Blackwater Writing Project

November 14, 2011

Where Am I? No, seriously.

I'm not sure where I am. I do know that I'm in a "funk." I want it to go away! I've opened up this blog to write like 97 times, by the way, I just never really felt like it until right now. I'm never, never, never (ok maybe sometimes) ever in a bad mood. Ask my husband and he will tell you otherwise. I just feel like blah. I love my job and I love my life. But I just feel...pissy. That is all. Pissy to my students. Pissy to my husband. Pissy to my friends. Pissy to my family. I don't really feel like being nice. Is that okay?

I should be excited. Thanksgiving Break is next week. My wedding anniversary (year!) is this weekend, and I just found out that I get off at noon on Friday. I should be jumping for joy. But I'm just not.

Then comes the part where I feel guilty. Guilty for feeling pissy when my life is EASY compared to others. I know so many people right now going through serious medical issues that they have to wake up and think of all day long because it is impossible to live without thinking of their issues. I have nothing wrong. Nothing. I'm just pissy. That is all.

PS-Why do "i" and "u" have to be side by side on the keyboard? I won't tell you how many times I typed pissy and used the wrong vowel...

Where in the world am I?

Sometimes I really have no clue where I am. Ok, no… make that most of the time. Most of the time I have no clue where I am. I feel so… displaced. Distracted. My life is in constant motion… constant disarray. I live in Baxley, and I drive to Douglas to teach 5 days a week. I spend a little over 9 hours in the car over a period of 4 to 4.5 days – however long it takes me to go through a whole tank of gas. (I only know this because my super cool new Edge tells me so on my trip meter.) I stay late at school to lesson plan or grade papers, and then I drive back home to Baxley to fulfill other obligations. I help out with the show choir in Baxley, and I’m active in my church. Those things keep me very, very busy. A good busy. I feel like I only light at my house. I go there to sleep and sleep only. And do laundry. (Which apparently is never-ending. Geeze.)

Where I am… I’m caught in the middle. I’m caught in the middle of my job in Douglas, my family, friends, and show choir “babies” in Baxley, and my closest girlfriends in Valdosta and Thomasville. I feel like Stretch Armstrong. I’m being pulled and stretched. My body is in one place and my heart is in two completely different other places. It’s not that I don’t love my job in Douglas. I love my students, I love my colleagues, and I love the friends I’ve made there. But I love Baxley. I love living on the farm and being close to my family. I love Greg and Karen and my show choir “babies” that I work with on Monday nights. I love my church family. And I also love Valdosta and Thomasville. Jennifer and Nicole and Bridgett. The Blazers. Coyoacan. Blackwater folks that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. Good shopping. (Never thought I’d say that… but Baxley has NOTHING.) La Berry. Fun. Familiarity. Peace. What once was home is now home away from home. What I really wish is that I could take all of these things that I love and combine it all into one. One big ball of happy.

I literally feel torn. I want to be in three or four different places all at one time, and I have absolutely no clue as to where I am really supposed to be.

That’s where I am.

November 12, 2011


Most of the time here lately, I don't even know where I am. I know everyone at times feels like they have a thousand and one things rolling through their mind, and I know all of you, so I know I'm preaching to the choir. However, I feel this is one of the most stressful times I've had in a long while. Not bad stress - good stress - but definitely stress. I love every last thing that is happening to me right now, am grateful, and honored, but my goodness did it all have to happen at the same time?

So here is where I am right now.

I am planning my wedding which will be in February - I choose to give myself 5 months to plan it. At this point I have figured out the place, the dress, the photographer (that was an easy one), and the food. Right now on my desktop, I have my guest list pulled up and am trying to finalize it so I can start addressing invitations. This reminds me, I have yet to get Matt’s guest list. He keeps just telling me he'll post an invite up at work. Really??? Just get me a list of names! I'm also looking up DJs and have a constant eye on Pinterest, Etsy, and the Knot for ideas. I've started moving my things over to Matt's a bit at a time so it's not all at once, so my things are strung out from one side of Hahira to the other. Then those things need to be organized and put away, because the week after Thanksgiving family is coming into town for my shower. However, there is no space for those things because Matt has to clean out his closets and drawers before I can start putting my stuff into them. I also need to find an seamstress to start my alterations and mend my mom's veil which I'm planning to use. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated... Then just the simple stress that I'm trying to get use to the idea of being Mrs. Ruffo - just the change in name thing is something to get use to. Along with thinking about all the paperwork to change my name, insurance, benefits, address... just not going to think about that right now.

Besides the wedding, I've got all the projects at school. I'm getting everything together for my teacher of the year application for the state (19 pages and growing). Did I mention that I'll find out in February if I'm a top 10 finalist? Yup - right at the same time as the wedding. If that slim chance of being a top 10 does happen, I'll have a 2 week time frame to turn around with a video compilation of my teaching, lessons, and interviews to submit to the state. - I'm really not going to think about that right now. - I also seem to be going to more conferences and meetings this year than ever before - I am at 10 professional days so far this year - I hate writing sub plans. It's more effort to prepare for a sub than it is to be at school. I think it's ironic that I win TOTY, and I've been out of my classroom more this year than any other. Next week, I'll only be in my classroom one day. In addition, I have my kids participating in a Book Club with a high school class, which involves Skyping and posting on our Wiki and broadcasting the morning news show daily. Both of which has to continue even with me not there - I feel for my substitute.

I feel like I'm growing so much as a teacher and a person this year. Just the couple of opportunities I've had so far this year professionally have changed me and how I deliver lessons and opportunities to my students, and the year is far from over. Then obviously the wedding and becoming part of a unit rather than independent is a huge change for me.

Now the pull of writing sub plans and finalizing the guest list is making me feel guilty for sitting here enjoying the release of writing it all out, so I guess I'll get back to it.

November 11, 2011

Dogs in Backyards

Flip, the husky mix my husband and I had for years, died nearly a year ago this month. Yeah. What a discouraging start, eh? But Flip was a good guy—Senor Guapo was his fancy name, as he often pranced when he walked, high stepping with a rhythm that encouraged the tips of his ears to bounce in unison. He had an imposing fang that escaped his top lip—a little snaggle with his waggle. My husband and I insisted the vet save his tooth when Flip had to have several teeth pulled. And on a cold morning, after several excoriating attempts to actually take our child, put him in our car, and take him to the vet to be put to sleep, we were finally able to let Flip go. As I write this, he hangs out next to me in an engraved cheddar chest. He was, after all, the first pet my husband and I ever lost.

And on an even colder morning, Lucy found us. Before Flip died, I asked him several times to send me another dog just like him. I laughed every time I said it, as I am not one to believe anything transcendent or physical could grant such a request. But I asked anyways. So, about three weeks after Flip passed, Lucy arrives. She first came to my mother-in-law’s house during a particularly cold stretch of winter last January. My sister-in-law, Kay, who is twelve, noticed Lucy shaking outside the gate that leads to the yard and house. Lucy had no collar, and her short Pointer fur gave her little warmth in such weather. In hopes that Lucy would return to her owner, she was ignored at the gate. Two hours later, there Lucy was. She had taken her slender legs and tucked them under her arched body with her nose buried towards her stomach. She shivered and refused to look for a warmer spot. So, we went outside and wrapped Lucy in an old blanket. She shivered even after we brought her inside. She was covered with larger tumors. The nails on her paws had grown to the point where she couldn’t walk with the pads of her feet firmly on the ground. We kept her for two weeks—searching for her owner door-to-door, contemplating whether we could return her to someone who would let her live in such a condition. No “lost dog” flyers. No microchip. No one missed her.

So, Lucy became ours. She was a full grown miniature Pointer mix. Old enough to have benign tumors popping up. Old enough to have progressing cataracts. She was ours. As I half-played-with-half-bathed Lucy in a warm bath, I noticed how similar she was to Flip. They have the same white and brown markings—a brown patch around one eye, most of an ear covered in brown spots. But she was the short-hair Flip. When he was alive, I would shoot curt assassins towards Flip, “Damnit Flip. Why the hell do you shed so much?” every time I swept our hardwood floors and rugs of his incessant hairballs. Lucy was Flip with a little less shedding.

She loved us; although, she also loved running. A lot. She was dart out the door and race three or four blocks over. We could tell which direction she went by the trail of barking dogs in backyards. Man, I could have killed her. So, we’d wrangle her in. And on a nice spring day, Lucy again did her ceremonial dart. I wasn’t going after her this time. I had spent too many hours running around my block, two blocks over, three blocks in my fleece penguin pants. She’d have to decide she wanted to come back. I, of course, did nothing but worry. My stand to do nothing just made me feel guilty. I did some chores: moving furniture outside in preparation for new furniture—Lucy had destroyed the stuffing in all the cushions on our furniture. Yes. That’s right. Maybe another reason why I was unwilling to do laps around the neighborhoods in my penguin pants. I left the furniture outside by the street for a special sanitation pick-up I requested for later that day. As I lugged the pieces outside, I stretched my neck to see if I could see Lucy; I concentrated so I could hear the barks of dogs in backyards. Nothing. One hour. Still nothing. Four hours. Where’s Lucy? Five hours and six car trips around the neighborhoods later, no Lucy. I would never forgive myself for not going after her right away. No wonder she didn’t want to come home. As evening came, I went outside for another inventory of the neighborhood. I walked down my drive way and toward the furniture that was still sitting by the street. Asleep on the cushion-less couch was Lucy. She had found her way home, to her couch, and slept off the exhaustion of her day-long adventure. She didn’t mind when I picked her up, saying “Damn bad dog” and laughing, and took her inside for the night.

So, now we have Lucy. We love her. She is sleeping under the blankets in my bed, next to Flip and me, right now. She’ll have a happy life here.

November 10, 2011

Cali Here I Come

I’m sitting in a million year old recliner, but I want to be in California. I’m watching reruns of Big Bang (which is set in California), after watching the new episode, and a commercial for California pops up. So I want to be in Cali beside that dude from Food Network with the bleach blonde hair eating some massive man meal he just cooked with our guest of honor Sheldon Cooper.

People swear parts of California aren’t what they are cracked up to be. According to Tucker Max and Joe, LA is the worst place in the world. As Tucker Max pointed out, there is a reason the reality shows featuring people who are famous for being famous such as Laguna Beach and that other show with all the blondes is set in LA. Joe just thinks LA is dirty. Which doesn’t make sense seeing as all the blondes erupting from there look very clean. “Look” is probably the operative word here.

My sister-in-law swears San Diego is the best place in the world. She lives in Vegas and has traveled all over, so I trust her. Apparently the weather is perfect year round and wine just falls out of the sky straight into your mouth. I’m not a big wine fan, but for perfect weather I could learn to love wine. If I could ensure there would be magic little elves to make my coffee in the morning with fresh ground beans I’d be packed in a second.

The commercials always show a variety of landscapes. I think I would like the variety. Imagine: snow, beaches, deserts, cities, and forests all in one state. Forgetting the fact that it takes several hours to drive from one landscape to the next, I would never be bored. I could skip school on Friday for a hike through the redwoods, spend Saturday snowboarding (I don’t know how to snowboard, but like the wine thing, I’m willing to learn), and then Sunday lounging by a vineyard.

Another thing those commercials always show…famous people! I haven’t met anyone famous yet and I desperately need to meet someone famous. I have a few in mind and I don’t even know if they live in California, but I feel like being in the state would be enough to up the chances of me meeting someone famous. I’m sure I would make a fool of myself and stammer while staring uncontrollably, but it would be worth it to share a moment with Josh Hartnett. Or Alexander Skarsgard. Maybe even Ryan Reynolds. And definitely Betty White.

When I’m finally done with Georgia, Cali will welcome me with open arms. Austin is willing. That snowboard idea is right up his alley.

Where Is Shane? or Where Shane Is.

Right now, I am literally in my office at Georgia Perimeter College's Newton Campus.  I've just finished a stack of (better but still not great) Learning Support essays.  I could get a head start on research paper grading for my 1101s, but I think they can wait. 

I've had some ideas clawing at my insides, trying to get me to commit them to paper, and I will be sure to do that soon--maybe after I finish this. 

I'm in north-ish Georgia now.  A cold front is moving in, and I just shaved my head for the first time.  The hair loss was (and had been for a while) approaching comb-over status, and I vowed I would never let it come to that.  So I had a shot of bourbon and buzzed it all off.  It's kind of nice...and still a little terrifying. 

I'm at the bottom of a zero calorie Monster energy drink.  I'm in the latter half of my big chunk of Thursday office hours.  I am one hour from teaching my last class of the week.  Then I'll be at the weekend. 

Like Karen, I'm all over the interwebs.  I on Twitter (@nomadshane), I'm on Worpress (, and of course I'm here and still in some other places. 

I adopted the NomadShane moniker this summer when I was bouncing back and forth between Albany and Valdosta, Albany and Covington (prepping for the move), and my townhouse in Albany and literally anywhere else with a sofa.  Sour break-ups can force you out of your homeland and into the wilderness and turn you into a hunter-gatherer.  I thought of ditching the adjective, nomad, recently, but someone pointed out to me that I have always been, and I think I always will be, a social nomad.  Even if I am physically located in this place for a while, I have revolted against solid and clear circles of friends, and I've opted, instead, for loose and malleable groups of acquaintances.  I have close friends, but they are fairly nomadic, too.  I rebel against borders and selecting who to hang out with, at least.  I am a social drifter.

I'm going to crack open my journal now and try to get these ideas out.

November 09, 2011

Where in the world am I?

I am everywhere. I bounce all over the place in my mind, yet my body slugglisly goes forward. My mind flies all over with the words of various authors: Wordsworth, Plath, Roethke, Speinback, Nobokov, and Walker spiraling me into deep pondering. Thoughts of Thanksgiving, family, friends, and change keep me somewhat connected with the actions of my present life, but I am finding I like getting lost in the ideas and writings of others who have finished with this challenging journey. Constant motion. Propelling forward. Never still, yet I must be still to keep sane as life whirls around me. Deadlines, final papers, grading, moving, changing, glorious life.

November 08, 2011

Where in the world am I?

Where in the world am I? is a question that I often ask myself these days. This last week I joined Google+ and joined in the Educators’ circle (over 530 strong at the moment). At the prompting of another educator, I joined Twitter. I have two Facebook accounts: one for students and one for family. Additionally, I have two wiki accounts for student use and one for mine. If that were not enough, I have four blogs on Blogger and one on Tumblr and one on WordPress as well as having accounts with various sites for bookmarking, aggregating, and for entertainment. Oh! I forgot. I am also a member of the English Companion Ning and, of course, the National Writing Project. As I am writing now, I am listening to my music collection stored on Google Beta or I can read from my web Kindle app.

All right now. It is official. I can deny it no longer. I am a geek/nerd, and I am addicted. To show how addicted I am, I don’t want to be cured. I want more.

Lord! My horoscope said that I shouldn’t share too much today, but I am tired of hiding my geekness. I love the web and going to these different worlds. I can glimpse lifestyles of the not so famous or rich and see what we have in common.A Year in New York In the educators’ circle, I get new ideas every day from teachers willing to share, my own PLN. At the click of a button, I can see what is happening in Mecca with the cameras installed for the Hajj or view New York Harbor from the cameras installed in Liberty’s crown. For the life of me, I can’t understand why people shy away from everything that is now available. Where in the world am I? I am everywhere. Oh . . . my addiction is showing. I’ll stop now. But before I go, my twitter name is eremus7 and my Google+ handle is Karen M. Join me ;-)

My place

My place is much more crowded and insane and sweet and frustrating since last year. Plus, my place still feels new. We moved into a new house over a year ago in August when I was six months pregnant. I'm still trying to figure out where we put some stuff. The house stays disordered but in a completely different way. Our last house was filled with the tools of partial reconstruction: paint cans, brushes, sawhorses, sawdust, carpet samples, drywall mud, sanders, etc.

Now the floor holds a motorcycle, a fire engine, blocks, a beanbag chair (for falling face first on), an Elmo chair, puzzle pieces, and of course books. All the non-board books are put out of the boys' reach. Apparently, they like to rip off the jacket covers and tear them. Sigh.

Board books are everywhere. I need to start reading Tucker the one Rebecca bought him: Hands are Not for Hitting. In our case, though, the book should be titled Hands are Not for Pinching. Poor Parker. He has two places on his face that look like bug bites, but they're Tucker pinches. His pinches are hard to catch because he starts off by hugging Parker, and Parker giggles. It's only when Parker tires of the hug that it turns a little more violent. And it has only happened once that we didn't catch it in time. But still, poor Parker.

Um, back to my place . . . my place is a lot louder than it used to be. Tucker likes to talk . . . a lot . . . loudly. It sounds like he's fussing at first, but he isn't. He just likes the sound of his own voice. In a way, I envy that. I don't like the sound of my voice.

My place is full of distractions. No matter what I'm doing, if I happen to catch Tucker's or Parker's eyes, the chase is on. They both LOVE to be chased. And caught. If I don't catch them fast enough, they'll slow down and look over their shoulder to see what the problem is. Sometimes, Parker will run to me instead of away from me, eager for the part where I catch him and tickle him or catch him and throw him in the air. Yeah, I'm usually ready for that part too. Plus, the giggle that accompanies the catching is awesome.

My place has little free time. I struggle to stay up with my work. And I now have less sympathy than ever for my students who complain about not having enough time to do their work, but their out-of-class entries detail hours of boredom and parties and extracurricular activities. I want to tell them they don't understand what a lack of free time is yet, but I love my life, so I don't want it to sound like complaining. What I didn't realize until now is how much of my free time I devoted to my job. Now, if I don't get work done while I'm at work, I may have an hour or two for it at night, but that's only on a good night. That's assuming the boys go to bed on time, and I've gotten bottles ready earlier in the day, and the clothes from the morning have already been dried and folded and that Wes didn't have late photo shoots.

My world used to be bigger. It used to include summers of teaching in London with side trips to Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin. Now it includes Valdosta State University and my neighborhood with side trips to Whigham, Moultrie, Albany, and Tallahassee. But that's okay. Every time the boys open their eyes, they're learning so much more than I ever learned in any of my trips. And our world will expand beyond the South again when the boys get a little bit older.

My place limits my roles and expands them at the same time. Mom is a new role, one I'm still experimenting with, discovering I'm hands-off in some areas and overly rigid in others. I refuse to lock all the cabinets doors, insisting that the boys can learn what's allowable and what isn't. I refuse to force them to eat foods they don't want, but I will hide the vegetables in the fruit if I can get away with it. I can with Parker but not with Tucker. I'm still a daughter, still a sister--probably better as both now that the kids are born. I talk with my family members more since Tucker and Parker came along. I also need my family more now than I did before. I'm still a wife, still a daughter-in-law, still a professor, still a writing project director, still a writer (barely), still a reader (mostly of magazines, Entertainment Weekly and Parents, and children's books, especially The Napping House).

I'm sure I occupy other roles too, but it's 8:34 a.m. My office hours started four minutes ago, so I need to stop writing and be ready to answer last-minute questions from students about their papers that are due Thursday.

Write Week:Geography or Where in the World are You?

We're baaaack . . . Write Night is back, except it's Write Week, and the topic should have been posted Sunday night or Monday morning instead of Tuesday morning, but here it is finally.

Today plays in the background while my household gets ready in the morning, so I've been staying up a little with this year's "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" segments. Those segments prompt this month's topic: Geography or Where in the World are You?

You can write about where you are literally or metaphorically, where you stand on an issue, where you want to be right now, where you've been, or where you're going. Have some fun with it. As always, you can completely ignore the topic and write whatever you want.

March 09, 2011

Grandparents and Dirty Jokes

I was completely over "that's what she said." My husband used this line at least once a day and I wanted to encourage him to act more "mature." I think this all started over comic book hero boxers and the next obvious step was to rid his humor of offensive sayings. Then my granddaddy unknowingly plopped a "that's what she said" into conversation and it was downhill from there.

Granddaddy and my aunt were discussing something my Granny said. My aunt asked, "Is the pot in here?" To which Granddaddy answered, "That's what she said." Now, I understand his use of the phrase does not match the connotation, but my husband and I took it the correct way. Now we look for chances to use "that's what she said". We have lengthly discussions on how to use it properly, clever ways we used it that day, or ways that we wish we could use it. My maturity level has dimishined and I will soon be wearing comic book boxers as well.

The teacher in me does not allow this in my classroom. I love that teenagers think I have no sense of humor and I am completely out of touch with today's world. It takes only one time for me to calmly say, "I know the connotation behind that phrase. Please refrain from using it again." Then I go home and make a joke with husband.

For the catch phrase portion of this post, "Bazinga" is my latest favorite.


I laughed when I first saw the topic this month. Countless times, I've comeback to someone's comment with either a "that's what she said" or, in text version, "TWSS." Many of those are lewd and probably not the best to write about here. They get good laughs, and the best is when I catch people who unsuspectingly set themselves up for a good "that's what she said."

I just came back from a leisurely stroll to the courthouse, which, incidentally, is a good 6-7 blocks from my office. Traffic citation payments. Not mine, mind you, but my husband's. What's with not being able to pay online? To quote a disgruntled student in my office the other day, "WHERE'S THE HUMANITY?" (seriously, melodramatic much?). I was deep in thought and looked up and saw this scrawled on the side of a building...maybe a parking garage or a government building...I wasn't paying much attention:

Without even a pause, I snapped a picture and sent it to one of my friends. Well, really to her, another friend, and my husband. All of the messages had the caption "TWSS" attached to the image. As funny as it is, I started thinking about it and how many times people have said that. Mostly girls.

It's such a typical girl line: "Was it something I said?" Seriously? Probably, but more than likely, she already knows the answer to that question. Why is it, though, that women take the fall? Even when it's not our fault, we usually assume the blame for a situation, especially in a relationship. It blows my mind. I used to be like that more than I am now. Previous relationships, previous situations. Now, instead of "was it something I said?" it's "yeah, that's what I said." Confidence in myself and total trust in unconditional love is an amazing thing. I forgot what that was all about.

I'm feeling pretty random today. It's been a weirdly emotional day for me. I went to Ash Wednesday service, and my work study pointed out to me a few minutes ago, "Do you know you have something black on your head?" It was bittersweet and I admit to tearing up a few times during the service. Some of it was because my ex-father-in-law was the pastor, and it's been year--since before he retired and before he was my EX-father-in-law--since I've heard him preach. But mostly it was what he was saying...healing old scars, especially emotional ones.

I've definitely got some old emotional scars. I need to heal those. I think I'm on my way, though, because I'm not a "Was it something I said?" kinda girl anymore.