Cleaning House

31 07 2013

"These are so gross. This needs to be done annually." Thanks for volunteering, son!

“These are so gross. This needs to be done annually.” Thanks for volunteering, son!

Some people call it Spring cleaning. My mother said we were “deep cleaning,” but by any other name washing walls (and cabinets) is still work.

And we all agree with Garfield that “work is a four-letter word.”

I’m fortunate to have two strong and tall sons. They still had to climb up on a chair to reach the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. I ask you: does it make sense to have a shelf you cannot reach? What should you store on such a shelf?

I had my son retrieve a collection of cookie and candy tins I have been collecting over the past many Christmas seasons. I wanted to keep them so I could bake cookies and give them as gifts. Needless to say, a few went in the garage sale box, one went in the garbage bag and the others went back on that impossible-to-reach top shelf.

We had a process for cleaning the kitchen cabinets. I pulled the stuff out and set in on the countertop. This way, I could move the items for sale to the garage sale box and dump the junk in the garbage bag.

Behind me, my oldest son used regular soap and water and a rag to wipe the inside of the cupboards. After he dried them, I placed the “kept” items back inside. My youngest son used the bucket of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water to wipe down the outside of the lovely maple cabinets.

I ask you: who did the most work? Especially since I also cleaned, wiped out and organized the bank of drawers by the stove and the other drawers that hold all the silverware and utensils.

Who do you think complained and had to be compelled to continue working? Yeah, the same one who volunteered for what he believed would be the easiest of the jobs.

Silly boy. He forgot that I’m the “mean mother.” I made him do the inside and out of the freestanding pantry. It is, after all, wood on all sides.

Just like the other times I’ve asked them to help clean the house, I provided lunch. They picked out the pizza they wanted. I told them to order cheese stuffed breadsticks, too, if they wanted them.

Washing walls and cabinets ranks right up there with scrubbing toilets and cleaning grout with a toothbrush. I understand their reluctance toward participating in these tasks. And I was graciously thankful that they were here to help me with it. I would have had to spend an entire day on the project, but the three of us could finish in three hours.

I’m clearing off the counters and making it look sparkly and shiny. My husband will get his camera out and take pictures for the online scrapbook we’ll use when we attempt to sell our home.

Hopefully, prospective buyers won’t be too shocked to see the cluttered version when they arrive in person. It’s hard to keep all the junk off the counter when people keep mailing more every day.

What’s your least favorite cleaning task? Do you have a cleaning horror story to share?





Sequels: Good, Bad and Ugly

27 07 2013

There’s nothing new under the sun. This is actually a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Hollywood isn’t the only clown in town that seems to think if something was a blockbuster, it should have a sequel. Books in a series are more popular than ever.

In fact, I enjoy reading a series. After all, if I love the characters, I happily follow their trials and triumphs. Unfortunately, “happily ever after” isn’t much of a story.

Recently, we went to see Red 2 at the theater. I will agree that Red wasn’t a stellar movie, but it was funny and lots of things got blown up. Those two elements keep the men I live with enthralled, entranced and engaged.

The story in Red seemed fresh. A retired CIA man gets bored and starts flirting with a girl via phone. Unfortunately, there’s an old case that he worked on that people are getting killed over (because of political aspirations). The targets unite, discover the root problem, blow up plenty of cars and buildings and ride off victorious. Each character has their own sub story, as well, which keeps things interesting.

None of these things can be said of Red 2. The relationship seems stale until there’s a threat to the retired agent’s life. The team thinks they’re completing one mission, but instead, their mission has a mission of his own. Thankfully, there was humor and lots of explosions because the story was dreadful.

This is a problem with sequels. It isn’t enough that we love the characters. They need to be involved in something we can find believable. It can’t be a lame “I liked it better when we were running for our lives” theme. At least, not if you want to engage me.

Another series that seemed to fail to rise to the occasion was The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. This irked me because I looked forward to each successive installment as much as my son, who was in the target audience.

I’m not going to rehash the plot of this series. Let’s just say that he could have told the story in two books. Very few people I spoke with appreciated the addition to Eldest of the cousin’s story. Was it essential for the whole town to move and become Eragon’s army?

Also, this was a case where the hero got a sucky deal. Seriously. I despise when an author ends a series by having the person who saves the world end up with – nothing, nada, zilch. He doesn’t get to be with his family, he loses his brother, the girl he loves can’t love him in return and he leaves the land he just delivered from oppression. Wow. “You’re welcome. I’d love to save your day and then lose everything I worked for. Happy day!”

In fact, I would rather see the hero dead if he’s not going to get anything. I disagree that Eragon having the dragons and being the one to train future riders redeemed the ending. I don’t care if it was prophesied to end this way in the first book.

A hero should walk away with more than the knowledge that he did the right thing. Even if that’s all we earn in real life for some good deeds, it isn’t an acceptable ending for a series.

I remember finishing Inheritance and thinking, “I waited expectantly for this? I read all these thousands of pages only to have him leave it all behind in the end?”

Perhaps you found Paolini’s ending satisfying or thought all the extra information included that made his series stretch from the predicted trilogy to a four-book cycle made sense. I’d love to have a conversation about that (or another series you found successful or repugnant).





Electronic Job Search

24 07 2013

Times have changed. The new paradigm of job hunting aptly reveals this truth.

Not that I was a fan of “beating the streets” but it seems so impersonal to search for a job from behind my computer.  There’s no such thing as an application anymore, but there is an electronic application process.

I’ve discovered that searching online for jobs could be never-ending. The ability to refine searches only eliminates all possibilities from view. Thus, a wider range must be left in place offering hundreds of hits on every job search site. And these sites rival the number of open positions they advertise.

LinkedIn

I have a profile on LinkedIn. It isn’t very exciting, but I plan to spend some time sprucing it up now that I’m officially finished with college.

Many of the jobs I apply for use my LinkedIn profile to fill in their online application. In fact, I applied for a technical writing job with Kelly Services and they did just that, even though I found the job opportunity on another job search website.

It seems to me that learning the appropriate key words to use in your profile is essential. I don’t claim to know what these are or that I’ve gotten them in place. I do know that using job descriptions that are posted online can help you identify these words.

Online Application Process

The ease of applying for positions online, when compared with the old-fashioned completion of a double-sided job application, amazes me.

Most of the sites I’ve applied to use either my resume (after I upload it) or my LinkedIn profile to auto complete most of the form. The worst thing about this process is that some things aren’t converted or are put in the wrong place.

For example, a job I recently applied for didn’t have the correct dates and my job titles got matched to the incorrect employers. It was simple to fix these errors, but if I hadn’t reviewed the form carefully, I might have missed them.

There’s always a review page and then the opportunity to return to the earlier pages and correct information. However, the process generally requires clicking through every page, so it isn’t a quick fix.

Drawbacks

  1. Information overload: As I mentioned, sometimes there are just too many positions to wade through. A better system for narrowing results needs to be invented. When I applied on the Kaiser Permanente site, they had a streamlined process for narrowing the prospective jobs. Employment advertisers should mimic this system.
  2. Lack of specificity: Based on certain keywords, a plethora of jobs will be displayed. For example, if I have “management” in a search field, the variety of the postings is vast. Again, some websites do a better job of narrowing the search, but not all of them. Employment advertisers should have two or three levels for even a basic search. For example: I could choose “management” and then “publishing” and then “editorial” and be assured that only editorial jobs would be displayed.
  3. Sterility: What is the office environment like? What sort of commute will it entail? There’s no way to be informed about these sort of questions with the online job search. What a waste to head to an interview only to discover the commute would be brutal or the staff seems unhappy and unfriendly.

Impersonal approach

I think the biggest shortfall of this new, expedited, technologically advanced method of applying for jobs is the lack of personal interaction.

Appearances aren’t everything. Appearances can be deceiving. Unfortunately, many times the external qualities of an employee are quite important. For example, in a customer service industry where this person will interact with stakeholders face-to-face, employers want that “face” to represent their company accurately and positively.

Any experiences with this new method of job hunting you’d like to add? I’d love for you to share your wisdom with me (since I’m a newbie).





A Writer’s Life

20 07 2013

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. – Benjamin Franklin

School is out. The vacation abroad has ended. Time announces the arrival of full-time writer-hood.

The schedule says: Three hours five days per week is allotted for writing. I’ve factored in other times for blog hopping and updating social media.

There’s a plan. *sighs*

I finished Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell’s masterpiece, and use it to guide my goal-setting and schedule for rewriting the novel.

Yes, rewriting. I doubt I will start anew, but I believe that a new document where I can cut and paste the sections I’m going to keep will work for me. Does this work in Scrivener? I guess I can make a new folder for the 2nd draft.

The book helped me generate plenty of questions that will need to be answered in my work in progress if it will ever become a completed novel.

No, I will finish the first draft by the deadline – August 24 – and I will begin the rewrite. This should take approximately eight weeks according to chapter 11 in Bell’s bible.

If I stay on schedule, I should be polishing the second draft in November. I hope this means I will be ready to take it to my classroom of 7th grade beta readers by January. At this point, that’s my plan.

During my cooling off period, I intend to work on building my social media platform (using the guidance of Kristen Lamb’s new book Rise of the Machines) and study Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

Bell has given me some other plotting homework that I intend to complete during my self-imposed exile to sit in the sunshine. For the next two months, this time is scheduled in for two hours every weekday afternoon. (You can be sure I’ll make time for the loving the sun – maybe meeting my word count for the day should be a prerequisite.)

What sort of schedule do you have for your writing life? Do you have a daily word count goal?

I’d love to hear any and all advice from my fellow writers – or other self-employed people.

                                       Weekly   Schedule

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6AM Workout Workout Workout Workout Workout
7AM QT/BF QT/BF QT/BF QT/BF QT/BF BF
8AM Shower Shower Shower Shower Shower Shower
9AM Bathrooms Blogs Floors Ladies Social   Med Laundry
10AM Chore Meeting
11AM Writing List Writing Writing
Noon Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
1PM Writing Writing Writing Writing Writing
2PM Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors Family
3PM Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors Outdoors
4PM Writing Writing Social   Med Writing Writing
5PM Dinner   Prep Dinner   Prep Dinner   Prep Dinner   Prep Dinner   Prep Dinner   Prep
6PM Family
7PM Time Writing
8PM Family




Summer Means Household Chores

17 07 2013

Image courtesy of bentbutnotbroken.org

For over fifteen years now, the advent of summer signals several things:

  1. A family vacation (plenty of years it was just camping in a tent)
  2. No alarm clock
  3. A long list of household projects to complete

Even with all the hoopla, this summer is no different. The vacation (“Not with the whole family, though,” my youngest son whines) has come and gone. My alarm clock remains silent (but not my husband’s).

The list stretches off the page this year. That could be because I listed every item to be done in every room of the house. Or it could be that three years in college have caused my house to deteriorate into a state of chaotic uncleanliness.

My husband talks about putting the house on the market. The real reason behind the mammoth list emerges.

At this point, both of my sons are living in their childhood bedrooms. My youngest is working several “events” over the summer and will be home sporadically. My oldest is taking a break supposedly job hunting.

Every Tuesday will be a lucky day for all three of us. It begins with the downstairs. The kitchen cabinets might be haunted. The plastic lids have spontaneously reproduced. What is even on those top shelves that require a stool to reach?

I have a schedule. As much as I’d like it to be concrete, I know I’ll need to be flexible. The fact that I believe they’ll be awake at 10am shows my penchant for wishful thinking.

The goal is to unclutter every room before holding a garage sale at the beginning of August.

Most years, the list contains predominantly outside chores: painting, staining the porch, replanting flower beds, spreading bark dust and the like. Of course, what would a cleaning list be without washing walls and knocking down cobwebs?

What’s on your “to do” list this summer?





To Be a Princess

13 07 2013

Amazing Ivy in a Courtyard at the Royal Residence

Amazing Ivy in a Courtyard at the Royal Residence

Sharon is a derivative of Sarah, which means princess. I know! Apparently, I’m a princess.

Recently, on a day when I wasn’t lost, I visited the Royal Residence in Munich, Germany. I’m happy to share a sneak peek with you here.

Once upon a time (so droll, isn’t it) Munchen (German spelling of Munich) was the capital of Bavaria. (Now Bavaria is just a province within the country of Germany.)

In fact, this building has been around –in part – since 1385 AD, but it didn’t become the royal palace until the reign of William IV around 1508 AD.

This building has so many wings and courtyards and levels that I could have easily wandered around forever. Fortunately, some sections were closed to the public and there were large arrows that pointed me in the correct direction.

Too much about this place was intriguing. I found the various styles of art in the Munich Residenz fascinating.

Mercury (messenger of the Gods) in Bronze

Mercury (messenger of the Gods) in Bronze

084

The amazing frescos on the ceiling

One enormous room could have kept me ogling for hours. Apparently, the peasants were invited to stand on the lower level of this room and watch while the royalty ate on the dais. Call me crazy but I don’t fancy being in either of those parties.

I'm standing where royalty ate. Behind me: Peasantville

I’m standing where royalty ate. Behind me: Peasantville

You know how we call it a “king-sized bed.” It’s false advertising. The beds were dinky, but the bedrooms were enormous.

Princesses (not to mention kings) don’t dress in the same room where they sleep. There is no sleeping in the room where they read, and only certain rooms are fit for receiving guests  (go figure).

There were tons of stairs, which means the princess didn’t have to go outside and get her hair wet to engage in cardiovascular exercise. (Running stairs is so NOT my favorite cardio activity.)

A gold ceiling? Really?

A gold ceiling? Really?

This building, along with the castles I will give you a brief tour of later, defy my sense of logic. Why would anyone need all that space? What purpose does all the adornment serve?

If I were a poor commoner who was starving in the streets, I would certainly charge onto the dais and demand a portion from the royal table. Servants for those kings surely prepared too much food, and you can’t tell me there’s such a thing as “royal leftovers.”I am glad to visit these remnants of the past, but I feel fortunate to live in an age of democracy. As exorbitant as taxes are now, it’s mind-boggling to think what it would cost to support a gigantic palace like this one.





Directionally Challenged

10 07 2013

June 2013 029 I’m a hazard to myself when given charge of navigation. I admit it. After my most recent debacle, I’m ready for the 12-step program.

What might be the name of such a support group? Perennially Lost Anonymous?

It might not exist. Since future members couldn’t find the meeting location, organizers cancelled the meeting, assuming lack of interest. If they knew those of us who were directionally challenged, they would have made a bigger sign – sent out turn by turn directions. Okay, given us a tracking device – which is likely step one of the program.

Anyway, I had grand illusions of strolling through the art galleries in Munich while my husband worked. What else was there to do? I tried shopping, but I wasn’t really in the mood. *gasp*

I had a map. Alas, it didn’t have my actual destination on it, but how hard can it really be to locate an enormous art museum situated on a major thoroughfare?

Don’t answer that. Read the rest of this entry »








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