Sunday, March 31, 2013

Homage to Erma B

This is the second entry in a blogging challenge where I have decided to write blog entries about the everyday, posting first drafts of my writing for all to see...


My mother-in-law thinks I have the potential to be the Erma Bombeck of my age. Comedy does seem to run rampant in my life, like the recent incident where I was asked to pick a roommate for an upcoming conference and given a list of men from whom to chose. Now I realize "Angel" can be a tad ambiguous, but "Renee" is more straightforward... As a newspaper reporter, my potential gender might have been an asset. My "Angel R. Ackerman" byline could have been a man or a woman.

In real life, the situations that arise due to this can be very inconvenient. I once had a medical claim for a gynecological exam rejected by my medical insurance carrier because they insisted I was male. I think, or at least I hope, my doctor would have noticed that during the exam.

I also have pets: an escaping tortoise and three cats, one of which is a 17-pound cat that's afraid of his shadow and another grouchy 13-year-old cat that last week decided to poop on the middle of the bathroom scale.

Since having a daughter, the opportunity for humor has multiplied exponentially. She was 8.5 ounces at birth but grew very slowly throughout her preschool years. She grew steadily, and on a curve that pleased our doctor. She ate like a horse. Despite this, she didn't hit those average weight charts until she turned four. Suddenly, at age 4, she reached average!

At age six, she got a fat letter from the school. It wasn't a full fat letter, it just said my daughter had an increased risk of becoming overweight later in life and that I had to show this letter to the pediatrician. Now my pediatrician is old school. He laughed when I showed him this letter. The nurse took my daughter to the scale and checked her. Apparently, she had grown two inches since the school weighed her. And the weight-- it was exactly the same. So she had gained weight in preparation for a growth spurt, which had increased her BMI.

She was not fat or even at risk of being overweight.

And if you think that's bad, you should hear what happened with the dog bite two weeks ago. But that's another story for another day because it's Easter and my family expects me downstairs any minute...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Challenge of the Ordinary

I'm still working on my honors thesis, getting ready to present at NCUR in a few weeks. Gulp. I'm occasionally working on my werewolf coming-of-age story as a stress relief. I just finished another GLVWG newsletter and I'm still applying for jobs.

Since the winter is slowly transforming into spring, many of my writer friends have found success with their New Year's goals. Fellow GLVWGer Linda Frindt has met her goal of blogging everyday, despite many personal challenges.

So, it makes me feel like a slacker. Even though I have everything in paragraph one going on, plus work, and family.

But I need to spend more time exercising my writer brain, if only as a way to sharpen the senses.

Now, with Easter coming, and my conference, I probably won't meet a goal of posting everyday. I have met my personal challenge of renewing my journaling habit.

I extend this as a next step: post a blog entry everyday, short, but developed, on something ordinary. Bring to it my writer's eye.

Today it's a toss up. My morning tea or my car.

Here's some words on my car, totally off the cuff and unedited. First draft.


A few months before my husband and I got married we bought our first new car, a 2000 Saturn SL2. The SL1 didn't have enough pep. The Pontiac Sunfire we drove had red dashboard lights that my husband said looked like staring into the fires of Hell. I don't remember what else we looked at, but the choice clearly came to the Saturn.

It had no fancy features. The SL1 we looked at had every special doo-dad. The SL2 didn't even have power windows. They had similar price tags. We took the SL2 for the bigger engine. $14,500 in August 1999.

We used that car to move (twice). We drove to Boston, to Niagara Falls, to Virginia, to North Carolina. We brought home our baby in that car. We piled our bikes into/onto that car and went for rides.

It blew a head gasket last August. Two weeks shy of having it 13 years. I'd been spending about $2,000 a year on car repairs for several years and had already spent my annual car repair budget when it happened. My husband and I discussed it and there was no way we were spending ANOTHER two thousand on an old car.

We started shopping for a new car, but we only had a day to make up our mind. And we saw the price tags on the new cars, close to 30K for a car we thought was comparable to our Saturn. We knew we couldn't spend that. We went to the used car section. At our budget, the salesman was showing us two-year old Hyundais. I had never been so disappointed.

Then, I saw her. She glistened in the sun, a beautiful dark red (my favorite color). A 2005 Nissan Altima with 24,000 miles. She had leather seats, a sun roof, even a six CD-changer. Using our monthly grocery budget as a guide of what we could afford, we bought her. We charged the $1,000 down payment, knowing my mother-in-law was giving us our Christmas present early.

My daughter named her Beauty. She had named the Saturn "Herbie." Yes, like the Love Bug. Even Herbie has a happy ending. My dad had him fixed and we sold him, making a $800 profit once we reimbursed my dad for repairs.

Beauty is fun to drive, but tomorrow we find out how fun. Even though we've owned her for almost six months, tomorrow she takes her first road trip.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I'm reading

I like history, and while I don't identify as a hardcore feminist scholar, I do identify as a feminist. I am also very interested in fashion. A couple years ago, my husband bought me a book at the Mary Meuser Memorial Library book fair, Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Feminism and Fashion by Linda M. Scott. I never got that far into it because it's a heavy book and school work interfered. I picked it up again yesterday.

Every time I pick it up, I am captivated. I didn't have much time yesterday to read, but I managed to finish 50 pages. It's a well-written, well-supported book and my lack of completing it is not the fault of the author.

I've also found several points in here I could add to my honor's thesis. The whole point of reading this book was that it had nothing to do with my honor's thesis.

"Linda M. Scott wants to put an end to the belief that American women have to wear a colorless, shapeless uniform to achieve liberation and equality.

A pointed attack on feminism's requisite style of dress, Fresh Lipstick argues that wearing high heels and using hair curlers does not deny you the right to seek advancement, empowerment, and equality. Scott asserts that judging someone on her fashion choices is as detrimental to advancement as judgments based on race, nationality, or social class. Fashion is an important mode of personal expression, not an indication of submission. She demonstrates that feminism's dogged reduction of fashion to sexual objectification has been motivated by a desire to control other women, not free them. This push for power has produced endless conflict from the movement's earliest days, hindering advances in women's rights by promoting exclusion. It is time for the "plain Jane" dress code of the revolution to be lifted, allowing all women to lead, even those wearing makeup and Manolos.

Marching through 150 years of American dress history, Scott rips down feminism's favorite positions on fashion-from the power of images to the purpose of makeup. The illustrative examples-from flappers to Twiggy to body-piercing-are often poignant, occasionally infuriating, but always illuminating and thought-provoking.

With Fresh Lipstick, Linda Scott gives women the ammunition to settle the fashion debate once and for all. She challenges feminists to move beyond appearances and to return their focus to the true mission of the movement: equality for all women everywhere."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A different kind of rejection

As I writer, I have grown accustomed to rejection. The form letters that encourage me to seek a different publisher or a different kind of agent or even the personal, in depth criticism that fosters the heartbreak of a near miss...

But recently, I have been reintroduced to the art of job hunting. In the internet age, job application rejection seems to be a new era of boilerplate rejections that don't even make sense. They offer kind words about my qualifications, yet don't even mention my name. How can you know pretend to remember what I have to offer when you don't even use my name?

I apologize to any firm that recognizes their letters, or their approach, represented here. I have posted these letters, after removing any identifying factors and replacing them with xxxxx. I find this interesting as an editor and a wordsmith.

Let's face it. I know I won't get a call from many of these organizations. It's not humanly possible. This one handles the combination of anonymity and bad news very well. I like this one. I would write a letter like this if I were hiring. Good job to their writers/HR people... It even uses my name!!!

"Dear Angel, 

Thank you for applying for the XXXXX position with XXXX. We appreciate your interest in our organization. I wanted to let you know that we selected someone else for this position.

Should you be interested in getting involved with XXXX in a different capacity, do not hesitate to contact us in the future.

Best of luck with your future endeavors."
Very nicely done. This one on the other hand...

"I am writing in connection with your recent application to the AD for Communications role. You have an impressive background, and we are pleased that you have thought of XXXX in connection with your job search. We have completed the process and are not able to offer you a job at this time.
We do want to thank you, however, for your interest in XXXX and wish you the best with respect to your future endeavors."
The first sentence has several issues. No name included anywhere, not even an indication who "I" is...

 My next example has many merits. It uses my full name and comes from a person.

"Dear Angel Ackerman,

Thank you for your interest in employment at XXXXXXX. While your background and experiences are noteworthy, we have decided to move ahead with other candidates whose qualifications more closely fit the department's needs.

You can continue your job search by visiting our website
for information on other vacant positions at XXXX.

Best wishes in your search for a job that offers you challenges and rewards.

But I am uncomfortable with the discussion of my noteworthy experiences and the suggestion that my qualifications don't fit. My qualifications fit very nicely for this position. I have four years experience doing exactly this job. Each job only has one person that can fill it, and in the end, there are many factors and some are as simple as presentation.

It's very interesting to me as an editor to see the word choice that companies use in these letters. I guess that's the fun of rejection.

So, keep sending those rejections!

And I'll keep looking for those challenges and rewards.