Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013, Check!

Well, It’s been a great holiday season so far. As soon as finals began I got sick and that lasted a few weeks. What is it about your body crashing as soon as it slows down? All better now, thank goodness, just in time for Christmas, which was fabulous, by the way. This year was a bit crazy since I did most of my shopping the week before Christmas… but do you know what? It didn’t matter. Everything came together despite the procrastination. Kids are happy, my man is happy, and I am happy, though a bit exhausted. I even got in a bit of editing last night, success! It’s the little accomplishments, right?
            I have not started in on my list of things I wanted to accomplish… painting, cleaning, organizing… you know, all those things I haven’t done in a semester. I figured as I watched my kids play with their Christmas surprises that it’s okay to wait on my big plans. There will be time for those things after school starts. For now, I want to just enjoy my kidos while they are all home.
I don't normally post pics of my Kids but I figured since they were incognito, it was okay. :)

I never thought I was a goal setter, not that lady who makes list. But, I guess I am. Are you? What are your goals for this next year? I would love to hear them. Maybe I will steal one or two. 

That's it for now, I have a baseball game to attend and a cousin slumber party to get ready for. So, from the Williams clan to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and an outstanding New Year. If you can, take time to enjoy those you love, it’s time well spent. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Celebratory Feast

There is something euphoric about that moment when you walk out of your last class following a last final.  You want to just up and click your heals and shout out. Of course I did none of these things, but I did have a smile plastered to my face for the rest of the day.

So, how did I celebrate? I had a feast! Well kind of. First, I stopped by the always convent vending machines at school and purchased my Grandma’s chocolate, chocolate chip cookie and a Dr. Pepper. Those two items got me through some tough times this semester.  Which explains why I couldn’t lose those last 10 pounds.  Anyways, the feasting did not stop there. Next, I stopped by my most favorite restaurant, Pita Jungle and loaded up on humus, chicken, pita bread, and of course steamed veggie’s to offset the Dr. Pepper and cookies.  It’s been a few days and I am still full. Yum!

I normally don’t overindulge but this has been a pretty intense 4 months (and who are we kidding, there is something about food and women). Not only did I take way more credits than any sane person would, I also agreed to help out a past Geology Professor by speaking at a Geological Conference in Denver, that took place back in October. No I am not a geology major. I had done a lab that she wanted me to present in a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation/ question/answer session. Holy Moly, this was the scariest, most out of my comfort zone thing I have ever done.

Why did I do it? Well, I told myself a year and a half ago, when I decided to set out on this new course, that I was not going to let opportunities pass me by. I don’t want to look back and feel I missed out on a growing experience because I was afraid of failure. It’s also important for me that my kids know they can do hard things, that failure has many definitions, one being to never put yourself out there. So, when the teacher asked, I said sure, (It helped that the school funded this little adventure). Did I mention how scared I was? In case you were wondering, I was scared. I have never been around so many extremely intelligent people. I was a little star struck by all of their genius. Muscles and good looks fade but intelligence is forever, I'm just sayin'. I smiled and head nodded a lot.

After my presentation I had the afternoon off to stroll around downtown Denver all by myself. This may sound lame but it was actually fabulous. The weather was beautiful, and historic Denver is beautiful and did I mention I was alone? Staying in a hotel room alone for one night is pretty awesome too.
16th street Mall

Because of the work I did for this I was nominated for the Student Leadership Award for MCC.  We joke around here that they needed to fill their “old lady quota.” Truthfully, I didn’t really want to go to the ceremony. I felt a little out of place, but then I remembered why I had given the presentation in the first place.  So I went. I was only a little uncomfortable when they were talking about me, (I don’t like to be the center of attention, nor talked about). All in all, it was good for me. All of this that I am doing, school, writing, putting myself out there on my blog, stretching myself, doing hard things… is good for me. I have to remind myself of this from time to time.

This pic reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry is dating the woman that looks scary in bad lighting. Yeah, I have no idea why I look like a raccoon.

So, my semester is over. Straight A’s 3 semesters running, by the way. (What is that sound you are hearing? Oh, it's me tooting my own horn. :) I now have my associates and I am ready to focus on some other things for a little while.  And maybe lose those last 10 pounds, who knows?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Who Invited the Lady to Class? A Reflection On a Semester Past.

You know that moment when you realize you are no longer categorized with the young… Yeah well I had that moment last semester. I was taking my last math class. Now it’s important to know that math is one of those subjects that loses translation somewhere between the instructor's lips and my brain, I blame my ears… they're relatively normal but useless when I need important information.  Anyway, I was taking this math class, and for the first time I was required to use one of those scientific calculators.  Now, back when I was in High School, those things cost a million bucks, and only the smart kids in classes like calculus were required to use them, incase you were wondering that wasn’t this girl. Needless to say, at the start of the semester in question I drove to my neighborhood CVS and bought my very own for $14.99, boy, have they depreciated in the last 17 years or so. The only problem was, you need to be an Engineering major to know how to use the dang thing. I spent my first week in class shaking my head, wanting to do nothing with the contraption but throw in out the window, or at my condescending professor.  
This leads us to me being old. Well, there I was, standing outside of my class, minding my own business, waiting for the professor to arrive to open the classroom. I had my cute Roxy backpack on, my Rocket Dog sneakers and even a pair of jeans, distressed in all of the factory created places. 

I was thinking, “yeah, I fit in here, I’m cool.” That’s when I hear a couple of girls talking about our class. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but, I was bored just standing there in my awesome jeans. They were saying how they felt sorry for this “lady” in class. I think to myself. Hmm, I wonder who they are talking about. I scan the other loiterers looking for this “lady”. Never once did I think of myself as this lady, I am not a lady, I'm a girl, right? THAT”S when I hear the rest of their conversation and realize the “Lady” in question was this Lady, ME! It gets worse. Apparently they were feeling sorry for me because I didn’t know how to use a calculator! Hello, mortification! I am not only old but worthy of pity. The pity the young feel for the old for being old. Old! 

Needless to say, after this incident I left my distressed jeans at home, well, most of the time. I kept the battle with my calculator between the two of us, and I slowly but surely grew accustomed to the fact that I am no longer in my twenties.To be honest this last realization was a bit of a relief. I have been twenty and you couldn’t pay me enough to go back. I earned these thirty-six years and I choose to keep them, thank you very much. So move over youngsters, there’s a Lady in class, (who may on occasion struggle with calculators, MLA citation,  excel,  JSTOR, etc...) and she is proud of it. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Digging Up Your Dead

Hallstatt Germany, its defiantly one of the most AMAZING places to visit. BREATHTAKINGLY GORGEOUS! 

Last May/June my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Europe. We visited Hallstatt, a little village in the Austrian Alps.  This quant little hillside/lakeside town has a church with a cemetery that is a bit overcrowded. In order to make room for the recent dead they dig up their “old dead” after the bodies had been in the ground for 25 years.  To honor the exhumed they paint the skulls with flowers and other ornamental art. They then place the bones in a bone chapel for people to visit. It is really quite cool.
I know! I look a bit freaked out. I really was not. This whole idea of skull art was actually kinda beautiful.

View from the church yard down to another church. I love how they decorate their plots.

This made me think of my own dead, no, not my loved ones, but the manuscripts I have buried in a drawer, long forgotten.  I dug up my first just recently and it was a bit of an eye opener. First of all, there is something about that first novel that brings a warm feeling to your heart. It’s your first born! It’s the first time you felt those additive juices flowing. It’s the first time you realized you could sit down and write a complete novel from start to finish. And, it’s the first time you saw the characters that had previously only existed in your head come alive on the page. Your first book is a magical thing.
Then, hopefully you moved on to bigger and better writing. For several reasons it’s helpful to dig up the old once in a while. It’s fun just to remember that first rush and the old sentimentality of it all, but second, it’s good to remind ourselves just how far we have grown in our writing. I agree with Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner here. It does take several novels under your belt before you can say you are legit, before you really know you can produce multiple storylines and have an idea of how long it takes you to write your first draft. Writing takes practice, lots of it. There are only a lucky few who are struck by lighting and are able to have their first picked up by a publisher. For the rest of us, its years of hard work, and the creation of multiple manuscripts, that will hopefully someday pay off. But in the mean time it’s important to dig up your dead from time to time, examine your own hit and misses, what worked and what did not, and along the way enjoy the adventures only you can create.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Calm Before The Storm

It’s a bit of an oxymoron to consider Thanksgiving as a relaxing day for a mother of four, but for me this year that is exactly what it has been. We have left our lives behind for a few days and headed to the in-laws in the mountains of Northern Arizona. The only thing I had to do to get ready for the day of overeating was cut up some fruit. Pretty cushy, yep, I know.

With Christmas parties to plan and all of the paper deadlines that are approaching and finals starting in just over a week, I needed today to just stop, STOP! my crazy life and spend time with those that have been a bit neglected over this past semester. With 19 credit hours bleeding away all of my time, I have not been able to be the mom, wife, sister, and friend that I have been in the past. Lets be honest, you cannot be good at everything all at once.  I am not na├»ve to think that my attending school full time has not caused those around me to feel a little short changed. This was one of the reasons it took me a while to jump back into college life.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely good things that have come out of my educational endeavors, and not just for me. First of all, my kids no longer think that their father is the smart parent. They actually come to me, ME! for help with their homework. This is huge! (I have to admit their dad is a bit of a genius). Another benefit is that I am instilling in them the importance of going to college (though they are a bit snobbish about it being a community college. I have to remind them that it still counts). Lastly, my kids see me as a person, not just the lady that is expected to orbit around them making their lives easier.  

After my finals I am taking a semester off before starting up at ASU. During that time I will be focusing on my writing and my family. Today I received a little taste of what is in store. I won’t lie; it’s going to be pretty awesome.  (Man, am I thankful for this crazy crew of mine). In the mean time, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all found the time to enjoy the company of those you love. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Psychoanalytic and other Mumbo Jumbo

Like my big word? I feel smart just by typing it out. Anyway, I am taking a critical theory class this semester. It is one of those required for English majors. In the class we look at different methods to critique texts (not what we do with our thumbs but a term for almost anything written). Psychoanalytic criticism (or as I call it, a bunch of wackadoodle mumbo jumbo) was the first theory we looked into. This method is based off of the philosophies of Sigmund Freud. If you like Freud, good for you, (I hope it doesn't screw up your relationships) I personally am not a fan. 

Anyway, one thing I did find interesting was the idea that authors deal with their "issues" subconsciously through their writing. My first reaction was a bit of... yeah, yeah, whatever... move on to something less crazy already. Then, I started thinking about my own manuscript. That's when I started to squirm a little bit. Yikes! I totally do this. Freud has something on me after all gosh darn-it! (if you don't tell I won't).

So, to help explain I will take you to my current novel. My protagonist's mother dies right off the bat. there are definitely some issues there between the 15 year-old Lan and her mother. It isn't until years (or the sequel) later that she fully understands her mother's worth. (I know, I know. Freud would have a field-day here).

Over the last year or so, my mom has been slipping away rather quickly. I have been doing a lot of reflecting, who wouldn't? I worry, worry, and worry some more, that I haven't valued the time I had with her over my lifetime. Does she know I love her? I know I didn't show it when I was Lan's age, but did I show it when I was an adult and could fully appreciate all she did for me as my mother, my protector, my champion? She was not perfect, but with 11, yes ELEVEN kids, what she accomplished with us took some serious superwoman, out of this world, strength. Of all of the blessing God has bestowed upon this girl, my mom is among the top. 

So, I guess what I am saying, though I know she will never read this due to her diminishing eye sight and memory, is that I love you mom. All of the good qualities that are inside of me, all of those things that you have constantly pointed out for me to see... telling me how wonderful I am, are there because you have instilled them. 

That, and Freud may have won this round, but don't expect a repeat. 

- Jen