Sunday, August 13, 2017


Good Sunday evening. 

How is it the thirteenth day of August? If you missed my triumphant return to blogging last week, you can read that here. A few updates are in order. First, I made a B on my research report—a high B actually, an eighty-eight (the class is on a ten-point scale, so a ninety is an A). How about that? It is possible I'll end up with an A in the class, which would truly blow me away. If I make an A in the class, I am buying myself something expensive. Stay tuned.

Update two: I created a brochure. This was our final assignment, if you recall. I thought it was due last Wednesday, but apparently I didn't read the requirements closely. I had until Friday at noon to submit it. I tied myself in knots over it. The final touches required my sister's help. I submitted the brochure a few minutes before noon on Friday & closed the door on technical writing. Forever.

Like most of the things I created for my technical writing class, the brochure had to feature a handful of visuals. This is problematic because people are so stingy with the rights to their pictures. My instructor suggested if we had any images of our own we could use, to use those. We were given permission to use the Tech logo & the School of Literature & Language's logo, but beyond that things get far trickier than anything I was going to deal with for a brochure assignment.

You may or may not know that my sister, Jessica, earned her MA from Louisiana Tech in 2007. The MA in English features three concentrations from which to choose: British lit, American lit, or technical writing. The brochure I was to create was not to be a generic brochure for the Literature & Language department, but rather a brochure to lure people curious about technical writing.

It just so happens I have a picture from 2007 of me & my newly graduated sister in her Tech regalia. We included the picture accompanied by some nice words about how Tech's technical writing program changed her life for the better . . . I have been changed for the better . . . (this is how my mind works).

About an hour after I'd submitted the brochure, my professor emailed me & asked me if I really have a sister who's a graduate of their program & now works for a Fortune 500 company. I emailed her back & said that yes, yes it is all true; I think she likely cannot imagine me being related to someone who does fancy technical writing for a living since my entire summer was dominated by my epic formatting/paginating battles with Microsoft Word.

Here we are a decade ago:

And in brochure form:

The end of this summer's graduate class culminated with a handful of other things happening last week, namely Trey being gone for three nights & me saying some goodbyes that have bummed me out. Trey's absence is relevant because I don't sleep well when he's gone, plus I am the lone parent around the clock, & thus I am tired. Tired Anna + technical writing student Anna + please don't leave me Anna = volatile, weepy Anna. I'm going to try & say some helpful, coherent things today because I am supposed to be an adult, but the voice inside me is whining loudly about how awful it is that things have to change. Sometimes I wonder if other adults whisper that to themselves . . . I. am. an. adult

If I step away from my life & think deeply about a handful of current happenings, I get a little anxious, a little panicky. I cry a little bit. What I'm trying to do is luxuriate in the little pieces, ignoring the larger picture like any mature adult. Since I know you're curious, here's the gist of the larger picture. As I mentioned, on Friday I submitted my last assignment for my technical writing course. Tomorrow, inservice begins for teachers at my school. I assume you see how the lack of time in between those two events might make me sad. 

Additionally, on Thursday of last week, I had dinner with two of my favorite people. Good stuff, right? This week, they're moving. During dinner one of them said something about the passage of a year, how they're unbelievably now in college. In actuality, they've both *technically* been in college the last few years & will walk on campus this week with a lot of hours already behind them . . . but I digress. 

A year ago I didn't know either of them. A year ago I didn't know any of the young people who're now posting photos of their dorm rooms, photos that have contributed to some of this last week's sniffling. I got in bed Thursday night & thought about the passage of a year. One year. Until you've had a baby, I don't think you fully understand how much can change in a year. The changes a newborn undergoes during the first year of life are phenomenal to witness. As a parent, you have a front-row seat for every moment. It's a privilege to be there, to watch it unfold. Until you're flipping through photos (you know once they start sleeping & you can function again), you usually don't realize how much has changed because you've been caught up in the day-to-day demands that accompany parenting tiny people. 

I know a lot can happen in a year. This is true of every newborn, it's true in politics, & it's certainly true when you throw a random mix of people together in a classroom for several hours a week. I chastised myself last week for being upset. For one, I had a lot on my plate last week & hadn't really scheduled much time for weeping. Secondly, I cried over these people in April, & then I cried again in May when they graduated. Move on, Anna. But yet they say nice things & plaster my social media with their dorm rooms, & so I sniffle some more. 

I don't have the time or emotional energy to remain upset. As of eight tomorrow morning, I'm back in my classroom for the foreseeable future. I'll be there many hours a day, five days of the week. I'll be there, but the sweet souls who surrounded me as I made the room my own are scattered to the wind. Their smiles stare back at me from my walls. Their texts occasionally light up my phone. It makes me a little sad even though I know they are where they need to be, & I am where I need to be. The thing we worked toward for a year is now their reality: they're beginning college. They're ready, & they're going to do well.

In addition to the end of summer & some sad goodbyes weighing me down, I have a couple of sections of senior English that are maxed out in terms of the number of bodies that will be in my room at one time. There's been some schedule shuffling, & I've just quit thinking about the numbers because it makes me drink sweat. It'll be fine, you know? We'll study Lord of the Flies in an actual survival-type situation. Maybe we'll form tribes & taunt one another & see who keeps their shirts on the longest.

In an effort to thwart self-pity & more tears, I made a list of small things that make me smile. Naturally, I will share the list.

--- > I'm thankful for people who think of me when they see Saved by the Bell paraphernalia. I have friends who visited Florida this summer. While there, they saw a Bayside High T-shirt in a Target, & they bought it for me. I think this is exactly what the Zack Attack meant when they sang "Friends Forever." You too can own the shirt if you follow this link.

--- > I'm thankful for checking things off my to-do list. A man came to see me about my yard last week. This is something I've been trying to make happen all summer. I'm just a woman who hates weeds, standing with my wallet open, asking someone to clean up my flower beds. 

--- > I'm thankful my sister & her family live here. That hasn't always been the case. Friday morning I drove over to her house so our four children could yell & make messes while she helped me nail down the final details of the brochure. 

--- > I'm thankful for students who pay attention to my oddities. A week or so ago I got a thank-you note in the mail from a (former) student. He (correctly) used a semi-colon in a sentence, & then in parentheses he put (I know you love semicolons.) Indeed I do, young man. I don't know if people purposefully using your favorite punctuation mark is a sign of success in life, but it feels like maybe it should be.  

--- > I'm thankful there are local universities & not everyone I love leaves me.

--- > I'm thankful for people who say, Thank you. A few weeks ago a student texted me & told me she was so glad she doesn't have to take English 101 (or 102). Those are behind her. She followed that text up with another that said, "So, thank you."

I needed her thank you that day. I was in the middle of having a fit over something related to my graduate course . . . in which I was enrolled because it enables me to teach English 101 & 102 to the seniors. I want to teach seniors. Sorry to say, but until they are seventeen or eighteen, I'm not ready to deal with them. I want to teach seniors because we read things they're not ready to read until they're seventeen or eighteen. In order to teach seniors, I have to be able to offer them 101 & 102 credit, & to do that, I've got to earn a minimum of eighteen graduate hours in English. So I press on. Her thank you meant a lot to me; it came at the perfect moment.  

--- > I'm thankful for the masters I do have in Communication. I recently learned I'll be teaching Public Speaking for Dual Enrollment credit (hence, the super population of some of my English sections). I told my mom about this development, & she said, "Oh no! Do you have to take graduate courses for that now, too?" I replied, "No, Mom. I already have the masters necessary for this." That is an awesome statement to make. It feels good to be putting it to use. 

--- > I'm thankful for who & what the last year brought me. Last week I left the kids with my mom & had dinner with two young people I didn't even know a year ago. We ordered & ate a lot of food. We ordered dessert. We drank coffee. I almost wet myself laughing at one point. One of them had to leave the table & go to the bathroom to prevent the same happening to him . . . & he's younger than I am & has never given birth. I think I snorted once. Whether they're here or a few hours away being their brilliant selves, I'm thankful for them. Would it be nice to see their faces in my room Friday? Yes, yes it would. But that's not how life works. I cannot believe it's been a year since I first encountered them. Admittedly I went home that first Friday last August thinking it might be a long year; they both seemed overly chatty, opinionated, & sarcastic. I know, I know: pot, kettle.

When I got home from dinner my mom noted that I'd been crying. I acknowledged the tears. My favorite people are those who can elicit tears of laughter & tears of sadness all within the span of a few hours. Make me laugh & I will cry when you leave me (I should have that put on a T-shirt).

I have reread & reread portions of  my book so many times I just almost hate the thing now (I am an awesome saleswoman, am I not?). She's almost ready. She looks very official now. One night last week I was rereading a section where Dr. Foster is lecturing (I promise the whole thing isn't one long lecture). He's discussing why we're drawn to literature, why some characters resonate more with us than others. He says this:

“We seek that which is a reflection of ourselves; it is an innate desire that manifests itself almost immediately as we coo at our own reflection as infants. We reach for our parents’ faces, stroking their cheeks with chubby fingers because the symmetry, and often the features and coloring, of their faces mimics our own. We grow and gravitate toward those individuals who are similar to us in some significant way – physically, intellectually – we surround ourselves with people who affirm our own humanity. It is no coincidence we celebrate literature that presents us with characters whose human condition is not unlike our own." 

We surround ourselves with people who affirm our own humanity. Huh. I was dozing off when I read that, but I sat up in bed when I came across it . . . & I sniffled a little. The line called to mind something I've said in the past, both orally & in writing: If you need affirmation . . . & you can finish  that sentence in a variety of ways: you reread this, you call me, you don't turn to or worry over people who don't get you, who don't understand you.

It seems everything is coming to fruition all at once. I love the word fruition. It of course means, "the point at which a plan or project is realized." The first five letters spell fruit. Nice, right? Word fun is the best fun.

Last week I was sent a PDF of my book to look over. The first thing that drew my eye was this:

A copyright. Weird, huh? I don't know how I feel about it. Life's been moving pretty quickly for me here lately; I suppose I'll go sit somewhere by myself at some point & think about it all & maybe cry or smile or something. At the moment, I haven't gotten past, Huh.

The book also has a cover. Click here to see that. 

This Friday is the first day of classes for high school students. We have a half day. I'll see each of my classes for about ten minutes, long enough for me to say hi & call roll & create some confusion I'll address the following week when school really starts. With the exception of eight seniors whom I taught last year in my honors eleven class, I'll meet a slew of new faces on Friday. I am not as nervous about this as I was last year. 

Last August, I was hoping to not hate my students. That was my goal. Lofty goal, I know. I wanted us all to get along moderately well. I had no idea what to expect. You don't hear a lot of good things about teenagers (about the dreaded millennials) these days. Perhaps unfortunately for the teens I'll meet this Friday, the class that paved the way for them in my classroom (& in my heart) set a high precedent. 

As much as I don't want to say it, to type it out in black & white, your time is here, Class of 2018. This is the fruition of what you've worked toward these last three years in high school. You are seniors now. The middle rows in chapel are yours. My classroom is yours. You can have the desks & the British lit books. I'll allow your journals to be moved across the hall & stored in the baskets I bought last August. We have some negotiating to do on a personal level. I don't know if, a year from now, I'll be weepy at the prospect of you moving away to college. I don't know if we'll be snorting over bread pudding. After what I've learned this last year, I am open to the possibility of some of you changing my life in wonderful ways. I now know it is certainly possible. 

Were they to offer you advice, I think the class that came before you would suggest you: (1) leave me alone & let me drink my coffee in the morning, (2) make me laugh, (3) take essay word count restrictions seriously, (4) don't take yourselves too seriously. Bonus advice: read what you're supposed to read . . . text me poignant comments about it, & you're gold.

I need to laugh, seniors. I've had a bit of a taxing summer. People I love are moving away. Your faces & your voices are now what will fill my days. May your smiles be genuine & your words sweet (& occasionally sarcastic because that's how I roll). Here we go; I'll see you Friday.


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