Tag Archives: Work

Contemplating My Place in the World

Title 2

Saturday brought significant snow fall to Norfolk.

Snow 2

Snow 1

Since it’s still early in the season, I’m welcoming the snow with open arms and a profound sense of joy. I think part of that has to do with my new dog buddy, Dodger.

Dodger in Snow Edited

At the request of his human mom, I’ve been walking Dodger a few times a week. He’s a frisky pup who likes running and adventures, so when I arrive on their doorstep to pick him up for our walks, you can imagine his excitement. Not only do I receive lots of licks and paw offerings, but he likes to sit on my lap and lean into me like we’re hugging.

Eventually we end our love fest and get on with the walking. But first, I have to get Dodger past the electric fence in his yard. Even without his collar on, he refuses to cross the boundary line. Sometimes, he won’t even get in the car when he thinks it’s too close. But once I drive him out of the yard, we are good to go!

We then head off to a local field for some excellent romping. On the way, I’ve taken to singing Dodger songs, since he’s so happy and I can’t help but feel happy around him. Also, the name Dodger lends itself well to many holiday songs.  For example:

Dodging through the snow

In a one-dog open sleigh

O’er the fields we go

Barking all the way

Woof Woof Woof

Bells on Furry Rings

Making Spirits Bright

What fun it is to Dodge and Sing

A Dodger Dog tonight

Oh, Dodger Dog, Dodger Dog

Dodger All the Way!

Oh what fun it is to Dodge

In a one-dog open sleigh, hey!

Dodger seems to enjoy my singing despite my awful voice.  He definitely enjoys the snow more. Though if I’m being honest, I can’t imagine there are things in this world he doesn’t enjoy.

Dodger in Snow

As we walked through the woods, the snow freezing in my hair, on my hat, and on my scarf, I almost started crying for how beautiful the world looked. I said prayers of gratitude for being allowed to experience the moment; not just the quiet solitude of the snow, but also being blessed with the companionship of Dodger.

Not once when I was a college professor did I ever feel so at one with the world and my place in it than I did for those moments with Dodger in the woods.

I often joke these days that I should start replying to people when they ask that my PhD is in Professional House and Dog Sitting. I know it doesn’t quite have the same prestige as a PhD in psychology, but I didn’t truly belong in the classroom as a professor.

Yes, there are some students out there who have let me know throughout the years that I had a positive impact on their lives; similarly, there are some students who impacted me just the same. I’m not saying I don’t have some wonderful memories of teaching or that I didn’t enjoy certain aspects of my job.

But my heart was never truly in teaching, at least not teaching statistics and research methods. I knew in year 2 of my PhD program that I was in the wrong field. For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t brave enough to quit then.

Once I graduated, I picked a job I thought I would like and one that had many appealing qualities, especially a flexible schedule and summers off. In retrospect, I learned the hard way that when I lived a life I was not passionate about I was slowly poisoning myself. It’s no wonder I had so many health issues for so many years.

Since leaving teaching, I’m still asking the question where do I belong? It’s scary not to be sure, but at the same time exhilarating because I’m open to so many possibilities.  I may never end up knowing the answer for certain, but for right now I can say with enthusiasm and joy in my heart that I belong in the woods, with a dog, writing about the experience. Thank you for your willingness to read my words.  And WOOF! From Dodger.

 

Memoir Monday, May 29th, 2017

TItle

Tomorrow is an exciting day for me. The only items on my agenda are 1) take my trash and recyclables to the transfer station (Norfolk’s fancy name for the town dump); and 2) write.

Not only do I have copious amounts of free time, but my only company for the day will be canine companionship. Considering the three dogs I’ll be with are the inspiration for my middle-grade book Top Dog of K-9 Academy, I think I’ll be in good company.

Kelly with dogs

Tobey with bowl

I have a lot of different writing projects I could work on, including my aforementioned middle-grade book, as well as another middle-grade book I finished the first draft of this past December, and several picture books that need revision. I also have a nonfiction picture book I’m doing research on regarding therapy llamas (who know they could be such a wonderful companion and therapy animal – which is why I want to tell the world about them) and I have a children’s story that someone in publishing told me could make a good magazine article, so I need to investigate publication possibilities for that.

Llama

Since I am always optimistic with my time, I’m going to focus on the revision of Top Dog and believe that I will finish the entire revision in one day. We’ll see. But on a positive note, I already have the first six chapters revised, so only 25 more to go.

Realistically, I’d like to have the complete manuscript revised and ready for submission by June 10th, which is the date of the next writers’ conference I’m attending.  This will be my fifth writers’ conference since I started taking my life dream of being an author seriously.  The first one I attended was in November 2014 and it was one year later that I told myself I was not going to attend another writing conference until I had a book finished.

At the time, a friend of mine recommended that I meet up with her at the North Carolina Writers’ Network fall conference and I flat out refused.  I had decided that I needed to put all that I had learned thus far about fiction writing and children’s writing, in particular, to good use and it was time for me to actually finish a novel.  I made a promise to myself that I was not going to attend any more conferences until I had something to pitch to agents or editors in the event I randomly struck up a conversation with one of them somewhere.

It only took me a year and half to make good on my promise. Pretty good, I think, considering it took me eight years to finish my PhD program (although I did have undiagnosed narcolepsy the ENTIRE time). I also like to remind myself of this accomplishment whenever I feel I need a boost with my writing life.  I have to remind myself I haven’t been at this for too long in the grand scheme of things and I’ve come a long way.

I also like to remind myself that I went from being single to married in only three weeks.  Just like that, my whole life changed for the infinite better and my dream of finding the perfect partner came true.

Wedding!

When I think about how this can happen with my writing – maybe it will be today, maybe it will be tomorrow – an agent or publisher will say the magic words of book contract, I get giddy with the possibilities of the situation.  Because, honestly, I cannot imagine a better husband than the one I sat down next to that fateful night when we randomly met at a restaurant bar I had never been to before, so I can only imagine what’s going to happen when this publishing dream of mine comes true.

I’m already looking forward to telling you about it….

Memoir Monday, March 13th, 2017

Drop that ball

Oh, I’ll just write my next blog post tomorrow. Well, maybe I’ll wait another day. Make that two more days. Actually, better just to wait until next week.

Now it’s four weeks later and boy did I drop the ball on keeping my blog momentum going. The good news is, I did not stop writing during this time. I just stopped writing my Monday posts. And most of my Wednesday posts. And Friday posts, too. Although a part of me is realizing (not for the first time) I might have been a tad too optimistic in setting myself up to have three new blog posts each week.

It was easy to let my posts lapse, mostly because I told myself no one would notice.  Except someone did notice (no, not my husband). And I’ll tell you what: hearing a friend comment that they read my blog every week and wondering why I had stopped warmed my heart so much it was like I had just drunk a homemade hot chocolate made of Not Your Sugar Mamas dark chocolate (best dark chocolate in the history of time and handmade in Martha’s Vineyard).

I stopped blog writing because I had a February 28th deadline to spruce up my second middle grade book, Top Dog of K-9 Academy. The deadline I was working towards is for the Unicorn’s Writer Conference, upcoming on Saturday, March 25th, at Reid Castle in Purchase, NY.

Unicorn Writers Use this one

Specifically, I am meeting with six different agents and editors to receive feedback on the first 40 pages of the Top Dog manuscript.

This opportunity is HUGE in the book world because I get to sit down with industry professionals for 30-minute appointments and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of my manuscript. Usually at writing conferences the agent/editor appointments are limited to 10 minutes or less and you simply “pitch” your idea; that is, you tell them the gist of your story and they say yes or no whether you should submit the manuscript for consideration.

With these pitch sessions, there’s no guarantee anything more will come from the interaction.  I’ve only been to one conference so far where I pitched to three different agents, and even though all three asked me to submit my full picture book manuscripts, that was at the end of October and I still haven’t heard anything back.

I’ve also read on several writing blogs and websites that agents consider some aspects of the pitch session to be truly awful. Which I understand. As someone who used to exhaustively critique student research papers for a living, I know what’s it like to crush someone’s dream. In my case, it was a student’s dream of getting an ”A.” In an agent’s case, it’s someone’s dream of getting published.

Given these circumstances, the agent/editor sessions need to be approached carefully.  Some of the best advice I’ve received about my upcoming conference appointments has come from someone who worked in the publishing industry for many years for various publishing houses. She told me not to have expectations about getting an offer of representation, but to instead focus on next steps for my manuscript.

Not having expectations will be difficult for me. I have an incredibly active imagination; in fact, that’s one of the reasons I’m able to write so many stories.  And who doesn’t love to fantasize about their big break?

I have, however, been working on the challenge of letting go of expectations in other aspects of my life for a few years now, so I’m feeling confident I can remain neutral going into the appointments.  As an aside, I credit this step towards enlightenment to my 21-day meditation challenges with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey.  They have a new challenge starting on April 10th.  It’s totally free and I highly recommend it, almost as much I recommend Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolate.

Anyway, I’m also feeling confident because I have a lot of faith in my manuscript, and as I further progress along the path to publication I can actually why this story could be published.  Aside from the fact that it’s funny and well-written (not just my opinion, by the way, but my class from the Mark Twain House and the critique groups I’ve been going to are quite enthusiastic), I’ve done my market research and my story has commercial appeal.  Two of the books in Publisher’s Weekly Best Books Middle Grade, 2016, featured animal narrators, and The Secret Life of Pets earned nearly a billion dollars worldwide.  In addition, nearly half of US homes have one or more dogs.  Considering my story features the antics of a pack of dogs narrated by a scrappy mutt named Lilly, I believe there’s broad appeal for this story in a market that is currently trendy, yet not saturated.

I think the fact that I also now approach publishing as a business and not just as a pie-in-the-sky dream to accomplish makes me a strong partner for agents and editors.  I am willing to put forth the time and effort towards branding, publicity, and marketing.

That’s why these agent and editor sessions will be so good for me.  Regardless of whether I end up with representation, my manuscript will be even stronger than when I started.  I will be in a better position to market myself.  And I will be several more steps closer to getting published.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing on my blog.  Most weeks….

Memoir Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Narcoleptics Prevail

I think I’m making progress towards this whole I am a writer thing.  I say this because today I am utterly exhausted and I still wrote my daily word count, exceeded it, actually. 1500+ words when you are a narcoleptic and you haven’t slept well is quite an accomplishment. 

As my niece would say, “narcoleptics prevail!”

Someone today commended me on my writing habits.  He said I had “discipline.”  It’s funny, because that’s one of the last words I would use to describe myself.  How many times do I check my email, scroll through Facebook, look for new stories about JK Rowling or Pitch Perfect 3, or send a funny dog video to my husband before I sit down to write?  Probably about 1,265,317 times.  And that’s just in one morning.

Then there was this morning.  I did not want to write anything for my novel.  Not even a teeny tiny bit.  I tried to get going by revising a picture book I wrote for my online class through KidLit College.  I then sat and stared at my computer feeling rather belligerent about everything, especially writing.  Just write 100 words, I encouraged myself. 

What I really wanted to do was go back to bed and take a nap.  It was only 8:00am.

The last time I got a good night’s sleep was February 12th, 2016.  Seriously.  My husband and I stayed over at his friend’s house because we were having an all-day Harry Potter movie marathon.  I don’t know if it was the bed, how cold the room was, or the fact that my husband and I secretly eloped that morning.  Before that, my last good night’s sleep was the end of September, 2015, when I was housesitting for a friend, and before that it was a day in March, 2014, when I went to a chiropractic open house.

You know you’re dealing with a narcoleptic when they can tell you their last good night’s sleep.  What this means, though, is that it’s been many days in a row of not good sleep and ever since the full moon last week it’s been many days in a row of not good sleep and incredibly vivid, and often disturbing dreams.  Suffice it to say I feel exhausted.

It’s time like this that I’m incredibly grateful I had the courage and inclination to quit my teaching job.  When I was a professor, teaching four classes, advising 30-40 students, serving on committees, and conducting research, I was exhausted simply by the sheer weight of my work, never mind the narcolepsy. 

I would never have been able to write the way I do and I would not be where I am with my writing if I had not quit.

That’s one of the reasons, though, I could power through.  When I started writing this morning I was only 1500 words away from crossing the 20,000 word mark of my second novel.  I wanted to get there and I wanted to do it today so tomorrow could bring another goal.  I’m on track to finish the first draft of my second novel by the first week of February.  It blows my mind that not only do I have the first draft of one novel completed, but I’m getting to the finish line of a second one!  How did this happen?  Is it discipline?  Or is it positive reinforcement?  I don’t know, and right now, I don’t care, because I am tired, yet I am writing.  Narcoleptics prevail, indeed!

Memoir Monday, November 14th, 2016

no-one-is-an-island-an-update-and-final-report-card

At the beginning of September, I wrote about a socialization plan I devised for my time in Connecticut and a little over a month ago I evaluated my progress at the halfway mark. Our initial stint in Connecticut has now ended and it’s time for my final grades – drumroll, please!

1)      Spend three days a week writing at the library to get me out of the house

Midterm Grade: F

Final Grade: F

Rationale: In the 63 days that my husband and I lived in Connecticut, not once did I spend time at the library writing.  So, not just a fail, an epic fail (I’m giving myself a ZERO).

Reflection:  I accept this failure because I learned something valuable – I prefer writing at home.  As much as I like the idea of writing at a library or a coffee shop, going to these places require several additional steps in the process, like showering/getting dressed and then walking (driving) somewhere.  For a procrastinator like myself, these steps fuel my fire of distraction and before I know it, I’ve wasted a ton of time with nothing to show for it.  Thus, getting out of my house from here on out will need to come through other means.

2)      Volunteer at the library (that is, if they’ll have me for just two months)

Midterm Grade: F

Final Grade: C

Rationale: I ended up spending my service time elsewhere (see point #3), but my husband and I gave a financial donation to the library before we left.

Reflection: Even though I didn’t write anything at the library, my husband and I spent a lot of time utilizing their wonderful (and free!) resources.  We both read some great books, watched some great (in my husband’s opinion; meh in my opinion) movies, and used their printers for personal use.  Since we both believe that 10% of our income should go to charity, it seemed like the Norfolk Library deserved a good chunk of what we earned while living there.  Money is not the same thing as service, so that’s why I went with a “C.”

3)      Seek other short-term volunteer opportunities as they present themselves

Midterm Grade: A-

Final Grade: A

Rationale:  In addition to continuing as a social media team member for the Young Adult Review Network, I managed to find some short-term volunteer opportunities as well, including contributing some of my writing to the Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational’s Christmas pageant, donating food to the church’s food pantry, and entertaining children at the Colebrook Community Center’s Halloween party.

Reflection: These small service opportunities are a great way to get out of the house, meet people, and feel like I’m actively contributing to society.  I just need to keep my eyes open for them.

4)      Attend a weekly writers’ group

Midterm Grade: A+

Final Grade: A+

Rationale:  I attended a creative writers’ group every Wednesday and I attended a children’s writers’ group every time they had a meeting (which ended up being three times).

Reflection: I cannot recommend writing groups enough!  In addition to being a wonderful opportunity to socialize with writers and get out of the house (which is important to me; see point 1), my stories have improved based on the feedback from the groups.  There’s also a lot of utility in seeing and hearing people’s response to your work as you read it out loud.  I found both groups using Google searches, but I’ve also used meetup.com.  It is my sincerest hope that wherever my husband and I end up wandering to, we will always have a writing group to attend (yes, sometimes he comes with me).

5)      Work at short-term, limited employment jobs where I can see my contributions to society

Midterm Grade: B

Final Grade: B

Rationale: It’s official – I love making sandwiches!  I think it’s because people truly appreciate a well-made sandwich and appreciation is something I did not experience on a regular basis as a teacher of statistics or research methods.  I spent hours editing and evaluating students’ work and most of the time I felt like my efforts were wasted.  That is hardly ever the case with working a café!

On the downside, though, I’m still having difficulty managing my time.  I started working on one of my novels again (YAY!) but then my exercise fell by the way side (BOO!).  Then, there’s Halloween, which certainly did not help my sweet tooth, especially because the library had a huge candy supply, and finally we discovered Dee’s One Smart Cookie Allergen-free Bakery, which may be allergen free, but not sugar, calorie, or fat free.

Reflection: Blargle!  I don’t like being dissatisfied with how I treat my body.  This is the one body I get for life, so I need to do better at prioritizing it while I’m working.  I have a plan for that, though, which I’m going to share next week when I lay out my goals for the remaining two months of the year (and if you have any suggestions/recommendations for my November/December goals, feel free to let me know).

6)      Find a spiritual community that encourages self-reflection and growth.

Midterm Grade: C+

Final Grade: C-

Rationale: Although I actively worked on my spirituality and connection to God daily, I didn’t commit fully to any one community.

Reflection: This might have to be something I accept as my husband and I continue wandering around.  When you’re only going to be in one place for a set, limited time, it can be hard to motivate yourself to make commitments of this sort.  I enjoy connecting with others, especially those who center their lives on love, compassion, generosity, and service.  It may be that I modify this goal to reflect a more global community than local one.

Overall Grade: C

Reflection: WOOHOO – I passed!  If it wasn’t for that ZERO, I might even have been above average.  Oh, well.  Gives me something to work towards until the end of the year.

Memoir Monday, November 8th, 2016 (which is actually a Tuesday)

write-time-blog-post

On this past Sunday, I packed up my car (my husband was and still is in Nashville visiting family), drove 5 hours from Norfok, CT, to Harrisburg, PA, spent the night at my parents’ house, and then drove 8+hours thanks to traffic and accidents to Durham, NC, to take care of two very cute dogs for this coming week.  Thus, this post is a day late but definitely not a dollar short as I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to say, and really, it all comes down to time.

I was in Harrisburg for less than 18 hours.  I thought about writing my blog post Monday morning so I could post it before I got on the road. 

Instead, I made the choice to do one of my favorite things when I’m home. 

I played a game of Scrabble with my Mom and even though I was ahead for 16 straight rounds she came back in the final two plays to take the lead and win by over 20 points.

We also watched the Showcase Showdown on the Price Is Right, another standard practice for when I’m in Harrisburg.  I overbid on two computer tablets, a trip to Belize, and a trip to Switzerland and she won a trip to South Carolina, an outdoor fire pit, and a car.

It was a tough choice in the moment; no, not whether to bid or pass on Showcase #1, but to put off writing my Monday post this week.  One of my goals with this blog is to make sure I practice writing on a regular basis, particularly across different types of genre, and the recovering perfectionist in me felt like I was letting myself down.

I suppose what I’m afraid of is if I don’t write my post one day, then I might not write it a second day, which could turn into a third day, and before I know it weeks will have gone by without me writing anything.  This concern is not without merit, as last year I stopped writing for a few months when I got distracted with work and meeting and marrying my husband.

It’s also happened as of late with working out and when we moved to CT, I prioritized fitting in my writing (I AM GOING TO FINISH A NOVEL THIS YEAR) over other things and it started becoming an either or with writing or exercise and exercise ended up losing out.

So I had a choice to make on Monday morning and when it came time to decide how to spend my time, I went with the choice that made my heart happiest.

I ignored the “shoulds” in my brain about sticking with deadlines and meeting my writing goals and let them go.

Now that it’s Tuesday, what are the consequences of this decision for my writing?  With my blog post – none, really, as I’m writing my post now and it will be published soon.  With my other writing – also, good, as I had 7+ hours in a car yesterday to simply let my mind wander and I’m delighted to report I’ve come up with several great story ideas, as well as solidified the draft language of a query letter for the middle grade novel I’m half-way done with.

Do I have any regrets about my decision?  Only one – we didn’t get to play Scattegories!

Memoir Monday, October 17th, 2016

bear

The other day I saw something move outside from the upstairs bedroom window.  I called to my husband, “It’s the bear!” and we scrambled to the window to get a better look, but then we didn’t see anything.  We headed downstairs and turned on the outside lights.  I put on my glasses because it was dusk and my vision isn’t too keen in the dark.  And there it was!  No, sadly for me, it was not the bear that’s been spotted around town, but a big, beautiful white-tailed deer.  Exciting to see in the front yard, yes, but not what I wanted.

Apparently black bears wander in and around the town of Norfolk, CT, on a regular basis, and everyone keeps seeing them except for me.  

I find this wholly unfair because I LOVE BEARS! 

When I was three-years old, I fell in love with the polar bear at the Philadelphia Zoo and I have never looked back.

When I started working for a research group back in the early 2000s, I was asked by one of my coworkers to name my favorite wild animal.  I said, “POLAR BEAR!” and then she asked me to explain why.  I told her it’s because they are white, adorable, fun, and they like to play in the snow. Turns out that was a “psychological personality test” and I just explained to everyone at work how others see me.

For reference, if you want to play this game at home, you can also ask, “What is your favorite domestic animal and why?”  That answer determines how you see yourself.   My answer to that question was dog, of course, and then I said it’s because dogs are loyal and always happy to see you.

But, I see plenty of dogs every day all day and while this is great fun for me and I would never want to not have a dog to play with, I long to see a bear ambling down the street.  One of my favorite children’s stories I’ve written thus far has to do with a bear breaking into to someone’s house to take a look around and unlike many of my children’s stories, this story was not inspired by observations from my daily life (oh, how I wish!), but it came solely from my love of bears.

It feels like every day someone comes into the café where I work and mentions a bear sighting.  Someone saw them on Route 44!  Another saw one on Maple Ave!  Not just one, but a mama and three babies! I know this is a lot of exclamation points, but I’m pretty sure a bear is my spirit animal and it doesn’t seem fair that everyone is seeing them except for me.

To add to my dismay, a regular came into the café just yesterday and complained that someone had let their dog poop in the middle of the walkway.  As a big believer in karma, I felt once I knew about such a crappy situation (HAHA, pun totally intended) it was my job to clean it up.  You can’t just leave a mess for someone else…only, I’m pretty sure it was bear poop once I got out there.  Universe, why must you torment me? 

My husband says I have to stop looking for one.  Only then, will it happen.  I suppose he does have a point, considering that’s kind of how we met.  It was early January and I was thinking about the imminent end of my job as an associate professor.  I had handed in my resignation October 1st, 2015, effective for May 31st, 2016, which may seem like a ridiculously long time but I wanted my university to have plenty of time to find a replacement for me and if you didn’t know, things move at a snail’s pace in academia.

I realized that given the life I was about to start (i.e., writing, wandering, dreaming), I didn’t want to find anyone who was settled with a house and lots of stuff as a potential mate.  I had just spent months getting rid of almost all of my belongings.  I remember thinking very clearly to myself, what I really want is someone who will travel around with me and go from one housesitting job to another, NOT a person with a house and job in IL.  So I immediately stopped looking because I was on my way out of there.

I kid you not, less than one week later I attended a writers group at a local college where the group always goes for a little socialization afterwards at an in-town restaurant.  I walked into the restaurant, sat down at the bar, and on my right-hand side sat my future husband.  He was in town for work and he had asked his colleagues for a recommendation about where to get some good old-fashioned Chicago Deep Dish pizza.

A few weeks later we eloped in Nashville.  So, I think it’s clear I need to do something similar with my bear quest.

I am now putting this out there to all the bears: 

Bears, I love you!  I long to see you from a distance while you romp and play in the wild.  If you could be doing funny antics, that would be awesome, too, and if you give me enough time to get out my phone to take a picture so I can post it in my blog and on social media, I would be ever grateful.  Thanks!  Love, Kelly

Memoir Monday – October 3rd, 2016

no-one-is-an-island-update

A few weeks ago, I wrote a socialization plan I came up with for my time in Connecticut.  We’re at the halfway point, so here’s an update on where I’m at and where I’m going.

1)      Spend three days a week writing at the library to get me out of the house

Grade: F

Rationale: Although I frequent the library to check out books (ALL THOSE BOOKS ARE FREE FOR ME TO READ AT MY LEISURE!!!!), I have not written a single word while there, nor have I ever headed there with the purpose of doing so.

Reflection:  I’m kind of okay with this fail.  My novel writing has ceased (again), but I seem to have finally gotten into a rhythm with blogging and my short stories keep a comin’.   I also now write about a full-page of stream of consciousness journaling on a daily basis and all of this writing takes place at the kitchen table.  I did 99.9% of my writing in Johnsonville, NY, at a kitchen table, so I seem to be drawn towards writing in big, open spaces with lots of natural sunlight.  I’m also getting out of the house in other ways (see point #5), so I’m not feeling isolated at all.

2)      Volunteer at the library (that is, if they’ll have me for just two months)

Grade: F

Rationale: In addition to not writing at the library, I have not done one lick of volunteer work for them.  I didn’t even ask because as you’ll see in points #3 and #5, other opportunities presented themselves.

Reflection: 

Ever heard the expression “you plan; God laughs?”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened here.

3)      Seek other short-term volunteer opportunities as they present themselves

Grade: A-

Rationale:  It’s not short-term, but ya’ll are looking at the newest social media team member for the Young Adult Review Network (YARN)!  YARN is an online literary journal devoted to the young adult genre.  As someone who hopes to someday have YA novels published, this is an excellent opportunity to read some outstanding work in the genre.  Plus, it gets me using twitter, which is necessary in publishing and this is volunteer work I can do anywhere in the world.  So, it fits in perfectly with our wandering lifestyle.

4)      Attend a weekly writers’ group

Grade: A+

Rationale:  Every Wednesday morning, I attend a Creative Writing Group at the Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational UCC.  In addition, twice a month I head to the Simsbury Library to attend a Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators critique group.  What’s fantastic about this group is all the women in it are writing specifically for children and the feedback I’ve gotten has been excellent.   Both writing groups have been incredibly welcoming and I already know I’m going to miss them when we move (much like the other writing groups I’ve been privileged to attend, including the Durham Writers’ Group in NC and the Schenectady NY Public Library Wednesday Afternoon Writing Group – I LOVE AND MISS YA’LL!).

5)      Work at short-term, limited employment jobs where I can see my contributions to society;

Grade: B

Rationale: As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I started work at a café in town. As I’ve never had a service job before, I’m struggling with the in’s and out’s of the job, but I do make up for it with enthusiasm.  I still find great satisfaction in providing lunch for individuals and even simple things like sweeping the floor and doing the dishes feel worthwhile because it’s helping the café owner present our best to the Norfolk community.

I’m also meeting some interesting people.  Just today I met someone who has published two books.  His fiction book is entitled Hypnogogia – A Life of Dreams, and as someone who has had vivid dreams as a symptom of narcolepsy I am intrigued by a story that blends dreams with reality.

He and his wife were two of the loveliest people I’ve met so far and I’m delighted that he asked me to call him with my contact information so he can send me a free copy of the book! 

They also gave me a 30% tip which is AWESOME when you are working at a café lunch counter.

The only downside to this job is that I feel physically exhausted at the end of the work day, so I haven’t been working on my novels when I get home in the afternoons.  I’m still prioritizing losing the post-PA weight gain from my parents’ house with morning cardio and strength training so there goes that writing time.

It also doesn’t help that my husband and I experienced our first and subsequently second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth tastes of apple cider doughnuts, but if you’re in New England for the fall, shouldn’t you experience such a delectable sweet and crunchy treat?  Good thing I was already exercising, but what it comes down to is exercise is still taking precedence over some of my writing (not all; see point #1).

6)      Find a spiritual community that encourages self-reflection and growth.

Grade: C+

Rationale: To quote U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Yet, and I refuse to give up.  One promising community is a health food store up the way in Winsted (about a 15-minute drive) that offers a Restore Your Soul Dancing Yoga Class for the next three weeks.  I’ve never done dancing yoga before, but we’ll see what it’s like.  If anything, what I’ve learned so far in CT is to keep an open mind and try new things.

So there you have it, my mid-CT-term report card.  What do you think?  Have I graded myself too harshly (many of my former students can relate) or do you think I should be more lenient?  And if you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my blog.  Then I can get an A when I evaluate my blogging endeavors!

 

 

Worker Bee – A Fable in 868 Words

worker-bee

In the morning, the bees set out from their hive.  They buzzed with anticipation.  Soon, the sweet taste of nectar would be on their tongues. They would then bring the nectar back to the hive.  They had to sustain their queen and each other with the honey they produced.

One bee however, lagged behind the others.  This Worker Bee sighed as her sisters took flight.  They all had the same job to do.  It was the same job they had yesterday and the day before that.  It would be the same job tomorrow and the day after that.  Nothing ever changed for the worker bees and this particular bee knew it.  Oh, how she wished for something different with her life!

The Worker Bee flew a mile or so and finally made a stop at a rose bush.  Without thinking about what she was doing, she went about her task and in just a few moments, she was on her way home.

Back at the hive, her nectar was received with thanks and appreciation.  But as she flew away, the Worker Bee heard a whispered exchange among the other bees. “It’s like she doesn’t even try.  She hardly had any nectar to offer.”

Who are they to criticize me? thought Worker Bee.  That’s not fair!  I never asked to spend my days chasing down nectar and feeding the hive.  They just assumed I would do it.  Well, I’ll show them.

The next day the bees again took flight in search of nectar.  But not Worker Bee.  She headed towards the lake and spent the day frolicking among the lily pads.  On the way home, she picked up just a touch of nectar from the same rose bush she had stopped at before.  She deposited it in the hive and did not care to listen to anything the other bees had to say about her.

Worker Bee spent the next two days at the lake as well and each day when she came home she offered just a touch of nectar.  The other bees looked at her in irritation.  She thought she heard comments such as “lazy,” and “no good,” but Worker Bee averted her eyes, pretending she could not see or hear them.  What did she care?  She did not want to be doing this work.

After another day at the lake, Worker Bee was summoned before the Queen.  This request was not something she could ignore.  Worker Bee bowed before her majesty and waited.

“You do not like the work you do for the hive?” asked the Queen.

Worker Bee looked up in surprise.  She had not expected this question.  “No, your majesty,” Worker Bee admitted.  “I do not think this is the work for me.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Queen.  “But it is the work you have been given.  Why do you not do your best at it?”

Worker Bee thought about the Queen’s question and offered one in turn.  “Why should I do my best when this work isn’t for me?”

“I see,” said the Queen.  “In that case, you are free from your duties.  Go and find the work that is suited for you.”

Worker Bee flew away from the Queen as fast as she could.  She didn’t even thank the Queen, for she was afraid her majesty would take back her offer.  Worker Bee was free!  She could finally do whatever it was she wanted to do.

For the next few days, Worker Bee played at the lake.  She buzzed to and fro, stopping on many lily pads and marveling at all the fun she was having.

After a few more days, Worker Bee was ready to move on from the lake.  She buzzed around, taking note of all the different flowers she had somehow missed while working for the hive.  She stopped at each one, taking in its beauty for the sheer delight and pleasure of it.  She licked up the nectar from one yellow one in particular which looked like spun gold.  The nectar was so sweet and delicious, Worker Bee wanted to share it with someone.  But there was no one around and Worker Bee suddenly felt lonely.

Worker Bee decided to return to the hive with her nectar.  As she returned home, no one seemed to take much notice of her, but she couldn’t help but buzz with excitement at the sweet treasure she had found.  Soon the other bees were tasting the nectar and in no time at all, Worker Bee was again summoned by the Queen.

“Yes, this nectar is particularly tasty,” the Queen told Worker Bee, who gloated at her find.  “I don’t suppose you would be able to bring us back more tomorrow?”

“Oh, yes, your majesty!” said Worker Bee.  “I’d be happy to.”

Worker Bee went out the next morning to her yellow flower and returned with the nectar.  It was just as sweet as the day before.  The bees delighted in the nectar so much, that Worker Bee continued bringing back the nectar to the hive every day after that.  Worker Bee never complained about her job again.  Now that she  found what she was looking for, it didn’t quite seem like work.

Memoir Monday – September 19th, 2016

restaurant-coffee-cup-cappuccino

A funny thing has been happening lately.  I keep telling everyone I have a PhD.  Ironically, when I had two sets of business cards made in the last few years, one personal set for when I went on my sabbatical and one professional set for when I was promoted to associate professor, I forgot to include my doctoral degree on both.

When I realized these omissions, it occurred to me I could not care less about them.  I thought, A-ha!  I have finally gotten over myself and now I can move on. 

It was one of the best break-ups I’ve ever had

and I didn’t even have to gaze longingly at my ceiling while playing Jewel’s You Were Meant For Me on repeat to get over it.

Since then, I’d certainly say I’ve moved on, what with quitting my teaching job and maintaining I never want to conduct another statistical analysis again in my life.  Yet, here I am day in and day out trying to work my degree into conversations with my customers.

Oh, did I forget to mention I got a new job?  One that has customers?  I know, crazy, right? For those of you who know me, you have heard me say over the years, “I could never have a service job.”  So imagine my surprise that I am now working in a service job.  And an even bigger surprise – I am loving it!

It all happened rather by chance.  The wife of the couple my husband and I are housesitting for in Connecticut showed us around town before they left.  We were at the local grocery store when we turned around an aisle corner and bumped into a woman who owns a café in town.  She lamented her college students had gone back to school and she was without help.  My husband and I volunteered for the job.

Six days a week (I get Wednesdays off), from 11am to 2pm, I now assist in a café.  I greet customers, make sandwiches, wash dishes, and perform various other duties, but most excitedly for me I get to make change using an early model cash register!  You may not think the previous sentence warrants an exclamation point, but one of my favorite toys as a child was a cash register (first a fisher price one, then an upgraded model that came with fake credit cards and an electronic display).

I also loved basic math as a child and just for fun when I finished exams early in grade school, I would flip them over and calculate long division problems like

576869707078685747475869 ÷ 12

So getting to use a cash register which adds up the prices of lunches, iced teas, and brownies, with the punch of a few buttons, then makes delightful cha-ching sounds when I give the customers change is somewhat of a dream come true for me.  Of course, it’s not the same sort of dream coming true as being a published writer, but in the meantime, I’m pretty excited about it.

I must have some insecurity, though, about being in this job because I bring up my PhD often.

Why does it matter?  I suspect it’s because deep down I sometimes take to heart what other people think of me.  Or more accurately, what I think other people think about me.  Here’s how it goes in my mind: Oh, did you hear?  Dr. Kandra is now working at a café?  So much for her writing career! 

On the positive side I am aware of what happens when we assume and a lot of the time I am able to stamp out my ego and get back to actually living my life instead of getting caught up in my head.  It turns out I actually like this job and I honestly don’t think it minimizes my goals of being a writer in any way.

There’s also the fact that in this new job, I am doing things that I’ve always taken for granted as easy.  Maybe for some people they are.  For me, not so much, and even though I am incredibly enthusiastic about it (DID I MENTION THE CASH REGISTER?!?!) and what I bring to the café, I keep making mistakes.  For example, today I learned that mayonnaise does not go on a traditional Italian tomato and mozzarella sandwich.  EVER.  In case you want to know, use olive oil.

These experiences have been incredibly humbling for me and I think I’m having a hard time accepting not being inherently good at something.

Time will tell if I can embrace this humility and maybe learn something from it.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my cash register and making sandwiches. I only have two short months here.  Come November when my husband and I head to our next housesitting job in North Carolina, this may be an even tougher breakup than with my PhD.  I will have to get my playlist ready just in case I have a hard time saying goodbye.  I’m thinking Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion.  I’m also welcome to suggestions.  Please feel free to leave any in the comments below.