Category Archives: Everyday Life

Classes I Wish I Could Have Taken in Grad School

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It’s been awhile, I know. Rather than going through all the tired excuses and apologies, lets just all pretend I’ve been diligently posting for the last 8 months and leave it at that, shall we? Join me in a shared delusion that my posts have been interesting, informative, and inspiring. Ahhh.

I took a lot of wonderful classes in Graduate School, and many of them have proven to be useful in my professional life. But there  areas of knowledge and understanding that I feel grad school failed to address. Here’s a short list of classes I wish I’d been able to take during my Masters study:

 

MUS 522 Networking for the Socially Awkward: “But what exactly do you say to people?!”

For those who understand that they should be networking, but who have honestly not the foggiest clue how to go about doing it.

 

MUS 561 Taxes for Musicians: Can I deduct this?

An exhaustive course in filling out a schedule C and other tax forms so you don’t get audited for guessing.

 

MUS 547 Contract Negotiation: How much am I worth?

Suggested fees for every gig and lesson you might ever get asked to do given directly and in simple dollar amounts.

 

MUS 631 Getting Hired I: Get your foot in the door of academia

CV writing for every job that you think you might want in the future, and several you haven’t even considered yet. Includes frequent cover letter coachings.  (Prerequisite: MUS 522.)

 

MUS 632 Getting Hired II: Defeating the Experience Spiral

How to get college teaching experience without already having college teaching experience. (Course not open to TA’s, the lucky bastards.)

I expect to see these fabulous courses showing up on college campuses all over the country. What about you, faithful readers? What classes do you wish had been offered at your school?

 

Riding the Wave

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Riding the Wave

Oh hello! I have a blog!

Why is it always

Sometimes life

See this is exactly what happens every time I pull up this stupid window to try and write a blog entry. What moments ago seemed to be clear, easily verbalized thoughts suddenly turn to absolute crap on the page, I glare at this blinking cursor in disgust for a minute or two, then blow out an exasperated sound like “ughhrhhrghhg,” close the window and go back to reading endless blog archives or watching Poirot on Netflix. But if I stay away much longer, I’m going to have to just erase this blog and give up, or leave it to atrophy like thousands of other little broken threads hanging from the Interwebs.

No! Since the whole theme of this thought I’ve been struggling to get on the page is to pull up one’s big kid undies and carry on, it seems appropriate for me to suck it up and start here.

You might have noticed this too: 2012 turned out to be largely total shit right up to the end. Or maybe you didn’t! Maybe 2012 was a great year for you (you lucky jerk). It’s not that nothing good happened all year long. Lots of great things happened–they were just so hilariously, ridiculously outweighed by the crap that they barely budged the scale. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I have to at least explain where I’ve been for the last few months, and why I find myself in need of this internal pep talk to begin with.

We spent the last year living in Pennsylvania for my husband’s internship, part of the requirement for finishing his doctorate. And he met that requirement! He loved the work he did in his internship and he grew a lot over the last year. But, as internships are wont to do, his ended at the end of July, and he found himself jobless and hung up indefinitely in his career path by that other big requirement of graduation: his dissertation. He hoped to be done before his job ended, but that didn’t happen. In fact, he was only able to finally finish his first draft on December 29th and send it to his chair to begin the long (oh for craps sake) process of edits that will last until…who knows. You might notice the significant gap between the beginning of August and now. It’s awhile. And he’s been unemployed and writing furiously that whole time.

While in Pennsylvania I worked a few jobs including teaching, singing and retail. These were not enough to keep us afloat there for any significant amount of time. Right around Mid-October, as it was becoming suddenly clear that he would not be done with his dissertation (and therefore employable) by Christmas, we decided to take drastic action. So we made arrangements to move back to Louisville, where Husband’s family were, very generously, offering us housing in a property that was currently up for sale. It’d been on the market for two years with no movement at all. We’d pay a small amount of rent there, I’d be able to find work, and he’d have time to finish his dissertation so we could MOVE ON already.

So we packed all our stuff up to move it into a storage unit until such time that we could afford to rent a truck and move it down. We were ready to cram all our essentials into our cars and drive to Louisville when we learned that the property we were moving into the next day had sold. The new owners would want us out by the 15th of December. Whee! Lacking any better option, we took out a good amount of the stuff we’d planned to create a little mini household with, threw it into the storage unit too, and took off for Kentucky.

We’ve been pretty much scrambling to figure out our next move ever since then. We stayed in the property as long as we could, then with generous and wonderful relatives in Indiana. Then to North Carolina for the holidays, where a friend had an empty apartment and I had family to crash with when needed. It was great to be with family, and we had a wonderful Christmas, but a pal of uncertainty hung over us the whole time we were there. We rang in the new year with friends on the beach, which I think was a good way to reset our brains for a new start. Then we drove back up to Louisville, and are currently living in the guest room of some extremely awesome people. I’m still job hunting, Husband is working on his first round of dissertation edits and looking for temp work. Our only income since mid-November has been from my Etsy business, which is not exactly booming, but has helped us to keep gas in the car.

It’s been very hard for me to think about young artists programs, applications, auditions, or really singing in general for the last couple of months.

But for the first time since we left our apartment in PA, I’m finally feeling like we’ve come rest somewhere, even if it’s just for a moment. I feel like I can catch my breath and start planning, rather than just having to react to circumstances that are changing too rapidly for us to get ahead of them. It’s 2013, a truly New Year, and I hope it will be a good one. I can do my part to see that it will be.

So I’m heading out on the town tomorrow a bit to follow up some job leads, sing for a local choir director in hopes of finding work, and PRACTICE. I can find a temp job for now, and something that will further by career goals after that. We WILL be back in our own place soon. I will be able to pay for applications again soon. I will sing for people, I will find gigs and auditions. I will find students and start teaching again. This will all be fine. Life rolls right along, and I can either be swept along by it, or get on top of the wave of craziness and ride it.

How to Shop: A Remedial Lesson in Etiquette

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Tis the season for shopping! The store I work at is getting busy, gearing up for the holiday season, and the now 24-hour madness that is Black Friday is almost upon us! So I thought perhaps it’s time to talk shopping etiquette.

Before I started working in retail a year ago, I would have thought most of the things I am about to write about went without saying. Surely everyone knows these things, right? WRONG. Working in retail has taught me that People (the corporate version of the word) are unrepentant jerks, slobs and thieves. Thusly, the following remedial shopping guide:

  1. Pay for merchandize you leave the store with. In other words, don’t steal. This might sound familiar, from the 10 commandments, the warnings on the insides of fitting rooms that this store prosecutes shoplifters, and your mother, but apparently some of you missed it, so here it is again: Don’t. Steal. You are not being that sneaky, putting your ripped off tags under the little round stool in the fitting room, stuffing them behind the edges of the mirror, or putting them on top of the wall. You are also not fooling anyone by leaving your old shoes in the box and wearing out the new ones. This is a store, not a take a penny leave a penny situation. Just don’t do it
  2. If you are going to try on clothes that you have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, do so in the fitting room. And close the door when you’re in there. Please don’t stand in the isle in front of the mirror and strip. And don’t do the same thing with your child.
  3. If you are going to try on clothes that you DON’T have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, don’t then leave the things you’ve tried on in piles on the floor, inside out, or draped over nearby racks in heaps. Don’t stuff them in between racks, under other items, or behind the mirror. Just put them back. Or at least put them on the hanger and leave them on the front of a rack so I can easily find them and put them back for you. You want to know why we don’t have more mirrors? Because y’all can’t use them responsibly.
  4. If you knock things off of a rack, pick them up. If your child knocks things off a rack, either have them pick them up, or do so yourself. This teaches your child to be responsible for his/her own mess, and can only do him/her good in life. This request includes that ridiculously overstuffed clearance rack. I know it’s a pain to shop over there, and that things fall off hangers if you look at them. You know now I know? Because 400 of you went through there today, and I’ve picked up that same shirt 15 times already, as well as the 30 shirts right around it. If we could, we’d give you more space, believe me.
  5. If you (or your child!) knock over an ENTIRE RACK, or an arm off a rack, or a peg off the wall, thereby strewing merchandize all over the floor, pick that up too. I am not your mom. It is my job to clean up after you, but since there are 400 of you, and one of me, it’d be great if you could at least make a small effort to keep this place neat. This all goes double for the shoe section.
  6. If you are one of those people who need to pick up one of every item and unfold it, hold it up and examine it, that is fine! But please, then, learn to fold things a little neatly, and do so. One of you folks can cut a swath through a section of my store in 10 minutes that will take me an hour to put right.
  7. If you pick something up, carry it around for awhile, then decide you don’t want it anymore, please don’t then HIDE that item behind the bath towels or boxes of diapers, or inside plastic tubs, or in the yogurt case, or under the bikes. Either continue carrying it and give it to the check-out person, or at least put it neatly on the end of a rack or table for us to quickly find and re-home.
  8. Be nice. Much like the stealing thing, this seems like it should have been covered way back in like, Kindergarten. But given the bad attitudes I get every day, I think some folks could use a refresher in good manners. If you are nice to me, I will be nice to you. I will be more likely to go out of my way to help you, which seems like exactly what you would want out of your interaction with me. If you treat me like a person and with kindness, even if I’ve had a crappy day, I will be nice to you. I will take you right to the item you want, offer to help you find it in a different size, let you know other places in the store where we carry something similar, clue you into that same thing in another color that just went clearance and is super cheap. If you treat me like an idiot, or are rude and hateful, I will politely point you in the right direction and leave you to it. Good service is a two-way interaction.

If any of these requests seem unreasonable to you, or like too much work, I regret (not much) to inform you that you might be a dick.

Happy Holiday Shopping, folks.

Spoooooooons

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Spoooooooons

Hands of folks addicted to Pinterest? Pretty much everybody? Well, if you like crafty things, you might have seen a pin floating around linking to this A2D project.

Cool, huh? Well, as it turns out, I am currently facing a huge amount of uncertainty about where I will call home in a month or two, and this apparently makes me a little nesty. I love the shades of blue that she used, but I decided to go with reds and yellows for my living room.

Now that I look around, I have to admit that this was fairly arbitrary. In my grad school apartment, I had one red accent wall, and a red futon cover, and thusly went with a lot of browns and yellows and oranges in that room. But that wall and that futon are both long gone, as are the red and yellow throw pillows, and the yellow wooden plaques that I’d painted with Italian tile designs… In fact I have more blues and greens in here right now than reds. Whatever.

I spent an evening watching TV with the Husband and cutting the handles off of spoons. I discovered that it was easiest to score the plastic just a bit with the scissors, then snap it off. Cutting all the way through with the scissors caused cracks and chips.

Instead of trying to glue and tape together an 18 and a 12 inch MDF wreath form, I just bought an 18 inch one and a sheet of foam board. Much easier. I hot-glued that sucker on there, cut out the circle and poked holes through the foam from the back using the pre-drilled holes in the form to use as reference when lining up the spoons. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I put on some netflix reruns and started gluing down spoons.

Right about then, I realized that I hadn’t ever cut out the center circle to put the mirror behind. Bummer. After some careful measuring, cursing, measuring some more, and the judicious use of a knitting needle, yarn and a pencil, I marked off a center circle of about the right diameter and cut it out. Woo! I continued gluing on spoons over the next couple of days, whenever I had free time. I had to make a second trip out to Big Lots for spoons, because I can’t read. But finally it was done!

It actually looked really pretty with just the white spoons. But not really what I was going for. Now in the original blogger’s instructions, she says that its super easy to paint each individual spoon, but that she primed and spray painted the whole thing first. I just used a Krylon for plastic spray paint, and painted the whole thing yellow. It looked really cool when I just put that first really light coat on since it mostly painted the outer edges of the “petals,” but didn’t get all the way down into the overlapping curves of them. You could do a lot just with that, either over the white of the spoons, or with two shades of spray paint. I gave them a pretty good coating though.

Now, let me just tell you. It was not easy to paint each individual petal. It was awkward as all get out, since i was intent on painting the edges and the undersides as well. It took forever. And the acrylic paint I used required more than one coat per petal to not look like streaky crap.

To create the color fade, I started out in the middle with a dark red, then kept adding yellow to the cup for every round. When the whole thing was done, though, I was very pleased with the result. I used some plastic roping that we had laying around to hang it, and taped rather than glued the mirror to the back, in case I should someday change my mind. It looks pretty cool just as a big starburst wreath. I also went over each petal with a layer of varnish leftover from a previous project, to both seal the acrylic paint and to make the whole thing a little shiny and finished looking. This could easily have been accomplished with a can of clear spray paint, but I am cheap and didn’t want to go back out.

I liked the way it turned out so much that I decided to make two smaller ones to accompany it (if HGTV has taught me anything, its that things look better in threes). I used the center circle I’d cut out of the larger mirror for the smaller one, and had enough spoons leftover from the first one to do the second. This time I laid out the spoons on the circle first, figuring out how many would be in each round. Then I spray painted the foam circle first (DO THIS!), and all of the spoons individually. I painted each spoon before I glued it down, and though that seems like it should have taken a lot longer, it really went faster that way, since I wasn’t having to hold the thing at an angle and get a little brush up in there to get the undersides. I glued the whole thing together, taped on the mirror, and added a piece of twine to hang it with.

I did this one in shades of orange rather than starting with red. The third will between the two sizes I have, and be in shades of yellow, but I have to go buy another mirror and some more dang spoons before I can put it together.

They’re on the wall  now, though not in their final home. I think they turned out really well!

A Day in Monterey

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Today Abby, baby Genesis and I headed down the coast a bit to Monterey. The drive down was gorgeous, and it was amazing to watch the landscape change from mountains to redwoods to dunes and farmland…there is a lot going on in this state, for sure. We arrived around lunch time and were starving, so we quickly parked by the beach and took a stroll down the fisherman’s warf.

The place is lined with restaurants (didn’t think to get a picture of this–you’ll just have to believe me that it’s intense), all basically with the same menu at the same price point, all offering the same view off the two sides of the pier. In our first few steps, we were stopped by a girl standing outside one of these restaurants, offering clam chowder samples out of a vat in a cart. A little surprised, we happily accepted, and sipped our little plastic cups (it really was delicious) while she told us all about how stroller friendly they were, about the beautiful ocean-view table she had for us, and gave us a card for a free calamari appetizer. We decided to walk all the way down the strip before deciding.

As soon as we turned away from her, though, we realized that her tactic was not at all unique. Outside of every restaurant was a man or woman offering samples of THEIR chowder and talking up THEIR eateries. Since we were still holding our little sample cups, we were immediate targets for the “Come on over here and compare” pitch. One could easily, we soon realized, eat a whole meals’ worth of chowder in samples just walking down the pier. It was a bit intimidating, but sorta hilarious too.

We avoided getting another chowder sample and walked to the end of the pier, where I got to meet my first seals and sea lions outside of a zoo. They were really fun to watch for a few minutes. Most were lounging in the sun on a wooden platform, but others had formed a sort of…seal clump in the water, and were just floating on their backs with flippers sticking up out of the water. A boat came through, and had to come to a full stop and drive around them.

After seal-gawking for a few minutes, we chose the path of least resistance and returned to that first restaurant for lunch (much to the delight of the chowder-hawker out front). This turned out to be a fantastic idea; the food was delicious. The free calamari did not suck (I was a bit surprised by this) and our blackened fish sandwiches were wonderful. We chatted, watched a seagull hang out on the window next to us, and enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch while Genesis continued napping.

Eventually, though, she did wake up, and we headed on over to the Monterey Aquarium, which is awesome. I especially enjoyed the jellyfish exhibit, and the huge tank with sturgeon, seven-gilled sharks and lots of other fishies. So cool. There were a lot of beautiful tanks there, and we had a great time. Sadly, due to dogged interference by a small boy intent on violently splashing, I didn’t get to pet a ray, which was a drag. But, I DID get to pet a sea cucumber, which was…sorta gross actually. Not slimy, just squishy feeling.

After the aquarium we made a brief stop at The Twisted Stitch so I could get my yarn fix (you didn’t really think I’d be able to come home without finding a yarn shop, did you?). I had a lovely chat with the proprietor, Dawn, about the rationalization of vacation yarn as souvenir rather than stash, and she helped me pick out an appropriately California yarn. We did, however, find perfectly good reasons for me to buy yarns from Europe (she’s from Whales, and Europe is right next to Whales, so it’s basically all the same thing), from Australia (she has an accent, so an argument could be made, since they also have accents), or from Lorna’s Laces, because they started out in California. Smart woman, Dawn. I did manage to limit myself to one skein, but only by exercising self control.

It has really been a lovely day. But I’m being called to the table, where Abby’s brother has crafted a home-made BBQ sauce for grilled chicken, and then we’re going for FroYo. Yup, life is hard out here. 🙂

But hey, at least I’m getting stuff done

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When one is coming out of a weeks-long major depressive episode, productivity returns gradually. It’s a bit like sleeping on your arm funny and waking up to find it all numb and useless. You can’t then immediately go play a piano concerto, or knit something, or type or do anything else particularly dextrous with your blood-deprived limb. It takes a little while for movement to come back. Its the same thing with the will to Do Things in a that post-depression numbness.

So productivity reappears in fits and starts. I make myself a list of things to do at the beginning of the day, then do maybe one of them before returning to an hour-long couch-stupor. (Sometimes, truth be told, making the list is exhausting enough to leave me feeling ready for a nap.) So my day runs about like this:

Get up. Consider working out before breakfast. Sometimes do. More often, eat a bagel instead.

Check email, Facebook, read blogs, check on applications…acknowledge that what I need to do is SEND emails, FILL OUT applications etc. Realize that it is 9:00 and I’m already failing at my day. Languish in my failure for a bit, while looking at Pinterest.

Rouse myself from this distraction and Make a List. Making a list is good! It shows intent, and thoughtfulness, and requires me to actually address the things that need doing! Yay!

Realize that my list is reeeaaally long, and will require me to either a: talk to people or b: put on clothes and leave the house and THEN talk to people. This sounds really cruddy. Sit for awhile and contemplate this hardship. Check Facebook again.

Realize that it’s now lunchtime. Regret the wasting of half my day–feel like a failure some more. Reevaluate my list and strike things that I have now waited to long to do. Do one very simple list item. Make lunch. Eat sullenly.

Energized by my meal, I decide to practice for awhile. This has to happen soon, before people start getting home from school/work and the volume of my singing causes some kind of torch-bearing mob to descend on my apartment. Woo! I’m so productive and motivated!

Finish practicing. Mark it off the list (it’s always on the list). Realize how much of the list remains. Check Facebook again.

After a couple of hours of knitting and watching reruns on Netflix, I am suddenly moved to start dinner. Make a nutritious and delicious meal for my husband and myself. Or, (more likely) throw together something fairly painless that requires no trips to the store.

Gripped by an inexplicable urge to Accomplish Things, I strike off several more list items. Woo! Check me out!

Decide to make a cheesecake. At 10:00 pm. Of course.

Stay up too late. Feel bad about waking husband on the way to bed.

So it’s not that I don’t Do Things. Hey, I just did at least three things in the last 20 minutes!  (Pay rent? Check! Call to replace that debit card I lost in the house sometime in October? Check! Blog post? Check! I’m on FIRE!) I just don’t FEEL like I accomplish things, since those little victories are so unpredictably spaced throughout the day. This is the mental version of pins-and-needles, my brain coming back to life. Ow.

*I swear I’m going to start posting more normal, happy things soon. Like stories about my husband cooking! And maybe that cheesecake recipe i just tried! Or something funny about my cats! I have no idea! Exclamation Points! Eee!

Under the Influence

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Depression affects people differently. For some people, depression can become a rad fear-proof exoskeleton. For others, it becomes inspiration for amazing, hilarious writing. Not me. I get this instead:

(A text conversation between me and my husband earlier today)

Me: I’m…in a trance today. Was angry earlier. Now I’m just…floaty?

And slow.

And a bit dumb, but still floaty so I don’t care that I’m dumb?

J: And all of the sudden I learn that you’re drunk and floaty.

Me: Dude, I DO feel drunk. I’m drunk on depression! Not as cool as drunk on power, or drunk on love…

J: 🙂

 

Whatever. I’ll take it.