#firstsevenjobs

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Today’s trending twitter hashtag (at least on my feed): #firstsevenjobs

I’ve never been a pig farmer. Or an arborist. Or a ninja spy. My job history has been a little more . . . unremarkable.

  1. Babysitter  (AKA: child wrangler and entertainment specialist, AKA: poop removalist)
  2. Medical Transcriptionist  (AKA: listening magician)
  3. Piano Teacher  (AKA: ADHD focus-er)
  4. Secretary in the Computer Science Dept.  (AKA: nerd monkey)
  5. Secretary and T.A. in the Fine Arts Dept.  (AKA: Excel slave, with benefits)
  6. Director of a political lobbying non-profit.  (AKA: volunteer professional eye-roller)
  7. Orchestra Conductor  (AKA: unpaid comedic arm-waving jam captain)

 

Now, I’m a writer. (AKA: stretchy pants wearing crazy lady). But guess what, that means I get to take that list and turn my unremarkable job history into a feast for the senses!

*Side note: LONG POST. If you don’t care, don’t read. Scrollllllll to the next post about the time I forgot Easter and confused my children. Maybe someday my kids will forgive that day and read this.

READY, SET, GO!

Poop. Lots of poop.

Diapers, dog poop, clogged and overflowing toilets. A kid’s pet lizard pooped in my hand once. Then there was the time I was changing a diaper on a kid much too old for diapers and he sharted. On me. That was super fun. Mac n’ cheese will never be the same. Especially after the time I thought I added butter, but it was deceptively packaged Crisco. I’d never felt so judged, and by an 11 year old, no less. There was also the time I locked myself in a bathroom because a 9 year old was coming at me with a knife. He says he was joking. I sure as hell wasn’t sure.

But there were also giggles. And sweet forts. And preschooler dance parties (the best kind of dance party). There were theatrical productions from the dining room stage and borderline inappropriate hilarious I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I battles. And art projects. Lots of art projects.

At 16, I got a “real” job.

I did medical transcription at a Physical therapy office. Too many opinionated females in a small space (the front office). Drama, Drama, Drama. I focused on my job: old head-set, dictation pedal at my foot, listening to the stereo sounds of therapists rattling of strange medical terms in long sentences that they’re so used to rattling off it all sounds like one big long 37 syllable word. But I took anatomy that semester and figured it out. It was easier than figuring out the three ladies in the desks behind me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked each of them very much. Individually.

The biggest obstacle to getting those audio transcriptions typed out was the fact that the owner (and lead therapist, also a family friend) dictated during his lunch break. I got a lot of apple crunching sounds in there.

For some reason, when I think back on that job, the thing I remember the most was a pair of shoes I wore for just one day. They were made of either foam or wood pulp, I couldn’t really tell. I know that makes no sense at all, but that’s why it was so flabbergasting. What is this material!?

But that was high school, and I got depressed. That was my dark period. And I quit. Even though it wasn’t the job that was making me depressed.

The best paid gig.

Then, my longest standing job, which I come back to frequently ad still do to this day. Piano teacher. Teaching kids a skill that I hold near and dear to my heart helped pull me from depression. How can you be depressed when a perfectly innocent second grader finally gets that measure and pops up to you with the biggest smile, beaming with pride? You can’t. Joy is infectious. I did that through high school and into college. Highest per hour pay school gig out there, ladies and gentlemen.

I married my best friend (the man of my every dream), and sugar-momma’d our way through another year of college with nearly 40 students on my plate. But that didn’t last long. Because the best adventure ever happened.

The hubs got recruited to play basketball at BYU-Hawai’i. Hawai’i!! Who goes to college in Hawai’i!?

(There was the one day I worked as an elementary school aide, but it only lasted a day. So I’m not going to count that. Even though I still get a letter every year from the State of Hawai’i informing me of the $1.42 I earned towards retirement.)

Nerd monkey

My first Hawai’i campus job was as the Administrative Assistant to the Computer and Information Sciences department. Those guys were cool. Super weird, but cool. I had to figure out how to communicate with computer nerds. And accounting. Because the main secretary over the entire “Business and Computing” college apparently wasn’t detailed enough in her budget reports. We both rolled our eyes over that one. No, no, the computer guys wanted details. From every angle. I became intimate with Excel. But at least I had my own office with a plaque at the door.

One professor had canned refried beans every day for lunch. (I’m implying something here for you, dear readers.) At least his office was down the hall a little ways. Man, those guys were quirky. But endearing. I wanted to pull my hair out on a weekly basis, but I loved ’em.

Excel master/slave.

The university was making huge changes. Business and Computing got a little too political for me. So, I transferred to the Fine Arts department; I was a music major after all. I mean, this was my chance to work for my professors! Oh the things I could learn! Oh the brownie points I could earn!

When their head secretary found out I’d been doing the computer nerds’ budget, she about cried. It was her least favorite part of the job. I’m a perfectionist and I saw the Fine Art’s budget disaster and just couldn’t say no. So instead of taking it easy at a quiet front desk a few hours a week, I was back to accounting.

I’d been intimate with Excel before, but now I was reprogramming that thing into submission. I dominated Excel. And a few of my professors might have hated me for it. “Professor So-And-So? That such-and-such you need for the studio? Well, um, you don’t exactly have the money for it. Maybe you could ask for a transfer of travel funds into your supply fund? But you’d have to adjust your upcoming trip.”  I mean, I was a super obnoxious student getting waaay in the way. “Just doin’ what I’m told.”

Me: “Don’t forget I need all of your receipts!”
Every professor in the department: “I can’t find it.”
Me: “… I’m going to need you to fill out this form…”

Super fun, guys. I was every professor’s dream. Wah-waaahhh. 

But that was the first year in over a decade they actually knew how much money they’d spent before the next year’s audit. So there’s that.

A nice change-up!

Because of my course of study, there was one particular music professor I’d had for most of my music classes. Dr. B. And he was awesome. And just my luck, he needed a T.A. My job got better after that. And I was back to teaching music, which I missed desperately. (Teaching music … grading assignments … okay, lots of making copies, but it was a break from budget!! And I got to tutor!)

One day, while working on a piece for Dr. B.’s composition class, I just couldn’t concentrate. I daydreamed my way into procrastinating that composition and instead typed out the beginning of a little story about a high school girl with incredible, magical underwater abilities. I took a creative writing elective the next semester and worked on it some more.

The hubs and I had our first daughter, we both graduated, and sadly, had to leave. As much as we’d missed our families back on the mainland, we both weren’t ready to say Aloha to the island.

Aloha O’e

Back on the mainland, I was a new mom times two and a grad student. But I got back into teaching piano. There was the time a student of mine (after finding out I was pregnant) creepily told me, “Wait, wait, wait . . . you did it? The S-sssssss word?”  I’m pretty sure he had Asbergers. It was a very interesting, delicate conversation.

I went through a few more dark periods. One with each pregnancy. But that’s a conversation for another day. And I’m a stronger woman because of it.

And then the best thing happened!

It was 9:30 pm and I had a big paper due at midnight for my master’s program. But I really didn’t want to write it. Like, really. I noticed an icon on my desktop for that mermaid-ish story I’d worked on in college. I pulled “Haelo.docx” up instead. Because, you know, priorities.

At 11:00pm, I forced myself to shut down my creative pursuits, and got back to work on that stupid grad paper. I think I got it submitted at 11:58pm. It wasn’t very polished, but it got an A. Haelo got a lot more attention after that. Though I did graduate with honors, I’m pretty sure I had candeons on my mind for most of that Public Administration degree.

Politics.

After graduation, I decided to step lightly into the local political world. I had a goal of becoming a political advisor or speech writer for a senator or diplomat, but knew that was years down the road. I somehow ended up as a non-profit lobbying Director. I still don’t know how that happened. I was sitting, rather quietly, at a Christmas brunch for the organization, minding my own business, sitting in awe of these incredible women, and walked away with an invitation to take over a particular chapter. They didn’t know me from Adam. I think they were crazy. Or desperate. It took me a few months to accept.

I wasn’t ready for that post. Technically, I think I’m still in that post, because my attempts at passing the torch haven’t been successful. I can’t say no. I really need to work on that. But I don’t trust myself to not roll my eyes in a very inconvenient moment at an important meeting one day. Even state Congressmen and women I’m supposed to support have jaded me. There’s a lot of crap in politics. Speech writing would be fun. Dealing with multiple politicians at once is not fun. Ever.

I’m surprisingly diplomatic. Very careful with my words. But a little voice in my head is starting to get feisty, and I’ve got to get out.

Jam sesh.

My sister recently wrangled me into starting a community orchestra. This is the absolute funnest job I’ve had. The music is a blast, the musicians are fun, and they laugh at my jokes. It feels like a huge jam session mixed with dancing, because you can’t direct some of those pieces without a little bit of dancing. It’s just too fun. At the same time, I’m a thrifty tight-wad and can’t afford huge symphonic sets of sheet music. So I buy the parts for strings and arranged the parts for brass and woodwinds myself. It’s stressful, and takes up time I don’t really have, but it’s keeping my composition skills from wasting away into “something I used to know how to do.”

We’re currently working on an Appalachian backstep, a Lady Gaga jam, a bit o’ Disney, the get-up-and-shout “I Will Follow Him” from Sister Act, Debussy (Satie’s Gymnopedies), and . . . The. Tango. <– the funnest thing I’ve ever jammed on in my life, and that includes my time in a hella-awesome Caribbean steel pan band. (Youtube video)

Now I’m a writer.

And the best part is that I don’t feel like a poser admitting that! It is an incredible creative outlet for a busy mother of three. That little story I started in college, worked on as a grad student, and finished in whatever meager spare time I had inbetween potty-training, dinners, and church service, is PUBLISHED! And I want to scream into a pillow at how good that feels!

AAAAAAhhhhh!

A milestone! After so many nights of feeling exhausted. So many mornings waking up knowing I was farther behind than I was the day before. Too much, too many, too little, too late. But then, I remember my favorite quote.

“A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.” – Gina Carey

Life is funny sometimes. I’m going to look back on this post ten years from now, with more jobs added to the list, and smile. I have no idea where life is taking me. But I’ve got a best friend / husband / co-parent dreamboat at my side, three incredible kids, a strong spiritual foundation, and just enough gumption to march forward with a wink.

Laugh, guys. Laugh when you think you can’t. Collect your experiences. And wink. Because there’s more comin’ down the road.

And if you want to check out my author website, where you can read the first chapter of Hiding Haelo, you can do that here. And here is a link to Hiding Haelo on Amazon.

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Editing: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

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Editing. Let the bloodbath begin.

Maybe “bloodbath” is a little harsh. But it’s Chris Pratt. So, it stays.

Now let me tell you what, editing sucks. It’s productive, it makes your writing so much better, it teaches lessons memorably, and it makes you feel that much closer to “I really really like this book!” But it also sucks. Big time. There’s often a very unhealthy does of self-pity, and (I am not above admitting) physical pain.

That said, there are different types of editing for a novel, which basically comes down to who is giving the feedback:

~ The family/friend beta reader: they just like reading and will give you pointers on plot, logistics, tone, and overall amateur-factor.

~The family/friend English major: a shameful experience overall. Good things come from this type of editing, though it might take a while to be able to look them in the eyes again.

~The friend-of-a-friend(-of-a-friend): great for getting an opinion less likely to be skewed by personal relationships or biases.

~The highly educated and philosophically-minded friend: be warned. This feedback can possibly screw with your mind. One moment you think they liked it and then the next moment they’ve convinced you to kill off a necessary main character, and make the bad guy the good guy. And they interpreted all of your characters’ motivations in perplexing ways which forces you to rethink every aspect of your novel. I’m not saying avoid this type of feedback (can be some of the most valuable!), I’m just giving you the heads-up, my friends.

~The Self: This is best done after a long break from your manuscript (minimum 2 weeks). And it wouldn’t hurt to read a handful of wonderfully (or terribly) written novels during that break.  My two best self-edits: 1) A read-through after 3 years away from the project, and 2) An edit round after reading a horribly, I mean horribly, written book that made me want to strangle the author with her own crazy-redundant dialogue and hyperboles. (The only reason I continued reading was because I knew the painful experience would help me edit my own manuscript.)

~The professional editor: this one is necessary. Also, this one huuuuurts. Not just because their great suggestions can sometimes mean a crap load of re-working. And not just because they can make you giddy one paragraph, then you shamefully melt into the floorboards the next. But it’s a lot harder to discuss the why behind their suggestions. Yeah, you can email back and forth a little, but they are busy people. They’re not going to write you four paragraphs on why that character is lame (to which you can argue defensively), they’re going to do it in one sentence. You can’t really argue with that. They get right down to the meat of the problem and tell you that such-and-such is lame. Or illogical. Or stupid. Or cliche. Then you have to fix it, send it back, and hope that your “fixes” adequately addressed both their concerns and your pride. Oh, and let’s not forget that when they point out the exact same mistake for the 37th time, you feel so secure in your English education. Folks, I now know how to properly type ellipses, to not type two spaces between sentences, and how to spell freaking “duffel.” Thank heavens for Find/Replace.

As of right now, I’m waiting to hear back from my editor for the second time. I sent her my newly revised manuscript–based off of her edits and suggestions–and am now second guessing nearly every plot/character “fix” I made.  Does my re-working of the lame-o character work? Did I increase the romantic tension enough? Did I miss a duffle duffel? And why the heck did I have to write duffel so many times in the first place?

So, pray for me, guys. It just might be another bloodbath.

love,

me.

p.s. If my editor is reading this, please ignore the word “bloodbath” and insert “enlightening, improving, & informative experience.”  I’m smiling super cute right now!

DIY Book covers

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Haelo cover 2

Some authors, as they write, can picture exactly what their characters look like.  I am not that author.  Though I can picture easily my periphery characters down to minute detail, I have a really hard time picturing the faces of my main characters.  [Both in my defense and to my embarrassment: just ask my husband and close friends–I don’t recall faces very well.]

Some authors can picture their settings like their childhood home.  I am definitely that author.

Some authors know exactly what type of book cover they want on their novel – pending, of course, they get that one in a million chance of getting published.  I am not that author.  At all.

A close friend asked me the other day what kind of cover I’d do if I had the chance to choose.  I drew a huge blank.  Challenge accepted!

When I should have been packing for my sister’s out-of-state wedding, or wrapping Christmas presents, or cleaning my house, or doing at least one of the seven loads of laundry that had been sorted and ready to go for four days previously, I spent nap time creating book covers.  Loads of ’em.  (This should tip you off to the quality of said covers.)

Without further ado…

haelo cover 1  Haelo cover 4Haelo cover 2Haelo cover 5

Any of these tickle your yeah-I’d-read-that fancy?  And no, there are *technically* no mermaids in this book.