Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for February 2012

A tribute to my famous grandpa.

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Chris and I are headed down to Minneapolis (or “the cities”) as we call it here in Duluth. We’re flying out on Sunday for London, but first we’ll be attending my grandpa’s funeral.

When I was growing up, my grandpa was famous. He had been a band teacher, and then the district music coordinator – known as Mr. Music, so all of my orchestra teachers, and many of my other teachers, knew him. I could name-drop “Bob Mendenhall” to musicians in our community and be gratified with an enthusiastic response. One time, when I was in the pit orchestra for Damn Yankees, Grandpa Bob came to the band room to see if I would need a ride home after the show. The band director’s face lit up and he ushered Grandpa into the room.
“Hey everybody, this is Bob Mendenhall!” he said, and rattled off a list of his accomplishments.
Meekly, I raised my hand and said, “He’s my grandpa.”
I loved having a famous grandpa.
And I was lucky to have such a kind, generous, caring grandpa. What I will always remember is how much our grandpa cared about us. He was always interested in what we were doing, and always wrote encouraging words on birthday cards. He told great stories, too, and amazingly corny jokes. Sometimes I break them out with the kids I work with.
“You know, it’s a good thing they named you Sara.”
“Why?”
“Because that’s what everybody calls you!”
I get the same half-smile response that Grandpa Bob probably got from us when we were the same age.
I will miss you, Grandpa Bob.

The obituary:
Mendenhall, Robert H., 88, “Mr. Music of Robbinsdale”
passed away February 14, 2012. He was preceded in death
by his parents Lilly and George, wife Patricia of 56 years and siblings, Donald, Dorothy, Eugene, Eleanor and Allen. He graduated from North High School and during WWII he served in the Navy as a musician in the Navy Band. He was a high school band director and music coordinator for Robbinsdale Schools from1950-1984. In addition, he directed the Robbinsdale City Band that won top honors for 17 consecutive years in the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade. Bob loved teaching and could recall the names and instruments played by all his students. As a gifted clarinetist and saxophonist he played with many local bands including the Jerry Mayeron Big Band and the ‘Skeets’ Langley trio. He was named the WCCO Good Neighbor in 1968 and 1984 and was awarded the Key to the City after being named ‘Man of the Year’ by the city of Robbinsdale. Bob was devoted to his wife, 4 children, their spouses and 5 grandchildren. He was an inspirational, kind-hearted teacher, husband and father who lifted spirits by his willingness to help others and his readiness with a good joke. He will be forever treasured, loved and missed.

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Written by nikkinbird

February 17, 2012 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Privilege of Teaching Afterschool Classes

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Or: Why I know I could never be a teacher.

I don’t know how teachers do it. “It,” specifically meaning, be a teacher and a parent at the same time. I come home after working with other people’s kids all day and all I want is to lay around and be a blob. I don’t want to do chores, any cooking more complicated than spaghetti, or any extra work.

I do consider myself lucky to have the privilege to teach afterschool classes. They get to be fun. The kids want to learn about the topic (they signed up for the class, right?) I get to go with the flow and do stuff based on what the kids want to do.

Novel Writing sounds like this crazy ambitious class for 2-5th graders, right? It sounds impressive, but I have to say I completely winged it today. I didn’t prepare at all. I made it up as I went, really. It worked, though, because I’ve gotten good at this. Spread out in the halls and write descriptions of stuff without saying what it is. Return to the group and read your description so they can guess what the thing is! Now, free time to write your novel! Oh, you’re getting stuck? Let’s get back together as a group and discuss why you get stuck and what strategies you use to get unstuck!

And you know what? They had some pretty good ideas about how to get unstuck from a stuck place in writing. I love that in this class I get to have the kids give so much of their own input. I love telling them, “Do what works for you. Here’s some advice, but in the end, it’s all about what works for you.”

I also love that I’m still doing the Novel Writing Class, which I’d originally based around NaNoWriMo for the month of November and had planned to end in December with the end of the first afterschool session. I had to repeat it because all of the kids begged me to. I had them do evaluations and they asked for more writing time, to have the class on more than one day per week, and more chances to share and workshop.

Good quote from today, after I the kids said they didn’t really care to have free time for writing but I made them do it anyway:
“It’s weird, I never want to start writing, but once I do, I don’t want to stop!”

What a great coincidence. As I was drafting this post, I came across this article posted on Twitter by NaNoWriMo: Do You Write With Your Students? It’s semi-related to what I was writing in this post, and I like it.

Re-evaluating goals.

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Well, I got through January with a pretty good amount of blog posts for my one blog per day goal. However, I think I’m going to step back and re-evaluate that goal.

A little over a week ago, I happened upon this blog post on our local paper’s website: Top 10 Ways to Avoid Blog Burnout

The first one on the list, number 10, says: “10) Focus on quality not quantity. Never write just for the sake of writing. It’s better to have 2 good posts in a week, than 5 mediocre ones.”

I do have to say I agree. I was planning to post pictures on days that I didn’t have much to write about, but I don’t always take that many pictures. So, I’m going to change my goal to a 2 blog post per week goal.

The important goal, the one which I’ve only missed two days of, is my overall writing goal (not blog posts). I’ve written every day in January, except two, and that’s pretty good. I’m quite pleased with my accomplishment there. I’ve structured my mornings so that the writing time is built in and expected. Woo hoo!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some beading. I’ve promised myself for awhile that I would make myself a pretty lanyard for my school I.D. badge, but just haven’t had the time. Now I’m making it! I even cleaned my desk so I could really enjoy it.

Written by nikkinbird

February 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Writing

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