Turkey Time

“Uncertainty is always a part of the taking charge process.”

— Harold Geneen

It’s amazing how life can change so quickly. This time last week I was looking for jobs in Denver and wondering what my Labor Day plans would be. Today, I’m organizing suitcases and sending in paperwork to accept a job offer at a private school in Istanbul. I leave next Thursday (sadly, this turkey on a Thursday does not come with stuffing and casserole) to visit family on the East coast and then hopefully ship out by September 1st. It gives me just enough time to throw things together (the to-do list grows each day instead of shrinks) and not enough time to think about what I’m actually about to do. Continue reading

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Checking off the list

February presented me with a few technical difficulties (thus the low number of posts this month), but now I should be back up and running. Since we’re almost three months in to the New Year, I thought it would be a good time to evaluate the progress of some of my goals. (Some are certainly coming along better than others.)

The one that is constantly on my mind is the 30 books this year–no excuses. I’ve read two books total and gotten halfway through about three more. I need to pick one and finish it because 30 books in a year requires at least two a month. We’ll see how the next couple weeks pan out.

However, I am living up to some of the other goals quite well. I’ve reached almost 60 posts, so that’s going well. And I’ve been challenging myself more and having adventures. For the challenge, I’ve hired a personal trainer named Tristan. Let’s just say that I feel good about going to my training sessions, but I don’t feel so good immediately after going to the sessions. They only remind me how I need to work harder.

One of my most recent adventures includes a weekend trip to New Mexico to visit a friend from high school. I’d never been to NM and now I’ve only got one of the four corners left to check off the list. In addition to going somewhere I’ve never been, I also added new experiences to the list.

My friends and I went hiking in the snow (a first for me) and then went to the local hot springs (another first) where it started to (surprise, surprise) snow while we were there. Never in my life did I think I would be outside in a bikini in the snow, but there I was and it was awesome. We also visited Santa Fe while we were in  the area, but I was unable to find Jack Kelly while I was there. Maybe next time…

2012 Book #2

I have officially finished reading my second book for the year (only 28 more to go) and have to say that it has been my favorite so far. (It had a 50/50 shot.) Despite my days filled with teaching and writing and various activities, Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing caused me to pause what I was doing and pay direct attention to what she had to say. Though it isn’t too long (the pages aren’t numbered) and some pages have no words at all, it is by far one of the best books on writing that I have read.

The book is a mixture of encouraging and honest advice, clever prompts, quotes, tips and personal experiences from the author. And so I thought I would break down my review into those categories:

Advice

In her intro, Wood explains that she used to be a school counselor–a job which she loved and quit in order to pursue the writing life.  Like the rest of usm she has struggled and succeeded, and offers the lessons she’s learned from that. For example, she offers 7 Rules of Etiquette for a Reading, such as:

  1. Arrive on time, even if you’re famous
  2. If you’re reading poems, don’t explain them first. If you must add an intro, don’t make it longer than the poem.
  3. Slow down. Most people read too fast.

She also talks a lot about the writer lifestyle and things she has learned that come with the territory—such as the dreaded rejection. Wood offers a lot of advice on rejection.

Prompts

Wood’s prompts vary from fun and silly to serious and thought provoking. She uses some of her own words, words from others, single words, pictures and a plethora of other tricks to get that pen writing or keyboard typing. Open the page, pick a prompt, and start writing. You might end up with a prompt such as:

[insert picture of two hippos in front of what appears to be a brick building]

These hippos are called Dodger and Betsy. Your challenge is to figure out how they got into the parking lot of a Catholic school.

OR

Who were your parents at your age?

Quotes

Surrounding myself with writers has made me realize that we don’t only love words—we love words about words, words about writing, thoughts about words and writing, talking about words and writing. While some of the quotes she uses are for prompts, a lot of them work for general inspiration (about words and writing) as well.  For example, Wood includes the following quotes as part of her conglomeration:

“I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something terrible.”

–Roy Blount, Jr.

OR

“Let us write and let us dance—two amusements that will never do harm to the world.”

–Voltaire

…truth.

Tips and personal experiences

Wood shares one activity she enjoys where she goes to a café with someone, but does not listen to them. Instead, she listens to what’s going on around them.  Or she asks, “what is the subject you’re avoiding? Write it down.”

Another example is when she explains:

“Colors can be delivered as similes that suggest something about the character’s inner life. Your reader will receive a character in a red shirt a little differently if that shirt is described as the color of spilled wine or fresh liver or SpeghettiOs.”

The Pocket Muse  calls directly to my odd character traits and intense literary desires that often come with the gift and burden of being a writer. The only point on which I disagree with her is that I should get a cat.  However, the rest of the book is gold. And she so eloquently ends it with “don’t forget to be grateful that you love words.”

…As if I ever could.

Overall grade: A++

Post Script:

I found out that there is a sequal to this book. I plan to pick it up and review it for your reading pleasure in the near future. 🙂

2012 Book #1

Ok, I have already started on my goal of 30 books for this year. But before I start with book number one, I want to talk briefly about the last book I read for 2011.

Before the last year ended, a friend told me about one of his favorite childhood books, The Phantom Tollbooth.  And when I said that I’d not only never read it, but never heard of it, he went out and bought me a copy. When I walked around with my new copy, people would often tell me how they loved that book growing up.  Apparently I’d missed out on a well-known classic. Go figure.

But for those of you who are in the same boat as I was, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (and illustrated by Jules Feiffer) starts off in a similar manner to Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always.  Juster’s protagonist is a young boy who finds himself, well, uninterested in life and learning:

“There once was a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself–not just sometimes, but always.”

Milo comes home one day to find a tollbooth (some assembly required), a couple coins, and a map waiting for him in his room. Despite the many other toys and gadgets in his room, he has nothing better to do and decides to build the tollbooth and take his little toy car to a random destination on the map: Dictionopolis.

As might be expected, once Milo passes through that tollbooth, he is in for quite an adventure. Along the way he is joined by friends, such as Tock, the literal watchdog (see picture), and the Humbug, a well dressed and well meaning, but rather cowardly and bumbling bug.

He visits lands such as Dictionopolis, the Duldrums, Digitopolis, the Isle of Conclusions, the Mountains of Ignorance, the Valley of Sound and many more. He is assigned the quest of rescuing the princesses Rhyme and Reason, who are the only ones who can bring peace back to a troubled land.

Needless to say, the book is full of colorful characters, thoughtful lessons, quirky adventures, and an impressive amount of play on words. For example, the first person Milo meets on his adventure is the whether man, who claims:

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.”

Milo ends up at one point literally eating his words, jumping to conclusions, missing what’s in front of his nose, and hearing nothing in a valley of sound. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read. A bit quick-paced at times, especially for all the characters introduced and tasks assigned, but a fun adventure nonetheless. It is full of great lines and quotes and I am glad that I’m now caught up on another classic. Check.  (I would go on more, but I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.) Overall grade: A-

Now on to my first book of the year: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  This is yet another classic that I had not read before. Such are the troubles of an English major–they make the books faster than we can read all of them. Fortunately, one of my students specifically requested that we read this book, so the opportunity presented itself.

If it counts for anything, I have seen Muppet Treasure Island (who doesn’t love Tim Curry in that?), so I knew the basic plot going in. I also saw Treasure Planet, which I inconveniently keep calling the book every time I mention it.

The basic Sparknotes version is that the protagonist, Jim, and his family are visited by a stranger at their inn. They soon find out that their unruly tenant is a wanted pirate! And he is not just wanted by the law, but other pirates as well (especially the one-legged pirate–he’s the worst of them all) because he possesses something extremely valuable: a treasure map to the booty of old Cap’n Flint.

Pirates show up to get him one day and their tenant dies of a stroke–blast that rum! Before the pirates can get them, Jim opens the stranger’s chest and steals the treasure map. The pirates are run out of town by the village doctor and Jim shares his secret with the doctor and his friend, the squire. And so the adventure begins!

They acquire a ship and a crew and set sail. Their ship cook, Long John Silver, is a one-legged inn owner. Jim is suspicious of him, and eventually finds that his suspicions are right as mutiny takes place once they reach the island. Turns out half the crew were pirates! It is now a battle to the death and winner takes all.

Overall, it’s a great adventure story. Who doesn’t love a pirate or two and a hunt for treasure? Unfortunately I wish I’d read it when I was younger because a bit of the magic was gone. However, maybe that will change when I get to teach it next week. Grade: B+

But I could always watch this: 

Not necessarily new, but always improved

I’ve always had mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions. Until March they seem like such a good idea, and then they are forgotten again until December. In leadership training, they teach you about SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and I try to keep that in mind when making plans for a new year or new beginning. The problem is that when I sit down to make new year’s resolutions, I am determined to keep them as they are throughout the entire year, but they usually end up adjusted to lack of time or dedication. So two years ago, I made two absolute resolutions: 1. I would no longer call them resolutions, but goals or life changes and 2. I would make ones that were well thought out so that I could ABSOLUTELY stick to them. Two years later, I have stuck to 95% of the goals I’ve made and though I’m still aiming for that 100%, it’s better than I was doing before.

And now the time has come, my friends, to talk of new beginnings. Though I have kept some for myself, I thought I could share some goals for 2012. I would wish all of you luck in your goals and changes for the future, but I’ve realized it takes a lot more than that. So instead, I wish you constant determination and may you not lose sight of what you really want, or in most cases, what you really need.

Goals for 2012:

Read at least 30 books

When I was younger, I was that kid with a book behind my textbook at school. I was grounded from reading because my chores wouldn’t get done and my books were confiscated before my video games or tv privileges, because those simply didn’t mean as much. When I was in school, obviously I read plenty for class, but between class and work and researching, I was lucky to read ten books for pleasure. Younger Tessa would be disappointed. I’ve always been the girl with an extra book in her bag, but this year those books will be rotated more, no matter what’s going on in my life. No excuses, play like a champion.

Write at least 10 short stories

As with the reading goal, I’ve allowed myself to let excuses of little time or other priorities to take over and my reading and writing have fallen to the back burner. No more, I say. Now that I’m not in class, it’s time learn how to motivate myself. And after the fail of NaNoWriMo, I really need to step up my game.

Submit at least three things for publishing

This is simply for an adventure. I’ve only submitted a few things—partially because of fear of rejection and partially because I wasn’t really sure how to. It’s time to get over that.

Move to Istanbul

I’ve been trying to move abroad for three years now and each time has fallen through because of something, but I feel good about this year. I’ve ordered the Turkish Rosetta Stone, done my research of schools and jobs, made my connections, and am determined to go somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll get to Germany or back to London, but for now I want to step outside of my box. By September, I plan to be updating y’all on my Turkish adventures!

Get up to at least 200 blog posts

The first time I tried blogging, it did not go so well. Perhaps that’s the wrong pronoun. I did not do so well. However, that has changed. I’ve finally gotten into the swing of things and since October have hit about 50 posts. Goal attained? Check. Now it’s time to set the bar higher. I have 365 days to get in 200 blog posts. Done and done.

Challenge myself more

Part of this process is realizing what things I need to change and I have noticed recently that while I set the bar high for many aspects of my life, I will allow myself to stop once I reach that bar instead of going beyond it. Whether it is learning a certain skill, exercising, doing tasks at work, traveling, or what have you, I want to go beyond not only the expectations of others, but what I expect of myself. I want to feel challenged and I shouldn’t have to wait for someone else to challenge me.

Have adventures and try new things

This is a constant with me. There are so many things in this world that it is impossible to go and try all of them in one lifetime. However, it is possible to try something new every day (or at least every week). It can be something little, like trying new foods, or something big, like climbing a 14’er. Whatever it is, I need to not only improve on what I’ve already done, but continue to try things I haven’t done.

Take advantage of what’s available to me

I just moved to Colorado in August and since I plan on moving to Turkey this coming August or September, I need to have as many Coloradan adventures while I can. While I’m here, I might as well try snowboarding, hiking in the Rockies, going to a Baseball game, trying the local breweries, etc. I’m close to CA and have never been, so why not take a road trip? Growing up an Army brat, I learned that you have to make the best of wherever you are, because it always has something to offer.

Happy New Year!!!

No matter the troubles or struggles you might encounter in the new year (for there will always be some), my hope is that you make the most of every situation in order to not only overcome, but enjoy what life has to offer.