March 27, 2015

So Many Pictures, So Few Videos

I'm not embarrassed to admit I take a lot of pictures, maybe too many.  I use my iPhone from time to time, but I much prefer my Nikon DSLR.  I love the crispness of the photos, the ability to selectively focus, and adjust settings to work with the lighting available.  I love capturing motion without unsightly blur.  I love that even when the ISO is bumped up to insane numbers, the noise in the picture is still minimal when compared to the noise I get on my dratted phone. 

Yet, there is one thing that phone does better than my expensive Nikon equipment: it takes decent videos.  If I use my Nikon, you can hear the autofocus mechanism in the audio track.  It whirs and clicks, clicks and whirs, as the sensor struggles to keep the subject in focus. The iPhone, on the other hand, does not distract the viewer in such a way.  It just records.

The thing is, though, that I forget about the wonders of recording.  Pictures are great.  They are.  I love them and will always treasure those I've collected over the years.  Yet, I am a little upset with myself when it comes my video collection.  It is dreadfully small, shamefully so, because it was not treated with the same obsessiveness as my photo collection.   

I used to record the boys a lot when they babies and I would save them to VHS because that was the technology available to me at the time.  I know the videos made it to the new house, but then they were lost.  It's heartbreaking to think I'll never hear how sweet their little baby voices were when they were toddling around.  I've looked for those VHS tapes a number of times without any luck.  I still hold out hope they will magically appear, but I know it's not going to happen. 

As the boys grew I continued to record them.  As technology changed, I saved them to computer hard drives, DVDs, and external drives.  Few of them have made it onto the web.  This needs to change.  I need to get better about editing and uploading what few videos I take.  I need to do this because I know I will regret it if I don't.  DVDs get scratched or broken.  Computers crash and hard drives aren't always recoverable.  The same can be said of external drives.  The cloud, though, seems a bit more reliable.  I should be uploading them there for safekeeping.  

I should start doing that today.  






March 25, 2015

I'm Still Trying to Figure It Out

You may recall that I graduated with a Masters degree in English language and literature a couple of years ago.  I spent a few months luxuriating in the freedom that comes with the knowledge that the last paper has been turned in and no one will be placing an eight-page syllabus in your hand anytime soon.  I celebrated by reading whatever I wanted.  Strangely, I sometimes wanted books on theory or even the occasional classic.  Mostly, though, I read the type of books I had read before I started my program.  I read science fiction and fantasy, romances, suspense, and horror.

I also tried to find my writing voice, the one that wasn't concerned with sounding smart but with good storytelling.  It was a struggle.  Years of academic writing seemed to have obliterated my creativity.  Everything I wrote seemed stilted and dry.  Boring.  Pointless.  I began to fear I had traded my creative voice for an education, and that the trade-off might not have been worth the price. 

So I turned my attention to teaching. I had this fancy degree (not as fancy as a Ph.D., mind you, but certainly something more substantial than a bachelors) that said I knew a little something about English.  I had studied composition and rhetoric and felt ready to tackle comp/rhet courses at a local community college or university.  I sent out CVs (an academic resume) and cover letters stating as much.  Eventually, I got an interview at a not-at-all-local community college and was offered a first year composition course.  

I taught that class last fall and it was a great learning experience for me.  I found there were things I enjoyed and things I did not.  Classroom discussions were great but only when the students had actually managed to complete their assigned readings.  On those days when it seemed no one had even attempted the short stories or essays we were meant to cover during our three hour class meeting, I was irritated and uncertain of how to proceed.  I learned, though, what to do when my students didn't come to class prepared.  We spent more time on grammar.  I created groups and assigned each a different essay and tasked them with creating talking points. We would move to the computer lab and write. 

It was an adventure and one I'm glad I had.  However, there were drawbacks that seemed to outweigh the benefits.  I enjoy teaching and I want to do more of it, but I don't want to miss important events in my kids' lives because of it.  If teaching were my only job, I could accept positions during the hours when the boys are in school and do my prep and grading in the hours between my classes and the kids' arrival home.  That's not my life, though.  Teaching is something I do "on the side" because I have a good paying day job with benefits.  Leaving it for the classroom would be a ridiculous move financially, and, Heaven knows, I've always done the practical thing when it comes to helping support the family.  

Teaching as an adjunct (part-time) instructor is still appealing as long as the course fits into my schedule and doesn't conflict with my kids' needs.  I won't miss an entire season of games ever again.  The boys will eventually graduate high school and their sports schedules will disappear with the arrival of that diploma.  It's then that I foresee more flexibility in my schedule. 

There is some risk in taking time off from teaching.  It's a gap in the resume that may scare off a prospective employer.  I may never even make it to the interview because of it.  I'm fully aware of this and trust that whatever happens was meant to be.  

I'm hoping, though, that my latest gambit will help bridge the gap.  A friend of mine mentioned that the community education program in her area was looking for instructors and suggested that I reach out to the community education program near me.  I did, and I'm glad I took the risk.  It seems I might be able to teach a couple of creative writing courses in the near future, perhaps even as early as July.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am by this.  I've dreamed of teaching a creative writing course.  I've often wanted to work with young adults or even children interested in writing.  The community education program may very well give me an opportunity to do both.  

The first course I proposed is a novel writing course intended for adults who have always wanted to write but haven't yet.  I intend to give them some tools to help them create characters and plan their plots. I hope to leave them with a beginning already written and a middle and end that they can envision. 

The second course, which I'm still working on, is intended for children ages 8 - 13.  This one is trickier, but I've been tossing around the idea of having them work on short stories in a shared universe of their picking.  I'd like to give them a published product, which means I need to do some more investigative work with local printers.  At first, I considered using Smashwords and generating an e-book.  The more I thought about it, though, the more complicated it became.  Parental permissions, internet accessibility, e-readers...the list goes on.  As I said, it's still a work-in-progress, but I'm hoping to have a reasonable plan of attack by the week's end. 

As I said, I'm still trying to figure it all out. 


October 29, 2014

NaNo 2014

Once again, I am participating in NaNoWriMo.  I know it's probably bad form to admit this, but I don't expect I'll win.  I'm already struggling to find a balance between work, teaching, and home life. Adding in a 1,667 word count expectation every day borders on masochism.

But I want to be a writer and writers write.  

Other writers are busy.  They have families, jobs, and random obligations that threaten to derail their writing.  The difference between those who regularly produce words and those who don't is that those who produce refuse to put the writing aside.  They make it work.  Somehow. 

So, that's my plan.  I'm going to make this work.  Somehow.  

September 25, 2014

Summer Recap

Hello, world!  Terrible blogger here!  It's been awhile, but I'm in the mood to share, so I thought I'd put together a little recap of our summer adventures.

We started camping in late spring and didn't stop until Labor Day weekend.  I'd love one last trip, but I'm not sure that will be possible with Gage's football and my teaching schedule.



I also was lucky enough to be sent out to California for training.  Even better?  My mom decided to make a six-hour one-way drive to come spend some time with me while I was "nearby".  We went to Disney and the San Diego Zoo.  It was great mother-daughter time.






In the middle of all this camping fun, but after my trip to California, we also managed to squeeze in a concert.  This year's headliners were KISS and Def Leppard.  In order to avoid the need for a designated driver (or three), we decided to rent a party bus.  The trip down was fine; the trip home was not so great.  We ended up with two stranded groups on our bus because their limos/party buses were red tagged by the DOT and, being tagged, could not give their paying customers a ride home.  Our group, being the awesome people we are, said "sure, we'll give them a lift."  Boy, was that a mistake!  We had a drunken crazy woman on the ride that put many of us on edge.

On the bright side, Def Leppard was as amazing as they always are.  I only got to hear about three KISS songs before I had to go searching for my husband in the parking lot.



What else?  Oh, Ken and I had an adult's only trip.  We spent the weekend on Troy and Ronnie's boat. There may have been a party involved.  A really big party.