no. 17 – privacy : a form of social preservation and destruction

via Daily Prompt: Privacy

For me, privacy has functioned as a form of survivalism, as a way to keep threats at bay. And I’ve used it as a way to protect not only me, but also my loved ones. In the last year, however, it turned out to be one of the most destructive conditions of my life.

A year and a half ago, I ended a 3 month stint of unemployment and started teaching at a Christian owned college, a place at which I’d learn after making mention of an ex-girlfriend, did not approve of my lifestyle. I remember the room suddenly hushing after clarification of a pronoun…Another faculty member walked in, and one of the instructors motioned for her to walk outside where she whispered something to her before they both reappeared.

As you can imagine, it being 2016 and all how awkward that was for me. My prior place of employment had plenty of open-minded individuals. I sometimes made jokes about being a lesbian at work, and people laughed, but for the most part, I was never really made to feel less than (except for that one time someone at work insisted that conversion therapy could change gay people – which I know from personal experience, it can’t, but that’s a whole other story). Suddenly, I felt like I was in an episode of…


Everyone was pretty polite and chatty with me up to that point, and everyone remains that way unless I bring up my personal life. So as a form of social preservation, I quickly and earnestly began drawing lines.

I drew lines around the relationships I had created. All of my relationships (romantic or otherwise) outside of work suddenly didn’t exist to the majority of faculty. The fact that I have a pseudo-stepdaughter became a lie of omission.

I drew lines around the the things I said and the times I shared them. I already felt that my opinions in the classroom were of little relevance. I always play devil’s advocate with students anyway. But suddenly, I realized that other faculty members had very little tolerance for different ideas and that they got pretty emotional about things. The impending presidential election was very telling of just how little they thought about other ideas.

I drew lines around rooms of my home. When I got home, I went upstairs and hid in the bathroom. I was so stressed from hiding myself all day. I was exhausted, and I didn’t really know how to verbalize any of it without making my family feel horrible, so I just hid and suffered in silence. I compulsively read religious materials in shame and further disconnected myself from the real world.

And after doing it all for so long, my brain just couldn’t take it any longer. When 2017 appeared, it screamed opportunity. It said, “You don’t have to do this anymore!” And I said, “Yes…I do, but it can be different.” So I started blogging, and it has been. It has been hugely different.

It’s been different knowing that my thoughts exist. It’s been different knowing that someone somewhere is reading them, and it’s been different knowing that that exchange has absolutely nothing to do with my livelihood.

Did I mention that all of this is somehow accomplished from the privacy of my home?




no. 16 – plagiarism | how it’s done and are you doing it?

I came to WordPress to become part of a community of writers, to join a group of like-minded individuals who take pleasure in writing just as I do. To clarify, I was not just looking for a community of people who enjoyed writing. I was looking for a community of people who had respect for the craft of writing and more importantly, the people doing it.

I’ve explained in a previous post reasons why bad writing is good, and I strongly believe that because as long as a writer is practicing authenticity, the writing will improve over time. “Bad” writing can be good when developing writers risk vulnerability and struggle to find the right ways to convey their thoughts. I explained how important it is that we appreciate a writer’s work even though it may not be so polished. Essentially, we should make some excuses for developing writers.

However, there’s definitely a limit to that. The line stops with plagiarism. It’s the type of thing that causes students to fail in college, and more importantly, it’s the type of infraction that ruins careers and companies in the real world.

As for WordPress, it’s a quick and easy way to alienate other users and lose respect from your followers. has a very comprehensive article on the matter, and they also start off by acknowledging that there is some confusion surrounding it:

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense[…]

So while people are aware they may be copying someone else’s ideas, they don’t understand the legal ramifications of doing so. And if you aren’t sure of what constitutes plagiarism, the site goes on to list several examples:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Just slapping your name on it

The first example is the most clear. Everyone knows that it’s not permissible to turn in someone else’s work with your name on it. It’s a blatant sign of disrespect and a refusal to acknowledge the original writer’s hard work. If someone did this to me, I would be furious.

Failing to give credit

Now, as far as not giving credit to someone when you know they are the originator of an idea, it’s just sleezy. Don’t be this person. These are the types of people that you work with  who when the boss suddenly comes around take credit for a group’s work and fail to mention your part in the success. They are shameless self promotors and don’t understand how community functions.

Refusing to quote

Sometimes, students refuse to put information in quotes because they aren’t sure of how to do it. To be fair, this one is sometimes a mistake, but it doesn’t stop me from failing a student’s paper. If I have spent an hour lecturing on plagiarism and how to avoid it, the student deserves the consequence. At no time in industry will he be able to publish materials without giving credit. There will be consequences, and they will be far worse than an F on a paper. We are talking law suits in the realm of thousands of dollars, termination without severance and unemployment.

Taking it out of context

This is when you insert a quote in your work to make a point the original writer never intended. Oddly enough, it happens in the media all the time. I wonder how often media outlets actually face consequences for taking things out of context…

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Another time this may happen is during reports that require substantial readings. For instance, perhaps you assign your students to write a paper on Moby Dick. Now, if this class of yours is a requirement, there is a very good chance they are not reading that book. First of all it’s too long for a required course, and second of all, it’s really boring. Anyhow, all a student has to do to make his points is read CliffsNotes, open a searchable PDF version of the book, which can easily be found on sites like and search for quotes associated with keywords. As long as the student is willing to read surrounding information, he may manage to pull it off. But often, they are too lazy to do even this, so the quotes appear out of context and ruin their grades.

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Changing a word here and there


I don’t see this often and probably because I terrified my students. Copying and pasting into Word and then using the thesaurus for every other instance can be easily spotted. Now, I don’t know how close other teachers read, but it doesn’t take too much time to spot an error like this. If the student doesn’t have a strong command of the English language, he won’t be successful at selecting the appropriate synonyms to begin with. But on the rare occasion that he is, he might incorporate a quote that leads me right to the page he copied the syntax from.

Quoting too much

This is just obnoxious and lazy. If you have an assignment that requires you to write only 600 words and to implement a couple of quotes, I can assure you, your teacher is most likely expecting you to limit your quotes to one or two sentences. Original work is required in scenarios like this. If half of a student’s paper is quotes, he receives a 50 in my class because only 50% of the work is original. Any more than that, and he receives a 0.

Checking for plagiarism

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The fastest way to spot plagiarism is to run it through a plagiarism checker. The internet has a lot of them. I typically use, a free software application, because it searches the internet for quotes in the paper and can find them regardless of whether the student appropriately cited them. The website in question will appear and enables me to review the students work and the original source side by side. Any copy material will appear highlighted in red on the webpage.

This also helps me to identify if the source students included on the works cited page is the original source. Sometimes students record a random citation and include it with the quote. Perhaps they don’t think I will verify it. Perhaps they do it because they believe I won’t realize they copied from the original site and are hoping to throw me off. And maybe, just maybe they do it because the quote they were required to include in their paper never existed to begin with. I have seen all of these things happen. On the rare chance you are doing this because you forgot to write down the original source, run your paper through a plagiarism checker and it will find it for you.

Do you have any questions on plagiarism or tips to avoid it?

Let me know in the comments.





no. 15 – what do you do when you lose your credit cards?

I’m a huge proponent of wearing chinos to work. They’re casual, come in a variety of colors and still come off looking somewhat professional for classroom teaching. At least that’s what I keep telling myself since I’m not wearing jeans to teach.

One of my colleagues is continually asking me what my thing is with dressing nautical…as if that’s been my intention all along. But apparently alternating stripped and solid teas with woven belted chino pants and canvas shoes makes me look like I’m about to board the USS Drab.

I suppose It’s what happens when you shop predominantly at The GAP–aka that dark chasm where fashion goes to die. The clothes are comfortable and overwhelmingly predictable year round. If you select the right pieces, you can match with literally everything you own. My purchases are so safe that everything in the bag typically matches with what I originally go into the store wearing.

Maybe it’s symptomatic of being a middle class American… not having time to worry about clothing choices. I mean, I certainly don’t have time to worry about these things. I prefer to minimize such decisions so I can go about my day fulfilling other creative desires…

…which is why this morning when I reached into the pocket of my washed fatigue colored chinos and felt the formation of a small hole, I couldn’t trouble myself to take them off and put another pair on.

In fact, as soon as I walked downstairs to the kitchen, I had already gone through the process of forgetting and remembering when I put my keys in my pocket and they appeared as a bulge somewhere on the middle of my thigh.

“Oh, great.” I thought to myself. 11 or so hours later I would be scrambling around campus looking in classrooms for my wallet…wondering where I must have left it or if a student stole it off the desk when I walked out the room.

My wallet is actually a very slim metal business card holder from the 80’s… or it was. It’s so small, it can only carry 3 cards, and as such, houses my drivers license, debit card and credit card.

As you can imagine, I did not make it home with the wallet. For at least an hour, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened to it. However, it became abundantly clear when I walked through the gate into my courtyard. My phone suddenly slid down my leg and froze in place on my left shin.

It was then that I realized I would have to cancel all of my cards. I would not be waiting to see if the wallet turned up in my colleague’s car the next morning. I would not wait to see if I had accidentally slid the wallet under the computer keyboard as I was grading earlier that night. And I would not wait to see if I found the wallet in the grass or along the campus walking path.

The wallet could be anywhere… and though I presume it actually is on campus, I’d be foolish not to report the cards lost. Even if a student finds it, he will know all of my information now, including where I live.

What we are normally advised to do when we lose credit cards:

  • Look around a little more. It’s always possible the card has ended up in a place you don’t normally store it. I had begun to think I had the card sandwiched between textbooks and that I had shoveled it all into my bag before I left campus. I had hoped it would be there and planned to wait to report it until after I got home. And of course I did look through my bag, but I was pretty sure I knew what happened the second my iPhone had become part of my shin.
  • Freeze your accounts. A lot of companies give you the option to temporarily suspend your account. This means that in the morning when you come to your senses and remember where the card is, you will still have the card in your possession and can reactivate it. And this is nice because being without your card between 5-7 days might be a nightmare. I’m too paranoid for this line of thinking. I imagine someone could take a picture my ID and credit card numbers, so I just straight up cancelled them. Once someone has your credit card numbers and address, which were both in my wallet, they can make any number of purchases online. Not to mention there are too many students where I work who already consider themselves hackers.
  • Pay attention to your accounts. I hope you already do this, but it’s vital you do it in a situation like this. Careful monitoring and proper reporting can prevent someone from continually racking up charges on your account and ruining your credit.

Have you ever lost a credit card or dealt with compromised data? How did it happen, and what did you do?




no. 14 – Podcast Ready

This evening when I got home, I saw that the first episode of my podcast had magically uploaded to SoundCloud!

If you have been reading the blog up to now, you’ll see that the content isn’t exactly anything new, but there is something pretty cool about posting a story on podcast. It brings it to life in a whole new way…

Now, I think if you like NPR or TED Radio Hour’s format, you might like the style in which it was produced. My aim is to keep them all relatively short, so they should never be longer than 20 minutes.

So, check out the Podcast tab and take a listen while you are in the shower or in the car…or cleaning house?

Let me know what you guys think!


no. 13 – calling all wordpress users – podcasting now!

Dear WordPress,

I’m really excited to share a new project with you guys (all 12 of you). I just finished recording my first podcast, and it’s currently uploading to, granted it seems to be uploading at a glacial pace. I wonder if my internet is strong enough to maneuver such a file.

I literally spent the bulk of my day recording and producing this, so I really hope you guys like it. I ‘ll post a link once everything finally appears. Fingers crossed. The upload has been frozen on 13% for the last 10 minutes.

One thing I’m hoping to do with the podcast is create discussions that extend beyond myself. I love telling stories, but it would be really cool if other people had something to say…or if other people read them for that matter.

For instance, I would love to use comments from other wordpress users so that I can incorporate other perspectives. I’d like offer a shout out to whoever commented in a way that tells something about the person and sends some traffic their way.

In an effort to keep people interested, I’ll try to select blog posts with the most traffic (i.e., comments and views). Getting feedback from you guys will be vital to make it happen. If it’s not really all that interesting, I don’t want to dwell on it much!

Looking forward!


no. 12 – how i psyched myself up to agree to a marathon

Why am I so nervous about this? I can write all sorts of vulnerable, emotional things, but this happens to be making me feel all girly and weird on the inside.

I’ve slowly been setting myself up to do something I never do:


I have an aversion to it. It’s painful and hard on my joints. I find it hard to breathe and difficult to get in a rhythm… and the worst part about it is that I get really bored.

But it has occurred to me, that this is perhaps because I have not taken it seriously like I should.

The Top 4 Reasons I Suspect I’ve Been Failing:

  1. No one has been chasing me. When I was in elementary school, we had to run track a few times a week for PE. Ordinarily I walked/ran four laps because it was required, but on one rare occasion, this boy named Matthew kept trying to hug me, so I did a few extra laps!
  2. The building I’m in hasn’t caught on fire. I know what you’re thinking. We’re told to walk calmly out the door if there’s a fire, but I presume that if I were in a fire I might actually run. And I would probably need to run because I’d waste time trying to grab a stupid laptop. I’d cry once outside thinking about all the legal documents I foolishly left behind.
  3. There hasn’t been a”last and final” donut waiting around the corner to be claimed. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, you know what I’m talking about. If you come in late, you know your butt is gonna run to the end of the hall to get the last donut before it disappears.
  4. No one has paid me to do it. I take that back. I have ran to the time clock a number of times this year because clocking in one minute after 7:07 means my time will register as 7:15 at start of day.

Ok…so I know what I need to do…I  think I just need to wait until 9 am to start.

  1. Break into a very athletic stranger’s house.
  2. Light it on fire.
  3. Grab their car keys.
  4. Run out the door.
  5. Head on foot to the nearest office building maintaining sizable distance from angry stranger.
  6. Run in office.
  7. Find donut.
  8. Scarf it down as fast as humanly possible.
  9. Clock in even though I don’t work there.

Yeah. I’ll be fine. This is going to work. But really. I have thought about it. I can think of a few things that might actually help me. I know for a fact that once I was so angry that I drove to the gym and ran a mile without stopping and then walked out of there a new person. Anger was a wonderful motivator…that one time.

Anger is such a strong feeling. Apparently I don’t like it because I have trouble convincing myself to ever be that angry. I don’t know that I could convince myself to do that one again, but it’s definitely effective.

One problem I have had is with headphones and them flying out of my ears because the cord gets in the way. I figure if I can listen to some really upbeat music I can stay in a rhythm and almost replicate the adrenaline rush of the anger I had that one time. This is sad.

So I ordered a pair of bluetooth headphones and dowloaded some free songs from amazon prime I can listen to offline (see Figure 1.).

Figure 1. Serious Prep Work


Then I bought a really nerdy belt with reflectors on it so that I can store my phone in it while I run and also to confuse vehicles at night about what glowing animal is crouched over on the side of the road (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Nerd Alert


I’ve been fantasizing about running a lot. I like to do it when I’m driving on the interstate. It’s really easy to imagine I’m good at it because I see things moving by so quickly. I imagine how my body should feel to be running 65 miles per hour, and I get really pumped.

In fact, while I was on the road today I was so excited about my new running abilities that when Alina called and told me I was going to be running in a 10K with her next month, a few words came out of my mouth I never imagined myself saying… ever.

Part of me wanted to impress her. I wanted to stand by her. And another part of me wanted to impress me.

In the shortest second of my like, a small inside of me to spoke up. It said, “Yeah, you’ve never run more than 2 miles before but you could probably do it. Come to think of it. It was 6 or 7 years ago when you ran that ‘so-slow-you-could-have-been-walking-‘ 2 miles, but even that was a surprise to you at the time. It doesn’t matter that you’ve been mostly sedentary for years or that you have a few weeks to train. It really could happen!”

That little voice got


and louder

and suddenly…

It said “Remember that time you decided to get your first tattoo and instead of getting a tiny one you covered half of your back? You’re gonna own this!!!!!!!!”

And I said outloud “Absolutely. I’ll do that.”

After I hung up, I kept my eyes on the road and started to “run” again. “Well Damn. I guess I talked myself into it,” I said.

Wish me luck!

no. 11 – why i shouldn’t go to the casino with my mother

Last night, my mother and I took my little brother, Karson to the casino for the first time. Its like a rite of passage in our family. After you turn 21, you go to the casino and hopefully learn a life lesson about money (and how to hold your breath so you don’t get lung cancer). My mother is the type who admittedly spends too much in casinos. She decides upon a limit before she enters, but that doesn’t always stop her when she has emptied her pockets.

As we walked in, my mom handed Karson $20 and headed over to a machine. Now, she gave Karson this money with the understanding that if Karson did win anything he had to give her back what he started with. Otherwise, she would count it as a loss.

Karson stood there with a blank expression waiting for me to say or do something. I imagine he wanted to follow me, so I decided to give him a tour even though I had never been to this particular casino. I figured that casinos have to be pretty similar and began pointing things out.

“Here’s the beverage station!” I pointed. “You can get free drinks here. You can get a soda, or a tea, or a coffee, or–“

“Ugh,” he cut me off. “Where’s the beer!? I came because I wanted a free drink! If I’d known that-“ Apparently, behind that vacant stare was a brain set on getting through the evening with alcohol.

That’s when I had to stop him and explain that he needed to wait until we got on a machine. It never stops to amaze me how quickly he can go from 0 to 100 on the sass meter. We continued our lap around the room, and then he surprised me by asking, “Why does everyone look so sad in here?”

I thought for just a second and mentioned that a lot of these people were not coming because it was some special occasion, that the majority of these people were likely regulars, that they were spending their check (it was the middle of the month after all). I explained that it was possible there were a fair number of disabled adults in the room who were gambling away what they felt was not enough to live off of in hopes of increasing their income.

I was happy he’d asked. I thought it was a good question. We made our way back over to Mom, and Karson sat at the machine beside her, while I played a machine on the other side.

I put in a 20, played a few rounds, hit and cashed out with $28. I moved back to the other side where Karson and Mom were playing. I sat down on the other side of Mom and put in a new $20. I was oddly paranoid that if I put in the ticket I just cashed out, the machine would know I won and would not let me win again. I hit and cashed out with $34.

My mom wasn’t doing as well. But weirdly enough, I could tell she was enjoying herself. She apparently loves giving the machine money. Win or lose, it’s still fun for her.

I couldn’t tell what Karson was feeling. He looked a tad frustrated…and it looked like he was making extremely conservative and slow bets, terrified that the 20 would disappear.

“NO one has even offered me a drink yet!” he said under his breath.

“Cool it, dude. You’re playing penny slots. Don’t expect to be catered to.” I told him. He began shaking his head.

Amid the commotion, my mother leaned in and whispered to me, “It’s not good if we win. It’s better if he sees us lose. He’ll learn something about money.”

I was stunned. I had just won on two machines, cashed out, and told myself I would stop for the night. The wins were conservative at best, and though I had prepared to lose $100, I was happy to have won the small pots I did.

We moved to another row, and they sat down. I stood there waiting beside them as they played. And then my mother looked up at me…indignantly.

“What? You’re not gonna play anymore?” It seemed like my mother was challenging me. “We just got here.” 

I know what that was. She didn’t want to feel like she was holding everyone up by continuing to play. She was enjoying herself… but then I started to wonder if it was more than that. Did she really want us to lose? On the way there she had joked with my brother, telling him to close his eyes. “You don’t need to know where this place is,” she told him. “Let it be a surprise.”

Just then the cocktail waitress came by, and Karson’s eyes lit up.

“Do you have Dos Equis?” he asked her. The woman told him a price, and he was appalled that he might have to pay for a drink. Embarrassed, I started to walk away but heard her explain that he could have a free drink if he picked something like Budlight.

I decided to go ahead and play since we would be there a while. So I put some money in a machine, and then another, and then another and then… it was all gone like I knew it would be. When I finally found my mother again, she was alone and had only a few dollars left which quickly dwindled as well.

“Ok. Where’s your brother?” she asked me. And when he appeared with his cash out  of 50 odd dollars, it occurred to me that we would be leaving empty handed, and that he would be leaving with a profit of $30, without ever having invested any of his own money. He handed the 20 back to my mother, and she donated it to another machine.

How’s that for a lesson?