Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gettin' Settled

I've finished my first month of work at Coker.

It's been pretty interesting, and it will get even more so once school reopens in a couple of weeks. I'm glad I had the opportunity to settle in while it was quiet on campus. I met another new professor lugging another load up to his third floor office this afternoon. He just moved into town, because teaching faculty are on a nine-month contract. I am a 12 month contract employee, meaning I work year round with vacation and sick days.

On my first day, I learned the director would be leaving after 13 months. About two hours later I learned another staff member was leaving to take another job closer to home. Finding competent staff is difficult here; job openings often only attract a handful of applicants. Losing two of eight staff members -- both full time, by the way -- is a difficult way to start a new job and career.

Fortunately, a new director has been hired and she will start Monday. She worked at the library before, so she is familiar with the culture here at the college. The other position will be filled with a part time staffer for now, with a full-time hire to come later. But with such a small labor pool, the job search will be interesting.

This week I've had the privilege of training all of the public services staff on the intricacies of using databases. It was a great experience for me for two reasons. First, it gave me an opportunity to learn the college's resources. Secondly, it gave me some much needed practice in bibliographic instruction. I will be doing a lot of BI here at Coker. Even if I did get the Electronic Resources librarian position, I will still be teaching quite frequently because there are so few librarians on the staff. I had a good time preparing for the week, but I'm not sure how my "class" enjoyed the sessions. A little boring at times, I could see a few of the staff members nodding off. Not much I could do about that. All of the feedback about the sessions was very positive. Nothing beats a confidence booster!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A brief word about Real Estate showings

When our house first went on the market back in April, we seemed to get plenty of notice for showings. Usually I would get a call in the morning for an afternoon/evening showing. Sometimes even 24 hours notice, which was always pretty nice. Although this phone call is a courtesy, it is beneficial to get the heads up as to when strangers will be traipsing through your home. Any extra time is wonderful when you have a one-year old to clean up after! The fingerprints on the glass never end...

The last month or so the courtesy calls have been last minute. We've been lucky to get ten minutes to get out of the house -- which is quite a feat with free-running toddler to chase around! I guess the agents figure that at 30+ days, the house has been on the market long enough for us to be used to such intrusions. Yeah, right.

Another irritation has been the times at which the showings are scheduled. I know most people work for a living (ha ha! Not me for the last four months), but a showing at 7:30 PM? Of course they don't know that we have a small child, but about going on a weekend? Or take an afternoon/morning off? It isn't out-of-towners necessarily, because we had very few weekend showings -- only two on a Sunday in 2+ months.

My absolute favorite showing (sort of) was a combination of several irritants. First they called at the last minute for a 6:30 showing. So we packed up and took off to the Outlet Mall to pass the time. We got back to the house and we can't tell if anyone has been there. Usually the agent will leave a card, take a booklet, turn lights off/on, or lock us out of the house (ugh). Not so lucky -- she was a no show, no call. Our agent tracked her down a few days later and she gave some lame excuse about traffic. Generally, this is what happens WHEN YOU SHOW A HOUSE DURING RUSH HOUR.

At least our long Real Estate journey is coming to end -- fingers crossed, knock on wood.


In an amazing stroke of luck, we have both a contract on our current home as well as a great deal on our new home!

We decided last week that we needed to go out on a limb and make an offer on something up in Hartsville. This decision was made easier by the fact that we somehow could afford carrying two mortgages. I don't know how, but the bank agreed.

So on the the hottest day of the year so far, no offers on our current house, we made an offer on a new spec house that we had been watching for a while. After some wrangling, we agreed on a price. For me, it was a relief that I would have a home sooner than we planned. The original plan was to wait until Lisa went back to work...which would have been mid-August at the latest. Six weeks as a transient vagabond didn't sound appealing. Not to mention that I wouldn't see Owen during the week.

We got home Tuesday and kind of forgot about how this house was on the market. Until the centralized showing service called with a last minute showing the following evening (which should be another blog all together -- last minute showings at night with a small child are terrible!) We quickly raced around and put the house back together.

This morning our Realtor called with the offer. It was a first showing offer that they made as soon as they got back to their Realtor's office! We countered their fairly generous offer and waited. We got the word that our counter was accepted at 9PM!

Next up is the home inspection, which I am dreading. We have an older but well-maintained home. I am scared to death that the inspector will find something that will scare the buyers off or cost us thousands of dollars to repair. Ugh!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Getting Caught Up

Owen and I had a wonderful month home together alone. He began walking during this time (starting only a few days before his birthday) and he is communicating a lot more.

He recognizes and says several words -- shoes, cheese, momma, daddy, water and several others. Anytime he gets near the refrigerator he points to the bananas on top -- he loves bananas! He craves them to the point of wailing when he sees them in a grocery store (and can't have any).

Anytime we open the fridge, he is right there squawking "Cheese! Cheese!" To see this development first hand was amazing. I really am lucky to have had this opportunity.

As for the house, it is still for sale and no offers as of yet. Mostly good comments, one comment about it being overpriced, and no takers yet. It's interesting how we had so many early comments about how much value our home had, and how interested people were in it. I guess after a month and half on the market, other agents start wondering what is wrong with the house. The "great value" comments stopped almost as soon as they started! We even thought that we priced it too low. Ha ha!

We've had three second showings, one of which canceled at the last minute. The first guy thought it was overpriced, and bought a house he didn't like as much for $160K. His Realtor isn't a good one -- he should have at least made an offer if he preferred this house to the other one. Although we wouldn't have accepted that low an offer outright, we may have been able to get the price up to something more acceptable to us.

We have another couple who are interested, but are also looking at newer homes in a better school district. Whether or not the school district is important to them or not is not known; they are first time home owners which means they are probably young. Although my wife's uncle waited until he was in his mid-forties to buy his first home.

One thing about our house, compared to the newer homes: you aren't going to get the combination of large, private yard, screened-in porch, and two-car garage for our asking price (now reduced to $169,900). Even looking at some of the homes they are looking at, we have more square footage.

Supposedly, they are taking the weekend to think about it. I really hope that they or someone else makes an offer soon. We really need to get this sealed up so we can buy something up in Hartsville. Unfortunately, we are probably going to have to do that in the next few weeks just to have something in place before Lisa starts back to school in August. I start work in just three weeks!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The mysterious power of a real estate sign

Once a real estate "for sale" sign goes up in front of your house, you are then subject to all of the weird things that go along with selling a house publicly.

For instance, strangers walking around your yard with mobile phones and/or notepads. Lisa came home to see such a person leaving our backyard (which is fenced off and behind a shut gate).

The neighbors act strangely, too. Our neighbor diagonally across the street has never uttered a word to either of us in the six years we've been in the house. As I'm finishing up cutting the front lawn Saturday morning, she crosses the street and begins asking the familiar questions: what is the asking price, how big, how many rooms, etc. She then asks for a tour of the house and begins walking towards the door! I told her the baby was sleeping (which he was), and she said the tour could wait.

So does a real estate sign give people an excuse to be rude? Manners are thrown out the window? Evidently!

However, not all of our neighbors are rude. The neighbor directly across the street cuts his lawn each Saturday and he usually moves both cars in front of our house. I don't have any problem with this; he is friendly and the cars don't bother either or us. But the last two Saturdays, he parked his cars in front of another house -- just so he wouldn't block our For Sale sign.

So there is hope for humanity.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mr. Mom -- Four days later

I knew that it was going to be a lot of work being home with Owen each day, but I really wasn't prepared for everything that goes into being a stay-at-home parent.

Getting into a rhythm has been the key to my sanity. Bottle at 6:30 or so; solid breakfast an hour or so later, bath, nap, another bottle and so on. It didn't help that his eczema flared up this weekend. Here it is Thursday and its finally clearing up. Luckily, he was still sleeping pretty regularly.

Today we're meeting Grampy for lunch, which is our day's adventure.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Now it's Lisa's turn...

And so began the final stage of Lisa's employment search. Being an elementary school teacher with advanced specialized certification makes the task a little easier than my job search. Although it is easier, it is no less stressful. Here is how it all went down.

After a district-level interview last Friday, Lisa mailed out resume packets out to the schools that had openings or the schools where she was interested in working. She even called a couple of schools, leaving messages about her district interview and stamp of approval.

The calls began rolling in Monday, starting with a problematic elementary school approximately 25 minutes away from where we would like to live. There seems to be some upheaval in the administration, and there will be a new principal next year. And it looks like a lot of the teachers will be leaving with the old principal. However, this school will offer the exact grade and teaching style that Lisa prefers.

On Tuesday, another school calls after opening Lisa's application packet. They are very interested, says the principal. This school doesn't have a position open at the time, but they could have one open in the next few days. Although a better school than the first, it is still 20 minutes away from our planned home. Lisa schedules this second interview Friday morning, with the other interview in the afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon, a third elementary school calls Lisa's mobile phone. They are very interested in Lisa. This is an academic magnet school -- generally a good place to work because the students are the cream of the crop -- and it is a little closer to the planned homestead. Maybe slightly less than 20 minutes. Would she be interested in an interview Friday? Of course, responds Lisa. How about midday? They agree, and we have three interviews booked for Friday. This principal calls back later in the week and asks Lisa to not make a decision about any job until she interviews at her school. Nice to be coveted, eh?

At this point, my head is already spinning. Being that I'm going to be the chauffeur and security blanket, I'm trying to grasp the logistics of three interviews all over a city that I'm not familiar with. Then more interviews come in.

Lisa decides to call some of the other schools she sent information to. Most don't return her call, but one very close to our planned home contacts her late Thursday morning. At first, they weren't even planning to interview anyone until next week (which might be too late if the other schools offer her a job), they call back and schedule an interview for Friday morning. So we're now at four interviews.

Finally, on our way to Florence, my cell phone rings. Our Realtor knows some one at another school close to our intended home with an opening. This is arguably the best school in the district and literally 5-6 minutes from most of the homes we have been looking at. Although a great school with a wonderful administration, she was offered a special ed position. Lisa is wary of getting back into that field, but she is not ruling anything out.

So that makes five interviews in one day. They all went well, and she was offered a position at four of the five schools (the other school is still interviewing). I got to sit in the car all day -- listening to Sirius and trying to read a terrible book I'm supposed to review for Against the Grain. Honda's lower end vehicles are not known for their creature comforts, like seats that a human being can sit in comfortably for a couple of hours. My hamstrings are killing me.

Well, now she has some decisions to make concerning her employment. The excitement never ends around here, does it?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Charleston Envy

In the seventeen-plus years I've lived in Charleston, I've had an opportunity to travel around the southeast quite a bit. It never ceases to amaze me how impressed people are when you tell them you are from Charleston. Even hardscrabble Yankees -- avid Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons fans no doubt -- are even impressed by the Holy City. The conversation always ends with some version of "OOOOhhh, Charleston!" after I tell them where I live.

So it shouldn't be a shock that Charleston has a far reaching impact across the South. For instance, in Hendersonville, NC (one of my favorite places to visit), there was a large indoor Charleston Market retail store. It was setup like the Charleston Market, with separate vendors in kiosks selling various local art, gourmet food items (including the Benne Wafer), and so on. Each aisle was named for a famous Charleston street (King, Meeting, Broad, Market etc). The entire store was painted in Charleston Rainbow Row pastels. The restaurant in the back of the Market was called the Charleston Grill, and it served Shrimp and Grits and She-Crab soup among some other Lowcounty favorites. A novel idea, but evidently not a profitable one -- it was closed the last time we visited Hendersonville.

Further up I-26, Carolina Crew copied its own famous restaurant-- the Boathouse on Breach Inlet (on the Isle of Palms) and put a Boathouse on Lake Lure. Similar menu, but on a lake off the beaten path and close to Asheville.

Even in tiny Hartsville, we looked in a subdivision that was based on one of the new developments in Charleston. I'm thinking it looked like one of the newer subdivisions on Clements Ferry Road. Small houses -- similar to the traditional Charleston Single floorplan -- on tiny lots, close to town, and painted in pretty pastels a la Rainbow Row. The one big difference is that we could very easily afford this particular house, although it was too small for us.

Lastly, they are re-zoning some old vacant retail stores in the downtown section and turning them into to Condos. According to our Realtor up there, this is something that "is very much like Charleston." She is absolutely correct; most of King Street has been renovated for condos -- at least the upper floors of some of the retail shops.

People just love Charleston.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mr. Mom

After some careful calculations, Lisa and I decided that working two part-time jobs essentially for daycare and gas money just isn't worth it. Basically, we break even after daycare and the fuel it takes me to get downtown each day. That's if I work all of the available hours, which invariably I miss work for appointments or I don't get put on the schedule for my entire availability at Starbucks. We will be having a lot of work done on the house in the next ten days, so I will probably wear out my welcome anyway. Well, not really...everyone loves me!

So, I put in my notice(s) at both jobs and I will become Mr. Mom in two short weeks. I'm excited and anxious about it -- I've never spent that much time alone with Owen. Sure, a vacation week here and there, but Lisa or her mother were always close at hand. When Lisa goes out of town, she always takes him along. So it will be me and the boy -- quality bonding time. Is that an overused, tired phrase or what? I think it's even heading to clicheville. At any rate, it is true.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I had a "perfect storm" of job offers, so to speak.

It began Monday afternoon when The Citadel offered me the Reference position. Knowing that Coker was a better fit for me, I decided (under advisement) to call and see how their budget process was coming along.

Once I mentioned I had another job offer, but I really wanted to work at Coker, the ball started rolling. The director said that they were at 98%, but she wanted to call her boss and get to 100%.

It turns out that her boss called the president of the college to sidestep the budgetary process to get me hired. They called back later that evening with a generous offer plus moving expenses. Also, the current job will gradually phase out and turn into the job I originally applied for -- Electronic Resources Librarian. Can this be a more perfect situation?

I start July 1st or so, and I will know more when the Letter of Intent arrives today.

We are meeting with the Realtor this afternoon and hopefully she will give us some good news about the housing sales market.

Lisa will be applying for jobs tonight, and hopefully we will hear something soon about her employment prospects.

What a ride!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Attic Cleaning

I had a fairly interesting day Saturday.

The day began at home, cleaning our attic in preparations for a potential move. Even if we end up staying here, the attic was in dire need of organization.

Any trip into an attic is always full of decisions -- keep, sell, or throw out? Also, the flood of old memories comes roaring in with some of the boxes of childhood memorabilia. It was kind of ironic that I would be attending (and be a part of) my sister's wedding later that afternoon. Both events bring back a lifetime of memories, although at a wedding one usually does not collapse in a fit of dust induced sneezing.

I'm very happy that I have a huge crate of Lego blocks to give to Owen when he is old enough. I can remember countless hours of fun building creations with my brother and sister on the card hardwood of our house in Massachusetts.

There was a box of sports paraphernalia from our time in Pittsburgh: baseball and hockey trading cards, baseball glove, autographed baseball and so on. I kept the glove but plan on selling the rest at our garage sale in a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Waiting... News Sort Of...

I've been trying to put this video on here for a week. Evidently, no one told Google Video or YouTube (both owned by Google) that Blogger (also part of the ever growing Google family) has been updated.

I guess it is still appropriate -- I'm still waiting for a final job offer.

Here is what has been going on in Jobland this week:

I find out that both schools added the database I presented: one even had it listed as a new database on the library's main webpage. Very flattering!

Then on Monday, I hear from a little birdie that my presentation went over very well at The Citadel, but this individual did not know whether or not a final decision was made. Even if a decision was made, the director is out of the country for an unspecified amount of time (at least this "birdie" didn't know how long she would be abroad). It goes without saying that a final decision on two new faculty members would not be made until the director returns home.

Coker's news is a little more interesting. During my interview, I was asked if I considered applying for the other librarian position -- the Instruction Librarian. I answered that I had considered it, but I didn't want to hurt my chances for the position that I would rather have (and interviewed for) -- the Electronic Resources librarian.

Fast forward to Monday night when the director calls and asks me if I am interested in the other position. Apparently, there is a budget issue with hiring two librarians. They absolutely need the Instruction Librarian to begin teaching a new class in January -- so they have to fill that post.

When I responded that I wanted the job, she replied "Oh Good!" Now her boss is checking with the various college officials who control the money and so on. I'm still not 100% sure this is a job offer, but most of my people at the Addlestone seem to think it is a firm offer. She promised to get back to me by Thursday. Another few days waiting by the phone won't hurt anything, will it?

I really do hope I get the job at Coker. Even if it isn't what I applied for, the idea of going to a new library is very exciting. Living in a small town is also very enticing, especially after driving in heavy traffic in Charleston this afternoon at 2 PM! Traffic issues at 2 o'clock in the afternoon...enough already!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Feast or Famine

I finished the second onsite interview of the week yesterday. This follows four telephone interviews in the last two weeks. All of a sudden, I am a hot commodity. I really hope this is the end of the "underemployment" phase of my post-bakery life.

The first onsite interview was at The Citadel, and it lasted about three hours. Of course, I was stuck in traffic so I was a little late to the setup for my presentation. Luckily, I was not late for the actual interview and I think the traffic gave me an adrenaline push to ease my nerves during the interview itself. The presentation went really well -- everyone seemed awake and asked questions and complemented me.

Next came the interview sessions. Two groups of people -- a large management group and then a second smaller group which just had the search committee -- peppered me with questions for 90 minutes. For the most part, they didn't read off of a script and it seemed like a conversation more than an interview. This job seems to be heavily geared to academic work on my end -- research, writing for publications and so on. Very interesting! Also, I would have a rank on campus, so the cadets would have to salute me!

The second interview was an all-day affair at Coker College. I really like the title -- Electronic Resources Librarian because it is more in line with what I see myself doing for the rest of my career. But because it is a small library (and college), I would be multi-tasking and wearing many hats. Never a dull moment, and that is something I really enjoy.

I stayed in a small bed and breakfast across the street from the school. In fact, I could see the library from my window! At least I didn't have to worry about traffic issues. Some of the faculty I spoke to refer to rush hour lasting five minutes at 8 am and 5 PM. Quite contrary to the daily mess we find ourselves in here in Charleston. The B & B was nice, and I had a hearty breakfast to fuel me through the day.

I first met with the director at 8:15 and she outlined the day for me. From there I went to Human Resources, and then the professor who is essentially the Dean of the library. He gave me a tour through the fog-laden campus including a tour of the new library. We didn't go inside the new structure, because it is still under construction. Some other time, when I'm not in my one interview suit. He seemed like a genuine person, good to work for, and someone who really enjoys developing and expanding the library. He asked me a few questions, mostly trying to figure out my future plans. I was informed of the high turnover at the library several times during the day, and during my phone interview.

The high turnover can be attributed to the small, rural nature of the town where Coker is located. Either the librarian had difficulties fitting in the Hartsville community -- I can only imagine how difficult it would be living in a small Southern town being single and in your 20's. The other cause was the spouse had difficulty finding employment in the area. I assured them that my wife was a teacher and would have no problems finding gainful employment. I think one of the reasons I got the onsite interview(other than my stellar resume and application ;) ) is that I mentioned that she had already looked (and found) some jobs in the area.

Next stop was my presentation, which went pretty smoothly. I started to set up in one room, but ended up moving to another room, which showed my versatility. Versatility was the theme of the presentation, since I will wear many hats at Coker. Not as many questions here, but they did like the use of one particular database. That database is available for free to all South Carolinians through DISCUS, and they weren't aware of its availability. I was commended for my presentation...and I think they clapped. At any rate, I was relieved it was over. I was more anxious than nervous.

From the presentation, we launched straight into the interview session with the search committee. I kept the answers short and succinct. We all seemed to feel comfortable with one another, which was a relief. From there we had lunch at the same place I had dinner the night before. I was very careful about what I ordered -- not too messy, or overly seasoned (garlic especially) and well under $10.

We returned to the library where I then left to meet the Vice President and President of the college. These meetings were "short and sweet," but I enjoyed meeting the leaders of the college. It is rare for candidates at this level to meet the two principal figures of an academic institution. I found their discussion to be interesting and informative. Although they have no real "say" in the decision making process, they give their recommendations to the search committee. This committee would never hire a candidate who was not recommended by either the Vice President or President. At 3PM, I headed back to the library for a wrap-up and another tour.

I met with the other member of the search committee, an English professor who was teaching most of the day and couldn't make it over to the interview session. He gave me a more in-depth tour of the campus, including the performing arts center which was quite large given the size of the school. As with the rest of the faculty and staff I had met during this long day, he was very excited about Coker and Hartsville.

I returned to the library to thank everyone and leave one lasting impression. Most of the search committee was on a conference call with an Integrated Library System vendor. By great coincidence, it is the same ILS that the College of Charleston uses. Basically, I am already pre-trained on the system, and I had mentioned some of the features earlier that day when first told about the conference call. Talk about serendipity!

I will find out about both jobs at some point next week. I have a feeling that next week will be a long one -- waiting to see what the future has in store for Owen, Lisa and me.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

About my E-mail...

I almost forgot about a terrible potential e-mail tragedy that almost happened last week.

All of a sudden, my Comcast e-mail account stopped working. I've had the account since my parents got high speed Internet back in the late 1990's. The unfortunate aspect of the e-mail loss was that I have that e-mail address on every one of the forty-odd resumes I've mailed in the last four months.

It began with an online chat with a customer support guy early one morning (I hate talking to customer support over the phone). After a day without Outlook Express allowing me to login to my account, I thought it was time for me to talk to someone. Well, this support tech informed me that my account was deleted because we canceled service at some point. Normally, he informed me, accounts are deleted three months after service termination...but in my case almost four years had elapsed since I shut the account down when I got married. So I asked him if my account was retrievable. He (I'm assuming Jason is a "he") said there was nothing he could do.

I went to work thinking that I've lost all of these wonderful job contacts because of Comcast's stupidity. I was disgusted and hurt. I contact customer service again, and another tech had the e-mail account back up in running in seconds. Basically, he said, make sure you transfer the e-mail account when changing addresses. Lesson learned, disaster averted.

Things picking up on the job front...

It looks like I will be getting a job sooner rather than later. By this time next week, I will have had three interviews -- two by phone and one live and in person. I would say my prospects for a job offer are pretty good -- but I hope I'm not jinxing myself by talking about it.

I wonder if I can mention the names of the glorious institutions that are interested in hiring me? I suppose I can mention the Dallas Public Library. I applied for a job with them back in September. I received a notice about month after applying stating that they would keep my application on file for six months. Then last week, a request for a phone interview materialized. It was my first phone interview, and it started off pretty rough. I started rambling and not making sense, but I managed to realize this and quickly tamped that down. I ended on a strong note by asking good questions and "connecting" with the other three librarians. Dallas would be a great place to live -- it would be a nice change to live in a big city again.

The other two libraries are in South Carolina, and I am reluctant to mention them here...for now. I haven't interviewed yet with either, so I will hopefully update the blog when that happens.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hey now!

So I finally graduated back in December. Two years of non-stop school with two jobs the last year, pregnant wife and then Owen for the last semester. Hard to believe I actually made it through.

So I am now at 38 job applications/resumes sent out. I've received about a dozen rejections (or at least no word at all since this past Fall), and I've managed two interviews. Both interviews were at public libraries, coincidentally. I have a feeling it will be an uphill climb to get a first job in an academic library. I have good references, and of course I work in an academic library.

Next week I begin training as a Starbucks Barista. I know, I sounds ludicrous. But it should be an interesting experience, and the money is better than the free coffee! I'm sure I'm not the only Barista with a Master's Degree out there, either.