Author Archives: S.B. Roberts

The Year I Almost Missed the Tolkien Birthday Toast

Every January 3rd, I spend more of the day than I should staring at the clock. School isn’t back in yet, which means I’m normally at home. Though there’s plenty of work to do, it’s easy to watch the clock and think about 9:00pm. What will I drink this year? How many minutes does it take to prepare? I have to ready right on time.

Since it fell on a Wednesday this year, we would be at church beforehand, but the timing would be perfect. We would be home in plenty of time, I would make my husband and myself a cup of tea (or maybe hot chocolate for him), and we would have the toast at home. It would be great.

Then reality hit. We got into the car and realized that everything had gone later than usual. We wouldn’t make it home in time. I would miss 9:00.

Though it’s a kind of silly tradition, my husband knows it’s important to me, so he had already thought of a plan B. There’s a Starbucks right on the way home. We swung in, ordered some hot chocolate, and were back in the car in time for the birthday toast.

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It didn’t have the same sense of ceremony that Tolkien’s birthday toast normally does, but it still happened. And that’s what really matters.

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Happy Birthday, Tolkien!

It’s that time again! Today is Tolkien’s 126th birthday!

I always like to pay homage to the author who influenced me the most (and who I enjoy the most). Fortunately, I’m working from home, which means it’s the perfect day for movie soundtracks and lots of tea. Decaffeinated, of course.

This evening is always my favorite part. At 9pm local time, fans around the world will participate in this year’s Birthday Toast “To the Professor.” I’ll be joining with some decaffeinated tea instead of the usual Darjeeling. It’s a great start to the New Year.

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Are you planning on participating tonight? If so, what’s your drink of choice?


2018 Goals

A belated merry Christmas and happy New Year, everyone!

Around this time every year, I reflect on the past year’s goals and set some new ones. Sometimes, I find that I’ve done a great job. The past two years, not so much.

2017 Goals

Finish a draft of the steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novel
I started with a valiant attempt, but the novel still isn’t ready. Unlike most things I’ve written, it’s really comprised of 2-3 stories that come together to make one narrative. The main one — the one I started with — just can’t seem to find its footing. It needs more time to brew. And that’s okay.

Continue to blog at least weekly, but aim for three times a week
I haven’t done awful with this one, though I did change midyear to two posts a week. It seems like a more reasonable schedule with a baby on the way.

Read more books 
I’ve actually done well with this one, considering my previous track record. (It stinks to like books but not feel like you have time to read.) I think, in all, I’ve read 13.75 books. (I’m nearly to the end of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, which is 652 pages.) Last year, I started reading works by Inklings besides Tolkien and Lewis. So far, I’ve finished two: Robert Harvard and Dorothy Sayers. There are still plenty more to go. I’m hoping to read even more this year… though we’ll see how that goes.

So what about this year? That’s a good question. Since I’m close to a major life change, it’s hard to say what this year will look like, but there still are things I’d like to accomplish.

  • Continue to blog at least weekly, but aim for twice a week
    (Obviously, I might have to take a short, unscheduled hiatus when the baby comes.)
  • Continue to work on my writing projects at least once a week
    Regardless of what it is, I want to take some time to keep my writing skill sharp and enjoy my favorite hobby
  • Learn to find balance
    It’ll be interesting to see what my reflections are on this next year. Between teaching part time, writing, and being a new mother, life is going to be interesting. But I’m excited. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’m ready.

What are your goals for this year? How did you do on last year’s goals? Do you make goals at the beginning of the year or prefer to measure your progress another way?


Lessons from a Student

There are many things that I love about teaching. But one of the hardest things is watching students walk through difficult times.

That was the case for 13 months, when one of my first high school French students was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was a strong and dedicated young woman who took French because she liked it and spoke it beautifully. Only a few months into her second year, she was diagnosed and rushed into emergency surgery.

Last month, she passed away. It’s hard to watch a 17-year-old go through everything that she did, but she did it with more grace and faith than many adults have. I know her attitude challenged me to rethink how I approach hard times and has changed everyone who knew her.

Besides memories and a few pictures, I have one thing to remember her by. A book that her aunt brought from France as a gift. Her mom wanted me to have it for my French classes.

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The book is all about fairies. 

I love that something from her will always be a part of my classes, especially such a beautiful book. It’s a poignant reminder that life is beautiful, even when it’s difficult, and the power of faith and courage in the face of any trial.


The Start of the Season: Silvertops

My sweet tooth has been getting the better of me lately. I would blame it on pregnancy, but the fact of the matter is that it always gets worse at Christmas.

There are so many delicious cookies and types of fudge to make. Most of it gets given away, but there’s one kind of cookie that ends up getting mostly consumed here: the silvertops.

They’re known by many different names, but the peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses on top will always be silvertops to me. (The name comes from the foil on the Kiss.)

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Want to try your hand at my family’s recipe? Check it out below.

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The Mystery of the Alarm Clock

The older I get, the more I realize that I like old technology as much as the new at times. Case in point: my alarm clock. I’ve had the same one for at least fifteen years because it knows how to wake me up properly.

I’ve never been much of a morning person (and it has only gotten more pronounced with pregnancy), so the abruptness of regular alarm clocks kills a little piece of my soul. There’s no easing into the morning with them. They just start shouting mercilessly.

Enter my alarm clock. Stick in a CD. (I think most kids still know what those are.) Set the time. In the morning, I’m eased into the day with gentle music. Yes, my husband’s alarm goes off a few minutes later as a precaution (and as the signal to the cat that he can finally start begging for breakfast), but at least I’m at some level of alertness instead of being startled awake.

The trouble, though, is that things have recently changed with my alarm clock. Does it know that my sleep schedule will soon fall under the dictates of a crying baby? Is it showing some resentment because I missed a milestone anniversary that I’m not aware of? Has post-modernism taken over? Or does it just prefer words now? I’m not sure. But now the display always looks something like this.

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The hour has been transformed into a J, regardless of the hour. As minutes tick away, they look like secret messages. Joy. Jog. Jes. Jig.

The clock still knows the hour. The alarm still goes off faithfully. It’s like time is a secret it’s chosen to keep to itself for some unknown reason.

I feel conflicted about what to do. I should take the batteries out, unplug it, and see what it does when it gets power back. But part of me is afraid that it won’t work properly again if I do (and I’m not thinking CD player alarm clocks exist anymore), and part of me would miss this strange phenomenon.

So I put off doing anything about it for a little longer and enjoy this strange phenomenon. Maybe I’ll figure out what’s going on eventually.

 


Slow-Mo November

When I decided to focus this NaNoWriMo on my first novel, I determined to let the story take its course. No specific guidelines or word counts. Just an intentional focus on the story because life demands it.

What I didn’t expect was to reach the halfway point with only 444 words.

I’ve found, though, that this story isn’t in first draft mode, even though I’m trying new things. Words don’t gush onto the screen at a furious pace. Instead, each is meticulously chosen with the obsession that comes with later drafts. It’s like it wants to be as close to perfection as it can be the first time around, and it won’t let me move any faster. It really feels like writing in slow motion.

But that’s okay. The lacking word count doesn’t reflect the amount of thinking that’s gone into the story. It’s more like a butterfly carefully working its way out of the cocoon. Hopefully what emerges is far better than what I would have if I hurried through.

How are you writing projects going? Do you sometimes find that your writing seems to move in slow motion?