Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Confidence...or Maybe Not

I'm back on the blog chain for this post. You can check out the beginning post by Kate, she had some awesome things to say about voting against yourself, even if you think you're totally the best. Archetype blew my socks off with the post of the year, something I printed and will read every day. Then Michelle got my spirits soaring again, just knowing that I'm not the only one who cycles in and out of the whole confidence thang. Then Sandra made sure to remind me to have confidence in other parts of my life, and finally the poster (it has a T, posTer) before me was Abi, and she had some great things to remind yourself of when the Con man comes calling. Check them all out. Oh, and Terri will be up tomorrow, so keep the linkage going.

Here's the question: How, as a writer, do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?

I think confidence comes in levels—no, let's go to DreamWorks—layers. (Quick! Name that movie. Gifts at Rally for all who get it right. sengihnampakgigi) Like onions. Or cakes. Or whatever else you can think of with layers. Confidence is like that.

So what does that mean? Hmm…here's my take.

I have the many faces of Elana. Sometimes I wear the Mom face. Sometimes the teacher face. Sometimes the party girl face. Sometimes the authority face. Sometimes...you get the idea. It's sorta like that Seinfeld where George's worlds collide. Have you seen that one? Elaine invites Susan—George's fiancée—to the museum or something. He's got Relationship George and Independent George. The Independent George will die at the hands of Relationship George as the worlds collide. Wait. How did we get on Seinfeld? Well, since we're there, have a look.

My favorite line: "A George divided against itself, cannot stand!" I so feel like this. We can't be our own worst enemy.

Let's get back on topic. So I've got all these different personas I maintain. Each one has a different layer of confidence. It takes an insane amount of confidence to teach. Not only do I have to know something, I have to believe that I know it so well that I can teach it to you. I have to have the confidence that when I get up in a room of 40 (no, that is not a typo, I have 40 of them at once) 12-year-olds, that what I'm going to say is worth listening to. I have to have the skills to get them to listen to it. The confidence in myself to know that it's worth listening to. That's insane.

I have that confidence. When I go to work, I am the queen.

Other areas of my life, I'm less confident in. Cooking. Uhhh, maybe it'll come out right, maybe it won't. Sewing. I hemmed some pants the other day. Not so even. Crafting—I'm confident in this. I can make a cute card, no problem.

Then there's the whole writing thing. This has been the craziest roller coaster of my life. Sometimes I feel like I'm the awesomest writer on the face of the planet. I've just put my characters in the worst possible situation, and they have no way of getting out. I've tied up all the loose ends (or so I think) and typed THE END at the end. It's phenomenal. Everyone's going to be salivating over it.

Yeah, right.

Those times are good, but they're fleeting. Then the Confidence Annihilator comes in and shatters my carefully constructed fantasy world. He whispers to me that my story isn't good enough. That it's nowhere near as polished as I think it is. That so-and-so's story is so much better, and why are you even trying to do this?

That I can't write.

Worse than that—that I shouldn't.

When I listen to the Confidence Annihilator, the many layers of confidence I've built up crumble. In order to continue writing, my confidence must be rebuilt. This takes time, bolstering from good friends, and the annihilation of the Annihilator. And this is almost as hard as the writing itself. At least for me.

So what do I do?

1. Read good things. Books, articles, magazines, blogs, whatever. Anything to help me keep the writing "bug" in my head—the one that bugs me to write.

2. Put the manuscript away. There's no need to commit manuscript manslaughter during a rebuild of confidence.

3. Vent to my writerly friends. They know. They understand. They uplift. They believe.

4. Listen to music. My favorites during a confidence rebuild? Video by India Arie.

"I'm not the average girl from your video
and I ain't built like a supermodel

But, I learned to love myself unconditionally

Because I am a queen"

I love that part. Then there's this too. Same song.

"So get in where you fit in go on and shine
Clear your mind, now's the time

Put your salt on the shelf

Go on and love yourself
'Cuz everything's gonna be all right"

I especially love the "love yourself" part.

5. Try something new. This last dip in confidence has been, um, taxing, to say the least. I decided to write by hand instead of on the computer. This has helped me find more confidence in my writing ability.

And so, don't divide yourself against yourself. You cannot stand. The Confidence Annihilator will come, that is inevitable. It's what you do to get rid of him that matters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pulled Over, Popcorn, and Just Plain Pooped

Yeah, let's just get it out there right now - I got pulled over on the way to my meetings this morning. I'm blaming it on Google maps. I had to go to a school I've never been to, and I printed a map. I was holding the map in front of my speedometer. And the sneaky AF cops drive black cars. Grr...I was going 40 in a 25. Luckily, I acted very repentant, and she only wrote the ticket for five over. Needless to say, I was late to the meeting and I had to sit in the front row. Double grr...

The good news is, I'm eligible for traffic school. Um, no thanks. I'll just pay the fine. I'm always gonna drive fast.

I just finished a big bowl of caramel popcorn. It's the easiest recipe on the planet, and even I can make it after a long day of mind-numbing meetings. Usually I'm on the couch, staring into a great black abyss. That's how easy this popcorn is. (1 c. butter, 20 marshmallows, 1 c. brown sugar. Melt. 2 bags microwave popcorn. Mix.) Munching while watching Dancing with the Stars. Mmm, life is good.

I'm totally pooped. I had professional development meetings today. It was 8 hours of sitting and listening and trying to absorb as much as possible in a short amount of time. It shouldn't be so exhausting, but it is. If you've ever been professionally developed, you know what I mean.

Whew. What a day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

So it's my mom's birthday. She lives two hours away from me, and we met for breakfast at the halfway point. It was a fun time, because I don't get to see her that much. My daughter colored a Backyardigan picture for her and wrote, "I love you Grandma." That was cute.

Then I came home, and since I've been in a funk recently, I decided to make a chocolate pie. I mean, are there any two words that go together better than "chocolate" and "pie"? I think not. Of course, because nothing can just work the way it's supposed to, I couldn't get photo booth to work so I could take a picture. I got the green screen of death. Not really sure what that's about.

So I deferred to my usual when electronics don't work. Turn it off and try again. Still green. Like Kermit, green. Next step: ask the hubby. He asked me when was the last time I restarted my computer. Um...too long ago to remember. Months, probably. So we restart it.

Still green.

So he looks up something online. I swear, you can find anything on the Internet. So it said to shut down, not just restart. So we did that.

Whaddya know? Now it works! Too bad I'd already cut the pie. But here's a pic. My sister would be so proud of me. She has a cooking blog, and I can barely boil water. And this pie has a custard base that I made from scratch! Go me!

Happy Birthday Mom! If you were here, you could have a piece of this awesome pie. sengihnampakgigi

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Things I Just Don't Get

I like to think of myself as a fairly educated person. I have a college degree that I actually use. I graduated from said college with a 4.0. No, really. I've taken 53 post-graduate credits to earn a Master's Equivalency so my district will pay me more. You didn't know you could earn college credit for watching TV, didja? Hmm...I did. sengihnampakgigi But there are some things I just don't get. Here's what's on the top of the list at the moment.

1. People who drive slow. I mean, really. And if you are a said slow driver, why oh why do you pull out in front of someone and then go really, really slow? I just don't get it. I, myself, like to drive fast. Maybe that should be capitalized. Fast, people.

2. Boilers. It was 92 in the computer lab today. That's one degree hotter than yesterday if any of you are keeping track for like, a science experiment or something. The fans didn't do much unless I was right in front of them. The waves of heat slapped anyone who walked within 5 feet of the door. Oh, and everyone else in the building was all bundled up because their rooms are so cold. The custodian turned the boiler down 2 degrees. Um, yeah, 90 is still HOT, but thanks for trying. It just proves that the Magic 8 Ball is always right. I love that thing. I even put it in one of my novels. No, I am not joking.

3. Halloween. I think I'm going to duck now from all the outrage that will be flying over this one. I just don't get Halloween. Who wants to dress up, making a complete fool of themselves, just for fun? I just don't get that. I mean, I can buy candy at the store any day of the week, so what's the allure of Halloween? I'd rather have chips—or one of those awesome pretzels from Costco—than candy anyway. Or a lemonade bar. Or pizza. Now if someone was giving out whole pizzas, I might consider dressing up. But only for a minute, and then I'd just call in my own order. It's just another thing I don't get.

Am I alone in this? Can someone explain the mind of a slow driver? The inner mechanics of boilers? Why in the world we humiliate ourselves for the sake of sweets? Have at it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Perks for Today

I think some of you will think I'm making these stories up. I swear I'm not, but I do think I'm cursing myself. Every night I lay in bed and think, "I wonder what will happen tomorrow." I need to stop doing that.

So I present some perks of my day:

1. The road I take to work was closed. I think I've mentioned my need for order and routine. I turned right, found a different street, made it back to the main road. Construction. Again. I turned left, completely ignoring the barriers for some reason, right out into the marked off lanes you weren't supposed to drive in. Luckily, they hadn't made it to that section of road (why it was blocked off, I don't know, grumble.) and I was okay. But I felt stupid. See what happens when you close the road I normally take? I can't even function!

2. The computer lab is currently 91 degrees at the writing of this blog post. Ninety-one. I'm so boiling hot, I can't even think. And the kids keep asking me, "Why is it so hot?" I don't control the temperature of my own room. It's a district thang. "Can I take off my coat?" Um, yes. "Will it be hot tomorrow?" Let me look into the future. Magic 8 ball…signs point to yes. I mean, those district guys can't do anything fast. Or easy. I'm sure a committee will be formed to discuss the hotness of my lab. No, really.

3. Pack meeting. Lots of face painting, and one of the boys got his bear. The paint is all brown and the parent basically paints a face around your existing face. By the way, if you haven't experienced a pack meeting, you should be extremely thankful right now. If you have, please accept my condolences. Back to the face painting. So the boy's mom paints on a face on the boy's chin. She accidentally got some on his lip. He laughed and was all grossed out. The cubmaster said, "Oh, is that messing with your lipstick?" I lost it. I laughed and laughed and laughed some more. This is sooo something both my husband and I would say to our students at school. Every few seconds, I busted into more silent laughter. I'm still laughing!

Ahhh, the ups and downs of life.

Reading: ENNA BURNING by Shannon Hale

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bawl Babyitis

Well, I think it might be official. I'm the biggest crybaby on the face of the planet. I think my family thinks I never get emotional, but it's all a carefully constructed façade. I tear up nearly every single day. During songs. The worst one? Measure of a Man by Clay Aiken. Now before you go all like, "Ew, CA?" let me explain. His first CD was quite good. That song has me in near hysterics every time I listen to it. It's quite embarrassing while driving. Crying and driving don't go so well together, as tears usually make things like stop signs blurry. I know this from experience. Anyway, that song is so romantic, I lose it every time.

You'd think that only romance makes me weepy. Not so. Just the other day I teared up over a lame-o Zack and Cody episode. If you don't know what that is, just count your lucky stars. Those of you who have preteen boys, you should know Zack and Cody. I wish I didn't, but I do. And I was crying during one of the episodes. Sheesh, Disney channel.

As if Disney didn't do enough by airing Zack and Cody at least five times a day, I almost always cry during their movies. The worst one? Lion King. And we have the book and I was reading to my daughter the other day. When that Mufasa dies…tears.

We got my daughter's Halloween costume today. She's going to be Uniqua from Backyardigans. Those of you who have preschool kids, you should be familiar with this show. See? I run the whole gamut of Nickelodeon and Disney shows. Hey! I read, too!

Anyway, she was so happy to have it, and we tried it on and she was so cute. You guessed it. Started bawling. Played it off like I had something in my eye, but they knew. Kids know everything, especially that their mom is a complete bawl baby, suffering from bawl babyitis.

This is the worst example.

Last night, I was watching Spiderman 2 with my family. Spi-der-man Two.

I started to cry. And not even at one of the romantic parts—mostly because my husband makes sarcastic comments the whole time about the female lead. He doesn't really like her.

Nope. The part on the subway or L train or whatever that thing is. Where Spidey stops the train and blacks out and the people take him into the train and just look at him.

Yup. Tears welling up. Embarrassing. Glancing over to see if anyone's watching. They're not. Whew.

Then the two kids give him his mask back and say, "We won't tell no one." Then they hand him the thing and he puts it on. "It's good to have you back Spiderman." Awww. So sweet.

And a little psychotic on my part, but there ya have it. I am a Spiderman bawl baby. Oh well. There are worse things to be, I guess.

Reading: STORMBREAKER by Anthony Horowitz

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Mirror Book Trailer

I made a new book trailer using Windows Movie Maker. It only took three hours instead of three days. Now, before you go crazy thinking that three hours is indeed, a really long time, let me explain. I'm sort of inept when it comes to technical things.

I put metal in the microwave. If an electronic is making a weird noise, I turn it off and keep my mouth shut. I used to hit the VCR when it started to screech, and it would usually stop. Seriously.

So it's a miracle I can make a book trailer at all.

I did have a teensy bit of trouble with the music. See my USB drive is broken (or something, it just stopped working. I have that affect on small devices.) so I had to email all my pictures and sounds to myself to get them from the Mac to the PC. This worked beautifully--except for the song I wanted to use. It was a m4p file. Yeah, I don't know what that is.

Neither did my PC. So I burned a CD. Popped it in the PC, ripped the songs using Media Player, budabing, budaboom, shoulda worked. Not so much. But when I ripped the songs, it put them in another file somewhere--I don't know where, trust me. Somehow I found it and dragged the song I wanted to the desktop. That's pretty much all I know how to do. Drag and drop.

Then I was able to import the song into Movie Maker. Whew. The song part took at least an hour. Oh, and then Movie Maker saves the file with like forty letters behind it as the file type. YouTube couldn't recognize it, neither could blogger or wordpress.

Just as I was about to give up, I read the help section. Sometimes that works. I was able to save my movie as a .wav file and upload it to YouTube.

That's all included in the three hours people. So it didn't take that long. Reading this probably made you want to take a nap, though. I sure feel like I need one!


Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm tired. I actually worked four days this week. I mean, dude. That's one more than I've worked the past two weeks. Who knew going to work on Friday could be so exhausting? Holy brown cows, I need some bubble gum. I'd really like some Oreos, but I snarfed all of those last night. After parent-teacher conferences. While watching The Office. Life does have perks.

No, I haven't had a week full of Batman-drama. There's only so much a girl can take. This week has been more like "Kids say the funniest things" week. My own kids are crazy, but I'm blaming that gene on their dad. Seriously, I think the guy must have been on medication while we were dating, because I had no idea how Crazy he was until it was too late. And that's Crazy with a capital C.

So my daughter says today, "Here's my turtle's shelf," and she points to this turtle she made at daycare. It's pretty cute, made with a paper bowl or something. (Precisely the reason I DON'T teach preschool or kindergarten.) I said, "You mean his shellllll." She goes, "No, his shelf. He holds stuff up there." I was about to ask what kind of stuff, and really drive home my point that it was really called a shell and not a shelf, but you can't argue with a three-year-old. So I smiled and listened to her babble about the "shelf" all the way home and what kinds of things this poor shelf-ridden turtle could hold. Then she made me carry him in the house because "he's too heavy." It was a PAPER bowl. Yes, I carried it, cuz I'm that kind of mom.

Yesterday, one of the kids at school asked me, "Mrs. Johnson, can we have a piece of your soul?" This actually has a pretty good story that I won't share right now, but it just made me laugh out loud. Because we were walking down the hall when he asked, and a first grader and her parents were going the other way. You should have seen the look on the mom's face. I swear she pulled her daughter closer. Yeah, we're giving away souls in elementary schools now. Whatev.

So, with all the soul-sharing, shelf-carrying I've done, I'm ready for a nap. At least it's Friday. And next week I only have to work two days. Nice. I love Fall Break.

P.S. Rice doesn't cook so well in crock pot. In case any of you were wondering and wouldn't be able to sleep tonight without knowing this very important fact. Oh, and you should probably test ye olde crock pot out before volunteering to bring said rice to a faculty pot-luck lunch. 'Nuff said.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blog Chain - Perkiness, Quirkiness, Smirkiness

Quirkiness, smirkiness. Here we go. You asked for it.

The topic for this chain is quirkiness, not to be confused with perkiness. One I have a lot of, the other, not so much. The awesome Mary started this topic, and her post on her neatness and her sheep are awe-inspiring. There have been uber-fantastic posts between hers and mine, so go check them out. The blogger before me was Abigail and the next person is Terri. Keep the linkage going, baby.

So here's the question Mary posed:
What kind of quirky habits or rituals do you have regarding your writing? (or regarding anything else, if that is more fun.)

Many people have posted pictures of their writing space. Um, I can't do that. I don't have a desk. I write on a laptop, and it's become a third appendage. It goes with me everywhere I go. I write on the couch while my husband plays X-box, at the counter while I eat breakfast, or in my office at school during lunch. (In fact, I'm posting this during lunch.)

My favorite place to write is in our old, blue recliner upstairs. I guess I can post a picture of it. This is my desk space. It's right by the window, which is a bonus, because it has a windowsill for my popsicle sticks, my USB drive, pens, the remote, and anything else small enough to fit. There's no place I like better than my blue recliner. The footrest up, headphones on, laptop open…ahhh, the life.

I'm very orderly, not to be confused with organized. That's one thing I'm not. But everything has an order, and must be done in that order. I feel funny writing that, because I very rarely write a novel from beginning to end. I guess it's the process I go through to write that's orderly.

I guess I'll call it a routine. I think routines are important. I teach school, and I always joke that things don't go well until the kids are trained, which is about October. My husband and I refer to the kids as dogs. Now, before you go all postal on me, I don't think kids are actually dogs, but they are very trainable. Once they know the routine, they very seldom deviate from it. I live my life like this. Everything has a routine. I get nervous if the routine is disrupted in any way. I guess that's my quirk.

Before I write, I open the Internet. I check email, then my forums. Once I'm satisfied I'm all caught up, I open what I'm working on. I usually back-read about ten pages to get myself in the right mindset, editing as I go. I make a few notes about what's coming next, and then I write. I always do everything in the same order. Before I quit, I make a few notes about what I should work on the next writing session, just to remind myself.

It's all in the routine of writing. It doesn't matter if I only have a 30-minute lunch to write or a two hour block of time after my kids go to bed. I always follow the same routine.

I'm not really sure that's quirkish enough for you. So I guess I'll spill a couple other quirky behaviors about myself. Notice I said quirky, not to be confused with obsessive. I'm a very scheduled person. I get up at the same time every work day. I get ready in the exact same order—shower, dress, check email, brush teeth, dry hair, makeup, dress daughter, do her hair, breakfast. If I have to deviate from the order, I'm all discombobulated for the rest of the morning. Like if my daughter won't come when I call her, I just stand there at the top of the stairs, trying to decide what to do. I can't do anything, because it's simply time for her to get dressed and do her hair. I can't go out of order.

I drive the same way to daycare and then school. When they closed the road (for construction, it's open again, phew) to my daughter's daycare, I just sat there at the intersection, a little nervous. It's not that I don't know my way around the city. I've lived here for nine years. It's my routine—and it's being disrupted. Eliza even says, "Mom, this isn't the way to Rainy's." I grip the wheel a little harder, try to smile, and say, "I know, but we can get there this way, too." We really can. It's no big deal. Except that it is.

Everything must flow in order. And it's time to check the email, yes, I do that about forty times a day. There's always time for email, that can come in any order. How's that for quirky?

Yeah, check out the next blogarific link in the chain, Terri.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Holy Drama, Batman!

I've had so much drama this week. I need a rock to crawl under and just disappear for a while. On Tuesday, a student in my class fainted. Fell to the ground and everything. Gave a little shiver, moaned a little bit. It freaked me out. I thought she was having a seizure. I sent another student to to the office for help. We woke the student up, but she fainted again. And again. That's when 911 was called. Sirens. Crowds. Paramedics. Blood pressure taken. I see the bat signal...pressing the button...getting all leathered up.

To the batcave, Robin!

The next day, I had an angry parent in my classroom. I'm not going to go into details because it's just not fair (to her or me), but she was mad at me. Luckily, we talked through our issues, and she went home happy. But I never enjoy confrontation, and it just added more drama to my life. Good thing I had my bat mask on, she was a little intimidated by the ears, I think.

Today, I showed up to work to be informed that the Internet was down. I teach computers for eight classes a day, to students ranging in age from 5 - 12. The Internet is pretty important. Still, I've gone without it before, and we have a few programs at school the kids can play around with. I could've handled the loss of the Internet.

Holy login, Batman!

The Internet was the least of my problems. The entire network was down, despite what my district tech told me. He said the internal network was "fully functioning." Yeah, he was wrong.

The first class came in, tried to log in, couldn't. Panic rising...I don't have a back-up plan if the computers are completely defunct. Well, yes I do. Simon says, anyone? Come on, who wants to play that for five freaking hours? Not me.

I informed the tech that the internal network was indeed NOT working, and ran to the office, silky cape flowing behind me. I pulled out my Bat-stars and took down a couple of sixth graders who were in the hall when they shouldn't be. Yeah, I just wanted to use the cool tools in my Batbelt.

On my knees, I begged the principal to let me show Bill Nye videos. So, I watched eight (yes EIGHT) Bill Nye videos today. I like Bill, but...Holy Science Overload, Robin!

As if that weren't enough, I have a substitute tomorrow since I'm going on the Man Trip 2.5...details will be coming soon. I'm so excited to see what men do! But that's a whole different topic for another post. See? Even Batman gets distracted.

I'm hoping I can leave my bat costume in the sub plans and she'll be able to take over for me. I dunno, I mean, Batman doesn't have an easy job. Not just anyone can do it, you know.

Anyway, at lunch the tech left, informing me that the situation had been "escalated to 3Comm." I just stared blankly, nodding, smiling, thinking I needed a new job. I told one of my friends in the faculty room that apparently Vineyard Elementary is now part of the Department of Defense since we've been "escalated to 3Comm."

I'm still not sure what that means, despite my secret bat senses. All I know is, the Internet came back up around 1:00, but my internal network is still non-functioning. Maybe we need to be escalated to Congress or something. I'm not sure if Batman has that power or not, but I'm callin' in the all favors I have to those in a position to help. Superman. Wolverine. Mr. Incredible--he's got government connections.

Holy Drama this week, Batman.

Yeah, and it's only Thursday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tag, You're It!

So I've been tagged. Not to be confused with Tagged, which is capitalized and used as something really, really bad in my science fiction novel. Really. You don't want to be Tagged. Unless it's a blog tag, which is what this is. sengihnampakgigi

My crit buddy, Jennifer Wilks, tagged me. It's so funny, because we were just talking about how we'd never been tagged, and bam! Jen's tagged like three times in the next couple of days. So she tagged me.

I *think* that means that I'm supposed to answer the same questions she did when she tagged me. Thankfully, it was an easy one. Here are my answers.

4 goals I have in the next 5 years:
1. Find an agent and see my book at B&N
2. Learn to play the piano
3. Go to Disneyland
4. Clean out the garage enough to park in it (really)

4 places I will visit someday:
1. The Sacred Grove
2. China
3. Perth, Australia
4. The White Cliffs of Dover

4 of my favorite foods:
1. Pepperoni pizza with ranch
2. Macaroni and Cheese
3. Chicken Pot Pie
4. Dreyer's Lemonade fruit bars

4 jobs I've had:
1. Assistant manager at Golden Corral
2. Machine operator at Pepperidge Farm (garlic bread line. Not smell so good.)
3. Secretary in the stats department at BYU
4. Teacher

2 places I've lived:
1. St. George
2. Logan

2 places I'd like to live:
1. San Diego, California
2. New York City

4 things I'd do with my spare time (if I had any):
1. Read
2. Cook gourmet meals (as long as someone else does the dishes)
3. Take singing lessons (I'm awful)
4. Make cards

Okay, enough about me. I tag some of my blog chain friends. Heather, Kate, and Michelle! Tag, you're it!

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