Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yesterday's work-induced fit of rage

"Units! Units, people! UNITS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN."

Monday, November 14, 2011


A few weeks ago I started out a post with "I'm worried about my marriage." Then it devolved into a screed about all the things I've been frustrated about since I went back to work after Maia's birth, and then I took it off Blogger to write and print, and then I put it away because I didn't want Eric to see it. We've been talking about those issues, and I'm trying to work on them. It's tough. I don't know what's changed since Maia was born (...aside from the obvious), but something has, and it's made me discontented. I'm pretty sure it's me, not him, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work on it.

Anyway. It is now the Christmas season, apparently, as evinced by the Christmas trees put up at work (really? I can kind of understand the giving-tree one because people like to do shopping early, but the others are just for decoration and dude, I like Thanksgiving) and the mint M&Ms in my stomach, and my thoughts have turned to Christmas crafts. They can do this because I am done, done, DONE with Shoelace. Done as in, I sent a query in to a "contest" in which the literary agent promised actual, stream-of-consciousness feedback to all queries sent in at a particular hour (well, she didn't say stream-of-consciousness and that isn't what people got from the sound of the comments, but that's how it sounded to me), thinking I'd get some useful feedback. Then she actually requested the manuscript and I said "Well *!&#" because I'd noticed a problem with the end that I was working on fixing, but hadn't worried about hurrying because what were the chances? The moral of the story here is that it is a bad idea to count on one's ineptitude in one area because it will fail, giving one's ineptitude in other areas a chance to shine. Ahem.

So I have closed the book on Shoelace (which does, in fact, have an actual title...I forget if I've ever mentioned this) and am pondering some background for the next story, currently titled the unfortunately-acronymed Variable Density. What would the Republicans think if there were superheroes running around? That's what I'm wondering. I found that doing an actual query submission made me think about my writing differently. It's very refreshing. I also recognized, during the frenzied finish-this-quick-so-I-can-send-it session, that writing is a bit like quilting for me in that at some point, I lose all perspective on my own work and can no longer judge its merits because I start seeing it in negative. I don't see the work, I only see what I had wanted it to be but wasn't able to make it. With quilting I ignore that. (It helps that quilts are more difficult to revise than manuscripts.) I should learn to do some of that with writing, too. And then maybe I'll be able to let the next project go after a couple of go-rounds.

And, as I tried to say two paragraphs ago, it's Christmas as far as crafting is concerned. I have a pair of Fiber Fish mittens to make for Chloë, and a quilt to finish for her because she's in need of a big-girl blanket that she doesn't want to lay on the floor and pretend is the beach, which is what she does with the only other big blanket she has, a thick teal number made by Mom. I have to make something for Maia because I feel bad about neglecting her just because she has everything she needs. I want to make some mittens for my niece Rae, because she was interested in Chloë's the last time she was over here, though I'm not positive this wasn't just because it was so cold I was making all the girls wear mittens and hats and she wanted to go outside. And I have handprint wall hangings to make, assuming I can get a good tracing of Maia's. I'll be keeping busy up until Christmas. I prefer it that way. Having crafting time really helps make me feel like a person rather than just a parenting, working automaton.

This post has no direction or cohesion at all, but I wanted to say something, so I feel better. Status: loving my children, ambivalent about my husband, finished my book, pondering the next, ambitious on my Christmas crafts. As Chloë keeps saying these days: Onward!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I've been cutting out eight-inch squares of purple, blue, and green fabric for a quilt for the last few weeks. Chloë has an Elmo book, you see, on one of the pages of which Elmo is jumping on his bed with his favorite teddy monster, and on his quilt is a simple, impossibly puffy quilt of blue and green squares. Chloë has repeatedly talked about the quilt, and I got the brilliant idea of making her one like it since she needs a bigger blanket for her bed anyway. This was foolish as I have no time, and also want to make a (also very simple) baby quilt for my brother's best friend's new baby before we leave for Seattle next week. But I've been cutting out squares here and there, and now I've got enough to start sewing.

I thought it would be nice to get done slowly over the next few weeks, a couple of seams at a time, or however long Chloë was willing to bring me squares and sit in my lap and keep her hands away from the sewing machine. Alas: she's scared of the noise. It's too loud, she says (or "tu howd"). Ah well. When I get this other quilt done...because I will, right?...II'll start sewing hers together, a few seams at a time, in the evening. I'd had a much more complicated and awesome one planned before Maia was born: bears in the woods on a moonlit evening. But it didn't happen before Maia was born, so it won't for a while; and now I don't think I'd do that design since she's much more into water at the moment. (She might appreciate the bears, but only if they looked enough like Care Bears, which wasn't my plan.)

I miss doing complicated hobby work, but there's also something charming about the simplicity of a few squares here, a few square there. I also miss the sourdough and artisan bread I used to make, but I like having Chloe help me pile in the ingredients for our standard wheat every week or two (Though I do plan on trying a variation of King Arthur's sandwich rye soon. Also a cinnamon/applesauce bread for French toast inspired by their banana yeast bread. I'll probably freeze it in individual slices so we can store it for just that purpose.) Eric asked me about the logistics that a job on Bainbridge Island would entail, and when he learned that the commute would be long and we couldn't afford to live close, decided it wasn't for him. "Come home at 6:30, then immediately dinner, bathtime, bedtime," he said. "Not a thrilling idea." I think I always knew I would be retooling my life to fit around children, and this is what it looks like. I'll make them complicated quilts when they're older and can appreciate it more anyway.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sometimes my subconscious has no subtlety at all.

Epizeuxis: a word you wake up with in your head at 3:30 before realizing that that crying is the baby, the baby, you idiot.

(I had to look it up.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ladies who bake

Yesterday was the first time in years we've bought sandwich bread. Eric keeps saying that now that he's used to "real" bread, he'll never be able to go back to the storebought "bread" (complete with scare quotes). It's very endearing, if exaggerated, but with him still sick and Chloe too, and me suffering from my sleep loss (Maia gets up to five hours between feedings, but only every once in a while and only right after she goes down for the night, and I never go to bed when she does), I haven't been able to make bread and we had a grocery run and needed something simple for dinner. So Aunt Millie's whole-wheat bread went into the cart and we had grilled cheese sandwiches when we came home. And it turns out I really can tell the difference; there's a slightly odd taste to the storebought bread (which admittedly might be the length of time it's sat in the plastic bag, but might also be the additives) and while it's nice and soft, it doesn't stand up to buttering or grilling the way mine does. Eric's made me promise to make bread this weekend.

I joined a new writing site, Ladies Who Critique, intended to help members find critique partners. I'm not quite actively looking yet, as Shoelace isn't done, but I'm close. I hope. I've reclaimed my lunch hour from my work to-do list and am plodding along. It's really interesting how easy it is to write a scene now, assuming I know what I'm doing in it. I know these characters; I know this world; I know this story. I just haven't happened to write this scene before. After this long, I should know it this well, I suppose. I think that if I do not finish Shoelace by the end of the year, I'm going to stop. It's enough. I'll give it up and start something new. With luck the deadline will spur me on. (Getting away from work clients helps, too.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

A small illness

I wonder how many blog posts/diary entries/letters have begun with "I hate being sick." Or how many have begun with "I wonder how many..." (but let's not go down that recursive road). At any rate, I've had a nasty cold that knocked me out of life other than what was absolutely necessary: feeding Maia, caring for Chloe, going to work because the US sucks for maternity care and I don't have any sick days and we can't afford to lose any of my time. Ahem. I went to bed as soon as Chloe did for several nights running, or tried to; Maia's close to but not yet at the point where we want to start sleep training her (she needs to space out her meals a little longer first) and so if she wouldn't sleep, I couldn't. Theoretically Eric could watch her, but he's got a deadline on the textbook he's writing, and I do want to let him have the evenings child-free when he can since he has them all day. Of course that doesn't, or shouldn't, mean that he goes off duty when I get home, because that would mean I was working all hours while he wasn't, but I can be kind.

I'm still not well, but my body is in cleanup stage: cough winding down, gunk removed not being replaced, hunger starting to come back. I read the other day a description of shingles that ran something like "They don't just give you medicine for the pain, they give you antidepressants to manage your mood" and realized with interest that I'm never depressed when I'm sick. I mean, I'm unhappy about being sick; but I don't have that my life-is-worthless, the-future-is-dread kind of mopeyness. Maybe it's because when I'm sick, the future is bright because in the future I won't be sick. Or that when I'm sick my body shuts down higher-level things like existential angst and focuses on survival, which is wholly appropriate. At any rate, I look forward to being able to afford existential angst.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

As you know, Bob, you like to read

I'm reading Five Odd Honors, the last book in Jane Lindskold's latest trilogy which started with Thirteen Orphans, and am distressed. The entire series has needed tightening, writing-wise--way too much chattiness and wishy-washyness of word choice and as-you-know-Bob-itis. I feel certain that the phrase "or whatever" should not appear nearly so much in fiction as it does in real life, especially when not in dialogue. Now in the third book, there's an as-you-know-Bob of such proportions that we've actually got one character telling a second character about the events in that second character's history. And it's not as if the second character has amnesia or anything. He was there, and he remembers. And we already got this information in a previous book. I can think of at least two other ways this could have been handled. I've been extremely fond of Jane Lindskold's books up until now, and so I'm deeply distressed by this. (There was also the issue early in the first book of a character saying she knew instantly that a particular person was Chinese, and then went on to describe his clothes and said she couldn't see his face--but that could have been the character's own problems, of which she had many.) I'm still interested in the story, and I'll still buy her next book, but I'm going to be a lot more wary about it, and that saddens me.

Nursing gives me a ton of time for reading...or would if I didn't have a toddler trying to climb up my knees all the time...which is one of its few advantages. For me, I mean. I've gotten through a bunch of books of Eric's, and several new ones of my own. I'm finding it difficult to get through the nonfiction reading I want to finish, though. I think it's because fiction is comfort reading for me, and the newborn months require a lot of comforting. I feel like a bit of a wuss, but that's the way it is. I also feel a bit like Rory from "Gilmore Girls," in that I have three or four books open at any given time now. Right now there's Women and Gender in Islam in the nursery, and Mirage (about Napoleon's expedition to Egypt) in the bathroom, and Five Odd Honors floating. Perhaps my real problem is that I don't like to focus.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On not moving

I dreamed last night that I was making my way from here to Seattle, broke and on foot, like in a video game. Sometimes I had companions, sometimes not, and we got into all kinds of adventures and distractions, and if I made the wrong choices I'd just fade out and end up back at the beginning, not always knowing what I'd done wrong. I'd just about made it and was noticing that the mountains made me a little uneasy when I woke up.

I've stopped talking about moving with my family. We're still trying, or still trying to try; but the house isn't selling and job-hunting isn't easy in the current economic climate and particularly not when your two-month-old is crying whenever she isn't feeding at night and your two-year-old wants to be played with all the time and wakes up at six. I don't know if my family figures I've given up or is bored with the topic or is just trying to give me a break. I hate that we're not leaving. The house isn't right for us and neither is the climate, either geological or sociopolitical, and Eric doesn't want our daughters in the local school district and I miss my family more than Eric seems to think he'll miss his; but we can't go. I've already wasted my youth in the Midwest (why did I decide I wanted to experience the Midwest?) and it's so much harder to move with a husband and two kids.

Blah. I will try to get to the job-hunting as I can. I will continue with all the little things that are nice about our life. Maia is now stopping in the middle of nursing to smile up at me. It's inconvenient, but it's very endearing. Chloë can do complicated sentences and minor reasoning and her hair is long enough to put up into pigtails. It's ice cream and tomato season. And work is slow enough that I can write every day. These are good things.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It just takes the cake

Let's talk about cake. My aunt decorates cakes as a serious hobby--she made them for her daughters' weddings and would have for mine if she hadn't lived 2500 miles away. (Should have asked her anyway, though. My wedding cake was lousy. It tasted fine, and that was about all that could be said for it. Luckily we also served homemade ice cream.) My sister-in-law got interested in cake-decorating a couple of years ago and produced some awesome cakes for her daughter's birthday parties. Personally, I've never been that big into cake (ice cream and brownies are my preference), so I admired from a distance until it came time to make Chloë's first birthday cake. Because of course I had to make it from scratch and decorate it. That's what moms do, right? Or at least that's what moms who like to cook and bake and fancy themselves quick learners do.

So I made a lemon cake from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, with lemon curd filling and Italian buttercream frosting (I had to go online for that one--and was thrilled because I'm not fond of American frostings as a rule), and decorated it just before serving because there were issues and I couldn't get to it earlier, and it was nothing special looks-wise but it tasted good, and I was pleased. I decided I would get more interested in cakes--mainly the baking, since I didn't want to be seen as competing with my sister-in-law. Eric got me The Cake Bible for my birthday this year, and I made a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and ate about half of it myself. Then I got out the Wilton decorating books my aunt gave me for my wedding shower long ago, which I'd brought out for Chloë's cake but nothing since.

And now? Now I'm fantasizing about the truly awesome cakes I could make and frost. Chloë's birthday this year is water-themed, kiddie pools and a sprinkler and water balloons for the kids to play with. I was going to make an underwater cake, with cookie fish and seaweed and maybe some sea stars and piped shells and graham-cracker sand, but then I saw this cake and decided that I must make a backyard cake, complete with kiddie pool and sprinkler and hose.

Luckily, this idea is actually going to be less strenuous, piping-wise, than the fish one, which is good considering I have a two-month-old and a two-year-old and no time to sit down and actually practice piping. It will involve constructing a pool, probably out of pie crust, and cutting up some licorice and other candies, but that I think I can do.

So I don't think this will become a new hobby, but it's definitely a new interest. I have to go out sometime in the next two weeks and get a grass piping tip. And when will the next cake be? I don't know, because our nuclear family's next birthday is in April and anyone else would probably be covered by my sister-in-law. Maybe a fall cake is in order.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Being back

I realized yesterday that I've been working on Shoelace for ten years. This is absurd. I was single when I started it. Now I have a husband and two children. Admittedly those have been distractions, and also admittedly the story has gone through some drastic changes since I started. But seriously? Ten years? What idiocy. I'm finishing it this year (didn't before Maia came, obviously) and putting it away, for gods' sake.

So yes, I have two children now. I've realized I hate the newborn stage of life. I mean, not hate, maybe that is what I mean. I resent walking the halls with a screaming baby every night. (Lack of colic would make the newborn phase easier, I admit.) I resent nursing every hour and a half--though that's gotten better recently. I do like her portability, and her smiles, and the way she snuggles up to me when we fall asleep together (though I don’t like the frequency with which we fall asleep together, though this is mainly because it hurts my back). And I know that things get much better from here. Chloë continues to get awesomer, though at the moment also more histrionic. Still, she's great fun. I'm having a slight rocky patch with Eric at the moment--totally one-sided, and totally due to the new baby and the adjustments (and maternity leave) that came with her. Life is crowded but good. I'm just now starting to get back to writing--and I want to really get back to it and put this away. This is ridiculous. Ten years!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Giving it a try

I posted at the baby blog about the frustration I've been feeling lately with housework and hobbies and free time in general. It only touched on the ambivalence on child #2 that I was having in the first trimester and that is coming back now that I'm actively counting weeks until my due date. I'm not sure whether I ought to be discussing that in front of my friends and family. (I guess I don't think here counts. Dunno if anyone reads it.) Also I don't want to give the impression I'm trawling for sympathy or something. A friend wrote to me and offered her services for housework or whatever, which was very sweet but which I don't think I could take her up on (however: if she were willing to entertain Chloë while I worked, that might be different), and Eric expressed concern and wanted to talk about what these projects were that I was stressing out about. (The fact that he had to ask sort of underscores my point, though, I think.)

However, we've been working on laundry and dishes the past few days, and I did some vacuuming tonight despite a very tantrum-y night (Chloë, not me), and having finished my nephew's quilt at last I'm feeling somewhat better about the state of things. Not great, but better. I'm working on the Shoelace rewrite at the moment--or anyway avoiding working on it. I'm at a scene that involves politics, and I haven't actually developed the politics of the region for this world beyond a vague sense of small countries with ever-changing alliances and very few certainties. I think this means I am not writing a good book, or at least that I'm not writing this book well. I've learned a lot these past couple of years about writing, I think, despite the fact that I haven't done much of it. It's been interesting, and useful, if disappointing at times.

In any case, I have some politics to work out, and a scene to write. I'm currently at 34,596 words in draft 2, most of it new. I'm not sure I can get this done before the new baby comes (April 26, or thereabouts), but I'm going to give it my best try.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whine, whine, whine

Okay, now I'm depressed. (In the sense Eric doesn't like me using that word--the nonclinical one.) There are plenty of good writers out there and I'm no better than any of them and my mind is too fuzzy to focus on being really really good at anything. And I don't want to take the time to write Shoelace right because I don't think it will ever amount to anything. But I can't just give up either. Blargh blargh BLARGH.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

In a good place

I am so tired. This is mainly because I set myself up to be so--I'm sitting in bed after taking my shower and having my now-usual bedtime snack. Today's was more necessary than usual because we visited the mothers for the evening and had no real dinner--or rather, I didn't. Chloe had dinner with her cousins, meat and noodles and carrots and grapes, and Eric had an enchilada and part of a frozen pizza. My niece Addie wanted to play, so I had her play chef and make me a fruit salad and a piece of toast, which seemed like things she could handle. (I cut up the apple and peeled the orange that went into the fruit salad. Eric helped her wash the blueberries. Michelle helped her operate the toaster.) She was pleased, and I was happy, but dinner is usually more substantial than that.

Anyway. I'm working on Shoelace. I'm doing very well on my self-imposed schedule. I want to have the rewrite done by March 31 so I can submit it to my novel crit group (and wash my hands of it a few weeks before the baby comes). This requires getting through about five scenes a week. I'm a little behind, but not as much as I feared. I'm working on it during lunches (which involves bringing my netbook to work, which in turn involves selling the netbook to everyone who notices me with it--a coworker walked up today and said "What's that?" and it was really hard not to say "Really? You don't know what it is? Exactly what do you work on all day here?") and completing scenes at night, and it's actually very pleasant to sit down with the netbook after Chloe goes to bed and write. Maybe I'll even get into the habit again by the time I'm time to forget it again when the baby arrives, I know.

I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, almost all self-imposed. There's the Shoelace rewrite. There's Fiberscapes, the secret project Carol and Charlotte and I are working on--we're going to (we think) take a booth at the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo in October, and so are working on spinning yarn, dyeing fiber, making ornaments, writing patterns, and generally indulging in fibery productive goodness. I'm a bit more concerned about our pace and output than either of them seem to be, but that's just my style, and with luck my fears are completely ill-founded. Then there's Gabe's racetrack quilt, which I hope to have done by his birthday, which is in less than a month. (I spun tonight instead of working on the quilt, but I really need to devote the rest of the week to finishing the top. I need to applique a grandstand. How do you applique a grandstand?) And then there's the packing up of the craft room to make it into Chloe's room. Oh, and constructing my new dresser and doing taxes and putting up new curtain rods and so on.

So I'm busy, but delightfully so. It's really, really nice to feel I have a lot to do and I'm doing it. That I'm capable of this while having a child and supporting a family. I know everything's going to go off-kilter again when Maia is born, but I have faith that I'll get back to this place, eventually.