Wednesday, September 30, 2009

not dead, just busy

A brief recounting:

- Working online, which is pretty much OK, except when there's no work when I want to work, when it's frustrating. The way it works is, I log in and "acquire a task." Sometimes there are no tasks to acquire. Sometimes after I've been logged in for a few minutes, tasks will start popping up, but it's pretty random. I'll have stretches where I can work for 3 or 4 hours (rare, for me), and then others when I work for 5 minutes and there are no more tasks forthcoming. Fortunately I am not dependent on this income for anything other than covering the kids' piano lessons, otherwise it would be stressful.

- Speaking of piano lessons, did I mention the barter arrangement I made with their teacher? We're trading cooking lessons for (part of) the piano lessons with some success. She would like to quit eating out pretty much all the time, but that's a huge transition to make. We're working on her cooking repertoire. I think she thinks that's an indulgent way to talk about it, but there it is: you have a repertoire of meals you rely on to get you through the days or weeks when you're lacking time, money, inspiration, or all three. So far she has liked what she has made, and that's good.

- Schoolwork -- finally knocked out the lesson plans and got good feedback on them, and attended my second seminar. Officially I have only 3 more assignments total and then I will be done with these two classes, and we'll see when I register for the next class or classes, because --

- I interviewed for a job on Monday. Last week I got a call, "Would you like to interview for the paraprofessional position?" I had to ask, "Which one?" because I had applied to so many different schools in different districts. It's not in the kids' school district but the calendar differences are manageable, so I said yes. The interview went really well, I think, and I think I would like the job -- Title I Paraprofessional, basically a floating instructional aide. I think. I should hear back on Friday. It's 6 hours per day so life would be much busier than it is now, but I think it would be really good for me to be working in a school again. I'm always so happy when I am teaching.

- I wrote a book last weekend, posted separately, for my RE (religious education) class, which started a couple of weeks ago. I'm teaching the same content as last year, and I'm sure we (me and the kids) will benefit from my having done it before. It's a smaller class and that helps, too.

- My own cooking, cleaning, shopping, working out; driving children everywhere; supervising kids' homework, reading, chores, piano & clarinet practice; wondering why the burners on the stove wouldn't light after I cleaned it (mismatched burner covers), cleaning up a quart of maple syrup that got all over the floor when the bottle was dropped and cracked... You know, that sort of thing. Oh, and laundry. Laundry is an afterthought now. I'm doing three loads a week instead of 5 or 6, and the drier is fast. I love those new machines. It is true that the clothes are a bit more wrinkled than with the old machines if I put the drier on "high heat" setting, but I really don't need to do that. The clothes look great. The whites really are whiter. Yes, I sound like an ad. I don't care.

- Watching, when I can, Top Chef, Project Runway, House, and Glee, and I almost forgot The Office. DH and I also are renting season one of Breaking Bad which is incredible. We're five episodes in and I'm thoroughly engrossed. The main character is such an odd dichotomy of normal good guy and amoral snake, but a terminal cancer diagnosis can have an odd effect on a person.

- Today, just to make things interesting, I went to school with DS1 for "shadow a student" day. There's nothing like being back in junior high. It was only a half day, thank God, and it went very quickly, but I can see why he chafes so about this new school. It is just not academically challenging at all. DH & I had thought this would be OK since he had so many other adjustments to make, but I'm wondering what the overall impact will be.

So you see nothing earth shattering, just a lot of things going on, the business of life. It's good.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Even in an Eden such as this, wrongs do occur"

The quote is not applicable to anything happening in my life -- I was watching Deadwood on DirecTV's 101 Channel this evening, and the quote leaped out at me. What a great show, once your ear gets tuned to ignore the profanity.

In my life, the most recent "wrong" was the death of the 14-year-old dryer, long anticipated. DH and I spent a good deal of time this week discussing the options and figuring out what we wanted, and I ran around to all sorts of stores to see what was to be had. We bought Sears' HE3t washer & dryer, which was on sale for a ridiculously low price for the pair ($1378). We debated a Maytag 5000 Series pair for a moment or two, but decided the upcharge for the steam feature was too much for something that was basically a boondoggle (at least according to Consumer Reports.)

The new machines were installed this morning and I did what would have been 5 loads of laundry (having had no machines all week) in somewhere between 4 and 5 hours. I'm impressed. Next up, no doubt: the equally ancient refrigerator, and the move to HDTV. What's the typical lifetime of a gas range, or a microwave? I really like them and would rather not replace them any time soon -- the others, I know their time is coming.

In other news: I have a job! It's a work-at-home, search engine evaluator contractor gig. We'll see how it goes. The test was fun and easy for me. SEE's are expected to evaluate URLs at a rate of 2 minutes per, and most took much less than that for me. But that was in the test environment, and I haven't started the real work yet as I have to update the virus protection software on my laptop before I begin.

In other, other news, the kids are all doing great at school, karate started this weekend, and RE classes start tomorrow. I therefore have something scheduled for every day this week, so it will fly by.

And that may be the most significant wrong occurring in this Eden, after all: that great rush always sweeping forward, leaving scant opportunity to fathom the accumulation of events that is Life while it's happening.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

that stings a bit

I had my audition for Kaplan last night, and just got my rejection via email.

Yesterday I settled on the topic, "How to Look for a Job," and practiced several times during the day, making sure I could cover the material in 5 minutes.

I arrived at Kaplan and was directed to a small classroom where there were 5 or 6 guys seated conspicuously at the back of the room. I was immediately sensitive to being the only woman there, not to mention being old enough to be mother to all but one of them. I made a teasing comment about them all sitting in the back and they laughed nervously. I put my things in the second row (the first row was too close to the board) and noticed the white board markers in the tray.

I have enough classroom experience to know that it's frustrating to grab a marker only to find that it doesn't write, so I took the opportunity to try them out and see which ones actually worked. I think the guys appreciated it.

The Kaplan guy came in and gave his spiel: the courses are very scripted, they only take the top, your timing has to be spot on. Nothing surprising there if you know anything about how these test prep places work.

Then he asked for a volunteer to go first and everyone froze, so I took a deep breath and went for it. I paced myself well although I may have been a little rushed, and my handwriting on the board was lousy -- I am out of practice and the board was higher than the ones I am used to, she said, making a couple of lame excuses. I finished within my five minutes, but I failed to include any interaction with the "class," which may be why they rejected me. Five minutes is a short time, and given my topic, I had a complete failure of imagination on how to integrate feedback and still include everything I wanted to say. Clearly I should have cut some material to give myself time for interaction, but as I said -- failure of imagination.

The guys did their presentations, at least one of them didn't finish in time. Here are their audition topics:

- How to do the Time Warp from Rocky Horror

- How to Clean Your Pool - now I know that you have to plug, vacuum, and then backwash for best results

- How to Survive a Zombie Attack

- How to Pick a Lock (we voted for that over "How to Build a Nuclear Bomb")

- How to Calculate the Odds of Winning Powerball

I won't comment on their auditions except to say that I liked the Powerball one the best.

I will say that from the moment that the Kaplan rep walked into the room I got the impression that he thought none of us were good enough. There was a definite "we are the best and you should be grateful we're giving you this chance to even be considered" vibe there -- it reminded me a lot of how some people were about MIT. There were many, many nice people at MIT when I was there, but there were also some arrogant idiots, and this guy had that demeanor. There's a way to talk about a position that requires very specific qualifications without implying that if you don't have those qualifications you're somehow a lesser individual, and this guy did not practice it.

I think it would have been great to get some class time with high school kids, and the money is not bad considering everything else out there (which is not much, at this point.) However, the hours would be all weekends and evenings, and frankly I would much prefer to spend those particular hours with my family. Maybe my ambivalence manifested as insufficient enthusiasm; even as I was driving to Tempe I was thinking, "Why am I even bothering with this?"

Even so, it's never fun getting rejected. My ego is slightly bruised, but I'll get over it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

a minor obsession

I'm spending far more time looking for a job than I am doing anything else, including all the stuff around the house that needs doing. I think I need to get a job simply to get myself off this hamster wheel.

On that positive note, I've decided what to do for my "how to" presentation: how to look for a job online! Hey, I can boil it down to 5 minutes and just hit the high points.

We appear to have stopped hemorrhaging money, so that's good, but we don't have a handle on what our new baseline monthly expenses are, either. DH is not in the least bit concerned (at least he does not appear to be) and so I suppose I should not be, either.

Tomorrow: my own school work first, then putting together and practicing my Kaplan audition for delivery in the evening. Should be fun, although the idea of taking an SAT-like qualifying test does not fill me with joy. We'll see how it goes.