Monday, November 23, 2009

Foster Care and Adoption

Today, the students had a very interesting discussion. We are reading the book Things Fall Apart by Achebe Chinua. The protagonist Okonkwo is a fierce warrior, titled wrestler and immensely wealthy man who hates his indolent father, Unoka. His father represents failure and weakness, qualities that Okonkwo deplores. Okonkwo is a revered member of the clan, in Umuofia, and has a reputation for "ruling with a heavy hand." He also has three wives and eight children.

During a tribunal meeting, it was determined that a neighboring tribe would gift Umuofia with a young male and a virgin, in compensation for the death of a female Umuofian tribe member. The elders of the clan decided that since the young male belonged to the tribe, Okonkwo would care for him. This is how Ikefuma came into the household of Okonkwo. He lived with Okonkwo for three years as a foster son.

My co-teacher, Ms. S. asked a very interesting question: What is the difference between foster care and adoption? The students responded that foster care is where a child is in the care of a family but still a ward of the state. The child in foster care can still have contact with their biological parents. They then stated that adoption is a process in which a parent or parents are legally responsible for a child that is not their biological child.

Ms. S. then told her experience of foster care in which she had a seven year old girl, Valerie, come into her family when she was four years old. Valerie was taken from her biological parent because she was viciously abused by her mother's "friends." Ms. S. told of how her father would not smoke around Valerie. There was an incident where he went to light a cigarette and Valerie jumped back, begging him not to burn her. From that moment, Ms. S.'s father refused to smoke in the house. Sadly, the day came when Valerie was taken from Ms. S.'s family and returned to her own mother. It was the first time that Ms. S.'s father had ever cried. Sadly, to this day, Ms. S. has no knowledge of what happened to Valerie.

The students then began sharing their own stories. It was heart-breaking. They also debated with the issue of whether they can see themselves fostering a child in the future. These are the answers they shared aloud:
  1. It would depend on how old they are. I want a kid as a baby so that I could raise them how I am raised. Kids that are older don't really change and can cause trouble.
  2. I would foster a kid because I could bring them wonderful experiences like what it means to love or what it means to have a family.
  3. I would foster a child that is a teenager because they may have nothing but bad experiences and I think that I can show them a better life.
  4. I would adopt a kid if I wasn't able to have children. I think I would be a great mom.
  5. I wouldn't want to foster or adopt a kid because what if the biological parent wants them back, then I'll be hurt. I would love the child just so they could be taken away from me.
  6. I would foster a child if they were in my family. Like if you have an aunt that is on drugs and then you take their kids in foster care just so they don't lose their roots. Everybody should know where they came from.
I found these answers to be so thoughtful and to tell the truth, surprising. I did not think that my students cared that deeply. I guess they really understand the meaning of "Am I my brother's keeper?" They made connections between Ikefuma's experience with foster care and Ms. S.'s experience. I was impressed.

On day's when I feel that my students aren't listening and am distraught with despair, I'll look back at this blog and smile.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emotions and Characters

Yesterday was a truly harrowing day. Not only did I have to take my daughter to work with me, half day of school and no babysitting, I also had my car towed by the ever popular New York City Police Department. My husband had forgotten to put out the parking permit, which would normally just warrant a hefty fine that must be paid within thirty days to avoid penalties (Oh yeah, Bloomberg is just racking up cash from middle income family households). But I digress, the car is not only ticketed but also towed. The city makes $185.00 from the tow and of course, $115.00 for parking in a Department of Education zone with no permit. Great! What does this have to do with writing you say? Well, I analyzed the range of emotions I experienced from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. This is what I came up with:
  1. Happy, content, relaxed (when I woke up)
  2. Worried, anxious (no babysitter)
  3. Relief (boss didn't have a problem with my little one traveling with me)
  4. Frenzied (running a program, teaching classes with daughter glued to hip)
  5. Stressed the hell out (Husband calls, car was towed)
  6. Anxious (had to figure out finances to pay to get the car out)
  7. Still Stressed (went to pound after work)
  8. Relief (car returned, drove home)
  9. Calm, Content (while cooking dinner, taking care of kids)
  10. Happy, content, relaxed (watched The Office)
  11. Emotionally exhausted (bedtime)
After this analysis, I applied the wide range of emotions that I experienced to the character in my mystery novel. These emotions added the precise complexity needed to not only move the plot along and create an interesting story, but also it added a different dimension to the writing itself. The story had more descriptive scenes, using a plethora of adjectives instead of just dialogue from one character to another, making it more interesting and drawing in the reader. The peripheral characters seemed to empathize with the protagonist which enriched relationships. This technique was a success. Some people say to write what you know. They also need to add that as writer, one must write what you feel also.

Now, I can't take credit for coming up with this writing technique. There are several writers/ authors who use this. Some blogs to check out for writing techniques are Mystery Writing is Murder, Confessions of a Watery Tart, and Linda M. Faulkner . . . On Writing. I have found these to be really useful when experiencing writer's block or misbehaving characters.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Midtown Rush

"Taxi!" I yelled with my arm raised high. Hailing a cab in Midtown during rush hour is definitely ill-advised. I walked to the next corner. It begins to rain. I mumble about meteorologists and faulty forecasts and it dawned on me that I forgot the holy grail in business- my flashdrive with the PowerPoint presentation needed for the meeting. Thank God for cell phones.
"Mandy, bring my flash drive to 39th and Park. I don't care how you do it. . . Yes, I know the meeting is in fifteen minutes. Just get it to me. Now!" Time for a new assistant.

Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

Painting by Paul Kenton
Image courtesy of Cardiff Galleries

For a response to this drabble, check out Rayna's blog: Colours- Violet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Rediscovery of Naps

Image from:

Today, I did something very unlike me. I took a three hour nap. I have not taken a nap since I was pregnant with my last child, six years ago. But you know what? It felt wonderful. When I awoke, I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time and managed to write another two thousand words. Yay! It's a great way of recharging your batteries and tackling the next challenge.

I felt guilty that I left my husband with the children and running the household. However, sometimes we just have to stop and take a break. Often we work ourselves until we are so bone weary. We forget to take care of ourselves since we worry about everyone else. Well, I am recommending naps to every cantankerous, ornery, mean, exhausted or overwhelmed individual I meet.

NaNoWriMo News: The target writing for today was 13,333 words. I accomplished only about 5,100 words. But you know what? My writing buddies, Tami and Tara, helped me realize something. NaNo is a way of getting myself in the habit of writing every day and making time for writing. I have written more in the past week than I have in the past two to three months. Write on my friends!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fairytale of New York

Fairytale of New York

Once upon a time in a land far away, there lived a young girl with big dreams. She was raised by a horrible stepmother in the poorer section of the city. She had to clean the roach infested apartment and made all the meals with paltry scraps of food.

One day, the young girl grew up. She met a wonderful man who wined and dined her. She felt like a princess. But now she sits in her tower. She is surrounded by beautiful clothes, furnishings and people. Isn’t it ironic that she narrowly escaped one prison to enter another.

Painting by Jeff Rowland
Image from Castle Galleries (

Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Confuzzled . . .

Forgive the randomness but I have little coherent thought left. I am progressing, although rather slowly, on my WIP. I thought I would be further along but thus far, there are twists and turns that not even Odysseus would have anticipated. I have written approximately 3,000 words so far, only the first chapter and prologue. Interestingly, while writing, I didn't think the kids would behave but I have not heard any dishes breaking or the screeching yelps of my youngest.

Writing this mystery has taught me one very important lesson: One cannot rush the story and the author must do his/her research. I had joined the whole NaNoWriMo thing to push my story along and finally get at least one novel done. However, in three days, I have only increased my WIP by 1,500 words. At this rate, I will never make the quota!

All joking aside though, I cannot focus on the quantity. I tried, I really did. Every time I begin to write, I always go back to the beginning, proofread, edit or revamp an entire section. I can't help it. I suppose that is the teacher and perfectionist in me but I am more concerned with quality? Is that so wrong?

Confuzzled- being both confused and puzzled (yup, it's made up but not by me).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Good Day for Writing

This will be a short entry since I must work on my "Work in Progress" or WIP. I began writing a mystery yesterday. It was completely out of the blue but these characters wouldn't leave me alone. They had been swimming in my head since Sunday night and want to hear something crazy-- they would not stop badgering. I did not feel any relief until I wrote down their tales. It was the most satisfying feeling. Their thoughts and actions just flowed from my fingers and onto the screen.

Now I usually write short stories of urban life in New York City, science fiction or fantasy. This is my first attempt at something completely unfamiliar and it scares me. I am not really familiar with the mystery novel format/ formula. I didn't even know what a red herring was until I read it on Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog, Mystery Writing is Murder. ( I would provide a link but if you read my last blog, you would know that I am technologically challenged).

Well back to writing. . . my characters await.

Monday, November 2, 2009

For the Technologically Challenged . . . You are not alone.

Well, today was rather interesting. I really believe that there is some type of conspiracy where all technological devices are against me. First it was the Mac, that just did not want to communicate with my printer. I don't care if it was upset with the printer but I really needed to print some documents necessary for my job; my lesson plans.

Once I finally got the Mac and the printer to resolve their differences, the scanner began giving the silent treatment. I could not scan because the scan function on this all-in-one printer, was not communicating with the USB port. Now forgive my ignorance, but should it matter what USB port you connect the printer cable to. Well, I tried all of them to no avail.

Consequently, I abandoned the Mac and tried my PC laptop. It took me three hours just to download the driver software from the internet and install the flippin' thing on my PC. Then when I finally am able to scan the document, my PC alerted me to the fact that I had not installed the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.2. Well excuse me. Adobe took approximately an hour and a half. It took me a total of 7 hours to scan one document. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

*bangs head on keyboard*

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weight loss and Weight Struggle

So while most of my online friends are competing in the NaNoWriMo, I have taken on a different challenge. I want to lose weight before the holidays arrive and I really pack on pounds. I have struggled with my weight since I was an adolescent. I am tired all the time and have no energy for my children, once I come home from work. I need to change. Not I want to change but I NEED to change.

My plan:
  1. Change my eating habits. I realize that I don't eat very much. However, what I do eat are high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods that cause increased rapid weight gain. I will eat mostly from the fruit and vegetable groups incorporating high fiber carbohydrates.
  2. No more snacking at work. This is the worst. I skip lunch and then eat junk like potato chips or Ring Dings.
  3. After work, I want to exercise at least four times per week. I have an elliptical machine (which I think is just evil but will try it anyway), a Total Gym, Wii Fit, Wii Active and a Tai Chi video. With this variety of exercises, I can target both strength training and aerobics.
  4. Limit all eating and drinking until 7:00 pm. Afterwards, no more food.
  5. Get my husband to join me. I am no good on my own. I may have the will but not the motivation. I am better when someone exercises with me.
That's it. I plan to start today and keep a log of food and activities. I don't want to wait until January because if I don't get started now, I never will. I am already 36 and time is ticking. Wish me luck!