The New Year – 2016


Blog Segment - Peeking Through The Window copyYou know, typically, I’m not big on the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. It has always felt a little bit weird to me to have a specific time of the year to say “Things are going to be different, now!” when that’s generally the sort of thing that I would assume we should be ready to do, and be serious about, on any given day. If anything, having a national holiday (kinda) for it makes me realize all the more how bad I am at keeping “resolutions.” Despite this, I find myself here about to write down a little bit of a wrap up for last year, and a look ahead to this one, with a little of resolve for solutions thrown in the mix. So let’s get started.

Last year was weird. I think the school year ended fairly well and I had a productive and solid summer, but then everything was flipped upside down when, with less than half a week before the start of this new school year, I was “let go” because of student enrollment. I’ve moved on, somewhat, but I’m still a bit devastated, to tell the truth. I knew things were financially bad for the school, but it completely blindsided me. I still feel pain when I think back on it. I’m not sure when that will go away, so I try not to dwell on it much. I was able to hold on in a part time position with the addition of custodial work, and so we have scraped by these last months. I think part of the reason things still hurt so bad is because I haven’t really been able to fully leave it behind yet. I’m still working in the same place, doing vaguely similar things, for less money and with less stability. I see the people I used to see, but in many ways I am removed from their world.

I’m in a holding pattern until my next real move in life comes.  

That is where the new year comes in. I want to keep this part-time position for as long as I can, mostly because I don’t want to abandon the kids in the middle of a school year, but also, if I’m being honest, because the thought of doing something wholly new is scary. This was my first “real job” in the sense that it was a career move using my education and skills, and it wasn’t just a job to get by. By that same token this is the first time I’ve ever been “let go.” Moving to Chicago to do this thing was scary enough in the first place, but now I feel like I have to go through it all again. However, it must be done.

I do not have the naive notion that I can rely on my current job to still be here for me next school year. I certainly don’t believe the school will be in a position to offer my my old position back. Therefore, I will have to make a move within the next five months to a new job. This next year will be a year of change and uncertainty.

This all leads to the big question; what should I do? We cannot move to follow a job yet because Katie needs to finish her Master’s degree, and we are already in about as good a living situation as we could hope for, considering our finances. There are no current openings at any nearby Adventist schools, either.

As I see it, I have three options. First, I could try to find a job in the public school system. The benefits are good pay -similar to what I was making- and I have good credentials and experience to get a job. The downsides are not insignificant, though. Teachers have a really weird and turbulent time here in Chicago with boycotts all too often, and Illinois and Chicago are having all sorts of financial troubles that might make a position there not as stable as it would seem. Besides I have a lot of mental baggage that comes from a private school background that makes public schools seem very… unsettling. Perhaps more importantly, I’m just not sure if I want to keep teaching. The work is overbearing, especially when considering the pay, but beyond that I can’t stand being a “public figure” like that. It makes me feel like I am always at work, with my every move being scrutinized and criticized. Now, I’ve been told I’m a good teacher, and there is a lot of validation that comes with students who tell me they like my teaching, or that they learned a lot when they were in my classroom, but I am something of a perfectionist. I do not feel like I live up to my own standards for teaching, and realistically, I can’t. There isn’t enough time, even if I focused every second on it, to meet my expectations. In short, teaching drains more out of me that I feel I get out of it.   

My second option is to just find another part time job that pays me as much as I am paid now, but perhaps is more stable or doesn’t take as many hours. Meanwhile I would try to use any extra hours up to the 40-hour a week mark and use them to write, so that maybe I could make some money through authorship. The downsides are we would continue to scrape by, rather than be legitimately secure in our finances. The upsides include the fact that I would not likely be beholden to work outside of the hourly time and so I would be able to use more time for myself and Katie. It would also mean I would be putting more intentional effort towards my dreams of authorship. If I found well paying substitute teaching or tutoring positions for the part time position I could potentially combine the best of both option one and two, while minimizing the downsides of option one.

My third option, and the one I’m considering the most right now is going into the book editing and publishing business. Media, and books chiefly amongst them, have been a lifelong passion of mine. Beyond that, writing and helping other committed writers become better at their craft has become another passion. If I can find a job as a book editor or an assistant editor I could put those passions to work. Not only that, but my experiences as a language arts and english teacher have given me skills and experiences that have perhaps some element of translatability to that line of work, and it would use my education degrees as well. On top of that, it might help me make connections that could be invaluable later on if I am ever able to break into the publishing world with my writing.

The downsides are that aside from a very general idea, I don’t have a clear understanding of what the job would entail. I do think that it would likely be the kind of work that might come home with me at times. My education and experience, while related, are not directly 1-to-1 applicable. To top it all off, I don’t know if there are book publishers in the genres I would be best suited to edit near enough to where I live that are also looking for employees.

While the third option is the least certain, and will require quite a bit of research, it is also the one I want to pursue for now. Even if it only last for a couple of years, I want to try it and see if it is something I want to do with my life. Ultimately I will need to find a job, so I will likely pursue option two heavily if I get near the end of my time at North Shore and I still haven’t found an editing position.

This isn’t so much a New Year’s Resolution as it is a general goal, I suppose.


Blog Segment - Entertain Me..

As part of the push to increase my writing output and brush up on skills which might help me out as an editor, I want to become more intentional about my reading habits, and I want to bring back my regular reviews. To those ends I’m setting some reading goals for myself to accomplish over this year. I want to read an average of at least one book and write its review every two weeks, for a total of around 26 or more books over the course of 2016. I could read faster than that, probably, but there are some bigger books I plan on reading that will take time, and writing a good review takes time as well.

While I leave open the ability for myself to add or drop books as I deem fit, generally, this is the list of books I plan to read this year with note next to each one about why it’s on the list. The list itself is in alphabetical order (aside from the Star Wars books which are in chronological order) and I will read them in whatever order feels appropriate when it comes time to move to the next book.

  • The Android’s Dream – I loved Scalzi’s “Agent to the Stars” and “The God Engines,” so until I get my hands on “Redshirts” or “Lock In” I will acquaint myself with his older work.
  • Bitter Seeds – I’m reading this one right now. I first heard of it on Scalzi’s blog (I think) and it sounded facinating. So far I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
  • Dune – A sci-fi classic I really need to read.
  • The End of Infinity – A student got me into this series of decent YA books, and now that I’ve got the last one I look forward to concluding my time with Jack Blank.
  • The Eternal City – I got this book on a whim from Scholastic. It looks like a quick and easy read to slide in between thicker material.
  • Foundation (finish it) – I started this a while back and I loved what I read, but I’m pretty sure I never finished it for one reason or another. The silly thing is, I might be wrong and I finished it, but I’m only remembering the parts I loved.
  • Gracefully Grayson – An interesting book that caught my eye in scholastic, this is the first middle-school-aimed transgender story I’ve seen and I want to know what perspective on the idea is being offered to this age group. I’m probably reading this one very soon.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel – Referred to by every history-loving person, Youtube channel, and enthusiast I know, I finally think I’ve found a nonfiction book that will grab my attention.
  • The Gunslinger – I’ve been meaning to start the Dark Tower series. Because once I start I might not want to stop, I will probably leave this one for later.
  • Jackaby – Another scholastic book I think I can slide in between the thick reads.
  • The Light Fantastic – I’ve been enjoying my first dip into the waters of Discworld and I can’t wait to go back.
  • Neuromancer – Another sci-fi classic I need to read.
  • Paper Towns – I liked The Fault in Our Stars a lot, and I love John Green generally so I want to read the next book from him that I have in my library.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – I never could get all the way through the original. Maybe some zombies will spice things up?
  • The Rule of Thoughts – I read the first, so on to the second. It’s been decent so far.
  • The Runelords – Another book I started and have been meaning to get back to.
  • Side Jobs – The last Dresden Files book I still need to read. I hope it holds me over until the next in the series.
  • Snowcrash – Another sci-fi modern classic I need to read.
  • Story Thieves – Another scholastic book I think I can slide in between the thick reads. I like the premise, too.
  • The Sandman: Overture – The Sandman is one of my favorite, if not my very favorite graphic novel I have ever read. Neil Gaiman is pretty much perfect, and I am so glad to get more from him.
  • White Noise – I threw in a not geek-related modern classic that I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. I’m looking forward to this one more than I was expecting.

Star Wars Books: All of these are part of the new canon, and being a big Star Wars fan, I want to read them, and since I got them for Christmas, everything seems to align. I loved many of the Expanded Universe books, especially the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, so we’ll see how the new stuff stacks up.

  • (After I watch the Clone Wars TV series) Dark Disciple
  • Lords of the Sith
  • Tarkin
  • A New Dawn
  • (After Star Wars Rebels TV Series) Heir to the Jedi

Around all of these I want to slide in some short fiction reading and maybe a book that a friend wrote that I’ve been meaning to give a go. I’ve clearly got plenty to do. An that is just the reading!

I also plan on playing more videogames this year in a structured manner. Much like my book list, I plan on playing them in any order that suits me, and I plan on playing about one a month on average. This doesn’t count my time playing League of Legends or Battlefront or any other online games, and some of these games are ridiculously long, so I think it’s a reasonable average.  I tried to put together a real mix with some short experience-based games, action-adventures, shooters, big RPGs, etc.

  • The Back to the Future Tell-Tale Games (counts for 5)
  • Bastion
  • Dear Esther
  • Fallout 4 (I’m playing this one currently)
  • Gone Home
  • Homefront
  • L.A. Noire
  • Metro 2033
  • Psychonauts
  • Skyrim
  • The Stanley Parable
  • Starcraft II: The Legacy of the Void (Next up!)
  • Tomb Raider
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron

Finally, I have been putting together a list of movies I am interested in, or actively want to see this next year as they come out in theaters. This is the only list where I pretty much know when exactly I will consume the media, as it is the only one that is based on new releases. Instead of a detailed explanation for each one, I will mark them with one of the following – (Must Watch) (Like to See) (Interested/Curious) (If the Reviews are Good) (If it is actually coming out) – I feel these marks are self-explanatory.

  1. January 22 – The 5th Wave (If the Reviews are Good)
  2. January 29 – Kung-Fu Panda 3 (Like to See)
  3. February 5 – Hail, Caesar! (Interested/Curious)
  4. February 5 – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (If the Reviews are Good)
  5. February 12 – Deadpool (Must Watch)
  6. February 12 – Zoolander 2 (Interested/Curious)
  7. February 19 – Risen (Interested/Curious)
  8. February 26 – Gods of Egypt (If the Reviews are Good)
  9. March 4 – Zootopia (Like to See)
  10. March 18 – Midnight Special (Interested/Curious)
  11. March 25 – Batman v Superman (Must Watch)
  12. April 15 – The Jungle Book (Like to See)
  13. April 22 – The Huntsman: Winter’s War (If the Reviews are Good)
  14. April 29 – Ratchet & Clank (Interested/Curious)
  15. May 6 – Captain America: Civil War (Must Watch)
  16. May 13 – Snowden (Interested/Curious)
  17. May 20 – The Angry Birds Movie (If the Reviews are Good)
  18. May 27 – X-Men: Apocalypse (Must Watch)
  19. June 3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (If the Reviews are Good)
  20. June 10 – Warcraft (Must Watch)
  21. June 17 – Finding Dory (Like to See)
  22. June 24 – Independence Day: Resurgence (Like to See)
  23. July 1 – The BFG (Interested/Curious)
  24. July 1 – Tarzan (Interested/Curious)
  25. July 8 – The Secret Life of Pets (If the Reviews are Good)
  26. July 15 – Ghostbusters (Must Watch)
  27. July 22 – Star Trek: Beyond (Like to See)
  28. August 5 – Suicide Squad (Must Watch)
  29. August 19 – Kubo and the Two Strings (If the Reviews are Good)
  30. October 7 – Gambit (If it is actually coming out)
  31. November 4 – Doctor Strange (Must Watch)
  32. November 18 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Must Watch)
  33. November 23 – Moana (Like to See)
  34. December 16 – Star Wars: Rogue One (Must Watch)
  35. December 21 – Assassin’s Creed (If it is actually coming out/Must Watch)
  36. December 21 – Passengers (If the Reviews are Good)
  37. December 25 – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Interested/Curious)
  38. ??? – Ready Player One (If it is actually coming out/Must Watch)


To be honest, I think this list may be a bit overstuffed, so I’m sure some will fall by the wayside as they get poorly reviewed or if further trailers make them uninteresting. Beyond that, there are a few on here I’m pretty sure aren’t even coming out this year, so my end of the year list won’t be this long, I’m sure. Even still, If I didn’t see eight of these movies, I would still end up seeing an average of more than one every two weeks.

When you consider how many reviews that is, I’m going to be busy! O.o Obviously many of these will get shorter reviews than my typical sprawling opuses, but it’s still a lot.

Well, that’s pretty much that for my next year. Of course I’ll try to lose weight, yadda, yadda. I hope I can actually stick to my guns on this. See you guys later!



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