the first week has a few glitches to it, but those are easily solved.  Today, though, was busy.  I had a student in my office almost as soon as I arrived on campus; then I taught two classes; then a former student stopped by to see me, a colleague needed help with a blog, and I helped with an equipment inventory.  I didn't stop until I left for the day.  I like busy days, but a busy day this early in the semester is unusual.  I survived it! 

Right now, I just want to veg out with a book, but I probably should check my email, etc.  But, no.  I think I need to stop for a few minutes and catch my breath, clear my mind. 

My classes and students are promising this semester.  So far, the students seem enthusiastic and willing to listen/work.  Later in the semester, we'll all start to drag!  But we'll deal with that when we need to.  Right now, I'm excited about the newness of everything.  I'll hold on to that feeling as long as I can!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dear Governor Jindal...

[Note: This is sarcasm, just in case you can't tell!]

Since you are hell-bent on destroying higher education and healthcare in Louisiana, let me offer some suggestions to quicken their demise.

1. Allow only on-line classes at the state's universities, community colleges, and technical schools, which will result in huge savings. Sure, welding classes might suffer, but having only on-line instruction will allow the shutdown of most or all of the physical plants. Just think--no air conditioning, no heat, no lights, except in, perhaps, the one building that will house the computer server and various necessary humans to push the necessary paper for financial aid, etc. Those professors teaching the classes will provide their own offices, computers, Internet, etc. We won't need physical plants to house them or classes for students, and, thus, we won't need support personnel except to maintain one building on campus (see item 2). We can also eliminate the bookstore by having students order their books on line. Departments can have faculty meetings via Yahoo Messenger or Skype, and they'll be using their own resources instead of college phones and facilities. And the state can sell all of the desks, chairs, etc., that we use in on-campus classes, because we won't need them anymore.

2. In the administration of college services:

a. Have only one person in each department to handle all the work for that department--one financial aid person, one PR person, one dean to handle overrides and course problems. You get the idea. Oh, and only one secretary for all of them. Pare the staff down to the most basic and elemental personnel. This shouldn't be a problem, if you implement item b.

b. Raise tuition exorbitantly, making it impossible for most students to afford it or obtain enough financial aid to cover it. Fewer students will apply to college or attend, thereby making item 2a feasible.

3. Keep chipping away at higher education in Louisiana so that more people will leave and fewer businesses will locate here. That will help with healthcare, too, because, if fewer people live here, fewer people will need doctors or hospitals.

I might be willing to have furloughs, etc., if you and the legislature would do likewise. Governor, how about you giving up 5% of your yearly salary and refraining from work on those days? Many of us would appreciate it if you wouldn't work so hard. And I'm sure that wouldn't be a stretch for most legislators, since they don't seem to do much anyway, except tell the rest of us that we have to tighten our belts. How about cutting all the pork out of the budget? How about tapping into the rainy day fund to ensure that our future workforce gets the education it needs to help Louisiana succeed long after you're out of here? How about looking for better ways to attract more revenue? How about some future-thinking, or is that not a priority for you because, in two years, you don't plan to be here to deal with the mess you've left us?

P. S. In the case of science labs, we could consolidate our classes with the LSUHSC here in town. All of our students could go there to dissect animals. This would be win-win; our students would pay to get the hands-on experience science labs require, and the Med School would get unpaid workers to help with research. In the case of anatomy classes, the students could assist with autopsies, which would provide them with first-hand knowledge of the workings of the human body.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What I did on my winter break...

Well, aside from spending most of December in Austin...

And just a side note on that--the battery in my car died at my son's bank.  As soon as I raised the hood, though, some knight in a clunky old truck pulled up next to us and jump started the car so we could go buy a new battery.  I mean it was that fast.  We weren't stranded at all...but the new battery put a dent in my finances.  At least I didn't have to call a tow truck!

I spent most of the break reading and updating my Moodle courses.  I began my reading odyssey with An Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears.  I've had this book forever, and, when I went looking for something absorbing, I rediscovered it.  Not an awful book.  It tells the same story from four points of view.  I'd classify it as an historical mystery.

Then my son and I indulged in a Terry Pratchett marathon.  I read Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Hogfather, The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic...I don't think I've left anything out.  I can't tell you everything he read, but we kept swapping books.  My son clued me in to Pratchett, so I'm doing my best to catch up.  I've read Good Omens, the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, and passed that on to my son.  So we had fun with that.

When I came home, I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.  I have three more of his books ordered, so I'll work my way through those during the semester.  I won't have much time to read as the semester progresses, but I'll have some time during our Easter get-together at Toledo Bend. 

I love to read and lament that, while I'm teaching, I don't have time to read much of anything except what I assign for my courses.  Still, I amass these huge piles of books for later...later usually comes during the summer or over Christmas.  Sigh...And pile on top of that my writing, and most of my "free" time is not so free!

But I'm not complaining!  As long as my eyes work, I'll read!


The one puzzlement from the Christmas break:  I was gone from home for about 16 days.  When I came home on Jan. 2, the only mail I received was the "hold mail" card I left with the local post office, two pieces of junk mail, and my water and mortgage bills.  Conspicuously missing were my phone, car, and gas bills.  I stopped into the post office today to enquire--I kept hoping the PO would deliver the errant mail--and the guy behind the counter couldn't explain it, and he couldn't find any mail for me.  He says he'll talk to the carrier, but I wonder if I should just contact the Post Master General and file a complaint--I'm waiting until I hear back from the local PO. I get more than two pieces of junk mail a week, and my creditors ALWAYS send bills.  So to receive four pieces of mail for 16 days is odd (or suspicious).  More on this as the situation unfolds...

I hope everyone had a great break.  I did, except for the mail thing!