Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And The 90 Days Are Over

Ninety days ago, my husband and I started our own Biggest Loser competition. He elected to walk on a treadmill while I went with the P90X home workout. At first, I was losing more weight than he was even though he easily had more to lose than I do. Being a man, I thought he was going to beat me without even trying, but initially I was the one racking up the lost pounds each week. For the last two weeks, though, I've hit a wall and not lost anything. He's losing two plus pounds to my nothing, so he's now in the lead. I'm not terribly uphappy about this, though, as I have lost about ten pounds and all of my clothes fit so much better now.

Even though we are finished with our ninety days, I'm going to continue working out. I do like the results I'm seeing, especially with my abs. I've never really had abs to speak of, but after doing the Ab Ripper X workout for three months, I'm beginning to see some definition. My husband even noticed the other day how defined my obliques are becoming. Now all I want to do is see how far I can take the whole workout thing, so I'm going to start all over, doing the P90X Doubles workout for the next three months. My hope is that by the end of May I can actually put on a two-piece bathing suit and feel good in it.

I do think one change I have made with eating has helped tremendously: juicing. I'm still juicing just about everyday. Sometimes twice a day. I've come to absolutely love the taste of celery, cucumber and tomato with an apple thrown in. I also started adding green foods powder to my juices, giving my body healthy enzymes and nutrients. I don't know if my juicing and green foods have anything to do with it, but I have not been sick this winter season. Everyone around me has been, including my kids, but I have escaped even the common cold. I like to think it's all because of the juicing. Maybe it's just the effect of positive thinking.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Learning Curve

I've started on the documentary about the school track team, and I'm finding I have tons to learn about putting a documentary together. I bought a new editing program to work with, thinking if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right. Little did I realize at the time of purchasing it that I was going to have a huge learning curve with this program. I should have figured, though, since it has all the bells and whistles, both of which I really wanted in order to do more than just the basics with the documentary.

The first couple of days working with the program, I was splitting and moving parts of the video. I kept trying to add in a transition between two parts, but everytime I viewed what I had put together, I was unhappy because the part of the video that was underneath the title frame would show for a split second when the transition started. I had no clue how to keep the video hidden completely. I eventually deleted everything I had worked on and started over.

Finally, during an hour of working on hiding the clip and having the transition work like I wanted, I stumbled upon a tutorial within the program. Duh. I had already read the booklet that came with the program, but it offered nothing about what I was working on, but lo and behold, the tutorial did. I learned how to increase the size of the viewing pane so I could actually see the clips, how they were overlapping or not overlapping as much as I needed them to. Duh again. I had been thinking for several days that there was no way anyone could really work with the program and have any success because of how small the clips were; there was no way to tell exactly where one clip ended and the other began or where the transitions were fitting in. Talk about operator malfunction! Since discovering how to increase the viewing size, things have gone much smoother. While I'm still not totally happy with the opening of the documentary, at least I know I can now go in and create a better one in a matter of minutes rather than a matter of days.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Leaning Tower of Cake-A

My middle child's birthday cake from last week. I had a lot of fun making it and even more fun eating it. We found out that if you cut pieces only from one side, starting with the bottom layer, the cake will lean, eventually fall over. You can't tell it from this angle so much, but the cake was actually leaning before we began cutting it.

When middle child got home from school and saw the finished cake, he laughed, saying, "Awesome cake, Mom." Doesn't get much better than that.


For some time now, I've been feeling burned out when it comes to reading student papers. This semester especially has been a difficult one. I truly love being with my students and talking to them on a daily basis, but the reading part gets to me. I have had a rough time making myself sit down and actually put the time in. The papers, though they are on topics I like, still have the same problems that the papers have had over the years. When it comes to the kinds of errors and the very basic discussions the students create, not much has changed in the seventeen years I've been teaching writing. Very few students have the ability to write something that totally blows me away, but every now and then, I find myself delighted because a student has written something outside the usual. This just happens to be a semester during which no one has written that kind of paper. Hence the relunctance in reading and evaluating them.

I keep telling myself I need to do something that will allow me to leave the classroom. I don't have many options, though, and this makes me hesitant to think I really could leave teaching anytime soon. I write, but I've only published one personal essay. I love to do videography, but I'm a rank beginner shooting film. I love photography, but I have never thought I could do anything with it that could support me. I keep thinking I should combine all of these somehow, turn my passions into my life work. Perhaps I should stop thinking about it and start doing. A little less talk and a little more action is called for here.

Since I've been toying with some ideas, I told my kids we have a new rule: finish what we start. This includes me as well as the kids. Not finishing what I start has been the thorn in my side for as long as I can remember, well, acutally since I was about fourteen years old. Up to that point, I had no fear. Whatever I thought I could do, I did. Then, somewhere along the way (when my family had to move because my dad was laid off and had to take a job a state away), fear crept in and it has stayed with me. I don't like feeling this fear. I don't like not taking chances, but I really fear failure. I have too many people depending on me to take care of them, and if I all the sudden wasn't able to, how horrible would that be? What kind of example would I be setting? Leave a very stable, decent-paying job to follow a dream? In this economy? The rational part of me says no way, too scary, too risky. I know, though, that I'm only going to become even more burned out if I don't do something. I just wish I knew what that something was.

With only eight weeks of the semester left, I'm thinking ahead to when I won't have to be on campus, to when I can maybe get the something figured out. I really need to get it figured out.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


My middle child turns twelve today. It's his golden birthday. The other two have already celebrated their birthdays this year, so he's the last. Part of me says thank goodness; all the money going out on gifts and dinners makes my stomach hurt. Another part of me, though, realizes another year has gone by and the kids are inching ever closer to being adults ready to get out on their own. I'm going to miss them so much when they're gone. The sadness that comes over me when I think about them leaving pulls me down, sometimes to the point of tears. If I feel like this now, what will it be like when they actually do leave?

I do love birthdays, though. They're very special days and should be celebrated with joy. To do this, the birthday person must awaken to the birthday song being sung loud and out of tune. Then, once the person is good and awake, a morning present must be given to offer a hint of what's to come later in the day. This morning, my son received a present his younger brother bought for him, using the Christmas money he had received from his grandparents--a computer game. The birthday boy was quite impressed with his brother.

For a week now, my husband and I have been teasing birthday boy that all he is going to get from us is clothes. He needs school clothes terribly, so we told him he's only going to get what he needs from us. As a joke, I went out and bought him two pairs of pants and two shirts. They're both wrapped and ready for him to tear into. The real present, though, is a case for his airsoft rifle. He and his friends are into airsoft guns, so he used his Christmas money to buy an insanely huge rifle with scope. He didn't think about how to transport it in a safe way, so we found a case with foam padding that will protect the gun and scope. I also bought him a face mask to protect his eyes and face. Now I can feel a bit more okay about him being shot at.

So, happy birthday middle child. I hope you always remember with fondness this birthday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Complete Frustration

My middle child, a sixth grader, frustrates me to no end when it comes to homework. He just doesn't want to do it. He's a bright boy, with a quick mind, but if he can get away with not sitting down and doing any homework, he will. When I press the issue, he'll sit, but it's one sigh after another, a lot of head hanging, and at times tears. What should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to complete turnes into two, sometimes three hours. If I don't sit with him, constantly asking questions, suggesting ways to write sentences, and pointing to helpful websites, he wouldn't get anything done. Each night, this is what I go through. While I want him to learn and be a successful student, I'm tired of the constant struggle I have to endure to make sure these things are actually happening. I have to wonder just how much he is learning since he has such a bad attitude before, during and after doing the homework.

Another part of me is frustrated with the school, the teachers. It does seem as if many projects have been piled on these last few weeks. These projects are not little, one-page type projects either. They are involved, asking the students to write short paragraphs then draw pictures to go with the paragraphs. In the end, the students have little books of anywhere between 6 to 32 pages. On top of these, the students have had to write research papers of 4 to 6 pages. This is in addition to all the math, science and other classes the students have. While I applaud all the writing, I'm not sure the students are getting as much from them as they should be. They all feel way too overwhelmed. Too much work to do in too little time. Rather than being able to enjoy the process of completing these projects, the students are racing time just to get them done. Learning really cannot be enjoyed at all. And for students like my son, if the learning cannot be enjoyed, then every little piece of homework becomes the enemy no matter what is being asked of him. This I find sad.

Students should be encouraged to enjoy every moment of learning they encounter. However, many are merely going through the motions in order to get the work finished on time. My son is now working on creating a children's book about the Battle of Nashville. This is one battle in which many black soldiers fought, serving a country that had been nothing but cruel towards them. My son, though, is so caught up with how much he has to do in so little time that he cannot focus on the interesting facts about the battle. I want him to enjoy the process, learn about his country and those who shaped our history. All I'm seeing, though, is distress. Learning cannot take place when distress is clouding the mind.

How much do these projects really teach the kids? I really have to wonder. In the meantime, I will continue to be completely frustrated right along with my son.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A New Adventure

One way I cope with having to read a lot of student papers on a weekly basis is taking breaks to capture things on video. For some time now, though, I've let the camera sit idle in its case. I saved for two years to buy my camera, which is a wonderful piece of technology, and the other day I made a pledge to actually put it to good use. So I started on a project today.

For a couple of years, my husband and I have been helping out with the school track team. The kids range from fourth grade to eighth grade, with both boys and girls participating. I started videoing them the several years ago, when my daughter was running and jumping with the team, but I never put the clips together to make a complete story. Each year since, I've mulled over the idea to pick up where I left off, so I decided to do just that this year. I talked to the principal, put together a release form, and I'm on my way. A handful of parents already signed the form. I can now start to film.

I do think I need a lav mic, though, before I begin to do any interviews. My camera has a nice external mic, but I want to capture audio that is crisp and clear, without a lot of interference. As such, I'm scouring the internet for a good deal. I'm finding there is quite a range of prices. I'm going to get one on the cheaper side to see how it goes. If all goes well for this project, I might invest in a more expensive one for future projects.

I'll try to post short clips every now and then to let everyone see how things are going, and if anyone has ideas for me to consider, send them on. I'm definitely a newbie, so any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Counting the days . . .

until spring break.

I know this sounds awful, but I really look forward to all the breaks that come with being a writing instructor. Christmas break. Spring break. And the best of all--summer break. If these weren't a part of the teaching calendar, I don't know how long I could last as a writing teacher.

Don't get me wrong. I do like what I do. A lot. But after eight weeks of reading the same old essays about the same old topics, my eyes begin to glaze over. The break from reading and responding to these tired ideas refreshes me just enough to get excited for the last eight weeks that aren't much different than the first eight.

One way I try to combat having to read the same cliched rants is to have a theme run through my course. One semester the students had to write about food. The papers for that semester covered topics like the slow food movement, which baseball park offered the best hotdogs, and why dining alone can be a good thing. I enjoyed so many of these papers as the students took the theme and showed just how much variety can be had in examining it. This semester, the theme is sports. We've had wonderful discussions about sportsmanship, gender issues in sports, and religion in sports. Even the students who say they are not sports people have enjoyed the discussions because they are about more than just baseball, golf, or football. One young lady even decided she was going to tackle the idea that being a stay at home mom should be considered a sport. The class had a rousing discussion about that topic.

But I'm finding I'm tired still of reading papers. A large part of me wants to be able to write my own essays, but I have so little time to devote to it because I have stacks of journal entries to read and respond to along with the longer papers. Or I have a meeting to attend. Or I have junior faculty members to mentor. Or . . .. When I think about people who seem to be able to write everyday, get essays or short stories or even novels written on a regular basis, I always wonder how they do it. Do they just not do anything else? I have been trying to write a wee bit at least two or three times a week. I'm making progress on the children's story I started last summer, but I still have a long way to go before it's even close to being finished. And I have so many starts of short stories and essays that need to be finished. I keep saying this summer is going to be my summer of writing. I hope I can make it happen.

For now, I'm going to do the wee bit of writing each week. Maybe, just maybe, the story will be finished before summer. Then I can spend the summer trying to get it published. I think I'm just a glutton for punishment.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Just Not Feeling It

Yoga didn't go so well this evening. I was looking forward to it, but right when I was getting ready to begin, a friend stopped over and talked for awhile. By the time I got back up to my room to do the yoga, I just wasn't as into it. I started into the moves, which begin with lots of moving asanas, including vinyasas into runner's pose, to cresent pose, to warrior pose, to warrior two, etc. Last week I did the whole series, about forty-five minutes worth, with no problem. This evening, my thighs were burning from the beginning. I'd really like to know why one week I can do the poses with no problem, then the next week I am having trouble from the beginning. I was discouraged and ended up skipping a lot of the asanas. I did do the balance postures and the floor work, so I did do quite a bit of yoga. I just wish I had been in the mindset to get through the asanas like I did last week. Hopefully next week will go better.

I have been wondering if I'm just not eating enough. After reading some of the comments on the forum at the P90X website, I'm thinking I'm just not getting enough calories each day. I've drastically reduced what I'm eating each day, so my body may be saying, "Hey! What are you doing?" and shutting down somewhat to compensate for the energy output. I decided to go through the nutrition book that came with the program, and according to it, I'm supposed to be eating 2400 calories. I don't think I'm anywhere close to that. I'm probably around 1500-1800. This could also account for the no weight loss for last week. My body has gone into survival mode, my metabolism slowing in order to keep the stored fat rather than using it. This week I'm going to try to keep close track of what I eat and make sure I eat enough to get to the 2400 calories. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

We did take our 60 day pictures. While some change is evident, I'm a bit disappointed more change isn't visible. At least my clothes do fit much better, and my son was astonished at how my biceps are much more defined, so those are good things. And while I have been a bit down on not losing more weight, I know it'll happen if I keep at it. This whole fitness, weight loss adventure is going to have to be a way of life for me now, and I'm looking forward to seeing the results after the one-year period. Maybe one of these days I'll get brave and actually post the day-one pictures, the thirty-day pictures, and the sixty-day pictures. Maybe I'll wait until the ninety-day pictures. Or the one-year pictures.