20 June 2013

Adventures in Housewifery: "Righty Tighty - Lefty Loosey"

"Righty tighty - lefty loosey" is not a political statement but the mnemonic that Mother taught me for screws, bolts, and lids.
 I am most blessed to have been raised by a mother who did things. She was a superb carpenter. She had her own toolbox and often undertook minor--and sometimes major--household repairs. She had little choice. Daddy worked from dawn till dusk on the farm and often was up in the middle of the night to check irrigation water. He came home tired and dirty and ready for a bath, supper, and a few hours to read. She was protective of what little time he had to rest and be with us kids.
Another issue was the lack of professional help. Money was hard to come by, of course, but the real problem was rural isolation. We lived at least 26 miles over some pretty poor dirt roads from the nearest town where a repairman might be found. We were fifty miles from Lubbock, the nearest access to someone other than a handyman. I remember the Sears repair truck serviced our end of the county only one day a week at most. The schedule for the next trip might be full and it wasn't unusual to be told it would be two weeks. When they finally came, if they didn't have the part on the truck, it might be another week before they came back. Of necessity, Mother undertook her own repairs.
I wish I had followed her example last summer when shortly after the move, I got some error codes and a locked door on my washing machine. (Whirlpool, Duet, HE, front-loader.) I was exhausted from the move; the door was locked and wouldn't open; one of my collectible tablecloths was trapped inside. I called a repairman. A minimum of $85 but, by the time he was done, we were out several hundred dollars--enough that I considered just buying a new washer. I now wonder if the service technician didn't take advantage of this little lady. Something few men tried and none succeeded when dealing with my mother.
Today, when error code "5d" popped up and I noticed that the load of dog-washing towels was not properly rinsed, I googled: "Whirlpool duet error code 5d."
That code means that the machine is draining more slowly than expected. The problem may be caused by too many suds or by a clogged drain filter. I suspect a little bit of both in this case. The repair looked simple and I decided to troubleshoot it before calling a repairman.  Since my laundry is now inside an air conditioned utility room instead of a hot, steamy garage... I never cease being grateful for the ease of living in our new home!

I am my mother's daughter. I like to do things.
 I found instructions here and gathered my tools:

dishpan, towel, mirror, nut driver, WD-40, flashlight

 Unplug the washer. SAFETY Note: always unplug anything electrical before doing anything at all to it.

Open the bottom panel by removing the three screws along the bottom. My washer is on a pedestal  so access was easy. A mirror and flashlight helped locate the screws.
Frustration: they were  not standard/Phillips screws but rather sheet metal nuts. Out to the garage tool bench, where I found the nut drivers. I needed the 1/4 inch. "Lefty loosey."
It came out OK but I noted that one of nuts was rusted. So I made sure to clean it with WD-40.
If it had been too tight for me to undo, I would have needed a penetrating oil spray like WD-40 or Liquid Wrench. That would have meant spraying and waiting for the spray to dissolve and loosen the rust but all I needed for this particular job was "lefty loosey."

Well, look what I found! A secret set of instructions "for the service technician; do not remove."

The drain plug was on the right hand side. Positioning a dishpan and making sure there was a big towel at hand,  I removed the plug.

Water, lint, a dead bug, and a dime gushed out. (Sometimes I understand that people find those missing socks!)

Inside the drain are 2 holes. The one in the back goes to the drain hose and I checked that it was open. There was also one to the pump on the side. I stuck a finger into that opening, felt for debris (there was none) and manually turned the pump propellers. All clear.
Wiped everything down. Put the drain plug back on.  "Righty tighty."

Plugged the washer back in and tested the repair by rewashing the towels. Oh, yes, still a lot of suds so that was probably most of the problem this time but it's good housewifery to clean that drain filter regularly, probably a couple of times a year or anytime you see a 5d.
All seems well, so I wiped all the surfaces and reattached the bottom panel.  "Righty tighty."

Instructions said it was easy and would take about 10 minutes. It was pretty easy but I think 45 minutes - 1 hour is a more realistic estimate, counting the time to find and read instructions, locate tools, discover I needed a different tool. Do the job. Clean up the mess and put everything back where it belongs. Still, $85/hour ain't bad.

Now I wish I'd tried these instructions for last year's locked door episode before calling the repairman:

Most jobs are easier with the proper tools and not every housewife has access to a set of nut drivers or crescent wrenches or specialized screw drivers but good tools can be reused and are worth the investment.  For example, a single hollow shaft nut drive will cost less than $10. A complete set of 7 or so is less than $50. I could have bought nut drivers at Home Depot or Sears (Craftsman tools are the best!) and still have come out ahead. Fortunately, we have a bunch because my dear husband loves tools but really doesn't ever use them.
My "honey" doesn't "do." He'd rather read. (Like my Daddy and I.) And his honey can do it herself. (Like her mother.)

17 June 2013

ChLA 2013 Building a Career in Children's Literature

Just back from a wonderful conference in Biloxi, Mississippi hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi. I offer the first of several blogs I'm planning on the panels I attended and the books I read pre-conference. My blogging has been spotty of late, and I'm hoping to get back in the literary groove. I select this first topic because a friend asked me to take a few notes to share because she could not attend the Friday morning panel chaired by Amanda Allen, Eastern Michigan University. There were four panelists and these notes should be viewed as my impressions rather than their remarks unless I indicate otherwise by the use of quotation marks:

  1. Richard Flynn, Georgia Southern University, "Stepping on Cracks: Applying, Teaching, and Publishing Across the Children's Lit/Adult Lit Divide"  emphasized that it is essential to be proactive in establishing a scholarly record. Publish! ...In today's job market, it is "misguided to focus exclusively" on children's, Y.A., or Adult literature. "Be diverse. Try to place your children's literature critiques in other venues." These practices help you establish networks of support and enhance your reputation and increase your likelihood of success.
  2. Martin Woodside, Rutgers University, "All Work and No Play?: Balancing the Personal and the Professional." Calypso Editor, the youngest person on the panel, parent of young child/children, reminded us "you're responsible for putting all these balls in the air...." Don't create too much distance between work and play.  It's easy to complain but "this was my choice...." "Spending time with a real child" (yours!) "can be an important asset" in children's literature.... Balance is both "respect and perspective" and "it's OK to be frustrated." Do one thing at a time, focus on what you need to do, be fully present wherever you are. "Spending time with my family" makes "me a better worker" ...it's OK to leave some things undone...." His examples applied to both personal and professional life. "The opposite of play is not work; it's depression."
  3. Erica Hately, Queensland University of Technology, "Risky Business: International Job Hunting" emphasized that there are both "international" and "institutional" cultures and that the job hunt involves translating not just into another language but into another culture. "You must also translate yourself." Understand the culture you are going to, be excited by it. Things that help you find and keep a job are your ability to "attract funding"...and publish, noting that the type of publications matters a great deal. "Book chapters..." Seek a "niche" that gets you noticed.
  4. Roberta Seelinger Trites, Illinois State University, "Playing at Professionalism: Facing Down Impostor Syndrome" delivered a talk that was quite entertaining as well as helpful. She began "whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune..." "Impostor Syndrome is normal..." As one acquires knowledge, and realizes how much one does not yet know, one begins to "feel inadequate" and to feel like "an impostor." Remember, each of us is always learning; you are "a student your entire life." Don't pad the c.v. or puff up yourself because "it's a sin to lie" but it is always OK to admit that you don't know and to assert what you do know.  "Not knowing everything does not mean you're incompetent." Assess your strengths and weaknesses. "Focus on your comfort zone" because that is where you can work most happily and achieve most quickly. Assess your weaknesses and work to develop those areas more slowly. Nobody is good at everything. Celebrate your successes, "even your small ones...." "Tell 5 people about your success... most people like hearing your good news." Give yourself permission to seek validation. Be proud of your accomplishments. Diversify your career. Set goals and meet them. Reward yourself. Celebrate with your true friends. {As an aside, she spoke of "toxic competitiveness..." among individuals and within an academic department and  "a concern for status" as leading to Impostor Syndrome. Humility is an antidote to Impostor Syndrome. She pointed out that even a successful academic may need therapy or counseling to deal with life issues. Get help from a mental health professional if you need it.} Focus on your own achievements. Do not compare yourself to others. "...find the playful in everything you do..." As Martin said, "you chose this." At play you don't feel an impostor. Compartmentalize! If you're grading, go into a room and grade. If you're having Thanksgiving dinner with your family and sitting around visiting over pumpkin pie and coffee, enjoy being with your family; grade some other time. "Multi-tasking is a delusion."
In Q&A  I did not identify either the questioner or the responder. Hitting the highlights:

  • c.v. is a genre, master it. Ask to see a friend's application packet
  • in publishing a recommendation is a help in the submission process... note your readers' reports... REWRITE!!! Do not send out anything that someone senior to you has not read... Have at least two readers, one senior to you and one just a little bit senior to you, read your material before submission.
  • write out of a place of passion.
  • If an editor sends you a "revise and resubmit" that does not mean "oh, they don't like it." Rather it means that they want to work with you. Everything goes through multiple revisions. Trust the journal editor who wants to help you, to work with you to get you published.
  • Where to go for help? The panel agreed that "Ph.D. advisor is a life time relationship." Talk to those you meet at conferences and talk to you after your presentation. Contact a recent scholar working in a related area. Ask, ask, ask... "people know how to say No... or they should."
  • create a narrative for yourself. Charting your goals and your progress is helpful but telling your story and revising it every few years may also be helpful (This from the audience.)
  • There is always something that is "the hardest" to do. If at all possible I make it a rule to "give it priority"  "when the mood is right..." For example when I can write poetry, I try to write poetry rather than giving other things priority. Sometimes one must stop juggling and focus. (This from Martin.)
  • The time between revision and publishing? "How long is a piece of string?" (That from Roberta) 14 months, 2 years, up to 3 years Be productive. Be prolific. Be patient.
  • If you are going to work in children's literature, you must be able to articulate why children's literature matters. Write a paragraph about why your genre matters. Practice saying it with authority. Look for common ground with others... play the diversity card... "everyone was once a child" yet children are often oppressed, ignored, devalued...
  • How does tenure change your experience? Now I have "freedom to speak..." now I am expected to be and am "a leader..." now I am "an administrator..." and "now I'm stuck here..." "now what?" There is always something problematic about every institution...
  • Next year we need a panel on mid-career issues.
  • Roberta: Remember, "It's a job.  A job!" ..."40 hours of work/week" which all the panelists agreed may not be possible which is one reason that at least some aspects of your work must be play--something that brings pleasure, something that brings energy, something that  brings laughter and joy. "But it is a job... It's not your identity." Commit to the personal relationships that give your life meaning. 
Although I don't really have a career in children's literature, this was one of my favorite panels. Much of this advice is applicable to anyone in any career or stage of life. My gratitude to the speakers.

ChLA Children's Literature Association