Writing

Not a Waste of Time

As my last class of the day ended, a student of mine informed me that one of her academic teachers did not like my class. The woman’s words were, “That class is just a waste of time.”


I’m not going to lie; many snarky comments ran through my mind, and then I remembered that I teach middle school and what I say affects them. So my only response was, “that’s unfortunate.” What was truly unfortunate, aside from this woman’s thoughts towards my class, was that I’ve never had a negative interaction with her. I’ve never said anything bad about her, yet she was still trash-talking my class to the middle school students.


How wonderful is that?


What is even more unfortunate, outside a trash-talking adult, was that this adult was putting down the student. The student was discussing the upcoming project when the teacher decided to share her opinion.


After digesting my frustration, I stopped to think for a moment. I don’t believe this person understands everything my class has to offer. It’s not just a place for students to learn technical skills that can be used in a future career. It is a chance for them to express themselves where they most certainly would not have the opportunity to do so in an academic classroom.


First and foremost, video editing is no longer isolated to the broadcast world. When I was looking to switch careers, nearly all job postings asked for basic video editing skills. The main reason for this has to do with social media. Almost all companies now use social media to promote themselves. Employers are looking for people who understand design to drive business to their social media accounts, websites, or even better, their front door. So if I can instill a basic understanding of graphic design and video production into my students at a young age, I am giving them an extra building block they will need in their adult life.


If we look beyond the technical aspect of my class and at what else there is to offer, you will see how vital the arts are to all students—especially those at the middle school level where they are trying to discover themselves.


When I started at this school, I was warned not to expect much from my students. They are young, and they probably won’t be able to handle everything I expected them to do. I listened. I assessed, and I decided that everyone was completely wrong. If we constantly tell our students they can’t do something or are too young to do it, they won’t be able to do it. But if we push them and give them the tools to climb the ladder, these kids have no clue that they “shouldn’t be able to do it.”


I have a group of 11-13-year-olds shooting live to tape news productions. I spent two weeks with them, teaching them how to use the Tricaster, line producer (basic line producing but still pretty hard), along with every other job in the control room and those in the studio.


Do they mess up?

Heck yes, they do.

But do they give up?

No.

It’s not in their vocabulary.



At the beginning of the year, I had a parent who wanted to pull her daughter from my program because she was scared her daughter wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. I expressed to my guidance counselor that that particular student was fully capable of doing everything in my class. The only reason she had issues last year was she didn’t log into class until it was a quarter over and didn’t want to do the work. Five weeks into the school year, I knew if I needed to send out a student to get a news story or collect footage for a project, her hand would be one of the first to go up. She is now interested in either line producing or technical directing—two of the most challenging jobs outside of reading the newscast.


This student wasn’t my only shy student. Nearly all my classes have a handful of those who don’t want to be on camera. I get that sentiment. I hate being on camera. It’s why I’ve spent my career behind the scenes. However, I do not let my students hide. They are allowed to work through their anxieties, but they cannot succumb to their fears.


Last year, one of my strongest anchors was a boy who refused to turn on his camera at the beginning of the year. When he returned to school, he was very shy, so I tasked him with being my floor director. That meant he had to speak up and relay the messages from the control room to those in the studio. It may not have been his words, but he was finding his voice. About a month into it, one of my anchors was absent, and he asked if he could anchor. I very enthusiastically said yes. Every single student in the class was in shock. Students who had grown up with him said he barely talked. Let me tell you, that was no longer the case. His other teachers said they saw a boost in confidence that wasn’t there in his prior two years at the school.


Confidence.


Confidence is probably one of the most beneficial life-changing things that a student could take away from my program. Students gain confidence from failing while growing from their failures. I have students of all academic levels, from honor students to high functioning ESE. I hold them all to the same standards. Though I do not expect the same level of work, I expect them all to try their hardest and execute their best. Not everyone’s best will be the same. Thankfully, since I am not a core class, I know that I’m not forced to reach specific standards or pressured by a statewide test, and I have the chance to pause and work with my students.
This year my T.V. One students will be creating a 2-3 minute silent film that they have written. They will create a travel promotional project that expands their knowledge of different cultures and places worldwide. They will be making a text-based informational video about one of our 50 states, teaching themselves and classmates interesting facts they didn’t know before. The last project they will be creating is a 5 minute documentary on a topic of their choice. In making their documentary, the students learn how to research, analyze facts, and present a compelling narrative with the least bias possible.


But you know this class is a waste of time.


My second and third-year tv students are writing a 15-page script. I will be able to workshop with my students and review their work. I will be able to expand on what their ELA and Reading teachers are teaching in class. Because Lord help me, these students write like they are texting. The finished film will be about 15 minutes long. The directors, actors, crew, and basically every step of the production are under the control of the students. I am just there to help along the way when needed. Students are not only learning teamwork; they are learning time management and problem-solving skills.


Again this is a total waste of time.


This teacher was right. Students shouldn’t worry about my class. Their entire school experience should be about their core classes because those teachers can get in their standards while expanding on other necessary skills that young minds need to learn.


Or maybe people can see the value of having a well-rounded education and not judge what they do not know.

Writing

Moderna Vaccine and my body’s response

I never announced to the world that I got the vaccine back in May. To me, it was a personal decision, and it didn’t matter to anyone else. But things have changed. What I am writing some would probably consider oversharing, but it needs to be discussed. Unfortunately, discussing what goes on with a woman’s body is still taboo to many; however, it shouldn’t be. It needs to be addressed so other women who are suffering know they are not alone.


I got the Moderna vaccine a few months back. I didn’t have any strange reactions or feel like death, and I went to work the next day. I am a teacher and I spend most of my day on my feet interacting with my students. I took a risk not taking off the day after getting the vaccine, especially since some of my friends said they felt as if they had the flu or were majorly hungover. I felt fine and thought I got off lucky.
That was until a few days later when I was standing in front of my class giving a lecture, I felt this sudden sharp pain in my uterus.


A student sitting in the front said, “Mrs. Jenkins, are you okay? You look awful.”


I couldn’t answer right away. I was trying to breathe through it. I felt my insides squeezing and squeezing, and finally, it released. I finished what I was teaching and had the kids start working on their projects. The second I got someone to watch my class, I raced to the bathroom. My period arrived early, and the squeezing was pushing out an obscenely large blood clot. I spent the rest of my day teaching from my desk because things only got worse. The last time I felt pains like that, I was in a hospital, strapped up to wires, receiving an epidural. The blood flow was excessive, and I went through all my emergency products. This lasted five days, and then everything dried up as if I never had my period at all.


This was not my typical period, but I wrote it off thinking my body was just freaking out from the first vaccine shot.


I ended up having an OB-GYN appointment scheduled the day before my second shot. She seemed concerned but said I should just drink extra water, take a few vitamins because the vaccine pulls them from your system, and lay off the caffeine. She said I should be fine with the second shot.


I got the shot, and my period arrived early again. It was another rager repeating the same hell as the first shot. I figured this had to be a reaction to the shot, but now I was getting dizzy. The dizziness did not come with the first cycle. Again, I wrote this off as my body reacting to the vaccine, and everything will be fine come my third cycle where the vaccine will have been in my body long enough that things should be more regular.


That was not the case.


My third cycle followed the same as the first, but the dizziness was worse. Every single day I woke up, I felt as if I took sleeping pills the night before. I was dizzy, and I never felt fully awake. Aside from my dizzy spells, my blood was different. It was so thick that I could have sworn it was corn syrup. It was disgusting.
I have an appointment with my OB-GYN next week. I need to figure out what’s going on with my body.
I have started to do research and have seen other women having complications. I personally know women whose cycles have changed. Their cramps remind them of labor pains. One woman, who did not know I was having issues, discussed how she was getting pubic bone pain, the same pains she experienced during the final months of her pregnancy.


More women need to come forward. More women need to discuss what’s going on with their bodies so it can be documented.


We matter.


What’s going on with our bodies matter and should be studied.


I am not saying don’t get the vaccine, but I am asking you to do your research.
Be aware of what might happen to you.


Weigh the risks.

Writing

Writing update

I just wanted to give an update on everything!


I have been working on two new short stories while teaching full-time. It’s exhausting. However, after spending years with Maggie and Liam creating new worlds has been the break I needed.


I felt stuck writing Ravenmaster Part two. I was frustrated with everything I wrote; nothing was making me happy. I knew I had to step away from those characters and bring to life new ones, giving me the chance to breathe.


I was right.


My first attempt at a new short story was messy. It has taken a lot of work to clean up those five pages, but now I don’t dislike the story I’ve written. I am almost comfortable with releasing it and hope to have it out shortly.


My second story, that one I am having fun with. I am eight pages in and nowhere near stopping. It’s about a side character named Molly. I created her a decade ago. She’s fun and full of life, and it’ll give the readers her back story as to why she becomes a broken shell of her former self.


I can’t wait to release both of them and write a few more blogs as the school year wraps up.


I’ve also changed where you can purchase Ravenmaster. From now and until July 8th, maybe longer depending on how things go, you can only pick up Ravenmaster on Amazon. That means that Ravenmaster is a part of kindle unlimited, and I was able to set a special sales date.


From May 11th to May 18th, you can own an electronic copy of Ravenmaster for just .99 cents! I thought it was worth seeing what happens with the price change.


That’s all for now. Happy reading!

Writing

For the love of food

I hate cooking. I look at my food and think if I don’t eat, I’ll turn into a hangry beast that no one wants to be around. Sometimes I wonder if Hangry Alex could eat a human. I wouldn’t put it past her. I’m not entirely sure where my deep-seated hatred of cooking comes from. My grandmother was a great cook, and so is my mother, but anytime they asked me to help out in the kitchen, I would either watch, steal whatever I could to nibble on, or help my dad fix whatever was broken around the house.


I used to think my disdain for cooking came from my negative outlook on food. Before I found out I had celiac, eating was painful. Eat, get sick, repeat. It makes sense why I find no joy in preparing food that makes me ill. But even after all the doctors finally figured out I had spent a lifetime poisoning myself, I still hated cooking.


No one ever explained that the most challenging part of being an adult was figuring out what you were going to cook–every day–for the rest of your life.


I now understand why so many people just eat out.


Unfortunately, I do not have the means for such a lifestyle, plus having celiac and eating out is risky. The only choice was to adult up and make dinner.


In college, it wasn’t that hard because I ate whatever I wanted. A loaf of bread and a pound of asparagus? Sure. Chicken wings that have lived in the fridge for so long that I didn’t remember ever ordering them– Go ahead, They’re fine. I’d destroy a pint of ice cream, along with my stomach and the noses of anyone sitting next to me the following day. Not my problem. Sadly I no longer have an indestructible 20 year old’s stomach. Now in my mid-30s, just reading about my dietary choices makes my body hurt.


Not only do I need to be careful about what I consume, but I also have two little people I care for. I now need to start crafting the same healthy meals my mom did for my brother and me. Only I don’t have the same love for food that she does. I wonder if my kids can taste it? I know I can. It’s like there’s a missing ingredient.
I do not like planning meals. Grocery hunting is already a chore, and searching for the substitutes I need to make my meals g-free just makes things worse. I get resentful for having an autoimmune disease and being forced to abstain from so many foods other people take for granted. But worst of all is the feeling of isolation from my family while I’m cooking. My kids run around having fun while I’m trapped in my closed-off kitchen, hidden from them by walls. Pre-pandemic, my husband would be walking through the door the moment dinner was finished.


Because of the lockdown, my husband no longer commutes to work every day during rush hour. Since he started working from home, he has been helping me in the kitchen by planning out the menu for the week, finding new flavors to explore, and different methods of preparing our food. What I saw as a chore he found immensely pleasurable, and quickly our roles began to shift.


I became his sous-chef, dicing, prepping, making sure everything was ready for him to cook while he took the lead on the meats and sauces. Food started to taste different. Maybe it was the love he put into his cooking. We started food shopping together to gather all of our ingredients and a million other things we shouldn’t be eating but would snack on once the kids were in bed, and shopping no longer felt like a chore. Cooking was now something I got to do with my best friend.


About three months ago, my husband talked with his mom, and she told him she had signed up with Hello Fresh, the meal-kit delivery service. I’m not going to lie; we were skeptical about the idea of food being shipped to us in a box that wasn’t pizza. Our recent cooking collabs made us very discerning about the quality of our ingredients, especially our meats. We weren’t looking for prepackaged, ready-to-eat dishes, but his mother assured us the meals were nothing of the sort. It was literally a box of ingredients.


I did like the idea of avoiding the store where we constantly got suckered into buying things we didn’t need. But I still had questions like, would they offer enough variety? Or were the vegetables going to be fresh? We pulled up the site and went through the recipes. That alone had me ready to sign up. There were so many things we would never have tried, primarily due to one offshoot ingredient that would be too expensive to experiment with randomly. What finally sold me and made us both agree to give it a try was the price. We’d be saving a lot of money and time.


When our first box arrived, the first thing we noticed was how they conveniently organized everything. There were brown bags labeled with each meal’s name that held all the produce, spices, and starches. The meat was kept separate, which was much appreciated. I always keep my produce and meat separate in the fridge in case of leaks. Next was planning the order of our meals for the week. I liked knowing that everything was already there, and I wouldn’t have to run to Publix in the middle of cooking because an ingredient I thought I had was missing.


Having the recipe cards has improved our timing, so the side dishes and entree get completed simultaneously. It has all the steps like a standard recipe and has detailed instructions on when to start making the side dishes, so you don’t get overwhelmed or confused. My daughter, who will be 4 in a few months, likes the cards because they have pictures alongside the directions. She mainly uses the pictures to tell me why she won’t want dinner and instead will need a “peanut butter with bread.” She still gets dinner, but I can’t fault her for trying.


After making our first Hello Fresh meal, I realized two things. When my husband plates food, it looks like the picture and the proportions were smaller than what we were used to. Though there are four of us in our family, I tended to prepare enough food for dinner plus three days of leftovers and still have some for the freezer. It took food delivery in a box for me to finally master cooking proper meal proportions. This meant less food waste, and for that, I am forever grateful. But the downside of appropriate proportioning is the lack of extra noms. Let me tell you; these meals are sooooooooooofuckinggood.


Meals like

  • Balsamic Fig Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Mixed Greens
  • Sweet ‘N’ Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Apple Carrot Slaw, Mashed Potatoes & Cherry Sauce
  • Beef Bulgogi Meatballs with Roasted Carrots, Ginger Rice & Sriracha Crema
  • Chicken Sausage, Kale & Sweet Potato Soup.

tend to make me want 2nds and 3rds. They have the kind of flavor that makes you want to overeat and regret it the next day. But that’s not an option.


One evening night, while we were cooking, my husband turned to me and said, “You know this is my favorite part of the night.”

I was confused. “What is?”

“This, us cooking together. We get to talk about our day and spend quality time with each other.”

I felt my face flush, and I kissed him. When I went back to chopping onions, I thought about what he said. Just a year ago, I had dreaded making dinner. The planning, shopping, and chopping alone in the kitchen isolated from my loved ones was an unwelcome but necessary chore. However, now I get excited when a new box arrives. We plan our meals out as far as it would let us go that sometimes I forget what we’ve ordered but know no matter what, they will be delicious. Thanks to the magically little box, what was once the worst part of my day has become my favorite nightly routine.

Writing

A Whole New World…Teaching

I’ve tried to write this post at least once each month since I left the news world and jumped into teaching, but every time I did, I didn’t feel like I’d spent enough time in my new position. With spring break only 12 days away and the end of my first year of teaching nearly over, I feel beyond qualified to write out my feelings about being an educator.


I remember when I gave my notice to CBS12 and told everyone I would teach middle school. The responses were all the same, “Good luck!” Middle school was hard for most people, and middle schoolers weren’t the most manageable group to deal with… Or at least that’s what we all thought, myself included.


But as I stare down spring break, I can reassure you that I was wrong.


Middle schoolers aren’t much different from the adults I have dealt with in the production world. The drama that fuels their young lives is easily on par with the adults I’ve worked with on stage or in a newsroom. A decade in the creative world has prepared me well enough to handle nearly 100 students and their wide range of emotions.


I thought figuring out what to teach would be the most challenging part of my first year. So far, that has been the easiest. Watching how the students digest information, what they pick up on or not, has been amazing. Who knew that middle schoolers would be able to shoot a “live to tape” newscast after only a few weeks of training and routing schedules?


My husband says I have high expectations of children. I expect them to be little adults and fully grasp everything I throw at them. By having this high expectation, I’ve challenged my students. When I started teaching, I knew how many of them wanted to switch out of my program. It wasn’t because of me but because of how unhappy they were with the previous teacher and how she ran her class. They all quickly learned I was not like their former teacher, and soon I found out that students were trying to return or switch to my program.


That felt amazing, mostly because I’ve been winging it the whole time. I have set forth goals for them to reach, and when I see them wavering on an exercise, I readjust everything to help them focus on their weaknesses. I want them to grow and learn but at the same time have fun.


I try to remember the different projects I did in my high school T.V. production class. They were great. All those projects taught me how to work creatively and face challenges, and because of them, I felt years ahead of some of my college classmates. My goal is to have my students feel just as comfortable walking into their high school T.V. production program as I did going into college. I want them to have all the tools at their fingertips while learning to work in a new studio.


I wish this was where teaching ended. I got the lesson planning stuff under wraps. Projects are getting easier to sort out. But what isn’t easy are all the other things that teachers are to their students. Depending on the relationship you develop with your students, you might become the person they turn to when they are in trouble or just need to vent. I have become that with quite a few students, and you’re dealing with a crapfest of emotions in middle school. Everyone is learning how to human all over again.


It’s like watching my two-year-old daughter learn how to express her emotions without words. But for middle schoolers, these emotions are nuclear bombs. Everything is the end of the world, and it’s probably because their hormones are out of whack. They are learning how to deal with the influx of insanity in their brains. Nothing prepared me for is how dangerous these three years can be for a child’s psyche.


I know the signs of depression and self-harm all too personally. I’ve lost friends to suicide. I have adult friends with scars up and down their bodies.


These signs aren’t always easy for parents and teachers to see. But as teachers, we see the students more than their parents sometimes. I know in my class, students create things that expose their emotions without even realizing it. I’ve watched them change from happy kids to slowly slipping into dark places, and their projects scream their mental state. When I see this, I reach out to my students. I try to see how they are doing? If there is any way, I can help them while they are present in my class or on campus. Sometimes all they are looking for is someone to relate to or just listen to them vent about what’s going on at home.


It’s hard not to take things personally. It’s hard to know that you can’t take away their pain or explain that all of this won’t matter in just a few short years. The bullies won’t matter. Stress about testing will be gone, and they are free to live their lives. College isn’t a must. There are so many options for living their lives, but most can’t see past tomorrow.


I know I will always be hypervigilant when it comes to my students. I’d rather be known as the teacher who worried about her students’ emotional welling being as well as their academic success, opposed to the one that was too busy to care about more than just grades.

Writing

No Social Media During Lent

On February 16th, Tuesday evening, I decided to give up all social media for lent. I created a cute little picture, set up a few auto-posts, and deleted everything but messengers from my phone. My husband laughed when I told him what I was doing. He asked, “are you sure you can go 40 days without your obsessive need to stalk everyone online?” Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could.


When I was in bed, I think I picked up my phone at least a dozen times and absently went to where the Facebook and Instagram icons used to be. I couldn’t figure out why I was doing it other than what I did before bed. This left me with a few options: put down the phone and read, remember how to scroll through the internet without any guidance from other people’s opinions, or message a few friends I knew were still awake. I chose to read, which meant I stayed up way longer than I planned, but I went to sleep without feeling any negativity.


The next few days were the same. Pick up the phone, run on autopilot, search for social media crap. I think it took until Monday the 22nd before I really broke the habit. It was around that time my friends started reaching out to me. They were asking if I kept messenger or got rid of it too. Obviously, I wasn’t getting rid of messenger. Messaging is kind of ingrained into my being. I grew up in the ’90s with AIM, MSN messenger, and text messages. I celebrated the day my mom finally got unlimited messaging on our cell phone plan. To me, messenger apps and texting are the same. Internet-based messaging apps are super necessary for my ability to communicate. I have zero bars at work and need to contact my husband if something happens with our kids. Also, I need to bug him throughout his day.


As the days progressed, I started noticing a change. Not only was I spending less time with my phone in my hand, but emotionally I felt better. I wasn’t getting hit in the face every single day for hours at a time with negative thoughts. I wasn’t watching other people live their lives or go on adventures that just weren’t in the cards for me. My FOMO started fading. It’s hard to have a fear of missing out when you don’t know what you’re missing out on.


Another significant change I noticed was how much more I was communicating with people. Before, if I missed a friend, I would just scroll through their pictures and see what they were up to. I felt like that was enough. They looked happy. They posted pictures of their kids and travels. I felt as if I was up to date on their lives, and I didn’t need to reach out. But now, I don’t have that ability to peek in on people’s lives.
Ending my voyeurism left me with no other choice but to reach out to my family and friends. My conversations became stronger because I could no longer assume what was going on in their lives. I actually had to ask questions and be present within the conversation. I also noticed that I was even missing my friends. I wanted to know what they were up to. I wanted to engage with them in ways that I wasn’t doing before when I was satisfied just watching whatever they shared on social media.


I am now three weeks into my 40-day social media sabbatical, and I’m not sure if I’ll go back. I don’t have the same urges holding me hostage. Writing this out has helped me see how addicted I had become to the machine when I’m not one to be addicted to anything. Usually, if I feel forced to do anything, I do the opposite, and the opposite of living is social media.


I have to figure out a new way to share pictures of my kids with my family who live out of state, but that’s the least of my worries. I still want to be able to share my writing with as many people as possible. That means I’ll probably log into browsers from time to time and share blog posts or updates on my writing, but that doesn’t require apps to be on my phone. Leaving everything on a computer will give me the separation I need, especially when I’m too lazy to get off the couch and find my laptop.

Writing

Publishing Errors and Fighting Dyslexia

All my life, I have been fighting dyslexia. I have lived under its shadow, and l let it control my life for far too long. The fear is understandable. Though I am fully capable of creating worlds and developing stories, what I have written can be very hard to understand without someone editing my work. My brain loves to twist words and create nonsensical sentences leaving my first, second, and what feels like my tenth draft needing to be decoded by the reader. I wish I could write down everything and push it through as fast as some other authors. But that’s not the case. I know my reality is not the same as others.


When I finished Ravenmaster, I was excited. I had spent years rewriting, decoding, and polishing up my story. I had more than a few people beta read it, and still, things slipped past my readers and my editor and made it into publication. I should have done what I tell my students to do. READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD! I know better, but I was too excited to get my story out and into people’s hands. This has now made my greatest fear come true. People are reading my mistakes. I am that self-published author with errors.


I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try out Grammarly. Probably because I felt with enough human eyes on my work, they would be able to catch it all. I mean, we are the pokemon generation, after all. But that was not the case. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw things that were missed. They were minor but downright embarrassing. I bet those who purchased the book we’re annoyed. I was annoyed for them.


I am currently working through the last errors sprinkled throughout my book and plan on resubmitting everything by the weekend. I wish it was easy to agree with everything the machine tells me is wrong, but it doesn’t work that way. I have to double-check that it isn’t’ changing my voice or recreating my characters. But at least I will be able to be proud of my work again.


It may seem crazy that I haven’t pulled my book. I don’t plan on it. I’m still proud of myself for getting over every single fear that I had when it came to publishing it. I was scared that people wouldn’t like my story, and thankfully that isn’t the case. I’ve had many readers reach out asking when the second one will be released. Now, if only they would leave a review on whatever platform they purchased it on… and life would be perfect. My errors live in the 1st edition of Ravenmaster. I’m going to hide from it. I will learn from my mistakes and grow. That’s all I can do.


Until then, happy reading, everyone 🙂

Writing

Why I probably should never give blood again

Today when I left to pick up my lunch Tyler, my husband, said, awesome, I’ll get my lunch when you get back.


However, when I got to my destination, I saw the big red bus, I’ve seen it around lately, but I always had my kids with me. So I thought, “Perfect, I can donate blood since Adelyn was with Tyler.”


Unfortunately, it took longer than I had planned. But I figured what the hell, I’m already here, and I saw him on the ring leave to pick up food.


Once it was my turn, a woman wrapped a stretchy tourniquet around my arm and vigorously rubbed the little alcohol pad where she was going to stick me with a needle. Before she inserted the needle, she gave me a little blood drop to squeeze. First, she drew about six vials of blood for testing, and when that was complete, she clamped off the line. She attached a new line with multiple bags attached to the end. My blood flowed quickly into all the bags; I spent three times longer waiting to give blood than I did actually giving blood. When I was finished, she asked me how I felt, and I answered honestly, I didn’t feel dizzy; everything seemed fine. Feeling perfectly normal, I stood up, grabbed my purse, and said goodbye to the women operating the bus. I had to walk down three little steps to leave, and I did so without tripping, which would be a success any day, not just on one where I gave blood.


The big red bus was an icebox, and it was far warmer outside. There have been times where the temperature change has affected me, but I felt fine, so I walked across the parking lot to pick up the food I ordered while giving blood.


This is where things go downhill.


The cashier tells me that she doesn’t have my order, but as I’m listening to her, I start to feel my head sweat; I think shit, this is not good. I pull out my phone from my purse and show her my order. For some reason, I put my phone back in my purse, or at least I think I did. I don’t really remember. But in those seconds, my vision starts to go black, and all I can think is shit, shit, shit, I need to sit down before I faint. Usually, I can stop the fainting spell if I get close to the ground.


I’m not sure if I ever really answered her or if I passed out because the next thing I know, her coworker, Sergio, is holding me and freaking out. I don’t blame him. It seems I went head first towards their register. Thankfully he caught me before I actually hit anything. I don’t know how long I was out, or maybe people moved quicker when freaked out, but when I came to the girl I was speaking with already called 911, and the ambulance was on their way.

Sergio helped me to a bench that some had pulled away from a wall. The moment my butt hit the seat, he asked me if I was okay. I told him, “Yes, I just need to eat something.” The female cashier handed me lemonade. I know that’s a little dangerous because she doesn’t know if I had any food allergies, but in reality, it was the best thing for me because every time my head started spinning again, I took a drink, and the sugar made me feel better. Unfortunately, the dispatcher told her to take it away from me, and she did. The room kind of spun again, so I laid down, knowing it would stop the spinning. Another customer looks over at me and informs me that I should sit up because it is not good to lay down after fainting. Not having the energy to argue, I sat up and saw the ambulance lights in the glass door. I wanted to tell him that I’d faint way too many times before, and I needed to lay down to stop the world from spinning.


I was utterly embarrassed that there were like five or six EMTs walking in with a stretcher. I understand seeing someone faint is scary, but for me, it is normal. Unfortunately, I fainted in a restaurant which meant they HAD to call the ambulance for insurance purposes. The EMTs informed me that I couldn’t walk out, and I had to get on the stretcher. Honestly, it was far more embarrassing being wheeled out to an ambulance than it was fainting in public.


Being in the ambulance was overwhelming. It was a very tiny space, and all five or six EMTs were surrounding me. They were constantly talking, and it was confusing trying to figure out if they were talking to me or about me. Two of them had these enormous gray masks that made me feel like I was in a horror movie and was the next patient zero. To get my vitals, they hooked me up to all these wires. It was absurd. I know they were doing their job, but I was getting angry, and they were getting between me and food. Soon one of the younger ones started asking me questions, “Who’s the former president?” He asked, and my snippy self answered, “he’s still president until January.” I guess that counted for them because I got a few laughs. The last cognitive question was “What year is it?” to which I answered “2020” and gestured to the fact I was sitting in an ambulance. Everything on their machines said what I knew. I was fine. But I knew this. I could feel myself getting better drinking the lemonade. I just needed to get sugar in me, but they still insisted I should go to the hospital.


I refused.


I didn’t want to pay the bill for them to tell me I didn’t eat enough before I got my blood taken. An older EMT came in and told me he’s worried because fainting isn’t normal, which is kind of is if you don’t eat enough and give blood, but it’s also normal for me outside donating. He told me they were worried it might happen again. I’m not sure if I told him this or kept it in my head, but I was like, “yeeeees, it probably will. I keep telling you that.” I remember telling some of them that I’ve been called a fainting goat before because I often do it.

Eventually, I convinced them that I was not going to the hospital. I felt like I was getting snappy, but at this point, I was hangry. I really hope I wasn’t getting pissy, but I can’t be held accountable for what I say when I’m hungry. Finally, they say they would release me if my husband came to get me. I didn’t want to call him. After finding out I was fine, he was annoyed that I made a bad decision to donate blood when I hadn’t eaten in a while because I knew better. I explained to him that he had to get me, and he told me that they should take me to the hospital since I was making bad decisions and driving him crazy. I half think the EMTs thought about doing it.


While we waited for him, I talked to the two EMTs still in the back with me. I told them having so many people in one little spot was intense; I was certain I had fewer people in the room with me when I was in labor. He said, “Yeah, that’s the luxury of a hospital and the controlled environment. Usually, when they got a fainting call, it wasn’t as easy as this.”


Which I get, we live in an area full of old people. These EMTs were super nice but young. It was weird. I felt old the moment they told me when they graduated high school. I kept telling them that they made me feel old, and when I told them that I was 34, they both said I didn’t look 34, which is great, but what do people think 34 looks like?!? I really think the more we talked, the more comfortable they were with me going home. At least I hope they were since I am fine and finally got to eat my lunch. But you would never know by how many little sticker things I kept pulling off of me. I felt like they were trying to turn me into a cyborg.

To the PBG Fire Rescue Team, thank you for handling my hangry dizzy self with care and respect. You all are wonderful. And Sergio, thank you for catching me when I tried to dive face-first into your register.

Writing

Ravenmaster: A labor of love and torment

Writing Ravenmaster was the second most challenging thing I’ve done in the last four years.

The first was giving birth, though some days, the hardships of keeping my tiny human alive and juggling the word circus of my inner thoughts felt interchangeable. This overwhelming feeling would especially manifest when I would get bogged down with writer’s block or, worse so, self-doubt.

I would stare at the blank pages trying to force out the words with the same frustration I sometimes faced gazing at my infant daughter. I’d be near tears asking her, “What do you need? You have a fresh diaper. You’ve eaten and have been burped. Why are you still crying?” Most of the time, cuddles would fix all her problems, and I learned that I needed to be more gentle with myself through dealing with her.


Ravenmaster began its life as a short story, but as Margaret developed, I fell in love with her and couldn’t stop writing more. The short story became a three-parter, became a novella, became a force that haunted my nightmares. I told myself that I would have plenty of time to polish it off after the baby was born, and my cravings for movie theater nacho cheese subsided. Well, I was wrong. As with myself, my daughter, and my Chiweenie, I discovered that my perceived time was also short. During pregnancy, if I wasn’t at work, I was sleeping. Even the simple act of finding time to write was an adventure in itself. I would steal time away while I was at work, hiding my word document behind adobe pro or on my phone, only half paying attention to what was going on in the control room. When my husband was occupied playing video games, I would use the break from vomiting stomach bile to vomiting a few words onto the keyboard. There were times that I wrote while exhausted, which I should still be apologizing to my editor (and sending him gifts) for trying to decode. But no matter, I pushed through, and I continued to write.


I wrote and wrote and rewrote the story countless times, never satisfied with the result, but inching closer with each revision. I drove my husband insane, saying it was almost done because it was ALMOST done, just for the better part of 2 years. I asked him a few times if he wanted to read it since he’s read everything else I’ve written, but this time he said, “No. Not until you’re done.” So, I stopped asking. There were days when I would veg out watching the baby sleep, and he’d come in and whisper, “Is it done yet?” because he’s evil, and he knows things, and I love him, and he was right. I would groan. Sometimes I would pop open my laptop, an ancient beast born from the days before Instagram and TikTok, and take my frustration out on the white, glowing screen, and other times I would just shamelessly cuddle my baby.


When I finally began to like how the story was progressing, I started to bug my best friend/ ruthless editor to review my work. I stole more hours from him than I’d care to admit, but it was worth it. His notes strengthened my story, and he decoded my hyper dyslexia into something literate people can actually read and understand.


Though Ravenmaster took longer than I wanted, this book unexpectedly became a mental time capsule for me. Every time I would go back and rework certain scenes, I would be reminded of the stages of my daughter’s life; belly time where she would try to stretch out and see what I was writing, crawling and chasing after me to get her little hands on my keyboard, standing at my desk peering up at the black letters on the screen she could not yet read, and finally getting fast enough on her feet to run away forcing me off my butt to give chase.


Just as I watched my daughter struggle from a wiggly mass of goodness into a wild princess storming the playground under her rule, my experience with Ravenmaster has allowed me to crawl from my shell, hop out of the nest, and spread my wings as a writer.

Writing

Imposter Syndrome: Acknowledging the problem and embracing the change

I’ve been dealing with the effects of the imposter syndrome for the last few years, and the closer I get to finishing my novella, the stronger it becomes. While I was going through the last of my notes, I had to fight the urge to delete everything. I hated it, all of it. Instead of destroying my work, I knew I had to escape. I finally took a moment to step away from myself and went to the beach.


Since the ocean ate the beach, I watched my daughter run up and down the sand dunes, leaving nowhere else to go. The wind blew through our hair, and the salt stuck to our faces. We ran away from the waves as they crashed on the shore. She grabbed sticks and waved them in the air shouting nonsense at the birds trying to fly by, and not once did I think about who would care.


I wish I had the same sense of freedom when I wrote.


I don’t know when I started to give in to my fears instead of sharing everything I wrote. It wouldn’t matter how long or how short the stories would be. I’d post them to my website, tweet them and post them on Reddit, not giving a second thought what anyone would say.


Now I do. I rethink everything I write. I start short stories and abandoned them fifteen pages deep. I have gotten so bad that I delete the document leaving me no chance to revisit them. To be perfectly honest, I am highly annoyed and disappointed with myself. I would stare at my keyboard, lamenting over writer’s block, blaming it for the lack of fresh ideas when it was only me shooting myself in the foot.


On Monday, I started a new short story. I was excited that I busted out three pages without second-guessing myself. But as the week has progressed, I began to get mad at myself. The words started coming slower and slower, and I wasn’t hitting the word count I could make in the past.


That’s when I realized I had to let go. I had to stop comparing myself with who I was years ago. I used to have time to lay on the couch and spend hours creating a world for people who don’t exist. Now I find myself spending most of my time thinking about two little ones and what we’re going to do next, do we have to go to the doctors, did we forget about a school project, is it going to rain canceling park time leaving me blindsided on an inside activity.


It’s overwhelming.


Exhausting.


I’m not the same writer I used to be, and I have to accept that things have changed. The ideas might come slowly, but they are still coming. There’s no faking creativity. I have to remember to embrace the process. Even if it’s uncomfortable at the moment. Eventually, it’ll become familiar and feel right.
If not… there’s always the ocean to remind me to be free.