There’s A (Pea)Cock In My Hallway

I’ve been redoing my hallway, the one that leads to the upstairs. I figured that since I’m a complete nOOb when it comes to painting, this small hallway would be a good place for me to practice. Anyway, I had the burning desire to paint something in my house Behr’s Peacock Tail, and since it’s a pretty intense darkish teal, the hallway seemed like a no brainer.

This is what it looked like when I started. A shade of. . . well, it’s generous to call the color on the walls “ecru” — more like dirty eggshell. I think the color’s been there for the last three owners. It was OLD, yo.

Going up the stairs. Bland and fugly, non?

The view from the dining room

So I trekked out to Home Depot, bought what the guy at the paint counter swore was the best painter’s tape, one of those kits with the tray and the roller and a brush, and drove merrily home. The paint had primer added to it, so I thought I’d slap on the painter’s tape, make with the addition of the rockin’ color and relax and enjoy my gorgeous new hallway.

Well.

My husband is FAR more meticulous than I when it comes to applying painter’s tape in something that resembles a straight line. I did half, he did half, and then I started to paint. I didn’t do a half-bad job, but looking at the first coat when it dried, we decided that yes, a second coat was necessary.

So I added a second coat the next day and when it dried, it looked  fabulous. I was ecstatic. It’s a dark, lightless hallway in the evenings, but when the light from the upstairs windows shines down the stairs, it’s a most gorgeous, deep-sea shade and I love it.

Then came time for the painter’s tape to come off. Now, I took it off verrrrry slowly and carefully, but the white(ish) paint on the wood trim must be older than God, because there was some MAJOR peeling, which pissed me off to no end. This means I’m going to have to paint the trim, and the stair steps AND the whole freakin’ bannisters at the top, which will be a large pain in my ass.

And then there is this thing called…edging. Which really should be called “Erin Would Rather Spork Herself In The Eye Because It Would be Less Messy And Painful.”

I am a CRAP edger. My husband is neat and precise (that fancy art school learnin’, I suppose.) I guess it’s a good thing I have to re-paint the trim because I made a hot mess out of some of the trim.

Even so, it still looks SO much better.

The new view from the dining room, after the second coat.

Side view, with a little light illuminating the color.

Spring Break…ing Into Business*

* Oh, God, that was horrible, but I had to go with that title. It was almost a pathological need.

Spring Break, Part II…

is what this should more accurately and prosaically have been titled, but I have been actually, incredibly busy.

Monday and Tuesday, I have been working with my first two clients, and also trying to clean up my house and yard. Have no fear, I have most definitely not been getting up before 8am, and I am doing crazily luxurious things like painting my nails and reading magazines.

by Dmitry Sunagatov

I wish my feet looked this cute right now.

Fake It Til You Make It

But I have been doing a great deal of research on the freelancing — taxes, bookkeeping, tracking time, webpage development, buying and hosting a domain and website…I’m still learning about that; it’s a different process and I am a total noob about it.

My desk is not like this; I think I would kill myself.

So there’s definitely a lot of information I am getting as I am going. On things like SEO optimization, and some things involving buying your own IP address, I don’t know. And something I have to ask about…FTP. I knew I wrote that down a legal pad somewhere!

So you see, it’s all sexy, sexy stuff.

Legal Pad Lust

I went to Target to get a prescription, but the pharmacy was closed, and I came back with milk and legal pads. My husband poked through the bag and was all “Legal pads?”

I love the smell of legal pad in the morning...

I keep a little notepad in my purse I write everything in, I use OneNotes, and Google Calendar. But I have to have pen and paper to brainstorm properly. I like a good legal pad for note-taking; I need some space to spread my thoughts about. I can pare it down later into lists and tasks and stuff, but I have to have a legal pad to get it all out.

The trick is keeping only one legal pad going at a time. Seriously, otherwise, it will be legal pad mayhem. Notes on every damn thing, in two or three legal pads; that’s a steep step down the road to crazyville.

I Am a Domainatrix

Exactly like this! But with computers! And, um, pajamas?

I also bought a domain name and a hosting plan today, which is geekily utterly exciting. I am working on two jobs for clients, and then, obviously, teaching  the last month of school, but I am hoping to have the website and the full-fledged business go live in June. Until then, it’s a secret!

Busting a Move

I’ve been really busy, and the weather has been chilly, grey and damp. This hasn’t been all bad; I’ve been able to be happy inside, writing. I’ve done a bunch of errands and I’ve cleaned (a couple of things.)

But I haven’t had much downtime, and making sure you are actually relaxing is important.

I think tomorrow will be a good day for that; I’m visiting my family for the evening. But I would like the weather to be warmer so I can work outside in the yarden. . . you know, more yard than garden.

And since I’ve began and ended with a truly stank play on words, I will leave it at that.

I Sometimes Go Gentle Unto That Good Day

I didn’t get to sleep till after midnight, because of some issues that, of course, didn’t happen until almost nine 9 pm, and then the requisite serious discussion. Said discussion was fine, of course, but the resulting need of “I have to DO SOMETHING NOW – SOLVE, PLAN, FIX”  kept my brain percolating and my fingers moving on the keyboard, plowing through  information on the net germane to the topic at hand until about midnight.

This, of course, lead me to not settling down mentally, but I went to bed finally and read a magazine for a bit, and dropped off without even finishing it. This is rare for me. I’m a magazine finisher, but once I got down in bed and read some articles on decorating and how to spring clean quickly, I relaxed pretty well and switched off both my brain and the light.

I remembered to set the alarm for 6 am.  I usually set three alarms — I use my cell, my husband uses the alarm clock, and it works out great for us —  for 5:45, 5:55 and 6 am (believe me, I need them all), so with just the one going, I rolled out of bed with no more problems than usual on a Monday, but my morning routine felt a bit rushed. I got to work about 5 minutes late, but I’ve only gotten there late twice in 5 months (5 minutes! Quelle horreur! I am such a Virgo!) and was not too concerned.

It’s funny; I have truly incapacitating chronic insomnia, but even though I absolutely despise getting up early, this teaching gig has been the best experience I have ever had in regards to getting up on time, and actually not jumping from bed to bathroom to door in 15 minutes or less. I’ve certainly gotten up and been so dragged out from insomnia or some kind of depressive malaise that I’ve called in around 7 am, but I’m actually tons better.

I get up at 6, stumble down and make my one much- beloved and strong cup of cafe au lait, read Questionable Content and Girls With Slingshots, and check email. I sip coffee, let the curling iron heat up and smoke a cigarette while seeing what’s happened in my inbox and the world overnight.

At 6:30 (6:35 if I’m really slacking) I head to the bathroom to make myself not objectionable to the world-at-large, and generally am out the door, remainder of my coffee in hand,  at 6:45. My commute is about 8 minutes, and I like hitting the red lights — that means I can smoke half a precious second cigarette before walking into the school.

We’re supposed to be there at 7am, and classes start at 7:30am, so I get there on time, and have time to start the computer, print off anything I need for 1st hour, and get my classroom prepped for the first class.

My last teaching job, school started at 7:50 and we were supposed to be there at 7:30. I only had a ten minute commute, but I woke up at about 7:05 every morning and rushed around like a stoned cat with its tail on fire, throwing on something and rushing to the coffee shop across the street to pick up a black coffee, chafing at the idiots du jour who stood there blabbing in their faux Louboutins:

Um, so I need, I think, like, a soy no-sugar vanilla extra-hot organic ONLY latte…or do I want a non-fat mocha — god the calories! but I deserve a splurge, I totally worked out so hard at in my Yogilates class last night!

Of course, if I had woken up earlier, the dingbat of the day wouldn’t have had me muttering profane imprecations so often, but seriously: it’s a damned coffee, and there are 4 people standing behind you and the barista’s eyes are  glazed over and she already has my coffee poured, and I am inching closer to stepping on your foot (“Oh, gosh, I am SO SORRY!  am just SO LATE!”)  Get outta my way!

I think having a husband who wakes up at or usually before 5 am really helps. (I know: WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!)  I’ve woken up a few times when he does, just can’t get asleep past the alarm, but usually, his alarm doesn’t even impinge on my (un)consciousness.But for some reason, I can roll out of bed now. Maybe knowing that once I hit off  that 6 am alarm, there’s nothing more going off in another 5 minutes helps.

My dad, for 40 years, would wake at 4:30 am and drink coffee and smoke (when he smoked, before his heart attack — yes, I KNOW I need to quit, now shut it) before heading for his telephone lineman job at 7. Pre-1985 or so, he would read a book or look at the paper, and after we finally convinced him we NEEDED a computer, he would tool away at a computer game, first on a Commodore 64, then playing Civilization on the desktop PC. I never understood why he sacrificed sweet, sweet slumber for getting up and doing not much for a couple of hours.  He’s 71 now, and drinks strong Earl Grey or Scottish Breakfast tea now, doesn’t smoke and sleeps in to the shockingly lazy hour of 7 am, but he still sits in front of his computer, plays World of Warcraft, lets the dog out, and lets the day in.

I get it now.

Passion, Profit, and Proactivity

It’s  2011, and I’ve been teaching since November at a public high school, hence the egregious inactivity here. I’d been pulling 80+ hour weeks, working from 7 am to at least 4 pm at school, coming home and promptly secluding myself upstairs to work on lessons and grading until about 10 or so, taking about 20 minutes to eat something completely uninspired.

Anyone who’s been exposed to a media outlet at all in the last several months has information on the situation in Wisconsin. It  has really put a spotlight on teachers, and whether or not they are slacking leeches sucking at the teat of government and churning out masses of undereducated Twitter addicts, or selfless unsung heroes, nobly fighting the good fight and battling tooth-and-nail to combat the pernicious maxim  “those who can’t, teach,” by working their asses off to do their best to educate in their content area.

I’m not going to elaborate on this debate, I’m afraid (although I believe that the state of education is deeply damaged and in critical condition in America, and many, many teachers are truly putting heart, soul, creativity and financial stability on the line every day to try and work against this trend.)

Instead, I want to contemplate some of the things I’ve learned about myself from not only this current teaching post, but also my past teaching positions, in order to organize my thoughts more cohesively into a plan for the future.

My deep narcissism, let me show you it? Well, perhaps. But then again, if you do not examine what has gone wrong and what has gone right in your professional life, if you don’t consider both the aspects of work that have kept you in a flow state until the dark hours of the night and the aspects that turned those hours into mud made from despair and tears, how can you make a conscious decision about where the path could lead? A path that has the potential to make you fulfilled and happy?

So.

My teaching job ends on June 3rd, and I get paychecks until the end of July. This gives me the almost unimaginable luxury of three months (granted, I’ll be working full-time for two of them) to contemplate and work towards what will best suit me and what will make me happy, inspired and financially stable.

What I Enjoy:

  • Books. Oh, most of all, books. The YA, the classic literature, the modern classics, genre fiction — any book that propels me into a well-told story, which introduces me to compelling characters,  or makes me read a sentence or a paragraph again for the sheer lyricism or humor of the writing — this is my ultimate passion. I spend time and money reading, writing about, thinking about and talking about books, poetry and language.
  • Writing. Not the soulless matching of standards to a template that is never read, and filed away to satisfy a checklist for accreditation, but creating vibrant, collaborative lectures, creative assignments and using new technology to help students relate on a creative, humanistic and relevant level to the books examined in English classes.

I’m not going to go into the things that take away from teaching, but suffice it to say that after doing a lot of thinking about the field and my own strengths and limitations, I’ve decided that full-time teaching is not meeting my cost-benefit ratio; that is, the pleasure and fulfillment I am getting from it are unbalanced with the stresses and pains. It’s something that’s not really going to change, unless the education system morphs to fit my needs. And even I am not narcissistic or idealistic enough to expect that.

So what else am I good at? What do I spend my time on, even when I’m not making any kind of profit from it, except pleasure?

  • Writing. I’m a good writer, especially non-fiction writing, and I’m a fairly quick writer. I’ve been getting freelance jobs here and there, and it’s working out better than I expected.
  • Organizing. If you believe in astrology, and I do (on alternate Tuesdays and days when I have consumed more than three tequila-based drink,) I’m a consummate Virgo. I can organize about anything, from paperwork to parties to people.
  • Editing. I’m good at editing on a sentence level, and also, since I’m a ridiculously fast reader, I’m also good at reading other people’s writing, fiction, non-fiction or academic writing, and clarifying, suggesting and tightening. I am very good, and could become a pro.
  • I’m very logical, and give very good advice.
  • My house may not quite reflect it the way I want to quite yet, but I love decorating. Not shmancy post-post-deconstructed modernist school of Bauhahooeycakes, but real-people decor.
  • Beauty. I was a make-up artist for a while in grad school, and am pretty knowledgeable about skin care and cosmetics.
  • Research. I am widely read, know a little about a lot, and a lot about quite a bit, and am able to call upon a pretty far-flung and eclectic range of experts, in addition to Google-fu and more academic and esoteric researching skills.

I’ve landed a consulting position with an educational company writing this spring, and have a connection to a freelancing gig that’s monthly, when I finally have time to do ANYTHING that’s not directly related to my teacher position. In the past months, I have barely been able to talk to my husband, much less keep up with my friends, family, house or other interests…and it’s frickin’ KILLING me.

I am going to try to establish myself as an independent contractor, and try to become a full-time consultant focusing on writing-based areas — educational, essays and blog-based writing, editing and research for writers. I will have time in June and July to really come up with a workable, realistic plan, expand my portfolio,  network and perhaps gain a mentor.  I have no intentions of remaining home if I’m not bringing in enough income in the first months of consultancy, but I won’t be teaching if I don’t. Life’s too short to spend 80 hours a week doing stuff that’s only 15% fulfilling, and I can get a part-time job that I don’t have to drag home with me to fill in any money gaps.

Pride and exasperation have held me back from really thinking about this change– I am really GOOD at teaching, when I’m on. But I’m not “on” all the time, and so many things about it I just plain don’t like to do. I also spent a lot of money training to be certified. And there’s the pride thang — that I have all these degrees and I should say to someone “Oh, I’m working at Macy’s/as an admin assistant/as a sheep shearer…” or whatever I’d be doing if I need to pay the bills, and Buddha forbid, they should sneer at me and think I’m not smart?!

I’m toying with the radical notion that I don’t have to fit myself and my skills and yes, my pretty damned impressive smarts, into some pigeonhole so that someone about whom I don’t care won’t sneer at me at cocktail parties I don’t even go to.

It might be dangerous. It might be crazy. It might be a hell of a lot of hard work establishing myself.

But it also might work out just fine.

I’ll never know if I don’t try. And I’ve already got one foot on the path — might as well walk up the mountain. I’ll carry a map, watch my water levels, monitor the skies for storms. And the view? It could be beautiful.

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The Mint — Could This Be My New Best Friend?

My house is two stories of wood floors, and I have four cats and currently, a Corgi who sheds like a Yeti in Hawaii.  So I use the Swiffer Sweeper ($25, everywhere) to suck up the hair and dirt and bits every time the floor starts to look too shaggy.

Then I see this new gadget, Mint, and I get all excited. I send an e-mail to my husband: “I want this for our 2nd anniversary!” (Second, because maybe we would be able to afford it by then.)

Mint: time-saver or Catmobile?

Then I watch the little video on the webpage, and although it looks cool, with its “NorthStar tracking and mapping system,” I start to think. I remember how many times I have to change the pads on my Swiffer sweeper when cleaning just one room, and how many times I have to empty the Swiffer’s admittedly small vacuum canister. It doesn’t look like the Mint would have a large capacity.

And as far as mopping goes, it says you put a pre-moistened pad on and away it goes. I…just don’t think that one pad would get one room very clean. Maybe NYC studio apartment-sized rooms, but not a normal Midwestern dining room, say.  It seems like to really keep your house clean, you would have to program it to sweep and mop all the time. You’d be replacing the pad and trotting it and the fancy tracker box to a different room and waiting for it to bump its way to clean.

I don’t know. I could be wrong. Maybe it would be worth it if you used it to keep the floors dusted, and mopped by hand. I can see setting it up to do the living room before work or going to the grocery store.

Has anyone used one of these, or know anyone who has? What’s the word? For $200, are they worth it?

English Adjunct Jobs are an Exercise in Frustration

Not the jobs themselves, per se;  just the acquisition of them.

I know, I know — the number of seekers versus the number of open adjunct positions is something like 200:1.  This is quite daunting, and a little depressing. I have been trolling the websites of all the institutions of higher leaning in the Kansas City area (luckily, I live in a metro area that, while not HUGE, does have about 20 institutions for me to examine) and then cold-calling the department heads.

Mainly, I’ve been leaving polite messages, but I did manage to score a call back from a lovely gentleman who’s the department head for the English department at JCCC; he told me that their slots are filled for spring already, and mostly for fall, unless some of his staff go on sabbatical. He also said that he gets about 90 resumes for an adjunct position, and that he heard from former adjuncts that KU has been laying adjuncts off. “It’s this awful economy,” he sighed. I agreed, and thanked him.

I’ve made about 10 calls today, managed to speak with one person. The balance of my evening will be spent in tweaking my C.V. and cover letter to send out resumes to the two places who have adjunct positions advertised. Now I just have to hope that they stand out somehow from the other eleventy bajillion candidates.

Regardless of this rather gloomy forecast, I will persevere. My goal: before I die, to have taught that rarest of creatures — a college level lit class, as an adjunct.

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