Monday, November 30, 2009

I'd Like to Buy a Word

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
Michel de Montaigne

I need to buy about 25,000 words. As of this writing, there is still one hour and 28 minutes left of Nanowrimo 2009 - 50,000 words in a month. I won't make it.

I did accomplish all these other things this month though. Can I transfer that into words?

Read five books.
Washed the kitchen floor.
Kept the whip on my #3 son to get out his college applications, essays, transcripts, resumes and also write up his Eagle project.
Made two really awful pumpkin pies.
Explored an idea for a non-fiction book proposal and wrote over 30 pages of notes.
Submitted two essays for publication.
Dusted my dresser.
Finished knitting a prayer shawl.
Moved my main character out of the middle of a field. Figured out her route all the way to the end of her quest.
Cleaned the toilets.
Watched John Adams, Six Feet Under Season 4, Citizen Kane, and Slumdog Millionaire
Changed the bag on the vacuum.
Spent a delinquent weekend with my friends.
Substitute taught middle and high school - many days.
Cleared the stacks of paper and junk in my office - spread it out all over the house.

Intended to succeed. Does that count?

Meanwhile 11:20pm. Surely someone has words for sale on Ebay.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Tipoff in the Hill Country

While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many.
Lady Bird Johnson

I'm finishing up my Nanowrimo, such as it is, and will report later this week. I thank you for your comments on my last post and will respond to each of you as soon as possible. Life, life, life. Gets in the way of my blogging.

Just a note, take a gander at the Dr. Phil TV show on Tuesday, December 1. My friend, Jen will be featured along with her book on mothers and stepmothers working together, No One's the Bitch. If you are in that situation, you may find this helpful.

Another friend, Bernadette Noll, had a mention in Time magazine this past week on her project Slow Living. You can check out her blog on raising young families here.

Meantime, please welcome the holiday season through some photos from the Texas Hill Country this past Saturday night. Johnson City, childhood home of Lyndon B, pop. @1200, had a celebration in the town square. Courthouse all lit up. Food vendor alley - one of those where you wander around and try to decide where you want to fill up. Could be beef fajitas from the Masons, baked potatoes from the 4H Club, baked goods from the Women's Library Auxiliary, turkey legs from the high school band, hamburgers from the Lions. The longest line? Funnel cakes smothered in powered sugar. "Like going to heaven," my almost daughter-in-law's little cousin declared.

At dark, all gathered on the streets surrounding the city square for the parade. Santa hitched a ride on the last fire truck. The parade announcer invited all to join Santa in City Park, right behind the jailhouse. Americana at its best. Perfect ingredient to tip off the Christmas season.

My choice of food? Fajitas and cotton candy. Pictures aren't the best, but so it goes. Enjoy!

The Sunrise Beach LawnChair Band

The Electric Company

The Court House
Even the trucks had lights.
All the homes and businesses around the square shone.


Monday, November 23, 2009

From Somewhere On The Job Hunting Road

The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.

W.E.B. Du Bois

While a teenager, the neighbors across the street hired me to babysit their four boys. Four hours of sheer hell preceded two hours spent getting them to stay in their beds. Pay? A measly 50¢ an hour.

In the next few years, I had other babysitting jobs. Never liked the work. Perhaps all the hours I spent taking care of my own brothers tainted me, but for whatever reason, babysitting was not my thing.

Move forward to today. Guess what I’m doing now? Babysitting. And in today’s dollars, probably for about the same amount of money. In the last few weeks I’ve been an English, World Geography, World History and French teacher. I’ve directed a band and supervised (combat) Handball. I’ve engaged my experience as a mom to use hand signals to get a child back into a seat or to stand in the middle of a crowd with my arms held slightly in the air, gathering attention without raising my voice.

Yup, I’m back in the saddle of substitute teaching. Back on easily, like riding a bike, only not anywhere near as much fun. Thirty years ago in Michigan I did the same thing only that state required an active teaching certificate. Way back then, I looked like I was ten. I rarely had trouble with discipline, however, I now have the ability to look at a trouble-making kid and deliver the “Don’t Mess With Me, Man. I’m the Mother of Three Boys” look.

I’d like to say that my pursuit of midlife job hunting has taken me to new heights. That things I’ve learned over the past 35 years since I graduated from high school have afforded me a plethora of qualifications for many different jobs. Perhaps it has, but so far I haven’t been able to channel that into an actual position.

Last spring, I sat in a virtual prison scoring high school exit level essays – 200 a day. The requirements for that job? A Bachelor’s degree and a pulse. Substitute teaching in my current state requires less than that. A high school degree and this year they’ve added a prerequisite of 60 hours of college. I seem to be going backwards.

The pay? Well, lets just say, I depend on my husband for food, clothing, and shelter.

But I've not done all my homework. Have I spent more than 60 minutes on my resume trying to add up all I’ve accomplished and participated in the past 22 years since my last full-time employment? Not completely.

Is there a reason for that? Yes.

I still have a child home this year that I feel deeply committed to finish raising. I have no desire to lose him in his senior year or miss out on participating in his life. Not as a hovering helicopter mom – he is most independent – but in the small part of his life that is left with me before he embarks on his own.

Now that my defense is established, I can pursue my true passion for a while longer - reading and writing. Gathering my abilities and methods to generate them into a paying position – next year. Meanwhile, I’m in the classroom, working a job where the teachers I sub for don’t seem to have much expectation from me (perhaps due to the meager requirements for the job). For me, I'm in another job I'm good at, but don't enjoy.

I understand the versatility required in this position – walking into a room and with a few moments notice keep 36 kids working and producing something worthwhile for the class length. I need to become more familiar with the teachers so they’ll know to give me something to teach as I do have something to offer more than babysitting. At least I hope so.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, Monday

Your hair may be brushed, but your mind's untidy. You've had about seven hours of sleep since Friday. No wonder you feel that lost sensation. You're sunk from a riot of relaxation.
Ogden Nash

Our vocabulary word for this weekend - undulate.
Sex scenes worded by bunco bitches for my Nanowrimo?
And, now, back to work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Weekend Arrives

Your hair may be brushed, but your mind's untidy. You've had about seven hours of sleep since Friday. No wonder you feel that lost sensation. You're sunk from a riot of relaxation.
Ogden Nash

Tis no better day than Friday, I say. Unless you're a substitute teacher in the final hour of the school day. One can breathe the anticipation building throughout the day. By eighth period? Kids antsy. Unruly. Me? Ready to fly away.

But one thing about subbing, I don't take papers or lesson plans home. (My pay reflects that also.) I walk out the door, free as a bird. Will especially do that this weekend. Time for the annual Bunco weekend of overindulgence and relaxation. My group of 14 women has been together for over 20 years. We all met at the park, new stay at home moms, 8am and pushing our kids in the swings as we struggled to get used to a world without a paycheck, annual reviews, and a certain schedule.

An eclectic bunch -- artists, teachers, an enigma, a physician, hygienist, nurse, pilot, accountant, computer guru, saleswoman, writer, dog trainer, curriculum leader, and unlimited other talents -- we have met the second Tuesday of the month since 1989. Haven't played bunco in over ten years, but meet for the food, comfort, and talk. Lots of changes in our lives since way back then - children born, graduated, married. Deaths, divorces, cancers, depressions, a return to the workforce -- all those things life brings have bound us further. Even though many of us only see or talk to one another once in that month, we are a relaxed group when in company. I am blessed to have these bunco bitches, which is how we refer to ourselves. (There is another group in our neighborhood called the Bunco Babes. We don't belong to that one.)

Since I'll be bringing my laptop to further this Nanowrimo pursuit to move my novel forward, I'm going to let them help me write a sex scene in my book. I can only imagine how twisted that will turn out. (I'm only about 15,000 words behind the 25,000 I should have by this point.)

For some great reading, head on over to 128 Sticks of Butter. See how that friend of mine has shed her pounds and looks fabulous. (I really don't like her.) Or check out Old, Who, Me? to find a lovely tribute to our veterans. To The Smitten Image for a tribute to Canadian service men and women. Perhaps to the thirdstorey window for a little poetry. Or to Wander to the Wayside for a story of adoption. Turquoise Diaries for a quick trip to Sri Lanka or visit the Lazy Writer at A Walk in My Shoes for a lesson on adding tension to your writing. (Not your life - your writing.)

While I'm touting the greatness of others, let me also promote the new book of a very dear friend, Sorayya Khan. We go way back to college days - actually her husband and I do (I met him a few years before they became an item.) Sorayya's new book, Five Queen's Road, has just arrived via the mail. I can't wait to read it. Her previous book, Noor, is a favorite of mine. Sorayya is a most lovely woman. You will enjoy her writing.

And now, to the weekend where I'll take a break from the thoughts of midlife jobhunting and reflect on the gratitude I hold for a world filled with the diverse gifts of others. The picture at the beginning of my post is, I'm sure, the last bloom of my hibiscus plant for the year, so I'm sharing.
May you all enjoy your weekend in the waning days of Autumn -- before the burgeoning schedule of the holidays overtakes us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How To Waste TIme When the Words Don't Flow

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Douglas Adams

This weekend, while hiding from my computer and the thousands of words not yet written in my Nanowrimo quest, I buried myself in the quiet of my hammock. A book, filled with words from one more studious and dedicated than yours truly, aided my escape.

Movement caught my eye. Something fell into the water, just beyond the edge of the dock. I looked up to spy an osprey, perched on the top of the rope swing. A fish clamped in the talons of its thick legs. Lunch.

The fish appeared quite unconcerned. (Perhaps its demise occurring before the arrival at my house.) I watched with curiosity, unsure if the unpleasant butcher of a poor crappie might force me inside to my computer. But the osprey matched my silence and proved a most patient eater taking delicate bites of his prey as though enjoying the view while he lunched at the lake. Quite particular about which morsels to eat, he dropped the unwanted into the water below. No doubt another in that food chain gathered nourishment from there.

I forgot about him after a while, engrossed in the pages I read, only glancing now and again to see how much longer he might be. Seemed in no hurry. Just like me - getting back to my novel-in-progress, somewhere in the word count.

My own bird chirped from up on the porch, my husband having put him out on the table to enjoy the day.

As to my Nanowrimo progress? My main character is no longer wandering in the middle of a prairie. She is further along the road to trouble. The tension grows. The road goes on with frequent detours.

I'm very good at distracting myself with any number of fascinating projects, including keeping time with your average, every day neighborhood osprey. Incredible sight.

Hope he does the dishes when he's done.
(sorry for that one.)

How goes the battle for the rest of you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ode to the One I Didn't Hire

Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another.

Mary Catherine Bateson

Twenty-five years ago I lived in Salt Lake City and worked as an Office Manager/Accountant for an independent oil company. In need of an Executive Secretary, I advertised the position and received many resumes via the mail.

One resume I immediately discarded. In fact, the two-page document ended up in the trashcan within moments after opening. I’ve never forgotten that moment, and now it comes back to haunt me. Faced with that same situation today, I'd hire that applicant in a heartbeat.

The resume I tossed arrived from a woman in her mid-50’s. (We had to list our age back then.) Somewhere back in ancient times she had graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree, then married, and raised five children. Her resume listed each child by name as though an individual place of employment. She accounted for their educations, their achievements in academics and extra curricula, awards received, degrees earned.

Down the list it went from daughter the teacher to son the dentist. At the end of that muddle, she inventoried where she had volunteered over the past 35 years – PTA, church, boy scouts, girl scouts, and on and on.

I recall laughing, thinking how ridiculous this was. That this resume told me nothing about her qualifications. What she could manage. How could she think she was capable of running an office when all she’d done is stay home and raise five kids? The PTA? Come now.

I was 28 at the time. Married for six years, but had no children. I didn’t have a flipping clue. Three children and 25 years later, I most certainly do now.

Today, this Midlife Jobhunter is most regretful for the disregard shown that mother of five returning to the workforce for whatever reason I never bothered to consider or understand.

As many of you have mentioned in your comments or emails to me, midlife jobhunters are now a vast group (stay-at-home mothers only a portion) competing against the young or those with more complete resumes and education, or skills.

A diversified bunch, we are people in search of a place – taking in stride current situations to adjust to changing times. We are searchers finding our way as empty nesters, or newly divorced, or widowed with a dwindling income. Or one suddenly without an income for any number of reasons. We are searchers who can no longer continue with a current position's physical demands. We are searchers for satisfaction to not necessarily bring in a grand or needed income, but to unearth a creative spirit buried long ago.We are searchers who struggle with labeling talents and contributions, cornering a market on years of gathered work ethic and collected knowledge.

Midlife Jobhunters – a most interesting cluster of seekers. I can only hope that 25 years ago in Salt Lake City, someone smarter than me hired that incredibly overqualified jobhunter .

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Man Wall - A Project Complete

Beauty comes in all sizes, not just size 5.
Roseanne Barr

Back in September, I wrote a post about the shed on the dock. Remember this white wall? Or perhaps my suggestion for a neon Blue Moon beer sign or ONE large round sign with the name of our place?

And my husband developing his own interpretation of that suggestion and ordering 17 signs. The last sign finally arrived the other day and with the help of a neighbor, they drilled the signs into place. For eternity.

Click on the picture to get the full effect. My husband is most proud. Our true "lake people" neighbors think it's great. The McMansion folks - well, maybe not so great. Me? Whatever keeps him happy. I like that he let me add a few of my own. Squeeze Me, Stomp Me. Martinis in the Twilight Lounge anyone?


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