Ohhhhh, my seductive little pet.... my new little story brewing right along. Yes, we are in the lust stage, my new story and I. Handsome Hubby is all cool with it, as long as I don't abandon my former WiP forever, lol. I told him that she is hibernating. She is a bit more of a beast, in need of research and the working out of complicatednesses. She is high maintenance, very needy of my undivided attention.
My new little darling, she is slick and slippery and sliding right from my pen onto the pages. I wrote 5 pages in the car the other day on the way to my sister in law's house for a family celebration. The car is a good place for me to write - My Type A-ness needs something productive to do whilst I am buckled into a seat for an hour. I swear I have the ADD. Without the H. I'm not hyperactive, I just jump from thing to thing to thing, starting a million things, working on everything a little bit at a time, and finishing it all right down to the wire. I was like that in college, I'm like that with schoolwork and housework and my to-do lists. I try to be as efficient as possible, doing 85 things at once. It's a sickness. What can I say.
But my new story is so much FUN... I was really getting bogged down with the complexities of my WiP and this time of the school year is waaaaaaaay too busy at the Real Job to have literary brain cells when I get home. I'm also purposefully not planning this story out. I have ideas about where it is going, but I am just going to write until I get there. It's very freeing, this open relationship I have with my new hot little number. And it is a little bit spicy, I must say!
Must be the deliciousness of summer approaching. :)
... to raise a child. And it takes a large bank account to buy them all gift cards at the end of the school year.
I have to say, though... I am in love with the kiosks that you find in most grocery stores that have gift cards to all manner of places in all manner of amounts. I know this trend started a few years ago and I would like to kiss the feet of whomever's (Mom - leave a comment so I know that you haven't had a heart attack at that particular grammatical atrocity) idea it was. Ok, not really... you may not know this about me, but I pretty much abhor feet, and I don't like anyone touching mine, and for the record the idea of kissing someone else's pretty much makes me want to die. But anyway...
I do wish that I had the time and energy to do something extra special and handmade for my kids' teachers, especially since, being a teacher myself, I hate to send in lame gifts. I'll interrupt my own post to say that I don't think that teacher gifts are necessary... I don't expect them from my students, and what I swoon over the most is something like a card that one of my kiddies writes themselves, misspellings and all, just to say that they had a good year. Because I do get a paycheck and, trust me, I'm not in this crazy profession for the coffee mug. :D
That said, a one-stop shop where I can get a Barnes & Noble gift card for Tootsie Roll's second grade teacher, a Cold Stone Creamery one for their instructional assistant (wish I had one of those!), Ticketmaster gift cards for her dance teacher and Curly Jones' preschool teacher (she is on the young, hip side), iTunes gift cards for the dance teacher assistant and the two young preschool assistants, and a Visa gift card for my class mom is pretty much the bomb in my book. I wish I had the time to make you all pretty little gifts, but since I don't, I heart being able to thank you all in one trip.
'Cause otherwise, it may have been boxes of Fruity Pebbles all around. ;)
Omigosh! How did I not notice that my Bloggy Miyagis have reached 200!?! Oh, my dears, you know what that means... oh yes.. I must brew me up another contest! I will probably hold off for another month or so because when school ends (JUNE 18TH!) my mind will be clearer and I'll be paying better attention to super fun things like WRITING and BLOGGING and READING BLOGS and COUNTING FOLLOWERS... lol... ok, maybe not that last part, but HAVING CONTESTS TO CELEBRATE YOUR BEING HERE! Awesomeness and good times... and yet another reason for me to look forward to school ending! Lol :)
Well, since I have been sadly neglectful of my writing of late, guess what has happened? Tootsie Roll, my 7 yr old, has become more interested in writing than ever. I love that she feels like writing is "our thing", because we both love it and we can hang out together and write and bond. I had a first grade parent in for a conference on Friday and she mentioned that she wants to keep her son up with his academics over the summer (to which I added, make sure he plays a lot, too). She said that she found plenty of reading and math practice but had a hard time finding writing exercises. I said to her, in the nicest way - He's 6. Making him do writing exercises will make him hate writing. Instead, I suggested doing realistic and important writing with her - writing grocery lists for her, keeping a journal between them where they write to each other, and making sure he sees her write for enjoyment.
That last piece is interesting. I go through this with parents at the beginning of first grade every year - I tell them how I used to always read after my kids went to bed but then I went to a workshop once and the workshop leader asked all of us if we are being reading role models to our own kids. Do your kids see you as a reader? Do you read for enjoyment in front of them.... often? Do they see that it's an activity that you enjoy and choose to do?
It wasn't right away that I realized that this same rule can be placed on writing. This is a harder one for a lot of adults - probably not many of you here, reading this blog, because many of you are writers. But in the general public, I don't think a lot of parents write... for enjoyment... in front of their kids. So I eventually phased this one in as well, especially when my older daughter reached school age and then even more so with this blog. Tootsie Roll loves to write on the computer but she also knows that I prefer writing in pen on paper, so she always has those things handy, too. Lately, she has decided that our bedtime ritual will include writing together before we read together. Tonight, she wanted to write poems together, so she handed me a piece of stationery and asked me what I wanted to write about. I said hmm, looked around, and my eyes landed on her collection of little nutcrackers, so I said, "Nutcracker." She said, "Oh! Me too!" So we laid on the floor together and we decided to write acrostics. We each wrote the word NUTCRACKER down the left side of our pages and then we began to write. A few lines in, she asked me what I had written, so I showed her, and she showed me, and then we switched and continued each other's poems. Then we switched again, and then again. The finished poems, co-authored by me and Tootsie Roll:
Not so Ugly, The Cracker of nuts Rests before the Attack. Clara Kisses her Energetic Rescuer.
Nestled Under The Christmas tree, Ready to Attack Chomping King Mouse, the Evil Rival.
(we were passing them back and forth, but my favorite part that she came up with is "chomping King Mouse, the Evil Rival". Love it!) I love that writing is something that brings my daughter and me together. I have noticed a blossoming confidence in her writing since I have been more open about mine. So putting this dream out there has yet another unexpected and wonderful consequence!
I have been seduced. It's true. I have been ever so slowly (and, truth be told, willingly) drawn away from the WiP that started this whole blog back in January. (Has it only been that long? Really?) So I guess it's only right to address her first:
Dear Story That Started It All,
It's not you, it's me. I started you with the best of intentions, after that idea simmered for a few good years in the back burners of my mind. Somehow around the new year, it just clicked. I plotted and planned. You came together so nicely, it felt less like making up a story and more like relaying a story that the characters were telling me. When they finally revealed their names to me, I knew they trusted me, and we had a bond, you and I. We were moving along. I did research and changed some ideas and you still worked. I got all excited and got Handsome Hubby all into it for the first time.
So, what happened, you ask? Come on, don't look at me like that. I'm not dumping you. I'm not leaving you permanently for some younger, faster model. Just... um... temporarily. The truth is, Story, you are very complicated. You need serious thought and undivided attention and a whole lot of organization. You are not something I can work on a few days a week, whenever I have time. You deserve better than that, and honestly, you will be crappy if I can't devote more to you. Which, right now, I can't.
But all is not lost, Story. Hang in there. There are only 26 school days left and during this time, I will be playing around with another story. I know, it sounds cheap and ugly, but I have to do some kind of writing while school is this busy and every weekend until school is over is filled with kiddie birthday parties and dance and recitals and swimming lessons and graduations and all manner of things fun and time consuming. I hope you will be willing to take me when I return to you.
Whew. There. I said it. It's been happening for a while now - I had to set aside my novel a little while back when so much was going on in work and life, and I haven't been able to slow down enough since to pick it back up. It is a complicated and more serious story, so if I'm not attentive, the writing doesn't work. In the past week, I've been tossing around ideas for a simpler story, a faster read, possibly a faster write. Not because I am dying to throw something out there, but because I want to keep flexing the writing muscles, as it were, with something fun and useful. For the YA crowd - My novel is more serious in a Hunger Games type way, with a lot of character development and dystopia shaping going on. This new idea is more fast-paced in a Wake sort of way. (Does that make sense?) There is not world building to do because it is set more in regular present-day America. (I wish I had the chops of The Hunger Games or Wake, lol... ). I think I'm going to give it a go... it'll be a stress reliever from the Real Job if nothing else. :)
For those of you who don't know me that well, this message is meant in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. :) It's all true, the seduction, the new idea, all of it. But I don't kick myself for abandoning my WiP for a while. I'm not one of those writers who sticks to rules or regimens. Writing for me is fun, it's a release, and right now I'm cool with changing venues for a bit. Cheers!
FYI - Did you know that photocopiers contain a hard drive that keeps a picture of everything ever copied? Most places do not remove or wipe out this hard drive when the copiers are replaced/sold and pretty much anyone can buy a used copier. Our IT dept at school just found this out (right after we all copied our entire families' birth certificates as mandated by the health insurance we get through our employer, the ins. co. needed copies to prove eligibility) and will now be removing hard drives and wiping them out before getting rid of any copiers.
Here is a link to the story on CBS News. Here is the print version of the story on the CBS website:
DIGITAL COPIERS LOADED WITH SECRETS
(CBS) At a warehouse in New Jersey, 6,000 used copy machines sit ready to be sold. CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports almost every one of them holds a secret.
Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive - like the one on your personal computer - storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.
In the process, it's turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data.
If you're in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold.
"The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms," John Juntunen said, "that information would be very valuable."
Juntunen's Sacramento-based company Digital Copier Securitydeveloped software called "INFOSWEEP" that can scrub all the data on hard drives. He's been trying to warn people about the potential risk - with no luck.
"Nobody wants to step up and say, 'we see the problem, and we need to solve it,'" Juntunen said.
This past February, CBS News went with Juntunen to a warehouse in New Jersey, one of 25 across the country, to see how hard it would be to buy a used copier loaded with documents. It turns out ... it's pretty easy.
Juntunen picked four machines based on price and the number of pages printed. In less than two hours his selections were packed and loaded onto a truck. The cost? About $300 each.
Until we unpacked and plugged them in, we had no idea where the copiers came from or what we'd find.
We didn't even have to wait for the first one to warm up. One of the copiers had documents still on the copier glass, from the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Sex Crimes Division.
It took Juntunen just 30 minutes to pull the hard drives out of the copiers. Then, using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet, he ran a scan - downloading tens of thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.
The results were stunning: from the sex crimes unit there were detailed domestic violence complaints and a list of wanted sex offenders. On a second machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit we found a list of targets in a major drug raid.
The third machine, from a New York construction company, spit out design plans for a building near Ground Zero in Manhattan; 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses and social security numbers; and $40,000 in copied checks.
But it wasn't until hitting "print" on the fourth machine - from Affinity Health Plan, a New York insurance company, that we obtained the most disturbing documents: 300 pages of individual medical records. They included everything from drug prescriptions, to blood test results, to a cancer diagnosis. A potentially serious breach of federal privacy law.
"You're talking about potentially ruining someone's life," said Ira Winkler. "Where they could suffer serious social repercussions."
Winkler is a former analyst for the National Security Agency and a leading expert on digital security.
"You have to take some basic responsibility and know that these copiers are actually computers that need to be cleaned up," Winkler said.
The Buffalo Police Department and the New York construction company declined comment on our story. As for Affinity Health Plan, they issued a statement that said, in part, "we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that none of our customers' personal information remains on other previously leased copiers, and that no personal information will be released inadvertently in the future."
Ed McLaughlin is President of Sharp Imaging, the digital copier company.
"Has the industry failed, in your mind, to inform the general public of the potential risks involved with a copier?" Keteyian asked.
"Yes, in general, the industry has failed," McLaughlin said.
In 2008, Sharp commissioned a survey on copier security that found 60 percent of Americans "don't know" that copiers store images on a hard drive. Sharp tried to warn consumers about the simple act of copying.
"It's falling on deaf ears," McLaughlin said. "Or people don't feel it's important, or 'we'll take care of it later.'"
All the major manufacturers told us they offer security or encryption packages on their products. One product from Sharp automatically erases an image from the hard drive. It costs $500.
But evidence keeps piling up in warehouses that many businesses are unwilling to pay for such protection, and that the average American is completely unaware of the dangers posed by digital copiers.
The day we visited the New Jersey warehouse, two shipping containers packed with used copiers were headed overseas - loaded with secrets on their way to unknown buyers in Argentina and Singapore.
I'm all for going green and I wanted to do this post around Earth Day, but I just happened to be consumed with Other Stuff at the time and it didn't happen. Anyway, especially since we had an entire week devoted to Cooling the Earth at school, I have been trying very hard to make some Earth-friendly changes. I am already a recycling madwoman both at school and at home, we make all trashless lunches to take to school, we use canvas shopping bags, and we changed our lightbulbs to CFL's a while back. I would say that we practice a good number of the Earth-friendly suggestions that are usually made as far as conserving, reusing, etc. So I was actually looking for some new things, because, ya know, the more small changes we make, the bigger impact we can have. (This message brought to you by Lindsey Crusades For the Earth).
Anyway, aside from no longer sending home nightly homework sheets (I now send 2-sided, 2-night homework or try to do better with paperless homework), here is what I found:
* Did you know that Nike recycles used sneakers (any brand) into gym floors? Click here to learn about Nike's Reuse a Shoe Program
* Many bottlecaps cannot be recycled in your regular plastic recycling bin because they are made from another type of plastic, but you can find out about the Bottlecap Recycling Program
* Learn the real story of bottled water and its impact on the environment here at Story of Stuff
* I kept getting giant booklets in the mail from the company that handles my various insurances and retirement savings (not my personal statements but books and books of annual fund reports that go to all of their customers that I completely do not understand and always just recycle) and found on the inside cover of one of the books that you can opt to have it all sent online so I did that.
* Want to stop getting junk mail that you just recycle as soon as it comes? There are many services that can do this. Some cost money, others are free. A local woman who does "going green" school assemblies recommended GreenDimes but it costs $20. You can Google "stop junk mail" and fund a bunch of both free and pay services that can help ditch the junk mail. Here, also, is a link from the Today Show with lots of info on stopping junk mail.
I've also made my blog carbon neutral, like many other like-minded bloggers... you post this on your blog and choose a button from this German website (it's in English), email them a link to your post, and they will plant a tree (along with the Arbor Day Foundation) to neutralize the carbon dioxide emissions of your blog.
(I can't link the button here but it is linked on my sidebar)
Here are a few more kid-friendly, eco-friendly websites to peruse:
Happy New Jersey teacher, wife, and mom of two spunky girls. Teaching for 17 years (all first grade!), still loving it and still learning! I am caffeinated and chocolated. I like pink. And owls. And books!!!