The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Category: NaBloPoMo09

14/30 NaBloPoMo09 Back from Vacation

Hi. It seems like more than four days since I’ve written.  I am trying like hell to start a new novel.  I did start one in January, and I might continue it.  I’m not sure.  The fact that my father in law is in critical condition in the icu seems to be taking a front seat in my thoughts.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I am so sore, so tired, and so disoriented.  I always think that summer break is going to be relaxing.  Ha.  Ha ha.  This year is different than last year, in that we had an odd vacation – up north with my Mom rather than going somewhere touristy, and we cut the vacation short to come home.  We have been at the hospital every day, hoping that my fatherinlaw pulls through his illness.

All of this takes my focus from writing, and in fact, gives me a darn good excuse not to write.  I would use that excuse, too, if it weren’t for the fact that writing is calling to me.  It’s pulling me. Even as I know I am writing with half a heart, I must write.  It’s summer.  I have a month.  I need to get a good chunk of American Girl – Lyrics to Living Life as a Modern Mythical Creature under my belt.  I need to get these characters walking around, living, breathing, talking…mostly talking, considering my other writings…

So, guess I’ll go do that.  And if you have time, please send good thoughts and wishes to my father in law.  Thanks.  Sheila


13/30 NaBloPoMo09 Planning for Vacation

Jay and I were supposed to be gone already for vacation, but I guess I mixed up the dates and everyone thought we were going tomorrow.  It’s nice, because it gave me a little time to get some things tidied up here at home, and it gave me some time to do some research (aka dink around on the internet) about what to do up there by my parent’s place.

I might actually end up posting some pictures for a change, but I’m really not ready to make a committment to that.  Our plan so far is to leave tonight, (for all of you worried about our pets – no worries!  Allie (she of the canine persuasion) is coming with us, and Jay’s sister is staying at our house for the week to watch over the cats.  (Athena, Trot, Luci, Arun, and Phyll.)  Oh, and the fish (Quincy) should be fine, too.  🙂

Bill is happily off at Camp Courage for the umpteenth time.  He started going when he was 21, missed only one year, so this is his 45th year, I guess.  Dang. That’s a long time.  And he absolutely loves it. His only complaint is that it used to be 2 weeks, and now it’s 5 days.  And since he has 5 days, we have 5 days.  🙂

Sawyer MN, where my parents live, is near Cloquet, which is near Duluth.  Our plan so far consists of going to Jay Cooke State Park tomorrow for a program about what to do if you are lost in the woods.  We are bringing my mom and the dogs.  It should be fun.  We might also go up to Duluth to explore the Enger tower and the gardens.

On Saturday, we are going to buy these Explore Duluth passes from the Vista Cruise company.  It’s only $24, and we get to go on a 1 1/2 hour cruise, a 2 hour train ride, and we get to go to the aquarium.  We will also be having dinner (not included) at Pizza Luce, the official favorite pizza of our branch of the McMahon family.

Sunday, I guess we are pontooning and swimming at Mom and Dad’s.  Hopefully we will also get to see some of my relatives.  Other than that, we are pretty open.  Jay wants to rent bikes, which you can do at Canal Park, I like to go to Park Point, and we will explore Duluth on foot, too.

One other thing I’d like to try is this Superior White Water rafting on the St. Louis River, part of Jay Cooke State park – or just north of it? – they have white water rafting for $40 each, or we can rent a 2 person kayak for $10 an hour and explore the calm lake… I have to see what Jay wants to do.

I’ll be reporting back on whatever we find interesting.  My only fear is finding enough vegan food on vacation, but we are bringing a cooler with fake hotdogs and sausages, lots of spinach, some pasta stuff, soy milk and so on, so I’m sure we won’t starve.

12/30 NaBloPoMo09 – Harry Potter at the Drive In

I want to say something nice about the new Harry Potter movie, but I just can’t.  All I can think is, you call that a movie?  Doesn’t something have to move to qualify as a movie?  And is there some sort of shame in having color in your movie?  Does it all have to be silver and black?  Is this a 2 hour homage to the Oakland Raiders? I would rather be watching football than watch this movie.  Maybe that doesn’t sound extreme to you, but trust me, it is one of the strongest statements I can make.

Jay had the right idea – he fell asleep about 20 minutes in, and snored the whole time.  I foolishly stayed awake, thinking that something might happen.  I mean, there was a plot in the book, as I recall.  I read it – maybe it was a bit tedious, but I did.  All this seemed to be was an extended series of near-poisonings where everyone turned out to be alright.  By the time that something I dreaded happened – which I won’t divulge, in case you are one of the dozen or so people who haven’t read the book – I was just plain burned out.  The only reason I didn’t walk out on this movie is that I literally didn’t know where the exit was, and I didn’t want to turn on my headlights on the off chance that I might ruin someone’s enjoyment of the movie.

At least I got to see it at the drive in.  I haven’t been to a drive in since about the 6th grade, when I believe they had Star Wars followed by Porky’s, and the only things I remember are my dad snoring through both of them and some kid at school saying that if my family saw Porky’s at the drive in, my mom must have thrown a blanket over the whole car.

My mom did not.  But in retrospect, I’m surprised.  I wish I had had a blanket to throw over my car tonight – that or I wish I could pull the memory of that movie out of my brain with a magic wand and store it in a test tube on the shelf…no, even then I wouldn’t get my 2 hours back.

11/30 – NaBloPoMo09 I’m still learning about tags…

Hi All.

First, let me say that I don’t know if I’m going to do very well with the National Blog Posting Month in the next several days – I will be up North, and the internet connection is questionable.  So we’ll see.  Try not to cry if I don’t post for a few days.

But I wanted to write because I was just looking around at the wonders of wordpress.  I followed a link back to ‘humor’ because that is how one reader got to my page today, and while I was just looking around there, I noticed that some of the tags people put on their writing are quite odd.

In one blog, it was tagged with the following: “Just Plain Strange, humour, 80s frat party movies, batchin’ it, anal bleaching, male brazilians, lively dinner conversation, yo-yo management and small children, anal botox“.  I don’t want to put these things in my blog, but it’s an illustration.  Are there people out there entering in things like ‘lively dinner conversation’ as a search?  This is not to make fun.  THis is an honest question.

Are tags meant to be something that people can and conceivably would search for?  Or, in the case of this blog, which I didn’t read, are tags more of a warning not to bother?  I know that wouldn’t be the intention of this blogger, but that’s the function that tags served in this instance, and that I’m sure they will serve again, at least for me. What do other bloggers think?  Do you tag with phrases that won’t be searched for?  Am I missing the point somehow?  Please comment if you have thoughts on this – I promise to read at least 5 of your posts if you comment. (That’s my standard practice, anyway… 🙂  )

Another question I have is whether people put in unrelated tags just to get the hits – like, if you are a blogger, do you put in something provocative and popular and then hope people read anyway, despite their disappointment?  I’m sure that tagging up this blog with Michael Jackson and slang names of body parts would do wonders for my stats, but I would rather believe that people are actually reading…  Or I suppose I could try my hand at writing about the things that are more popular in this world rather than my own random thoughts.  But no, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my loyal readers, whoever you are.

10/30 – NaBloPoMo09 – The Fabric of Time, or Why Not To Bother Setting People Up

When you hear phrases like “Time marches on” or ‘Time waits for no man,” you might begin to think that time flows on irregardless of your needs or wants in life.

Time, though, has a mind of its own.  I can’t wait for the day that a Nobel-level physicist discovers and proves scientifically that which I know intuitively – Time is a bitchy seventh grade girl who runs the universe like Stacy F. used to run the junior high.  The question is, now that I’ve been out of 7th grade for 25 years, and have escaped the influence of that sphere, (Well, can we ever truly escape?  That’s another blog…) is it possible to escape the random and cruel influence of time on our lives?  Time doesn’t work irregardless of your needs – time figures out your individual needs and runs at a different rate just for you to mess you up.  The it sits in the back of the social studies class with the other cool kids laughs while you try to pick up the shards of your shattered aspirations.

These thoughts flow from a simple fact – I was granted an extra day today.  Time must have been looking the other way or torturing someone else for a change, because I thought today was going to be tomorrow, and boy was I surprised to find that it isn’t.  It’s Wednesday today.  If it had been Thrusday, like it will be tomorrow, I would be finishing packing for the beautiful Sawyer MN, Bill would be heading off to Camp Courage, and I would be wondering how time can go so fast.

I know I should make use of this found time, but I will probably whittle it away wondering what to do…and this is where Not Bothering To Set People Up comes in.  It takes forever to orchestrate two people meeting each other, and it never seems to be worth the effort.  I have had one, count it, one, time that I introduced a couple and it worked. So I know I can put that on my list of things not to do today.

I guess I had beginners luck that time.  Usually what happens when you set someone up is that suddenly your eyes are opened to the unattractive aspects of your friends.  And who wants to have that realization?  I don’t care if my friends are attractive or not.  I just want them to be fun to hang out with and laugh with.  Even with my found day today, there isn’t enough time to sit and pick everyone apart.

Well, that’s all I’ve got.  I hope you have a nice day and that Time doesn’t steal your lunch money.

10/30 – NaBloPoMo09 – MN Fringe Festival

Hey what’s up.  So if I am to finish this blog by midnight, I have to hustle because I have five minutes.

If you live in the Twin Cities, and you have an interest in theater, I hope that you are planning to go to the Fringe Festival.  I am excited about it this year because I am volunteering for 9 shows, which means I’m gonna get 9 free tickets to other shows.  And I love seeing lots of theater, but usually I’m too broke and or lethargic to get up and go.

There was an event tonight featuring 30 of the companies, they had 3 minutes each to convince you to come see their show.  I wish I could have gone, but I had a family obligation.  If you want to see what’s coming up with the Fringe, check out their very informative website:

I especially recommend Bard Fiction, just based on the fact that I know one of the cast members and she’s terrific.  Ok, I’m outie – sorry it’s short and a little babbly – blame it on NaBloPoMo09!

9/30 – NaBloPoMo09 Teaching in America

Howdy. So I have been asked by a Brazilian educator to write about what it’s like to teach high school in the United States.

I’ll try. I don’t think my experience is typical – I have taught Drama in Florida, Drama and Reading in Chicago, Illinois, and Drama, Reading and English in Minnesota. I worked in large schools (2,000 kids or so) for the first 6 years; one year as a substitute. The past 4 years I have worked as the only English teacher in a very small school – with an average of 75 students.

I think that if a student here knows about the different options, he would be able to find a school that suits him. Of course, that depends on where he lives, too. We have something called ‘school choice’ here, which means that if a student doesn’t want to go to their neighborhood school, he can go to another school. Usually there is transportation for those students. A lot of people have widely differing opinions about school choice – some argue that it’s great because it helps students integrate racially and stay away from situations where a poor neighborhood has a correspondingly poor neighborhood school. Others claim it is a way for white parents to send their kids to less integrated schools.  This is a very complicated and controversial topic that perhaps I will research and try to go into in more depth at a later date.

Personally, I think school choice is good if it helps students voice their opinion about their neighborhood school. If the kids get a say (with their parents) about which school they will attend, it’s almost like a vote. Competition to be a better school and attract students seems to help ensure better schools for the kids. And that’s what it should all be about.

There are some people who also think that we should be working to make sure that all high schools are offering the ‘same’ education across the country. This is not happening. Each state has standards that their Board of Education writes up and publishes, but the standards are left to local interpretation. I think this is a double edged sword. I believe strongly in ‘teacher autonomy’ – that a teacher should have the power to make decisions in the classroom for his or her students. But I wish there was some sort of a consensus, too, officially, about what might be ideal.

Now maybe I’m just belying my ignorance here, but I have never seen a national resource for curriculum that could be used at the high school level – at least not for Engish/Language Arts. Instead, it seems that I have worked to interpret the Minnesota standards on my own and implement them into a curriculum. This also leads to me repeating bits and pieces of what I was taught in high school and making up new curriculum myself. I’m fine with doing that, but I would love to be able to check myself against a true standard.

I think a lot of the problem with that is there are a lot of companies that want to write and sell curriculum. If the government put together a really good resource, I suppose they would be limiting free enterprise’s chances to make money.  Again, I think that the needs of the students should be the most important.

Well, I think I introduced some rough ideas about a lot of interrelated topics in this post.  I will try to refine my thinking and continue to write on the topic.  As always, I would love to see this turn into a discussion so if you have any comments or questions, please be sure to post them.  Sheila

8/30 – NaBloPoMo – Emotional Vertigo

I have been a do-gooder all my life.  Always wanting the best, the ideal.  Not materially, but spiritually.  I revel in good deeds, in participating in a successful endeavor that will do no less than change the world.  The next right thing is my mantra.  Joy is being useful, helping people.  I want to do good and seek out the good in others.  I want to be the first to catch a glimpse see it, coerce it out if it’s latent.  Maybe this is why I am a teacher.

Lately, I have been experiencing something strange – a confusion, a dizzying mental drag causing me to sway in my belief in humankind.  It’s as debilitating as the vertigo I used to occasionally suffer, but again, it’s spiritual and emotional.  A doctor once explained vertigo to me as a brain’s confusion between reality and its perception of reality.  If the muscles in my neck are too tense and a breeze caresses them in just the right way, my brain will believe that I am falling although I am simply standing or sitting.

Emotional vertigo, I posit, is the confusion in my brain that arises when my ideals are brushed by even the lightest hushed wind of a disappointing human reality.  When my expectations of something or someone I’ve idealized are met with non-ideal reality, my emotions swoon inside.  My elbows tingle, I mix up words as I try to speak, I weep without direct cause.

The cure for physical vertigo that has worked for me is to stretch my neck and to ice those muscles.  I am still seeking the cure for ’emotigo’ – I know that the disillusionment will not last.  Reality may not be ideal, but it’s not bad either – somehow to stretch my mental muscles and reset back to reality.  Perhaps vacation will do the trick.

6/30 – NaBloPoMo09

Everything is an advertisement lately. I was reading some advice about blogging, and the article mentioned advertising on blogs. I have never even thought about trying to advertise anything. Sometimes I talk about my novel, *still seeking representation* but I don’t consider that to be advertisement.

The author was saying that if you had enough viewers every day, say 1000, that you could get a company to place a banner on your page and they would pay you $200 a month. Weird. Perhaps I can be accused of not knowing what I’m talking about, since I have a daily average of about 5 readers – and that is a vast improvement over a couple of months ago… (thanks, you 5) but even if I had a large readership, or perhaps especially if I did, I would think that letting some corporation try to influence you to buy some crap you don’t need – or even crap that you do need – would be a let down. I would be disappointed in myself.

I hope that if you are another blogger, you will agree with me that advertising on your blog is not the way to go. I actively seek out pages that are by people who are writing for the joy of writing or because they are committed to the topic – not because they are mildly clever at embedding a bunch of key words that advertisers want you to click on.

Not everything needs to be a goddamned advertisement. That said, someday Jay will get his t-shirt printing endeavor together, and maybe I will offer his atheist themed shirts. But then it would be a cottage industry, not a corporate interest. And I would be sure to only offer shirts which would be entertaining to read in an ad… then it’s an even trade, right?

4/30 NaBloPoMo09

Writing about my thoughts today might prove to be difficult.  Recent family events have turned my mind to the process of aging as I experience the beginnings of middle age and as I watch family members.  I’d say the worst part is the pain of prolonged illness.  There is one member of my family in particular who seems to be displaying some symptoms of dementia.  A few weeks ago, I didn’t really know what dementia was.  Frankly, I still have a whole lot to learn.

Hopefully it isn’t dementia, but bouts of depression that he is suffering with.  The doctors are still figuring it out.  What I know is limited to what I have seen, but there are different moods and personality changes that concern me.  This is a person who I have gotten to know pretty well over the past decade, and we have gotten along well.  There was one time when we got into an argument over something that they said, something racist and irrational, but for the most part things have gone well.

That said, the time that we got into the argument reminds me of what we are seeing now when he is irrational and angry.  I don’t know, looking back, if that was a warning sign or if it was just how he acts when he is angry.  I don’t know about a lot of things…his wife would sometimes call and tell us to not come over because he was in a mood – she would describe him as unbearable.  I took it at face value, and none of us even began to wonder if there was something wrong.

Not all of the examples of aging that I see in my family are on such shaky ground.  My parents are doing well – they are still pretty young though.  Just thinking about what it would be like if my parents had dementia… well, it makes me automatically think of how the elderly in my family have not tended to have those kind of diseases.  Rather, we have died young of anuerisms and bronchitiosis (sp?) and other quick deaths.  Maybe that’s enough thinking about that for today.  Hope you’re well, thanks for reading.  Sheila

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