Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three-Day Novel contest, first and last

10,839. I got to a late start, when I turned my computer on at 11:45 last night only to discover the hard drive was toast. Luckily I'd had signs of this and backed up my files on a CD just the night before, so I'm not concerned except for the fifty bucks or so it'll take to replace it (also that I forgot to save my custom dictionaries in Word, but that's not irreplaceable anyway, just convenient). I started this morning on one of Eric's old hard drives, on a computer he'd planned to take to school, and tooled merrily along until I realized that the portion of the story I'd decided to write was (a) coming out total crap and (b) way too short. I finished what I outlined just now, at just over 10K. I could go back and fill in, but I'm feeling discouraged by what I'm feeling are generally poor writing skills. I think I'm going to leave this as is and work on Shoelace tomorrow, but also get in other things, like spending time with Eric when he's not working on school stuff.

Maybe I'll do better another year. I'm terribly out of shape, writing-wise, I think.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If I didn't have to go to work, I'd have plenty of time.

Gah. I'm panicking about the outline and feeling like I've gotten nothing done tonight. Which is basically true (except for picking tomatoes and taking a walk--oh, and finishing a skein, so I guess it's basically not true), since I haven't posted at M&M when I'm supposed to and I haven't finished the story outline and I haven't done the canning I meant to and so on. It's that time of month and I'm feeling yucky, so that's an excuse; and work has been hectic lately and the one task I really enjoy is causing me problems, so that's another. Ugh. Mainly, I'm just feeling off. Also, Eric told me last night that PV is lousy (I mean, he didn't say that; I gathered it from what he did say) and I don't want to have to practice this much at the rate at which I write because I'll be eighty-seven by the time I can do anything good. Tomorrow I'll carve out time to finish the outline--I'd better!--and can and post, and Friday I'll stay away from the computer until midnight, and then I'll see what I can do.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grocery shopping in the time of rising food prices

Eric and I went grocery shopping today--first to the farmer's market, where we got hot peppers for salsa and parsley for tabbouleh and fruit for all the time--and then to Kroger. We'd had to skip our usual weekend breakfast of toast with apple butter because we had no non-rye (or non-frozen) bread, so while Eric went to the pharmacy I went straight to the bread aisle.

Where I made faces and was momentarily panic-stricken, because the bread we used to buy for $2.50 is now $3.59. I had some money-related anxiety a few days ago because Eric's tuition and the car insurance are both due in a week and we don't have money to pay for both after the mortgage payment goes out. Luckily the car insurance can go on a credit card and Eric gets his first paycheck at the end of September, so we should be all right, but I berated Eric just yesterday for suggesting that we could go out to eat.

"It's a good thing you know how to make bread," Eric said when he came back from the pharmacy to my empty cart. I made a perfectly serviceable sandwich loaf not long ago, soft enough for him and whole-grain-y enough for me, and I have most of a pound of yeast at home and flour is still relatively cheap.

We debated whether or not to buy Parmesan cheese. It was $6 for a 10-oz. block, and we had recently decided to get some for breadsticks and pasta sauce and pesto. "Should we go without?" I wondered. Eventually Eric suggested we try the Kraft stuff in the green box, and I agreed since I haven't had that stuff in ten or fifteen years and he says it tastes fine. The Kraft stuff turned out to cost the same amount, but the Kroger generic was less, so we got that.

"We're having to go without luxuries," Eric observed as he picked up lunchmeat and decided to skip breakfast sausage. "At some point we're going to have to buy ice cream rather than--"

"Never!" I declared. "I'll go without."

"I'm wondering if we could retool our ice cream recipes to use half-and-half instead of cream," he said.

"Maybe," I conceded. We have plenty of ice cream right now so it's not an issue, and presumably won't be in the winter--unless we decide to make more for a party in October or so.

"We're still getting by on one paycheck," Eric reminded me as we picked up milk and winced at the price of butter. "What are we going to do when we've got two again?"

"Not complain quite so much at food prices?" I said.

Friday, August 15, 2008

There's no neat acronym for "clean up after messy husband."

Acronyms are in my future. Acronyms like HSG and IUI. I am displeased. Eric had an SA and it showed a slightly low count, but not hugely so. We've been TTC (there's another one, which I am only using to continue the theme because that one bugs me for some reason) for more than a year now, so we're trying to decide what to do next (aside from continuing to try, because it's fun).

I've been having a busy time with Eric gone. I'm quilting, writing, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, baking bread, gardening. (Oh yeah, and I have a job.) I'm also finding myself with the odd urge to clean up Eric's spaces. He has two, his side of the bedroom and his half of the office, and I let him let them get messy, within reason. (The glasses and cans have to go downstairs within a reasonable time.) Since I don't have to interact with either one, I'm fine with this arrangement, but now that he's gone I'm itching to put his ties and books away, throw away the old receipts, sort his papers into neat stacks. Of course then he'd never find anything. Maybe this is a response to the first problem?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The invisible Jennifer

So we had our company-wide department meeting last week, and during it I volunteered, along with K, to work on improving our submission form. Someone in the branch office said she wanted to volunteer N, another person from that office, because she knew N was interested in changing the submission form. Thus far, well and good (though K made frantic "no" gestures when the branch office person spoke). We decided to meet this afternoon, and I sent a message to N saying that we were doing so and asking how she wanted the three of us to get together.

N sent back a message, addressed to K, saying that she wanted to add two more people from the branch office because they'd been discussing it there but never got a chance to do anything about it due to workload. Then K told me that our boss's boss, who had conducted the company-wide meeting, had told K that she wanted to speak to her before we met. Then N sent an e-mail to K saying it would actually be three people she was adding and she and K could discuss when a good time to meet would be. We had a different training session today that Boss's Boss was leading, and after it was over I asked Karen what was going on with scheduling. Boss's Boss reiterated that she needed to speak to Karen before we could meet.

K has been with the company for a long time and is well-known to pretty much everyone. However, I cannot help feeling slighted that no one is even acknowledging my involvement, especially since I started the communication with N--otherwise K and I would probably have met, made our recommendations, and sent them to N afterward. Is it simply because they know K and not me? This doesn't apply to Boss's Boss, but then perhaps she now thinks of me as someone who Makes Waves. Slighted, I tell you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not special

We spent today with Eric's family. It was a fairly nice gathering, but I heard more about my in-laws' opinions and feelings and prejudices than I have in a long time. As we drove home I thought, My God, he's just like his family, why did I marry him? and worried vaguely. So I asked him about it: do you think you're different from your family? In what ways? Why do I get so tired after a day with them when I don't after a day with you?

This led to discussions on the nature of giftedness and potential, and how in our younger years we were both expected to Do Great Things, and how those Great Things were always in the nature of "win the Nobel Prize" or otherwise change the world. We were never led to believe that we might someday use our potential to be passionate and voracious debaters, or excellent at customer service, or the person everyone in the office goes to for help; or that that would be an acceptable use of our talents. We were never told that we would most likely be just another speck on a cog in a machine, and children have, I now know, no concept that being an adult in contemporary society is just that. We were always told that we needed to sparkle externally, never that it would be okay to quietly be a good and talented person without being outwardly exceptional.

I've been struggling with this ever since I left grad school, but I never thought about it in quite this way before. Eric says he has, because he had to come to terms with what he's decided to do with his life. He does feel he still has the capacity to change the world; but it's going to be more indirectly now, and he doesn't feel the need to change the world so much as to change his students. He has better goals now, more focused ones. I'm working on developing my own. I wonder what my EEP friends are doing with their lives, and whether they think about these issues as often as I do. I kind of hope not; I hope they've either become outwardly exceptional and are happy, or have come to terms with not changing the world and are happy.

(Also I hope that if someone does change the world, some of them have a hand in it. Far better them than, say, my mother-in-law, whom Eric says he's tempted to write in as his vote in the next election, but knowing what I know he knows about her political opinions, I don't think he's serious.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Writing, fiction and non

So I thought I had solved my problem with Shoelace by taking out a small but apparently key bit several scenes back. Only it turns out I didn't because there's a major logical flaw I missed while I was plotting this out and by rights the protagonist's semievil semiplot should be ending right here. Dammit. Now I don't know what to do. Maybe I can recruit the real villain to help me out.

In the meantime, I have been critiquing my brother's first writing assignment. Several weeks ago, he said, "I feel like my writing skills are getting worse. So I was wondering if maybe you could give me some assignments and help me out so I could practice." I found this utterly charming and assigned him three paragraphs on the history of ice cream. He sent me his three paragraphs a couple of days ago and it's evident that he needs some instruction along with practice. His grammar and sentence structure are fairly decent, but I get the feeling that he never quite got the idea that writing is used primarily for communication. I admit I did not explicitly say "This is a strictly informative, semi-formal essay" but it's my belief I shouldn't have had to. His essay is nonlinear, overly informal and joking, and isn't focusing on communicating information, even though that's what I asked him to do. I'm not sure what its focus is. I don't think he does either.

So I'm sending it back with a bunch of comments (and a couple of corrected commas and semicolons, but there are no misplaced apostrophes so I'm pleased there) and suggestions on how to improve it with reasons why they would improve it, and I'm going to ask him to revise it. After that, I have plans for more assignments to work on informative writing, persuasive writing, and descriptive writing, using examples he might actually use--memos to employees, cover letters, advertising copy, a letter to his daughter, and so on. I hope he's willing to stick with me enough to get through this. I think he could do really well at writing--I was talking to Mom about this and apparently she and a lot of her family have always been good at it; why didn't I know that before?--but he needs some guidance to get there.

I'm also bemused to find that while I still don't think I'd be a good teacher, I'm enjoying planning out lessons as a tutor. Luckily it's not fiction we're talking about, though, since I don't exactly feel qualified to teach about that these days.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A long time ago

Jesus. I just went to look at my last Three-Day and it's from 2003. Has it seriously been five years since I did this? (I never used to use 'Jesus' as an epithet until I wrote this particular story, incidentally.) What have I been doing all this time? I mean, living, I guess--2003 was when Eric got married for the first time, and all of 2004 was lousy, and then in 2005 I was long-distance dating and getting tired of my job, and 2006 was adjusting to life in Toledo and wedding planning, and 2007 was being married. So I had no time to write in there? Bah. I mean, I know what happened, I did what I'm doing now, other things that are easier and fill up my time more quickly. Five years.

I'm stuck on Shoelace, too. And it feels fragile and lousy. But maybe that's because I got stuck on the scene and then stopped working on it. I still want to finish it by the end of the year (unless I end up starting over, and if I do I may shelve it entirely for a while). I want to finish things. I don't want to look around in another five years, another fifteen, another thirty, and wonder why these things aren't done.

However, it's still past bedtime now. I have a free lunch hour tomorrow and no book to bring. I'll put it to good use.


I have a little less than four weeks to get this year's Three-Day Novel outline together. It's a story idea I've had for, I note with some distress, three years (why the distress? I have other ideas that are older that I'm still hanging onto) and I most likely won't ever write it unless I do it as a Three-Day. However, I suspect it's too big a story to fit into forty thousand words, so I'm not sure how I'm going to work this. Eliminate one character's perspective? Eliminate one of the plot elements? Write in first person to force some limitations? Simply aim to get halfway? I don't think that's a good idea. I could do it in diary form, like the last one. There's a way to do this, I'm sure.

In other news, I continue to be amazed at how freely women discuss the various aspects of reproduction. Perhaps my workplace is a little freer than usual because we seem to get frequent large groups of pregnant women, but still, I had no idea that women walked around talking about these things so much. I guess as women it's a fairly important part of our lives, biologically speaking, but I kind of figured the cultural disapproval of speaking of such things carried over from childhood to adulthood. Not so, it seems.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pointless, out-of-proportion mother-in-law grumbling. Don't bother to read.

Arrgh. Annoyed at my mother-in-law tonight. I went over to get the fruit she had kept for us to use for ice cream, since we want to do that tomorrow. The visit--I hadn't intended it as such but knew it probably would be--started off fine, talking about the garden and such. Then she commented on a work e-mail I had sent, and then moved into her favorite topic, "black people can call me whatever name they want but if I call them a name I'll get fired." She said it was because of a news item that Congress passed the bill to apologize to African-Americans for slavery and that since I don't watch the TV or get the newspaper I probably don't know what's going on in the world or that my e-mail could get me fired. (It was about some client/coworker interactions I had had, no identifiers included, certainly nothing about race. It could certainly get me fired because theoretically anything could, or nothing, but I'm not sure how she managed the link because she didn't explain it.)

I listened a while and then told her I thought she was being inflammatory, and disagreed with her on a couple of points, and she talked some of her favorite talking points over again while I kept the "inscrutable" face that I retrospectively realize she hates on my face and wound up with, "I wasn't trying to be inflammatory. I was trying to engage you in a conversation. But that seems to be pointless so I guess I'll give up." I said, "I guess that's my cue to go; good night," and left.

It wasn't her choice of topic specifically that annoyed me so. It's that this seems to be her favorite topic, one she's brought up multiple times in multiple settings, and I don't like her point of view or the way she expresses it but I can put up with that quietly; it's the repetition that gets me. She says the same things every time. I (and the people she often says it to, Eric and his/our friends) give the same non-response every time. I don't think she does it expressly to annoy me but I don't know why she does do it. Is she trying to provoke either a knock-down argument or a positive, supportive response? Does she think that I'll eventually agree? Does she simply enjoy saying it over and over? Is this a grievance she can't get out of her head? Is this topic the only gateway topic to other conversations and we just never get through it because (except for tonight) I can't bring myself to really respond?

And of course it doesn't help that I have not forgotten her previous blow-up at my husband. I still try to be polite, and I pretend I have forgotten it because both he and she have and evidently assume that I have too (and Eric expressly said that he wanted me to), but I have not forgotten and I do not forgive her.

Though due to that previous experience I'm not concerned about her petulant "I might as well give up" at the end of the conversation tonight. She came to the doorway to see me out and said, "Take care, kiddo," in her normal tone. Presumably she's already forgotten. Maybe that's why she keeps repeating the topic, because she doesn't remember that she's already talked it through?