Monday, June 18, 2018

How my drawing abilities indirectly got me one of my favorite compliments ever

Hmm. This is the second brag post in a row-- but I did promise to tell you this story in the last post, so I'll do this one and then maybe next time I will talk about some of the things I've been messing up lately. (But no promises!)

Anyway. About halfway through the school year, I was having some difficulty getting the some of the seventh-graders I supervise at lunch to clean up after themselves. One day, I was feeling extra frustrated, and followed a couple of kids from the cafeteria to the library to see if they had been the ones to leave a particularly bad mess. They denied it, but said someone else had done it. I duly went and asked the someone else, but of course he denied as well. I went home pretty steamed about the whole thing, and decided that the best thing would be to sit with them at the table to make sure that I knew who was leaving what.

But as I thought about it that evening, I realized that my presence might not just be a little bit unwelcome; it might be very unwelcome, and I could get kids so upset about me being there that it would distract from my real purpose of figuring out who was causing the messes. I needed a strategy.

Luckily, I had been recently working on learning how to draw a Corvette. I had incorrectly assumed that I would be able to easily get the length of time it took me to draw it down to, oh, say, ten minutes so that I could teach it to my young library patrons during a special lunch hour when (with knowledge and consent from my lunch captain) I would not be in the lunch room but the library. All this was to no avail. My drawing time remains stubbornly at about the half hour mark, and the student (who really is good at drawing) who had volunteered to be my helper took even longer.

So, I had given up on the drawing project in terms of library programming, but as I was thinking about how to not make myself stinky, as it were, to a table full of boys, it occurred to me that if I were to draw a sports car, they might be interested enough not to mind me.

And that was exactly how it worked. The first day, they just watched. When a couple of them got up without taking their trays, I (without yelling, because they were right there) asked them to please come back for them, and they did so without complaint. The second day, I just reminded everyone as they stood up. The third day, they needed no reminder at all.

But this was the other interesting thing. One of the boys--I think on the first day-- said, "That isn't so hard. I can do that." And I genuinely thought that he might. Some kids spend HUGE amounts of time on drawing every day, and I thought if he was one of them, it might be cool for him to get to beat an adult at a skill both he and his peers valued.

The kid who had been helping me prepare for the drawing lesson that never happened remained silent. He knew from personal experience how hard it was to draw a good looking car.

And this is what happened: within about twenty seconds, it was very, very obvious that I had won. And normally I find impromptu contests annoying, especially when the contest is uneven-- yes, even when I'm the one who has the advantage, as in this case. But in this case, victory was SWEET, because every single one of those boys cleaned his tray up every day after that, and the boy who had challenged me happened to also be one who used to try to cut in line every day, and I would always have to harangue him to go back, and after that he just stopped, for most of the rest of the school year. And, basically, anything I asked him to do (which isn't much-- I'm really not that much of a dragon) he would just DO.

This is the thing. I know that I'm above-average at drawing, and yes, it's a real skill, and yes, it's great, but most of the time I feel like being good at drawing, in terms of my-life-usefulness, is a bit like having extra-handsome elbows: great as far as it goes, but not that useful. Except, this time it was! Like I said, SWEET!

And the epilogue happened a couple of weeks ago. My lunch captain, who is one of the school counselors and also one of my friends, came up to me and told me that our school custodian had told her that she thought our lunch team (meaning, the adults who supervise the seventh-graders during lunch) did a very good job. And my friend/captain said that she thought that was mostly me, and I think that this is at least a little bit true, and I was absolutely chuffed that my little old handsome-elbow-drwaing skills got me to the point of earning compliments from the custodial staff. I'll take it any day. :)

(N.B. I have grand planz to update this post soon with at least a picture of one of my drawings, but I don't have them with me at the moment, so I thank you in advance for your patience with me.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Kept my goat

Image by Armin K├╝belbeck; uploaded from Wikipedia
I have a kid-- like lots of my kids, actually-- who is somewhat of a tough customer. I had to write him up not too long ago for blatant disrespect. Earlier this year, I ended up sitting up at his lunch table a couple of days, in order to get the kids there to clean up after themselves (which is also a good story which I should tell soon...)

Anyway. The other day, he called me over and said, showing me his phone, "Look! It looks just like you!"

It was a picture of a purple, triangular-shaped cartoon character. Sort of blob-like. And for once in my life, I had the perfect response: "Oh my gosh! It DOES look like me! It looks exactly like me!!!"

The kid doubled over, cackling in laughter. I smiled, and then started walking again. When I told the story to a friend later that day, she pointed out that I had won my not letting him get my goat. The part I like is that I think we both won. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

So I Quit Grad School to Focus on My Writing

Long-time readers of this blog will not be that surprised-- I believe that I've announced that I was "going to get serious about my writing" at least twice, here-- but the decision did surprise me, as well as a few people who had not known me as long.

And since the same questions seem to come up over and over again, I decided that I would just answer them here and then link to Facebook, and then hopefully everyone will have theirs answered. Or, mostly answered. I hope. Here goes!

Q: What are you working on?
A: Four main projects: a biography of my dad; a middle school cookbook; this blog; and a young adult fantasy. The fantasy is my main project. I spend as much time on the biography, but since I am sort of still in the collecting-data phase for that project, it is much less towards the finished end of the spectrum.

Q: Cool! Young Adult Fantasy-- like Harry Potter!! Doesn't that mean you'll be rich?
A: Not... really. I mean, sure, I have ideas about what I would do with buckets of cash, but the truth is that "wildly successful" for me would mean I could, first, move out from living with my mom, and second, buy my own house. And, once I have enough years in my job to be able to carry my fabulous health insurance with me, to quit my job. Maybe. I actually really enjoy my job; I just don't love that I get paid so little that I have to live with my mother.

The issue of how much/little I get paid (about a third of a teacher salary) is a whole can of worms, but suffice it to say that I think the school system would be better served if it paid all the adults it emplyed a living wage. I know they can't afford it. They can't afford what their budget even now. And yet, I believe that if the pay went up, the candidate pool would suddenly and mysteriously grow both larger and more qualified, and the work that got done would be of much higher quality, thus saving money in the long run. *sigh* /end rant.

Oh, right, you wanted to know about my future income. Huge quantities of money would bring their own headaches, which I am not really interested in. Moderate quantities of money (and research backs me up here) would, given my current income level, have a significant positive impact on my happiness. So, that's what I'm aiming for, and luckily that is also what is much more realistic to aim for. Publishing books-- really, making entertainment of any kind-- is a bit of a gamble, but part of the reason I am taking extra time now (see below) is because I am focused on that goal of producing steadily high-quality work. Only time will tell if this was a good strategy for me in the end.

Q: Cool! Young Adult Fantasy-- I LOVE young adult fantasy!!! Can I read your stuff?
A: Not quite yet. Sorry. I am a painfully slow writer, though I believe/hope (but really, I do believe) that this will change as I become a more experienced writer. If you would like to be a beta reader, whenever that may happen, you are welcome to email me at corneliaphilosophene at the email service provided by Google, and I will put your name and email on my list of beta raders. And I even JUST NOW started a Google doc for this very purpose.

Q: How long do you think it will be until you have something for beta readers?
A: My best guess is that it will be a bare minimum of one year, but possibly two or even three. But I'm hoping for one.

Q: But you'll start in on grad school again in the summer, or whenever you find one that's right-- won't you?
A: You know, the first couple of times I got this question, I said "yes," but since then I've realized that the answer is "no."

This is the thing. I've known for-- mmm-- at least fifteen years that I wanted to be a writer, and for the last ten that I also should be a writer. I had always thought that I would get a "real" job, then in my spare time, write, and then my career would take off. But that isn't how things have worked out.

I remember once being at a wedding luncheon at a table with a woman who had a great job as a voice actor. Someone else at the table was congratulating her. She said thank you, because it really was a dream job for her, but she also pointed out that it was the only job she could find. Even the local university's custodial crew had rejected her before she finally, in desperation, applied for a job which she was afraid was too cool for her.

I have tried a number of different things-- things which have worked for other people. For pity's sake, the program I just quit was a librarianship program, and other people shift from being librarians to being writers all the time. But the realization I finally came to is that just because other people could do it doesn't mean that I can do it.

Thus: my second job is just. writing. And I must say, while I had thought I was "getting serious" about my writing before, there are few things to light a fire under one's tail like the prospect of spending one's forties, after one's thirties, living with mama. I mean, I love her. But there comes a point.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New York Trip, Part III

And this is the last.

I remembered my resolution as I was walking from the Natural History Museum to the temple not to be embarrassed about taking pictures. (I tend to be embarrassed no matter whether I'm on my home turf or not, if I'm in public.) So the next three are just cool iron gratings in front of buildings in streets which are quite close to the Manhattan LDS temple.

First, a couple more creatures-that-are-not-gargoyles:

Then, a cool piece of ironwork just below a window-- quite frankly, it reminded me of some of the cool ironwork in front of rowhouses that I see in Baltimore when I go up there:

In the afternoon, after I had gotten back to the hotel and Mom had finished her meetings for the day, we decided together to go to St. Patrick's Cathedral. This was beautiful and well-worth the visit, and also the light was dim enough that I'm going to have to send you off to the wide, wide internet again to find someone else's gorgeous pictures of the inside (or even the outside-- sorry).

We walked past the famous Rockefeller Center on the way back, with its skating rink. And then... as we passed a building... I saw a sign which I could not help taking a picture of, despite the deplorable lighting conditions. I squealed when I said, "MOM! LOOK!"
And I was a happy chica.

After I got back home, I told friends that I had heard that New York is awesome because it's big, but I came to the opposite conclusion: it's big because it's awesome. I actually found it to be, in a way, rather cozy. This is no doubt related to the fact that I took zero motorized transportation in the time I was there, and my own two feet carried me to enough cool places to make me rawther happy for one trip. I am super excited to go again, whenever that is. :)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

New York Trip: Part II

With gargoyles. Well, one gargoyle-like creature, if it had served a different architectural purpose. You'll see. :)

I wasn't there very long; I couldn't take very long off of work. So, I got there on a Wednesday afternoon, then walked with Mom down to the main branch of New York Public Library-- which I didn't get any good pictures of, but happily for YOU it's famous, so you can just look some up online. (The outside has marble lions; the inside looks a lot like the Library of Congress, having been built in approximately the same era.)

The next morning, I walked ALL over Central Park-- well, over half of it anyway. I walked from Times Square, where the hotel was, up through the south end of the park and then up to approximately the middle (North-South wise). I had wanted to go to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, but it turned out that it didn't open until ten, and since I wanted to make it to the temple by ten thirty or so for an eleven o'clock session, well, all I ended up seeing was the outside of the museum. *sigh*

But that was not the end of the world. As I walked across the narrow side of Central Park to see if I could catch any of the Natural History Museum (of Night at the Museum fame), I happened to come across Belvedere Castle. This structure was originally-- and, to quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up-- called a "folly," which is a structure built mostly to look good, without having any other real purpose. (This is where I got that info: Anyway, it's still serving the purpose of looking decorative, while also serving as a weather station, having a tourist shop inside, and being a nature observatory, from which you can actually check out stuff like binoculars. (This last part I didn't know until just now-- more to do for my planned return this summer!) But none of that was open yet as I hiked my way through.

I did, however, get a picture of this lovely metal creature over the door:

I just looked up the definition of a gargoyle. This one doesn't count, because it's not part of a gutter. But you can't tell me it isn't cool!

Next, I walked to the Natural History Museum-- which, you guessed it, was still closed when I got there, though it was opening as I arrived. I decided to step inside, which meant letting a guard give my purse a glance, which I certainly didn't have a problem with. The great hall did have a dinosaur-bone replica, but other than that was empty of objects. It did, however, have a lovely quotes from T. Roosevelt on the walls, one of which I liked so much that I took a picture:
The part I most like says: IT IS HARD TO FAIL BUT IT IS WORSE TO HAVE NEVER TRIED TO SUCCEED. It felt quite relevant to my life as I looked at it. It feels quite relevant to my life, even now.

Friday, January 26, 2018

New York Trip: Part I

Mom had to be in New York for work, which meant that her work paid for a hotel for her, which meant that I could stay for a night in New York for free! Except for the time off I took. But it was TOTALLY worth it, and it turns out I love New York, and I plan on going again.

Living there would be a different matter.

I took a cheapo bus up, and it was a gray, cloudy day-- which is a kind of day I love very much, so it was kind of perfect. I felt that the couple of shots I got of the Sesquehenna River as we passed over it were quite pretty:
And that's all I'll post for now. I will get to the other pictures of the LoC later, I suppose.

Floor at the Library of Congress

My oldest niece came out for a visit in October, and when I asked what she most wanted to see in the area, she said (after mentioning the temple) the Library of Congress.

Which I had seen before, but I had ABSOLUTELY NO objection to seeing again. So we went, and I took a lovely picture of the tile pattern on the floor:

We'll see if any of the others turned out well enough to post. My phone's camera isn't great, but it does have that one must-have feature: I almost always have it with me. :)