Embracing My Creativity by Deidra Dallas

I know. I have not kept my promises to myself to post a new blog at least once a month. I mean, really -- how hard is that? Once a month. Actually, my goal should be once a week, but I was realistic with my goal setting and settled on once a month. And I couldn’t even keep that up. 

It’s not that I didn’t want to. I actually have a list of blog ideas. They’re already basically outlined and ready to type. I literally just had to sit down and write them out. 

I even had a friend message me to tell me how much he enjoyed my writing and that he was looking forward to when my next post would be written. I had no idea that this meant anything to anybody besides me, and I was so, so touched. It inspired me. I have an actual audience. I need to write for them!

But I didn’t. I meant to. I wanted to. But I didn’t.

I’ll be honest. I was freaking out about money. 

I’ve talked before about how I have a penchant to be obnoxiously over-planned about all aspects of everything. I think through every scenario for every situation and have an agenda, three alternatives taking into account variables seen and unseen, and an emergency plan in place before I even start on an activity. 

I both love and hate this about myself. The feeling of order and calm all of that planning gives me is one of my favorite feelings. The inability to think about anything besides all of the planning is one of my least favorite. 

It’s something I struggle with a lot (clearly because I’ve written about it before). And it’s something I’ve been struggling with over the past few months because, let me tell you, the coffers were running low at the Dallas house. Not exceptionally low -- see all the planning discussion above -- but low enough that my emergency plan was about to have to kick in, and I hate having to resort to the emergency plan. That means four other plans have fallen through. That’s not okay for my brain.

So I refocused, took stock, and planned again. I found alternatives to supplement my bank account, and I went after them with gusto. The problem was, I had no brain space for anything else, especially writing. Creative free-thinking goes out the window when I’m in planning mode.

What wound up happening is my schedule was packed from morning to night. I was driving a ridiculous amount of time to get to one source of income and my day was carved into tiny segments from hopping back and forth to two other sources of income. By the time I got home, I just wanted to binge watch Gilmore Girls for the fifth time to numb my tired brain (and because Gilmore Girls is exceptional). 

But, then my best friend told me something that made me re-evaluate. (She has a knack for that.)

“If you’re spending all this time working and you don’t have any time to write, you might as well just teach so you can have a steady paycheck that’s more than $10 an hour.”

Oh, right.

See, my problem is, I have a hard time making writing my job. It should be. That is my goal. But actually prioritizing it when it’s not currently making me money is tough. But, my best friend is right. (She has a knack for that, too.)

So, I scaled back at the same time that some things fell into place that allowed me to scale back without stressing. I have to plan a little differently throughout the month in terms of paying bills, but I’m pretty good at the planning thing, so that’s not that big of a deal.

Now, I have to force myself to turn writing into a job. In other words, I have to plan to write, something I was not doing before. (I know. I’m as shocked as you are.) 

Since life is funny and timing is often fortuitous, this book Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day just came out. It also was not a plan -- I didn’t even realize it was being published. But I saw it on social media one day and bought it on a whim.

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Guys. I cannot stress enough how awesome this book is.

Embrace Your Weird is a self-help/workbook that encourages you to actively work on your creativity and to prioritize your personal needs aka working creatively. Felicia (I’ve read her book, so that makes us first name friends now) shares her own thoughts about how scary and stressful but overall soul nurturing this process is, and it’s just such a comfort. 

I’m only three chapters in, and I don’t work on it everyday, but it’s helping me take some baby steps to thinking differently about writing. It seems silly that I have to teach myself to think differently about something I’ve been doing for 25 years and that I literally have a college degree in, but...I do. Because I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. Perfection is way overrated. 

(That’s my new mantra -- working on convincing the planning side of my brain that it’s true. We’re getting there.)


Check out Felicia Day’s book(s) here: http://www.feliciadaybook.com/

A Case for Re-Reading by Deidra Dallas

I am an avid reader. Like I assume is the case with most avid readers, I am also an avid re-reader. Don’t get me wrong, falling in love with a new book is a joy that cannot be properly encapsulated into words. Falling in love with a new author is even more joyous. There is something mysterious and heartwarming and awe inspiring about new books.

The Little House series were the first books I remember LOVING. (Bold and italics and capitals 100% used for full effect there.) They were all that I had never realized books could be. I reveled in deciphering the words and discovering for myself this story of Laura, her Pa and Ma, and her sisters. 

There is something mysterious and heartwarming and awe inspiring about new books.

But then they were over, and there was no more Little House, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. How could they just be over? Finishing a book is more heartbreaking than almost anything I’ve ever encountered (unless it’s finishing a book series). It’s like simultaneously having to attend the funeral of/go through a breakup with 20 people. 

The only way to soothe yourself is to lose yourself in other books, books like Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter and hundreds and hundreds of others. I could not begin to tally for you the number of books I have consumed in my life. I have studied and read and re-read until I’m sure the number of minutes I have spent with a book in my nose far outnumbers the total number of minutes I have done just about anything else. 

Re-reading is the other way I have found to soothe myself after finishing a much loved book or series. I find on the re-read I discover new character traits and motivations or little turns of phrases I never noticed before. Re-reading allows me to re-experience what I first loved in a whole new way.

In my literature courses, I was taught to re-read -- you read something the first time for the content and then after that you read it to analyze. Society, though, has taught me that re-reading is something of which I should be ashamed. If you Google, you will find dozens upon dozens of articles which claim that re-reading is a waste of your brain space and that you should be expanding your mind by experiencing new things, new authors, new themes, new characters. 

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They aren’t wrong, but I can’t seem to stop either. Often, I re-read when I am in need of an escape. I may be stressed or sad or just plain tired and I don’t have brain space to consume or understand something new, so I turn to old friends. 

I have re-read Little House and Harry Potter and Anne I couldn’t tell you how many times. Harry I have read annually for the last 20 plus years and I wrote extensive research papers on them in grad school. I can practically recite them. 

This year I decided upon a new re-reading method -- audiobooks. I have a weird thing with audiobooks -- I can only listen to books I have previously read. I find that my mind tends to wander when I’m listening instead of actively engaged in reading and so only if I know the book can I pick up the threads of the story again when I have mentally wandered while listening. Naturally, then, I began with Harry Potter. Next, I took up Anne

And here’s the funny thing. I love the first three books, always have. I am head over heels in love with Gilbert Blythe, and I have no qualms about admitting that publicly. The next four books, with the exception of Anne’s House of Dreams, have considerably less Gilbert, and 6 and 7 even have considerably less Anne. I enjoy the stories, but I do not love them. 

The final book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside, I must admit I have suffered through when I have tried to read it in the past. The World War I theme was interesting, but it was so far outside the world of Anne (which is admittedly the point) that as a young person, I felt no connection to the story or the characters. Rilla Blythe irritated me, and I desperately yearned for more of Anne and Gilbert’s thoughts on the horror of seeing their sons march off to war instead of their live-in Susan Baker’s. So, upon my listen, I fully expected to feel the same. 

Re-reading allows me to re-experience what I first loved in a whole new way.

But, here’s what happened -- I sobbed like a baby while hearing this particular story read aloud. 

I never once had shed a tear when it came to any of the Anne series (excepting Matthew’s death). But this time when Jem left Dog Monday at the train station, when Rilla read Walter’s last letter home before his death, when little Bruce drowned his kitten in hopes that the sacrifice would bring Jem home, and particularly when Little Dog Monday greeted his returning soldier at the end of the war, I could not contain my tears. 

And they weren’t just tears. I did that particular kind of cry where you are trying not to cry too loudly and so you are making this horribly odd sucking sound in the back of your throat while tears stream down your face. I still have not figured out why. 

Why this time -- this tenth or eleventh time that I am reliving this story -- why did it affect me so much? Was it just hearing it instead of reading it? But no, many, many books that I have read for myself have made me cry. I admit that listening gave it a different kind of poignancy, but I do not think that was it. 

I think I’m...older. I’ve grown up since the last time I read this book, and although the protagonist is a 15 year old girl at the beginning of the war and I was much closer to 15 the first time I followed her story, I can understand at 31 what I could not understand at 15. The tragedy of life, the fear of the possibility of this kind of war repeating itself again, the unforgettable knowledge that death is permanent and infects everyone -- all of that is real to me now. 

I used to think that I would only find growth by reading new things, writing new things, experiencing new things. This is not false -- the path to adulthood is paved with new things, and I rejoice in finding and learning them. But when you experience new things, you grow and change, you become new again, which means you can never look at your old life exactly the same way. You don’t relive the past, I would never suggest that, you just learn to look at past experiences differently and they color how you handle the future. 

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Or to borrow a Rilla quote, “It's strange - isn't it - They have been two terrible years - and yet I have a queer feeling of thankfulness for them - as if they had brought me something very precious in all their pain. I wouldn't want to go back and be the girl I was two years ago not even if I could. Not that I think I've made any wonderful progress - but I'm not quite the selfish frivolous little doll I was then. I suppose I had a soul then...but I didn't know it. I know it now - and that is worth a great deal - worth all the suffering of the past few years.” 

My soul, spirit, inner self, whatever you’d like to call it, had never had to do much growing. In the last 5 years, though, it has grown a lot -- and it hurt. A lot. But, I wouldn’t trade it. Maybe it wasn’t World War I, but it was something, and because of it I have a whole new outlook.

So, I no longer feel guilty for indulging in a little re-read now and again, for everything old is made new again when we come at it with new eyes, a new life. I guess, in a way, we aren’t ever really re-reading. We’re simply getting the pleasure of reading a story for the first time again with our fresh souls. It is truly one of the most wonderfully mysterious, heart warming, and awe inspiring experiences one could ever imagine.

Perfection vs. Process by Deidra Dallas

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On a recent trip, I found the magnet pictured here:

As soon as I saw it, although it was not clearly a souvenir of the city I was visiting, I knew I had to buy it for my older brother because it so perfectly encapsulated us

If you know me, you’ll know that I am a meticulous planner. Obnoxiously so. For an event happening three weeks in advance, I will already have a detailed timeline and to-do list prepared. If you tell me to be somewhere on the hour, I will start pacing in my house 30 minutes prior because I’ve been ready since the hour before and have run out of things to do to occupy my time so I don’t arrive an hour early. (Early is on time, after all.)

My brother and I both have this same gene. When my grandmother died two years ago, I called him at 2:00am to let him know, and we immediately began multiple lists, organized by person and activity so that we had a game plan we could attack as soon as he arrived in Texas. 

This type of planning calms us. It allows us to be in control of situations so that we can be assured we won’t have to stress about things going wrong. In fact, we have already planned out all of the worst case scenarios so that we know exactly what we will do in case of something unexpectedly going awry. We were stage managers of theatrical productions for a reason.

I know this irritates a lot of people. I have driven many a colleague to distraction requesting their extra-curricular schedule for the entire year so that I could plan my activities around theirs. (I was just trying to be considerate so all kids could participate in all things!) My best friend often chooses not to fill me in on all the details, just because she thinks it’s good for me not to have everything planned out to the second in my life. (I do not like admitting that she’s probably correct…)

But here’s the thing that is super baffling -- I’m not that way when I write. I never have been. Creative, academic, whatever kind of writing you can think about, I don’t pre-plan it. 

I despise outlines. DESPISE. Whenever I was assigned an outline in school, I would write my paper first and then go back and fill in the outline. I understand the concept of them -- I taught them to my own students. But my brain doesn’t work that way when it comes to writing. 

Instead, you would find me eating lunch alone in the cafeteria at college with a far off look in my eyes while I talked to myself and all of the reading I had filed away in my head. I doodled a very informal outline on napkins or the edges of notebooks, but you would never catch me willingly using Roman numerals to organize information. 

Art isn’t about precision or perfection.

I had forgotten that I am this way when I write creatively, since it has been so long since I’ve attempted the task. I have been languishing a little on my novel, and it wasn’t until I re-plotted the whole thing that I realized why. 

I was trying waaaaaaaay to hard to make my characters do what I wanted them to do. They had other agendas. Sure, I have a rough outline because how else would I keep track of what exactly this novel is supposed to be about? But I have had to make myself let go of sticking to it precisely. 

Because art isn’t about precision or perfection. Art is about the release of raw emotion and thought. Art is about giving yourself over to all of the scary things in your head and letting them drive the wheel for a little bit. Art is about getting over yourself. 

So, my best friend will be very glad to hear that I am learning to let go of a little control. Just a little. I do still have a white board with a plot diagram meticulously filled out sitting beside me, but I don’t let it dictate how many chapters I have to have. 

I let the unexpected happen. I trust the process. I’ll work on perfection in proofreading. 

An Accidental Prose Poem by Deidra Dallas

I have nothing much important to say tonight except to share that I feel perfectly at peace.

I am sitting in my living room lit only by a candle in an old wine bottle with a gigantic wooden wick that is throwing off just enough light for me to see to write. The familiar feel of the pen sliding smoothly across paper, homemade paper that fills the leather journal I sometimes spill my thoughts into, is essentially all that is guiding my hand.

It is dusk, and very nearly dark, so just the faintest of blue light is peeking through the windows. It will be a navy blue soon and then just the candle or the muscle memory of pen across paper won’t be enough to see.

It is enough light for dreaming though.

The road noise of passing cars and the occasional eighteen wheeler mingles with the sound of the candle popping, the light bouncing off the wick and into a larger circle against the wall. In the back room, my dogs occasionally readjust themselves, nails clicking on tile, breaths coming out in relaxed huffs of contentment.

This is the music of my house. It is soft, calming. Sometimes it is too quiet, and I crank it up with singing or television. I skate through the house pretending I am a ballerina or a company member in a Broadway play. Sometimes my dogs and I are characters in movies and television shows, inserting ourselves into storylines as we binge the latest episodes of a myriad of shows or become enthralled again in the dystopian universe of The Hunger Games.

But just now this near silence is the perfect sound for dreaming.

Tonight I am also perfectly alone. I have not spoken aloud, nor have I been spoken to in hours. Nobody else’s thoughts or actions have infringed upon my own. I have not even conversed via text messaging.

Not every night is like this. Some nights I long to hear my best friend’s laughing children or the sounds my mother makes while she is cleaning the kitchen after a family meal. Sometimes I need to sit in perfect silence with my best friend, our feet propped up on the porch railing outside her house with just the light from the dim string of lights she has decoratively draped on the small table that holds our coffee.

But tonight, I am lonely -- the perfect kind of lonely for dreaming.

This quiet, this dark, this loneliness is what I crave. I do not wish for anything different than to hear the sputter of my candle mixed with the whir of tires on asphalt outside my window. I have no desire for sight beyond the circle cast onto the wall of my living room from my candle. I want no one here to sit beside me and interrupt my dreaming.

My dreams of Paris -- visiting Gertrude Stein’s house and walking the same cobbled streets she and Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Picasso once strode.

Of England and the grave of Anne Boleyn, the birthplace of Shakespeare, the home of Austen and so many other castles and homes and pubs and schools I cannot possibly begin to name them all, but I can feel their names echoing in my soul.

Dreams of my home being filled with all the people I can only imagine -- Anne Shirley and Hermione Granger, the crew of the Firefly, Mr. Darcy and Jon Snow. They sit quietly with me in my darkening living room, sharing a laugh at some inside joke and asking nothing more from me other than to continue dreaming them into existence.

There are other characters; characters I alone have dreamed. I spend time with them in the quiet, too, asking them questions about their hopes and regrets so that I can encase their souls in ink.

My dreams are silly, illogical, fanciful. But all I wish for this evening is to continue sitting here, enveloped now in the navy of the night with only the flicker of the candlelight to illuminate and fill the silence. And my pen. Always my pen.

So I have nothing much important to say tonight except that I am perfectly at peace. And I hope beyond anything I could ever hope for in this world that you know peace as I know peace alone in my home. And that you find it, often.

Which perhaps is, in fact, something terribly important to say.

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The Guts to Get Out by Deidra Dallas

I meant to post this on Saturday, but then this happened:

All is mostly well. Several homes were lost (not mine, just to be clear), the baseball field is destroyed, and there was some damage to the track and a whole bunch of junk blown around. No serious injuries and no deaths, so we escaped relatively unscathed. Still scary and life changing for people near and dear to me though.

So because of that, graduation got moved to Sunday and then the older brother flew back home Sunday and then best friend and I decided to be healthy and do some exercising and then I had to watch the Game of Thrones finale so the Internet wouldn’t ruin it for me and then I sang at the junior high awards assembly and then… well, a few days late is better than I’ve been doing, so I’m gonna take it.

But anyway, read this knowing it should have been posted Saturday.


Today is the day I had the guts to get out.

Today marks the official one year anniversary of resigning my position as a teacher. Or to quote my best friend’s mother-in-law, today is the day I had the guts to get out. It has been a year that has felt simultaneously as if it contained about 15 years in one and also as if it was maybe just the longest month of my life. Everything has changed and yet nothing feels different. It is an extraordinarily exhilarating and confusing feeling.

I have been asked by many people if I regret leaving. I always laugh and cut them off before they can even finish the question. No. Never.

There have been moments I have missed it. Watching the kids I’ve known since they were little bitty perform in their last ever musical or One Act Play, I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. (I’m sorry, daughter of mine, for sobbing on your shoulder that one time, and thank you for letting me.) However, I do not regret my decision to leave.

Over the last year, I have changed more than just my profession, though, and so I thought I’d share some other things that have changed or that I’ve learned about myself in the last 12 months because who doesn’t love a list?

Top 12 Things that Have Changed in the Last 12 Months

  1. I can admit that I was depressed (sometimes still am because depression doesn’t just go away) and that I have at least a mild case of anxiety. It has lessened since I removed myself from situations that caused it to flare up.

  2. I am not angry as often. I am not stressed. I can breathe freely. Seriously -- I don’t hyperventilate anymore and I haven’t had a panic attack in months.

  3. I am not afraid to be with my own thoughts anymore. I no longer need to drown myself out with Netflix. I can read (something I hadn’t done in awhile) or, more importantly, I can just sit and think. There is power in just sitting and thinking.

  4. I don’t drink as much as I used to, and I eat better. My body is not 100% yet, but it’s getting there. I knew that mental and physical health were tied together, but I never really knew until now because now I actually want to take care of myself -- I have a craving for it.

  5. I’ve stopped involving myself in drama and with dramatic people because I don’t need the distraction of their lives anymore. (I also don’t see teenagers on a daily basis, which helps, love them as I do. And I deleted Snapchat. I highly recommend deleting Snapchat.)

  6. I’ve learned and am still learning to say “No,” even to my own family, which is hard. So incredibly hard. But I’m done with obligation, and it is definitely okay to say no.

  7. I cry more easily because I’m not bottling everything up anymore. Movies, TV shows, books, plays -- they make me sob. In public. A lot.

  8. I love traveling alone. I also like traveling with my dad and with my older brother and with the rest of our family. Traveling is no longer an escape from life, it is a driving force in my life. I am working towards visiting all 50 states. I’m over halfway there.

  9. I don’t want children. Maybe I will again someday, but to quote the older brother -- I just got free again; why would I want to change that? I love being an aunt, and I’m good with just that role.

  10. I love being alone. I am sick of people (including myself) trying to stop me from being alone. I do not need someone to complete me whether that’s a partner or children. I am not a whole person only when I have become a wife and a mother. I am a whole person right now.  

  11. I am better at things than I give myself credit. I don’t give myself nearly enough credit, still. Luckily, I have a best friend who tells people I am working on a novel when I gloss over that fact. Feels funny still to say “I am a writer,” especially since I don’t yet have any proof. But then again, it’s not really about proving it to anyone besides myself.

  12. I feel more like myself than I have in over 10 years.

Yeah, that last one was kind of sappy and I do despise sap, but I really needed a 12th one to make the whole idea here work, soooooo…

I am a whole person right now.

I've been busy... by Deidra Dallas

It has been four months since I’ve written. Specifically since I’ve written a blog, but essentially since I’ve written at all. Sure, I’ve done the odd journal entry here or there; I’ve done some editing, but I haven’t written since I was on PEI.

This is not good, guys.

But, to use the same excuse everyone uses to explain away everything they should be doing but don’t: I’ve been busy.

When I came back from PEI, I jumped right back into the school world. It was, as I like to call it, contest month. I assisted with the hosting of the UIL Concert and Sightreading contest (because my bff is the band director, and that’s what you do for bffs). A couple weeks later, we both helped host and run the UIL One Act Play contest (because I love OAP contests and I could help reduce stress for both my bff and the new theatre director). Our final hosting gigs were three track meets where we kept score tallies/organized medals (because bff’s husband is a coach...and we’re friends with all the coaches).

On top of that, we were also helping my best friend’s mom direct the 4th and 5th grade musical (an annual tradition we have been apart of for many years because the fine arts department in our district is a united front from elementary up through high school). This one I do for several reasons. 1) I love theatre 2) I love teaching theatre, especially to little kids 3) Best Friend’s daughter was in the musical 4) Best Friend’s mom thought she didn’t know what she was doing and was desperate for help. (Spoiler alert: she 100% knows what she’s doing, but if we could help ease her mind a little, we were there for it).

My obsession with baseball is second only to my obsession with books (and maybe also Tudor period England, but we can group that one with books).

On top of all that, it was baseball season. Those of you who know me know that my obsession with baseball is second only to my obsession with books (and maybe also Tudor period England, but we can group that one with books). I am incredibly lucky in that the baseball coach is my friend, and he understands my baseball obsession in a way that maybe nobody besides my brother who is also a baseball coach does. And so, he asked me to do all of the pre-game announcements for home games, and I also wound up being in charge of the official pitch count and music between innings and sometimes the scoreboard. (FYI, doing all of those jobs at once is super hard, but it can be done albeit with a lot of cussing and anxious hair pulling.)

Here’s the other thing about this particular baseball season -- my friend is following in my footsteps and leaving the teaching field at the end of this year. And people have been awful to him about it because people apparently can’t stand it when you make choices to take care of yourself instead of others.

So he got blamed for everything. Because he was leaving he suddenly didn’t care about coaching a sport about which he is very passionate. (Totally logical, right?) I wish I could have recorded him on the field to use as proof to all the naysayers that he did in fact care about winning games and that his heart was 100% invested. You don’t jump around in both agony and excitement after every hit and spend hours after a game going over every play in detail with your friend who obsesses about baseball if you’re not there for those kids.

But I digress. What it all boils down to is that on top of my official duties, my other job at baseball games -- self assigned -- was to protect my friend and be there to support him when not many others would.

Lastly on the friend front, one of my very favorite people made it to state in OAP. Actually, a lot of my very favorite people made it to state in OAP, but this person in particular asked me to come down to be with him as part of his family and team. I couldn’t refuse. I got to hang out with people I get to see maybe once a year, watched brilliant theatrical productions, and was there for my friend and his kids to celebrate the beautiful art they created. (Side note: I don’t normally cry during plays -- his made me UGLY cry.)

ALSO, both of my brothers are moving back home. We’ve been house hunting so many times I feel like I’ve seen the inside of every house in our town, and I’ve edited so many resumes and cover letters and provided insight on job interviews and helped set up countless meetings with colleagues that I can hardly see straight. I am excited about this change and glad to help my brothers with anything, but it has been quite a lot.

(Have you found the trend to my busy schedule yet?)

I also have had some very exciting news on the job front. For about a month I did some freelance work with an online curriculum company in an attempt to help get several of their courses officially approved by the Texas State Board of Education. That was immensely time consuming and at times mind numbing, but more than anything, hugely satisfying. It is the perfect use of my experience combined with my need to work from home. I still have a passion for education and good teaching. It is a learned passion, but it is a passion nonetheless. To be able to assist a company who makes exquisite curriculum get that curriculum in the hands of more teachers is one of the more rewarding jobs I could think of.

When that month was up, I began grading essays for state standardized tests. Now, this has not been hugely satisfying; however, it has been hugely enlightening. Reading through hundreds of essays I have been reminded how damn difficult it is to be a teacher. The combination of a flawed test and kids who don’t read (and so can’t write well) and teachers who are so desperate for their kids to pass the test they teach strictly to the test and so cannot teach good writing is painful to see.

I have spent the last four months being there for my people, which is something I will never not do.

So these past four months have been busy, and I haven’t written. Because these past four months have been full of the things I desperately love: Fine arts. Baseball. Educational tools that actually work. Brainstorming ways to improve the education we provide to students. I have spent the last four months reveling in my passions (that just so happen to be housed around high school children). More importantly, I have spent the last four months being there for my people, which is something I will never not do.

I haven’t quite been there for myself though. I have made money -- which is a super important thing I needed to do. I have reinforced my friendships and family bonds -- another super important thing. But I have not written, and that is problematic.

So, my vow to myself. As soon as I finish grading these essays (and after the older brother from Washington gets done with his visit this weekend), I am taking time again. I might disappear to another state. I could just hole up in my house. But you probably won’t see me for a few weeks. Because I have to get back to writing. I have missed it. I had forgotten what that felt like, but having had it on the forefront so recently and then to lose it again -- man, that’s been rough.

I will work on this balancing act -- me, my friends, family, money. I will work on not finding excuses. I make no promises because we all know how impossible those kinds of promises are to keep.

But I will make this one: I will continue to work on taking better care of myself. I know that it is a constant struggle, but I have come a long way in this journey already. The fact that there is still such tremendous room for growth and improvement is comforting and terrifying and a challenge I look forward to. I will not feel guilty for coming up short because I know that I am not done growing so, in fact, I can’t come up short. I will continue to love who I am and the journey that I am on. I am so happy to be on it.

(Okay, that’s more than one -- but it’s all in the same spirit, so it counts.)

I will not feel guilty for coming up short because I know that I am not done growing so, in fact, can’t come up short.

As Lin-Manuel's Washington Would Say "Pick Up a Pen..." by Deidra Dallas

I am returning from a two week jaunt on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The average temperature this time of year is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (on warm days) and there was roughly five inches of snow on the ground when I arrived. Most people, both those that I know and those that I met while on PEI, thought I was crazy.

Why are you going up there this time of year? Do you realize how cold it is??

You’re going for TWO weeks by YOURSELF???????

Yes, I generally told people, I’m going to go experience real winter since we don’t have that in Texas. I’m going to see snow.

Partly.

Also, and the part of me that hates being a tourist loathes this, but a bigger reason was going back to the land of Anne of Green Gables. I have been there before in the summer. It’s a different experience in the winter, and I wanted that.

Partly.

And I wanted to spend my birthday traveling and doing just exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday without doing anything that anybody else wanted me to do.

Partly.

But, really, if I’m being honest, I needed to get away from everything I was responsible for so that I could write. Only my very closest friends and family knew this was my ultimate goal. In fact, I didn’t have to tell them, they just knew.

“So…” Mom started after I told her I was making the trip (and we had hashed out the temperature issues). “You’re going to write, right?”

I don’t like talking about my writing. It makes me feel like a fraud.

I hesitantly replied in the affirmative.

I don’t like talking about my writing. It makes me feel like a fraud. I started off in life with all of these goals regarding writing. My whole life was, in fact, centered around writing. I wrote constantly throughout elementary junior high, and high school. I was a creative writing major at Texas Tech. And then I had what, at the time, I considered to be a major setback in that I didn’t get into the grad school of my choosing and so therefore, I rationalized, couldn’t pursue those goals anymore.

Which is pretty damned ridiculous, but when you’re 20 you do a lot of pretty damned ridiculous things.

So, I quit. I didn’t mean to; it wasn’t a conscience choice, but I allowed other things in my life to take priority and gradually, I stopped writing altogether. I somehow didn’t kill it, though. It survived in a small part of my brain and nagged at me constantly. I didn’t always hear it, but the whine was always present. I learned to ignore it over time because, well, it’s easier that way. I came up with excuses. All the standards: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m sad.

And here’s something else I don’t like talking about: I have been incredibly sad.

It started roughly around the time I didn’t get into my grad school of choice and continued through terrible relationships I felt trapped in and career choices I felt forced into making but couldn’t see a way out of. 

Then, a year and a half ago, my grandma died.

We’d known for years this day was coming, so it didn’t come as a shock when it happened. Or it shouldn’t have. But it still shocked my system. This woman – who had a litany of faults that sometimes made her unbearable to be around, just so it’s clear I don’t hero worship her – shaped so much of who I have become, and I didn’t even realize it. Until I was writing her eulogy.

This woman taught me independence and spunk and not giving a shit about other people’s opinions of what they think you should be. I learned to love reading and theatre and travel watching her. (She also taught me not to be hateful and bitter and racist, but not because she wasn’t those things, so I don’t want to dwell there.)

And the moment that she left us and I had to write a eulogy for my last living grandparent, it broke me. Or rather, it broke the barrier I had built to drown out the whine that kept nagging at me to write, write, write, write, write.

It didn’t happen overnight because depression (ah, you scary, scary word) doesn’t work that way. But eventually, I clawed my way back to my original life’s goals. Wrote my way out, as it were. (BTW, if you haven’t yet, go listen to Hamilton. You’re welcome.)

I am no longer defined by the arbitrary failure of not being accepted into grad school 11 years ago.

I am no longer defined by the shitty relationships I subjected myself to.

I am no longer defined by a career that I hated.

I defy all of those things and instead proudly announce that over the last two weeks on beautiful PEI, I wrote over 20,000 words (equal to what I’ve done in the last four months at home) and am almost halfway through a novel. My newest goal is to finish a draft by the end of May.

Write hard and clear about what hurts.
— Ernest Hemingway

I am still not comfortable talking about it (so please don’t ask me unless I bring it up – like, I don’t want to talk about what it’s about yet), but I am taking baby steps.

I am also following the advice of Hemingway: Write hard and clear about what hurts.

That’s my phone background so I’m reminded every day. My lock screen says “Everything that you’re going through is preparing you for what you asked for.” Again, as a reminder of my purpose, my goals.

Maybe that’s a warning for those who may not be prepared for what I will be talking about, what I’ve gone through. Maybe that’s just life. But I don’t really care anymore. I’m done explaining myself to anyone besides myself.

I’m writing.

I’m writing.

I’m writing.

Damn. That feels so good to say.

Pick up a pen, start writing.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

To write or to trophy wife...that is the question. by Deidra Dallas

Recently, I quit my job. I was a teacher.

For the last 10 years, I have impressed upon high school students the importance of using proper grammar and projecting their voices on stage. I have lectured about King Henry VIII and all of his wives and hammered home the finer points of drafting an argumentative paper. I have traveled the state of Texas taking students to debate meets and theatre festivals and choir competitions and marching band contests.

And I loved it. My colleagues were (and are) my best friends. My students were (and are) like my personal children.

I envy those who are able to pull off the teaching gig. I wish that I was one of them.

But I also hated it. Deep down, I was resentful of all the time I spent writing lesson plans and grading papers and traveling every weekend with children who were not actually my own. I had no time for a personal life, much less time to date so I could find someone to have my own children with. While I adored my students, I did not adore the stress and anxiety that came with them.

When I was young and naive, I wanted to be a writer. “I’ll write books!” I told my friends and family. And I really thought I would. I’ve loved words since I learned to read at three years old, since I wrote my first short story in the first grade. I wrote for and edited every literary magazine at every major academic institution I attended. I minored in Business to go along with my Creative Writing major so I could pursue publishing.

But life is life, and instead I became a teacher. And then one day, prepping for the five different classes I was teaching and making plans for an out of town speech tournament while simultaneously planning a rehearsal schedule for the fall musical, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore.

I was ill, constantly. My blood pressure was sky-high. My hair was falling out. I didn’t sleep. I ate sporadically, and when I did, it was quick and easy junk. Teaching was not healthy for me.

I envy those who are able to pull off the teaching gig. I wish that I was one of them. I pretended like I was, for a long time. And I felt guilty and was angry at myself every time I realized I wasn’t. I felt like I had failed and was continuing to fail every time I woke up and wasn’t happy to be going to school. But I would put my head back down and keep on. What else was I going to do?

Well, life is life, and so I started my own business called Review My Paper. Freelance editing. It takes what I love about teaching (digging deep into someone’s writing to make them better) and takes out what I hate (fighting administration for what I knew was right but didn’t align with the latest fad to make us all “better teachers”).

To be or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.
— Hamlet, 3.1

What this all boils down to though is now I have time for myself. I can sleep. I eat better. My blood pressure is slowly working its way down. But most importantly, I have time to write. Because, honestly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s what I was built to do.

And that’s where I’m at. I have been out of the school for one whole semester, and it is incredibly freeing. But also there are times I wish I could wake up somebody’s trophy wife so I don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage or feeding the dogs.

But, as my former student and really good friend told me, I’d be so bored with that.

So I choose to write…because I’d rather suffer the slings and arrows of my own outrageous fortune, even when it’s scary as crap.

I’m going to try to document it — writing, editing, making a living, dating (maybe??). Mostly to keep myself honest, but maybe you’ll get a kick out of it, too. Oh, and I like to read a lot, so I’ll probably talk about that, too. For my first, and very brief, book chat: Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare (if you couldn’t tell).