Monday, August 16, 2010

Dreams and Realities

The Dream Keeper

Bring me all of your dreams,

You dreamers

Bring me all of your

Heart melodies

That I may wrap them

In a blue cloud-cloth

Away from the too-rough fingers

Of the world.

- Langston Hughes

The other day, I said, “I had a hard day.”

I heard a snort as the other person quipped, “What did you do?”

I don’t work in the summer. I’m a substitute teacher, which means I don’t get paid in the summer. This weighs on me (like Eve says in The Mist Chasers), like a pile of Hummers. I’ve applied to the few teaching positions that have popped up, but have heard NOTHING. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I get a polite e-mail that a position has been filled. I plan to spend the last two weeks trying to reinvent myself… again. I will apply for anything education/writing related that I could find.

There’s nobody more disappointed in me than me. I know how the economy is. I know I have never had my own classroom. I know there’s a gap since I student taught. I know.

That same day, the hard day, I spent a few hours with a friend. Her father has Parkinson’s and is dying of cancer. She’s going all the way home to Malaysia, possibly to see him for the last time. But she’s going alone. Her husband and children can’t come this time because they can’t afford it. Her MIT PhD husband was laid off a year ago and can’t find a new job. He’s looked in a variety of related fields. She was a stay-at-home mom, but now has a part-time job that covers a few expenses. This woman hopes something happens soon because his unemployment ends soon.

By the way, she has a PhD from MIT too. She’s gone back to school in the hope that it will help her get a job in a different field.

I told my friend I’d resigned myself to taking a class in Special Education, hoping that would make me more employable. While I told her my woes over work and going back to school and needing more money to get a bigger place, she offered advice. Our commiseration only slightly lessened the reality of the places we where we find ourselves stuck.

The day began when I opened my e-mail and had received a rejection from an agent. Each rejection stings. And the stinging lingers depending on my mood, how much I liked the agent, and how many rejections I’ve received on a particular manuscript.

You are welcome to view the query here:

My daughter left to stay a few days with my in-laws the day before. She was all hugs and tears before she left. But after I got a call from a happy girl in New York, she hadn’t called again. Not even for tuck-in time. I was relieved she was having fun but I missed her.

I sent out another query. I participated in I did laundry. I ran the dishwasher. I read. I fed my son and his friend who had slept over breakfast. I had lunch with my son.

I went through the motions, the whole time thinking about being stuck.

I hate wasting the gifts of summer days worrying.

But I can’t help it.

A couple of weeks ago I was so down, I considered applying for a car insurance job. When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “There must be a middle ground between teaching and working in insurance.”

At this point, I feel like it’s about sacrifice. I need to do what is good for the family. It’s been too long to do what I want to do when it’s not happening. But then I thought about the two or three weeks of vacation I’d get a year. I’d have to save them all for sick days, children’s school activities, and general things that came up. And next summer I’d be without them. Whose sacrifice would it be to have a desk job?

Perhaps a Special Education assistant job would be worth checking out, if there are any more positions available. It would be steady, full-time income, and I’d be paid in summer. Sure, they could put me in any class, in any school in Cambridge, and move me any time, and my job could be to shadow one child, or to help in a classroom full of children on individualized education plans. But this job (if I can obtain one) combined with Special Ed. classes may make me more marketable.

It’s a little late for this semester, but I could adjunct. The pay is appalling but it would get me out of subbing a few days a week. That is, if these positions are any less competitive as middle and high school ones.

Anyone want to pay me to write on a regular basis? On-line? Newspapers? Magazines?

I don’t know what to do.

So I write, query, job search, apply, and wait. Rinse, repeat.

When I return home on Sunday, I will spend most of my time doing all I can to apply to everything that makes sense as a job prospect.

Then what will my blog title be?

Special Education Aide’s Saga?

Insurance Adjuster’s Issues?

Overwrought Adjunct’s Odyssey?

Freelance Writer’s Foibles?

But secretly I hope it will be:

Published Author’s Publications (Okay, that’s redundant.)

YA Author’s Yarns (Yeah, that sounds cool.)


Social Studies Teacher’s Saga

Which will I choose or which will be chosen for me?

Yesterday, my sister-in-law said I hadn't peaked yet. I hope she's right.

After today, I won’t have much access to the Internet. But I’ll catch up with all of you when I return from my trip. I’m attending a wedding in Virginia. Have a wonderful week!


  1. I understand some of what you're going through and hope more than anything that a teaching job (or an opportunity to become a published author) is right around the corner for you!

  2. So many questions! Oh, I hope those answers come for you soon. It's frustrating for you, I know.

    Hope you have a fab time on your trip. Come back to us soon!

  3. Theresa, I could have written that post myself, I am more or less in the same position.
    September is my deadline too for work decisions and I am having doubts about the writing as a career, maybe just a nice hobby for me.
    I posted my little Rapunzel piece the other day about the office cubicles because I fear that will be me soon. I will be watching your post carefully for tips from everyone.
    I hope your blog will read -Theresa Milsten, international best-selling author-

  4. It's so hard not to have a job that you've trained for and know you would do well at. This economy is hard on so many people right now. I hope there's an upswing in your direction soon. Take care and good luck. Enjoy the wedding.

  5. miss theresa im real sorry youre having a so much of a hard time right now. i hope it gets better for you real soon.
    ...hugs from lenny

  6. I'm sorry it's so hard right now. Keep your chin up! I'm pulling for you.

  7. Omigosh your husband sounds like he is absolutely the perfect man for you! What a guy to keep you balanced and grounded. Keep going Theresa and doing your thing, even tho you're not quite sure what your thing is LOL. Sometimes things just come out of the blue when least expected. The important thing is to keep DOING!

  8. I agree with your sister in law!!! You've not peaked - not for a loooooooong time yet! Oh no, there's still lots and lots and lots of opportunities especially for your writing!

    As for the job situation... I really don't know what to say to that except it does help if you are incredibly flexible and if your skills are transferable but of course I am stating the obvious!! I wish you well with your job applications, I really really hope something positive will come up for you!!

    I'm so sorry for your friend and her family who can't all go to Malaysia to be with her father because of their financial situation. That's so awful for them! :-(

    I hope your next blog title will be Social Studies Teacher's Saga who is now a Published Author too (and if not the next then very very soon!)

    Have a great time in the wedding in Virginia!!!!
    Take care

  9. Have a great trip, Theresa. You deserve it.

    Oh, I so feel for you, reading this post. Rejection is so hard - whether it's for your job or your writing. Either way, it just plain sucks.

    Give yourself permission to feel bad... then try again, as I know you've been doing. You're doing everything right! You'll get there!

  10. @ Oh, Snapp!, thanks for the hope. I could use some right about now.

    @ Bossy Betty, thank you. It has been frustrating.

    @ Brigid, I used to work in a cubicle so I can relate to this post. I hope your writing is more than a hobby, even if you have to get a full-time job.

    @ Jemi, you make a great point. I don't want any job - I'd like one I've worked hard to be qualified to do.

    @ Lenny, thanks for the nice words and hugs.

  11. @ Angie, thank you.

    @ KarenG, I know what I want to do - I just have to get someone to pay me for it. (Teaching Social Studies and writing.)

    I'll take your advice and keep trying.

    @ Old Kitty, it's so hard having the economy prevent me from doing what I'm qualified to do. I'd hate to have to take just any job. But the world needs to run on not everyone having their dream job.

    I like your new title for my potential blog, even if it's a bit long!

    @ Talli, thanks for the encouragement. I know you've been through some of this.

  12. Good luck working through all the issues and questions you have crawling up. I understand all to well how to work through things, what's best for the family, when to sacrifice.

    I want nothing more than to write full-time, clean the house, have children and take care of them. However I know right now that's not going to happen, so instead I work 40 hours a week at a boring desk job that only gives me two weeks of vacation, I can't afford to go through the adoption agency right now (which is the only way I'm able to have a child) and then blog, write and clean the house.

    Some days it just seems impossible to get to where you want. Then again the next day the sky is bright blue and has the perfect amount of clouds to cheer even the saddest person up. Each day is worth searching for a little happiness :)

  13. I'm not sure what help I could be since I suspect that whatever I could think of, you already have. Is there a Freelance group in your area? If so, attend a meeting and see whether it'd be a group you want to join. The one in my area has an online listing of companies looking for writers to do freelance work. It wouldn't be a permanent job, but projects, most likely. I also know of some authors who have started writing columns for their local paper and turned that into paying gigs for other papers.

    I hope you have fun on your trip to the wedding.

  14. Aw I relate to the feeling to an extent! All we can do sometimes it put forth our best effort day in and day out. I know that your hard work will pay off!! P.S. I love the redundant blog title; it's hilarious!

  15. I really appreciate what your husband said, good man. I understand-we went through a lot of this after the layoff and my husband had an even harder time. A few things went through my head-could you tutor? At a Sylvan or even a community college? I'll be praying for you, for a job solution as well as good news on your queries. Hope you're able to have a good time at the wedding!

  16. I think you should go for Published Author's Publications! Can there be a poll?

    I remember when I myself was job hunting, I told myself that I do not want a job in fast food. But I knew, even though I chose to deny it, that in this economy, that may be where I'd end up. And even though I eventually found a position at a department store (I still really do not know how), that was after a month and a half of unemployment. So maybe if I hadn't been so stubborn, I could have started working much sooner.

    You'll get to where you need to go, even with all the doubts. Just make the most of your days! :]

    Hope you have a good trip!

  17. @ Jen, I'm impressed how much you're able to accomplish. I'm worried if I'm in your position, I won't be able to take my children to their activities and keep up with the house, let alone making time for writing.

    Now I really hope you get an agent and a book contract.

    @ Helen, I've been stumped about how to find freelance. Part of it is a confidence issue - would they really want me? I need to get past that if I ever want to get anywhere. I'll look into it.

    @ Saumya, thank you for the feedback. If I get that book published, maybe I'll use my redundant title.

    @ The Words Crafter, I've checked here and there, but I haven't seen many tutoring opportunities for Social Studies. But I'm not ruling anything out at this point. I'm looking into everything I and you guys can think of.

    @ Amanda, you're the second to vote for Published Author's Publications. Now I just need to get published!

    I'll try to make the most of my days. After all, not too many people get their summers off.

  18. Theresa--Almost every place I ever taught at required me to spend at least a year substituting or being a teacher's assistant. It was humbling, but it got me in the door. I worked harder than any other sub or assistant, but at the end of the year...I had a classroom. I know the economy is really tough right now. I'd say if you want to have a classroom, try and get an assistant position and invest time in getting to know the principal. Make sure he/she sees how hard you are working. Volunteer for the PTO etc....You will be in my thoughts...Best wishes!

  19. Keep your chin up and keep perservering - sometimes it's all you can do. Until then, make the best of whatever you decide.

    Sending good wishes your way - and enjoy the time away at the wedding :)

  20. I have absolutely felt the way you're feeling & it sucks. I'm sorry that this is happening or rather that things AREN'T happening the way they ideally could. I agree with your sister-in-law - you have so many talents, Theresa, and have only just begun on your journey as YA author. I've seen you teach social studies to your 5th graders & know what a gifted teacher you are. It's only a matter of time before something shifts for the better. Keep having faith in yourself :)

  21. You could call your next blog "The tribulations of the terrific Theresa Milstein".
    Ok, that might be a bit too self congratulatory- truthful though. Yes, it's also true it might be too long.
    I hope you're having a great trip.
    As many of the other commenters said, you can only set parameters for your self and strive to meet them.
    You are striving and there is pride to be had in that.
    All you need is an opportunity.
    I too hope you get it. Gambatte Theresa!

  22. @ Sharon, thanks for telling me your experiences. The thing is, I was a part-time assistant for about five years. But the principal had no intention of hiring me or anyone whom she didn't pick from her old school. That's why the assistant principal told me to sub - to get out of there. And that school's population has been shrinking, so there wasn't much hope for a job anyway.

    But maybe if I get into the right school at the right time either subbing or as a Special Education assistant, I can make it happen this time. I hope.

    @ Jaydee, thank you. I appreciate it.

    @ Kathleen, I feel like I've been waiting forever. Thanks for the nice words.

    @ Alesa, your title made me laugh. After the last twenty-four hours, that's exactly what I needed.

    It reminded me of this tattoo on a person's neck someone posted on their blog that read, "I'm awsome". The idea was bad enough, but then to have it misspelled....

    As the school year looms closer, it's been tough. And being away makes me feel like I'm not DOING anything. I'm going to try to enjoy the rest of this week without thinking so much.

  23. Awsome? Awesome! Maybe he was from Bawstuhn (Boston)... I live with a Rhode Islander, and in my recent trip to R.I. I had a lot of fun with the accent. I pretty much had it down pat, but two months later, it had slipped away. Now Ohwsum is all that remains.
    Yeah, enjoy your chillaxing time! : j

  24. @ Alesa, I'm in New York now, which is a whole other accent. Now it's awwwwwwsuhm.

  25. Hi Theresa .. I'm sorry to hear of the challenges you and other families are having - it is the same here .. people are lucky if they've got a job .. but because of the market situation life is not easy for anyone laid off.

    Somehow we need to reinvent ourselves - exactly as you say .. I do hope things pan out better for you in the coming weeks ..

    with thoughts Hilary

  26. Theresa, I feel your pain. I'm going through something similar right now. I don't know if it helps, but you're not alone.

    I wish I had answers, especially as to when we'll ever get education jobs or book contracts -- I'm receiving the same "no answer" replies from schools, and I'm not feeling all that confident about jumping back into querying next month. But we'll make it.

    You're one of the most hard-working, determined people I've "met" on here, and that will get you somewhere. Laziness gets you nowhere, and you are the farthest from being lazy. Just hang on, it might take a while, but things will change!

  27. I really hope you find a job. Don't give up hope for Published Author's Publications! (redundant or not)

    I hope you enjoy the wedding. I also gave you an award over at my blog. Maybe it'll bring a little happiness to your day!

  28. I'm rooting for you, Theresa! Hang in there. Amazing things will happen.

  29. Oh hey, Theresa! I found this weird thing on my blog... Have you already seen this? ; j

  30. I know so many completely employable people who are out of work right now. Don't be down on yourself, it's this darn economy, not you, but I'm sure it's got to be so tough. I hope you find all the answers you're looking for, and are able to relax and have a great time in Virginia.

  31. @ Hilary, thank you for the kind words. I was trying to be persistent, but reinvention might be the thing now. I have to keep reminding myself at least I'm not laid off and my husband has a good job.

    It is tough out there.

    @ Shelley, we're similar in the face we're substitute teaching, wanting a full time job, and querying, wanting a publishing contract. I wish us success soon. It's nice to know someone else is experiencing the same things I'm experiencing.

    @ Kari, you're the third vote for Published Author's Publications. Maybe I should've come up with more choices!

    Thanks for the award. I'll head over now.

    @ Jennifer, thank you. I hope you're right.

    @ Alesa, I'll head over and check it out.

    @ Susan, thanks for telling me that. I feel like I've been saying it, but nobody really believes me.

  32. Sorry you're having a rough time. Go ahead and take that special ed class. My son has an assistant with him all day (they mix them up so he doesn't get toooooo attached to one) and they are a God-send for him. I know some kids are more challenging than others, but you might be surprised at what a rewarding experience it is to have that one-on-one time!

  33. Oh yes, the horrible conditions to the award
    can be found underlined here! I should have put it up with the first post. Sorry! : j

    You're very welcome! ; j

  34. @ Vicki, I think what Special Ed. teachers and assistants do is so important, but it's hard for me to sit still with one child for hours. I've done it a few times as a sub, and I agree, it's rewarding.

    @ Alesa, I love the award. It's on my sidebar. I feel the same way as you, and have been thinking of making my own award with no strings attached, since those are the only ones I accept.

  35. First's a big hug for you *huuuuggggg* Sorry to hear you've been bummed as of late. Does Mass have Therapeutic Staff Supports? That's what I do and it's fairly decent pay in a school setting where you provide behavioral modification one on one to kids. It's in the mental health field but alot of my co-workers have Ed degrees while they wait for a teaching job. If u need more info, email me. Also you should check out this site, some good writing positions crop up every once in awhile and they post daily.

    Good luck Theresa!! I'm rooting for you!

  36. Oh Theresa, my heart reaches out to you (and your friend)...this is such a difficult economy.

    I wish I had some magical wand I could swirl and make things better. But, I can offer comment hugs. (((hugs)))

    I LOVE that you have such an awesome SIL, and she's right-- you totes haven't peaked!!


  37. @ Slushpile Slut, I've never heard of Therapeutic Staff Supports, but I'll look into it.

    Thanks for the writing link. I'll check it out.

    @ Lola, even if you don't have a magical wand, I appreciate the hugs. Thanks!

  38. I hope things look up for you. And it would be so cool if you changed your blog title to one of those alternatives. It will happen some day.

  39. I can completely identify with it. Things are so tough with the world economy. I would love to find more paid! writing work, but with journalists being left go right left and centre, it leaves a lot less for us freelancers.

  40. @ Medeia, it would be cool to have another blog, to be able to write that I'm no longer a substitute teacher, so I'm moving on. You will all have to follow!

    @ Olive, it makes sense that former journalists would get the few freelance jobs out there. I hope it gets better for you.

  41. True, Ladies, so true. I, myself, am looking for freelance or column work while I substitute teach and write stories and poetry mostly about motherhood and camping.

    I am sorry to hear about your friend, Theresa. My prayers are with you both.

    I hope you get to relax while away in Virginia and enjoy the wedding.

  42. Sorry about all the worry, T. If it helps, I firmly believe it's darkest right before the dawn. Your dawn is soon in coming, I think. Maybe this last interview...?

    I think every person has a few passions. Those passions define us as a whole, not a job path. Look at me--I feel it's my personal mission in life to save wildlife species from threat as well as write books for MG/YAs. Those passions do not collide into things I can do at the same time, but that is who I am. Same with my husband, he's always wanted to be a doctor but is also a chef and a musician deep in his soul.

    We are a creative species and can do many things. Good thing we are long-living too! You can invent yourself into all those things you want to do and more. Just keep rinsing and repeating! :o)

  43. I understand completely. I think a LOT of people are going through the same kind of cycle you are right now. I know that doesn't really help you or pay your bills, but it might make you feel better to know you're not alone. I am really hoping you find a teaching position AND an agent soon. You have been working so hard. Try not get too down.

    Hopefully with school starting again, you will find some comfort in working again.

  44. your not alone Theresa - I understand that obligation to provide for the family, the shitty feeling of considering jobs you're over qualified for, wondering is writing a self indulgance you can't afford in this climate - i think writing choses us to some extent - that there is no choice as such, for me its something i can't give up, ever. But trying to fit it in...trying to justify the effort and time can be exhausting. keep the faith. And best of luck in your search for work - it will come, youre putting in so much effort, it will come right.

  45. @ Victoria Marie, it's nice to hear from people who both write and substitute teach.

    Thank you for you kind words.

    @ Jackee, it's true our passions define us. I love cooking, but I don't want to be paid for it. I would love a salaried teaching job and to publish regularly. But not everyone gets exactly what they want.

    I hope that dawn is coming. Thanks!

    @ Tiffany, it is nice to know I'm not alone. I hear about more people losing jobs than getting them. When someone does get a job in teaching, I try to be happy for them.

    @ Niamh, it often feels like a self-indulgence for me because writing isn't paying the bills. Thanks for the nice comment.

  46. Hi, Theresa! [hugs] I know it's hard not to panic, but sometimes you gotta just let go of what you can't control. I'm a freelance writer/editor, and, like, this entire freakin summer passed with SO few jobs that we were hanging on by our fingernails. But with all that free time, I was able to get some massive wordage going in the novel. I hope everything works out - just remember to relax :D

  47. Have you ever thought about doing freelance writing online? My college age daughter writes for those looking to have content to add to their websites and takes work as she wants it. It took awhile to get word out there but she now has as much work as she wants. She does more in the summer and less during the school year.

  48. @ Zoe, thanks for the advice about freelancing. I'm going to look around when I'm back from vacation and see if I can find anything.

    I'm glad you made novel progress.

    @ Ava, thanks for recommending freelancing. Apparently, there's more work out there than I knew.

  49. Hang in there! Always enjoy your writing...

  50. Theresa---Put a sticky note up in your kitchen that says, "Something good is going to happen today." Keep reading will happen. :)

  51. @ Joel, thank you.

    @ Sharon, I should put some sort of inspiration reminnder note.

  52. I can imagine how frustrating your work situation must be. But, there's no reason to be disappointed in yourself. You are doing the best you can. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

  53. @ Missed Periods, thanks. I can't wait to see how it all comes together too.

  54. Substitute teacher here too, member of SCBWI, certified teacher in 3 subject areas (Social Studies one of them), and a stay-at-home mother for over 18 years who is sending off her only daughter to Yale this fall. So, I guess I'm waiting for my "peak" time as well. I'm not sure what that road will look like now. Perhaps it will be quite different than I had previously envisioned it. Time will tell. Best wishes as you follow your own journey with much hope and anticipation. :)

  55. @ Kathleen, certified in three subject areas? I'm impressed. I wish you good luck in your own journey. May you find your peak too!

  56. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and disappointments. I certainly hope that all of your dreams come true as well and that this trial will be looked back on as simply part of the long road.

    I hope you had a nice time in VA and safe travels.

  57. @ Slamdunk, I like the idea of all of this being a part of a long road. Like kids excited to get someplace fun, I ask, "Are we there yet?"

  58. Have you thought about writing for or even Those could be good sources for extra income and you would be doing something you like - writing. I have been waiting for word back on the two manuscripts that I have submitted out to agents and I have applied to and so I can make money writing in the mean time. Maybe you've already tried that, but I thought I'd bring it up just in case. :)

  59. @ Sara, thank you. I will have to check these out.