Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shaking Those Moody Blues

Why can’t I concentrate? Why can’t I write brilliant, passionate prose?

The sad fact is that I’m too busy worrying about my day job.

Ah, the joys of being a young teacher. My school district finds itself in a bit of a levy bind… which means, if the taxpayers aren’t feeling generous in a few weeks, I can kiss my job goodbye. It’s a little thing we like to call “reduction in force,” (RIF) and in my neck of the woods it’s done entirely by seniority. Merit doesn’t matter. It’s a slap in the face to realize that I’ve been working my butt off for nothing. The disillusioned tenure jockey who hates children and flunks a third of his class? Totally safe from budget cuts… and he already makes $10,000 a year more than I do. But I’m young and idealistic, so I’m toast.

I know that every cloud has a silver lining. Truly, I do. I think if I lose my teaching job I won't wear myself out looking for another one. I’ll substitute, I’ll ponder my graduate school options (hello, history PhD program!), and I’ll write. It might actually end up being better for my long-term ambitions.

So what's the problem? I guess I’m just generally depressed, because many people in my community have been responding with such vitriol to the whole levy discussion.

Yeah, I’m a bleeding-heart teacher type. I’d gladly open my meager pocket book so that we can keep things like librarians and art in our schools (call me crazy, but I think librarians are important). At the same time, I can appreciate any reasoned and respectful viewpoint, even if it’s different from my own. Some people planning to vote no have articulated valid reasons for their choice. That’s great; that’s democracy.

But unfortunately, reactionary cruelty seems to be our general modus operandi… at least when it comes to online discussion. This is typical of many of the bloggers in my community (here responding to the prediction that the levy will pass): “how can it be the NO voters r in the minority? Gosh must be teachers counting the votes wrong? Folks will vote yes when Johnny can read and add! There is a very OLD saying out there, people whom can do people whom can't teach, seems nothing has change this last 20 years!”

I could focus on the misquoting of the old adage, which is actually, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach." Or I could focus on the irony of someone failing to use proper grammar while they bemoan “Johnny’s” inability to read and add correctly. I could also ask how cutting funding and mocking teachers is going to enable (or inspire) anyone in the education system to do a better job than they’re doing right now. Call me crazy, but I’m not motivated by punishment and derision.

Still, I’m not going to focus on any of those things. I’m just going to ask: why do some people think that it’s okay to abandon common courtesy when they’re commenting online? And why do teachers get so much flak? I know there are lousy teachers out there (see tenure jockey, above). But there are lousy people in every profession. That’s no reason to sneer at a whole group!

I just want to say to some of these bloggers, “I respect that your vote may render me unemployed. But please do me the same courtesy. Respect that, while I have my job, I’m honestly doing the best I can to teach your child. I am a highly capable person and I chose this profession. Let me have some dignity.”

Am I alone in thinking we could use a little online etiquette? And just how do I get my mind off things I can’t control? Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Going For Broke or An Unconventional Approach to Curing Writer's Block

Being an aspiring writer in New York City can be wonderful: inspiration in the air, the publishing industry easily accessible, fantastic research institutions nearby. It can also be debilitating: the constant sense of not writing enough, successfully enough, and quickly enough and the constant stream of distractions outside the writing room (or couch, in my small-apartment-style life) have done as much damage to my writing mojo as my grad school commitments.

But I will fear no longer, for I believe I have found a surefire way to block out the city's relentless thrills and rededicate myself to scholarly and literary pursuits--namely, my poverty. You see, my husband and I are the brand-new, not-even-truly-closed-upon-yet owners of a two bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and I will never be able to afford to do anything in this city again.

I do think this (exciting!) event will be beneficial to my writing. I'm leaving Manhattan and I'm going to have to cut down on my social life a bit, for financial reasons, but that will help me find additional writing time. We'll have a second room to use as an office, as least until we have kids in a few years. A dedicated writing/studying space should help me with my focus in both areas, something I've been struggling with mightily this last semester. I'm a person very much affected by my environment, and I can't help but think that having a home that's truly mine, that I can paint and love and make beautiful, will help me feel creative and productive.

Of course, all the time and energy it will take to move there won't help my writing this summer. Nor will the immense effort I need to put into writing my MA thesis and studying for my comps. But there's always something to keep you from writing. I've let that be my excuse for too long.

(Photo is the main sitting room in my pretty new apartment. Love the bay window and working fireplace just out of the shot).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Honeymoon, or Getaway?

Dear reader, you must be wondering if I'm ever going to get back to posting about writing and/or reading. Rest assured that I have not abandoned these pursuits entirely! However, I do so enjoy putting forth the occasional wedding plan poll, and I might as well take advantage of the opportunity while I can!

So. Today's question is about romantic getaways. The Fiancé and I decided long ago that we would take vacations at least four times a year (once a season). Sadly, we're only averaging about once a year... and I would like to step things up to the original plan! We have also decided to spend four nights on the Oregon coast. This could be a progressive honeymoon (start at the southernmost point of interest, and work our way back up to Washington) or we might just stay in one place and relax. Some of our favorite things to do on any vacation include:

  • Behaving in an utterly mushy and romantic manner
  • Sleeping in--comfortable rooms a must!
  • Eating very good food and drinking fantastic beverages
  • Spoiling ourselves at a spa
  • Doing a wine-tasting, if at all possible
With that in mind, the following options are up for the honeymoon. Take a virtual tour! Help us decide where to go! Or, if you happen to be an Oregon Coast Aficionado, tell me about the hidden little gem of a town/hotel I've forgotten in my search.

The Edgefield - Troutdale, Oregon
Okay, so it's not on the coast. But it does have many lovely options for food and drink--including a winery out back! Ooh, pretty! And tasty! Ooh, and a spa! Check out the website. Isn't it cool? I love McMenamins, and this is supposed to be their best hotel. I mean, who wouldn't love to spend the night in a converted poor farm? Woohoo! Well, perhaps this might be good for a quick weekend vacation later in the year.
The Inn At Spanish Head - Lincoln City, Oregon
Apparently, it's the state's only resort hotel built right on the beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies, and full kitchens in many of the rooms (not that I plan to cook on my honeymoon!) Amenities include: oceanfront restaurant and bar, outdoor heated pool, ocean-view spa, a short elevator ride to the beach. Although... I couldn't find a link to the spa. Could anyone else?

Hecata Head Lighthouse - Florence, Oregon

This bed and breakfast is a converted lighthouse keeper's cottage. You get to wander around the grounds (including the lighthouse). Amenities include: gorgeous decor, a decadent seven-course breakfast every morning, and a chance for Kate to feel like Anne of Green Gables. There is no spa on the lonely cliff (go figure), but the Overleaf Spa is close by in Yachata.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Squee! The spa! How lovely. Whenever you tell anyone that you're going to Oregon for a romantic reason, they say "Go to Cannon Beach." I have no idea where we'd stay, though. I looked at links for The Ocean Lodge or The Stephanie Inn. They both look nice. What does everyone think?

All right! I would love your thoughts--we're going to try to book our honeymoon this week!