Friday, July 29, 2016

Big Life Changes

Back in May, when UNLV's English Department told me I could teach three sections of Composition in the fall as a part-time instructor--enough sections to get health insurance--I was hugely relieved. It was a safe and smart plan B. I could spend the summer searching for more fulfilling work, and if I didn't find any, I would be, at the very least, not homeless.

May passed, then June, then most of July, with little to no word from prospective employers. And as I realized that my plan B was likely to become The Plan, I was filled with increasing existential dread. I don't like teaching. I don't want to be a teacher. It's not so much the part where I'm up in front of the students that I dislike, but rather the preparations and the grading--and preparations and grading is the majority of the job. I value what teachers do enormously, and I believe that teachers ought to care about what they do, for the students' sake. My plan B was certainly viable, certainly pragmatic, but also certain to make me unhappy.

Then, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I received an encouraging email from a company in Cleveland. I completed a project that will allow them to further evaluate my suitability for a position there, and I found the work to be engaging and enjoyable. They haven't contacted me since I turned it in a week ago, but I'm not worried about that--it was 20 pages long, and I'm presumably not the only candidate. These things take time. I'm confident about my work, though, and I'm hoping I'll score an interview. 

In the same week, my cousin asked me to move to Amsterdam with them and au pair for the kids for a few months while they settle in and search for more permanent childcare options. Almost as soon as I firmly established that she wasn't kidding, my mind was made up. I know that I'm by no means guaranteed a job at the aforementioned Cleveland company, but I think I'd love to work there, and if it turns out they're willing to hire me, then that's definitely what I'll do. If I don't get the job, though, I'll go to Amsterdam. Teaching in Vegas would add nothing to my resume that isn't already there, and it wouldn't help me make connections that are beneficial to my future career. If I'm just killing time, I may as well do it in Europe. I can search for jobs across the pond, and I'll be able to edit my novel. 

In the meantime, I'm moving back to Chicago. My reverse cross-country road trip will begin sometime in mid-August so that a new Vegas resident can move in before the start of the semester. Already have some bites from possible renters, which is good. Part of me hates to be the stereotypical millennial moving in with her parents, but it's only temporary. With any luck, I'll be in Cleveland before long, and if not Cleveland, then Amsterdam. Besides, I like my parents. Also, their dogs. 

I think this is the right decision for me.

***

In other news, the air conditioning has broken at my apartment. The high today is 109 degrees. Three cheers for friends who are willing to take in you, your roommate, and your roommate's dog. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adventures in Babysitting

Finally back in Vegas after a week in Chicago. More than once my mom expressed concern that I might be bored, as I spent the majority of my time in the suburbs with my cousins Erin and Rembert, their twin boys Henry and Willem, and Matthijs, their youngest. But "bored" is not the correct word to describe what it's like being almost constantly surrounded by children under five. I had crying babies to hold and rambunctious boys to entertain, and I actually had a wonderful time.

The big events of the week were my cousins Caroline & Rich's triple birthday party for their three girls, Colleen (5), Anna (3), and Heidi (1), and the USA! party my aunt threw to congratulate Rembert on his becoming an American citizen, where my cousins Kevin & Kathryn and their almost-two-year-old son Oscar also made an appearance. But there were quieter moments. I got to introduce the twins to excellent movies that I hadn't seen in years, such as The Emperor's New Groove and Anastasia. (The final kiss in the latter got a big fat EWWWWWWW from the peanut gallery.) I heard back from one of the jobs to which I'd applied and completed a detailed--and fun--portfolio for them. (I think I slayed it. I hope they agree.) And I even managed to sneak down to the city one night and have burgers and sangria at Moody's with Ben, Felipe, and Molly. What's more, Meg came up to the suburbs, and she and I got pizza at Kaiser's (the best-ever pizza), along with her mom and brother and my dad. I'm still dreaming of all the delicious chopped garlic on our pie.

The upshot of all this is that, assuming I don't get the promising-job-for-which-I-completed-a-detailed-and-fun-portfolio (but I really hope I do), Erin and Rembert said I could move to Amsterdam with them and be their au pair for a few months while they settle back into their lives over there. At first I thought they were kidding, but now there seem to be serious plans to transform their large storage closet into a small bedroom. So who knows? Maybe I'll end up living in Europe. Spontaneity is the way to go, after all.

The other advantage of spending the past week in Chicago has been the cool weather--cool by comparison, at least. It's 115 degrees in Vegas right now. Time to hide in the air conditioning for the foreseeable future...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On the Road Again (In the Sky Again)

Wanted to check in before I head out of town once more. I'm going to Chicago tomorrow for the second time this summer. We're having a sort of impromptu family reunion, as my cousin Erin and her family are traveling across the country on a farewell tour before they move back to Amsterdam. There shall be many cousins and first-cousins-once-removed and much happiness. Also: puppies. I'm looking forward to it.

And now, as promised: The Britney Spears Report. The show was spectacular, in the literal sense of the word--it was a spectacle. When LeeAnn and I walked into the Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood, we were confused; the space looked cheap, no fancier than a movie theater. However, that all changed when the show began. The entire back wall of the theater serves as a screen to project lights and images, so that in and of itself is dazzling enough to distract you from the lackluster decor. Britney looks great--in shape and on her game. They give up all pretense of her singing, which I was fine with. She lip syncs the entire show, which allows her to do intense choreography. She hit all the moves, and if some of her movements were slightly smaller than her dancers', it's probably because they all have at least ten years on her. I thought she did a fantastic job of performing. She was enthusiastic and worked the crowd the whole time. It was packed with songs--I can't think of a single hit that she didn't sing. The recorded vocals are specific to her Piece of Me show, so some of the songs were remixed in unexpected ways, which kept things fresh. The set and costume designers were clearly having lots of fun. Glitter clothes! Blacklight clothes! Giant angel wings! Making an entrance in a burning ring of fire! Leaping off a giant tree! Needless to say, I was enthralled. If you're ever in Vegas, I recommend it. Don't worry--I thought about all you poor souls who didn't get to go. Here, for your edification, is a video of "Womanizer."

I've been having a pretty fun week in general. I went to see Swiss Army Man, which was unlike any other movie I've seen in that it mixes crude, bodily humor with almost a Wes-Anderson-style twee atmosphere. The film contains some of the most sentimental farts I've ever witnessed.

Last night a bunch of us went swimming and then played board games. And tonight we're going to see Ghostbusters for Tim's birthday. Ah, summer.

But I have to pack first! Better be on my way.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hit me, baby, one more time.

This week has been a strange one. Lots of quiet with sudden bursts of activity.

Some good news: one of the editorial positions I applied for got back to me, and I did an edit test for them. It's certainly not a guarantee of anything, but hearing from a real person with a name was pretty exciting, considering this job hunt has been such a slog. Hopefully things will to continue to go well on that front. 

On Wednesday I walked over to campus to work on that edit test. Big desktop computer, quiet office space--it seemed like the ideal location. I had barely begun when I received a text message on my phone from UNLV's emergency alert system: ACTIVE SHOOTER! EMERGENCY! 

That's verbatim, by the way.

Of course, I thought. Of course I had to come to campus today. There weren't many of us in the English department, but we moved from our cubicles into the nearest offices and locked the doors. We knelt on the floor until we got the all-clear--which was only three minutes later. But they were a terrifying three minutes! 

At first I thought it must have been some 2nd amendment fanatic who decided to open-carry on campus as a form of protest--there are lots of those types in Nevada. But as it turns out, it was simply a case of someone hitting the wrong button on the emergency alert system. I know that people make mistakes, but causing everyone on campus to fear for their lives creates a bit more than an "inconvenience," as the school later said in their apology. Whoever it was should be very strongly reprimanded, at the very least. 

At the same time, it could have been so much worse. I'm glad everyone was safe.

The title of this post refers to my plans for tonight: LeeAnn and I are going to see BRITNEY SPEARS!!! All thanks to my amazing roommate, who managed to get us a huge discount. I am psyched to finally have my middle school dreams realized. There will be a full report on this blog sometime in the next week. In the meantime, let's all sing one of my favorite karaoke staples:

Friday, July 1, 2016

July, July!

Happy second half of 2016! I always think of this song by The Decemberists when July rolls around, for obvious reasons.

Still no luck on the job front, but maybe July will be my month. It might simply be due to the never-ending string of 100+ degree days, but I've been feeling particularly anxious to get out of Vegas lately. Part of me wants to abandon the city once my lease is up on August 1st, bounce around on friends' couches in other cities for a while, especially since I could still do part-time work remotely for my old company. However, there are two major problems with this desire:

1) I would feel guilty mooching off my friends.

2) Lack of health insurance. UNLV has already told me that I can part-time instruct three composition courses in the fall, which means that I would have health insurance. And as I have serious anxiety, staying on my medication is a priority for me. It's unfortunate that I have to do something I don't love just to stay in good mental health, but that's the way our society works. Ah, well. #Bernie2016, I guess. Give me some of that sweet socialized medicine.

But let's stay positive, shall we? Hopefully someone will hire me soon, and I'll no longer have this dilemma.

Here's another positive thing: yesterday was not, in fact, a 100+ degree day. It got into the 90's, but then it cooled off when the thick black clouds rolled in, ejecting bolts of lightning from their bellies and dropping a sudden monsoon on Vegas--so much rain that there were flash floods. I suppose flash floods aren't a positive thing, but I was more than happy about the dip in temperature, and last night, when I walked to Stake Out to meet my friends, the humidity was at fifty-five percent. It was a pleasant change of pace.

And another positive thing: the summer issue of Witness is out, and it's really good--I should know, because I was, as always, a reader for the magazine, passing along fantastic stories and poems from the submissions pile to the editors. I'm glad to see that Maegan and Leia took so much of my sage advice into account. I remember giving the thumbs-up to Asako Serizawa's "Willow Run," and to Courtney Faye Taylor's poems "how lives may matter in 2031" and "Portrait of a Billboard as Voice of Reason." (You should also read Stephanie Carpenter's "Trial Watchers" from the Spectacle issue, as it was one of my favorite finds for Witness ever.) I must say, I have impeccable taste.

All joking aside, I've loved working with my fellow MFA & PhD students on Witness for the past three years, who all have impeccable taste--that's why the magazine is so damn good. It's honestly been one of my favorite activities. When my queue was full, I used to read submissions when I woke up in the morning, or right before bed, which helped give structure to my day. I think my own writing benefited from the experience--I was able to see what other emerging and established writers were working on, to notice trends and patterns. And what's more, it made me a lot more patient in terms of my own submissions to magazines. Now I know just how overwhelming it can be to get through all those submissions, and I know how frequently good stories are rejected simply because they don't quite fit with a theme or a style. It's a lot easier to avoid dejection now, to keep submitting. I'm very much going to miss reading for Witness.

So, I mean, if you guys need any extra help next year, just let me know...