Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer 'Midst the Stacks... (of Books)

So... an update of where I'm at:

WORK: Last day of school was Tuesday the 18th. Growing up home-schooled, I never quite got the appreciation of breaks that most formally-schooled kids acquired. Yeah, we had the month of December off--because who wants to have to do school amid sledding and Christmas-themed parties? Yeah, we took a lot of trips over the summer, but those became our "breaks" merely because of the impracticality of bringing books along. If you're a kid at home, you might as well at least do math every day still. Because that's one skill you don't want to lose. (Guess what I did the minute I started college? I stopped studying math; guess what happened when I reached the end of my "general-ed" exams and still had to take the one math class required for an English major? Yeah, studying took waaay longer than it should have... but I still passed! Thank you, Mom and Dad, for not totally letting me off the hook in the summer.... I think...)
Hence, Tuesday the 18th was my FIRST "Last Day of School" EVER! I had about as much fun as the kids.
I have been working at Peter S. Ogden Elementary, located behind Vancouver Plaza (near the Mall) for 3 months--and yet I felt like I'd spent the whole year with those kids. I learned so much about how a school works (and how a commercial-sized copier works!) in those three months. I learned how enjoyable being an assistant teacher can be (the small group size really works for me!), and I learned how to reach a child's mind and hold his attention. I learned the importance of investment, and how the best method for dealing with "trouble kids" is not to just ignore them all the time, but to encourage them every day to be their very best.
There was one kindergartener in particular whom I regarded as my "daily barometer." He struggled with some very definite behavior issues, and a pronounced speech impediment, but if I could--as I walked out with his class, all lined up behind his teacher, from the classroom to the front of the school for the buses and the parents to pick up--get him all the way out there without having to reprimand him or remind him or coax him to be "Safe, Respectful, and Responsible" (known as the "3 School Rules") around the other kids (such as--but not limited to: not flailing his arms and legs to end up kicking or punching the kids around him, not swinging his backpack around, because it might hit another kid, not grabbing the backpack of the kid in front of him and jerking it--and the kid--around, etc.), it was a "Good Day." He had many Good Days, and I always enjoyed the lopsided grin I got when I could let him know that--but there seemed to be just as many Bad Days. Even so, at the end of school, as we lined up for the last time, this kid--having known me for only three months, just fifteen weeks--throws his arms around me and tells me that he'll miss me "So-so-so-so-so MUCH!" I told him honestly that I'd miss him, too. (I do already)
I am thrilled for what next year holds. Will I get to return to the same school, or will I have the same opportunity at another school? Will I have the same chance at long-term subbing? Here's hoping!

LEISURE: Back in January and February, before I became a substitute staff assistant, I was helping with an after-school tutoring program at a local homeless shelter, near the main branch of our library. I formed a habit of stopping by the library for an hour or so before tutoring, and checking out a large stack of books, and giving myself a week to finish them. I think I've read more fiction novels in the last six months than I had for the previous six years. It's been wonderful.

Something else I started doing at the beginning of the year was to create myself an account on Fanfiction.net. There were a few fanfiction stories I had already written, and I wanted to find out from other readers whether they would agree with me that the stories were actually any good. (Incidentally, that was also my reasoning behind starting this blog, the difference being that I use a pen-name for my fanfiction, and my own name for the stuff you see here) The response was overwhelming, and I received positive feedback and "favorite-ing" from Fanfiction readers around the world.
I finished my last fanfiction story very near the end of school--which meant I was ending work and constant fanfiction at about the same time, which meant I now have time to devote to my own stories.
I have one novel that needed the first 3 chapters rewritten (rewrites are the hardest; you feel like you've been over it already, but none of the characters are saying or doing quite the right thing, so you--the writer--must figure out what they're "supposed" to be doing, which is not what you envisioned them doing the first time, so what needs to be different, and how does that change the character, and do you like that change, and does it work for the character, and can you plug it back in somewhere around the point where things started going right, or does the entire thing need a complete overhaul?), one story that I very much want to develop--

Oh, and did I mention I'm also editing a novel written by a friend of mine? We connected because she is now going through the same online college program from which I graduated two years ago--same major, same passion for writing. I've started the editing process, and I really love it. She has a great story with awesome potential--and she trusts me to help her realize that potential. So not only am I writing my own stories, but I am also helping another writer with hers.

Another joint project I am doing is a sort of "Role-Play-Game-To-Novelization" with a recent acquaintance. I have a project I started during a writing slump last year, and never finished, which she is looking at with fresh eyes and similar imagination, while I, in turn, am helping her flesh out a story she's started based on an RPG she played (or is still playing) with some friends. She has the dialogue there, and it's fantastic, it just needs a bit of extra stuff in between the dialogue to make it easier to follow and to read.

So I am spending my summer 'midst stacks of books--whether they are written and published by other authors, written by me, or written by others.

LIFE: My life has been incredibly blessed so far. I took on writing the weekly bulletin for our church about November of last year, in addition to participating in the worship band twice a month, and attending a small group regularly mid-week. God has opened my heart to the teaching of His Word like never before, and I am learning to delight in His lessons day by day; I am learning that He teaches me the stuff of life, not just head-and-heart knowledge, but also the way of living and thriving and doing and being that pleases Him for me to be and do and thrive and live.
Coming home from work one day to learn that my brother was going to have a heart transplant was hard. Visiting him some weeks after the surgery (that held way more complications than it "should have") and seeing him swollen to twice his normal size was harder still. Seeing him so weak and pathetic, semiconscious and immobilized seemed almost too much--

Yet God.

Yet... God has used that word so many times in my life. Things are falling apart, I can't see the end, it's getting harder and harder to see Him, to know that He is sovereign, to know that what He has is good, even if what is happening looks bad...
God raises a finger and reminds me, "YET."

"I have not finished.... YET."

"Don't stop... YET."

"All is not lost.... YET."

"There seems to be no other way.... YET..."

I'd been through this four years ago, when I said, "I'll either be brain-dead or popping pills to keep my head from exploding for the rest of my life; no more vacations or 'normal' life for me!" and God said "YET... I have a neurosurgeon waiting for you who has specialized in your specific condition, and did you know that I arranged for him to be in the OR during this specific week, and he will know--because I will show him--exactly what problem you have and how to fix it."

I went through it again two years later when I said, "My poor little niece will grow up with terrible brain damage that was not caused by anything more than an unfortunate accident, she'll be on medication for the rest of her life, and there's no telling how much she'll never be able to do!"
And God said "YET.... I have prepared this little one just for your sister and her husband, so that they will trust Me more, and they will know the joy that I have over every little triumph of mankind, because I will give them that same joy to see the child I have given them grow, and I will give My infant daughter the strength and the will to learn and to grow--and then, because you seek Me and pray for My will to be done, and because you glorify Me in the situation, I will heal her completely."

Now, two more years later, I am in the midst of the very same situation, when I find myself saying, "God! Joe can't breathe on his own! Joe isn't even conscious most of the time! Joe's immobilized! Why did the muscles in his legs have to die? What if he can't walk at all? His heart is good, but his kidneys--why the kidneys, God? Why is the withdrawal so complicated?"
And God--still patient, still calm, still absolutely in control--tells me once again, "YET... I will give your parents a community that doesn't just say I'll pray for you, but they will take action at My prompting and they will support your parents in this hard time. YET... I will give your brother a heart suited to his body, that will not fail him when there is so much struggle in every other part of his body. It is My heart for him, the heart I have chosen for him, and it will sustain him because of the way I designed it. YET... I will provide, in the end of hope, a therapist who should not have been there on his day off, but he came because I sent him, and he will be the one to save your brother from having more drugs and insufficient remedies. YET... I will give you, My child--even you, who are not experiencing any physical difficulty, who have comparatively small responsibilities required of you, small deeds to recommend you--I will send you friends to encourage you when it seems your family is all around yet nowhere near you, when you would be lonely, I will give you the company of others who love Me, so that you will always be reminded that I am with you, and you are loved by Me."

So that's where I'm at right now: 2 novels, 1 editing project, 1 collaboration, who-knows-how-many books I will read this summer (at least 4, if you know what I mean...) 2 friends, and 1 difficult situation.......

YET GOD.

He's got my summer all mapped out.  I just need to remember that it's not over till HE says it's over!