Friday, August 31, 2012

What Remains is Inspiration

"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald

So reads the opening quote from Carole Radziwill's memoir, What Remains. A memoir I picked up on recommendation from one of my most trusted fellow book lovers (so trusted I bought the book without first reading a summary or even asking about the content!). Carole writes about her husband,  Anthony Stanislas Albert Radziwill, who was the cousin of JFK, Jr. He died in 1999 after a five year battle with cancer, and three weeks after the shocking plane crash that took the lives of JFK, Jr and Carolyn Bessette.

As I read this memoir I was first caught off guard by how much went on in their lives that I had never heard about. I really don't think I knew that JFK, Jr. died in a plane wreck or the fact that I couldn't have pointed out a picture of him. As has always been the case with me, I learn all of my history from reading stories, as opposed to straight nonfiction.

Of course, I was a little distracted around that time. 1999 was a big year for me. I was a 19 year-old junior in college, I had my first child that August, turned 20, and got married in January of 2000. Actually, Anthony Radziwill died four days before my daughter was born. I don't state all of this to be a tragedy whore (as Carole so aptly calls people who thrive on the drama of others, as if it is their own), but to think that while something so wonderful was going on in my life, someone else's was falling apart. Isn't that how it always is? The world does not stop and work according to the motion of your own life's events. It spins regardless. Realizing the clash in events between that time in their life and mine reminds me to be aware of the lives that are lived out around me every day.

I appreciate Carole's book for the mere fact that she is so very honest about all feelings and thoughts. She answers my earlier post about honesty in is a must. My own husband has faced the reoccurrence of a non life threatening basil cell cancer three times over the past 8 years. Ironically the cancer is not as threatening as where it is located, the side of his face, where even a removal surgery can cause more damage sooner than the cancer itself. While I am grateful that we face a small battle in comparison to most dealing with cancer, I can appreciate Carole's talk about being in and out of hospitals and doctors in search of a better answer and maybe even a cure, learning all the jargon and becoming a part of a world you have no choice but to join.

The book I am currently reading is Fairy Tale Interrupted by RoseMarie Terenzio. Strangely, it is her memoir of working for JFK, Jr. for the five years before his sudden death. (I bought the two memoirs separately, not realizing at the time that What Remains had any connection to JFK, Jr. I don't believe in coincidences.) Terenzio paints a great picture of her life with this part of the Kennedy family. And her descriptions of them match so well with Carole Radziwill's that I can't help but think I know them somehow.

This is why I read. Books open the world and connect you to reality, make you question life, in ways nothing else ever can.

How have you experienced life through books?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to School

Who knew that going back to work for the school year could be less stressful than summer vacation?

Enjoying my schedule so far and my 11th grade students, who (whom? does it even matter any more?) I also had in junior high, so I'm not expecting a whole lot of surprises.

I took a survey via the writing of a letter, asking students to tell me their interests - hoping to pull in nonfiction articles on those topics during the year. Seems that a number of them actually don't mind reading, but want to pick their own books. So we will definitely end up doing an independent study (choose your own book assignment).

But til then, first up for American Lit is "Of Mice and Men." As we go I think we'll hit:
The Great Gatsby
Death of a Salesman
The Crucible
Catcher in the Rye
Plus a series of short stories and nonfiction pieces.

What was your favorite (or least favorite) book assigned in school?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End of the Summer

This is my house as it has been for the nine years we've owned it. I'm sure it's gotten worse in that time, I mean, it's 54 years old. But we set out this summer to replace rotting boards, paint it, and replace any little hardware that needed it. (Siding cost the price of a nice used way.)

The project took awhile because there was so much scraping of paint! Plus my husband is working and in school full time, the kids' activities and my own summer stuff, my parents helping when their schedule allowed, and the stinking weather when it wanted to all came to a stressful conclusion these last couple weeks. I really didn't think I'd survive it without hurting someone. But we did every bit of the labor ourselves and I'd say it worked out in the end. (Not to mention it cost us $600 compared to $8,000.)

The end of the summer not only brought the end of this huge project, but also the start of the new school year. Today was teachers' first day back and I'm feeling pretty good. The test scores for my 11th graders and my AP students came back quite positive, especially since last year was my first year with that grade level and AP!! But today, this year, is the first in time eight years I feel a sense of calm about school starting. I love my school, the community, the job in general. I'm launching a book club (Reading Warriors) as a replacement of my writing club (The Writers' Guild) to draw students who like to read AND write. I think this year I have much more to bring to the club than in the past. I'm looking forward to getting on a schedule too...this year being on a schedule means a set writing schedule. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Honesty is a Tough Policy

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Ernest Hemingway, I understand this statement more than ever.

Something that writing is teaching me is that honesty is a hard thing to do in your writing. Especially when writing from real events with real people who can be hurt or angered or when your emotions are completely invested in a situation about which you are writing.

Writing's call for honesty hit me more recently - but more so tonight. Feeling I was going to have a long night, I thought maybe I'll sit up and write out my feelings. I'm able to admit it all to myself - these emotions that crop up during certain times. Time to deal...

But...then it seems so very real when it's right in front of you. Then you really do have to deal...and what happens when you don't know what to do beyond the initial realization? In my head, I can forget anything I've realized once I get enough distractions, but having it outside of me makes it more.

And more is what I don't know what to do with. I just prefer not to bleed to death. Am I an island on this one?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time Flies is Truth, Not Just Cliche

My oldest turned 13 today. As a big surprise her dad decided to get her a cell phone...his last minute thought, not pre-planned or discussed at all! His face convinced me more than knowing how hers would light up. He looked excited.

So she has a phone (no Internet, but she's just excited she doesn't need wi-fi to text off an app). Next year she will be in high school - the age of the students I taught for six years. The couple years after that, driving and going to Prom. Then graduating. College...can't think about that right now.

And in the meantime her sister, who is 22 months younger, will be coming up right behind her repeating all these milestones, so that we'll be doing double time on the milestone front!

Time flies. I remember wishing she'd start crawling.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis

Life. It gets in the way no matter what. The house painting project that has taken over our livesfor 5 weeks now will come to a close this week for the most part.

In the meantime, I've been doing all else around the house (plus helping paint) since my husband is working and painting his life away.

So, you say, it's summer, what else have you got to do? Oh, nothing. No project I decided to pick up and have gotten nowhere with! Maybe it's selfish, but I feel like this was my summer to start this dream I've been given and it hasn't turned out that way at all. And why is it always MY writing that suffers?

Writing is frustrating, but not writing is depressing. At least the frustration will take me somewhere. But what can I do? Looks like I'll be packing writing time in with the school year.

Screwed if I do and screwed if I don't. What comes up and interferes with your best writing intentions? Have you found a way to avoid it?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Inspiring Reads

My pile of memoirs (which went beyond the original order of 16 to 23, as I found another popular author or two on my swap site) have been coming in the mail daily and are collecting on my dresser top. Mary Karr has three memoirs! Still waiting for the first, but I can't even imagine what would go on in a life to fill three memoirs!!

At the rate I'm getting time to read, I won't finish the stacks within this depressing.

But, I'm hoping in those stacks there is a gem or two waiting to inspire me and give me an idea...for narration, for couth, for something for which I don't even know I am searching! I'm relying on the timing (since I don't believe in coincidence).

Which books have inspired you and why?

Friday, August 3, 2012

It's all about painting

We have been painting our house for a month now. Correction, scraping  old paint from our horribly peeling house for three weeks. The painting itself only a few days. The process has been amazingly frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

Is it possible to learn life lessons even while doing something like painting your house?

Lesson One: One thing I've learned from house painting is that you have to keep doing it to make it look good. My first use of the roller lasted a minute before I put it down...but within a couple days, I'm a rolling fool - did two coats of all my doors and accent pieces in one day.

Lesson Two: Air bubbles are bad, but necessary. Filling up space with a whole lot of nothing. Taking up space that belongs to something else - like THE PAINT!!! Good Lord, those bubbles that appear out of nowhere, days after the wall was painted, are annoying. But they come up to show a weakness in the paint. When attended to properly, they cannot cause further damage to the wall and the rest of the paint.

Lesson Three: The cost sucks. Yes, any home improvement costs money, time, phsycial exertion. Sometimes you waste some of that cost and then are so ticked you want to say screw it or take shortcuts to save money, time, etc. elsewhere. Don't do it. If what you are doing is worth it, you might as well realize the cost from the beginning...and that it will be worth it. We bought a screendoor for the side entrance weeks ago, only to realize now that we want a different kind of screen door on the front. We could have used the front door on the side! WASTED MONEY!!! At first I said forget it...too bad, this door may take away from the whole point of painting in the first place, but too bad. I'm not putting any more cost into this! But then what's the point? I end up with a half-assed project that doesn't show how truly inspired my vision was to begin with. All because of one mess up that I'm going to be too stubborn or frustrated to fix?

As you can see, I've had lots of time to think about writing the past couple days while painting.

What in your life has taught you about writing?