Another Teaser?

joey-teaser-2

From The Self Destruction of Joey Martin.  Coming November 2013.  Add it to your To-Read list on Goodreads!

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Depression sucks, obvs.

So, this is a hard topic for me to discuss (much less share with the entire Interwebs – what possessed me?!), and normally I keep these things to myself, so bear with me here…

Ahem.

I suffer from depression.  I have since I was a kid, although it wasn’t diagnosed or treated until I was in my early twenties.  Even though at various points throughout my life it seems to have gone away, it often rears its ugly head at the most unexpected times.

Like today.  I went to the doctor (a new doctor) for a routine physical and blood work.  I’d asked them to check my thyroid antibodies, because three of my five siblings have them and are on medication for it.  Five minutes into my conversation with this new doc, I’m in tears describing my history of giant weight fluctuation and yo-yo dieting, and my struggle to lose and maintain weight loss.  Thus, wanting to have my thyroid checked out.  Having been honest when filling out my medical history sheet, I had circled my past depression.  So, after witnessing my apparent emotional distress, he asked if I’d ever been treated for depression.  Yes, I told him, years ago I was on Lexipro, but because of all the other issues going on at the time, I couldn’t remember if it helped with my weight issues or not.  Long story short: he prescribed an antidepressant.

So when I got home, I started looking through photos on my Facebook account (isn’t it nice how it serves as archival research?) to see if I could try to remember whether my weight gains/losses have coincided with any of these major depression swings I’ve had throughout the years.

Now, let me preface this next part… I’m not a photogenic person.  Never have been.  If you don’t believe me, I can get my mom to show you some very embarrassing Christmas photos that involve a perm and horrible sweatpants.  But for the sake of documentation and self-reflection (or over-analysis), I’m going to share some images of myself over the years.  While I’ve always, ALWAYS, been on the plump side of “normal,” you will see that there is a big difference between normal-Me and heavy-Me, but never once has there been a skinny-Me.  I’m also including my weights.  Like, the real ones.  Sigh… this is going to hurt.

Chronic Depression Timeline

First up, Senior year of high school (2001).  I’m seated with a white shirt on.  Approx 170-180 lbs.  I was moderately athletic, having played softball most of my life, but always struggled with my weight.

me2001

This one is around 2002 or 2003.  I was in college, and I’d lost some weight for my first wedding.  Approx 160 lbs. This is the smallest I can ever remember being as an adult.

me2003-4

Now, we’re coming on the first major gain (2005-7)… I had been married for about 2-3 years and was very unhappy with many aspects of my life.  Approx. 230-240 lbs.  Obviously, there aren’t many pictures from that time frame.kids2007

The summer I decided to get divorced (2007), I went into a spiraling depression.  I rarely ate and I slept about 18 hours of the day.  I’m a teacher, and it was summer, and I had very few friends who weren’t associated with my ex.  I spent the entire summer in pajamas and ate primarily cereal, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and Gatorade.  I probably consumed less than 700 calories a day.  By the end of that summer, I was approx 170-180 lbs.  That’s a 40-50 pound loss in one summer.  NOT healthy.  But I can’t say I hated the results…

me2008

This one is around summer 2008, I’d made friends who were single and was able to maintain my weightloss from the 2007 summer-from-Hell.  Can you believe I felt like I was grossly obese in this picture?  Still approx 170-180 lbs.

me2009

This is my 26th birthday (January, 2009).  Relatively had maintained my weight for two years.  Still hanging around 180 lbs.

me2006

Aaaaand…. this one hurts.  A lot.  By this point (summer 2010), I had moved in with my boyfriend, a fantastic, supportive man who loves me no matter what, and who later became my husband.  So what happened? I had just moved from Florida to Texas – basically friendless again (Morgan, in the photo, is one of the first friends I met when I moved to Texas). Also, I was between jobs, having left the charter school I was teaching at because it was literally the worst teaching job EVER (but that’s another post).  So: stress from previous work environment, then lack of work altogether, job hunting, etc…. and here I am back up to about 240 lbs… in just a few months, I gained over 50 lbs through binge “comfort” eating and being mostly sedentary.

me2011  –

And it hasn’t gotten much better.  This is my 29th birthday (January, 2012).  Still hovering at 240 lbs.  Life in general evened out.  I found a job (which I’m still at, and still love), and hubs and I got married.  I was making friends and living again.  Life was/is pretty good.

me2012

And, most recently, with my husband in March, 2013 – still 240 lbs. give or take a few.

me2013

My Depression is Not Like Your Depression

I suppose it’s says something that I’ve hovered around the same weight for the past 2-3 years… No crushing depression swings that have caused me to stop eating and sleep more hours than I’m awake… But the depression that is still there makes it hard for me to lose weight. I’m often fatigued and lethargic, finding it hard to get motivated to put the work into losing weight.  When I do get motivated, I do really well for a few months, then something will come up (an illness, or some other factor that impedes my routine) and after that, I find it hard to get back into it.

Many people who know me well are shocked when they find out I’m suffering from depression and have been for years.  Outwardly, I have it pretty much “together.”  I’m optimistic and outgoing.  I joke around a lot and am fun to be around.  I come across as pretty self-confident, even at my heavier weight.  Not typically what people think of when they hear “depression.”  But what most people aren’t aware of are my triggers.  Certain topics arise (weight, primarily) that will almost bring me to my knees with feelings of inadequacy and frustration.  Sometimes these triggers come from my subconscious, and sometimes from conversations – very much like the one I had with my doctor this morning.  I think I’ve adapted by being able to project my “up” side even when, in my mind, the “down” side is winning.

Treatment

Tomorrow, I’ll start on my prescribed Wellbutrin.  I’m also going to commit to some eating changes, and I’m going to put a motivational poster on the refrigerator.  And I’m going to get back to the gym.  The  meds can take up to three weeks to level out my mood, so I’m not going to do anything drastic until I know how I’ll react and what side effects I’ll have.

In the past, I’ve gone to counseling, which I recommend that anyone suffering from depression try.  What I’ve found, however, is that because I’m a very insightful and analytical person in general, counseling doesn’t do for me what it does for others.  I find that meditation and writing/journaling are a better fit for me, so I’m also going to work on doing more of that.

Another symptom that I’ve noticed, now that I’m really digging into the root of the problem here, is that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time reading over the past year.  I’ve always loved to read, and there’s never been a time when I didn’t read, but I think it’s almost become an escape for me.  Now, hindsight is always 20/20 and all that, so I do (now) think I’m using it as a way to avoid the problems, even though I’ve always been able to justify it because it’s not, like, crack or anything.  We could possibly call it my “drug” of choice.  I’m not saying that I’m going to give it up, but I am going to try to spend more time doing other things.
What I’m getting at here, folks, is that sometimes prescription drugs alone just aren’t enough of a treatment.  At least, they aren’t for me.  They take care of the chemical imbalance while you’re on them, but they don’t cure the underlying causes.  Not everybody has an extensively on-going depression like mine has been.  I don’t know if I could’ve done anything to “cure” it in the past, or if I can even “cure” it now… nor do I know if I’ll always struggle with it.  Based on my history, and my parents’ history, I’m guessing that I probably will.  But there’s always hope, right?

Ok, enough rambling… This post, while scathingly personal, is something of a starting point that I can look back at later to self-reflect.  While putting it out there for the public is, for me, the equivalent of posting nekkid pics, I want anyone who’s made it this far in the post that I’m not looking for your sympathy, pity, etc.  Encouragement would be nice and I’d love to hear your struggles, but commentary on what I should/should not do/eat/try or whatever is unwanted.  Thank you all, dear Lovelies, for your support.

Here’s the Manifesto I’m putting up on my fridge for encouragement.

manifesto

Why good teachers quit teaching

Today, my step-brother, who is a high school English teacher, told me he was thinking about leaving the profession. That his reasons for wanting to leave are a lack of support from administration and the new grading policies that make it almost impossible to fail kids who do nothing and are never in class.

What bothers me most is that he is not only a fantastic teacher, but that he is one of the few teachers left who refuses to lower his standards just because administrators, the district, and society tell him he should. This is why good teachers quit teaching.

Now, when this change in attitude occurs, it’s not always a quick, emotional knee-jerk reaction. Typically, it builds over time from a fizzle to a spark. By the time it’s a full-blown bonfire, one of two things will happen. 1) Said teacher will continue to remain in the profession, but since his/her passion no longer drives them, they are now submissive to the “system” and are ineffective teachers. Or, 2) the teacher leaves for another profession, taking with them a distaste for education.

Those negative feelings result in a lot of talk about the downfall of education, and their stories of bad teaching experiences are shared with people who are outside the education field. It’s one things when non-educators speak this way of our profession, but yet another entirely when it’s one of our own (or former) colleagues.

How do we fix it? Well, by now, it’s too late to change my step-brother’s distaste for education. This is a top-down problem, and the solution must be top-down as well. If superintendents and administrators aren’t willing to budge on restrictive grading policies or refuse to provide the support teachers need (and deserve) in and out of their classrooms, then we, as teachers, must stand together.

Most of us would agree that we’re not in it for the money, but society perceives that when we stand against the injustices of our profession that we are upset about wages. Because that’s what most working adults complain about. Unfortunately, society won’t change it’s perceptions of us on their own. We have to help them along. By standing up for ourselves, united, and with the determination of a people who have only the best for our students at heart.

Show me an administrator with a backbone, and I’ll show you a school in which teachers enjoy their jobs and students are learning.

Book Update!! (among other things)

So, my debut novel, The Self-Destruction of Joey Martin, is due out in the fall.  This week, I’ve been busy working with the FABULOUS Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations on the cover design  (yeah, she works with authors like Coleen Hoover and Abbi Glines… ACK! *fangirling*) and on writing the cover blurb.  I’m so excited to see what she comes up with!  Should be ready in June, and I’ll post it here as soon as I get it.  :)

Here’s the Blurb:

“Seventeen-year-old Joey Martin knows all about loss.  His absentee father left when he was two.  He was there when his mother died.  He lost most of his friends when he was forced to move away from Texas, and he lost his soccer scholarship.  When cute-but-nerdy Jenna Maxwell is assigned as his partner for a class project, Joey does everything he can to keep her at a distance.  And now, when he’s got nothing left to lose, Jenna just may be the one to save him from himself.”

In other news, I only have one more week of school for this school year, and then it’s summertime.  This has probably been one of the most mentally and emotionally draining years since I began teaching.  I feel like I’ve had more “special cases” kids this year, and  I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have been part of their lives – even for such a brief time.

I leave you today with a powerful message from Shane Koyczan: “Instructions for a Bad Day.”  (Although, I sincerely hope you’re all having GOOD days.)

“Every child needs a Champion”

This video, which I’ve now shared with all of my co-workers, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers, moved me so much, that I want to share it with the rest of the world as well.  Rita Pearson, long-time educator, discusses the impact that building relationships with students has on their lives.  Teachers who care truly are champions for their students.

 

Let’s Discuss AD(H)D

I have an issue I’d like to get your opinions on… I’ve had a handful of students over the years with diagnosed ADD or ADHD (okay… more than a handful…).  I know there’s a lot of concern in the education world right now about overidentification of students with ADD/ADHD.  For a while, it seemed like every kid had it and that parents knew what doctor to take their kid to to get him/her put on Ritalin.  My district has recently put some stricter mandates in place to keep this from causing us to have so many Special Ed. students who qualify only for this Other Health Impairment (OHI), and that should help with the overwhelming number of these kiddos receiving Special Ed. services when a 504 placement would suffice.  But that’s not the issue that concerns me today…

What I want to hear your thoughts on are students who probably have AD(H)D, but whose parents either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  As a teacher, I’ve witnessed many cases over the years of students who I knew were on medication and how they function with and without it.  I have had students who refused to take their medicine for a day or two, and once the effects wore off, they were an entirely different child.  While I understand that many parents are fearful of over-medicating or needless medicating, I can testify to the fact that some people in this world NEED these medicines.  And if the parent is averse to medications in general, how about trying to find other ways to help the child be successful?

Some studies suggest changes in diet can help

I have seen both extremes: 1) a student who needs it, but can’t get it or won’t use it, and 2) students who have such high doses that they become zombies.

At what point does it become parental neglect to allow your student to be unable to progress academically because he/she cannot focus in class?

Hear me correctly… this is not the “woe is me” frustrated teacher rant that you may hear elsewhere.  This is genuine concern for students.  I’ve seen kids get so frustrated while trying to learn with severe and untreated cases of AD(H)D.  I’ve had parents tell me that they don’t see a problem at home, so the problem must be at school and we should fix it.  Which means the child suffers.

Teachers need as much support from home as possible.  We understand that parents are busy and that the problems at home may not be the same as the ones we face at school.  And we know that there are other things going on in your lives.  But, for your child’s sake, take the time to work WITH the school to find a way for your student to be successful.

So, what are your thoughts on this?  Have you had an related experiences as a teacher, as a child or as a parent?

Lol, txt me l8r. Slash language rocks

So, being an English teacher, and having studied grammar a LOT in high school and college, I have a soft spot for it. There have been days in class that I’ve gone off on ranting tangents about why my students are killing me with their use of “txt talk” in essays or short stories.

As it turns out, I’ve been wrong. I know, right?! Me? Wrong?! LOL….

Here, watch this…

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/1718

So, you see… As readers, writers and teachers, English teachers especially, while we have a passionate affection for our beloved language, we cannot be so profane in our hatred of the emergence of what is an ever-changing, ever-evolving organism… Language.

Sequels, Spin-offs, and Other Such Disasters (Part 2)

Good morning, friends!

Today, let’s talk about the fine art of the Spin-off novel.  In case you’ve been hiding under a rock since the 70’s, a spin-off is a novel that takes a character or subplot from another novel and creates a new story around it.  The most classic example I can think of for this would be the Star Trek novels.  In 1967, Bantam began publishing adaptations of the original TV series written by James Blish.  Since then, if you go to Amazon and search “Star Trek Books,” about 11,000 titles appear from a ton of different authors (I lost count at 100-something).  Talk about milking it!  Star Trek has a huge fan base from the 70’s, as well as new Trekkies who come aboard all the time.  I have 15-year-old students who saw the most recent Star Wars movie and have been hooked.

#trekkie #fangirling

More recently, however, novel spin-offs happen on a smaller scale, but achieve the same result of “milking it.”  Some of the most famous and current Indie examples are Abbi Glines’ Sea Breeze series, Kristen Proby’s With Me Series, and Olivia Cunnings’ Sinners on Tour and One Night With Sole Regret series.   What we see with most of these is a tertiary character from a novel who becomes the main character of another novel.

sea breeze Collage

While I definitely prefer an unplanned or unexpected spin-off to an unplanned sequel, I definitely think there are some general guidelines that can make or break the effectiveness (and sales) of such a book.

1.  Let it Stand Alone.

If you want your Spin-off series to be successful, then each novel in the series should possess the ability to be read as a stand-alone novel.  Your readers shouldn’t have to stress over which one came first, or have to read that one in order to understand the current one.  This allows you to spend less time covering back story or refreshing our memories.  Creating each novel as a stand-alone helps it feel less like a sequel and more like a new novel.

foreveralone

2.  Let it Be Original

If it feels too much like the same storyline (same conflict, same resolution) as the other books in the series, then it won’t hold the same appeal as the first.  Right now, especially on the Indie Romance scene, it can feel like Groundhog’s Day.  If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all, so to speak.  As a reader, I’m always on the hunt for those gems that stand out just a little bit.  Olivia Cunning hooked me with the bisexual spin in her most recent book in the Sinners on Tour series.  Abbi Glines is not so good at the shockingly different plot, however.  Most of her books seem to follow the same plot recipe, but where she hooks me is with the characterization.  All Most of her virginal/innocent female protagonists are different enough (or have different enough backgrounds) to be interesting.

3.  Let Them Be Bad

One of the best pieces of writing adv

ice I’ve ever received was: “Don’t be afraid to let your characters make very bad choices.”  If ever there was a great spin-off plot, it began with a tertiary character, in his or her own story, made a seriously big mistake.  The master of big mistakes, in my opinion, is A.L. Jackson.  Her characters not only suffer for years from their mistakes, but she spins such a dark tale that we suffer right along with her characters.  While many of her novels are stand alone, they could easily have spin-offs, which I would gladly read.  More to the point, what I’d like to see in a really good Spin-off is the Bad Guy/Girl from another book in the series as a protagonist.  Emily Giffin touched on this a little bit with her Something Blue, but I wouldn’t have really called Darcy an antagonist (although she was annoying as hell).

4.  Leave the Past Behind

In a successful spin off, we don’t need to hear or see the characters from the other books unless they are vital to the current plot.  My students read the Bluford High books a lot (as they are high-interest/low-reading level), and in those we see many of the same characters that carry over, but only when necessary to keep consistency.  If in one book character X is in character Y’s math class, then he/she should be there in the next book as well, unless it’s a new school year.  The same applies to adult fiction.  I don’t want to hear all about Rush and Blair in Abbi Glines’ spin-off of Woods in Twisted Perfection, and so far (I’m halfway in at the moment) I have only heard Rush mentioned once.  Thank you, Abbi!

Obama approves.

5.  If It Ain’t Broke…

There are a bunch of spin-off/adaptations/sequels out there based on Pride and Prejudice.  Unless you have something truly unique (like ZOMBIES) to add to the plot, then leave it alone.  (But you can always add ZOMBIES… because… ZOMBIES!)