Category Archives: Careers

Resolved: ‘March’ing On!

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Ok, I promised. Now that it’s officially March, I can share my new Resolution of the Month with you! Aren’t you excited?? I can feel your anticipation vibrating through my keyboard as I type this. Seriously, I can. I’m sure that you’ve been doing nothing at all for a month but waiting to hear about my next resolution. (If you haven’t detected the sarcasm yet, I’m truly sorry for you.) But for the three – or four, on a good day – of you who actually read this, I’ve got a new goal. And it actually fits in with my Life Plan, so that’s a win-win, right? I sure think so. Hold onto your hats – here it is…

Writing.

Yep, that’s right. Writing. See, I’ve been pretty good about daily blogging lately. At least the mechanics of it. The quality? Not so much. My brain has been in a dry period the last couple of weeks, so some days have been a real stretch as far as finding a topic. But I’m not just talking about blogging here.

If I really want to be a Writer (and the capital ‘W’ is oh-so-important) I need to make writing more of a priority. I already carry a journal with me everywhere, in case something just hits me or I need to vomit excess thoughts out of my brain to make space for the day-to-day stuff. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

I need a dedicated time and space for Writing. Daily. I mean it. Not just a few minutes in the park between checking Facebook, eating lunch and reading my book o’ the day. Serious Writing Time. I want to make it a priority. Which makes sense, if I want to turn this little passion of mine into a career someday. Trouble is, time is at a premium for me. Correction – time during which my brain is coherent is at a premium. I’ve got plenty of time if you count the hour in the morning before my coffee kicks in or the two hours after the minions are in bed. But it’s hard for me to count that as Serious Writing Time when my brain resembles a greenish poof of cotton candy during those times instead of seriously alert gray matter.

See my dilemma? It’s a biggie. So I’m asking for suggestions here. Writers – how do you schedule non-negotiable time for writing into your day? How did you transition into a Writer? Moms – how do you find that solitude that’s necessary for free-flowing thoughts? What’s your perfect writing space? Manuscript or computer?

I’m open to any and all ideas here – please keep ’em coming!!

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Filed under Careers, Hobbies, time management, Uncategorized, working moms

Ten Things I Love – About My Job

AdminOfficeAssistRemember my January resolution to be more positive? Well, in an effort to bring some of that back today, here you go. The Top Ten Things I Love About My Job. In no particular order other than the way they happened to pop into my brain over lunch.

  1. The park across the street
  2. Lunches in the park across the street
  3. Lunchtime shopping within walking distance
  4. Lack of women = lack of daily needless drama
  5. The ability to go to the bathroom whenever, without alerting the media (If you’ve ever taught school or supervised little kids, you know this one’s priceless.)
  6. People-watching
  7. The constant buzz of energy when all the sales guys are on the phone cranking out deals
  8. Uninterrupted time to work in my cube – and actually pace myself to get my own stuff done
  9. Ever-present coffee
  10. And my fave – don’t ask me why, but it is – the office-y smell coming off of the elevator. It’s a mix of paint, coffee, cleaning supplies, printing toner, paper, and who knows what else. It makes me feel productive and I love it.

What are your work-related Top Ten?? I’d love to hear!

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Filed under Careers, work

It’s a Party – and I’m Not There

It’s that week again. The ONE week of the year that makes me miss teaching, and specifically miss teaching music, more than any other.

Music Educators’ Convention Week.

While that may sound like a snoozefest to some, I read an old Funky Winkerbean comic the other day that describes it best. Ready?

‘It’s like Spring Break for band directors.’

And not just band directors. Choir, orchestra and elementary music teachers converge by the thousands. From all over Texas. From out of state. It’s huge. There are not one, but TWO huge exhibit halls full of enough instruments and sheet music to bonfire New York – as well as enough fundraising cookies, sausages, candies and chocolates to feed a small country. Seriously. You can just walk the exhibits and eat samples all day without spending a dime. I’ve done it.

And then there are the workshops. Pick and choose from hundreds on any topic from How to Get the Snotnosed Kid With an Attitude Problem to Love Music to Fundraising 101 to Folk Dances from Outer Mongolia. Seriously. And each one of them is led by an expert in the field, recorded for future reference and most actually have door prizes. Good ones. Score!

And the concerts! Invited groups from all over the state. All levels from elementary choir to university orchestra. Winners of the state Honor Band contests. Usually a professional group or two. And to top off the weekend, the All-State ensembles’ concerts. AND MOST OF THESE ARE FREE!! What more could a total music geek ask for?

I’ll tell you. I wanna go. The Spouse headed out this morning and I’m seriously green. So jealous I could spit. Not because I miss the tantrums, the puke, the public school schedule and issues with helicopter parents.

I miss the camaraderie. The networking. The sheer possibility of professional learning and personal brain-stretching that I always experienced at Convention. The idea that a group of grown adults actually gather on a Thursday night for two hours’ worth of folk dancing – for the fun of it – makes my music-historian-geek start to drool. I mean it.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that all of this musical loveliness takes place in San Antonio? On the Riverwalk?

That’s where the Spring Break part comes in. Because in the midst of all the professional inspiration, you can walk steps to any one of the plethora of amazing restaurants and shops nearby. Take a break. Eat fabulous food. Hang out with old college friends, new acquaintances and colleagues. Network. And of course head down to Swig or Durty Nellie’s for some live music and/or a beverage if you’re so inclined. And the funniest part? You can spot all of the band directors a mile away – something about the briefcase, name badge and Dockers combo.

Can you tell I miss it? The idea of being kid-free with the Spouse, away from home, in San Antonio and getting professional inspiration all in one? Heaven. Nirvana. Whatever you want to call it.

But is it enough to make me want to go back there? To go back to teaching public school music to groups of up to 60 youngsters at once? No.

But I’m thinking a nice private school gig would suit me just fine. Now I just need to fit that into my day job and writing schedule.

What about you? What inspires you personally and professionally?

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Filed under Arts Education, Careers, Music, Music teachers, Performing Arts, Personal growth, Uncategorized

"You Need a Hobby"

So I have been told – more than once – that I need to get a hobby. Sure. Easy enough, right? Just get a hobby. Right. Just pick one up and do it. Easier said than done. To me a hobby needs to be something for which I have a passion and truly enjoy – not just something to do. And that’s a real problem because I have this nasty tendency to overthink everything. Yes, everything. Well, ok, not everything. Certain decisions, like what kind of toilet paper or laundry detergent to get, are just no-brainers in my book. But everything else? Big problem. Lots of overthinking going on. And overanalyzing too.

So, hobbies. Right. That’s where I was going with this. You’ll have to excuse me today – brain is still coming back from the fog of Christmas and a few days of vacation with the entire boy-clan at home. Anyhoo, I started thinking about my past hobbies. Aerobics. Weight lifting. Running. Pilates. Yoga. I spent years doing those. But, really, shouldn’t a hobby be something you like doing? Yup. And I really hated most of those – except when I was able to tell someone that I ran X miles the day before. That felt kind of good. But still not really enjoyable.
About the only kind of exercise I ever really looked forward to was Zumba. Yes, Zumba. Even though I’m sure watching my uncoordinated self try to do some of those moves was pretty entertaining for everyone else in the class, I loved it. But the budget wouldn’t hold up to the gym fees, so that went out the window. The Spouse even got me Zumba for the Wii. Have I cracked open that box yet? Heck no. Maybe it’s time.
I know plenty of people with hobbies. I do. One of my friends designs and screen prints t-shirts. Yep – you read that right. She actually went out and bought a real live screen printing machine to speed up her work. And she won’t go into business with it, because she says she wouldn’t enjoy it then. Makes sense. But I definitely don’t need a hobby that would bring lots more stuff into my house. There’s too much crap and clutter there as it is.
Last year around the holidays I spent lots of time with a group of women who crocheted. Couldn’t be too hard, right? If that many people were able to do it and talk/listen/carry on entire conversations and watch TV while doing it?
Wrong. I tried. Something about the little bitty needle, written directions that made no sense and YouTube videos that all seemed to feature right-handed people. I’m a lefty. The world is made for right-handers and it stinks. Plus, just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, my cat decided to jump right in and gnaw through my yarn. Another bust.
I’ve talked with knitters. I used to knit. My mom taught me as a kid, and we had a rocking collection of handmade potholders if I do say so myself. But just reading about charts and repeats and numbers – that sounds too much like math for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like math – on my own terms. But we didn’t get along well in school. At. All. So that kind of takes away the enjoyment factor that should be important in a hobby.
Tennis? I used to teach at a school with a large population of ‘tennis moms.’ These were a rare breed. I never knew that it took so much time and effort to get all made up with full hair to go and play tennis. Not to mention the designer shoes and sportswear. Who knew? But apparently it’s fun. A colleague’s husband was a tennis pro at one of the clubs frequented by these mommies, and he always said they were the easiest to teach. Show them a few tips, and then spend the rest of the hour listening to their gossip about who was doing what on Facebook. Seriously. Not sure that fits my budget or idea of a good time either.
So that brings me back to writing. Sadly, I get most of my ideas on the drive to the office. So I want to immediately get them down in writing when I get in. Bad idea. Not sure the office people would understand about that one. But I do carry a journal and write stuff down when it hits me.
Ok, so I’ve got a hobby. But writing is also a dream of mine. To Write For a Living. To Be Published. I’ve sent off a couple of things here and there. I have. I’ve got the rejection emails to prove it. One online site told me that ‘personal statement essays’ are not considered by their firm. Personal Statement Essay? Never learned that genre in school. Somehow I think it’s a made-up name, kind of like ‘literary nonfiction’ in the district where I taught. Hmmm…
I’ve looked at other options too. Wrote a piece that – in my opinion – was at least as good as some of the junk I’ve read in magazines, and looked for contact information to send it in. I found these guidelines on a popular women’s magazine site. They look for:


Marriage articles with an emphasis on strengthening the relationship

Short parenting features on how to deal with universal health and behavioral issues

Reporting on exciting trends in women’s lives

“Writers are advised to read at least the last six issues of the magazine (available in most libraries) to get a better understanding of appropriate subject matter and treatment. We prefer to see detailed queries rather than completed manuscripts, and suggest that you provide us with some ideas for sources/experts. Please enclose two or more samples of your writing, as well as a stamped, self-addressed envelope. “

What’s a query? No clue. So I guess my piece about a woman trying to escape her abusive polygamist husband while battling an addiction and searching for her soul mate wouldn’t be a good fit. Dang it. And I thought I had a good hook, too. And other web sites have been just as discouraging. Apparently you have to be published in order to get published. Kind of like looking for entry-level jobs that require experience when you have to work the job in order to get the experience.
Guess I’ve got a LOT of learning to do. But hey, at least I’ve got a hobby now, right? All I need is unlimited time to explore it…

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Filed under Blogging, Careers, Hobbies, Moms, Publishing, writing

The Girls Down the Hall

I’m in a shopping moratorium. Yep, on a budget and sticking trying my darndest to stick to it. The holidays are coming, boys are getting older, house needs maintenance – you name it. I’m really trying.

But I’ve got a problem. The Girls down the hall.

See, our office dress code is officially Business Professional. But it could more accurately be termed Ultra-Conservative Business Professional. Meaning closed-toe shoes, skirts a maximum of three inches above the knee (the official measurement from the employee handbook), common-sense necklines, muted colors, etc. etc. etc. And that’s fine with me. Really. But when I started here I had to do some serious shopping. My fairly-dressy-for-an-elementary-school-teacher wardrobe just wasn’t going to cut it. So I shopped. And, I must say, managed to come up with a good solid Business Professional foundation.

Then I saw the Girls down the hall. For a split second, I was envious enough to want to work in their office – they seemed like a fun bunch. But after a few days’ observations, I realized something.

I don’t fit the job description. They do.

What job description? The list of qualifications that includes a height of at least 5’10”, long shiny flowing Taylor Swift-esque hair, a model size 00 figure and a perfect hand at applying the latest cosmetic trends. Seriously. They all fit the mold. I don’t. Enough so that I get the feeling of looking like I just rolled out of bed (even though I spend at least an hour on myself every morning) if I run into one of them in the elevator.

How does this relate to my current shopping drought? Well, everything that I’ve seen lately in the shops (that I thought I had to have) doesn’t fit the office dress code. But it sure fits theirs. Although I have had to remind myself a few times that, just because something comes in my size doesn’t mean I should wear it – at least to work.

Examples:

Seriously Sky-High stilettos
The grey sequined blazer
Brightly colored animal prints
Skinny jeans
Skirts that look more like a bandeau top
Leggings – with a black sequined mini
Skirts and dresses a minimum of three inches above the knee
Tops that enhance and show off the – erm – chest area

Now admittedly, I wouldn’t have bought all of these items – or even worn them – but they are actual items seen around the building. For real. Part of me wonders what kind of brain cell fires off when deciding to wear this stuff to an office. But then it hit me.

They’re real live Clackers!

Yes, Clackers. If you’ve never seen The Devil Wears Prada, I’m sorry for you. You’re behind the learning curve here. (Completely unrelated tangent – a friend of mine from high school works for Conde Nast and I’ve been tempted, more than once, to ask her if there really are clackers in the building. But I never do. I don’t want to seem like a hick tourist.)

What does any of this have to do with anything? Not a whole lot. But it just goes to show that you can always find wild and weird stuff going on somewhere in the city…

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Filed under Budget, Careers, Fashion, shopping, Work-Friendly Attire

Pretty Girls

This is me:

Just kidding. I found her at the Museum of Fine Art and just fell in love with her. Maybe it’s my recent fascination with Downton Abbey, but if I could put myself in any place and time this would be me.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not, nor have I ever been, a Pretty Girl. Ugly Duckling would be a kind description of me as a child. Seriously. There’s a reason that my seventh-grade English teacher, upon hearing my name on the announcements for a musical accomplishment, felt it necessary to inform her class that ‘Sometimes the girls who are really unattractive now turn out to be beautiful later. Trust me, in high school lots of you guys will probably want to date her.’ Yes, I still remember that over twenty years later. Yes, I found that teacher on Facebook. No, I will not be friending her any time soon.

A dear friend recently blogged about the lovability of being a dork. Growing up as a dork, I was the one usually described as ‘smart, with an interesting personality.’ I was a dork. Indeed. And not a quirky-artsy-cool dork of the kind that is actually sought after and admired nowadays. Serious, intense, shy, etc. In fact, after graduation I found out that some people thought that I was stuck-up and conceited. Not true. I was just so shy that the idea of initiating a conversation made me break out in a cold sweat – especially with the Pretty Girls.

Ah, the Pretty Girls. You know who I mean. The smart, focused, socially adept girls with flawless skin and expertly-applied makeup – if they wore any at all. Some of the prettiest Pretty Girls were so confident that they wore none at all, nor did they need it. The girls who didn’t care what other people thought and didn’t try to fit in because they just knew that they did. (Granted, some of them may have been pretending to feel that way, but they at least exuded tons of confidence.) They weren’t necessarily the most popular or wealthy – but it didn’t matter. They were Pretty Girls.

And where are they now? Smart, successful, driven women? Why, in incredibly fascinating and challenging careers of course. Performance artist? Check. Musician? Check. Former CIA operative? Check. (Yes, I’m serious. I went to school with a real-life former spy.) Event planner? Check. The list goes on and on… Maybe it’s my current state of job-hunting that’s brought this out – or my still-developing self esteem. Or watching too many Lifetime movies and reality TV lately. But whenever I’ve tried to imagine my dream job it’s been in a challenging, unusual and creative field. A bright, contemporary office. A field that would require me to attend intellectual events as part of the job description. And I get bogged down with this fact that I don’t fit in there.

I’m still shy. Not as painfully as I was when I was younger, but striking up a conversation is still a major effort. Even without the cold sweat I still find my brain racing a mile a minute. I would love it if Stacey and Clinton showed up on my doorstep one of these days. Yes, I am working on these issues – which is probably I decided to blog about them today. Just throw it out in the open and see it for how ridiculous it is. Because confidence can be acquired – I’m sure of it. And until I acquire more of it, I’ll keep looking.

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Filed under Careers, Self Image, Women

Looking for Passion – What’s that?

Gotcha, didn’t I? With a catchy title, no less! Not to disappoint you, but I’m thinking along a different line than you probably are – life’s work. See, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about sliding doors and life’s crossroads because that’s where I’m currently at. Pondering what I do, how I do it and whether or not to continue it. My. Life’s Work. See, I’m currently unemployed and seriously thinking about a change.

Now what?

A very wise, dear friend who knows me very well had this piece of advice: Do what you love and work will become play.

Sure. OK. No problem, except…

I’m not sure what I love. I envy those of you who have truly found your passion in life. But I’m not sure if I am capable of feeling that deeply, or if I will ever find a true passion. I know people that do. They are the ones who leap out of bed at 5:30 AM and hit the ground running with joy and expectation of what each new day will bring. I’m not one of those. I was more the ‘stay in bed until the last possible moment, then trudge resentfully out the door to get the day finished’ type. Small problem.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been times in my life where I’ve thought I found my true passion. Music was my first. That was my obsession for years. I was simply born to make music. Or so I thought, until I realized two things. First – a well-meaning individual sat me down my last year of college and ever-so-nicely informed me that I would never make as a pro due to my lack of reed making ability (and sweetly suggested that I look for a backup option.) It was a bit late for that. Second – I wanted some measure of stability in my life at that point and simply didn’t have the courage to take the risk of leaping out into the unknown (armed with the well-meant knowledge that I would never make it.) So I quit. Quit playing and tried my hardest to distance myself from everything musical.

At which point I decided to teach. Those who can’t, teach – right? I went to the extreme and for a while thought I was destined to lead multitudes of wide-eyed children down the path to a lifelong love of reading, then elementary music. Such noble aspirations – until met with the realities of TAAS, TAKS, STAAR and No Child Left Behind. Thanks, George W and Rick Perry. OK, I’ll be honest – I can’t blame them (totally) for turning my job into drudgery. But earlier last fall, circumstances (or sliding doors) caused me to take a leave of absence from teaching the masses – and I’ve found that I don’t miss it. At all.

So I am back to square one. What do I love? I love intelligent conversation. I’ve found that my true love is experiencing live music, not necessarily playing it. I love museums, dance, and most of the performing arts (except for outdated musicals. I can’t stand those.) I love being in control. I love feeling like I make a difference to someone, somewhere, each day. I love to write. I love to read. I love research – really, I do. It’s like discovering some unknown artifact to me! But where does this leave me? With a list of things I love and absolutely no idea how to turn them into a satisfying career that fills me with satisfaction and has me bounding out of bed eagerly each day. I really want that.

Part of me looks at the above list and screams ‘Arts Management!’ But I’ve absolutely no idea how to even go about seriously breaking into that field. Another (small) voice in the back of my head weakly suggests ‘Start your own business!’ That sounds great, until the very small logical segment of my brain reminds me that any business starts with a product or service – which I am currently lacking. And the small problem with writing is that people actually have to want to read what you have to say.

Hmmmm…..

So here I am, on this cold rainy day, pondering – what exactly? Life’s passion. What’s yours? How did you find it? What advice do you have for someone like me who is still on the quest for it?

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Filed under Careers, Jobs, Life Changes, Moms