Greatest Day of Teaching Ever?

I have no students today. 1st hour seniors are all gone. 2nd hour is my plan time. So yeah, no finals to give today.  No students!

Rather than restart my novel, I’m fixing the draft I started in the winter. The major change I’m doing is the setting. I was going to write the story from the suburbs of Chicago, but why? How does that contribute? If anything, it’ll detract from the story because I haven’t spent much time there. Sooo, I’m moving it to St. Louis. The city itself won’t be a huge deal as far as plot, but at least I can write what I know. I’ll put Forest Park in or something, I don’t know. Now that it’s practically time to write this thing, I’m getting all of these insecurities and 2nd thoughts about it:

“It’s not going to sell either! You can’t market it to teens in your classroom, so who’s going to buy it?”

“Your first draft is so awful that none of this will even be used!”

“Think of the two years of work you have ahead of you for this thing. Do you really want to do that again? For what? So you have another book to sell after your shows?”

“You’re just doing this to pump out another title. You think that’s going to impress anyone at this point?”

“The ending of this one is going to be predictable. Stop going to the well on the same crap so many times.”

“Treat yourself to a free summer! Relax for once!”

All of these echo in my head every day. They just popped up this last weekend. I will ignore them even though they make perfect sense.  The first draft is my favorite part of the novel-writing process.  I should enjoy this step rather than focus on the hours of revision it will lead to. I have to take the pressure off of myself. I know I’m still at least 2 books away from being good enough to publish, so I need to keep working/writing.  Maybe I don’t get anything published until I retire from teaching completely (20+ years from now).

Had I only started earlier.  I’ve always been a late bloomer. I wonder if dying will be like that too. I mean, puberty took its sweet time to hit, so why not death?  OK, let’s back off the morbid train.

So my plan is to continue working on the first draft.  One hour a day this summer.  By 10:30 I was to have my workout (also an hour) and writing done. Then the rest of the day is mine.

On days like this when I don’t get to teach–even yesterday when I only had films and finals, I get restless.  By 7:00 last night I was pacing around with nothing to do. Luckily I have a good book to read. I took my telescope out at stared at Venus, then the moon for awhile. My chess game is back up to par too.

This is what happens when you don’t have kids. You have time to yourself, which is great, but you gotta occupy it with something that improves yourself. Bad habits come easily.

OK, I’ll stop here. I have my author blog to get to. I need to thank some people.

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Look!

I just got back from my show in Hannibal. It went well and the books sold in pretty good numbers. Thank you to those who made it out to the signing at 6 North today.

Come Visit Me at 6 North!

Hey, it’s my turn, right? (11-1:00 today)

I’ve pulled some lower back muscles twice in a week now so I can barely move, so that’ll make it fun (plus I have a show tonight 2 hours away). I took a muscle relaxer and I’m hoping to cancel out the sleepiness with extra coffee.  We’ll see which is more potent, uppers or downers.

My wife is going to stop by as well, probably the latter half of it, but I’m not sure. She’s napping already.

According to a book I’m reading, back pain is caused by suppressing feelings. I’m not sure who I’m holding back on. 6th hour? 3rd hour? They’ll all be gone by next at this time. : )

My Funnybone shows got some plugs on Fox 2 News yesterday morning too. My friend Joe represented the club and had to say I was funny on TV. He said it tore him up! haha

I’m going to try and find the segment.

Hope you can make it out today, I’ve got more free tickets to my shows!

I had the cruelest dream

I was at a hockey game. It seems liked my Mom was around. My best friend Eric was with his mom (apparently we were grown men hanging out with mothers which I don’t know how common that is). Eric had better seats so I followed him down just to see where his were. It was just me at this point. We were chatting in the aisle before the game when an usher escorted me out and tried to throw me out of the arena. I kept begging, “Please don’t throw me out sir.” I said it over and over. I even ran away at one point and then stopped to let him catch me to show him I was an honest guy and didn’t deserve this treatment. He didn’t listen and even grabbed me by the arm to get out me out of there, and then I woke up really upset this morning.

It creeps me out because of the date and the way it happened was like what I wrote about the other night.

It’s a pretty easy interpretation. I don’t get to do things as an adult with Mom.

GD it.

Hey…It’s me

Sorry I missed most of your last days of school.  We had a good time at State and placed 5th. A little disappointed we couldn’t bring home a trophy (top 4), but we played so much better day two.

If you’re missing anything, I’m going to allow one assignment to be turned in late tomorrow, no penalty. You can also do author’s chair (which is optional, but I won’t put in a missing grade since most Fridays I forgot to do it). But it’s an easy 10 points. If you’re right on the border B+, C+ or whatever, just take the final. It’s an hour out of your life and as long as you give a good effort you’re ace it and bring that grade up several points.  I hope a few of you come in tomorrow, but if I don’t see you, I hope you enjoyed the class.  This is probably the most lax semester I’ve taught, but I’m pretty sure you were okay with that.  : )

Good luck in college or wherever you’re headed, and I hope to hear from you in the future (except: “Hey, can you look over this paper for me?”  I’m not doing that.) haha

Good job yesterday!

See, what wasn’t so bad, was it? I think the initial fear may have inhibited your joke-writing process, but overall you came through and put on a good show.

Following up from Thursday..

More of my tickets were taken today. I put them in the teacher’s lounge and mail room and piles dwindled. I want people to come out and see that comedy is not just some cute little hobby I have. Same with my books. They’re my children…and you guys too–well, you’re more like nieces and nephews, but you know what I mean.  Anyway, sarcastically mocking either career pisses me off. And a lot of that is probably my fault for opening myself up to it somehow, but I feel like a lot of people resent the fact that they never pursued a dream. You can see it on Facebook more than anywhere else.  My close friends know better.

See, us adults still have this petty stupid BS in our lives. I’m headed to KC tomorrow for State golf. Unfortunately, I missed Modest Mouse in KC by 2 days. Their setlist was killer too.  : (

I’ll either grade blogs late tonight, early tomorrow, or a few days from now depending on what I do tonight.

Humbling

People always say it’s humbling when they’re compared to someone great. I don’t understand that. That should do the opposite effect.

Humbling was today.

I sent out an email to all 180+ staff members at Marquette…three bought books. Six, maybe seven came up and got free tickets. Obviously my promotional skills are slacking and my brief email was too brief. If I can’t even attract the language arts teachers to buy a book I think they and their students will enjoy. . .

I’d buy their book…I mean, I’ve looked at pictures of their kids and clicked “like” a hundred times.  Oh well, it’s a busy time of year and my students are the real market.

Humbling is also how my classes have gone this year. I failed as a teacher to overcome the first hour blues.  I’m not blaming any of you. I have creative writing first hour next year too, so I need to make adjustments. I asked you guys once and no one said anything, but if you have any ideas, I’m all ears. I promise I’m not trying to be an a-hole here, but some days it is absolutely painful. Actually I think you said to let you make more prompts up and lead discussions so that would be a start.  I need to start scoring the participation for those better too.  I’ll probably have to go back to collecting journals every two weeks as well.

I think the problem with this year was that starting first semester, I wasn’t getting anything from the class, so I pulled more from myself and made it too much about me instead of you because I didn’t dig deep enough into my students. I got lazy or something and it led to a lack of bonding.  I think the lack of writing short stories hurt too.  No one this semester got to create “their baby” and maybe it became easy to slack on the writing (and grading) and we didn’t delve deep enough into it. Again, my fault.

I had a class a few years ago that made me a PPT with individual messages on it that made me bawl right before we took the final.  We had our tiffs in that class, but there was a deeper connection. (They were 5th hour.)

So it’s humbling, but not in the way athletes say it. I’m not trying to be passive-aggressive on here.  I’m not blaming anyone but myself, and I’m not looking for pity by any means. It’s not like it was a failure, I just feel like I left you short on a better experience because I couldn’t adapt.

I tried to do too much and ended up doing too little.

Ahh, there’s always next year!

On a positive note, I bought Iron & Wine tickets today for a concert in October.  (They sing “Boy with the Coin” and a bunch of other songs I play during freewriting all the time.) It’s at the Pageant and I actually found the presale code so we’re in the balcony seats rather than my wife standing behind someone a foot taller than her and getting bumped into.

The Day Mom My Died

“No wonder you are the way you are,” –Louise Gluck, “Love Poem”

On May 15, 1993 I left the house early for our league track meet.  I only had to run one event (2 laps) in the 4*800 meter relay. I was a freshman and ran the first leg in 2:12 which was my best time that year. Our team won the league and I got home mid-afternoon.

Mom had been in the hospital 20 minutes away all week.  The three weeks before that  she had been at a cancer hospital in Zion, Illinois. We had visited her a few weeks before when someone donated the cost of our plane tickets from Ohio.

I had seen her the day before after school.  My aunt and uncle were in town (her siblings) and I should’ve realized they weren’t just there to visit. They knew it was bleak. My grandparents were there as well. The last time I saw her she was high on morphine.  Her bone marrow was having problems and she was in so much pain, they had to dope her up.

The last time I saw my mother alive, she was babbling nonsense with her eyes closed. That’s what hurts the most.

The evening of the 15th my friend Steve and his parents took me to our high school play, Hello Dolly. We were really enjoying it. Act II had just begun. We were in the 4th or 5th row of bleachers in the gym (our school didn’t have a theater) when a cop with a small flashlight came up and signaled us out.

You know how you can hear the alarm clock right before you wake? You want to ignore it and deny that it’s buzzing? You’d give anything to stay where you are?

That was the feeling.

We walked halfway through the empty cafeteria as Steve’s dad put his arm around both my brother and me and said, “I’m sorry.” He was choked up. I knew. Denial fought for a minute or so, and Steve’s mom even said, “Now they aren’t sure yet,” because she was experiencing it too (she was my mom’s best friend), but I knew.

My poor sister, who was 19 was at home by herself and got a call from a nurse and had to drive herself there in hysterics.

I’ll never forget the scene in that room. My mom’s bald head with her eyes shut. Motionless.

It was the only time I ever heard my dad address Mom by her name, “Jenny.”

It’s cruel how your mind fights the reality of it. You negotiate ridiculous hypotheticals afterwards. You get mad at God. Actually you get mad at everyone because anger is stage three after shock and denial.

And then the stage-four guilt weeks later. It was the toughest stage. Acceptance finally came, but each of the previous ones still pop their heads out occasionally.

I stopped asking why. My mom was like a book that got its theme across and then ended abruptly. Sometimes a great book is only 100 or so pages. The message was delivered beautifully and completely, so the plot ended there. She gave an entire lifetime of love in the 15 years that I was alive with her. All I can do is live my life and pass along what I learned.

 

Trip to Florida

My sister and I live very different lives.  My wife and I have a quiet, clean home with not much decor.  It’s open and if there’s anything to hear, it’s Iron & Wine on Pandora.

My sister has 6 kids, 5 of which still live with her, plus a puppy that isn’t trained.

Conner, pictured below, the star of the show.  He was diagnosed with autism last year and has made a lot of progress.  At times, it’s unnoticeable.  She even said if he was her first, she wouldn’t have known anything was different about him.  He has his good an bad moments, but he’s an adorable kid who played me in Uno and Chess all weekend.  He knows how to play chess until he’s losing, then he gets a little fuzzy on the rules.  : )

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My godson Kevin, played me in pickleball.  He added Liam, who’s 15 and the best athlete in the family, and the two of them gave me a fun challenge.  (Here’s Kevin and I posing this morning).  Sorry ladies, Liam, the lady killer got out of pictures.

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Last night we left my niece, MaryKate, who is soon to be a freshman at Notre Dame with most of the boys.  My brother in law Dan, my sister, and Liam all went to St. Augstine and at out on a patio.  Cajun food was amazing, and we had a good time without the chaos of all the kids.  This is my sister, Sue, in front of a fort at St. Augustine…

 

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I was able to beat my genius brother in law at chess quite a few times, including our first 5 games.  He was pissed and it delighted me.  He started winning a few as the noise got to me and I was being hurried, but I haven’t even been playing lately so it was a nice surprise.

On my flight home, I ended up sitting next to a kid who I worked in the classroom of when he was in 4th grade.  We were chatting about schools and he said he was Clayton ’15 and then we put the pieces together. It was so weird.  He had a beer and was all grown up in his senior year at Clemson.

The years blow by, you guys.  You’re going to wake up in your late 20’s in what’ll feel like tomorrow.  Live your life and take care of yourself!