Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Hi! How are you? Anything big happen lately?

Yeah. That’s kind of how I feel after seeing the last post on this blog. I just really had no clue what the last year held for all of us. For our entire planet.

What happened to me? Why did I stop writing, recording videos, and reading? Well… it was more than just Covid-19 for me.

Let’s see- in December 2019 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. Oh, and the day before that diagnosis, she almost went blind due to pressure buildup in her eyes.

We spent most of January 2020 going to surgeon appointments, genetic testing, filling out FMLA forms, visiting her ophthalmologist for her eyes, and pretty much ignoring everything else.

February 2020 was surgery month, where she had a second mastectomy. I spent three weeks working to take care of her during that time. 

My old house.
March 2020 I actually worked on my campus for two days before I was supposed to attend a conference that first week. We then went to Spring Break and never really came back to school due to Covid-19.

April and May 2020 I was all technology all the time for my district. Of course, it was all from home, but that actually made it a bit more difficult. Students were not staying home, so they would submit for assistance, then not be home to actually get the help. Many were working full-time part-time jobs, so they weren’t getting home until well after my “office hours.”

During this time, mom and I realized exactly how cramped it was to do all that I was doing in my house, have her over all day, and not really able to care for two houses, so we decided to seriously start looking at houses to combine our two homes into one. We found the house at the end of May 2020.

Packing the POD.

June, July, and August 2020 were spent packing up mom’s house, selling it, then packing up my house, selling it, and moving into the new house. Oh…some of the packing and selling of my house went through September 2020. If you’ve never packed up a house someone has lived in for 50 years, you just haven’t packed. That was packing my mom’s house. She isn’t exactly a hoarder, she just never had enough house for all of her stuff (although most people would say that she is definitely a hoarder). I lived in my house for almost 20 years, so I can’t say much about having a lot of stuff, because I most definitely do. 

By the end of August 2020, I was back to in person on campus work doing all of the student technology. I guess I should be grateful that our entire building is under construction and I don’t actually have a library right now, because to this day I certainly wouldn’t have time to run a library. Oh, well…for that I guess it is what it is…until it isn’t!

I closed on my house at the beginning of October 2020. I haven’t gone back to the neighborhood since then. I don’t know if I will. I’m still too emotionally attached to the house to be able to do that. 

So, that leaves the rest of October, November and December 2020, which I spent most of the time either unpacking, rearranging, or decorating for the holidays. It turns out, mom and I have a lot of holiday decorations!

The new house in the snow last week.

Around this time I did begin to start thinking about re-tooling the business, which is why I am back. It took me getting to January 2021 to get back on track, but I think I’m getting there. I struggle with the idea that I lost so much time in 2020, but I am reminded by my mother that it was an extraordinary year just with the pandemic and political strife. Add to that her cancer diagnosis and moving two houses to one, and its pretty reasonable to think that sidetracked would be an understatement.

I am back, though, and I plan to incorporate both text and videos to this blog. Just a bit of a hint for now, but it will definitely be something related to writing and books, sprinkled with things I do to relax and have fun, which is pretty much what I've been doing here, anyway. 

I invite you to follow me along on this new journey!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops Epsiode 50:The Struggle is Real: Writer's Block

Hello! Episode 50: The Struggle is Real: Writer's Block is up over on the Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops YouTube Channel! Check it out!

Friday, December 6, 2019

New Video! Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops Episode 49: Revision: The Difference Between Good and Great

Make sure to check out the latest videos uploaded to the Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops YouTube channel. It's free to subscribe and you'll get alerts when new content goes up.
In last weeks' episode, I discussed the importance of revision and the types you should be doing to take your writing from good to great.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Googling Old Friends=Timewarped?

Image: © 20th Century Fox
Sometimes, when I’m in the “Every Five Minute an Interruption” mode, I do a variety of things to make me look busy, but not actually something that I’d be upset about if interrupted. I look at houses on Zillow in small, quaint towns that I will run away to when I am financially independent enough to leave my job. I find books to buy for the library (kinda actually my job, but still easily interruptible). I look at pictures and stories on Instagram. I stalk my best friend from middle school.

I recently finished a great stalking effort of "J," who I hung out with pretty much every day from 6th to 8th grade. We were both in orchestra, then, when the cool band director was hired our 8th grade year, we switched to band. She played the trumpet, I the flute. We ditched the 8th grade dance to go with a few other friends to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We promised to keep track of each other when she moved to another school district. We did for a while, even attending the same church back in the day when I actually went to church. We had a falling out over a guy who was way too old for her thirteen year-old self to be hanging out with. He was nineteen and a former friend of my cousin--who told stories about this guy that would make any mama (or best friend) concerned for girls involved with him. I warned her it was a bad idea. I guess she didn’t like that. We lost track of each other.

Fast forward to the age of the Internet. She was one of the first people I tried to track down when I realized that it was actually possible to track people down. After several months, I found her, at least, I found her email address. I sent off an email. I got a response. She was married, but no kids. We chatted back and forth a few times until eventually I didn’t get a reply.

Finally, a few years ago, I found her completely by accident. I was looking up some random computer question and it landed me on her professional blog. She seems to be doing well for herself. She has divorced and remarried-- to the guy I warned her not to hang out with and mother to a few children with him. She has a personal blog. I read her personal blog. I tried friending her on Facebook once, but she never accepted it. That was probably because I warned her not to hang out with the guy she ended up eventually marrying.

I truly believe that if we were to reconnect, we would be friends again. We have so many commonalities, it almost seems impossible for us not to. I actually think sometimes, out of all the friendships that have come and gone for me, the lost of "J" was the one that I miss most dearly.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Laptop Librarian?

Datura this morning, just inside of my gate.

I haven’t written a blog post in several months, mostly because the summer school job transitioned directly into the school year job with very little break in between. My day job taken over by technology. Not ten minutes has gone by while at work when I have not had to troubleshoot, check out, or otherwise stop anything I have been doing to answer a question about a laptop or a Chromebook.

I am not a Luddite, but I really wish the push for technology didn’t always mean that the librarian is expected to be that technology person. I’m sure it comes from the idea that we are supposed to be technologically savvy. What most don’t seem to understand, though, is that this savviness is supposed to be in teaching innovative research tools, not trying to fix the broken technology. That is what my job has become-- the “check out and fix it” person. That’s not exactly what they trained us to do in graduate school. Definitely not a valuable use of time for someone with a degree. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t be doing this because I have a degree or that I am personally too “valuable” to do this work. I’m saying that librarians-- a position which requires a master’s degree— cost the district more salary-wise than what is required to do this particular job. In assigning this work, it also comes at a cost to any library programming put in place. Schools with two librarians are able to come closer to operating normally because they are able to function every day as a library as well as provide that technical support when needed. Schools like mine, who have over 2,000 students between the two schools on campus but only one librarian, do not function as well.

Last year, when the responsibility for student devices was dumped on me, I spent two months straight-- every day-- working on laptops. When we switched to Chromebooks, I set up a schedule, just like all of the other librarians in the district. I guess it’s hard to follow a schedule when you’re not used to doing it, because I still have students coming in during non-support times. The hard part is that I really do want to help them. I can’t do that, though. Having a schedule means that even I have to stick to it. Just because I can stop whatever I’m doing and fix the problem doesn’t mean that I should. If I start doing that, I will constantly have interruptions to classes I’m teaching, or book orders I’m attempting to compile, or anything else I may be doing that is related to being the head of a school library.

Unfortunately, the expectation from my faculty is that I fix it and it doesn’t matter what I happen to be working on or that it is not the scheduled time to do it. It seems that so many people assume that this is just what I’m paid to do. They assume it is part of a stipend and I should spend more time doing it if I’m being paid to do that. Um…it’s not. This is just an extra duty, and it is supposed to be up to me how I handle it. People have actually yelled at me (educated adults who you’d think would know about professional decorum), that this is my job and I’m obviously not doing what I’m supposed to when I’m supposed to do it. That when I say I’ve made time for it in my day, they say it’s not something you are supposed to make time for, its just your job. Why does my school have this breakdown as to what my job is?

So, after all of this complaining about the shifting of my job (thank you to those who have read this far and are still here!), what do I do about it? Well, I get up every morning and hope to have the best day yet. I feed my cats and dog, make my coffee, get dressed, have breakfast and journal about my dreams. I take at least 30 minutes to sit out on my patio to enjoy the sunrise. I breathe in the fresh morning air (as fresh as it can be living in a city!), and just free my mind of thoughts of what the work day may hold. As I recently saw in a Facebook meme, I am building a life right now in my home that I don’t have to run away from. I am working towards not worrying about this day job work when I am at home. Any work stress will just have to stay at work. I don’t have time for it at home. There’s way too much to do and enjoy in life for that!

Friday, June 14, 2019

School's Out for Summer...Except for That Pesky Summer School Thing

Clark Gardens, just outside of Mineral Wells, TX
Summer is FINALLY HERE! Yes!

Well, I say that, but my school is one of the summer school locations and I accepted the summer school librarian position. So…I’ll be back at school next week! There are bonuses to this, though. I’ll be paid enough to take out some of my credit card debt, which, like most people, I absolutely hate having. The secret, hidden bonus is that I will be using the district A/C instead of my own, so I’ll actually be saving money!

My main work for summer school will be to check out and help students maintain working laptops. That particular job has kicked my butt in May, but with the expectation that this is my primary job, I think I’ll be fine.

Speaking of May and laptop and my butt being kicked...I spent probably too much energy last month on laptops and very little time on my personal creative endeavors. It took me six days to prep for a planned four days of collection--which turned into eight days of collection! I do not understand where the breakdown was in exactly when items needed to be returned, but I’m hoping it was just willful disobedience instead of a lack of common sense (which isn’t really that common!).

I truly intended to blog more last month. You can read my last entry and see that I was at least going to have an every Monday blog post. I'm hoping to pick that back up next week, as long as I have a few moments to get the words down. That's just how things go when multitasking is not an option!

I have so many plans for Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops this summer and I am hoping to be able to accomplish them in some of the downtime I will have over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Museum Monday: The Kimbell Art Museum’s The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michelangelo

One of the things that you’re taught when you decide to start a blog is that you need to have thematic days. Something for every day of the week. I have never been good at that. This week I’m changing things up.

Mondays will forever be known (until I give up or run out of art!) as Museum Mondays. Most museums aren’t open on Mondays, but it’s the perfect day to write about them, mostly because of the alliterativeness of it! What I’ll be doing on Museum Mondays is featuring a work of art I decided to take a picture of and give you, the reader, my thoughts on this art. Sometimes these thoughts will be serious, but mostly they will be fun and a bit silly.
Here goes…
The Torment of Saint Anthony, 1487- Michelangelo

Last Friday I was attending Global Gallery Night, where high school students teach about a particular art piece within the museum, held annually at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. One of my favorite works of art there is The Torment of Saint Anthony (1487) by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Yes, that Michelangelo. We have one in Fort Worth!

Anyway…this painting is one of the earliest works by Michelangelo, painted when he was just a young teen. You can tell. The demons are fantastical. Their faces are comical. They have oversized organs (I mean, not to get gross, but the anus of that red demon on the bottom right is somewhat ridiculously large). Saint Anthony, though, looks like you would expect a Saint to look in a Renaissance painting. Then add the boy factor, and you have what could, according to a friend of mine when we were looking at the painting Friday, be an overlaid work of art with demons added by a modern artist.

If you ever get the chance to see this painting in person, either at The Kimbell, or at another museum when it is out touring the world, just remember…A thirteen-year-old boy painted this painting, which is pretty amazing in itself.