Six On The Sixth #9: School

Six on Sixth School

A day late, but here you go…

The first day is always hard.

New kids, new teachers, new classes.

I’m not ready for the homework.

And I’m not an early bird.

I’m already counting down the days.

One down, 179 more to go.

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One More Day

Camp NaNoWriMo officially starts tomorrow… or tonight, if you want to get technical.

Are you ready? Because I feel like I’m not.

April is going to be a busy month for me. I have to take my Spanish final exam today and then my Spanish class is all done. So, I’ll only have three classes to worry about during the month of April. Yet, I’ll still have work six and half hours a day, plus that small bit of homework, plus blogging, reading, critiquing for my writing group as well as editing my own stuff to send in… oh, and I’m getting my wisdom teeth out towards the end of April.

That will certainly put my life at a stop for a couple of days.

Also, that doesn’t even include Easter, my cousin’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday.

April is going to be ridiculously busy when it’s usually not. But I can’t worry too much about it.

Aside from my Spanish exam, I already finished all my homework for this week. So starting tomorrow I won’t have school to worry about so I’m hoping to get a great head-start on NaNo.

Good luck, everyone!

Birthday Weekend

Friday: Friday seemed like a long day. I was anxiously awaiting to get out of work not only for the weekend, but so I could get to my friend’s house. My friend had a baby about a month ago and I was just meeting the baby for the first time. It was a good afternoon because I got to hold a baby (it’s been a long time) and I got to see my friend. I haven’t seen her since her baby shower back in November. I have school and work to thank for that.

Friday night I came home and worked on my writing group’s critiques. They were due Saturday morning, so I naturally left them until the last minute. It’s funny how deadlines creep up on you.

Saturday: I had my first writing group meeting. Technically was the second one, but Kris and I missed the first due to a prior commitment. We were nervous, but it went really well. Including the two of us, there’s seven of us total. Small, but I like it that way. It was good to have my work being read and critiqued by others than family. I got great feedback, both positive and negative. The next step is to edit that part again so I can edit the second part and send that for next month.

My cousin had a birthday party to go to so I went with my mom to drop her off and then we were food shopping. For once, we finished shopping in a timely manner and then had an hour to kill while we waited for my cousin’s party to be over. Once we got home, my mom thought it would be a good idea to go out to dinner. Kris and my dad didn’t feel like going, so Mom and I went to Panera. I was barely home on Saturday and wasn’t able to get anything done I originally planned. However, I spent the majority of the day with my mother (and we don’t get a lot of time to do that often) so it was good.

That night we gave my mom her birthday gifts early. We got her a Blu-Ray player and a new iPad. So I think she was pretty content.

Sunday: It was my mother’s birthday, plus Palm Sunday. So we went to church, which was extra long because the service was an extra half hour and then the Sunday school kids had their annual Easter egg hunt. We ended up being at church for an extra hour.

I took my Spanish quiz (that again, I left until the last minute) and then we went out to dinner. There was 11 of us for dinner and the waitress was slow and not very good, so we were there for a little while. We went to The Outback, so I can’t complain–the food is always awesome.

Then we went back to my house for cake for Mom’s birthday.

Overall, it was a great weekend. Busy, but relaxing at the same time.

This Week: I need to outline a bit more for my Camp NaNo novel. Camp starts in two days. With that being said, I need to finish my homework in a timely manner. Plus, I need to work on my Detective Florence manuscript for my writing group.

April is going to be a busy month; especially when it comes to writing. I hope I’m able to get a routine down and stick with it–even if it’s just for the month.

How was your weekend?

Inspiration

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

I started thinking a bit about my inspiration board for the March #YearOfHappy. The more I thought about it, the more complex it got. Who knew it could actually be difficult to figure out what inspires you?

Anything can inspire you and it can inspire you to do different things.

What inspires me to wake up and go to work every morning? My wonderful co-workers who are fun to work with and teach me a lot. My students who are always able to put a smile on my face and push me to do my best in helping them. My paychecks because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go to school and when that’s all paid for, I wouldn’t be able to save up for a new car.

What inspires me to go to school? What inspires me to go to church every week and teach Sunday school? What inspires me to babysit? What inspires me to read, write, and blog?

There are so many questions, but I feel as though there are way more answers (which is a good thing).

Maybe someday I’ll do a more elaborate post about everything that inspires me to… well, live my life. For the March inspiration board (which will be posted in about two weeks) I think I’m going to focus on what inspires me to write. Maybe I’ll continue and do more inspiration boards about everything else in my life afterwards.

After all, inspiration is everywhere.

Critiques Are Hard

We started workshops this week in my Creative Writing: Nonfiction class. This is what I’ve been looking forward to all semester and it’s finally here. I’ll be critiquing nonfiction stories by my classmates and they’ll critique one of mine.

Four people were due to post their stories this week so everyone else is due to critique these four stories.

Only read and give feedback to four stories… not bad homework, huh? Of course it can be tedious depending on how long and how well written the story is.

Hence, critiquing is hard.

I’ve never written an actual critique to anyone before. I don’t even know what I’m doing when I edit my own novels half the time.

This is my second class doing a workshop. So I’ve gotten feedback from professors and classmates before. However, there are some classmates who see it as what it is: homework. In other words, you may or may not be getting the most out of your classmates because in the end, it is homework.

With my first real life critique group coming up at the end of the month, I really want to nail my critiques for my classmates. I see it as more than homework and I’m sure some, if not all, of my classmates do as well. I want to help them by giving structured feedback and I want them to do the same for me when I share my story.

I’ve done two of the four so far and both took me at least an hour to do.

Last night I pulled Kris away from whatever she was doing and asked her to read my critique. I wanted to make sure it made sense, I didn’t sound mean, and that they were valuable points to mention.

The thing is you can’t critique a critique.

Everyone has their own preferences. Everyone reads differently and understands what they read differently. What I liked about the story, another classmate might have thought it didn’t work. What I didn’t enjoy about the story, another classmate might absolutely love.

A critique is a matter of opinion. After much consideration and looking through all the critiques, in the end the only opinion that matters is the writer’s.

Body Portrait Exercise

This is yet another exercise from my Creative Writing: Nonfiction class. You’re supposed to draw a self-portrait of yourself (whole body; no head-shots). Add in every single detail about yourself such as the color of your hair/eyes/skin, birthmarks/scars, anything and everything.

I’ll admit I did not actually draw the picture. I have a scar under my chin and I decided to write about that right away.

Enjoy.

         I have a lot of scratches and bruises on my body. There’s a bruise on my right wrist where one of my Autistic children at work bit me, there’s a bruise on my right knee where I fell on a patch of ice, and there’s a paper cut on the tip of my left index finger from one of my textbooks. There are more marks on me from various things and overall clumsiness.

However, those marks will only stay for a little while and soon the story behind them will be no more. But there is one mark in particular on my body that will never go away. It’s a mark that only I know about unless I willingly tell people about it because no one can see it.

Seven years ago, I was at my cousin’s aunt’s house for my cousin’s birthday. She had a lovely house. It was large, big enough to be a mansion (according to my 14-year-old self). My sister and I were in awe at the large kitchen, spacious living room, and beautiful dining room.

The backyard was just as fantastic. There was a wide wooden deck leading to a large area of luscious green grass big enough to run a few laps. A large volleyball net covered most of the yard, but the biggest attraction was the in-ground pool complete with a Jacuzzi and waterfall. It was the beginning of July so naturally we spent the whole day in the pool.

While the adults were setting up the tables on the deck for presents and cake, all the kids were playing in the pool. My sister, cousins, and I repeatedly jumped in the pool all at once trying to make as many waves as we could.

My older sister, younger cousin, and I stood at the edge of the pool ready to jump. My sister counted down and when she got to three, all three of us jumped into the pool; except my foot slipped on the wet concrete and I face-planted onto the ground landing on my chin.

“Rachel!” My sister screamed mid-air in a panic right before she landed in the water.

I sat up on the ground in a daze. I didn’t cry and I didn’t think anything too serious happened. I was just confused. I can’t describe the pain because I don’t remember how much pain I was in. I don’t know if there was no pain at all or if it hurt so much that it just felt numb.

My sister immediately hopped out of the pool and rushed to my aid. She stared at me in horror informing me that I was bleeding a lot. I told her I was fine, but when I touched the bottom of my chin with my index finger, my finger was covered in blood. Then I started to panic.

My heart beat faster, I started to get light-headed, and I wondered if I was going to somehow die from the loss of blood. I had never been hurt that bad before.

I walked over to my mom to show her my chin and before I knew it, all my cousin’s aunts were swarmed around me tending to my chin. They cleaned it up for me and put some cotton balls over it taping it on with a band-aid or two. It wasn’t a large cut, but it was deep.

“She’ll most likely need to get stitches.” One of cousin’s aunts’s stated to my mom.

I stared at my mom panic-stricken. There was no way I was going to be getting stitches. My mom shook her head trying to reassure me. However, when we got home my cut still wouldn’t stop bleeding. My mom called the doctor just to get it checked out, hoping it wouldn’t get infected.

Needless to say, I ended up having to get stitches. That was when I cried.

The doctor put in about five or six stitches under my chin. He talked to me while he stitched up my chin in an attempt to distract me. He asked me questions like how my summer was going, what grade I was going to be in the following school year, the type of questions you get asked when people don’t know you personally. It was hard to talk to him while he was working on my chin, but I was just thankful he was trying.

I was also thankful the cut was under my chin where I didn’t have to see the stitches or the needle; then my anxiety would have really spiked. Due to the Novocain, I didn’t feel anything, except for the occasional tug of the thread going into my chin. Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience.

After a week with a band-aid on my chin, I went back to the doctor to get the stitches removed. After that, it was as though nothing had ever happened.

I have a small scar underneath my chin. No one can notice it unless I tilt my chin up and point it out to them. Even then, they have to look really close to see it.

I don’t mind having a scar on my chin. It doesn’t bother me and it’s just another reason that makes me unique from everyone else. It gives me a good story to tell.

Out Of Routine

I love February vacation. I don’t spend six hours of my day at work, so I’m able to get a lot of things done. However, the things I want to get done don’t necessarily get done. I still have homework to do.

So today I did some homework, then went out to lunch (which was fun) and then have been doing more homework. I have two assignments left to do, but I’m done with homework for the time being. I need a break. So they’ll get done sometime tomorrow.

No writing today. I’ve having been writing or editing very much lately because of work and homework and such. I thought I would be able to get a lot of writing done this week because I don’t have work. Except I’ve been thrown off my routine so I haven’t been doing much anything lately.

Tomorrow is Friday, which means vacation is just about over. Next week I’ll be able to get back into my writing routine and hopefully gets somethings done.

Sometimes I feel like my routine gets me in a rut so I look forward to vacation. Then I get out of my routine and I feel so discombobulated.

Map Exercise

Here is yet another writing prompt from my nonfiction class. We had to “map out” a place we’re familiar with whether it’s our favorite place, a place we go to all the time, or a past place that we no longer go to. The prompt was geared more towards describing the physical place than actually telling a story of that place.

Enjoy.

            One of my favorite places is inside Trinity church, which I have attended since I was very young. It’s two buildings in one connected by a large hall that is usually rented out. It has two addresses because of this and one area of the building was used for community outreach. It was called Hammond Square Preschool.

One of the two classrooms used to be called the blue room. It was set up into four large quarters making it rather large for a preschool classroom; most people assumed it to be two rooms in one. That was a major reason why the parents loved it so much; it was spacious. I can’t explain the room too much because it’s hard to remember what it looked like. Once the director was fired, the new director turned it into the yellow room. She repainted the walls to a pale yellow and worked with myself and the other teacher to rearrange the entire classroom.

Walking into the room and looking to the right was a rectangular table holding eight to ten kids for snack as well as the puzzles and coloring. Against the wall were two smaller rectangular tables holding about three kids with a shelf in the middle connecting the two. One table was the math center and the other was the science center. Each table had a bulletin board on the wall next to it and each was changed monthly to a different math and science theme. Two tall white cabinets were added in two corners of the room in order to give the teachers more room for supplies as well as shelves built in underneath the counter to store the table choices for the kids to get at their leisure.

To the first left was the book corner, except it was a raised platform. We took six cubbies and laid them flat draping a green rug over to make it more comfortable. We added pillows, stuffed animals, and a white canopy to hang over the area. We added a larger bookshelf so the kids had more variety. Next to that was dramatic play, but it was bigger with a rack to hang dress-up clothes and also a small nook was built under the counter for the kids to play in.

To the second right after walking into the room was the cubby area with a large blue rug for circle time. More shelf space was added underneath the counter in order to store more blocks for the kids. To the second left was the art area with a circular table holding about four kids. Two sinks were added into the room as well as a brand new blue padded easel attached to the wall for two kids at a time to use. Shelves were added in the wall as a drying rack and shelves were added under the counter for white and construction paper for the kids to use. Another white cabinet was added in the corner for the teachers.

Myself and the other teachers were excited for these changes. It looked so much better than the original blue room. It was as though we were starting fresh, which was something we all needed after having a falling out with the old director of the school. The children loved it and the parents were very pleased; especially with the yellow color because they thought the room looked a lot brighter between the paleness of the yellow and also the natural sunlight coming in from the windows.

However, while the building is still there and the church still carries on, Hammond Square Preschool does not exist anymore. I worked there for only two and a half years because back in December 2013 the school closed. The enrollment was too low to keep the school open. It was a devastating time for the current families as well as the teachers. The parents had to find a new school for their children in the middle of the school year and the teachers had to find new jobs. It also hurt the church to have to close its doors since the church owned the preschool and it had been open for a long time. The preschool was a huge part of the church, so it was as though a huge chunk of the church was missing.

The church has a Sunday school program and the classes are always held in the preschool’s classroom. Now since the yellow room is vacant, the church decided it was best to use it as the Sunday school’s official classroom. I am a teacher and the director of the Sunday school program at Trinity church, so it was odd to be rearranging the yellow room yet again to turn it into a Christian classroom; especially since I changed the room only three months prior. It also hurt because I miss Hammond Square—the teachers, the kids, the parents—but I was also glad the Sunday school children were finally going to have a place to call their own. I was excited to be changing the classroom over again. It was as though the space was getting a second chance.

I made subtle changes because I still wanted it to look like a classroom. I also didn’t want to forget how the original classroom looked like because I want to remember playing with the kids, prepping and doing art activities with them, and watching them play and grow. So, instead of the snack, math, and science centers in the first quarter of the room, there are two circular tables creating an eight. The kids sit there when we read the story and also to do a few worksheets. I changed one bulletin board to an interactive Christian activity for the kids and the other one with information and facts about what we’re learning.

In the second quarter, the book corner is still the same, only it has Christian stories and Bibles on the shelves. The dramatic play area is more or less the same as well. The blocks were moved over there and I kept a few pieces from the preschool for the Sunday school kids. I also added in some Christian games as well.

The third quarter now has two rectangular tables. This is where the kids do their craft project after the lesson. The easel and drying rack is still the same as well as the two sinks in case we do a messy project. I rearranged all the art supplies on the shelves for easy access for the teachers and the kids. This is also where they have snack when the lesson is over. The other side of the room, where the cubbies and original block area was, is extra space for the Thrift Shop. The Sunday school is small, so we decided to only have three quarters of the room instead of all four. I bought posters to hang on the walls and the kids will also be able to display their own artwork on the walls since we don’t share the room with anyone anymore.

I loved Hammond Square and it broke my heart when I lost my job. However, the church itself is in a much better spot now that the Sunday school has its own space. The kids from the Sunday school are much happier. They are excited to have the opportunity to hang their projects on the wall and have a special place to play and show off to their parents without having to clean it up precisely for the preschool. Between meeting many families, learning from the teachers, enjoying the company of the children, and that it was my first teaching job, I have gone through a lot in that place. It has changed so much, but I’ve changed because of that. It may change again and again, but it’s a place I hope to never lose.

January Love Letter

Yes, I know it’s February. That just means this post is extremely late.

I found this idea through Topaz‘s blog and she found it on Allison‘s blog. Allison created a hashtag for 2015 called #YearOfHappy. If you click on the link everything is explained, but I’ll explain anyway. Basically every month you do a different activity or work on some sort of project. The point of it is to get a little more out of life, to have fun, and be happy in 2015.

I thought it was a cool idea, so I decided to join in on the fun and give it a go. January’s prompt is to write a love letter to yourself. Of course by the time I found this January was almost over and I already had the rest of January’s posts planned and written.

It’s a little late, but I guess that’s better than never.

Printed and going in my journal for safe keeping.
Printed and going in my journal for safe keeping.

Hi Rachel!

So far so good, right? You’re doing pretty well with what life is throwing you at the moment even if it’s not throwing anything at you.

Last December you mentioned that 2015 was going to be your year when it came to writing. You’re going to get something published (or ready for publication) by the end of the year whether it’s a novel or a short story in a magazine or a quick poem in a contest. You want to have Detective Florence completed by the end of the year. We can do it!

If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s how quickly things change. Change hits you when you’re mid-blink and before you know it, you’re dazed and confused and have no idea what just happened.

I know you don’t like change, but it’s inevitable and not all changes are bad. A lot of changes will happen in 2015 (some you know of right now and some only future you knows). Some will be good, some will be bad. You’ll get through them just like you always do.

–Your best friend is going to have her baby any day now. You’re going to be an aunt. While this is a good change, things will be different. There will be no more staying out late at night with her, I’m sure you’ll be texting less throughout the day, and when you do hang out together the baby will always be there. You love babies, but there will be much less time to hang out just the two of you. But that’s okay; you’ll still be friends and you’ll be there for both her and her baby.

–You’re almost done with school. You have about three more months and then you’ll have your bachelor’s degree! I know you wanted to continue with your Master’s, but it’ll be nice to finally be done. 90% of your paychecks will not go to school; you’ll be able to save. Maybe even splurge on yourself once in a while.

–Work is difficult, but it’s worth it. Your co-workers are fabulous and the children are great–even if they sap all your strength. Some do that more than others–you know which kid(s) I’m talking about!

–Your writing is coming along. Detective Florence is on its way, you’ve found some contests and magazines to submit to in the near future, you’ve discovered something a little about yourself through your Creative Writing Nonfiction class, and you found a local writing workshop where you’ll meet new people in the same boat as you and you’ll learn lots of fun, new stuff. I’m sure that will help your publishing goals for this year.

See? This year is going to be just fine! Work hard, but indulge yourself once in a while. Go out more with friends/co-workers. Reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in a while.

You’ll make it, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

Love,

Me

I just wrote that letter right now and I have to admit it took me a while. Plus, I didn’t think it was going to be that long. Apparently I have a lot say.

Anyway, don’t forget to check out Topaz‘s and Allison‘s blogs. Even though we’re already about two months into the year, feel free to join #YearOfHappy. Even if you don’t share it with anyone, it’s fun to do it with yourself.

For December, we’re supposed to look back at this letter and reflect on the year. I wonder where I’ll be a year from now?

Photo Exercise

A little while ago I posted an Object Exercise which was a writing prompt from my Nonfiction class. I thought I would share the prompt with all of you in case you wanted to do it yourselves. Well, here’s another prompt from my class.

The rules are easy enough: pick a picture from your past (childhood, recent, whenever) and tell a story based on that picture. Now, this is nonfiction so that would mean telling the real story behind the picture, which is what I had to do. Of course, you could always modify the rules and write a fiction story based on a real picture. Maybe start off nonfiction and then make a slight change and see what could have happened. Play around with it.

Here’s mine. Enjoy.

Kris (left), Peter Pan (middle), and me (right)
Kris (left), Peter Pan (middle), and me (right)

            Every time I look at this photo, I get butterflies in my stomach. My sister (left) and I (right) met Peter Pan for the first time in our lives and it was without a doubt one of the best moments in my life.

Peter Pan is a celebrity, a hero, a figment of the imagination. He lives in a place called Neverland which is located on the second star to the right and straight on until morning. I have never been to Neverland, but it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit since I was a child.

In August 2014, my sister and I had the opportunity to go to Disney World with our cousins. We had gone to Disney two years before, but I never got the chance to meet Peter Pan because we couldn’t find him. When we decided to go again I told my sister, “I have to meet Peter Pan.”

After a few hours walking around Magic Kingdom and asking quite a few workers where Peter Pan usually stood, we finally came across him by accident.

“Kristen, there he is!” I stopped short and grabbed onto my sister’s arm, staring in awe at my favorite celebrity 20 feet away.

She pressed her hand up against my back and pushed me towards the continuously growing line to meet the man in green. “Then get in line!” she panicked, knowing the workers only allowed a certain number of people in at a time before Peter Pan would have to go on break.

We hopped in line just before the line was closed; we only had three people standing behind us. We were under a wooden tarp with wooden fences around us keeping us in line. Trees surrounded us making us feel as though we were inside Peter Pan’s tree house in Neverland.

As the line inched farther along, I started to shake. I began to get hot flashes. I didn’t know if that was from the 85-degree Florida heat or just nerves. My guess was the latter.

When there were just a couple people left ahead of us in line, I urged to tell Kristen that I didn’t want to meet Peter Pan anymore. I was panicking too much inside my head and he was fun to watch from afar. However, I clamped my mouth shut and stuck it out until we were next.

I nearly had a panic attack.

Peter Pan flagged us over with a wide grin on his face. He was animated; bouncing up and down, constantly shifting his weight with quick movements, and his facial expressions contorted like a cartoon character. He sounded just like the Peter Pan I know from the movie and he looked like him, too; not just from the clothes, but his hair and face as well. Of course, that could have just been me being star struck.

“You should come to Neverland with me. I’ve never had girls there before… well, besides Wendy. You two can be my lost girls! I’ve never had any lost girls before. You’ll be the first ones!”

Peter Pan rambled on and on, Kristen giggling at his mannerisms and me smiling and nodding trying to take everything in.

“Hey, you wanna crow with me? You look like you’re good crowers!” Peter Pan stood up straight, cupping his hands to his mouth and then bellowed. Kristen mimicked him playing along while I gawked at him like an idiot.

We then took our picture with him where he put his arms around our shoulders. I smiled at the worker taking our picture with my camera beaming. I couldn’t believe Peter Pan was touching me.

“You’re shaking.”

I continued to smile at the camera even though the woman wasn’t taking pictures anymore. I didn’t know who was speaking, but it sounded like a man so it must have been Peter Pan. I ignored him, not knowing how to respond. I didn’t even know what he was talking about.

I gave him one last hug before retrieving my camera from the park employee and Kristen and I exited the outdoor tree house. I turned on my camera again and started going through the pictures to find the ones of Peter Pan.

“You know, his face was practically kissing yours when he noticed how much you were shaking… and you didn’t even answer him.” Kristen informed me laughing at how nervous I had been.

My mouth gaped open. I couldn’t believe Peter Pan had been that close to me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t talk to him. I couldn’t believe I didn’t crow with him. I finally met my favorite Disney character and I was scared stiff the entire time. I was so embarrassed, but I was laughing at myself at the same time.

Then I started to cry.

Kristen stopped walking and stood in front of me. She stared at me in horror wondering what was wrong.

I smiled through the tears and shouted, “I met Peter Pan!” finally letting it all sink in.