Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I'm Blogging for WOW!

I'm proud to announce that I'm one of Women On Writing's newest bloggers for The Muffin.  This is a blog I've followed religiously since they hosted my online book tour a few years ago.

I fully encourage you to follow them.  However, I'll include my posts on this site for you to check out as well.

My first was on NaNoWriMo.  (click to access)

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Beth - 1
The Muffin - 1
My pathetic attempts at NaNoWriMo - 0

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wise Words from Stephen King, Lois Lowry, and Geraldine Brooks

This post is WAY overdue, but I wanted to share the wise words and advice from three authors I had the privilege to see at the National Book Festival in September.

First, I got to see Stephen King.  I.  Got.  To.  See.  Stephen.  King!!!

My love affair with his books began when I was sixteen years old.  Bored with government, I sat at the back of the class and read Needful Things, Carrie, and The Stand.  His complex characters, the horrific villains that both shocked and intrigued me, and the psychological weirdness which permeates his books, sucked me in and made me a life-long fan.

Therefore, my emotions as I waited for him to come on stage can only be compared to the excitement and delight of a child waiting in line to see the real Santa Claus, or maybe a Walking Dead fan at Comic Con hoping to catch a glimpse of Norman Reedus .

King was a fantastic speaker, using the same wit present in his books, but he also made a compelling plea for his listeners to encourage our youth to read.  He had some great quotations and advice for aspiring authors and readers alike, which I'd like to share today.

Best Lines and Advice from Stephen King

1.  "Real men read."
2.  "I read to my kids to keep them from ripping the God damn house apart."
3.  "As reading declines, analytical thought declines.  We end up with people who have no nose for
4.  "People who read on the toilet, as far as I'm concerned, are good people."
5.  "Authors are like secret agents - we are supposed to observe you, and you aren't supposed to
      observe us."
6.  "Writers are liars."

And my personal favorite:  "Non-readers live only one, single life."

King spoke for almost an hour, and I hung on his every word.  I highly recommend seeing him speak if you ever get the chance.


Geraldine Brooks talked about the importance of researching before writing, and said that she tries to find true stories that have been largely unexplored for her books.  She also said:

"Find the singular - find the truth of the world." 

And: "We are all holy and broken to a certain extent."


The Giver, and the books which follow it, have always been some of my favorites, so I was happy to hear Lois Lowry speak for a second time.  

Lowry surprised me by saying that she does not read science fiction or fantasy, and does not consider her dystopian novels to fall under those categories.  She also told a lovely story of receiving a letter from a little girl, who thanked Lowry for the beautiful imagery in her books.  The girl said that she could see the setting so clearly and wanted to know how Lowery accomplished this feat.  The girl also said she had entered a writing contest and hoped to win. 

Months later, the little girl wrote Lowry again, and included a clipping from her local newspaper to show she had won the contest.  The title was something like: Local Blind Girl Wins Writing Contest.  Lowry thought back to the first letter she received from the girl, and was touched beyond words.

These stories and quotations resonated with me, and inspired me to keep writing.  Hopefully you've found them useful as well.  And if you've never been to the National Book Festival, go next year!  It's a great place for readers and writers alike!

Beth - 1
National Book Festival - 1

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer School

On behalf of all the summer school teachers out there, I'm happy accept the supreme honor of being a summer school  survivor.

Being a  survivor didn't come easily.  I started the three weeks off in a complete state of shock, stunned by the long, six-hour days, which I spent with the same students, hour after grueling hour.  Each morning, my stomach sank the moment I pulled into the parking lot of the school, knowing I was in for a rough day.

And boy, were the days rough.  Being that summer school was free this year, my class was packed to the brim with 28 freshman who had failed ninth grade English for one reason or another.  Those reasons were soon apparent.  There was the skipper.  The lazy smart kid.  The kid who has no motivation whatsoever.  The kid who would rather play soccer on his phone, who sat next to the kid who would rather read than do anything else.  The kid with a massive chip on his shoulder, the kid who thinks teachers are stupid, the kid who lives with his grandparents because his parents are God-knows-where, and the kid who comes in high every day after smoking up with his gang. Let's not forget the kid who is low and needs a lot of extra attention, the kid with the most severe case of ADHD on the planet, the kid who who scares me, and the kid so quiet that he probably slipped in and out of class each day unnoticed.  I had every one of these kids in my class.  Every one.  All by myself for the first two weeks.

Of the 30 students on my roster, two never showed up.  Eight dropped out before the two weeks were over.  One came every day except the last day, when the final project was due, and failed.  To say I will never understand most of them is a gross understatement.

I couldn't have survived summer school, however, without the incredible support of my co-worker Danielle, who shared her lesson plans with me to make the work-load more bearable, and of my friend Margot, who co-taught with me after she was done with her assignment and helped me laugh when I wanted to explode or cry.  I'd also like to thank my husband, kids, and parents, who put up with my whining and crying the whole time, because I know it was annoying.

And lastly, I'd like to thank my summer school students for making me appreciate all the grading and planning that goes into teaching my junior AP Language and Composition students.  I'll never take them for granted again.

Beth - 1
Summer School - KO

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adulting is Hard

Being an adult is hard.  Really hard.  Like so hard that I don't have the heart to tell my senior students that it's hard.  They'll figure it out eventually, and then the joke is on them.

You know how it goes, right?  You have to make an adult decision, you do a bunch of research to make sure you're making the right decision, and then you follow through with the decision.  And then you realize you made the wrong decision.  Pretty textbook.

I did this recently.  I was feeling pretty adult about my major decision, until I found a piece of information that slipped my attention during the "research" phase.  Then I did the adult thing by breaking down, sobbing to my husband that I'd made the wrong choice, and begging him to help me back out of it.  You know.  Adult.

The worst part is that sometimes backing out of adult decisions is expensive.  This one sure was.

Anyhoo, this brings me back to my main point, which is that being an adult is really hard.  And not fun.  And stressful.  But it does make you realize that making it through adulthood is okay as long as you have awesome people to support you.  My family has been incredibly supportive of my major adult blunder, assuring me that everyone makes mistakes.  Maybe they do, and maybe they don't, but I know I feel less crappy because of the people who love me.

So I may not be moving out of my parent's house as soon as I thought, but I know I've learned from this mistake, and I suppose that's an important part of adulting, too.

Also, wine helps.  And beer.

Just saying.

Beth - 0
Adulting - 0
Learning Experience - 1  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Moving is Exciting and Expensive

We did it.  We moved.

Sure, my husband, two kids and I are temporarily shacking up with my parents, and the bedroom where I once spent my high-school years is now the room I share with my hubby, but we finally ditched the townhouse and are on our way to saving money for bigger and better things.

Moving is funny, really.  For instance, we lived in the townhouse for almost ten years, and simply put up with (ignored) light fixtures which needed replacing, crappy carpet that looked like it had gone twenty rounds with forty-two filthy cows, and a toilet paper holder that refused to stay on the wall.  Stains on the ceiling?  We didn't care.  Weeds taking over the backyard?  Psh.  We could live with it.  In fact, we could live with everything, until we had to sell it.

Turns out our house cleans up very nicely.  It's actually classy now that we've moved out.

Unfortunately, the amount of money we've spent to purge ourselves of this unwanted townhouse is obscene.  Everything needed to fix up the house, to get it cleaned by maids, and to hire movers, far exceeded my expectations.  I cry every time I look at my empty savings account.

But deep down, I think it's worth it.  We'll get a fresh start in a new, single-family home, away from the congestion of Centreville.  Hopefully it will be somewhere that, when I look up at the sky, I can see a dark night full of stars, and the sounds I hear won't be the rush of cars on Rte 66, but instead the rustling of trees or hooting of owls.  Okay, that's cheesy and cliche, but you get the idea.

See-ya Centreville.  It's been real.

Beth - 1
Dumpy townhouse we couldn't be happier to get rid of - 0
Maids, Movers and Repair-men - $1,000,000,000

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Loving the Body We Have With Fabulous Guest . . . . . Destiny Allison!

I'm so excited to welcome Destiny Allison!  Her latest book, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves, releases next month and, as someone who is always looking for a way to be healthy and happy while still enjoying their wine at night, I'm really looking forward to reading it!  

But enough talk.  Let's hear what she has to say about loving the body we have (which as we all know is not always easy to do). 

Loving the Body We Have Means Having Empathy for Ourselves and Those We Love

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Beth. I enjoy your posts and appreciate your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to share the trials and tribulations of your personal life with an audience who might not always be kind.

I also like your Tell It Like It Is posts. Hmm. 4 items. Right.

When we spoke, you said you were interested in my thoughts on the psychology behind weight gain (and loss), loving your body, and how to lose weight with your hubby and love doing it. I think they’re all tied together. Our bodies mirror the way we feel about ourselves and the stress in our lives. When we’re happy, engaged, and taking care of ourselves, we don’t tend to gain (or worry about) weight. When we’re stressed and unhappy, we tend to blame ourselves for what ails us. That, in turn, contributes to weight gain. 

Weight can be armor against the onslaught of the world and, as we all know, food comforts. Unfortunately, relying on the comfort and protection over-eating affords reinforces the doubt we have about ourselves. When we try to do something about it and our husbands (who are sometimes also overweight) tell us we’re beautiful or complain about changes in the menu, it becomes really difficult to make the changes we seek.

In my new book, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves, I chronicle the year it took for my husband and I to lose a significant amount of weight. Together, we dropped 120 pounds. We didn’t diet and continued to enjoy our wine at night. Losing weight was the easy part and we had a blast doing it. What we didn’t know, and what we discovered on our journey, were all the ways we’d been unhappy in our lives and marriage. Working through those issues proved the real challenge.

As we delved deeper into them, we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We thought communication had never been a problem between us. It was. We thought we were both pretty enlightened and equality was important to both of us. Again, we were wrong. Little things, things we both blew off because they were so small, reared giant, ugly heads as the pounds rolled off.

What we came to understand was that our cultural expectations have changed dramatically in the last few decades, but our cultural behaviors haven’t. We’re all trying to figure out who we are and how we’re supposed to be, but many of us don’t have the skills necessary. Men are men. Women are women. We can be equal under the law, equal in our professional pursuits, equal in all the ways except how we relate to each other.

If I’m going to “tell it like it is,” I have to say that men and women are struggling with identity issues that make weight gain easy. Men are in a box. Women are supposed to be everything all at once. When we learn empathy for ourselves and the one’s we love, we move a step closer to having the bodies we want. We might not ever be “perfect” but we won’t need to be. Instead, we’ll have loving, engaged relationships that empower us and the ones we love.

Thank you Destiny!

The husband and I are sure to read this when it releases in January, and I hope you, lovely readers, will also pre-order a copy!

Destiny Allison is an award winning sculptor and author. The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves, is her fourth book and due for release in January 2016. Other books include Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life, and two novelsPipe Dreams and Bitterroot. She currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her loving husband and rambunctious dogs. Find out more about Destiny Allison on her blog http://shapingdestinythebook.com/

About the Book:
The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves by Destiny Allison
Sunstone Press (January 18, 2016)

Brave, raw, and unflinchingly honest, this book is a weight loss journey, a love story, a heart beating loudly on the page. Every day we battle against something–injustice, our spouses, our weight. Seldom do we acknowledge the real wars we wage. Repressing feelings and silencing our voices, we suffer under the surface, attributing emotional distress and unwanted pounds to the inescapable effects of hormones or age.

But weight gain, anxiety, and marital difficulties aren’t always so easy to explain.
In her poignant and touching memoir, Allison doesn’t offer recipes, exercise tips, or advice. Instead, she shows us how to stand up, express what we want, and develop empathy for ourselves and the people we love. In doing so, she provides invaluable insight for those seeking to lose weight, save a marriage, or make a significant life change.

Twitter: @SFSculptor

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tell It Like It Is Tuesday . . . the Facebook Passive-Aggressive

On Today's Tell It Like It Is Tuesday. . . . . 

People who air their personal relationship problems on Facebook

I appreciate that you have relationship problems.  Trust me, we all do.  But posting seemingly anonymous messages on Facebook which are clearly directed at someone in your close, personal circle of family and friends isn't fooling anyone.

Hate to break it to you, but I'm pretty sure that person knows you are referring to them.

Also, that makes you very passive aggressive, which I can appreciate because I, too, like to be passive aggressive through blog posts like this one.  But at least I only have 44 followers, so the likelihood that you are reading this is slim to none.

Here's to you, passive aggressive Facebook poster!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tell-It-Like-It-Is Tuesday

Trying something new this week:  Tell-It-Like-It-Is Tuesday! 

I'll keep the posts short and sweet, where I pass on an honest observation and leave it for you to consider.

This week:

People who take up the entire conveyor belt in the grocery store line with only four items.

This usually leaves me struggling to juggle my head of broccoli, shampoo bottle, case of beer, and frozen waffles, while their four items are strategically spread over the entire length of the conveyor belt, making it impossible to me to set my items down.

Four.  Items.

That is all.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Whole30 and the Redskins Game

Desperate for change, I switched to the Whole30 diet about a month ago, hoping for some way to make my body healthier and lose some weight.  But, in true Beth form, I declined to give up alcohol.

I wasn't sure it would work.  I wasn't counting calories.  I wasn't "watching" what I ate.  Instead, I only ate natural meats, vegetables, fruits, coconut milk and almonds.

In a month, I lost a significant amount of weight.  My digestive issues (I'll spare you the details) improved.  My head cleared.  It totally worked.

Today, I convinced my husband to join me.  As I mentioned in my last post, I've changed my outlook a bit, so will try and focus my future blog posts on healthy eating, the books I'm reading, and my new teaching strategies.  I thought I'd start with my Sunday "Prep," as I've come to call it.

To get ready for the Whole30 week with the hubs, I cut up a watermelon, sliced strawberries and cleaned grapes.

For breakfasts, I made egg muffins.  The recipe goes like this:

1.  Saute desire vegetables (today, I used zucchini, mushrooms and spinach) in olive oil until soft.
2.  Spray muffin tins with coconut oil spray.
3.  Portion out veggies into muffin tins.
4.  Beat nine eggs and distribute between 12 muffin cups.
5.  Use a fork to mix the veggies and egg together.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I only used half the eggs for the recipe above this time, and put them in 6 muffin cups.  For the rest, I mixed pumpkin and pecans into the remaining eggs, and used those for the other 6 muffin cups.  Gotta have variety, right?

I have 1-2 egg muffins a morning, coupled with a smoothie, and am easily satisfied until lunch.

For lunches, I purchased deli meat, and will wrap it around different veggies (green peppers, zucchini, lettuce), coupled with fruit and nuts on the side.  I also roasted a chicken, made my own mayonaise, and created both chicken salad and tuna salad to put in Mike's lunchbox.

I'll try and chronicle my different dinner fores over the rest of the week.

On the alcohol front, we've been watching the Redskins all afternoon, which required a little champagne and shots of Red Stag.  This plan worked initially, but then the Skins, in true Redskins form, deteriorated during the second half.  As a result, we switched to beer and shots of Red Stag.

You can see the mixed emotions from the crowd in the picture, but the game's not over yet.

Here's to a great week, good eating, and a Redskins' win!

Beth - 1
Whole30 - 1
Skins - ??

Monday, September 28, 2015

Healing and Moving On

For the first time in my life, my passwords are not directly correlated to my manuscript-in-progress.

This is a big deal for me.  It means I've given up on my current writing project and chosen to focus on something else for a while.  And this hasn't happened in a long time.  

My change in password indicates three significant events.  

First, I've decided to take a break from novel writing.  My latest novel failed to find favor with an agent, which is both heartbreaking and heartbreaking.  

Second, I'm teaching a new class, which has inspired my creative side.

Third, I'm healing my mind and body through positive food changes.

So. . . . . . 

#1 Reading 

One can't be a writer unless they read widely in their genre.  I plan on reading as much as possible in the next six months.  On my short list:

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Conversion by Catherine Howe

The Watershed by Wilden Turk

#2 Lesson Plans

I am creating new lesson plans.  This year, I'm teaching four different classes, and one is a senior AP Language and Composition class.  This gives me the opportunity to branch out and try new things, like college essays, new projects, and new concepts.  I'm excited and terrified, but have high hopes for this class. 

#3 Mind and Body Healing

My physical and mental healing all started with It Starts With Food by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig.  

Okay, that's not true.  It started with my friend Sam, whole told me about the Whole30 way of eating.  Since then, I've gone 95% Paleo, including excluding dairy and all grains.  Meat, veggies,fruits and spices it is.  I'm loving it and hating it.  But mostly happy with the results.  I won't lie, though.  I'm still indulging in red wine at night.  It'll be a miracle if I give that up.  

These three changes have helped heal my mind and body.  I physically feel better, and mentally feel more organized. Creatively, I feel happier, and less "forced."  I'm enjoying literature again, and I hope those positive feelings will transfer over to my own writing when I feel ready to dive into it again.  

I've heard that teaching is one of the hardest professions out there.  I've heard the same about writing. Considering I'm a slave to both, there is no shock that I'm usually stressed.  For now, I'm trying to set that stress aside in an attempt to enjoy both of my professions in a way I haven't in a long time.  

If you want to discuss writing and books, I'm ready.  And if you want to talk Paleo and Whole30, I'm all ears. Mostly, I'd just love to hear your thoughts. 

Beth - 1
Beth's Mind and Body - 1
Stressed Beth - 0