Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

Coffee break
1. I’ve now finished my second Pretty Little Liars books and numbers three and four are on their way via Amazon. (I still got them out of the library today anyway so I don’t have to wait.) As much as I think I read too slowly, I still got tired eye syndrome again and I had to give myself a break today from reading anything else. (Granted, the tired eye symptoms showed up while I was on my way home from my last interview so stress may be the cause as well. But I don’t feel stressed so who knows?)
2. The oven had to be fixed yesterday. Last Thursday I went to make our standard fish and chips (yes, we have fish and chips night) but it wouldn’t heat up. After investigating online (because neither of us have a clue how appliances work) I figured out that it was a simple procedure to have an element replaced. Luckily we have the convenience of manufacturers sending out technicians who can get stuff fixed in five minutes and I was up and running. Our next order of business will have to be the toilet – it’s been making that awful pipe vibrating sound whenever we flush it. (I guess it’s a water hammer?)
3. You may have noticed that the Olympics are underway. I’ve been watching them non-stop since the Opening Ceremony on Friday night (Ah, the bit with The Queen and James Bond – so good!) I am really impressed by the BBC’s coverage of the games. We have 24 live HD channels so Saturday morning, bright and early, I sat down to channel surf until 10PM. I did that Sunday and Monday too while Steve was on his business trip (He got to go to Italy. I tried to have him convince the boss that I should go as the company tourist: drink cappuccino, buy leather handbags for the other wives, take photos for the webpage, etc. but they didn’t really go for that. He also got delayed in the Paris airport – oh the duty free shopping I could have done in those few hours!) Anyway, the Olympics -- I did, admittedly, nod off on the couch during some of the handball and hockey matches. Not that they’re not interesting, it’s just a lot to take in one sitting. Especially someone like me who generally doesn’t like sports.
4. But we’re going to the game on Aug 4th which will be fun and exciting. I heard that Newcastle was super busy in City Centre with all the Olympics and food festival going on at the same time.
5. Yes, we missed the Newcastle Eat Festival this year. Very sad. We at least tried the Total Recall pizza at Papa Johns while our oven was broken. It was so, so good.
6. I’ve had my break from driving but I get back behind the wheel on Thursday. Last lesson, my instructor asked when I was going to finally take my Theory Test so I’m going to have to set that up. I’ve read that Highway Code book a bunch but I’ll have to do some practice tests too. I’m excited to get my license but I’m just not feeling like I want to rush any of it. (Maybe I am stressed?) At least once I get the Theory Test done, I can hang on to it for a long time until I take my Road Test.
7. I still think I may want to get another iPhone next year. There are plenty of things I’d like to get but being jobless just sucks the excitement out of shopping all together – there’s no money to buy anything and there’s no place to wear/use said thing anyway. Maybe this is my penance for going into debt when I was working. Now I live in jeans, corduroys, sneakers, and t-shirts. Bleck.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interviews and Olympics

Olympics display @ the library

Here I am, back at my desk, on an overcast Thursday morning. I’m home for once this week since I’d been running around each day for some reason or another. Actually, I’ve been running around a lot so last night I firmly decided that I was staying put today. I miss being on my regular schedule. I haven’t gotten nearly as much work done as I’ve wanted to but thankfully yesterday I snapped out of my rut.

I think the break I took was all right if I had done something else to be productive. Granted, I’ve been job-searching, going to the gym, and learning to drive, but for my state of mind I think it clutters it too much. I’m not very good with distractions so when I go out in the morning to do anything other than read at the gym, cafe and/or park before coming home at lunchtime, I get focused on everything else that’s going on. By the time I get home from an adventure in the car or on public transport, I get back feeling like my mind is still out there in the big, wide world.

Not that being outside is a bad thing either. I’m sure it helps. Just as Anais Nin said, “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” It’s good to be out and about but being here is really good too. I need both from time to time. I have to go outside and see people and get ideas for when I am at my desk. Not that most of what I see is all that impactful but it’s nice to breathe the fresh air (which is why I keep my window open) and yes, the exercise is good too, I suppose.

Anyway, so yesterday I went to an interview. While the people there were nice, I was glad they didn’t offer me the job. I’d love to work, of course, but there were some glaring errors in the whole situation. First, the invitation letter they sent me had incorrect dates on it. I had to call and verify when I was supposed to show up. Then, the email address I was supposed to use to notify the school that I was coming to the interview didn’t work at all. When I tried to call the school, they were all on vacation, so no one was there to answer the phone. When I showed up for the interview (a bus/metro/bus commute) I met the Headteacher, the Literacy Teacher and the Head of English. The school had 900+ students, was being renovated and the position required a school librarian to totally re-do the whole library after the start of next school year. Then, they actually said, “The school librarian position doesn’t require anyone full-time so the new employee would also assist the English Department in lesson plans and teaching small groups.” Okay, so that essentially is a school media specialist job, except we’re supposed to assist all departments. Plus the pay was lower than even a teacher’s assistant. For all of that work, they offered £13/$20 thousand a year. I was floored. How can someone be a librarian for a huge school like that, and be responsible for what one department expects of them too? Who would you report too? What duties would be the most critical? They were even already using that library for classes too so it seemed like a big mess.

After they explained this, I thought, “Yeah, this is not a job I would settle for.” Even if they had offered it to me, I would have kept looking. After noon, they called me to tell me they’d chosen someone else who had experience building up libraries so they had more creative ideas than I did. They gave me feedback, saying I didn’t answer the questions directly, which I knew I hadn’t because they were vague questions I hadn’t been asked for: “How do you see using the library for extra-curricular activities?” To me, extra-curricular activities are sports and clubs. So I gave them ideas for journalism, drama, book clubs, etc. I have no idea what else they were looking for there.

But the minute I knew I didn’t get the job, I was pumped to go back to work here. I sat at my desk, and got 1000 words out. A big accomplishment from my blah, unmotivated non-wordage lately. Every time I get a rejection call or letter, I wonder if God is saying, “I keep trying to tell you, you need to sit at that desk. That’s your job now!” At any rate, I’m totally over it with these interviews. I know I’m doing better than the 55-60 people who applied and didn’t get shortlisted for interviews but when there’s always an issue of experience, I’m just not going to get anything in U.K. schools.

Now I have the Olympics and my computer to concentrate on. I’ve gotten hooked on my Pretty Little Liars books and TV show that I recorded ages ago on the V+ box too. I am perfectly fine with sticking around the house for  a while and just feeling like myself again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

1. It was a windy Sunday here in the North East. We had our roast dinner and are watched the documentary on the race car driver Senna. (I fell asleep for 30 minutes of it though.) I really find biographies of people of all types of careers quite interesting. Senna said at the start of his career that his being from Brazil, trying to live in Europe and succeed at driving was always a fight, it was never easy. I think things are more of a struggle than some and their challenge makes them all the more real.

2. This week is only going to be semi busy for me. I won’t be having a driving lesson until next week so I’m able to be at home more. However, I went to see how my blood work turned out this morning, early. As predicted, I am absolutely fine. No low blood sugar or anything so I’m just going to have to have some kind of food when I first get up in the morning. It’s simple but it’s easy to not do, especially on weekends when I sleep in. Now I get up (the cat never lets me sleep past 7AM anyway without alerting me of his empty food dish) and have a cereal bar or something before lying back down. Granted, eating and sleeping right after isn’t good either, but neither is getting sick from not having any food.

3. I have another interview. I'm really feeling like I'm getting close to something but there's still that hurdle of, "But you don't have as much experience in British schools as the other candidate..." I really hope that I won't have to go through the ropes all over again here like I did in Florida. Talk about something always being a fight. This finding a job thing has just never, ever been easy. Also, the school I am interviewing with gave me a letter with an incorrect date so I had to call and confirm which day I should turn up. They also indicated that I should email the person listed on the letter to confirm I was coming. Later, after I’d talked to the front desk, someone called me to verify that the candidates knew what day to show up (Lord knows how many candidates there are) and the lady said, “So you’re coming to the interview then?” “Yes.” Still, I tried to send email as the letter indicated, but it won’t go through to that address. Today I have been trying to call the school all morning, but the calls just go to voice mail. I won’t be surprised a bit if I show up tomorrow, bright and early, and they weren’t expecting me. Oh well, nothing more I can do, with any of it, right?

4. But I still keep working at home. Well, lately I've been out of the house each day so I've gotten side-tracked. I am totally unmotivated. I have the "what's the point?" question in my head more than usual. All the books and writers in the world, it's hard to make myself want to do something that is "life changing" for someone else.

5. We went to the Summertyne Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead on Saturday (as seen in the photos above.) There was a lot of dancing (see video of the hip, rockabilly kid) and live country music (see this other video.) We also ate jambalaya, cupcakes, and BBQ Cajun chicken. We had awesome margaritas too but I drank mine too quick to bother taking a photo.

6. After taking photos with my current camera of The Queen and of the festival, I am getting a new camera for my birthday in September. My Dad (who really needs a photography site of his own) got me started on the hobby when I was a kid, so he’s my go-to person for cameras and pictures. He chose this one because it has a way better zoom on it, wide angle lens, and more options. I need more options. What I have will only do so much. It’s getting frustrating when I see nice photos taken with an iPhone when mine can’t handle what I’m trying to do with it. Now I can up my game!

7. We’re going to see the Opening Ceremony on Friday! Steve’s coming home early from work just to make sure he’s here on time. We have 24 BBC HD channels, just waiting on our cable box for us to enjoy the festivities. I told Steve we should just stay in all weekend and watch the games. Then next Saturday, we’re headed to St. James’ Park to see a football (that’s soccer to us Yanks). We have to arrive at least 2 hours ahead of time. We can’t bring bags or have bottles of water either. Oh well, I’m fine with them being extra safe. I just want to be a part of the excitement. I was ready to bring my camera but I don’t think I’m allowed to. Oh well. I don’t want technology getting into the way of my fun anyway. I’ll make sure to record the game on the V+ box – maybe we’ll be on TV!

Here’s a photo of me in my cowboy hat, American cupcakes in hand, standing by the Olympic rings on the Tyne Bridge to help you guys spot me easily:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

Swan on the pond.

1. Interviews – I went on yet another school library interview this week. I did well too. I was fairly confident, answered the questions, made an impression, got a few laughs, etc. They tried to call me back but me being me, I messed up one digit on my phone number when I filled out the application so they couldn’t get back to me. (As I posted on Facebook, these kind of “duh” moments no longer shock me anymore. I can go over something and double check things but there are still going to be tiny, obvious things that I miss. Hate that!) Of course, when I did get called back with the correct phone number, the Headmaster told me they had chosen someone else. More UK school experience. I’m sure I’m going to be getting that answer a lot.

2. Doctors – I had my blood test done today with the nurse at my GP (regular doctor’s) office. I asked her which OB/Gyn they refer us to for regular check ups and any potential family planning, etc. She gave me the most confused look and said, “What’s that?” Come to find out that we don’t have OB/Gyns here and if any lady needs any kind of check ups or pregnancy care they just go to the regular doctor. That means that the same old gent who wears a tie and sits behind a desk when I come to tell him what’s wrong with me, is the same person who delivers babies? I’m sort of appalled by that. Now, I understand if they send you to a nurse for check ups but, dang it, when there are kids involved, I want someone who works with kids as their job every day. When I go back to get my blood test results I’m going to have him clarify this for me. I guess ladies can get refereed to a midwife at the hospital for some things but you’d only be referred to a “specialist” if there’s any issues. Seems very impersonal and impractical to me. One minute they’d be checking on someone’s gout, the next seeing how a foetus is progressing? I mentioned on Facebook as well that it reminded me of being on Little House on the Prairie. Kind of old fashioned in the way of doing things. Apparently the US is the only place that has women’s clinics. My Twitter peeps from the U.K., N.Z. and Australia all confirm that everything regarding women and children are done “in house” at their regular doctor’s office. *shudder*

3. Writer's site – I decided to start a writing site. I’m not sure exactly what all I’m going to put on there but I’d like it to be helpful, informative and collaborative. I decided to do something else not only to help myself but for anyone else as well. I know there are a zillion writer sites out there though but, alas, I guess the world can do with one more.

4. Food – I have been the worst this week. Steve was on his business trip so I had three pizzas in one week. Then I proceeded to have donuts on our walk in the park over the weekend. I polished off the M&Ms after finding out I didn’t get the job yesterday. I had a huge Subway sub today after I stuffed my face with a couple of hot dogs last night before my 9PM eating cut-off point for my blood test. The pulled pork we had tonight was awesome too. But tomorrow is another day, Katie Scarlett.

5. The Queen – Her Majesty will be coming to town tomorrow so I’m going to head to the Quayside to see if I can say, “Hello.” I’ll make sure to bring my camera and my camcorder (although I’m not sure how I’m going to use both at once but challenge accepted!)

6. Skyrim – You know what’s wrong with Skyrim these days? Everyone is obsessed with sending me on stupid missions where I get stuck or lost in caves. And, no, Clairvoyance doesn’t work because I keep getting the “No Clear Path” message. Good job, Dawnguard! One thing that is cool though, my character’s companion/husband, Mercutio (I call him that. His real name in the game is Mercurio; the magic dude from Bee and Barb.) keeps getting more and more awesome. Now that we both have daedric armour, I also gave him a ton of staffs so he is just killing things left and right. Today he summoned a Storm Atronach on his own. I was much impressed. Too bad they don’t have a “high five Mercutio” option. Usually he just whines at me when I ask him to carry anything.

7. Roads -- Every Tuesday the garbage (bin) men drive their truck to the cul-de-sac on our street. Every Tuesday they have to beep the horn to alert the neighbour with the big, white van to move said van our of the garbage truck's way. I've seen this twice and already I understand the pattern and the easy remedy. Just another example of how narrow and tiny our roads are.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A day at the park

Here are a few pictures I took at the park today. I used my Kodak Easy Share mini M200 for a change. I got this camera for my birthday last September and, low and behold, it doesn’t have a share option to anything other than email or Facebook. Frankly, that makes it’s pretty useless if it doesn’t support Twitter, Flickr or Youtube anymore. It has no image stabilizer so it’s a pain to get a decent photo out of it anyway. I’ll stick to my Canon PowerShot SD850 IS for awesome photos or my HTC Sensation for stuff on the go, thank you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nothing but my own devices

Library windows

Steve is now on his way home and I’m so glad. I cannot believe that I spent X amount of years living alone – it’s so boring. I can’t stand not being on a regular schedule and having the days just stretch on like that. Still, after spending all of yesterday eating frozen pizza, playing Skyrim and watching iCarly (the same routine was done today as well, but I substituted the pizza with chicken dippers) I ended up doing absolutely nothing productive. Well, no, I did the laundry and went to the doctor today, so that counts.

Doctor’s was no big deal. He sat at his desk and basically said, “Just because some people can’t skip meals doesn’t mean they have low blood sugar but everyone should have it checked.” I’m sort of surprised that being as sick as I was, it isn’t a cause for alarm. Anyway, I have my blood test and check up next week just to be on the safe side. I’m sure they’ll be like, “Nono, everything’s fine,” and I’ll spend the rest of my life being paranoid if I sleep in that I’ll pass out if I don’t stuff myself with bananas the minute I get up. Fabulous.

Also, since I talk to everyone (it’s the Southern way) I told my taxi driver today that I was learning to drive and how crazy these roads seem to me. He was saying that the amount of cars on the road now is way too much when most of the residential streets haven’t been renovated for fifty years. So now no one has a parking space and very narrow streets end up being a small lane to get through because the roads are simply overcrowded. I couldn’t agree more. He was surprised that my Florida license would only work for 1 year here before I had to get a U.K. license because any driver in the European Union can drive in any country. That includes the French roads that are completely different from British ones. (They also can teach in any country too but I won’t get into that again.) Apparently there are driving courses that guarantee that you’ll pass within a week or two, so they give students concentrated lessons and keep testing them until they pass. Does that mean they know how to drive well? No. So taxi cab driver wished me well and said I was doing this the right way – no rush so take my time to get really comfortable with the whole thing.

I wonder how long this will actually take though. Will I have my license by September, perhaps? I hope so. *fingers crossed*

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

I just loved this cat in Whitley Bay.

1. I’m writing this from my desk in the study while the cat is trying to open the closet door (he’s an expert at such things.) I finally got back into working this afternoon. Earlier this month I was at least adding some notes and snippets here and there but I’m back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing now that it’s, what, the 10th of July? Sheesh. We’re hoping to have the first project published online soon. Just not sure how soon it will be. End of July, maybe?

2. My next driving lesson is tomorrow. I keep thinking that each time I’m going to finally be some British driving expert and the clutch control will come so naturally. I am now over the initial hump of “what the heck am I doing?” frustration into the, “why doesn’t this car listen to me?” phase. The clutch control – Lord, have mercy! I really marvel at the competence that so many people have to drive a stick shift on a hill. I feel like I’m the slowest learner when it comes to driving lessons and I feel bad for the poor instructor who must need to smoke 10 cigarettes after each lesson. I can only imagine the conversations that go on at the driving school when all the instructors tell their stories of woe; “Well, I have this dumb American lady who gets panicky when she sees a bus coming toward her…” Really, it’s pretty freaky.

3. Steve is going down South to snag himself a big shiny award for his company tomorrow. This means I’ll be sitting on the couch, painting my toenails and eating pizza with the cat. After living on my own for all those years, I get bored very easily when I’m left to my own devices.

4. After our trip to Whitley Bay Saturday, I slept in on Sunday and intelligently decided to take a shower before eating anything. Now, I’ve been dizzy a lot in my life and when I was a kid they told me my blood pressure was just low, and it was no big deal because, “those kind of people live forever.” But this was different. Instead of being a little lightheaded I basically collapsed and didn’t get better until Steve brought me a banana. It wasn’t as if I had been starving myself because, I’d eating a big plate of fish and chips for dinner (plus honeycomb ice cream) the night before, and had a crumpet early that morning before I went to bed. Anyway, since this has become some weird occurrence that I want to avoid all together, I’m going to the doctor Thursday to see if I can get my blood sugar checked. The doctor will probably just tell me to eat more bananas and I’m going to live forever.

5. I have another job interview on Monday. Another school library job (which means I really want the job) but with the past history of not getting any kind of work offers due to my non-native-ness, I’m not going to be very surprised if I don’t get the job. (Not to be pessimistic, but it’s really getting old.) Still, it’s good that something is happening and I am still in the running to becoming Britain's Next American School Librarian (that makes sense only if you read it as I’m American and the school library is in Britain.) 

6. I found out that I do have to take the famous Life in the U.K. test when I apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain / Settlement in December / January. I have my test booklets now but so I have to study up before I go to our Home Office appointment (which we can’t even make yet because the calendar only goes up to four months in advance.) Here I thought I was just going to have to worry about taking a stinking driving test this year.

7. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. One of my favourite passages so far is,

“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die…perfectionism will ruin your writing…Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up” (28.)

Ain’t it the truth? We’ve also been watching The Walking Dead Season Two because it’s been on here. We watch it early enough so I don’t have nightmares. It’s not bad – we got to the part with the walkers in the barn. Also, my apologies to Sarah Dessen whose blog entry list on The Friday Five was my inspiration for today. (I didn’t really steal the idea because, well, it’s not Friday.) It really is a good, effective way to do a post though.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Our trip to Whitley Bay

Here are the photos from our trip to Whitley Bay today. There wasn’t a lot going on and the fog made it seem even more dull that it probably should be in the summer.

I also made a travel video and tried out HipGeo for the first time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cost of Writing: Priceless

Northern Goldsmiths, Blackett Street, Newcastle, England

I’m back at my desk before 9:30 on a cloudy Wednesday morning in July. I have my large pot of Starbuck bold brew and I’m ready to get back to work. However, I’m at the blog, typing this out instead of re-reading what I should have been working on in June. Why? It’s what I do. If I could get by with having a pill for ADHD each morning that would make me obediently sit at my desk, I’d have it made. Heck, we all would, wouldn’t we?

What is it about the self-esteem of someone creative that gives them the drive to go on? I was telling Steve the other day that now that I’m older, there is so much less that I worry about anymore. It’s a good thing, but sometimes it pulls me into an apathetic state that says, “Really, what’s the point?” There are so many people in this world and what we contribute is so small compared to the gamut of books being written every day. How small my contribution must be when I think about the largeness of it all.

Of course we all have the same answer to the question of why we write: because we have to. It’s true. I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t write something (blog entries included) and I’m constantly thinking up of new projects. But there’s a life we lead as well and getting bogged down in trying to make a living off what we do is not only dismal, it’s near to impossible. Granted, I’m not working and this is what I do because I don’t have a place that exchanges money for my showing up to do tasks. That’s just the way things worked out. And those of us who do work know we want to write so much more if we had the time.

As long as we’re writing something each day, I think we’re okay because we’re doing it out of love. It’s the same reason we work at schools and libraries – we love it. We’re making our impact on the world in amounts that we may not see in huge, golden pieces of money but we’re doing what we’re meant to do. That’s our reward.

But everyone wants to have a best selling book, a published book, a book which is critically acclaimed (my wish) or just one which sells. But let’s think about what is best-selling or what books are popular. It’s no secret that the Twitter society of writers, book reviewers, and librarians just can’t stand the latest book phenomenons. They’re badly written. I remember reading someone’s blog post saying that anyone who doesn’t get paid to be a book critic and says a popular author is a “bad writer” is just sour grapes. No. Knowing good writing and bad writing is something we should be able to identify. Why, as a writer, would you suggest that writers think otherwise?

So best-sellers are sometimes not very well written. Published books are often very well written but lack uniqueness. Once in a while we find some gems of literary genius and we celebrate. (Those are the ones we should be looking out for.) So, what does this mean for self-published books? When I read some independent novels, I felt they were in the same class (or above) some other books that were in print through a high profile publisher. But they were all kind of the same and it became very tedious to read the same plot over and over. To me, there’s nothing that really says anything about yourself if you’re trying to follow the same lines as other popular books. Yes, we like them, but we have our own unique take on the world, so it’s important that we keep that in mind when trying to create our own masterpiece.

Anyway, I had just been thinking about how writers are looking at what they do. I see far, far too many Twitter accounts that are nothing but book promotion. It saddens me to think that this is what writing has ended up being. There were few great writers in the past 200 years some of the lived in poverty. It isn’t anything new that we should be working for very little profit but now we have millions of people across the globe trying to sell their work. We now have an even larger pool to swim in because the publishers’ desks are full and Amazon is full with books that are self-published. It’s not easy but we do it because we want to. Remember that.

J.K. Rowling suggested writers keep a day job while they wait through rejections and self-published authors make less than $500 for their books. It can never be about the money. It has to be about doing what you feel is your purpose on this Earth to do.