Repurposing materials

In response to the great support I received from my earlier post on the micro living movement and my increasing interest in living small, I thought I would dive into a popular aspect of this movement: repurposing things.

Resourceful is a characteristic I’ve prided myself in, and whether you call it scrappy, creative, or just cheap, it has certainly helped me out in all of my moving adventures. I think there are two sides to being resourceful in terms of physical, material things. The first is seeing potential in an item. The second is seeing how an action from you can change the item.

Meeko says she repurposes her nap space to anywhere she feels like
Meeko says she repurposes her nap space to anywhere she feels like

Seeing what else an item could be, what properties it has, or what changes you can bring to it increases it’s usefulness. Maybe you have a friend who re-paints old furniture pieces, or glues sequins onto T-shirts. I see this as a form of resourcefullness, and repurposing. You have an option to go buy a brand new shirt that reflects a trend, or you have an option to add (or take away) from a shirt you already have. Of course, to do this takes time, which is a privilege, so we all pick and choose what we do ourselves and what we buy from people or companies who can do it faster and cheaper.

With the boom of websites like Etsy and Saturday markets, people are certainly getting their craft on. I remember when my mom bought me a hot glue gun a few years ago, and I laughed, remembering her projects of gluing Ric-Rac onto curtains or googly eyes onto cards. Well the joke was on me because I have used that glue gun for more home projects than I could have ever imagined. In the past few months, two pairs of shoes started “talking” (separating from the sole) and I glued them right back together. I also fixed my glasses case, saving me from a purchase I would have been very unexcited about.

Meeko posing by the toolbox and drill
Meeko posing by the toolbox and drill
It's messy but it works.
It’s messy but it works.

This may all seem quite small scale, or perhaps you are thinking that owning a glue gun is a bit too feminine for your taste. I strongly advise you get over that because a glue gun is as useful as duct tape and a staple gun (my personal favorites for fixing stuff back together. Just ask Kevin, I staple-gunned the fabric falling off the ceiling of his car. Home improvement, car improvement, done.)

In San Francisco I got really into estate sales. The ultimate repurposing from people who generally had high quality things. I found three hard suitcases at one of them, realizing their potential immediately. The guy running the estate sale jokingly asked if I was “late for a train,” when I walked up to pay for them. As in, people haven’t used hard suitcases since the days of waiting at the train station with your parasol and a handkerchief. Well sir, would you be laughing now when one suitcase has become a table, another a foot rest while I write, and the third… Well actually the third is just a hat box, because how could I not have a hat box for $5??

suitcase as a skinny table. The "normal" tp holder fell out of the wall with the last tenants and I would have to do a pretty serious drywall update to the wall. This is an easier solution.
Suitcase as a skinny table. The “normal” tp holder fell out of the wall with the last tenants and I would have to do a pretty serious drywall update to the wall. This is an easier solution.
The previous owner of this hard suitcase went on cruises.
The previous owner of this hard suitcase went on cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buried beneath all of these suggestions, I know there is a fear of becoming a hoarder of things that you “might use one day.” The truth is, the ability you have to hang onto potentially useful things is directly tied to how much actual space you have within your home. For me, a smaller space forces me to complete projects quickly, and prevents me from having a build up of projects, which will only cause me more stress. It can be a fine line to walk, but that is something every household has to figure out for themselves. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to turn into the infamous “dumpster divers” from the show Portlandia. Watch what I’m talking about here: Portlandia Dumpster Divers

In integrating my things and Kevin’s things, I reluctantly realized that my large wooden table (a great find on craigslist from a schoolteacher who was moving) could not fit under the loft bed with all of it’s leaves in. I stood in front of that table, hands on my hips and asked, “what am I going to do with you?” Unscrew the rounded extensions of the table and turn them into wall shelves, that’s what.

In my English 102 class that I teach, I encouraged my students to question everything about the world around them. Why does something have to be the way it is, just because that’s the way it’s been? Of course, it’s difficult to question something when you don’t even know there’s an alternative. This was exactly the case for me before I stumbled upon the micro living movement. As a homework assignment, I asked my students to pretend that they had the power to add one required class to the entire University’s curriculum. Something everyone would have to take. I encouraged them to be as selfish in their own interests as they wanted, and not be afraid to have fun. We were all surprised at the amount of of students, men and women, who argued for a survival class, a basic construction class, or something similarly hands-on.

There is so much information out there about using tools, repurposing materials, and even just painting something a different color. Question the things you are used to, especially within your home. The questioning itself will be freeing, but the exhilaration that comes from fixing or changing something is truly special. We should all be less afraid to pick up a tool and do something. Not just for the sake of fighting gender roles, not with the intent of never buying something ‘nice’ again, and not in the hope of feeling like a superior human being to others. Try it because it’s fun, because it’s rewarding, and it challenges the idea that every new issue within your home requires the purchase of a brand new thing.

I’d love to hear what things you have repurposed in your apartment or home– feel free to share in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Living in 444 square feet

Micro living. If you haven’t heard this term yet, it is a movement against unnecessarily large homes and unmanageable mortgages and for creating an optimal life/work balance in a teeny tiny space. Or, as one participant in the documentary “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” said, the outside of your living space should draw you in, and the inside should draw you out.

Living small gets me outside more, like watching the sunset at Camelsback Park.
Living small gets me outside more, like watching the sunset at Camelsback Park.

The truth is I hadn’t heard much about this movement until I moved to the West coast. It’s more than just poorer people, like myself, only having small spaces as options. Wealth has nothing to do with it, though in a way it does. People of all backgrounds and financial standing are fighting against a created US ideal: that the size of your house indicates the success of your life.

In high school and part of middle school, I lived in a mansion. A pretty legit mansion in Buffalo, New York, in a planned suburb. It had three different “living rooms,” one for the actual TV and couches, one for an extensive dining table that I don’t ever remember being full, and one for less comfortable furniture that everyone was encouraged to stay out of. What was it all for? I don’t blame my family for getting sucked into the norms of most US families, moving up in life and feeling a desire to display this moving up to the world through increasingly larger square footage. I’m also not saying that micro living or being a tiny house dweller automatically makes one a better person. I am saying that it is a different way of thinking, one totally different from the values I was brought up with, and I find myself increasingly intrigued by the principles behind the movement.

Until about a year ago, I never questioned that someday I would have a mortgage on a cute house with 3-4 bedrooms and a yard. I also never questioned that I would spend most of my life paying off that mortgage to some extent.

Moving to Boise, I had a very strict budget. I was adamant that I would not allow myself to take out any more student loans. I would just have to make it work here. The apartment I eventually found through the help of an awesome friend in my grad school program is 444 square feet total.

I drew ya'll a layout of my apartment.
I drew ya’ll a layout of my apartment.

I remember when my mom and sister visited for the first time. My mom’s first reaction, “I cannot believe you actually live here.” There are three rooms, all connected like a really long hallway. Moving here I realized I didn’t need any more space, at all. Limited space meant I had to go outside and walk my dog every day. It meant adventuring, hiking, limited grocery “stocks.” All of this worked for my budget. I can’t buy anymore than will fit in my apartment, and it turned out, that’s all I really needed.

 

With Kevin moving in, I had to rearrange the layout of my place. But once again, I found myself surprised how a few changes created even more space in what was supposed to be this tiny apartment. Kevin and I bought a wooden loft bed from a local builder in Boise (his website is here) which created a whole other writing space for us to share.

Loft bed built out of pine. I stapled fabric to the back of the stairs because Meeko is afraid of "open" stairs.
Loft bed built out of pine. I stapled fabric to the back of the stairs because Meeko is afraid of “open” stairs.
Meeko pleased with herself that she figured out the stairs.
Meeko pleased with herself that she figured out the stairs.
My future writing space, I don't have it all set up yet. I'm thinking xmas lights?
My future writing space, I don’t have it all set up yet. I’m thinking xmas lights?

 

 

 

There is so much information online about this tiny house movement, and the more I read about it, I know this is right for me. I haven’t decided if I’d want to build a place on wheels, or build a more permanent cabin. In the same documentary mentioned above, there was a family of four with a dog. The couple explained how they originally lived in a tiny house on wheels with their dog. Once they were ready to have kids they built a 500 square foot house on their land, and now use the first tiny home as their work space. My arms felt tingly and my heart jumped. People are really doing this, I thought. By removing the enormous burden of house debt/mortgage from my future, I wonder what other possibilities might open up.

In the meantime, for practice, I plan on continuing to live in tiny rented spaces, and making improvements as needed. Below are some pictures of the small improvements Kevin and I made in order to fit two writers and a dog into 444 square feet.

 

Thoughts on cohabitating

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This is my second go at this, at living with the person I am dating. We aren’t married, we might be eventually, but there’s no promise and there’s no ticking clock on it. Just cohabiting and splitting the rent.

I remember my first time around moving in with someone, and though I felt supported by my family and friends on the decision, I still felt unsure of what expectations to have of myself. I especially did not know how else to really “test” the future of the relationship besides the next step of moving in together. “How else can you really get to know someone?” people would say. It’s true, and we all know it’s true. Even our closest friends may not know all of our strangest habits, the rituals we perform in the secrecy of our room, apartment, or otherwise private living space.

So without making this a diary of my actual current relationship, I thought it would be interesting to collect some of the major questions or concerns I would express to anyone looking at this next step. Twenty-one year old me would have loved to read a list like this, but of course, I didn’t even think of googling it. These are conclusions I’ve come to, and in no way do I think I am done learning all the lessons there are to learn from dating, cohabiting, and truly sharing a life with a person. If this is helpful in any way to someone, I would be incredibly happy. If you are reading this just out of curiosity on my viewpoints on cohabiting, then you are most welcome here as well.

Questions to ask or consider of your partner and yourself:

Does your partner ever annoy you? This may seem harsh, but this is the reality. It is unlikely your significant other will ever not annoy you. Whatever or whenever it is, you should have an actual conversation about it. If it’s something big, then make sure you have enough time and a low energy space to talk things over. It may be something small, for example, I hate whistling. Absolutely cannot stand it, makes me cringe, makes me eyes tense up. This is usually a shorter conversation I have, but I make it clear. I know it’s illogical, I know it doesn’t bother other people, but it really bothers me. Most people do okay changing behavior to not whistling around me.

Do you have fun in the same way your partner does? This is an obvious place to start, and an important thing to consider. What is a Friday night to you? How much time do you need to decompress after work, and does this require you to be alone? Depending on how much time you are already spending on a weekly basis with your partner, you may not even know each other’s habits by the hour like this. It’s a worthwhile conversation to have, not just to compare lifestyles (and lifestyle goals—is your goal to have more time for going out to dinner, or is this not a priority?) but to see if your idea of shared time together matches up with your partner’s.

Can you both finish an argument? Somewhere I read how important it is for someone to be good in an argument. By this, I don’t mean the art of arguing, or being able to manipulate words into a win. I mean: Can you keep being an active listener even in the most upsetting argument? No one is perfect, but analyzing how you individually argue and how your relationship arguments tend to go will be crucial in creating boundaries within a shared living space. Do you usually need an hour or two alone to cool down from an argument? How will you handle this when every room you have is also your partner’s room? If it feels awkward to talk about worst-case scenarios like this, perhaps a shared living arrangement will not be the best arrangement. Unless you are moving into a castle that could temporarily be split in two.

Expectations of domesticity. Gender roles aside, someone will be making dinner. Someone will also be cleaning dishes. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend any couple move into a place without a dishwasher. It’s just a set up for dish-arguments, and nobody wants those. Get a dishwasher, divide the chores, done. I think the food arguments– who buys groceries, who cooks, who clears the table– end up being defined by schedules. When you and your partner are on different schedules, it’s easy to make assumptions about what “could” be completed by the time you get home. No matter how you want to divide things up, you’re going to have to talk about it. There may be agreements in writing, or even a little whiteboard on the fridge where you can trade off making dinner. Something that has taken me a long time to learn is that no matter how small, petty, or awkward I think the conversation is going to be, both parties (myself and my partner) tend to benefit when the conversation happens before and not after tensions flare.

Along the same topic, another line I’ve often heard is to pick your battles. I mentioned how I hate whistling above. I can fully own that this is a small thing I make big by being completely incredibly unreasonably enraged by it. (Ahhh!!!) If I also ‘hate’ ten other small behavioral things my partner does, I will have to pick which one or two I truly cannot deal with. I’ve found if you throw too many rules (also known as expectations) on a partner, they will not only feel overwhelmed but will also feel unmotivated to change because my numerous requests will begin to feel unreasonable and un-tiered. Whistling I hate, towels on the floor I hate, but T-shirts folded “incorrectly”? I can live with that. Hangers going in different directions in the closet? I can live with that.

IMG_20140526_200922708Finally, a point that may seem so obvious it’s not worth mentioning… Rent money and worst case scenarios. Getting that two bedroom two bath, or renting that small house with a yard may seem do-able when both partners pitch in a part of their paycheck. But what happens if someone wants out. To list all the numerous ways that money, yearly salaries, and rent can effect the power dynamics within a relationship could easily take up a few pages. Instead I’ll leave it at this: Consider what you both will do if it’s not working.

Decide on a plan now. Decide who ‘really’ owns the couch, who would stay and who would find a new place. Being on the extremely strict grad student budget, I knew there was no way I could be comfortable taking on the extra financial responsibility of a two-bedroom apartment. I would be unable to make the rent myself should the worst case scenario happen, and I would be very unhappy in an environment where I was forced to get a Craigslist roommate when I would prefer solitude.

Living by myself without roommates has been an amazing experience. I really enjoyed painting my apartment, figuring out the furniture, and being in total control of organizing my kitchen. But for me, for right now in life, the many perks that come with being in an equal partnership (I call it my 50/50) I can ‘live’ with giving up some of that control in exchange for someone who understands when I want to sit on the couch listening to the same song for three hours straight, who doesn’t care if I take twenty minute showers, who will read drafts of my stories, walk Meeko when I work late, and even, sometimes, make me dinner.

Meeko falling asleep while getting pets
Meeko falling asleep while getting pets

Summer reading list

During my first year of grad school, I took a lot of notes. I realized that in many of my classes, professors had suggestions for things I (specifically) should be reading.

This felt different from the random person who is all like, “you haven’t read X, omg, you are a horrible uncultured person, but just kiddinggg but seriously, drop whatever you’re doing, call off work, and go read X.” Okay, I get it.

Here’s the thing. Have you been in a library lately? There are a ton of books. More than I could ever read in my lifetime. That is the reality, I cannot read everything. For most of my life I read things that interested me, following certain authors, or discovering interesting looking covers in the library (a spaceship on the cover?? I’d better find out what happens!) Now I am switching over to reading things that will help my writing, through content, craft, or inspiration.

We all secretly like to be judgmental, mainly because it’s more fun that way. So, I thought I’d share my summer reading list. I made this list solely for myself, based on suggestions from professors for the types of stories *I* want to be writing, as well as books I’ve been meaning to read because I think they will inspire my writing somehow. Below are a mix of novels and short story collections. Some are just authors I’ve been encouraged to check out and I haven’t decided what works of theirs to read yet. There are also a few fiction craft books in there (as in, ‘how to write fiction’ type books). If you have suggestions for magical realism, minimalist, strange, genre bending, dystopian, and/or feminist stories, I would love to hear about them!

“Red Moon” Ben Percy
“Refresh, Refresh” Ben Percy
“The lie that tells the truth” John Dufresne
“Is life like this? A guide to writing your first novel in 6 months” John Dufresne
“Bird by Bird” Anne Lamott
“Willful Creatures” Aimee Bender
“The Color Master: stories” Aimee Bender
The Complete Collection of Calvin and Hobbes
“Reservation Blues” Sherman Alexie
“Indian Killer” Sherman Alexie
“The Way to Rainy Mountain” N. Scott Momaday
“House Made of Dawn” N. Scott Momaday  (re-reading)
“Suddenly, A knock on the door” Etgar Karet
“Reasons to live” Amy Hempel
“Jesus’ Son” Denis Johnson
Margaret Atwood
“The Power and the Glory” Graham Greene
George Saunders
“The Road” Cormac Mccarthy

Oh, and a lovely middle school student I tutor suggested I check out the YA series “Divergent” even though we agreed it seemed like a rip off of the Hunger Games. Got to stay up to date on my youth culture though!
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Grad School Update and Summer break

After finishing my first year of grad school at Boise State (two more to go!) I can say many things about going back to school. One of which is that your blog posts may vary incredibly. I disappeared a bit this Spring semester blog-wise, but I’m determined to keep going. I realized only in the last week or so of school that I had not done something social (as in, not related to my program) the whole semester, and I hadn’t called anyone for fun besides my sister. Talk about living under a rock…  Now I am ready to share more about my first year here.

I taught two classes of English 102, which is research writing, and I didn’t die. Professors have an option to theme their 102 classes, so I picked “pop culture.” If you’re going to have to read all their papers, they might as well be interesting, right? A lot of them really surprised me with their creativity, and I felt much more myself even in my teacher-character. I battled with weird classroom arrangements, incorporating a textbook, and a wide variety of actual writing skills. Could someone please let the engineering majors know that they will have to write again? That English 101 and 102 are not the last papers they’ll have to write? How do they think they are going to get grant money for the giant robots they want to build?

Lemongrab from Adventure Time
Lemongrab from Adventure Time

I also made a big effort to teach my students film critique as a research skill, which resulted in a class period watching part of a documentary on Star Trek fans and having my students take apart the directorial choices, editing, narration, etc. The classes are normally full at twenty-five students, but I somehow ended up with nineteen and four (!!!). The four person class was a crazy experience, but they all jumped right in and held themselves to such a high accountability. Their presentations and papers were far better than my nineteen person class. This has given me a lot of thought on the research showing the best way to learn is one-on-one.

For my next two years in my grad program, I’ll be working at Boise State’s Writing Center doing just that– working individually with students from all majors and levels on their writing assignments, getting to the root of their writing problems (or fears), and making every minute count. I’m really excited to learn more about the theory behind individual learning, and coupled with my growing tutoring and college admissions consulting business, I can put the theories I learn into action very quickly!

I applied to two National Humanities Seminars and was waitlisted to both (but ultimately not selected). I attended my first official writers conference in Seattle and learned that I feel overwhelmed around thousands of people (duh). I applied and luckily was selected to participate in a week long course design program at Boise State and have started to plan out my first Intro to Fiction Writing class I’ll be teaching next year.

But now, I am officially on summer vacation, which, like most
Jackie-vacations means working multiple jobs, Netflix, and writing as much as I can. I even made myself a reading list, just like the high school days. My summer jobs are: Temp Test Administrator for Pearson testing company, tutoring English for local middle school students, and beginning my season of college application consulting.

I bought a snake plant, which is good for filtering air
I bought a snake plant, which is good for filtering air

I will barely make rent.
I will eat a lot of pizza.
I will keep writing.

Thank you again for all of your support!

 

 

 

 

 

6th Street

My sleep schedule has been completely off lately, so Meeko and I decided to take a walk this afternoon near our apartment. With a few hours until my night class (where my new short story will be workshopped for the last time this semester) we stepped outside. I forgot how bright the sun was.

It seems like Boise never has any clouds. The sky is a blue that Buffalo can’t even imagine. The leaves were vibrant yellows, warm oranges, and copper reds. I threw some in Meeko’s face and she thought that was a great game. The leaves are crisp like biting into an apple. Or so I imagine, because I don’t bite into apples. The skin gets stuck in my permanent retainer and it’s no good.

I set outside with no plan of where we’d go. Only after a few blocks did I realize my feet were leading us straight down 6th street. I had no desire to change directions or keep track of where we were going, so we just kept walking.

Kids walked home from school. A mailman delivered mail to painted boxes on wooden fences. A dad with a pink backpack smiled as he watched his daughter walking one foot in front of the other along a cement curb of someone’s sloped front yard. A middle schooler struggled carrying her cello on her back and her Mom just laughed at her from their fence.

You can’t make this stuff up. I walk through these scenes like, “Really Boise? What is this, I don’t even believe you.” People leave windows down in their unlocked cars. Entire yards of crunchy leaves. Strangers smile at me and wave me across the streets, happy to wait and in no hurry.

At one point a boy, maybe seven years old, walked towards me carrying a rock bigger than his head. His dad looked straight out of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit video, flannel shirt and long hair walking a dog that looked like a wolf. I imagine this dad was they type to say “radical” with no sign of irony.”You okay with that?” The boy struggled with the rock, locking his arms straight to make up for muscles that just haven’t grown yet. “Yeah, I got it!” As they turn the corner to walk perpendicular to me, the boy gives up with a smile and drops the rock into someone’s front yard. The dad just looks at him like “whatever little dude”.

Meeko and I walked until the end of 6th street, returning home with calm energy. I’m sure we’ll both sleep well tonight.

Kill your TV, go for a walk.

A quarter of a century

Some people are already done at twenty five. They’ve done what they wanted to do, travelled to that one country, birthed X amount of babies (I mean that in the nicest way), and now they are just on cruise control until the inevitable mid life crisis. Hint: Don’t go get a silver BMW Z4. They don’t do well in the snow.

Everyone asks, “How does it feel? Do you feel old? Are you sad?” Admittedly, it is a weird age. Everything from 22-24 felt un-defined. Something about the number twenty five feels very definite to me. I can feel it’s sincerity when I walk, standing up tall. At twenty five, I am comfortable with my opinions, and even more comfortable that, if history does indeed repeat itself, many of these opinions will change drastically over the next five years.

Of course, some may not. I still don’t drink. I think this works for me. I’m weird enough, I get depressed enough, and being a writer/artist has enough ups and downs to last me many a Sunday morning. That’s a distant Johnny Cash song reference. I don’t know if it works or not.

My sister thinks I’ve got my life all figured out. I would liken my current state more to the end of my freshman year of college. It’s that moment when you realize all the things you still don’t know. I’m embracing my new identity as a writer. I tell people, “yeah, I’m a writer” and then I do not swish my hair over my eyes. I do not. The next step is figuring out what to say when people ask the follow up question, “So what do you write about?” Characters who make bad decisions? The concept of home? Journey stories? Stories with beginnings that are way too long? I need an elevator speech. It’s on my to-do list.

In my rush to figure myself out, find a way to live with depression/anxiety, AND pursue being a writer, I realized that I often lose days to my many to-do lists. This is a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve only got a set amount of years here on planet earth and I’m trying to make the most of them. At the same time, I don’t want the things I look forward to and enjoy to always be in the near future. I am experimenting with this in Boise. Not living in the moment, but sometimes stopping the racing, planning thoughts.

Today I went on another hike in the foothills and only allowed myself to think about things I saw. I was not allowed to worry about the new short story I’m trying to write. I was not allowed to feel guilty about not getting a new cell phone plan yet. As a result I thought of all kinds of new things I’d like to explore in writing. I also realized I get hyper-aware of the sound peoples shoes make as they crunch over gravel, soil, and asphalt. Shoes, you guys. Shoes.

It’s crazy weird how suddenly a phase of our life can end. I thought I could see my future very clearly, and now, just by being in Idaho, I see other paths like roots stretching out before me. All I have to do is keep going, keep trying, and of course, keep writing. I want to make you all proud out there. I want you to read my fiction or my essays (or my poetry?) and feel something. Even if that something is, “wow this is dumb. She’s actually going to school for this?” As I tell my English 101 students, it is okay to totally disagree with me.

In conclusion, at twenty five one should be full of opinions, but bursting with the curiosity to know oneself even more. Then, figure out what you can do for the world that won’t have you craving reality TV and binge eating at the end of the day. It’s a work in progress.

My new place!

I’ve spent about a week scrubbing and painting my new little one bedroom apartment. This is the first time I’ve ever lived truly alone…. and I am so excited!! An introvert’s dream come true. The landlord let me choose any colours I want, but I wanted to pick something that the next person to live here would enjoy as well. So, nothing too crazy.

Thursday, Meeko and I drove one last time to our old place in the suburbs. She was super helpful, running up and down the stairs chasing me as I carried heavy shelfs and books. Today I began unpacking, and the place is finally starting to feel like home.

Meeko is settling in great–we don’t have a backyard, but there is a big park right behind our place. There are a lot of squirrels though, so I’ll have to be careful Meeko doesn’t get too into chasing them.

My apartment is one of four units (I think) all in one big blue house. I’ll take some pictures of the outside and our “yard” tomorrow when the sun is back.

I still need to paint the kitchen and do a third (!) coat of paint on my bedroom, but it’s coming along.

One month in

This past month has brought huge, occasionally devastating changes to my life. I’ve truly appreciated all the support (and cookies/ice cream) from my friends and family.

At times it felt like the beginning of my undergrad, where a similar string of sad events happened. I reminded myself that I’ve come a long way since eighteen year old me, and that just because history felt like it was repeating itself didn’t mean I had to react in the same way. So I haven’t.

This past week brought closure. Meeko and I picked up Snickers ashes from the vet, a to-do errand I would wish on no one. She’s sitting with Moose on my shelf now. My mind tried to come up with images and negative thoughts that would upset me. Instead, Meeko and I drove directly to a dog park. It’s hard to be around puppies playing and friendly dog owners and still feel sorry for yourself. I made friends with a retired man who “babysits” his daughter’s dog twice a week. After learning that I taught at Boise State, the man confessed he never realized the benefits of humanities classes when he was going through school. He is going to look into auditing some courses at Boise State, just for fun!

The workload is still pretty intense, but I’m feeling better about it. If I’m totally honest, I would say I expected more reading. But I don’t want to jinx it. Oh wait…

This weekend I read through my students drafts for their first big paper. Most of them were surprisingly good, and seemed to incorporate feedback I’d given them throughout the semester. It’s exciting to see someone who claims to struggle with writing find a topic where they have real opinions they wish to express. I think there’s a part of teaching that is so instantly rewarding that I can get sucked in and avoid the ‘real work’ of my own writing. Other days I feel the exact opposite though. Seeing Professor Sizemore on their papers still makes me laugh. It amazes me that anyone takesme seriously. Don’t they know I’m just acting??

This Friday I went to a poetry reading that really inspired me. I’m considering forming social experiments to fuel my own writing. If I can be brave enough. Maybe I’ll surprise myself and write a few poems this semester. First I have to get through my first fiction workshop!

That is my update for now. Thank you again friends for reaching out to me in a low time. I’ve got my Beyonce playing. I’m wearing more dresses than sweatpants. Meeko is doing great. My awesome Aunt is even sending me cookies. I’m taking all of your love and channelling it into my work here. I know I’m not one to call when things are going well, but I have a good feeling that it’s only up from here.

Working after 5pm

This past year, my day-to-day schedule went from a strict 8:30-5 to a ???? kind of world. I worked “all the time” on my graduate school applications, which was more like some TV, hours of guilt/shame, snack time, and then an hour of actual writing. While my productivity eventually improved, by December I was in a temp job cycle with no end in sight.

I spent this whole summer dreaming about what the MFA program would be like. I told myself, “You can do this ! You’re ready!” I thought about all of the people I’d met in my temp jobs and the CMU community who encouraged and believed in my dreams. How could I let them down?

With the first week of my teaching orientation done, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things I need to balance. I know that like most new things, the first time through it the worst. From there it (should) get easier.

Here is a short list of things I’ve done in the past few days that I’ve never done before:
-Read the names of 25 students I’m in charge of teaching writing skills they will need for the rest of their life. (no pressure!)
-Wrote out paper assignments that have secondary agendas.
-Had the thought, “50 minutes is not enough time”
-Felt excitement about a class activity that would “show not tell” my students what they needed to learn
-Felt genuine joy over the number of google hits I got for “paragraph without punctuation”

Though sometimes it works against me, I am often so in my own head that I get lost in my own thought bubbles. Meeting my other MFA (and MA) cohort and hearing their worries echo my own has been such a relief. I recognize that my fears of failing, or at least being embarrassed, are very similar to where I was three years ago starting at CMU admissions. Give a lecture to 300 people without blushing the whole time? Making a phone call and not letting my voice slip into that high, nervous tone? If I could push through those barriers after fearing them for twenty years, surely I can teach English 101 while writing the best stories I’ve ever written. Right??

I have one more week of my teacher workshop, then August 26th classes begin–both the three I’m taking and the one I’m teaching. I’m still coming to terms with the idea of not actually “clocking out” each day. No more done at 5pm (or, in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art terms, 12:30am)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat some cookie dough and get back to work!