A Visit From Hurricane Sandy

All photos taken at or before high tides around noon and midnight on Monday.


The second interview and the waiting game

Yesterday, I went to the second interview for the secretary job at the education graduate school from which I graduated five years ago and where I worked as secretary for a year. Now I am waiting to hear back about whether I get the job.

The panel who met with me (and at least one other candidate) consisted of the academic coordinator of the department, the manager for the program in which the secretary would be working, and a couple of other academic secretaries in the department. Everyone seemed nice and fun. They asked me questions like, “What was the best movie you’ve seen in the last two years?” and “If you could be anything for Halloween, what would you be?” A couple of them seemed like doctoral students in the process of writing dissertations, so they had that fun, self-deprecating but miserable vibe that many doctoral students have.

It occurred to me, however, that one of these secretaries might remember me from my studies through this department one semester six years ago, when the bilingual ed students did a semester with this particular department. I asked her yesterday, if she remembered me, because I had to take courses through the program. She said my name sounded familiar.

Those who have read about my travails during that time (on my blog from back then) might also recall the U.S. Open incident. My father was coming, from Taiwan, to visit New York to see a grand slam tennis tournament for the first time in his life, and we had bought tickets months ahead of time. Of course, it turned out that one of the days for which we had tickets was also the first day of school. So, in my naivete, I emailed the program to ask whether I could miss that day during my first student teaching assignment.

The secretary, who was sitting before me at this interview yesterday, might have seen the email that was forwarded to the she-devil professor of the department, who subsequently wrote me a vile message questioning my desire to be a teacher. (She wrote in the subject line, “Teaching or tennis?”)

Offended and infuriated, I calmed myself enough to attempt to explain my request. I had failed to mention that my father was in another country and also elderly, so this was not, in my opinion, like asking to be off the first day of school to go see a movie with a friend, for example. Naturally, after hearing how important the first day of school would be for a student teacher, I would now be present on the first day of school. But she did not have to be as condescending as she was. Her email follows below:

____ forwarded your email about your desire to see the U.S. Open, rather than the first day of school with children.

I imagine you do not realize the impression your question leaves with us about your interest in, and commitment to, becoming a teacher.

Perhaps your commitment is truly solid and you do not realize the significance the first day of schools holds for both teachers and children. If you told your cooperating teacher that you couldn’t come to the first day of school because you were going to the U.S. Open, you would probably be immediately asked to leave the placement.

As a program, we cannot afford to jeopardize our reputation with the public schools and with the teachers who donate their time to be cooperating teachers; if you are wavering in your commitments, or if teaching is perhaps too restrictive of a life-style, we should discuss this ASAP.

Ew. And for the record, my cooperating teacher that semester would not have asked me to leave the placement if I had asked to be absent; she wouldn’t have cared, just like she wouldn’t have cared if I had shown up in jeans like she did every day, even though this professor told us never to do so. In fact, that teacher probably shouldn’t have been a cooperating teacher in the program, because she scared the children into behaving, and I probably learned some bad habits. Or maybe the program assigned me to her to get back at me somehow.

Anyway, so why am I applying to work in a department where this horrible, condescending person teaches? Because I checked — I’d be working in a different program and not with that loca. Otherwise, you can forget it.

But, there are chances that I’d have to work with her. And that scares me. If she found out it was that girl coming to work for the department, she’d probably make my life hell; no doubt she’d think, “So she couldn’t cut it after all, and that’s why she’s just a secretary now,” and that teaching was “too restrictive of a lifestyle” for me.

Maybe I shouldn’t get the job.

Turning 36 in the year of the dragon

Fighting for good journalism, getting ‘real’ jobs, and marriage equality in church

My birthday was last Saturday. I turned 36. This means, in Chinese astrology, that I am a dragon in the year of the dragon. (There are 12 animals in the horoscope, so it’s a 12-year cycle.)

You might think this is a good thing; I did. Woohoo! It’s my year, I wrote on facebook. This belief was dispelled by the only other Asian working in the school district where I was employed during the first half of this year. Hai, a Vietnamese immigrant who had lived several years in Hong Kong, has a much better understanding of the horoscope than I do as an ABC (American-born Chinese). The year of the dragon, he told me, is a bad year for a dragon. This, as I understand it, is because the astrology takes into account the five elements — earth, fire, metal, water, wood — and having too much of one element causes imbalance, and a dragon in a dragon year would present a pretty big imbalance. A dragon in a monkey year, however, would be a good, balanced year, since the monkey provides things that a dragon lacks. Or something along those lines.

In any case, Hai was right, in that I had a miserable first half of the year at least. Working at that school caused me to increase my antidepressant as well as start me on anti-anxiety pills; I had bad evaluations, no support though I asked for help, parents and students complaining about me, and a new principal who was convinced that I was a horrible teacher and didn’t give me serious chances to improve. This principal made it virtually impossible for me to get another teaching position in another district, because I was technically, if not officially, fired, and no other school in these tough-on-teachers times wants to touch a fired teacher with a 10-foot pole.

Being fired from my job was, however, probably a blessing in disguise, because I am much happier NOT as a teacher. Of course, I have not been able to bring myself to forgive the actions of my superiors in that district, but I know that I should really feel grateful that they didn’t let me waste any more of my time trying to learn something — dealing with challenging behavior — that was so difficult for me.

Today I went into the city for a job interview at the education graduate school where I got my master’s degree in bilingual education. I had worked there as a secretary for a year during my studies, and that job may have been one of the most enjoyable experiences I had there (which is not exactly saying it was enjoyable, per se). I applied for another secretary position last month, and I think I do want to get the job.

At first, when they called me to set up the interview, I didn’t want it. I had been volunteering at the farm on Friday, talking to the apprentices with whom I work about their difficulties working with their boss. I looked back at my last 15 or so years of work experience and realized I have never had such a good time at a job as I do where I am now, at this paper, working part-time with no benefits. (It was a beautiful fall day at the farm, by the way. I love this area.)

The path to the fields up topView of a pond at Glynwood Farm

After all, the editor is endlessly helpful to me, encouraging me to take on more responsibilities and praising my writing. (My latest articles are both on the front page!) I also like many of the people I work with, and I get to meet interesting people. Oh, and have I mentioned that it is greatly fulfilling to know that I work at a publication that directly competes with the local paper owned and operated by the wife of the president of Fox News? I feel like I am fighting for a good cause, for real journalism, ethical reporting, and bipartisanship, even in the venue of such a small town. I didn’t, and often still don’t, want to give any of that up.

Later I discussed the job with my husband, who is really excited these days about the prospect of getting full-time jobs in the city and moving back there. He says, if we could get settled into some secure, stable jobs in the city, that eventually he could support me while I have a baby. And so we are back to the age thing — I am no spring chicken, and my window of childbearing is closing. If I want to have kids, then I have to have them soon, probably within the next few years.

The truth is that we haven’t found any way to sustain life here in this beautiful and too-expensive Hudson River village, now that I’m not making a good salary. With my increasing responsibilities at the paper, I could make a little more money, but it will not be a full-time job with benefits anytime soon, with the funding situation as it is. And Shane has not been able to find any positions within reasonable driving distance for which he is qualified and that would support us, and commuting an hour and a half each way to the city would be too much for him.

So I resigned myself to perhaps only being able to copy edit for the paper remotely on the internet.

Taking into consideration this new desire to get a benefit-providing job, I don’t know why I was so honest at the interview today. Basically, I admitted to wanting to a job where I don’t have to take work home and where I can have fun with coworkers, and I confessed to needing to work on resolving conflict with others. Whaa? And yet, I think, being honest is my way of cutting to the chase, and if they don’t want me with all of my flaws, then I don’t want them.

There may also have been a little part of me that simply hopes that we can find a way to make things work living in this area and keeping my job at the paper.

There’s this other thing, too, that I don’t know how to discuss on this blog, and that’s the work we’ve been doing for this Episcopal church in town. I think I try to avoid writing about it because I don’t want to turn people off by talking about religion. Most of my friends, after all, are agnostics and atheists, as I was for most of my life.

But it has been a great part of our lives here, and it has meant, for us, being part of a community and, in a way, supporting gay rights. This is because we have a priest who recently came out as gay and who has presided over the first gay wedding in the diocese (even though the bishop has not yet approved of marrying same-sex couples in an Episcopal ceremony). Honestly, if you looked up the Episcopal church, you’d find it surprisingly progressive (for those of us who look down on organized religion and believe Christianity is quite scary in its more popular, conservative American form).

The parish members are wonderful — we met our best friend in the village there, and we are actually friends with some Republican church-goers! The priest gives thoughtful and helpful sermons about emulating Christ by accepting and loving, not judging, others, which I truly want to try to do. (And here the friends who know me well may be surprised, since I never exactly espoused withholding judgment in the past. In fact, my disdain for most of humankind may be one of my most fun traits.)

The church, however, is not doing well. We recently learned that we have to prepare two budgets for the coming year — one continuing as is and another without a full-time priest. Unfortunately, our priest will probably have to leave, since we cannot sustain what we have now, and our savings are dwindling. (Sound familiar? Is it merely a coincidence?)

To add to the turmoil, a couple of the main players on the church vestry have quit, having been burned out, I guess, by the stress of trying to run a church with a full-time priest for over 7 years on a diminishing income. In the course of the past week or so, I have taken on more responsibilities on the vestry as a result — becoming co-chair of pastoral care and chair of hall rentals, and Shane has taken more financial responsibilities as treasurer.

St. Mary-in-the-Highlands

I haven’t been trying a great deal to discern my “calling,” but this — helping the parish — is the closest thing to a calling that we have imagined for ourselves thus far. It’s a beautiful landmark, for one, but a serene place to find comfort (with its stained glass, somber classical music, and age-old, high-mass rites — Catholicism with none of the guilt!) as well as a raucously fun place to find friendship. What churches, after all, hold champagne receptions for adult baptisms and Christmas midnight mass, and regularly serve alcohol at its fundraisers and social events (all while teaching people to be nice to each other)? This place needs to survive!

Be Careful What You Wish For

I’ve been incredibly busy this week with copy editing and writing. This is generally nice, especially compared to last week, when both of my planned stories disappeared because meetings were postponed … postponed, that is, to this week.

Two village board meetings this week: Monday’s was almost three hours long; Tuesday’s was almost two hours long. I don’t know if village board meetings should ever be allowed on consecutive nights. I am not having happy, positive thoughts about some of the people in the village government or on its myriad boards.

During these meetings, I kept thinking about the conflict resolution course I took a few years ago while in grad school, about how these people need to go to mediation in a big way and get off their little soapboxes for at least a minute and actually listen to what someone else is saying, for a change.

But that’s not really fair. I guess I am feeling rebellious because of having to just sit and listen, myself, for once. Yes, I get to write about it later, so I get my say, but I would not allow myself (or be allowed by editors) to write what I really think. That’s what this blog is for….

On occasion, I transcribe from my recording of the meeting something really ridiculous that a person said, because I really want to use it in an article and say, “Hey, everyone! Can you believe this ding dong?!” But I don’t use most of what I transcribe, and I can’t really write an account that sounds like me gossiping with a friend: then he said … and so she said … and then he said….

I am happy, though, that I am busy with work. I am glad to have so much responsibility at this paper, which I think is doing incredible work. I am thankful that the editor is helpful and encouraging and generally happy to have hired me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wield power and make decisions on which press releases should go in the paper and what should be cut from them and which can just go on the website….

If only our website were up this week! Huge technical difficulties have besieged us, and I hope that they can be overcome soon. Keeping fingers crossed.

And just because I want to post a photo of cute horses at the farm (and not one of the village board):

Horses at Glynwood

The Pipe Dream of a Husband-Wife Sports-Writing Team

Shane and I went to the local high school (American) football game Saturday to report for the paper, which sorely lacks sports coverage. Every so often a regular reporter writes a big story, like the Little League tournament or when the high school baseball team went to the state championships. But my editor had asked a long time ago if I’d wanted to do some sports stories, and I finally got up the nerve to try it, as long as I had Shane, an avid sports follower, to help me.

The last time I had gone to a football game was probably when I was a freshman in high school myself. I didn’t then and still don’t understand the details of the game, possibly intentionally, as I find it one of the most repulsive sports today. All it seems to be good for is traumatic brain injury (not only to the players) and training in loud, macho yelling. I was planning to just take some photos and write a few short lines like “So-and-so made a touchdown in the first quarter” and “They lost to the Broncos [insert score].”

As soon as we got to the field, I noticed the concession stand and hot dogs, while Shane whipped out his notebook and started jotting down notes. Turns out my husband was pretty good at writing his first article, with my lame smartphone photos that cut out the QB and RB and, most times, even the football. The only photo that really turned out well … you can see for yourself that it didn’t really have anything to do with football:

(I just loved that kid’s fashion sense.)

When the article was published online, I got super excited that Shane and I could become the sports-writing duo that expands the paper’s sports section into a force to be reckoned with. We would not only cover important varsity games but perhaps even junior varsity games! Shane could get paid for doing something extra that he enjoys – watching sports! I would take amazing action photos with a new digital SLR camera (that I bought yesterday)!

Then the editor told me what I knew to be true all along: the paper did not have the budget or the space to expand the sports coverage in the way I was hoping. It could accommodate maybe one story per week, if that, and there is already one reporter, possibly two, working on occasional sports coverage. Wuah – wuah, goes the game-over trombone.

In happier news, we don’t have to go to tons of sports games.

We are also looking into health insurance options through the Freelancers’ Union, and I am seriously thinking about getting business cards and a website to promote myself as a freelance copy editor. Got a gig through work doing some academic copy editing, and I applied for a freelance copy-editing position with a cool website today, so keep fingers crossed, everyone!