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 SoundCloud.com, 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!

Kate

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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:

run

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

wrkout.png

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

IMG_1042.png

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

louder

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

Transcript
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?

 

no. 10 – when you blog from your phone…

When you sit down on a foot stool in the kitchen and pull out your phone to blog…

Well, folks. There won’t be much to this tonight. You see, I got in the bath earlier with my laptop as usual and something funny happened. All of the water just drained from the tub. The stopper or whatever you call that faceplate with a moving nose on it decided tonight it would say goodbye. Farewell. Adieu (maybe… how do you spell that?).

I’m disorganized on my phone. I don’t feel like shuffling tabs and verifying things in google.

The moment I realized what had happened, I looked up a YouTube video on how to fix the problem. Granted, it was already a quarter after 10 at that point, and yes… I was sitting naked in an empty tub watching a YouTube video. We already know I’m eccentric though. Are you still reading this?

The task seemed simple enough. I resolved that I would go to the store, retrieve the part and install it. So what did I do? I first went to Target even though I knew they wouldn’t have it. I just really like Target. Then I went to Walmart where it seemed they should have it. But they didn’t either. So I bought a 97 cent rubber stopper until I get to another big box store like Lowes or Home Depot.

Now as I write this, it’s a quarter to 12, I’m sitting in my kitchen with no part, and I’m making a gluten free pizza for my girlfriend whose driving home from her yoga concert.

Oh, did I mention I should be trusted with little more than sandwiches and eggs in a kitchen? I present Exhibit A.

Oh I’m winning tonight!

 

Exhibit A. Burnt Frozen Pizza w/ Bellpeppers that make Alina Sick

no. 9 – why “bad” writing is good

So, during this morning’s bath, I scrolled through WordPress Reader to catch up on some of the blogs I follow. I don’t follow many because I’m only nine days into using WordPress, and I haven’t entirely considered the Discover feature. I’m not sure what I’d be looking for anyhow.

After I received a few follows, I read over their sites and if it looked like something other than someone trying to sell something and something in which I might be interested, I returned the favor.

I teach writing, so I’m used to reading work with a fair amount of error. From a grading perspective, these things must be addressed. However, I find that if I were to do this in the real world, I’d miss out on what a lot of developing writers are trying to share: themselves.

As readers, it’s vital to look for the redemptive qualities of a piece and see what potential there is for someone to grow. Hell! Even if you don’t have a vested interest in developing writers or watching them progress, overlooking errors provides opportunities to empathize with those risking vulnerability.

The writer is vulnerable even if he doesn’t share his darkest secret.

The writer is vulnerable the second the cursor moves from blinking to “I.”

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it this way, but we’re sometimes upset when we love someone’s work and then discover it was put together by a ghost writer. We feel betrayed. We think to ourselves, we were experiencing a meaningful connection with someone whom not only dared to share the tougher moments in their lives but also dared to struggle through finding the right ways to say it. We imagine, this person likes to write just as much as we do.

But that is often not the case. Writing is a labor of love. It requires focus and practice. It’s the type of thing you get better with after exposing your flaws. It’s the type of thing that improves once someone has opened themselves up to criticism.

I received a lot of criticism in college simply through attending writing workshops. And if you aren’t familiar with this type of class, it entails sitting in complete silence (you can’t say one thing in defense of your writing, and if you need to defend it, you obviously didn’t portray something correctly) while the instructor and a group of your peers critique your work.

They say things like…

  • “I can’t really see this character behaving in this way. You said on page 11 that he was an accountant by trade. Shouldn’t he be more meticulous?”
  • “The sentences on page 5 are long and drawn out. Perhaps writing short and choppy sentences would convey the urgency the characters are sensing.”
  • “There are so many pronouns. I’m not sure who is talking anymore.”

And these comments are interesting because you start to see just how closely people read your work. Some will refer to another page and cite something to defend why a character might act a certain way. Someone may say they preferred the long drawn out sentence because it made them feel like they were drowning in a suspense. And a class might unanimously agree on an issue influencing you to clarify points throughout.

At any rate, I certainly do not expect to attain perfection any time soon, but I do expect to improve as I will not stop writing.

My Tips for Writers

  1. Write! Perfection is not a requirement. There will always be someone who thinks you could have said it better, and there will also be someone who loves what you are doing.
  2. Read aloud. When you read something aloud, your reading of a piece slows down considerably, allowing you to catch errors you would have otherwise let slip. Not to mention, you will be able to fully appreciate instances of anaphora, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. 😉
  3. Show it off. Sometimes knowing that someone will actually see our work is motivation enough to invest in producing something of quality.
  4. Seek Feedback. Asking for help is a great way to create a bond with others, and in doing so allows both the critic and the writer to grow. Learning to criticize in a constructive manner is just as rewarding as learning to receive it!

 Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

no. 8 – why your hot water heater temp could be making you sick

Ok, I have been living in this townhouse for nearly two and a half years, and it wasn’t until yesterday when Alina’s dad crawled into the attic that the hot water heater had been adjusted. You would think someone who likes warm baths as much as I do would have looked into this, but…

  1. Attics are creepy as hell!
  2. I learn to live with a lot of things and seldom imagine I can make them better.

Alina’s dad came over to replace our garbage disposal, and I suppose he found out that the hot water takes some time to get to the kitchen.

You see, we live in a three story townhouse with the hot water heater in the attic. And it’s because of this design I always assumed it just took longer for hot water to get to the kitchen. I imagine there is a lot of stagnant water in the pipes that needs to clear out first.

Anyhow, out of sheer curiosity I asked what the temperature was set on, and he said “Oh, 100, maybe 105 degrees.” He then told me he turned it up to 130 degrees.

I thought to myself, Man, that’s nothing. It’s not much higher than 98.6 degrees. It seems like it had to have been hotter in order for me to ever feel like I was experiencing a hot bath. Then again, I never ran a bath before without turning it all the way to hot, and my circulation might not be as robust as others.

So this morning, I am sitting in the bath googling what the best temperature is for your hot water heater, and this lifehacker article comes up called “What’s the Best Temperature for My Water Heater?” The article reports that there are two major concerns with hot water heater temps:

  • Too high, and users get scalded
  • Too low, and you risk pathogens, particularly Legionella, which causes legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease)

Legion-who?! 

So I was like, Ok. Legionnaires’ disease. No big deal. I wonder how low it would have to be to pose a threat anyhow…

  • 32 to 42 °C (90 to 108 °F): Ideal growth range

Just where my water heater happened to have been set. But it’s ok. No one in the family has Legionnaires’ disease, and we would certainly know if we did.

Now, our only apparent concern with the hot water heater is being scalded; but I would much rather have the water hot enough to travel to my dishwasher and washing machine on the bottom floor than to potentially harbor stagnant, pathogen rich filth. I don’t want to sit in that!

no. 7 – why the anti-profanity policy is a nightmare to deal with and why i started blogging

 

The campus I work on is run by a very conservative family. The problem is not that they are conservative. I have no problem with the fact that they are:

  • a family that initiates prayer at faculty inservice and holiday dinners
  • a family that posts pictures of their ministry in Africa
  • a family that hosts graduations in a local church
  • and a family whose elected compliance officer believes the B in LGBT stands for “biracial” (Yes, this was said by the compliance officer in a mandatory meeting regarding Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in which he warned that we didn’t have to agree with the tenets of said act, but we had to abide by them so that we don’t offend Lesbian, Gay, Biracial and Trans people because we don’t want to break the law.)

These things are not intrinsically wrong. Some of these scenarios might lead more educated individuals to believe they are ignorant (well intentioned as they might be); however, I do not intend to use this as an opportunity to shame them.

The point is this is not a religious institution, and it is in no way advertised to prospective faculty or students in this way. Students are somewhat shocked to later discover just how strict the college is about certain policies (i.e., anti-profanity policy) after they have already signed up and made their financial commitments.

As instructors, we’re expected to police students using profanity and not just in the classroom. If we walk by students outside talking on their phones or chatting with their buddies, the second they utter a profane word, we are expected to pull them aside and admonish them.

This puts many of us in an awkward position when we believe adults should be free to be adults. I have no desire to shame someone for a slip of the tongue, especially when they are talking to their friends outside. And though I do believe there is a time and a place for certain language, the extreme way the policy presents itself is a nightmare for faculty and students alike.

The night someone called “bulls**t”

Early on in the term, at the beginning of a class, I had all of the students write their names on sheets of paper and turn them in for a quiz grade. I simply wanted to make sure they understood the importance of showing up for class on time as it is our duty to train them for proper workplace behaviors.

It just so happened that this evening only 8/28 had showed up on time. After I collected the papers, I waited for the remaining students to file in up to 15 minutes late. Once everyone got settled, I began outlining the objectives of the class for the evening and then thanked the students who showed up on time for the quiz.

Students immediately got angry. They wanted to know why I had not told them there would be a quiz (granted I am under no obligation to tell them when quizzes occur). A student began arguing how unfair it was, and then he did what I had hoped he wouldn’t:

He said “This is bulls**t!”

This is the point at which I apologized and asked him to leave. Afterwards, the associate dean told me that I handled it poorly but gave no advice on how to prevent problems from occurring in the future. He suggested I work on conflict management in the coming term.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if you were ordered (per administration) to inform students that profanity would not be tolerated under any circumstance and that students would face classroom expulsion if they ignored the advice, wouldn’t you feel obligated to make an example of said student who not only used profanity but did so in an aggressive tone in front of his classmates?

Maybe I handled it wrong, but from the time I have spent teaching, I know I would have lost the entire class right then and there had I not asked him  to leave.

Why I’m writing

Since I have been working for this institution, I have censored myself. Big time. I never use profanity in front of students. I’ve made boundaries clear, and I have shared little to nothing about my personal life with my students. My opinions are close to non-existent as I do not feel safe to express them to my conservative colleagues. In addition, I don’t really talk about the life I share with my partner unless someone is cool enough to understand. I am grateful for those people!

But all of this censoring is exhausting and means I need an outlet.

Thus, blogging.

What next?

  1. So, what would you do in a situation like this?
  2. How would you handle the conflict?
  3. Do you feel comfortable to be yourself in your workplace? To share your views?