Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A few notes on revision

Well, I've pulled through. I've managed to get all the way through Daughters of the Pond and to make some much needed changes. I can't believe the number of times "once again" or "for a moment" or just the words slowly, gently, etc. were repeated. Maybe it's because I just wrote it in small segments and didn't remember the exact phrases I had already used about a bazillion times. Or maybe I just couldn't think of any better way to say it. There is something to be said for doing book revision more than a decade after the first draft. While I'm still attached to the story, I was much better able to be harsh with 17-19 year old me in order to straighten some things out.
I just have to add how much it always drove me crazy when the books I used to teach English in the Czech Republic would use the word "revise" in place of "review." Okay, I can accept the fact that this is the word used in British English, but it was one of those differences that always wore on my nerves. Sorta like "have got." It always worked it's way up under my skin and gave me the shivers.
As a little report on the progress of life, I've managed to make it on the early morning school walk three days in a row now. The kids don't have school the next couple of days, so we'll see what I manage to do for the rest of the week, but I was pretty proud of me for that. Today was all about worm carnage. It was rainy and gicky and the worms had fled to the sidewalk. Little thin ones, enormous fat ones, all strewn willy-nilly. There were so many that it was hard not to step on them if you lost your concentration for a moment.
I was holding Rowan's hand and he was intent on finding the biggest and fattest one. He picked it up excitedly, telling me how it kept trying to wiggle and squiggle out of his hand. He had big plans for this worm. He was going to take it to the bridge we have to cross and throw it into the swollen creek so it could have a "wild death." I wasn't too sure this was the best idea he ever had, but I wasn't exactly going to pull the worm out of his hand either.
The worm, it seemed, had other ideas. After maybe five minutes he opened his little fist to check on it and noted that he had been slimed. There was white goo all over his hand. His first reaction was to fling the worm into a little puddle by the sidewalk, but his mom stopped him and he hung it in a bush instead. Not sure how better that was, but Julie seemed to think it would be able to find it's way down better than it could have swum out of the raging creek. Oh the joy of kids.
After two days of making dinner in a row, there are enough leftovers tonight for that to suffice, and I'm definitely glad for that. It gave me more time to really focus on getting this book all finished up. Now I get to start the ever so thrilling task of trying to find a publisher. I remember the futile experience I went through back when I was a Junior in High School, and must confess I don't look forward to this very much, but you just never know. Maybe good old DOP will make it to the best seller list ;) Never fear, I'm still on the search for a day job...
One final note, last night Mark and I watched "Demolition Man." If you've never seen it, it's a futuristic crime/action flick from 1996 with Sylvester Stalone and Wesley Snipes. My main reason for bringing this up is because there is a huge thing about Taco Bell in it. Mark had seen this movie many times when he was younger, and since Taco Bell isn't the international superstar that McDonalds is, he had no knowledge of it except as portrayed in this movie. If you're in the need of a good laugh, just imagine Taco Bell as your image of American fine dining. Ha! But I love it all the same!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Job Search

Job searches are NOT my friends. I was informed, via e-mail, that I do not have the skills or experience to qualify me for any of the current jobs available at Macys. In other words, they don't think I can sell clothes...great. Way to lift a person's spirits. It's been a week and a half and still no news from Starbucks either. I'm trying to figure out what the catch is. Not really able to compute. Ugh. Just filled in an application with a temp agency. We'll see if I get a call about a mill position. I'd reeeeeeeally like to turn that sort of job down. (sigh)
At least the food did turn out edible last night. They clearly didn't call for nearly enough seasoning, but salt and pepper continue to be miracle workers.
Well, I've wasted enough of this day on the internet. Time to shift back into writing gear.

Monday, March 28, 2011


So I added a counter to my blog a while back and find it rather fascinating to see that it has logged on 3,000 page views. Not really sure where all of that comes from, seeing as how I only have ten "official" followers (however that works) and a handful of friends and family members that I know check the blog. And as much as my mom hassles me when she thinks I haven't been updating enough, I rather doubt she checks THAT frequently.
Anyhow, a new week has begun and I started off by giving in to my next door niece and nephew. They decided that, since Grandpa is away, Auntie Sarah should be their walking companion on the way to school. Of course their mom and the whippets are there too, but they seem to think it's more fun to have another walking helper.
Had to pull my sorry carcass out of bed at 7:35 in order to be up to the task. I know that sounds pathetic, but having been unemployed since last July I've rather lost the daily routine sort of thing that generally keeps my life motivated. Anyhow, after a grape juice disaster that slowed them up (Adelia's thermos leaked through her whole backpack, leaving her to carry her pink Hello Kitty backpack from K-1. Being a third grader that's totally ancient history and reflects a girlier stage in her style choices) I did join the crew for the walk. It wasn't too cold, or windy and there was no blowing snow or rain, so it was a nice way to get the day started.
Julie has taken to the idea of me helping with the cooking, so we decided to try out a new crock pot recipe. Thankfully this one involved hamburger that I didn't have to touch. I pretty much did the whole thing, with Julie doing dishes and occasionally giving insight into what size things should be chopped and how to improvise a bit so that the seasoning would be strong enough. Then she had to ride quickly back to the school to deliver Rowan's "Me flag" and by the time she'd returned I'd decided that I would follow the old "If you can read you can cook" advice I've heard so many times.
I cooked up the hamburger, drained it, and added everything into the pot. I was feeling like I'd managed not to freak out too much, only to have Julie return and inform me that she'd had things planned slightly differently...apparently it's more than just following the instructions after all. I always knew there were sinister underlying rules that cooking instructions refuse to divulge! Guess we'll just have to wait until dinner time to see if it all turns out okay.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Small Accomplishment

It's kind of funny how much Mark and I have enjoyed cooking shows. On both sides of the world, we've found shows about culinary greats and wannabes that have highly entertained us. In Czech there was the celebrity cooking show as well as a couple shows with chef Zdeněk Pohlreich who helps restaurants improve the quality of their kitchens or challenges chefs to be the best they can be. Over here we actually have the Food Network. Can I just say there are a ridiculous number of highly entertaining cooking reality shows. From "Cupcake Wars" to "Chopped" they've got all kinds of kitchen drama.
I even occasionally look at my friend's food websites. Whether it is Crystal with her beautiful food photos and recipes, or Robin constantly wowing me with how many projects she manages to do while still producing a blog explaining how to get it all done, I'm more than impressed by what so many women manage to do.
While it may be true that in Hong Kong I often had to cook for as many as 15 people, what I produced was far from something spectacular. Basically, it was something to get them through evening shift without starving. Not that it was inedible, but it certainly wasn't anything exciting either. Basics. Pure and simple. Things quickly chopped up and served cold or thrown together at minimal risk and tossed in the oven for a while. Those are the sort of things that work for me. I was always thankful when there were enough people around that I only had to cook twice a month. Those days when I had to write up the schedule and sometimes put my name down more than twice in one week made me want to cringe.
Needless to say, cooking isn't my passion. I recently was reminded in a wedding card that I once said "For me, food is fuel." And that's the truth. It's something that my body has to have in order to keep going. Not that there aren't plenty of tasty dishes out there. Those Food Network shows even manage to make me salivate every now and again. But the thought of going out of my way every day to put something fantastic on the table is a huge stretch for my imagination. One one side food is fuel, and on the other side cooking is stress.
But these days I find myself a wife. That has to mean something, right? For a while in Czech I got all excited about wanting to cook for Mark, but life there was complicated and it just didn't end up happening very much, so that flame sorta died. My kitchen wows in Cheb focused on the likes of fruit salad and hot open faced sandwiches. So it's a bit of a struggle for me to suddenly need to feed more than just myself.
Now we come to the main point of this post. Beyond the fact that cooking doesn't give me any sort of thrill, I'm excessively paranoid about touching raw meat. It's just gross. Slimy, unsanitary, ugh. But yesterday...yesterday I cut chunks of fat off raw meat. I held it in my hands, I got goo everywhere. Then I put it in a crock pot under the direction of my sister Julie, and I produced an honest to goodness dinner. It's not likely that anyone will give me the honorary title of chef any time in the near future, and I'd likely even fail at "Worst Cooks in America" but it's a step in the right direction...right? And if nothing else, I've gotten really good at making the Czech version of Turkish coffee. If only Starbucks would get back to me on that job ap...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Paper Trails

The applications continue. I've now applied to Macy's as well. I must be a glutton for punishment. Here I am, seeking entry level jobs and then feeling lousy if I don't hear anything back from them. Mark was sweet and told me that sometimes they don't like to hire people who look overly qualified. It's a nice idea at least. But the truth is, when you can't even get a call back from Starbucks you just start to feel unemployable. Sigh. Especially when it's been over a week since I sent in the application and I see that the job is still listed, but no response here. Ah well.
My parents were back for a few days and it was nice to catch up with them and hear how things are going over in Seeley Lake where they're currently working. Sounds like it's pretty beautiful, but they're still snowed in up there. I'm thankful that the snow seems to have gone away here in Moscow. Gotta say I'm so ready for Spring. It was hard to leave it in McMinnville. Truly, I'm ready for summer. Didn't get much of it last year, and it would so be nice to have some quality sun time. I'm in desperate need of it.
I've sorted through most of the paperwork for the next visa process step. Now I just need to figure out what all we have to do again, and what they can manage to look up for themselves since we already sent it to them in the last packet. It's amazing the amount of things it seems they can't remember from one mailing to the next. Ah well. That's government for you I guess.
Not really much interesting to say. I'm still slugging along at DOP. I've managed to get through more than half of it now, and I have to say, it doesn't look too bad. I've had to revamp some things to be certain, and have tried my best to weed out repetitive vocabulary. Of course, considering the literary market I'd like to tap with it, that probably isn't the biggest concern ever...
It's always challenging to self-critique, but I wrote it long enough ago that I really don't remember everything, so I have to rediscover it as I go along.
Well, it's about one so it's probably time for me to see if I can manage to make something edible for lunch. Sadly for Mark, that isn't one of my strong points...Sigh.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Daughters of the Pond Revisited...

Yes, the Daughters are resurfacing. We've settled back into my parents house in Idaho, and thus decided it's time to get some things done. I've started applying for jobs (okay, I applied to Starbucks and that's it so far, and they have yet to call me back which I find a wee bit disturbing because if I'm not qualified to work for them...what CAN I do. Besides I feel like I've missed something in my career as an English major degree holder having never spent time serving coffee. It seems a bit like a post-requisite and Heaven forbid I miss out on part of the process!) and am trying to figure out how to be as productive as possible during this current life phase.
As a part of this phase I've decided it's time to really get my writing career in gear. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I realize this is not the first time I've made such claims, but I'm serious here. It's time. It's past time. It's so far beyond time that it's not even funny. I even entered a short story contest just to prove how serious I am about this, and I'm contemplating entering a second one as well.
I've had the writing bug since I learned how to form letters. I've never been the best out loud story teller. Not sure why. They just don't come to me that way. Perhaps my fingers are just more talented at coming up with words than my mouth is. Although my brain is jam packed full of words, I've never been the person who was first to come up with a quick remark. Or if I do, I don't say it because someone else is always talking and I hate to break in. That's partly to do with the fact that, when I do try to break in, I'm always the one who gets talked over. So what's the point?
But when I start to write...well, it's a whole different ball game. Sadly, some of my best writing has never even made it to the page because it comes to me at an inopportune moment, and by the time I do get to where I can put it down it's vanished in the way of all the best ideas. Someday I have this dream of actually being able to access all the memories and thoughts that my brain has ever had and then I'd be able to really go wild.
But this is all just a mad dash ramble that is sort of muddling the point of the post title. After all, the title is where it's at, right?
So back in January or so I started digging around through some of the piles of stuff I have jammed in here and there at my parents house. In the mix I ran across my Creative Writing Chapbook from my Junior year of High school. In this book I collected all the short stories I'd written throughout the semester that focused on a particular theme that I tied together and titled "The Daughters of the Pond." My senior year of high school I went on to use my self motivated personal writing class in which to write this novel. Since then it has just sat. This is partly due to my lack of success in the marketing field when I tried to look for publishers for my first book "A Whisper of Misgivings" which I wrote my Junior year of High School. I suppose the most tragic thing about this all is that, since writing these two teen novels I haven't managed to complete any other long works of fiction. While I'm currently writing in journal number 97 or 98, my true writing career has remained nothing but a dream. I've blogged, and e-mailed, and obviously spent an excessive amount of time journaling, but I have yet to get my name into print.
Last summer in Marianske Lazne, I did spend quite a bit of time on a new novel (still incomplete surprise surprise) as well as doing some short story writing projects, but I still haven't gotten anything to the production stage. I've been thinking of starting a second blog on which to publish older works in a basic sort of stage. I did some research about how to copy write my blog, but haven't totally figured it out, and wanting to maintain my obvious ownership of "The Case of the Missing Dog," I haven't quite risked it. However, I had the brilliant idea that, rather than going out and risking everything on throwing myself into a fresh new novel, it might be smarter to rework something timeless and see what I can do with it.
This line of thinking was definitely encouraged by my rediscovery of The Daughters of the Pond. It's classic Sarah Everest to be certain. It's got all those dark elements and style quirks that I love to use. I can also see how it could find a niche in the current market that has embraced the likes of "Twilight." While reading those books (I've only made it through the first two) I really felt like I was reading something I would have written in High School, or even Junior High. I am spending my days going through my old words and trying to rework the novel into something that, hopefully, will be acceptable to the mainstream. It's a bit of a limb, but I think it's worth climbing out on. Besides, it's a lot easier to face rejection on something you wrote when you were 17-19 than on something you've recently poured your heart into at 32. Know what I mean?
As a side note, I've been looking through my writing journal that was also tucked away inside the chapbook. It's been fascinating to reconnect with 17 year old me, and a bit tragic as well due to all the references to my dear friend Becky who was killed in a car accident a couple of months ago. I'm still trying to pull my feelings together about that horrible loss and I'm planning to write a tribute to her that I can give to her daughters so they can know a bit about their sweet mother as I knew her. (sigh) Life isn't what anyone predicts it to be.
On a more cheerful note, today is my one month anniversary! How crazy is that? Guess that means I REALLY need to get that paperwork done :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time for a change

Can I just say that living out of a suitcase...well, basically it sucks! And that's essentially what I've been doing since July. JULY! That's a long time ago. That's also how long I've been unemployed. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. I'd be lying if I said I'd been scouring the earth for a job since then. No, first I was waiting on paperwork, then I was planning a wedding, and I'm just waiting to figure things out.
Tomorrow Mark and I will be heading back to Moscow, ID where we get the privilege of filing paperwork once again. Time to pay the government once again, and ask them for a little piece of paper that says it's okay for my new husband to live with me here on this continent.
Wait a minute. Husband? Oh yeah, that's right. I got married. Yes. Me. The girl who has been whining about being alone and single for something like forever. I'm now...a Wife. Changes abound, eh? And yet it's still hard for me to really define what that means. What has really changed after all? As of yet I haven't started on the paperwork that would legally change my name as well. But it's all out there, waiting for me to put it into order. I'm not just me anymore. I'm now me as a part of someone else. Let me just state right here that when someone has been on their own alone for as long as I have, it's difficult to revamp life in order to fully take on another person. But it has happened.
I'm sure I should back log. I mean, obviously quite a lot has happened since we headed to the US back in November. But I sorta don't think I'll do that. It was kind of a black hole, and it's better to move forward than to spend all my time looking back.
The wedding was crazy and amazing and ethereal and so many other things. I was there in this beautiful dress, not really looking like myself, surrounded by all these amazing people that were there just to bless me. With the exception of Marek's parents, who were blessedly able to be there even after his mom being sicker the week before they were supposed to fly than she had been in years, everyone who was there was there because of me. What a blessing. I mean for real.
Despite all the concerns I had leading up to the wedding about everything falling into place, it really did. My whole family was there, which was positively brilliant, and I was able to have all my nieces and nephews involved in the wedding in one way or another. My only regret is that there weren't more people there for Mark. I can't imagine how it must have been for him, on this day that was also important for the rest of his life, not to have a contingent of well wishers there on his behalf as well. But we can't have everything in life the way we wish it could be, so I'm thankful that things went as smoothly as they did, and that, as has been spoken soooo many times to soooo many couples, at the end of the day we were married. And the two became one...
Since that time life went through more transitions and craziness. The day after the wedding we were back with the family, making it feel even more surreal. We opened gifts, and started saying goodbyes. Then Mark and I took his parents on a trip down the Oregon Coast all the way to Crescent City. Crazy to think that only a couple weeks later it was struck by a tsunami. A reminder of just how unpredictable life can be. It was great to introduce his family to the Pacific Ocean and the Redwoods, and the Sea Lion caves. We even had the bizarre experience of seeing snow on the beach. What a wild ride for sure.
They flew back to Czech on the 27th, and we had a moment alone to breath and to start trying to figure out what this whole being married thing means. We were blessed to have a short honeymoon on the Coast by ourselves, with beautiful accommodations thanks to my parents timeshare property. This past week I've been working on catching up on almost a month of journal writing, and trying to put the house in a bit of order. We're hoping to move into my grandparents old house in a few months so we can have a chance to figure out this life on our own a little better.
In the meantime, we're heading back to Moscow to get that paperwork out of the way and to hopefully dedicate a bit of time to our passions. That is, Mark and his music and me and my writing.
Life is strange and unpredictable to be certain. What a blessing to know that I am not in control, and that no matter how complicated and busy and confusing things may look from my point of view, God is there keeping it all on track.