Tag Archives: Balancing Work and Writing

Tatonka!

My computer screen scrolls my pictures. I’m sure many of yours do, too. Today, after my first full week (which was only 4 days long!) of work teaching high schoolers to become legal Wisconsin drivers, I came home to an empty house and decided to celebrate with music and a little bit of wine and writing. To be honest, my house is never empty, because I have dogs. They are not tatonkas, but they are furry and large (considering the extent of my downsized cottage).

I’m thinking of tatonkas because of this picture.tatonka!

The tatonkas pictured here are not real bison, of course. We are just three friends pretending to be tatonkas at a wonderful country western eatery and music venue located in downtown Chicago. It’s the picture that came up first when I turned my laptop on tonight. Sometimes a thousand words can be useful to describe a picture.

People who know me well know that I am a big fan of wolves—that I have aligned myself with the Defenders of Wildlife for many years, in part because of the hard work they do to protect wolves. Wolves, you may be thinking, are not tatonkas.

True. But everything is connected.

In the beginning of this story, there is a girl laying in the back seat of a 1972 Oldsmobile reading a book. It is a hot summer day and the car has stopped somewhere in South Dakota because the driver, my dad, and the copilot, my brother Billy, have come across a herd of buffalo. “Sis! Sis! Put down that book and get out here and look,” Billy says. “Bison!”

The girl, me, barely looks up. “What’s the big dif?” she asks. “Big cows.” (To be fair to the girl in the backseat, she has spent the bulk of her childhood reading because…well, there are all sorts of both good and sad reasons for that…and she has been living in the Midwest, a land that is loaded with large four-legged bovine creatures…she just doesn’t see the “big dif.” She is young.)

Fifty years later, she is still reminded of her disdain for the tatonka herd. And she is sorry.

Little did she know that the camping trips of her youth would have such an impact on her future world view. As she matured, the girl learned that such sights were akin to great magic. In 1990, when she saw Dances With Wolves for the first time, she was shaken to a degree that can only be described as cataclysmic. Tears. Yes. Weeping. Yes. Regret?

That, too.

Tatonka! If you’ve seen the movie, you are picturing the lovely faces of Kevin Costner and Graham Greene as they connect over the Native American word for buffalo. Just as she did. Finally.

And she began learning more about endangered animals, and history, and love… Eventually, she became a teacher. And eventually, she became a better sister. But never good enough. She bought Billy a beautiful sculpted bison one year for his birthday. She understood that her father had taken her to the wild and free places to observe and to appreciate the creatures of the world. And that her brother had always understood.

More years passed and the girl invited her brother and husband and dear friend to her graduation ceremony at a small college in Washington State. And what did these people see while driving to Goddard College in Port Townsend, WA? A herd of tatonkas, majestic in the green, green grass.

The girl’s brother, Billy, is gone now. Her father, too. But the wolves, and the tatonkas, even more strongly, are making a comeback. So we continue to celebrate and play tatonka when the time is right. The girl stops to catch her breath when she reads a story or sees a picture that reminds her of the great struggle every living creature makes, and must continue to make, to remain. To be remembered, revered, and yes, loved.

All creatures, great and small. All creatures.

Mahalo.bedtimesundanceGood Night.

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Filed under Buffalo, Camping, Dances With Wolves, Nature, Work, Writing

My Calendar

blogpictures 003

I started a new part-time job last week. It’s a job closely related to teaching, a great love of mine, so I find it interesting and meaningful. Sadly, it doesn’t pay well and I haven’t found a way to increase my speed and productivity. In fact, although I believe my work is well-considered, maybe even good, I am nowhere near meeting my quota. My stats fall woefully short of corporate expectations. And I’m not getting any faster.

Speed has never been my forte. It takes me a half hour to eat a piece of toast for God’s sake! I don’t even like to drive the speed limit, let alone go above it. I nearly had a panic attack trying to get through the turnstiles in the London underground with all those nattily-dressed, running, right-handed people swiping their passes faster than the naked eye could see, jogging up the escalators on the proper side (Is it the right, or the left?) while carrying backpacks, and umbrellas, and flowers, and packages of all sorts, texting their loved ones, and wearing impossibly beautiful shoes. I mean, I almost didn’t make it!

Not that I wouldn’t go back to London in a second. I love London. I’m just sayin’.

East Finchley Tube Station, London

East Finchley Tube Station, London

I prefer kayaks to speed boats, shoes to roller skates, books to movies. I enjoy taking the scenic routes, and taking my time. Since I’m a much more a slow pour of molasses than a quick shot of tequila, I’m wondering if this is the right job for me… I mean it. I’m really wondering.

Meanwhile, I’ve done some training in preparation for another new part-time job, one that is also related to teaching. I’m just waiting for some paperwork to come through so I can begin that one. That job doesn’t pay well either, but it’s not so fast-paced. Even so, once that job begins, I will quite busy working two jobs and making hardly any money, basically working full-time. Busy, busy, busy. Hardly any money. Hmmm.

And there won’t be much energy left for creative writing. I know that isn’t an acceptable excuse. Hardly any writers have the luxury of devoting themselves to full-time writing. Most of us have other careers, other jobs, other responsibilities, and during the past year when I had quite a bit of free time, I didn’t complete my novel. I did get a lot of good stuff written, though, and it was really coming along. But the budget—not so much. As I’ve stated in other posts, I did manage to write when I worked full-time. I’m sure I can do it again. I’m just whining.

I don’t want to make a habit of whining, because it’s annoying and counterproductive and all of that. But I thought I’d try it out today anyway. I can see the sign: Warning! Do not enter. Dare I go down that road? Maybe—just this once!

There! I definitely feel better already! I didn’t travel far.

So why did I title this post My Calendar?

Here I am, still making big payments on my MFA, retired from teaching, and working for peanuts. I mean, I like peanuts (I even have a Peanuts calendar given to me by my adorable Southern relatives. You saw the picture.), and I like challenges, but I don’t understand why the skills I’ve worked so hard to hone are worth so little.

Go figure.

blogpictures 004And then I look up at my chalkboard and think about my friend, Ken Decroo,

and his wonderful advice. “Three pages a day, no matter what.”

Rather than, Online Shift 9-2 and Course Instruction 3-6, I’d like to write the following notations in my weekly calendar: Work on novel, Attend weekend writing workshop, Write, Go to writing group, Write, Complete another writing course, Write query letters, Write, Find an agent, Submit manuscript, Write, Get published, Write, Leave for book tour…

And I can do most of those things. I can choose my own road. So, guess what? I’m going to quit one of those jobs today. Right now. And get back to writing. Hope to meet up with you somewhere along Writers’ Way!

That’s all.

IMG_1197That, and Mahalo!!!

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Filed under Calendars, London, Underground, Work, Writing