Monday Mayhem: Happy Mid-Year!

So, remember way back in January when you made your “New Year’s Resolutions”? Why would I be talking about those? It’s June! Well, isn’t now a perfect time to talk about them, precisely because you’ve forgotten? Aren’t you tired of it? Beginning the new year with all that hope and promise only to slip back into the same old rut by February? Now, here we are, half way through the year and what do we have to show for it?

Why not break the pattern?

Consider this is our mid-year check-up! Half way through the year we should re-visit those resolutions that we cast aside and see if we can breathe some new life into them, or maybe we need to re-assess. Were we too ambitious or unrealistic in January? What has changed since then? How do we need to round out this not-so-new year?

I’d like to surf into the second half of this year with renewed energy, how about you? Let’s commit to something new!

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So, when I looked back at my Welcome post for this blog I realize that I had some lofty goals. For example, I intended to have a monthly “Writer’s Block” challenge, to have a “Writing 101” column with writing tips from my writing courses and to feature writing samples as well as commentary and stories on other topics of general interest.

As I read over this list I see that I’ve done quite a bit with this last item. I’ve shared creative pieces, writing samples and plenty of general interest commentary, but I would say that I need to work on bolstering my writing tips and challenges for all of you writers out there!  I also had some New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Write daily.
  2. Allow yourself to write poorly. 
  3. Build a community of writers.

I do not write daily, but I have at least been writing more this year than ever before. I have certainly allowed myself to write poorly and that has been painful, but productive, and I have built a community of writers AND readers–that’s YOU! And I want to thank you for being here! You have helped me to stick pretty closely to these resolutions and I couldn’t have done it without the motivation that comes with having a real audience.

I hope that you will find the motivation you need to assess your own mid-year resolutions or make new ones! Come on, it’s not too late to make a new start.

Happy Monday!

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Click below, Emily Bacetis reveals how we can succeed at keeping our eyes on the prize!

Is the Use of Letters and Memos Becoming Obsolete?

Today’s Daily Post on “Paper” reminds me that I had an interesting and shocking exchange with a group of students recently when I asked them to include with their end of semester portfolios either “a letter or memo to me” in which they were to explain their writing process and revisions. I did not have any specifics in terms of format other than, you know, “a letter or memo,” which, in my mind, was explanation enough for what format was required.

Although the assignment was not going to be graded according to the format of the letter or memo, I expected to see something that at least resembled the SHAPE of a letter or memo and I didn’t think that I needed to provide a detailed explanation of the letter or memo format in order for these intelligent, talented, savvy young people to know what to do.  These are writers who had created some of the most brilliant creative works I’ve ever read!

Ah, but I was sadly mistaken.

Rather than letters or memos, I received notes and messages from my students in various formats–paragraphs mostly–of varying lengths, on separate sheets of paper with no particular rhyme or reason. I was baffled, but when I raised the issue there was near unanimous surprise! “Oh,” they said. “we didn’t know you wanted our reponses to be in the actual form of a letter or memo!”

“Huh? Did not my instructions to write a ‘letter or memo’ indicate the actual form of a letter or memo?” I was lost, but my befuddlement became utter bewilderment when another student informed me that his concept of a “memo” was a “Post-It” note!

Wow.

So, what does this mean? Have the ancient forms of letters and memos been co-opted by the modern forms of emails, texts, Tweets and other social media “posts”–even Post-its? If I, as an English teacher ask for a “letter or memo” I must not assume that the old forms come to mind?

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Does this mean that technological changes in the way we communicate have made traditional forms unnecessary, even irrelevant? So, not only do we lose paper, we also lose the format of documents that were once printed on paper too?

I’m not one to knock the new forms or formats for communication, but it hurts my heart a little to think that the tried and true conventions might be becoming less necessary to our daily interactions. Letters and memos are still a part of business and I made it clear to my students that they can not disregard them just yet, but their ignorance caught my attention because they have apparently been able to go so long without knowing about or using these types of documents enough to consider them necessary.

I learned about and began using these forms in middle school!

Perhaps future generations will have less of a need for letters and memos in order to conduct business, but somehow, to my 20th century mind and fingers accostumed to the touch of paper and hard No. 2 pencils, this just seems wrong.

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For samples of my students’ amazing works see Woman Enough and Flash fiction: Life’s a Challenge–Face It!

Monday Mayhem: STRETCH!

Hear the audio version of this on the WLRH Sundial Writer’s Corner!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

It’s a truth that not many know about me! But there it is. In black and white now, for all the world to see. When I was a little girl my mom spoke often of putting me in ballet, but the cosmos did not align in my favor for many things that I wanted as a little girl.

Life happens.

You grow up. You tuck away your childhood dreams and go on.

I admired ballerinas from afar, attended Alvin Ailey performances and with my daughter watched the Nutcracker with awe and wonder.

Fortunately, when she expressed a desire to dance, I was able to enroll her in a little studio not far from our house and I’ve watched with awe and wonder as she’s developed grace and poise in a very short time. When I registered her for the summer the studio owner reminded me, again, that they offer “adult” classes and I told myself, again, that I’m “too old for this” now. My time has passed. I’m past my prime.

It would be a stretch to take ballet at my age…literally!

But, then I thought, why not stretch? Stretching is good! Physically, stretching increases range of motion, prevents injury and  improves balance, but psychologically? Emotionally? Professionally? Stretching can be scary. Reaching for goals that are not just beyond my reach, but beyond my zip code!  Extending myself to attempt things that are so far outside of my skillset that I have to do research before I can even start? No. My courage is a bit atrophied from decades of settling for tasks that fall safely within the parameters of my paygrade, from sticking with activities that lie limply under the canopy of my job description. So, the thought of crawling out from under that safe, yet confining space was frightening!

When atrophied muscles begin to move, the result is resistance. When we wander into unknown territory, the initial move is hard. To stretch beyond the comfort zone is to pull away from the familiar and to risk pain. That’s why it’s easier to stay where I am, to stick to what’s expected of me at my age, to settle, rather than to stretch.

But, there’s another reality:  if I do nothing I die! For years I’ve watched others do things I wished I could do. I’ve spent much of my life on the bench, observing from the sideline. At the end of my life will I be content to say, “boy it sure was fun to watch everyone else living their life!” No! It’s high time I get in the game and do some living myself!  Physically, if a person doesn’t move, they will deteriorate. Psychologically, emotionally and professionally the same is true too. Because anything that is not moving is declining; anything that isn’t living is dying!

The bottom line is, I have two choices. I can either get old or I can grow old.

If I get old I stay where I am, in my comfort zone, doing what’s safe, completing the easy tasks that I know I can do, never stretching myself to do any more or to try anything new. And every year I’ll get older.

Or I can step out of my comfort zone. Break away from what’s safe, challenge myself to tasks that seem too hard for me, stretch myself to do more than I think I’m capable of and to try new things that I never thought I could. And every year I’ll grow older.  I’ll stretch, I’ll change; hopefully I’ll be stronger and better for the effort and experience.

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So, what about you? Do you need to stretch? Have you settled into a safe space and allowed your literal or metaphorical muscles to atrophy? Maybe it’s time to peek out from under your canopy. In the meantime, if, you’ll excuse me, I have some stretching to do, my ballet class will be starting soon!

  • Learn more about the benefits of stretching from Prevention
  • Learn more about my favorite little dance studio Arabesque Dance Arts
  • Also, check out “Hi, I’m K” where I’ve uploaded pictures from my ballerina daughter’s birthday “spa” party!

*Want more Monday Mayhem? Click here!

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