Cursive

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Charlie bent over his work, his little tongue licking his lips like a squirrel who can’t decide which direction to go when a car heads toward it. He carefully followed the direction of the arrows which told him how to form the cursive letters. After writing an uppercase L, he raised his head and grinned at me with wide excited eyes.

“What if the bottom of the L just kept going,” he flipped through the pages of his workbook to the end, “all the way through all the lines to the end of the book? That would be sooo crazy!”

I humored him with a smile. My practical, grown-up mind tried to fathom the world-changing implications of an L with a tail long enough to fill a whole workbook. It was beyond my capabilities.

Even with the threat of long-tailed Ls, I was just happy he wanted to learn cursive. I could remember being exactly his age and wanting to write that way, but my school didn’t teach cursive until second grade. I could join up all the letters of my first name, except for the S. My first-grade teacher had to ask me to stop.

William wanted to learn when he was in first grade too, and I knew I would have to be the one to teach him. But I made him wait. I had to wait. Even the workbook said that it was for third to fourth grade. So we waited. And now he’s no longer interested.

I wasn’t going to make that mistake with Charlie.

When he got to the end of the page, I pulled out his Starbuck’s chocolate cake pop from it’s little paper bag and let him have another bite…

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Backwards

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The seasonal trend in Florida fashion.

Lucy’s eyes were pricked as if tears were about to leak from them. But she wasn’t emotional. Her eyes weren’t even overly watery. You know that almost burning, sort of sour pressure you get in your sinus cavities when you start to cry? Yeah, that.

When Chaucer wrote, “Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote…” he never knew a place like Florida. Lucy didn’t see sweet showers in April there.

Instead, she saw everything dusted yellow with pollen as if the deranged cousin of Jack Frost took his bottle of yellow, odorless baby powder and sprinkled it all over the place.

Joe Pollen.

Didn’t he know that Lucy had a headache everyday for months now because of it? Didn’t he know that she can’t even have fun singing anymore because her throat is so sore? And WHY does he have to visit when the weather is actually nice?

Why can’t Jack visit more often? Lucy liked Jack, but he only visited Florida every other year or so.

And still there was no rain in the forecast. Nothing to tamp down the incessant pollen.

Florida is backwards in many of it’s seasons. The leaves fall in Spring when the temperature is already rising after a brief burst of chill. The risk of floods happen in summer during the torrential afternoon downpours that line the roads with a hot fog after they’ve baked in the sun all day.

Lucy once went to a home show where a vendor tried to sell saunas to Floridians. Talk about trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.

But now it was bone dry outside with a yellow haze and the five medications Lucy been taking to combat allergies were just not cutting it. Not even when she also consumed a concoction of raw local honey, raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and hot water. She got the recipe from a cousin in Ireland, and it was actually rather tasty so she drank it anyway.

She thought of folks in other states who sigh during deep winter and wonder how nice it would be to live in Florida. But she knew first hand that it wasn’t cold enough in the winter to put much of a dent in the monotonous heat or kill off the plants for a season so that you don’t get that huge burst of sinus crushing pollen.

They were better off where they were.

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Fish Slayer

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Image attributed to de:Benutzer:Felix Stember via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the next chapter in my “Grannie’s Memories” series. She wrote them down circa 1967* and these stories are what is inspiring my Work In Progress. She was born in 1923 and grew up in her father’s restaurant in Marietta, Ohio.


 

My friends and I had a great time visiting all the stores. There was a music store run by Mr. Crippen – I think that was his name. It was such a long time ago. There was another building where Dr. McCurdy, the dentist, had his office upstairs. We use to love visiting Dr. McCurdy and his office nurse Miss Eisenbarth. That is… we liked to go just to visit, but when it came time to have our teeth checked, that was just a little bit different story. The doctor and his nurse were always nice to us and never once did they tell us to leave or that we were in their way.

One particular day, my uncle brought Dad some fresh, ripe cherries. Before I went to play with my friends across the street, Mom put some in a brown paper sack and I was to share them, which I did.

We visited the dentist office first that day. In the waiting room was a big glass fish tank with little fish swimming around in it. What fascinated us most about the tank was a big ceramic clown’s head. The fish would swim in and out the open eyes and mouth.

After a while, we got tired of watching them. The doctor and nurse were in another room with a patient. We decided to make up a new game to see how many cherries we could drop into the clown’s mouth in the fish tank. We had a ball doing this and enjoyed this new game very much. However, the game got old and we decided to leave.

Two or three days later, we were back in the alley digging for treasure (that’s another story too). Dr. McCurdy looked out the back window and called us to please come up to his office. The nurse took us right into one of the rooms with the big chair in it and he held a match box with some cotton in it. We couldn’t imagine what that was for until she said, “Girls, somehow our fish died the past few days and we were wondering what you were feeding them.”

I guess it hit us all at once – THOSE CHERRIES! I can’t remember if we cried or were just plain scared as she said to the doctor, “What can we do about this?” We didn’t know at the time that they had difficulty keeping straight faces.

After a few minutes, which seemed like hours, they decided what we were to do to pay for what we did. We were to take the fish and put them in the match box and cover it with the cotton. Then we had to take them down in the alley, where we had been digging for treasure, and have a funeral for those fish!

I guess they watched out the window while we did. I was so scared and I’m sure my friends were too. We didn’t visit there much after that.


*I’ve done some minor editing for the purposes of this blog, mostly sentence and paragraph structure and some word choice.

I’d Love to Hear from You!

Have you ever fed an animal something they shouldn’t have eaten? What happened? Did you ever have a fish funeral? 

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And the Winner is…

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Diane Davis! Congratulations! Look for my email about how to claim your copy of The Stone of Kings. 😀 Thanks so much to everyone who entered! I hope you had fun cracking my code. 😉

Here’s the solution: “My heart is full of thanks for my God, my family, and books. When my days are filled with all three, my days are happy.”

If your so inclined to decode my diary page, go for it – but it’s a poorly written account of how I got sick at a carnival in front of my crush. The only thing interesting about it is the code itself. *snicker*

And Now, Announcing…

Masterpiece Editing! Just in time for you NaNoWriMo-ers out there currently in need of a copyeditor. 😉

After much research, consideration, and discussion with my spouse, we have agreed that my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature would be best spent as a freelance copyeditor. Instead of killing myself to grade 350 high school papers a week for meager pay and even less appreciation, I can focus on the enhancement of one story at a time.

I sincerely hope that I can be a positive benefit to any writer who desires to make their manuscript sparkle. If you’ll notice, there is a new heading on my blog about my editing services. Feel free to take a look to see if I might be a good fit for editing your manuscript.

I’ve been through the process myself, and know first-hand how daunting it can be to put your “baby” in the hands of someone else. It’s rather like dropping your child off at daycare for the first time.

Of course I will continue my own literary pursuits between editing jobs. So Grannie’s story will eventually come. 🙂

Happy writing!

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Can You Break My Code?

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I couldn’t just be a ‘normal’ 14-year-old. 😉 Don’t worry, this page isn’t what you have to decode.

Finally! I’ve been wanting to do this for months but one thing or another has kept me from it. Here it is at last!

Back in the day…

…I created a code so no one could read my super secret teenage thoughts. This is one of the pages and pages of my “code diary.”

At first I was going to simply post the above image and have you all try to crack it. But after getting several opinions, it was unanimous that this was too hard by itself. It’s difficult to see the word breaks, and it IS a lot of letters to decode. I’d probably only attract nerdy nutters like myself. While I LOVE nerdy nutters, I want this to be fun for everyone.

So instead…

Your mission…

…should you choose to accept it: decode the following Thanksgiving themed phrase.

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Each symbol represents a letter of the alphabet. As you can see, I gave you the vowels. 🙂

Email your entry to me at shea_ford@yahoo.com by November 29th. I will select a random winner to be announced on November 30th.

Your prize…

…an Amazon copy of The Stone of Kings!

Why is this kind of contest related to the story? I’m sure the Irish druids had a much different set of symbols on the rare occasions when they wrote things down. But when Bresal communicates with Taichleach via magic symbols in stones, these were the symbols that I visualized.

Just go with it. 😉

Wait…there’s more!

I have a big announcement to make on the 30th, so be sure to look for that when you stop in to see if you’re my winner! 😀

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Shame on Me for Interrupting Their Conversations

Gif attributed to Obsidian Soul via Wikimedia Commons

I want to teach. But I simply do not have the emotional stamina. I can think of several careers where it’s common to find yourself crying in your car, but teaching shouldn’t have to be one of them.

I don’t like to cry in my car, but at least I’m not the only one who does it.

President Obama recently spoke against the extra tests we give our students. But I believe that this is only part of the problem with public education – especially here in Florida where the need for remedial college classes has risen for high school graduates who’ve “earned” As and Bs.

The first time I taught, nine years ago, my colleagues kept warning me, “Stop grading everything. You’ll burn out.”

Stop grading?

How are they going to know if they got the answer right or wrong if I don’t tell them? Isn’t that what education should be – learning how to get the right answer? How will they know if it’s right or not if I don’t tell them? I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature so that I could teach – not babysit.

After four months of grading approximately 140 students for accuracy, guess what happened? Yep. I burned out.

I was heartbroken. I love to be in the classroom. Around the time I resigned, my 11th graders had just finished reading The Crucible and watching The Village. I assigned them to write a compare/contrast essay which I never got to read.

Cue a good cry in the car.

At the time, I didn’t know that I should not have been eating gluten, but I knew something was wrong with my body, so my official reason on the resignation was “medical issues.”

Once I identified gluten as the culprit for my bad health, I thought that I’d like to give teaching another try. So I did.

Last month, I accepted a long-term substitute position for an 11th grade English teacher who was on a military assignment. I was excited. The textbook was better, I had a projector which plugged in to my computer, and this time, 3 of the 5 classes would be full of honors students. A breeze, right?

I feel like I spent last month herding cats.

Even the honors students are so spoiled from “completion grading,” half of them didn’t bother to try. They realized I graded for accuracy, but didn’t seem to care. Sure, I had several star students (whom I very much appreciated), but these were HONORS classes. They were ALL supposed to be stars.

Do you know what happens when students don’t care if they have the right answer? They socialize during the lesson. At first, I thought, “Eh, they’re keeping it low. The ones who want to take notes can hear me. They have 4 days to complete the handout – they’ll figure it out.”

Apparently, I’d stumbled into some unicorn dust. It must have given me a false sense of reality. At least it was gluten-free.

Case in point, here is an example of how the students needed to fix an unclear pronoun reference:

“The wind grew stronger and the rain began. This made the campers look for shelter.”

The word “this” does not have a clear antecedent, so the sentence needs to be changed. An example of how to fix it would be, “When the wind grew stronger and the rain began, the campers looked for shelter.”

Instead, I got answers like this:

“The wind and rain make camper look for schedule.”

Seriously. Can you believe that answer came from two honors students? Why should they bother even to copy a correct answer when most teachers don’t have time to read it anyway?

And to be honest, I literally gave up my life for the month to grade for accuracy. I didn’t have time to wash dishes, make meals, or help my own kids with their homework. I barely had time to keep up with laundry.

So yes, again I found myself crying in my car.

But it wasn’t just the piles of half-hearted answers I graded, my burned out feeling came from the attitude. With the two standard English classes, if I asked them to stop the chatter because I was teaching a lesson, I usually got a sheepish smile and a “Sorry, Miss” in response. In the three honors classes, I received all the snark of an 80’s Valley Girl.

Where are the parents?

How dare I ask them to stop socializing so they can learn to analyze an educated argument? And yet, when I asked them if they planned to attend college? Most raised their hands. I doubt any college professor (or workplace boss for that matter) would accept “schedule” for “shelter” as good enough.

I don’t blame teachers who don’t grade for accuracy. It’s an impossible task to grade over 100 papers several times a week on top of all the other teacher duties. Toss in the interruption of standardized tests and retakes, and you’d cry in your car too. If I’d had an 80 student limit, I’d have been stressed, but not crying in my car. I wouldn’t have had to become passive-aggressive about constantly talking over conversations. I wouldn’t have to spend half my teaching time on classroom management.

But there aren’t enough teachers for an 80 student limit because it doesn’t pay enough for most people to justify crying in the car.

Hillsborough County once had a 1 cent sales tax to pay for a new football stadium. But I suppose education isn’t as important as football. You get what you pay for. I refuse to be miserable for so little pay.

It isn’t fair to my family.

I’d Love to Hear from You!

Are you a burned out teacher? How would you fix the system? Do you have a job where you are regularly compelled to cry in your car?

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Where Has Shea McIntosh Ford Been?!

Original image credit: Juha Flinkman, SubZone OY via Wikimedia Commons.

Original image credit: Juha Flinkman, SubZone OY via Wikimedia Commons.

I’ll be honest, I enjoyed my media fast so much, I haven’t wanted to clutter my life with it again. Hence my prolonged absences from my blog and Facebook.

But I now have other reasons for not engaging much on social media. I’ve gotten back into the classroom again as a substitute teacher. I’ve missed teaching over these last 9 years but have been waiting for Charlie to be in kindergarten before reigniting my teaching career. Since we plan on moving out of state this winter, it didn’t make sense to get re-certified here. But at least I can get my feet wet…

Well, 4 days into the job and BOOM!

And extended position is offered to me! For the entire month of October, I’ll be dusting off my skills while I teach 11th grade English. I’ve been shadowing the permanent teacher the last couple of days and I’m excited to jump back in and see if I can handle it this time now that gluten is not in my system. It will be a good experiment to tell me if I can handle it now that I’m a mom.

I’m also excited to implement the permanent teacher’s strategies. I didn’t have that kind of opportunity the first time around, and I was sort of “winging it” with the textbook.

However…

I am still writing! Still working on the historical fiction about the lifting of Prohibition. 🙂 I’ll try to get more of my Grannie’s memories ready for posting.

I also have plans for a contest that I should have done a long time ago, so be on the look out for that! 😀

In the meantime, wish me luck on my new venture!

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