Archive for April 2011
I do my own car repairs when I can, which is most of the time. My current project is replacing the water pump on my tiny Saturn. I didn’t get done yesterday, so with all my tools and parts spread over the ground, of course it decided to rain this morning. I covered everything with a tarp. Hopefully that will be sufficient, and I can get back to work this afternoon.
This skill came from necessity, not from any burning desire to be a mechanic. I learned from my resourceful single mother. My earliest memory of working on a car is when I was about 11, lying under our old Ford and helping her hold the transmission in place while we took turns inserting the bolts. The satisfaction of finishing that job made me a do-it-yourselfer for life. My mom and I were an unstoppable team, in my mind at least. I was a powerful problem-solver.
When I was 18 or 19 I bought a ‘67 Firebird from a friend for $700. I named it Jack. It was primer orange with spots of black, and had no muffler and no power steering. The interior was black leather, though, and the profile was mean. My boyfriend’s dad was a mechanic and he put the muffler in for me, but I never did get power steering. Instead I got muscles, and a broken finger when I hit the curb at the Taco Mayo drive-thru and the steering wheel snapped back. A war wound. I was proud.
Something that’s always given me a mixture of pride and exasperation is how a lot of men react to a lady mechanic, especially a young, hot, teenaged one. “What, you’re fixing it yourself? Well good for you!” I always internally roll my eyes, while at the same time thinking, “Damn straight!” And then I smile and thank the man, because I know they mean it as a genuine compliment.
It’s been a long time since I got that one, since I guess it’s more common for sisters to do it for themselves nowadays, and also because I’m older. But I got it last night. At Lowe’s, of all places, where I see sisters doing it for themselves all the time.
I’d stripped the corners of the head of one of the bolts, so I had to find a wrench that would grip a rounded head. I found one I thought would work, but I wanted to double check with the tool guy since he was standing right there, Paul Giamatti without the polish. I explained what I was trying to do, and after a couple of minutes of discussion he said, “Wait, you’re doing this yourself?”
I held up my hand and grinned. “Yeah, I’ve got the grease under my fingernails to prove it.”
He laughed. “Well that’s great. I love seeing girls do stuff like that.” And then he told me a story about his daughter being mad at him because he insisted she check her own oil. I don’t even know what that would feel like.
The older I get, the more I wish I didn’t know how to work on cars. Bending and squatting and twisting is harder to recover from, plus I think I’ve reached an age where knuckle scrapes and greasy nails are undignified. Not to mention it’s a little sad that the reason I know how is because I’ve been poor most of my life, without a protective papa to spoil me.
Paying someone to do this stuff is out of the question, and I want a car. Doing it sucks, but having done it is great. The knuckle scrapes heal, the grease eventually wears off, and I can relax until the next problem arises.
I’ve come here to post so many times over the past couple of weeks, but I always go blank and give up.
My mental state hasn’t been the best, so maybe it’s best I keep quiet during those times. It’s not just that I let my agent go, but a lot of other stuff that I don’t feel comfortable talking about publicly. And it’s getting harder to separate the happy from the sad. Most of it has to do with identifying my needs and balancing them against duty, and separating perceived needs/duty from actual needs/duty. Tough for a person who can endure almost anything, no matter the toll on her own health and well-being, in the name of duty to others.
The number I was so happy to see at my last birthday has become a stone around my neck. Forty years old, and I’m dealing with the same issues I had at 30. I feel broken and used up. Trapped. Ungrateful.
But I’m starting to feel better. Depression still dogs me, and probably will until this handful of chronic issues is solved, but meanwhile I‘m looking for purpose. I’m thinking seriously about web design, which I can do almost exclusively from home, so I started the free online classes at w3schools.com. I’m already comfortable with HTML, so I’m starting with CSS. I don’t know if it’ll stick, but it feels good to learn. Don’t be surprised if I totally eff up this site with my experimentation. :)
I think I might be around more in the coming weeks.
Sometimes it feels like agent Rachelle Gardner is direct-wired to my life, and posts just for me. Get out of my head, Rachelle! No, on second thought I need you to keep me on track, however accidentally. Today her guest poster Catherine West talks about when a good project is too different to find a home right away. She had to shelve her quirky baby for a while, but ultimately was able to find just the right home for it.
I find myself somehow surrounded by self-pub advocates, so I might toss something out there and see what happens. If I do, it won’t be the quirky baby, who still has some traditional pub life in her. I’m convinced there is an editor who loves quirky babies and is willing to pay for them. But I am considering doing the Kindle thing with my traditional fantasy. It will be at least a trilogy. Thing is, it’s completely different in voice and content from the quirky one, so I might use a different pseudonym so as not to confuse people. Not sure.
So everybody’s wondering what happened, or more specifically, what went wrong. Well the biggest thing is that the response my books were getting from editors indicated they wouldn’t be selling anytime soon. The second one got high interest from a few places, but they ultimately passed. I got the feeling from their comments that even though they liked the book, it didn’t fit into a mold they thought they could sell. (Which I’m sure will send a particular friend into a conniption of righteousness. ;)
The other big thing is that my agent’s communication style wasn’t really a good fit for me. Of course, it being my first time having an agent, I didn’t know what to expect, so it took me a while to figure out what kind of communication I prefer. Once I figured it out, it seemed hopeless. One book had already been sucked in by the black hole of publishing, and a second was circling it. I’d known for a while I was going to have to leave the agency, but I wanted to wait for the right time. I wanted to give her the chance to be compensated for the work she’d done, and I didn’t want to interrupt submissions.
Well, let me tell you, there is no right time. After four years it finally became clear. I just woke up one morning--March 29, to be exact--ready to pull the trigger. As I composed the letter, I looked over my contract to make sure everything was in order, and I saw the date next to my signature. March 29.
I’m sorry my story isn’t juicy with snarky dialog and tears, but it just wasn’t that way. I expressed my gratitude and regret, and she was incredibly understanding and supportive.
And now? I feel free. I feel lighter. I’ve learned a ton about how to deal with business and people in general. I don’t consider my time with her wasted, but I doubt I will wait so long to pull the trigger on a frustrating situation again.
Is there anything specific you’d like to know? I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.