Musings from Home

Archive for October, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Ever since I quit my freelance editing/writing job a little over a year ago, I have continued telling people when they ask what I do that I am a freelance editor and writer. I’m not sure why. I guess because I still considered myself one, although I didn’t have any projects at the moment. I was focusing on my family and our move. But freelance means you don’t work for any one company. I could’ve had projects crop up at any moment. I also planned on starting some personal writing projects (still do). In fact, I had a few offers, but I wasn’t ready to go back to work yet.

A few weeks ago a friend, who is also a freelance editor, asked me if I was ready to take on some editing, as the company she freelances for was looking to add some editors. The project is editing scientific journal articles — right up my alley. I told her I’d like to hear more. So we had a nice long conversation on the phone about the project, the time it takes, the future expectations, and yes, the pay. I told her I’d think about it, get Jim’s two cents, and get back to her.

A few days later, I told her I was ready to take the plunge. She sent my contact information to her supervisor, and the ball started rolling. The first step was to send my resume and cover letter. Next, I had to take a test, a.k.a an editorial work sample. I had two hours to complete it (any more than that and I wouldn’t qualify for the job) and I could use a dictionary of my choice.

The anticipation of the test was excruciating. I hadn’t taken a test like that . . . well ever. I had no idea what to expect. But by the time the day and hour of the test arrived, I was calm. Either I would be a good fit for this job or I wouldn’t. If I didn’t pass, no biggie. I wasn’t actively seeking employment at this point. I was only applying because the job was there now and it sounded like something I’d enjoy.

The test consisted of three sections. The first asked you to minimally change sentences to make them grammatically correct. The second asked you to fix the punctuation. The third was a sample journal article, which you were supposed to edit. There were a few guidelines attached, which you were supposed to follow. Other than that, consistency was key. I completed the test in 1 hour 50 minutes. I felt good about it (except for a few comma issues), but man was I keyed up when I was done. Emerald had come home early from school that day, so she and I took a walk with the dogs to burn up my excess energy, and then she rode bikes with our neighbors while I chatted. And then the calm set back in. That was on Thursday.

Throughout the weekend, I wondered how I did, but didn’t really worry about it. I didn’t want to fail, because I didn’t want to fail. I like the choice to whether I take a job or not to be mine. Who doesn’t? But I was fine if this job wasn’t right for me. In hindsight, I think the reason I was so calm was that this test really was a sample of what the job would be. If they weren’t happy with what I did there, then I really wasn’t the right person for job, or it for me.

Yesterday afternoon, I got an e-mail telling me that I had passed and which project I would work on. I was told I would hear from my new supervisor separately and she would send all the materials and documents I needed.

This morning I heard from her. We have still not discussed how much I’ll work, but from what my friend told me, I’ll start slow, most likely with one article a week, which should take me half a day to a full day, I think. Perfect. That’s plenty for me for now, in addition to the volunteering I’m doing and all the things around here.

I need to go read this 269-page style guide and download some software, but I’m excited. It’ll be fun to use my brain for science again. Part of me has definitely missed it.

Robin Masters’ Territory

There is a whole lot of excitement around our house. We are making lists. We are checking pamphlets and books, and websites. We just can’t stop smiling and planning. It’s not Christmas we’re thinking of. It’s the fabulous trip we have recently booked for Jim’s and Sapphire’s spring break in March. [Emerald’s break is a week later, so that’s when she’ll hopefully be making up all the work she’ll miss, but it’ll definitely be worth it.]

So where are we going?

Hint #1:

Hint #2:

Hint #3:

Got it yet? Here’s the dead giveaway:

That’s right. We are going to Hawaii!! We’ve been promising the kids for a while that we’d take them there. So the time is now . . . well, 5 months from now.

We’re flying into Honolulu and spending 3 full days, 4 nights on Waikiki. On the fourth day, we’ll fly to the Big Island (flying into Kona) and will explore there for the remaining 3 days of our adventure. We’re busy now picking our specific activities. We have lots of ideas and have just about filled all the days already (in our minds anyway, reservations for the activities will be made soon).

Waiting for March will be the hardest part, but of course there are lots of fun things to look forward to between now and then. And we’ll watch lots of Magnum PI as a warm-up. 😉 The kids are thrilled you can see our hotel on Waikiki in some of the scenes.

And they can’t contain their excitement that their dream trip is actually scheduled (and partially paid for). Neither can Jim and I. This will be a trip to remember, for all of us.

Photo credits: Yahoo Images

Deal Breaker

I am a big fan of the old game shows. I was so thrilled when our AT&T Uverse service included Game Show Network. Along with HGTV, it is one of my top two picks for mindless t.v. watching.  My favorite game shows are the ones I remember watching with my mom and my siblings during summer breaks when I was a kid. Occasionally, I turn on the tube for a few sit-down moments during the day and check in on my two favorite networks. This morning I caught the last few minutes of Card Sharks (from the 1980s), which I had totally forgotten about until very recently, but which I used to greatly enjoy.

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of this show is that staff members have polled 100 people (sometimes specific groups, sometimes general population) about a particular question and the contestants have to guess how many of the 100 people answered a certain way. The contestant first asked the question gives an actual number and his/her reasoning for that number, and then the other contestant says whether he/she thinks the number is higher or lower than the one given by his/her opponent. The correct contestant gets to then see his/her first card and guess whether the next card is higher or lower until he/she has either chosen to “freeze” or continues through the seven card or so to win the game.

The question this morning that caught my attention was a poll of 100 women who wear glasses as to whether or not they believe the old adage “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”. The first contestant to play this question was a man, who said that he thought a high number of women who wear glasses would say “yes” because he personally doesn’t like women who wear glasses so he guesses a lot of men feel the same way.

I had an immediate negative reaction to his answer, and by extension to him. I started judging not just his statement, but everything I could tell about him. First of all, he wasn’t very attractive (imho). Who was he to decide that all women who wear glasses are not attractive? Glasses have nothing to do with what the person is like. What a horrible way to decide whom to date. Etc., etc.

But when I calmed down a little, I asked myself if I had any deal breakers when it came to dating (back when I was dating). Deal breakers that had nothing to do with who the person was. And of course, I instantly recalled that I didn’t date men who smoked. I think it’s a nasty habit. The smoke makes me cough. I don’t like to smell it on my clothes, in my car, or in my house. Second-hand smoke is unhealthy. And the list goes on. I can probably give you many more reasons, if it really mattered to list them all.

The point is, although I still really dislike his answer (which was completely wrong according to the poll on the show, btw) and the attitude behind it, I realized it’s not too unusual for people to have their own personal deal breakers when it comes to finding the perfect life partner.

So I ask you, dear reader, do/did you have any personal deal breakers that aren’t/weren’t related to who your potential date was or is as a person, but rather something else about his or her looks, accessories, dress, or personal habits, or the like?

Young Lady

Emerald’s school picture day is today and as she was trying on new dresses last night to choose what to wear (because she had outgrown most of her old ones), Jim and I were both struck by how grown up she looked. We have no idea when that happened, but suddenly we have quite the young lady in our midst.

Her outfit for today is very Audrey Hepburn-esque, with modern, eleven-year-old style thrown in, in just the right measure.

Watch out world. Here she comes (with Mom and Dad keeping a close eye ).

Crock Pottin’

Image credit: Yahoo Images

I love my crock pot. I’m a morning person, so I love that I can prepare dinner early in the day when I’m full of energy and raring to go. I also love that the house fills with the wonderful smells of a meal underway all. day. long.

In contrast, I am not so fond of starting dinner just before Jim and the girls walk through the door and multi-tasking through preparing the meal, helping with (or supervising) homework (including listening to Sapphire read, which is usually her only homework), all while trying to catch the stories of everybody’s day. I would much rather have my undivided attention on the day’s excitements and then direct the start of homework, etc., while dinner finishes getting itself ready.

Today, I am enjoying the aroma of Chicken and Dumplings, thanks to The Crockin’ Girls (and thanks to my friend Jenny P. for telling me about this site). This is the first time I’ve tried this particular recipe, but I’m looking forward to tasting tonight’s dinner.

One thing I learned already, though: If you’re like me and you like to have each step ready to go before you layer them together in the crock pot AND if you have cats, be sure not to have the bowl of self-rising flour mixed with milk sitting on the counter behind you as you mix the soup and broth into the sautéed veggies. You may turn around to see one resident feline sneaking a few slurps while the other contemplates jumping onto the counter to see what his housemate is slurping. * Other than that, it was super easy.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. If you have any favorite crock pot recipes that you’d like to share, I’d be most grateful.

*To all those who have wondered: The cat (Shadow) is fine. He was unceremoniously escorted off the counter, but not a single piece of fur was even ruffled. And I most definitely made the flour/milk mixture anew. 🙂

What to Say?

Several of my dear friends have said lately that they are socially inept. They say that they are “worker bees” who can accomplish a lot behind the scenes, but don’t know what to say to people. I can relate quite well to this and in fact, have written “ditto” more than once on such comments on social media.

When I worked in scientific research, I used to joke that I should never venture out of the lab because I related to my cultures so much better than I did to people. The truth is that I relate just fine to people. I understand how they feel most times and I genuinely want to support them and to help if I can. The problem comes when I try to express that. You see, I never seem to have the right words or at least I don’t have the confidence that I do. I feel that most of what I say comes across wrong or can be misinterpreted. I can’t tell you how many “I’m sorry if that came out wrong and I offended you” messages I’ve sent in the last year. Thankfully, usually these are to friends who have known me for a long time and knew the spirit of my comment, so they usually tell me I worry too much.

That is true also. In fact, that may be a bigger problem for me than what I actually say. I worry that I said the wrong thing or that I will say the wrong thing. And now that we live in a new city and are having to make all new local friends, this could be somewhat debilitating, if I let it. It could keep me inside, afraid to say anything to anyone. Instead I have chosen to push forward with getting involved in our new community (especially at the kids’ schools and in our neighborhood) and tamp down any feelings of social insecurity I may have. I do still get funny looks at some things I say and expectant pauses at times I perhaps should’ve said something I couldn’t come up with, but I’m being me and I’m making friends along the way.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about that misstep, especially at important times, like difficult news for others. I long to offer support without being condescending, offensive, intrusive, or a thousand other adjectives.

What brought this up today was a Caring Bridge post from a mother whose daughter, a friend of Emeralds’s, has been waging a battle with cancer for about 20 months. They’ve recently gotten news of a setback and apparently people have been posting messages in their CB guest book giving the parents advice and quoting scriptures regarding how to handle their child’s “dying”. The mom was upset that people have given up on their daughter and presume to know how she should feel and what she should do. My first thought was one of rallying support for their fight. I’m praying for a miracle always. I’m also so in awe of this family and I would never presume to know how they feel or what they need to do. My next thought was, “Oh my God, have I said anything that indicated in any way that I’m giving up on this precious child?” I scanned my brain. I know I haven’t said much, but I have made a few comments of support on their FB page.  I don’t think I’ve given any advice, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t said anything about dying. After running through all that in my head, I finally relaxed with the realization that I don’t think I’ve said anything that has contributed to their pain or emotional suffering.

What all this (along with the words of the mother on CB) has taught me is that in times that I don’t know what to say, I need to rely on what I do know how to do. I can send positive thoughts, prayers, hugs (virtual or in person, depending on the situation), share a tear, or lend a strong shoulder to lean on, and I can say “I’m here”, without offering words of wisdom I don’t have.

I can trust that my emotional reaction is right and hold back words that may not be. That’s the kind of comfort I can deliver, social ineptness or not.

I will still make the wrong social moves. I will still say the wrong thing. I will still worry that I’ve offended someone at some point, but knowing that I am not the only person in the world who can’t find the right words, and knowing that I don’t have to say anything at all to be helpful, will help me in my journey to be more confident in my own instincts. At least that’s my hope.

The Tacky Neighbors

We don’t tend to decorate for holidays or seasons, except for Christmas. That is the one season that we go all out. In December, we decorate everything in sight. For some reason, the spirit doesn’t tend to move us any other time of the year.

Well, at least that is usually the case. This year, we are in a new house, in a new neighborhood. Heck, in a new city. This year, everything’s topsy-turvy. And this year, our neighborhood seems to delight in Halloween. So we caught the fever. I should say, the girls caught it and passed it on to Jim and me (mostly me) this weekend.

Just call us the new tacky neighbors. We’re okay with that. 🙂

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