April 19, 1992

I’ve been looking through my old journal entries trying to process my recent bipolar diagnosis, and it’s been therapeutic to digitize some of my early work. Because getting started on writing can be the hardest part, I wanted to share this, my first ever diary entry. Bonus points to you, dear reader, if you can guess the famous diarist I quote in my first line.

Sunday April 19, 1992


Dear Betty,Correspkln

I got lots of neat stuff for Easter, but you were the best. Today we went — in the morning — to (Grammy) my mom’s mom’s house. Now I’m at my Aunt Chrissy’s house now, sitting by the doorway.

** ** ** **

Now I’m away from the doorway. I will tell you about my boyfriend. His name is Ryan. I don’t know if he likes me, but I like him. He is a good-ball. He is in 4th grade. He get’s in trouble alot.

* * * * * *

I forgot to tell you that today I went to my cousin’s birthday party. Got to go now!

Your new pal,

#WestwardHough departs tomorrow!

Preparing for a road trip across the country is hecka different from preparing for a trip by plane.

Let me back up.

Preparing for a road trip with my parents is hecka different from preparing for a trip with any of my other usual traveling companions.

My parents are self-sufficient folks. I think they act more like children of the Depression instead of Baby Boomers. I imagine that comes partly from growing up in poverty and mostly from being fiercely independent. It’s relevant that I mention this because this mindset means we could probably go off the grid for several months and be pretty comfortable. So if you don’t hear from me for several months, rest assured we’re just fine.

When I originally proposed #WestwardHough, one of my mom’s first responses was, “Make sure you pack a pair of flip flops. Not a good pair though, you know how campground bathrooms can be.” It’s not that she’s obsessive or anything like that, but being prepared is just always on her mind.

Prepared and, as I said, self-sufficient. I imagine we will not be eating out on this road trip. Although Toby and I usually subsist on Starbucks, fast food, and gas station snacks when we travel, I definitely put some canned pumpkin in the camper this afternoon. I think this means my mother is going to make pumpkin pie. While traveling across the country. For fun.

And it WILL be fun! Thoughtful preparation leads to habits, which means we have a bazillion little traditions that I’ve come to expect when camping. Granted, I haven’t been camping with them in 15 years, since we were at Interlochen State Park when they dropped me off for camp in 2000. But I’ve already seen the Jet-Puffed marshmallows and Honey Maid graham crackers. I know there will be tuna salad and chili and cookies. The rugs are the same ones we had in front of our Coleman popup when we went to Disney World in 1988, when we went up to Maine a few years later, and every time they drove to Traverse City the summers I attended Interlochen.

The towels and potholders in the kitchen are the ones we used on the boat (our badass Tartan 28 called “Sirocco”). There’s a Copacabana ashtray sitting on the counter, even though I know Dad will be relegated to smoking at the picnic table.

It’s the first time for any of us to be traveling with technology more advanced than a weather radio, though. I’m hoping to update here with our adventures, but you can also find us at #WestwardHough on Instagram and Twitter. And my mom is definitely worth a follow on Twitter; she’s @sailingwife. :D

Lessons Learned: First Day Streaming Hearthstone

I suffer from craaaazy summertime depression after school gets out. This past summer, I committed to “Operation Just Get Dressed,” which helped ensure I at least put real clothing on instead of hanging out in pajamas all day. Part of the reason I was motivated to actually get dressed was because I was streaming Crypt of the Necrodancer for about an hour almost every day. (I definitely try to keep my stream age-appropriate, but a few salty comments made it through, if you watch any of my past broadcast videos.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 5.56.12 PM
Streaming Necrodancer.

(for more information on what streaming is, start here)

Streaming Necrodancer was great. I met rad people, got a manageable amount of tips from watchers, and learned a lot about the world of streaming. Also, despite my deep concern regarding treatment of women online, I encountered genuinely friendly folks who were looking to talk about a shared interest.

So now school’s back in session. I’ve felt the pull of my depression pretty strongly in the past week or so, so I decided to head back onto Twitch. But I’d recently started playing Hearthstone, a collectable card game (think Pokeman or Magic: The Gathering) set in the World of Warcraft universe.

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I spoke earlier this year at the Nerdy Book Club blog about how learning video games has given me a lot to think about as a teacher, and starting to stream Hearthstone has expanded my thinking even more. Here are a few initial meditations:

Stick to one teaching point. THIS was my biggest takeaway from last night’s stream. I’m new to Hearthstone, and although I’m not totally opposed to backseat gaming (receiving suggestions on gameplay from folks in your Twitch chat), it quickly became VERY overwhelming when even a half dozen folks began offering tips. Even more confusing (and this was CRITICAL for me to realize as a teacher), some of their suggestions made absolutely no sense. I didn’t have enough knowledge of the basic game itself to be able to apply their nuanced ideas.

Some knowledge transfers. I quickly understood the mechanics of Hearthstone because of my experience casually playing Magic on and off for the past decade or so.

But some of it doesn’t. Strategies I’d often use in Magic (such as getting low-cost creatures out on the board early in the game) would totally blow up in my face in Hearthstone.

And that can be okay! I rarely play blue decks in Magic because there are often a lot of spells and counterspells (instead of creatures). But in Hearthstone, I’m comfortable playing either creature-heavy decks or spell-focused decks.

Background knowledge is essential, not just a smart instructional add-on… The information I transferred over from my experience playing Magic only took me so far. It was time for me to start running searches for how to build basic decks. (I had been using the default decks up to this point)

…But limit your resources. This is why webquests can be so powerful in classrooms. If you run a search for “basic Mage Hearthstone deck,” you get 1.5 million results.

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That’s insane. But I then asked my chatroom how reliable the website Icy Veins was. Upon learning that it wouldn’t lead me too far astray, I began looking through their resources. Am I going to build the best deck EVER? No way, but it’s a lot easier for me to manage that information using one website instead of getting totally overwhelmed on a forum.

Bragging isn’t helpful. Yup, just like we tell our kids when they start comparing test scores. It was thoroughly unproductive when a lad in chat pointed out he could kill my opponent in two turns. It didn’t help me at all. It didn’t inspire me to do better. It didn’t make me want to improve my knowledge of the game so I’d be more equipped to win in the future. It was in NO WAY motivating. But it DID make me stressed out. Even though I knew it was unreasonable stress and this was something I was doing by choice and who the heck did this guy think he is anyway? That cortisol started coursing through my veins. (my icy veins?)

Let it goooooooo. Luckily, I was able to let go of that stress pretty quickly, but I imagine that was because I had mentally prepared myself to receive some snarky/sexist/unhelpful comments. Hearthstone is a much more popular game than Necrodancer is, so it stands to reason that I’d encounter more trolls and unsavory folks overall. We’ll see how things go in subsequent streams, because if people wind up being persistently jerks, I’ll just stick to indie streaming.

Lots more on my mind, but if I kept going, this would never get posted. Thanks for reading, and see you on Twitch!

StitchFix #2

After a decent spell of not buying clothing, I relented and ordered a second StitchFix. I decided to post this to my teaching blog rather than Overdressed to Kill because I justified my purchase as a way to acquire some back-to-school clothes. So AWWW YEAHHH school clothes. I first learned about StitchFix from former SNewser Allison Loerch. You pay $20 upfront as a “styling fee,” which is deducted from the price of anything you buy. If you don’t buy anything, you lose the $20. If you buy everything, you get 25% off all five items.

A real human goes through and picks out stuff for you, which is fun. This is my second Stitch Fix (see my pick from my last one here), and although all the clothes fit me better than my first box, things were still hit and miss. The style was spot on, though. I had requested more solid items, as I have a ton of printed pants and shirts, but that means I sometimes wind up having too much going on to match things well. Here’s what I got:

IMG_1178So when you sign up for StitchFix, you fill out a whole style profile and they’re pretty good at matching you up with correct sizes. Plenty of people have posted the outfits they’ve received, but it’s super rare for anyone to share their sizes.

Because I’m not one of those foxxxxy fashion bloggers and I’m not trying to make a blog-living off being cute, I’ll give you the info that would have been totally helpful for me. I’m 5’10” and 178 pounds with a 31″ waist and 35″ inseam. I usually wear an 8-10 in Gap and an 8L in Boden. I can’t wear J. Crew pants anymore because my hips are too big for their stuff. I’m a vintage size 14 and a designer size 10-12. I wear a medium or large in tops.

On the Stitchfix site, you can be pretty specific in your sizing. For example, I indicated that my butt is enormous and that sometimes impacts how skirts and pants fit me. Here’s what part of my style profile looks like:

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I figured I’d show you what I was already wearing today for a casual Sunday before I tried everything on.


Dress by REI via Salvation Army Royal Oak
Cardigan by J. Crew via Gather
Lipstick in Suedeberry by LimeCrime
Necklace from Mom!
Sandals by American Eagle

When you get your StitchFix, you receive five items. You can request items you prefer or would rather not receive. For example, I said I didn’t want scarves or bracelets, but I was interested in statement jewelry. Here’s what I received:

IMG_1197 Necklace by 41 Hawthorn, $32
Shirt by Boden

The style of jewelry is right on, and I LOVE the earrings, but in person the jewels in the necklace are slightly transparent, which makes them look super cheap. Sending them back.

IMG_1198Shirt by Boden
Jeans by Kensie Jeans, $88
Sandals by American Eagle

IMG_1201 Did you look at the jean website? GURL, my stylist definitely took a chance with these pants because I would have NEVER bought them from the website. I was initially pretty grouchy that my stylist picked jeans because in my profile I said A) I don’t usually wear pants and B) I RARELY wear blue jeans.

That said, for white jeans, these were almost okay! They were a squeak too tight — you can see me pointing at the see-through pockets in the second picture — but that probably would have been OK if they hadn’t been white, so I’d say my stylist picked my size correctly. Also, I know that these are meant to be short because they’re called Ankle-Biters (cute), but they were just a little too short for my liking. Sending them back.

IMG_1206Shirt by Tua
Jeans by Gap
Sandals by American Eagle

IMG_1209Stripes! I know I had asked for more solid items, but I’ll pretty much never turn down stripes. Toby (who also took all the photos in this post) liked this shirt best, and I agreed. It’s nice and long and super-light without being sheer, so it’s perfect for school. A little more expensive than I would have preferred, but this was the best item of the bunch, so rather than lose my $20 styling fee, I got it. Also, I’m wearing blue jeans. Rare. Keeping it.


Tank by Natural Life
Jeans by Gap
Sandals by American Eagle


I like this company and the tank was cute and super soft. I’m also very much into coral, so the color was a wise choice. That said, it’s too sheer for school and it’s not flattering at all. Look at DAT BOOTAY. Toby said, “It looks like a pony tail.” Sending it back.


Tank top by Old Navy
Lace shirt by Jack by BB Dakota
Jeans by Gap

Dis mah skeptical face. I also had a photo of me wearing this shirt without a skeptical face, but WordPress didn’t want to upload it after three attempts, so I’m sticking with just this one. My stylist was right on in selecting this type of shirt, but it was just too short. Bummer. This is going back.

Hope you enjoyed seeing my rad clothing items. I always appreciate any feedback and suggestions for improving mah sweet style. StitchFix is definitely worth a try. Enjoy!

WordCamp Seattle

I’m at WordCamp Seattle today. If you’re here too, come say hi to me! I look like this:

Photo on 2013-06-08 at 09.11

But without crossed eyes. And less grouchy. Oh, and also, my non-teacher name is Shannon.

My husband Toby is here too. He looks like this:

shannon0357But he obviously didn’t take this photo today, so he’s actually wearing a beanie hat and a red lumberjack flannel shirt.


Treat Tuesday 1/8/13


Tuesdays are always pretty hectic with math team in the afternoons, and they’re even worse when I don’t have planning time.

I’m not much of a sweet snacky person. Bring on the bread.


NOMNOMNOM. Snappy Dragon green onion pancake.

You know what’s inside that building? DELICIOUS FOOD IS INSIDE THAT BUILDING.

And the book I’m reading is Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s the companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle. I discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I read her book Earwig and the Witch during my Paul O. Zelinsky book frenzy this fall. Which reminds me, I still need to publish the post about our Skype with him. GAH.

Anyway. Off to read and snack some more.

Seattle Commuting Tips for ALAMW13 (and otherwise)

I’m SO EXCITED you’re coming to Seattle! Yes, you! You’re going to have such a fantastic time! Yessssss! Books! WOO! And I’m hoping I might be able to help you out during your time here!

So I’ve been bus commuting a 70-mile round trip pretty regularly for two years now, most of those with cumbersome teacher bags in tow and wearing overdressed teacher clothes. Based on my experiences, I would like to humbly offer a few transportation suggestions if you’ll be coming to Seattle later this month for ALA.

Photo by James Thigpen.

To get around without a smartphone, I cannot help you. Seriously. Sorry. I truly don’t think I would be able to bus commute without my iPhone. I CAN tell you that bus drivers (and most riders) are VERY willing to help you puzzle out where you need to go. So if you DO have a smartphone, you should get One Bus Away and make sure you have the most recent version of Google Maps, which provides directions using public transit.

Black Sun, Isamu Noguchi

A word about Seattle distances: things might seem close, but distances are different than what you’d encounter in a suburban community. I’m from metro Detroit, where driving nine miles for a restaurant wasn’t a big deal. In Seattle, that distance puts you WAY out of the downtown core and up into suburbia. My parents stayed at a hotel that was four miles away from us, and although it was close, it was also six neighborhoods away. I tell you this not as discouragement, but just so you have some perspective.

Next: light rail from the airport. DO IT. It’s cheap, it’s roomy, and you’ll feel good about the environment. If your organization is comping you for transportation (ha?), help a pal out and share a taxi with them, but otherwise, LIGHT RAIL. A word of caution, the distance between the Sea-Tac terminal and the Sea-Tac light rail station is a littler longer than you might expect. Your hotel is probably at the University Street or Westlake Center stop.

You should get an ORCA card if you plan to use public transit any more than once during your time in Seattle. Seriously. Even just having an epurse (loading up the card with money) is cheaper than getting a physical ticket for light rail. You can even do this before you ever leave home!

From the 2010 Bucky Pop Up Party.

Don’t bring an umbrella. Seriously. Coat with hood, yes. Umbrella, no.

Photo from Roger Wilkerson.

Speaking of coats, I alternate between a puffy vest over fleece, a wool car coat, and a rain coat. They all serve me just fine; the only reason I choose one instead of the other is based on my outfit for the day, honestly. I don’t have a multiseason squall, but if you do, you’ll be set.

Boots would be nice, yes, but none of that heavy duty Sorel or L.L. Bean business. Complete overkill. These are the besssssst. For one thing, it’s not that cold here. For another, you probably won’t be walking outside THAT much. And one last thing: if you have sweaty feet, you will HATE YOUR LIFE in boots that long. I usually wear cowboy boots in the winter if I’m not wearing my rain boots.

If you get frustrated with the bus system, keep in mind, Seattle wasn’t really designed to be an enormous city. Our interstate goes underneath the Convention Center and can’t ever be widened, for goodness sake. So although our mass transit system is pretty rad, we’re obviously nothing like New York or D.C. 

Cabs will be easy enough to find downtown, but I lurrrrrve using Uber. They almost always have a deal going on, so run a search to see what you can track down.

Photo by Mr. Schu.

You’ll be close enough to the walk to the legendary Seattle Public Library. You should. Obviously.

A few other caveats, because I always like to hear those when I receive advice. I’m not terribly in shape, but I am pretty slim. Bus commuting for the larger among us, particularly with luggage, can get a little cramped. Nothing to the point where I’d advise you AGAINST it, but again, I know I’d want to know that in advance.

Also, just a friendly general public transit reminder: If I have somewhere I need to be RIGHT on time, I always try to catch a bus one earlier than I’d need just to be safe. That said, unless the weather is awful, time estimates from both One Bus Away and Google Maps are pretty darned accurate.

Any other transit-related questions? Just ask in the comments, or track me down on Twitter!

Treat Tuesday 01/01/13



(Ooooooh, that BAAAAADGE. I made that! It’s not terribly amazing until you realize it matches Niki OhsBarnes’ new blog sooooo perfectly. Right?)



Awwww yeah. Lookit dat. I went to hot yoga this morning and didn’t want to get sucked into a snacking frenzy, so I dug out these chocolate-covered blueberries from the passenger side of the Bug.

Last night I started The Hound of Rowan, which I picked because there wasn’t a hold list of 3289456724 people on Seattle Public Library’s OverDrive. Look at how ugly that ebook title page is. Hrmph. It’s good so far.

I’ve had Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe checked out for an insanely long time. I really need to get a copy of it, but it’s the book that went along with the big gallery exhibit at the Whitney, so I’m assuming it’s $$$$$$$. Oh wait, never mind. I just checked Amazon. It’s totally reasonable. VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT PLZ!!!

I’ve also been flipping through The Paleo Solution not because I’m looking to subscribe to some radical new diet thing, but because ever since my coworker Tin suggested I reduce dairy, my skin’s been doing pirouettes of delight. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn more about the food I’m putting in my body, regardless of the “system” I use.

What I do in my spare time. Sometimes.

The question has been asked if whether an overachiever like me finds time to have fun with friends and loved ones. Um, duh.

I adore many of the folks Toby has worked with at Cheezburger since its humble beginnings a few years ago, and last night we rebooted our steampunk tabletop adventure using a combination of Savage Worlds and Rippers. It’s great fun, especially because I’ve learned a bunch more about RPGs since beginning three years ago.

Here’s my newest character, Beryl Thomas. She’s an Indiana Jones style storyteller, and although she’s haunted by bad dreams and an opium habit, she’s persuasive and smart, particularly in folklore and customs.

She does not, in fact, have a backward hand, but she can, in fact, speak/understand all the languages listed above.

Our adventurers began in 1900s Hong Kong. Here’s the club we visited last night.

So why do I succumb to the ultimate in nerdy fun? BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING.

Also because it’s a safe place to challenge myself — when was the last time I drew a human being? YEARS.

Anyway. That’s what I’ve been up to, when I’m not busy freaking out about things.


I’m a serial piler. I’ve been that way ever since I was wee.

The good news is that in recent years, my piles have made their way onto shelves or tables. Off the floor. Grown-up piles, right?

Thankfully, that meant almost everything we owned was just fine when the contractors’ plastic sheeting that was hanging over our apartment complex tore Sunday night, dumping two days’ worth of rain onto the walkway outside our unit. Also thankfully, Toby was working from home, so he was able to get everything out of the back bedrooms before the water reached much.

YES, the cats are OK. YES, the books are OK. YES, my vintage clothes and hats are OK. YES, the electronics are OK. We’re tremendously fortunate, in both a personal sense and a material way. I’ll be totally honest, it kind of really feels nice to not have to be all virtuous and say things like “our possessions don’t define us.” Here’s what things looked like at the end of last week.

Bedroom, with bed frame disassembled.
Study with drywall cut out of the side.

There are holes in our walls. Clothes and books are in bags and boxes allllll over the family room. Poor Toby is staying at home in the dusty dampness, sleeping on the couch with the cats. Drywall is being replaced tomorrow. The whole apartment smells like dampness and terribleness.

The good news is that the Laird ladies let us stay at their place. The other good news is that things are kind of so awful that we might finally get out of our basement apartment that I contend has contributed to Toby’s substantial allergies / perpetual illness.

We’ve been cleaning and dusting and packing and purging. I’m thankful for friends who have been giving us their moral support. I’m thankful that we are able to recognize what we need and what we don’t need in our lives any more.

This isn’t classroom related, except that I did have to take a day off last week to manage everything… But some of you have asked, so I figured I’d fill you in. More scholarly stuff tomorrow.