Annette's blog

Blame Dad

I blame my dad.
I blame him for a lot of things, most of them not really his fault.
But for this one thing, I blame him.
Once again, I am unemployed. No, I wasn’t fired. I left voluntarily. Really, I did.
Since mid-September, I have worked as a nurse in a recovery room at my local hospital. This is an environment I am quite familiar with; I started working in the post-anesthesia care setting in 1995. So, you would think this would be a comfortable setting. Not so much.
Because like most hospitals, this unit has been chronically short-staffed. The work load was back breaking. Really. My back hurt after every shift. And while I was told during my job interview that the schedule would be managed by the, uh, manager, that was not my experience. Surgeons added on elective cases all evening long, regardless if there was enough staff or not.
Nurses in this unit were asked to care for much more than just surgical patients. We were asked to care for patients from the cath lab, from the GI department and from labor and delivery. I kind of felt like we were the toilet of the hospital. I leave you to infer from that what you will.
I have been miserable since September. And I’m not a quiet miserable person. No. I’m a noisy miserable person.
This past Christmas Eve, I was scheduled to be on call. I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. while my family waited at home for me to start the holiday. This is hospital nursing. You work holidays. You work weekends. But somehow, when it came time to submit those hours to payroll, they were overlooked. I’ve yet to be paid for that day. When I queried my manger, she informed me I needed to watch my timesheet more closely. Okay. Got it.
In response, I gave her two weeks notice.
I really liked my paychecks. They allowed me to care for my family, and at the same time, helped support Baskethound Books, through which I publish my stories. After three years, my little business still does not generate enough income to support itself, let alone me and my family.
But I had an epiphany one evening. I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria, taking my dinner break, and I realized how much I did not want to return to my job. I thought, I would give up five years of my life to walk out of this hospital and never come back. Five years! That’s a long time.
I made a good living as a registered nurse. After 22 years or so in the field, I made six figures. A naughty little voice inside my head says, “Yes, and you can buy the highest quality of rope with which to hang yourself.”
This morning, I told my husband. He took it well. At breakfast, I told my son. He took it pretty well too.
What now? My daughter once told me, “Mom, you always have a plan. It may be terrible, but it’s a plan.” That’s the nicest thing she ever said to me.
Okay. Here’s the plan: I’m going to write full-time for the rest of 2017. Baskethound Books will release a new book every month in 2017. We start in March with the first installment of the Celebration House Trilogy. And when I say we, I mean me. You see, Baskethound Books is my own small little business.
When I look back on my employment history, and it’s a long one as I’ve been working since the early 1980s, I recognize these unpleasant facts:

  1. I change jobs a lot. A lot. I’ve had 22 nursing jobs since I entered the profession in 1995. 22! That means I’ve changed nursing jobs every year.
  2. Since I graduated from Truman State University in December of 1987, I’ve had an additional eight jobs. That brings my grand total to 30.

The question is asked, were you fired from all of these jobs? No. I quit all but three of them.
And here’s where I blame my dad, and before him, my grandparents. I grew up watching my dad run his own small business, Drake Lumber and Building Supply, in Brookfield, Missouri. My parents bought it from my grandparents in the mid 1970s.
Was my dad successful? I don’t know. I don’t think his heart was in it. Plus, Wal-Mart opened a store in our town in the early 1980s and destroyed nearly all of the businesses there. The local merchants just couldn’t compete with Sam Walton, then or now. When I hear that Amazon is hurting Wal-Mart’s sales, I do not shed tears. I did enjoy using Wal-Mart as a villain in my novel, Trombone Girl. I called it Sam-Mart. It was just plain fun.
Too, I think my dad felt shackled by the lumberyard, by the constraints of being open 8-5, Monday thru Friday, and then 8-12 noon on Saturday. I think bookkeeping took up a lot more time than he would have liked. I remember seeing him at his desk late on a summer evening, trying to reconcile the day’s sales. I like that memory. I plan on using it in one of my books.
After my father sold the lumberyard – I think it became a payday loan office – he took to the road as a truck driver. He did this for some years, and then – wait for it – started a small trucking company. My dad, the ever-determined entrepreneur.
Are my dad and I close? No. Honestly, I think we are two porcupines who determinedly avoid one another. I think I’m an enigma to my father while I simply cannot forgive him for his treatment of my older brother. I think we are both happiest when we do not interact.
But I’m left with this fact: I come from a line of small-business owners. People who work hard but work for themselves. And the truth is it’s way easier to quit others than to quit yourself.

Hands and arms inside the cart: I’m having a blast revisiting Celebration House!

Annette's blog

Disposable or indispensable?

Recent headlines in The Seattle Times illuminate the importance of the American worker:

  • Microsoft shuts down last major piece of Nokia purchase, cuts 1,850 jobs (May 25, 2016)
  • Boeing plans hundreds of layoffs in local IT unit (May 25, 2016)
  • A few weeks ago, my employer reminded me of my importance. I received a text message that told me because I had not completed an annual competency, which I last completed in August of 2015, I was taken off the schedule and not allowed to work. I thought, this must be a mistake. My cellphone chirps every day with my supervisor asking me to come in on my day off to cover a co-worker’s shift who called out sick. Again. Or there’s a hole in the schedule: did I mind working extra? Now, with no warning, I’m told I can’t work. Hmm. I later found out I was one of 18 employees in my department who was made to clock out, finish the competency, and then clock back in.

    But this actually proved to be a blessing in disguise. Because this sudden “You’re off the schedule; we have no need of you,” spurred me to think about my future. How secure is my job? I wonder if employees at Boeing or Microsoft asked themselves the same question on May 24th.

    When I told my supervisor that her text made me feel disposable, she was quite surprised. But I recognize this as the harsh truth it is: for all the extra shifts I work and all the times I cover for co-workers, I am disposable.

    But I don’t want to be disposable. I want to be indispensable. Where can I be indispensable?

    Well, I think I’m pretty important to my husband and our little boy. And there’s one other place where I cannot be replaced: as the CEO of Baskethound Books, the small press I started in 2013. No one else can give life to the characters who inhabit my mind. No one else listens to their stories, cries with them and laughs with them. Just me. In my little office with Dean Martin crooning and my basset hound snoring, I do what no one else can do: I write my books.

    This got me to thinking: what are the obstacles to moving forward with Baskethound Books? Well, frankly, money. So, feeling bolder than I should, I took out a small loan and bought back the rights to my debut novel, Celebration House. I’ve wanted my rights back for a long, long time. Probably since I received my first three-month royalty payment of $31. Yep. That’s three months of royalties. And it was the biggest payment I received. So, last week, I did it. I made payment to Tirgearr Publishing and my rights are just that: mine.

    I also contracted with Melinda Wade, a professional actress, to narrate A Beautiful Day in Alaska. It’s really empowering to hear a professional storyteller tell you how much she loves your writing. I heartily recommend it to my fellow authors.

    I approved the sale of my third audiobook, Death Goes to the County Fair, and got busy fine-tuning the print version. It’s available now. The narrator, Daniel F. Purcell, and I delight in updating one another with sales figures.

    I’ve also decided to rename my novel, Bone Girl. For too long, I ignored all of the folks who told me the title dissuaded them from buying the book. Some would-be readers thought Bone Girl was a horror story; one reader suggested it was an erotic version of Gone Girl. Nope. Neither. So, working with the audiobook narrator, Darryl Hughes Kurylo, I retitled the book Trombone Girl, The Josey Miller Story. The new title and cover art will premier on July 1st. (Here’s a sneak peek at the cover. Beautiful, huh?).

    Cover by Elizabeth Mackey
    Cover by Elizabeth Mackey

    Can you hear the excitement I feel? Trust me: I never feel this excited when I trudge off to my day job. Maybe that’s the difference between disposable and indispensable.

    Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, defining the “romance” novel for myself.