Sunday, December 20, 2009


This weekend we were hit with the Blizzard of 2009. I haven't seen snow like this since I graduated high school in 1996. It snowed for thirty hours and dumped two feet of snow on our town. Crazy!

I did notice, however, that people (and animals) do some interesting things when it snows.

My husband couldn't stop watching the weather channel. I didn't seen the point after the first forecast. Look outside. It's snowing. What more can the weather people tell us?

My dog, who usually hates all wet things, decided to take a morning stroll in six inches of snow at six in the morning. I had to throw on boots and chase after him down the street to drag him home - in my pajamas.

For some reason, our neighbors lost sight of neighborly "protocol". A man across the street shoveled his driveway and threw all the snow onto the newly plowed street. Another fellow threw the snow behind his car onto my husband's car. Our neighbor decided that his driveway snow looked better in our yard. Would they do that with dirt? Trash?

Overall, however, it was a fun experience. Today (Sunday), our school district shut down for the next three days, extending my winter break to two weeks. Woo Hoo! I'm hoping the cabin fever doesn't make me do something odd. Like running down the street in my pajamas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This weekend, I drove down to Richmond to watch my sister run a marathon. It's the second marathon I've watched in the past two years. However this time, I was no longer a "rookie" spectator.

To begin, a LOT of people run marathons. A lot means thousands. If there was ever a time to feel a ridiculous amount of self pity over my lack of athleticism, marathons provide me with that sense of self-worthlessness. However, in the grand scheme of things, how many people do you know who run twenty-six miles for fun? I can only think of two.

My brother-in-law and I spent the morning together after my sister crossed the starting line. We walked a great deal. First, we hurried to the nearest diner to get breakfast, which ended up being cold - almost as cold as the temperature outside. Personally, I didn't sign up to deal with any type of discomfort and was a bit disappointed overall.

After breakfast, we had a long haul - five blocks total - until we could see my sister at the sixteen-mile marker. Luckily, there was a Starbucks across the street and the coffee we acquired warmed us from the chilly weather. We then spent an exhausting hour cheering on the runners and giving them encouragement as they passed by. Some of them were rude enough to wear iPods and earphones, and couldn't hear our encouraging words, but overall I think we really did some good.

I ran into my former assistant principal while cheering. Turns out he runs marathons for fun too. I suspect it might be an effort to escape high school students. Go figure.

Finally, we saw my sister, who smiled and waved as I jogged along side her to get a picture. I fell behind in less than thirty seconds, however, and was only able to get a picture of the other spectators. Can't complain, though, cause I gave it my best.

I think my favorite runner was an elderly man wearing a pink fairy outfit. He also held a magic wand. What surprised me most was that they let him cross the finish line. Using magic to cheat is not cool.

Overall, it was an exciting day. At lunch time I was starving, and ate like I'd just run a marathon.

Spectating is a tiring event.

Beth - 1
Runners - 1
Man in the pink fairy outfit - 2

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Curse of the Swine

It's true - Last week, I had the swine flu. (Ha ha, that rhymes)

Little did I know, however, that having the swine flu is the equivalent of wearing a large, scarlet letter 'A' on one's chest. Except in this case it might be the letter 'S'. . . .

The flu was, well, the flu. I had a much milder form than my children. There was no fever - just a cough, stuffy nose and one day of the chills. While uncomfortable, it was not unbearable. But based on the way people reacted to the news, you would think I had leprosy. For example:

1. My doctor wouldn't even let me pay on the way out. They literally shoved me out the door and promised to bill me.
2. Our wonderfully kind neighbors brought us dinner one night. I can't even begin to say how touched I am by their gesture. But I must laugh at how far away from me they stood when they dropped off the food. And they made me swear I would keep the Tupperware and not return it.
3. The teacher with whom I shared a cube vacated and found another empty cube. I'm not offended, but find it rather amusing. What did he think I was doing? Licking the chair?
4. A parent refused to bring her child to my daughter's birthday party, despite the fact that my daughter had been fever free for three days. THREE DAYS.
5. My husband confined the kids and me into the same bed at night. Actually, I kind of understand that one.
6. Every single one of my students is convinced they will get the swine flu, and all because I taught them on the first day of my illness. Let's not go crazy. Only about half of them are probably right.

Regardless, this mania over the swine flu is out of control. The worst part was feeling so isolated. And being at home for five straight days with two sick children. And watching the same children's shows over and over and over again. But that's another story.

Swine flu - 0 (We beat you!)
Beth - 1 (I survived)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I began yelling at one of my classes today, but did so in third person. As in "Mrs. Harar is losing it!" A student asked me why I was talking in third person. Besides the fact that I was impressed they even knew what third person was, I've pondered this question and have decided that the little things are getting to me. I've created a list to illustrate.

1. There are a handful of students that are incapable of staying in their seats. Yelling at them makes no difference. Instead, I've started devising ways to get them to stay in their seats. Seat belts, crazy glue, heavy bricks. The ideas get more inappropriate every day.

2. No matter how many times I've told them to take the side staircase to get to the library, one student will always head towards the main staircase and, like lemmings, the others follow. EVERY TIME.

3. I just got over a stomach virus. A student asked me if I threw up, and I said yes. He told me he'd also had a stomach virus, but all he had was diarrhea. I had to repress the vomit from returning with his fine visual image.

4. It was superhero day on Tuesday. I actually saw a male student wearing a diaper.

5. Me: Hey,kids. Today we're going to take a look at the song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette to discuss irony. Kids: Blank faces. Me: Wait, haven't you ever heard that song? I went to her concert when I was seventeen. Kids: Mrs. Harar, you are really old.

I could go on. But I think the fact that my five year old is more mature than most of them isn't helping my sanity. Then again, she was stuffing bouncy balls in her underwear this afternoon yelling, "Mommy! I'm peeing balls!"

The sad part is, if one of my freshman had done the same thing, I wouldn't have been surprised.

Beth: 0 Because I'm referring to myself in the third person.
Jillian: 1 Because she gave me a good laugh
Students: -1 Because they are driving me insane

Friday, September 25, 2009

Go to the Website. Now.

I'm shaking with laughter right now. On page two or three there is a dead deer hanging out of a trunk. Priceless.

Friday, September 11, 2009


As I refreshed the Internet page I saw the tiny plane get closer and closer to the tower. The second tower. It was hard to imagine. Only a few minutes earlier I couldn't imagine how such an accident had occurred. Now, I knew it was intentional.

Stunned, my co-workers and I stared in shock at the screen - at the hole that now terrorized the second tower. But work beckoned and it was time for court hearings. On the way, a small boom, which could have been a plane or construction work, assaulted our ears. It was the third impact.

The smoke from the Pentagon wafted across the Potomac to slink about the streets of Alexandria. Court was cancelled. No one could concentrate anyway. I made my way to my car, dazed, staring in sadness at the other pedestrians who looked equally as lost. The air burned around us. We didn't know about the fourth plane yet.

It took three hours to get out of the city. On my way home I could hold in the tears no longer and stopped at my mother's school. Cried on her shoulder. Called my husband, even though the phone lines were not working. Later, when my husband and I got home, my friends came over to our small one bedroom apartment and we sat in front of the television, trying in vain to comprehend the enormity of the event. I called my friend Jenny, who lived in New York at the time. She was shaken, but alright.

I don't drink liquor, but took two shots that night.

Today, I asked my freshman how old they were during 9-11. They were five. I told them my story, but I don't know if it had any impact. They don't have second thoughts when they get on a plane. Taking their shoes off before they go through a security check is second nature. They don't understand how it is to live in a country where you aren't afraid.

Tonight, I cried again, as I did eight years ago. The horror has not lessened for me. Nor would I want it to. I've always been a patriot, but that night helped me understand war in a way I never had. I hope never to be desensitized, so that one day I can help my children fathom how important our country is, and how important it is to stand up for freedom.

Monday, August 31, 2009


When I was a child, my nightmares usually involved the supernatural. At age five, I had a dream that I heard noises in my garage. Inside, was a giant Siamese cat that wanted to kill me. Later, when I was a teenager, vampires would chase me with needles. Then there is that pesky dream where I go to an island on vacation and a Tyrannosaurus Rex tries to eat me. Thank you, makers of Jurassic Park.

But lately, it seems I am done with childish dreams of monsters and the undead. Now, I have something even more terrifying to fear: Going back to school.

There are several scenarios that haunt my mind at night. Most of them involve the first day of school. Many factors play a role, but there is usually some combination of the following:

1. I can't find my classroom and wander aimlessly through the halls searching for it.
2. One or more students refuse to behave.
3. I forgot to make the handouts and have nothing to teach.
4. A parent has decided to observe me and I am unprepared. (This one is particularly upsetting)
5. I arrive late and forgot the key to my classroom.
6. I forgot to wear a key piece of clothing . . . like my pants.

There are more, but I won't bore you with the details. Regardless, when did reality become scarier than the unimaginable? I'd like to think that if I were face to face with a vampire, I would be more frightened than if faced with a classroom full of students, but my dreams tell me otherwise. This change baffles me.

Dreams of monsters - 0
Dreams of students - 100

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Game Time

This game is called: Can you find the Dove bar soap?
Please try to ignore my messy cabinet. Let's just focus on the soap.

A Good Looker

You might think based on the title of this post that I'm referring to someone who is very attractive. But you'd be wrong.

I'm talking about people who are good at looking for things and finding them. I have very few talents in this world, but I happen to be a good "looker". For example, when I was at the beach this summer, four people searched high and low for the remote control, but finally declared that it had disappeared and that is was time to buy a new one. I found it in about three minutes. It was under the couch, by the way.

One person who is a terrible "looker" is my husband. It is OK if I tell you this because he already knows he is awful at finding things. I can't tell you the amount of times he's told me that he cannot find the kids' shoes anywhere, and I locate them in about a minute. It really happens quite frequently.

But today's "finding" story is worth mentioning.

As I was leaving the gym, my husband called me and asked me to stop by the store and buy more bar soap. I was confused. Only one week ago I bought a package of six soaps. Surely we didn't use them that quickly. He assured me he'd looked for them and could not find them. Luckily, however, I know my husband very well and said, "Just because you couldn't find the soap doesn't mean it isn't there." He gave a half-hearted laugh, but I could tell he thought the soap was all gone and that my search would be futile.

When I got home, I walked upstairs and opened the cabinet doors under our bathroom sink. There, in plain sight, right in the front, was the soap. Five bars of soap, to be exact. So I did what any normal human being would do. I called him upstairs just to rub it in.

"Do you see the soap?" I asked, pointing to the cabinet.

He looked closely. "Yes," he said rather sheepishly. "But it is on the left side. I usually keep it on the right."

Mystery solved.

Beth - 1
Mike - .5 (just because his answer made me laugh)

Sunday, August 9, 2009


These are my friends Chris and Elena. Thanks for reading my blog. Love you guys.
This is my Dad, getting his groove on.
This is me, dancing with Buck-town
This is my beautiful sister and her new husband.

My sister got married on Saturday.

It was a beautiful ceremony. I'd like to share some of the highlights with you. To begin, my daughter ran into a table two days before and was sporting a rather impressive bruise on her right cheek. The mark will forever be immortalized in the pictures. We'll be explaining we don't beat our child for the rest of her life.

The kids behaved pretty well during the ceremony. My son only dropped the cheap $20 digital camera I bought him about 51 times. He chose rather opportune moments, like when my sister was saying her vows or during the priest's homily. He accompanied each drop with a loud "Uh oh!" Once, when his voice took on a higher pitch and a temper tantrum was within our midst, my grandmother took his hand and said, "Honey, you can't be loud in church. You'll make God cry." I'm fairly certain everyone heard her.

My husband sat with the kids in the pew behind me. Several times I turned to check on him and he was wiping the sweat from his brow. The pit stains went away after we left the church, children in-tact. He deserves the title of "Daddy of the year".

The reception was lovely. The food was amazing and the ambiance was perfect. It only took four drinks to calm me down before my speech. Despite the fact that my heart was threatening to leave my body, I held it together and delivered my speech without a hitch. After that, I was able to relax and have fun. I caught up with old friends. The DJ played Love Shack, and I got my groove on. Our friend, Buckley, sang along with Journey's Forever Yours later in the evening. It was a blast.

The party continued after the reception. Nineteen of us crammed into a shuttle built for ten on the ride back to the hotel. Every girl sat on a lap and a few people were sitting in the trunk. We took over the hotel bar. My uncle, just slightly inebriated, started to whip out his credit card and offer to pay for all the drinks. Luckily my mother slapped a hand over his mouth and stopped him.

At about midnight my aunt bought me nachos. I demolished them.

My sister looked stunning. I now have a great brother-in-law. What a fantastic evening!

Beth - 1
Wedding - 1
Beth's speech - stole the show. maybe.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teens, Take Heart

A judge on So You Think You Can Dance just said, "You danced it good."

Shame, shame, shame.

Beth's grammar - 2
Grammar of the Judge - 0

Still shaking my head.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Feeling Grammatically Superior

It happened again yesterday. There I was, minding my own business, waiting in line at Chipotle and envisioning the monstrous burrito I would soon be stuffing into my mouth, when I heard a phrase most foul.

“Yeah,” said a skinny teenage girl talking to a guy I can only assume was her boyfriend. I deduced this based on the way his hands were placed on her backside. “I’m doing good. You?”

“Good,” the boyfriend replied patting her . . . heinie.

I cringed and clenched my jaw. I didn’t give a lick about the public display of affection because I work in a high school and have seen far, far worse. But to my ears, this offense was inexcusable. Under my breath, so soft that I was sure they would not hear me because I’m a big chicken and hate uncomfortable encounters, I muttered, “Well.”

What I wanted to do was turn around, tap them on the shoulder an give them a ten (ok, twenty) minute English lesson on proper use of the words ‘good’ and ‘well’. I was fairly sure there were lingering grammar handouts from last year in my car which would be most beneficial. Or, I could grab a Chipotle napkin and write out some simple examples like:

1. Burritos are good.
2. I am feeling well.
3. Patting your girlfriend on the tooshie can feel good.
4. The boyfriend would not be doing well if the girls’ father saw him touching her.

Instead of embarrassing them, I tried to ignore the many grammar errors ensconced in their conversation and concentrated on whether I should add guacamole to my burrito for an extra ninety-nine cents.

I suppose putting up with the improper grammar of others is a burden English teachers and writers shoulder. At least it didn’t ruin my appetite.

And I did get guacamole. On the side.

Beth's Grammar - 1
Teenager's Grammar - 0

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Feels Like First

Holy Cow. I won third place in a writing contest on the Clarity of Night blog. I'm stunned.

And yes, I jumped up and down like a spazz when I found out. Big surprise.

I don't think I'm allowed to post my entry here, and my pathetic attempt to link to the sight failed miserably, so here is the website:

And don't just read mine. Many of them are excellent reads.

Beth - 1

No contest here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Starburst Update

She's running around the house with a broom between her legs pretending to be the Wicked Witch of the West. It has been three hours since the candy consumption.

Damn the makers of Starburst.

Beth - 0 (shame on me)
Jillian - ? (she's still on the sugar high)


My daughter ate an entire pack of Starburst candy today. The makers finally got something right and created a pack composed entirely of the red and pink flavors! It took everything in my power to stay away from her package. I can't say the same for my napping son's pack of Starburst, however.

Many might shake their head at my actions. Shame on me for letting her have it. But it was either that or prolong the madness for several days. I prefer to suffer the consequences all at once.

About one hour after she finished the candy, she began a five-year-old version of kung-fu fighting, announcing that she could go off to war and fight. The attack commenced against my husband and me, complete with hi-ya sound effects.

Ten minutes after playing war she ran back and forth from the living room to the kitchen about 30 times.

Still not tired after racing, she jumped on the back of the couch and tackled me from behind, begging for more Starbursts like a weed addict would beg for a dime bag.

I swear the candy makers slip something in their products that targets children. The candy just made me tired.

Jillian - 1 Candy - 10

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Contests - Friend or Foe?

On Wednesday, I entered a short story contest. It was on the Clarity of Night blog. Don't ask me to link it. I'm HTML illiterate.

I needed to write a short story in less than 250 words. I prepared for at least three weeks and wrote a semi-non-fiction account of my grandfather in the nursing home. I loved this piece of writing.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I submitted the entry on the second day and it wasn't posted.

To be fair, the blog kept mentioning that, say, there were 40 entries and 25 had been posted. I was under the impression that the blogger specifically chose the qualified entries that were good enough. But the posted entries seemed on the same level as mine, so I couldn't figure out why mine hadn't made the cut.

Ok, lets be honest. It was more than mere curiosity. I agonized. I worried. I tore my freaking hair out. I even came close to crying on more than one occasion, which I'm not proud of but couldn't help. How in the world had my entry not made the cut? I am so very critical of myself, and even I thought it deserved to be posted. To those who know me, that says a great deal.

For four days, I fretted over this. Finally, after almost deleting the blog from my favorites, I decided to investigate. I read the comments section

As it turns out, Jason Evans posts every entry, but never received mine. Totally fair. Totally rational. Jason is really a nice guy.

You can imagine how stupid I feel. It is really, toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe, food on your upper lip kind of stupid. But the relief is unimaginable.

Beth - um, 1? Contest - way more than one. The entries are amazing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"A Giant Among Men"

This is the video on Youtube my husband wrote and directed. He is a genius. And he is really hot.

I also make my film debut as Pete's girlfriend.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dropping the F-Bomb

My Aunt, sister and I threw my parents a 40th wedding anniversary party on Friday. Everything went perfectly, and the guests really enjoyed themselves. That being said, I left the party wondering when it's OK to drop the f-bomb.

It's not like I haven't heard this word at least a thousand times. I teach students in high school who are fond of the word and creatively use it. My f'in teacher . . . He f'd her . . . I brought an f'in sandwich for lunch. It would seem there is no limit to the word's place in the English language.

However, I was dumbstruck when a friend of my father's, who will remain nameless, said that very word while we were talking Friday night. It came up casually, but hearing it was like hitting a warm spot in the pool. Before I knew what was going on, I was entrenched it in. In fact, after he said it, I wasn't entirely sure it had really happened. Here we were, having a very normal conversation when BAM. The f-bomb enters unannounced.

I didn't know what to do. Do I respond in kind? Should I ask him what he thinks of this f-in party? What the f are you doing later? Maybe I should keep it friendly. How the f are you?I mean, when one drops the word, does it mean we should all start swearing? And if I don't begin swearing, will it make the other party feel uncomfortable, as if I didn't pick up on their invitation to join the club?

I think I threw in the word "shit" at some point soon after the f-word entered the conversation. I figured it wasn't quite as bad as "the" word, but let him know I was still cool. It was a safe alternative. I'm happy with my decision. Plus, it's less likely to get back to my father. Deep down, I feel we've taken our relationship to a new level. We're swearing buddies now. F-yeah!

Beth - 1 F-word - 1 (We're on equal footing now)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yeah Boy!

Yup. This pretty much sums up Northern Virginia. Oh, that is where I live, by the way.

Remy - 1,124 Beth - 1 (cause I live there)

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Nice Little Saturday

So, a funny thing happened at Target on Saturday. At least, it is funny now. It wasn't funny on Saturday.

I went to Target for two things: an inflatable pool with a slide for the backyard and a card for my sister's bridal shower. Sounds easy enough, but my son is two and a half. He knows how to unbuckle the straps that keep him in the cart. Therefore, I have no choice but to let him walk. He loves it. Freedom. Lots of things to touch and break.

You can see where I'm going with this. We made it to the back of the store to get the pool without incident. I won't lie. I bribed him. I promised to buy a pair of Thomas the Train swim shorts if he behaved. But a shiny new tricycle caught his eye as I decided between the dinosaur pool and the dolphin pool. You can understand his dilemma. Wouldn't everyone rather have the shiny new tricycle?

In less than a minute, he was on the floor, on his back, kicking his legs and screaming. I did the only thing a mother in this situation could do. I made a run for it. With a shrieking toddler under my arm, I grabbed the cart with my free hand and bolted for the checkout counter. There was panic in each teller's eyes. They didn't want me to come to their line. But I had to choose one of them. A middle-aged man with no line was the winner.

Something along the lines of "I need to get out of here NOW" spewed from my mouth as he scanned the pool and shoved it into a bag. I wouldn't buy the swim trunks, which only made the situation worse. I had my son by the wrist as he screamed "Mine! My choo-choo train shorts!" My daughter chose this moment to tug on my shirt and remind me that she was being a good girl.

I tucked my screaming son under my arm yet again and propelled the cart forward, out of the store and through the parking lot. Suddenly, Joey squirmed out of my grasp. As I turned to re-acquire him, my cart took off, barreling down the hill. A young man with a pregnant wife came to the rescue, sprinting towards the cart and saving it before it hit anything. I'm pretty sure he's regretting his decision to have children at this very moment.

I eventually got Joey into the car and went straight to Wendy's. Chicken nuggets stopped the temper tantrum.

Even though I didn't get a card for my sister, we made it to the car in one piece. I consider the trip a success.

Beth - 1 Joey - 0

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The End of Shimmer

It is a sad day for my first novel. I officially received forty-five rejections, and the one request for a partial was returned today. It didn't "resonate" with the agent, which is a nice way of saying "it sucked." To be honest, it probably does suck. Even so, I must admit that I am more than a little bit crushed.

Gone are my secret dreams of immediate greatness. I haven't lost my desire to write, but my eagerness to become a published author has waned. I'd hardly be human if I didn't admit that rejection hurts.

On the bright side, I got a lovely "I'm sorry and still think you're great" BBQ popcorn kiss from my husband. The smell of his breath continues to linger in the air.

And the weekend isn't a complete wash. The English department had a "good riddance" party for those of us leaving, and one of my co-workers had some very kind remarks for me. It looks like I did a bang-up job of convincing them I'm a good teacher. All those acting classes came in handy!

I am worried about the state of my classroom when I return on Monday. The ants (and that is not a code name for something else. I do, literally, mean ants) were attempting a take-over on Thursday. They were aggressive a few weeks ago, but came back with a vengeance when they discovered my students were making literature dioramas using candy Peeps. I sprayed them with wipe-off-board spray, but that will only hold them for so long. Little bastards.

Beth - 0 Literary Agents - 45 Ants - ?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sex Ed - English Style

I had to explain to my students what "begat" means. It happened like this:

We were reading Inherit the Wind in class. At one point, one lawyer in the play asks another if he feels people begat now the way they begat in the Old Testament.

Beth, of course, giggles, because its funny. But the rest of the room is silent. Their sweet, innocent faces are confused. Why is the teacher laughing?

Stupidly, I ask "Don't you know what begat means?" You can guess their answer, which was unanimous.

So, I had to explain it to them. As in Beth and Mike got married. They begat a son, Joseph. Because they did it. Had sex. Begat Joseph.

I'm assuming they enjoyed my explanation, based on the laughter. And the snickers. I'm fairly certain that I heard a boy in the back of the room say, "She said sex." This, coming from students who watch the same movies I do, listen to sexually graphic music and would probably "begat" in the hallway if we let them.

Beth's explanation 1 Begatting 1

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So You Think You Can Write?

As I prepare for another season of So You Think You Can Dance and pay close attention to those contestants I will later choose for my draft, a rather unpleasant thought occurred to me. Over and over on the show, contestants make fools of themselves, performing amateur moves, falling down or dressing in ridiculous bunny outfits. The goal? Make it to "Vegas".

Similarly, one could compare the unpublished author to the dancer that didn't get the ticket to Vegas. Let's take a closer look.

Dancer: Wants to get a ticket to Vegas
Writer: Wants to get an offer from an agent.

Dancer: Wants to prove they are an accomplished dancer.
Writer: Wants to prove they are an accomplished writer.

Dancer: Doesn't want to fall on their face.
Writer: Doesn't want to write a manuscript that makes the reader want to fall on their face.

Dancer: Doesn't want to look like a fool.
Writer: Ditto

But what if I am that horrible, bunny suit wearing, fall on your face dancer in the writing world? The idea is deeply unsettling, yet not completely off . . . or so I think. My husband disagrees. But then again, he is smart and wants to avoid the couch tonight.

Bunny suit -1 Beth - ?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not Cool

My husband just created his blog. It is already cooler than mine. How did that happen??

Beth's husband 1 Beth 0

A School, or a Zoo?

Summer is almost upon us. At school, this change is very apparent. I'll list the reasons why:

1. I'm seeing more skin than I care to.
2. I feel more like a zoo keeper than a high school teacher.
3. They are louder. If I hear them singing "Mother Lover" one more time I'm not going to be able to contain my laughter anymore. Bye bye decorum.
4. Students who don't shower after gym have a rather distinct odor.
5. They actually want to write poetry . . . if we can do it outside.
6. They seem surprised when I want to teach them.
7. The make-out sessions in the hallway have increased. I'd yell "get a room," but that seems a little innapropriate considering they are teenagers.

The end of this year is bittersweet for me. I'm excited to be at a new school next year - which is only five minutes from home - but I'll miss the students. Each year I think I'll never love another group of students like I care for my current classes, and each new year proves me wrong. Nine months down . . . three weeks to go.

Summer 1 Students 1 Beth 1

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Embracing My Inner Geek

I sat in Northern Virginia traffic today on the way home from work. Office Space, stop and go, mind-numbing traffic. As my car crept forward and stopped yet again, my thoughts wandered to green pastures and lollipops in a hopeless attempt to stay sane. Just then, I happened to glance at the car next to me. Inside was a man who couldn't be more than thirty-five. His hair was black, streaked with gray and pulled back into a tight pony-tail. His face was thin, cheeks sunken, and had that "I live alone" look.

The man leaned over, completely oblivious of my staring and picked up a huge blue binder. At first I thought he was looking at a photo album, but upon further scrutiny I realized he was looking at a card collection. I could be mistaken (not likely), but I'm certain the cards were fantasy/graphic novel related.

This is the point in the story where I'm ashamed of myself. I love fantasy novels. I write them. Harry Potter is one of my favorite books. But I laughed at him. I turned my head away so he couldn't see me, and I laughed. There was something so comical about how engrossed he was by this card collection in the middle of rush hour traffic. It was so stereotypically geeky.

Eventually, however, I was bored again. To combat the monotony, I pulled The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile from my purse and began reading. It didn't take long for me to ponder what reading in stop and go traffic said about my "coolness" level. I couldn't help but compare my social status to that of fantasy card collection man and ultimately didn't find any differences. But I still didn't put the book away. Perhaps the person next to me got a good laugh.

Card collections man 1 Beth 1 Inner Geek 1

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Death to Query Letters

I hate query letters. I would rather write an entire novel than one query letter. Why can I write a 300+ page novel, which is complex and rich, but have a difficult time with a one page query letter?

According to the folks at Absolute Write, (God Bless you, by the way), I have trouble transfering the voice from my novel, to the voice in my query letter. The words "not exciting" came up several times. Sigh. My query shortcomings frusterate me in a teeth clenching, eye-rolling, shove my face with Doritos and finish the bag kind of way.

And so I suffer. The letter still isn't perfect. I'll probably revise it ten more times today. Ok, fifteen.

Beth 0 Query Letter 10 and counting

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Is it odd that I enjoy reading books and watching movies that have nothing to do with reality? I think I get my fair share of reality every day; therefore, I feast on fantasy, science fiction (although, to be fair, science fiction is based on actual sciences) and supernatural fare. I'm watching Fringe right now. Reading Inkspell. And The Graveyard. And writing a new science fiction novel called The Tour.

I'm still putting off reading A Lesson Before Dying. I know. I know. It's a wonderful book. But I really need to see if Meggie or Bod get through their struggles. Seriously, wouldn't you do the same thing?

On a school note, students started passing wafer cookies and playing cards during our Lock-down Drill today. Nothing says "party" like a mock life-or-death situation!

Students 1 Death 0

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cypress is finished

I finished my second novel two days ago. I'm still reeling. I think it is good - much better than my first book. And I love it. Often, when I'm watching my students write at the beginning of each block, I think about my characters as if they are alive. I imagine them as they are at the end of the book. I really, truly love my characters, for they are everything good I believe people should be. Not that they are perfect, for they certainly have their flaws, but they are good, decent people. I love that I created them and added them to my world.

On a school note, I had a student ask me today if I was pregnant. I'm not. In fact, I've lost weight since they first met me. (Sigh) It's days like today I remind myself that the part of the brain that makes rational decisions isn't fully developed until the age of twenty-one.

I also dyed my hair yesterday, which ALL of them noticed. No one looked me in the eye, because they were staring at my head. If their parents ask them what they learned at school today, they'll probably say their English teacher is pregnant and endangered her child by dying her hair. Does that count as teaching?

Students 1 Beth 0

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thirty years and NOW he tells me?

I sat at dinner Sunday night with my parents and husband and heard a very interesting story. My father, a successful ex-Secret Service Agent, told me his experiences in school. I knew he'd been a scrappy kid, notorious for getting in trouble, starting fires, jumping off garage roofs, whatever. But he'd never told me this story before.

I won't bore you with the long details. Basically, he spent eighteen years of his life feeling stupid. He didn't understand basic concepts, struggled with reading and math, and shuffled from school to school because his father was in the military.

My father is intelligent. He is hard working, generous, if not a little tough. But he is not stupid.
And yet he spent all those years thinking he was. I have a very hard time imagining that. I admire him in so many ways. He didn't score well on tests, so they didn't bother to further his education in the military. And then, he met my mother.

My mother graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cume Laude from the University of New Mexico. Currently, she holds two masters degrees and a Bachelors Degree. She supported my Dad when he decided to try college. She helped him with his school work when he needed it. He finally got some support in his educational goals.

I recognize my father in some of my students. His story resonated with me more deeply than any magazine article I've read on the subject. I teach high school English, and I now understand many of my stragglers like I never did before. I'm ashamed to say I didn't see things this way two days ago.

Suddenly, I can't wait for Spring Break to be over. I need to talk to those kids.

Daddy 1 Beth 0

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


On year and two months later, I've scrapped the children's picture books and written a young adult novel. It is an urban fantasy about a group of people with special gifts and is told from the point of view of Reya, as sassy as she is smart. I've received four rejections so far and am trying to keep my head up, as well as consistently re-vamping my approach, hoping an agent out there will like it.

I usually tell my students that in life, there are no puppy dog and lolipop endings. Lets hope I'm wrong.

Happy Endings 0 Beth 1