Friday, October 30, 2009


I've been surprisingly enthusiastic about Hallowe'en this year, and now it's nearly here!  Matt and I realized last night that we have yet to carve our pumpkins -- time slips away so fast.  We decided we'd try to carve them tonight, and if we ran out of time, we could finish up tomorrow.

That'll be something for Penny to do tomorrow, anyway.  She was pretty nonplussed this morning when I told her she would have to wait until after dinner to go trick-or-treating.

I might even manage to slip out of work a little bit early today, if everything stays quiet.  There aren't any deliveries due out, so once I'm done with all the piled-up administrivia, I might just take off.  We'll see, I guess.  I can only hope!

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  My dad is down in Atlanta, so Mom said she might come up for the evening, to see the kids in their costumes and help me hand out candy to the ravening hordes.  (Seriously, we get a gajillion kids in our neighborhood.  We buy two five-pound bags of candy every year, and give out no more than 2-3 pieces per kid, and it's usually all gone by 8.)

I'm going to hand out candy (it's Matt's turn to escort the kids around).  I expect Alex to go to about three houses and be done, and to go to bed more or less on time, but we'll probably let Penny stay up a bit late to play with Ray and eat some of her candy.

There will be pictures taken, of course.  If nothing else, I'll take pictures of Penny and Alex in their costumes, and possibly Ray as well, if he's willing to stand still for it.  I might get someone to take a picture of me in my costume, too.  If I get a chance, I want to wander around and experiment with taking pictures in the dark -- some of our neighbors put up fantastic decorations and displays that could be fun to shoot.  (Though I don't have a tripod mount for long exposures, yet.  Need to put that on my list!)

I might roast pumpkin seeds from our jack-o-lanterns.  (I need to look up the calories and carbs on those, first.)  On Sunday, I'm going to bake the little pie-pumpkin we got and have Penny help me make pumpkin muffins out of it.

All in all, I expect it to be a really fantastic weekend, and I'm looking forward to it immensely.  There will probably be pictures on Monday.  And then I'll need to start working on plans for Christmas!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I'm wearing a shirt today that I last wore two years ago.

I wore it when I was largely pregnant with Alex, as my Hallowe'en costume: I taped black construction paper to my belly and was a jack-o-lantern.

It was actually too small for me, then (even discounting the 7-months-pregnant Belly) but I squashed into it because, hey, Hallowe'en costumes always fit awkwardly anyway, and I only needed it for the one night. It's a size or two too big for me now (even discounting the fact that I'm no longer pregnant) but I'm wearing it because I wanted to wear Hallowe'en-y clothes all week, and I was running out of options.

Nope, don't really have anything to talk about this morning. How'd you guess?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fashion Sense

There is a woman at my office, M, who is very sweet, if occasionally flutterbrained. She's about ten years older than me, and has a daughter who just started college.

Here's the thing. She dresses like she's still 25. Flirty mid-thigh-length skirts and shirts built to show cleavage.

And it just doesn't work. She's tall and slender and fit and it ought to work, but... She spent too many years as a sun-worshiper in California and now the skin she's showing off is permanently wrinkled and loose-looking. Worse, it seems to collude with her occasional flights of bubbleheadedness to make her seem even blonder than she already is. I mean, when she wears jeans and a t-shirt on a Friday, she actually seems more competent and professional than when she's wearing her nicer clothes the rest of the week. Even her haircut feels to me like someone who's trying to deny that they have a daughter in college, though I can't quantify why.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what buttons it's pushing for me, and why, because I'm not that much younger than her, and thanks to the miracle of weight loss, my skin is even looser than hers. When I wear a V-neck sweater, even if I'm looking hotter than I have at any time in the last fifteen years or so, do I still look kind of pathetic?

How do other people figure these things out? I know women who always, always, always look perfectly put-together, no matter where they are. Not just perfectly put-together, but appropriate to their surroundings and roles. Competent and knowledgeable and attractive (but not on the hunt). And it's not about body size, because they run the gamut from tiny little size XS ladies up to women as big as I've ever been. And I can't, for the life of me, figure out what makes the difference.

It's knowing what clothes to choose, and what accessories, and what makeup, and what hairstyle -- not only knowing it, but being comfortable inside it. It's a sense of fashion and style that I somehow missed learning. I'm not sure it can be learned, but I keep trying.

Every time I encounter one of these women, I find myself trying to dissemble the pieces and figure out what makes them work. And every time I encounter someone who doesn't work, I try to figure out why. How is it that S and B, who were both larger, older women, always wore similar outfits, but S looked like a high-powered executive and B always looked faintly rumpled? Why can 50-something J wear flirty 20ish clothes and look cute, while 50-something M looks like she's trying too hard? I can't tell the difference, and I'm pretty sure that means I'm on the wrong side of the equation, here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Ways in which Alex is not like Penny at the same age: Alex is incredibly affectionate.

I never doubted that Penny loved me and Matt, but she was not a snuggly child. She didn't become cuddly until I was pregnant with Alex and she began to understand that someone else was going to be invading our house.

Alex, on the other hand... At least every day or so he'll walk up to me in the kitchen while I'm making dinner or washing dishes and wrap himself around one of my legs in a spontaneous hug. Just 'cause. He hugs, I say thank you, and he wanders off again, mission accomplished.

Penny demands hugs and kisses from him practically every time their paths cross, and he's usually happy to comply. (Though he has recently learned the Power of the No, and so sometimes he refuses, just to prove that he can, I think.)

The last few days, he's been even cozier than usual. He gets annoyed if I don't wrap my arm all the way around him while I'm reading to him (and unlike Penny, Alex wants to be read to more or less constantly). And he's asking for hugs and kisses frequently.

Yesterday, while I was reading to him, he noticed a band-aid on my finger. (I don't know how it happened; I just had a couple of shallow cuts on my knuckle. Wouldn't have bothered with a band-aid at all, except that they're perfectly placed to snag on everything I pick up.) "Isshee?" he wanted to know, which is his version of "(What) is it?"

"It's a band-aid," I told him. "Mommy has a little booboo."

"Awww!" he cooed, then leaned over and planted a kiss right on the band-aid.

I laughed and hugged him. "Thank you, sweetie. That's very nice."

So he did it again. And again. He must have kissed my finger about four times in a row before he let me get back to reading the book. And then he did it again every time he noticed it again, which was every time I turned the page. And when I was done, he picked up my hand and laid his cheek against my finger in a hug. Just to make sure my booboo had enough love, I guess.

How absolutely freaking adorable is that? How could anyone not want to just eat this kid up?

(I have to write this stuff down, because the Sullen Teenage Years are waiting for me, and I'll need to remember why I didn't just drop-kick his little behind back when he was shorter than me and I had the chance.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Line 'Er Up

Week of relative relaxation is done. I worked four half-days and took one day off entirely, and still clocked over 100 hours for the two-week pay period. But it's a new pay period, so it's back to a normal work schedule for me. At least I got the whole weekend off.

Time marches on. Hallowe'en is Saturday, and I've got my wardrobe picked out for pretty much the whole rest of the week. Because I'm just that much of a nerd, yes.

Next week is mostly quiet, though I need to make a bunch of cupcakes for my birthday, since I've told everyone I'm going to make my own cake(s) this year so I can keep track of diet points easier. (Having a lot fewer points to mess around with this year than last year.) And Tuesday is Election Day, and since so many of our local polling places are schools, they've given up and made it a student holiday, so I'll have Penny with me at work all day. That'll be a productive day. Not.

Then the week after that will be my birthday (which I may or may not take off from work), and at the end of the week, I'm taking a couple of days off to take Penny to Atlanta. I'm really looking forward to that.

When we get back from that trip, we'll only be a week and a half from Thanksgiving and Matt's birthday. (I should probably look into getting him a present or something.)

And then there's nothing specific on the calendar for a few weeks, but it'll be December and we'll be into the joyous madness of the holiday season.

The end of the year is crazy-time, but it's a good kind of crazy. And this year, I really want to embrace it with everything. I'm ready for it. Bring it on!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Picture Picture

Nothing at work was really pressing, so I took the whole day off.

Instead, I packed a lunch and my camera and went into Colonial Williamsburg to take pictures of the autumn foliage (though it mostly isn't very impressive this year) and random picturesque things. It took me a while to really get into it, but eventually I wound up with a bunch of not-horrible pictures.

After that, I got my allergy shots, then spent most of the afternoon loafing around the house. Matt and I walked Penny home from school, and when she'd finished her homework and practiced for her spelling test today, we all went to pick Alex up from daycare and then went... to Pumpkinville!

Penny, weirdly, was excited to go to Pumpkinville, but once we were there, she wouldn't go near anything even remotely spooky. I had to trick her into following me into the corn maze, and she wouldn't go near the inflatable Frankenstein's monster gateway without one of us with her.

Alex, on the other hand, was All About Everything. He charged from spot to spot as fast as his little legs could carry him, drunk on excitement and freedom of movement. I thought I was going to lose him in the corn maze, he was going so fast.

So all in all, it was a good day, and a much-needed rest.

I'm at work today for a few hours, there being some work that needs doing and a meeting I'm supposed to attend, but I expect to leave early again.

My brain is still shutting down completely around 8:30 in the evening, and I'm getting sleepy at 9 or so. I'm hoping to be able to actually function in the evenings again soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


So yeah. Put in something like 32 hours this past weekend, culminating at 3:30am Monday morning. Combined with the time I worked the previous weekend, I technically shouldn't have to come to work at all this week. (We go on a two-week pay cycle, Saturday through Friday, of which this is the second week. A normal pay cycle should have about 80 hours charged to it; as of right now, I'm at 89.)

Except of course that there are at least a few things that really have to be done. I came in to work yesterday (late) for about four hours, then went home (early) and took a nap.

I expect today to be my longest work day of the week, because I'm running a training session this afternoon that might run as late as 3:30. After that's over, I'm going home. Either Wednesday or Thursday I want to take off entirely, and I fully expect to come in late and/or leave early every other day this week as well. I'm only coming in at all because we have documents to deliver and the person who'd usually cover for me if I wasn't here is out on maternity leave. I believe the word we're looking for here is "lackadaisical". I have already informed my boss of this plan. (Note that I did not ask him. I just told him. And my minion who worked 30 hours this weekend along with me took yesterday off and has been given tacit approval to take as much time off as our schedule will allow, as well. Though she isn't salaried, so she might choose to work the rest of the week normally and collect a juicy overtime check.)

By the way, muchmany thanks to Matt and both kids for being so awesome about my crap working hours lately. Matt has uncomplainingly taken on the single parenting duties, and the kids have been pretty good for him (well, within the confines of their abilities. They're six and almost-two; let's not expect miracles). Matt brought the kids up to visit me at work for a bit on Sunday, and I raided the office supply closet to give Penny a pad of mini sticky-notes. (She's easily won; what can I say?) When I got home Monday morning at 3:30 or so, I found a sticky-note on my laptop that said "I love Mommy" and another one that was a picture of me and Penny inside a heart. She'd also used them to put various labels on everyone's bedroom door, and at everyone's seat at the dining table. It was exactly the smile that I needed before I crawled into bed.

And Alex has always been affectionate and happy to be cuddled, but lately he's been piling on the unasked-for hugs and those wonderfully precious full-on barreling run-and-fling-into-Mommy's-arms embraces that warm me the way nothing else possibly can. I have the best family EVAR.

Plans for my time off: I want to get my camera and go wander the Colonial area to take pictures; and I need to go shopping for clothes, because I only have three long-sleeved shirts that fit, and half-sleeves are not doing it for me this fall. (I may actually need a real coat this winter.) Other than that, I plan to do Not Much Of Anything. Write a little, perhaps. Work on my scrapbook. Plan for my trip to Atlanta next month. Watch movies and TV. Stare into space and drool slightly.

And when the weekend comes, I will Not Work. I promised Penny we could make a "special breakfast" one day -- she hasn't decided yet what that means, but I suspect either pancakes or french toast. It being the last weekend before Hallowe'en, we should take the kids to Pumpkinville to pick out our pumpkins. Maybe go visit my parents. Whatever. Anything that is Not Work.

Next week begins a new pay period, with a normal work schedule. But right now, I can barely plan past my next cup of coffee. And that's kind of how I'm liking it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Doing Good

It's Friday.

Not that Friday means all that much to me, just now. I worked last weekend and the weekend before that, and I'm going to be working this weekend, too. All "Friday" means, right now, is that I could've worn jeans to work (though I didn't) and that when I come in tomorrow, I can wear a t-shirt. Whoo.

Nevertheless, I'm feeling pretty good about today.

Alex's daycare is selling wristbands and keychains to raise money for breast cancer research, and this morning I finally remembered to dig out $5 and buy a couple of wristbands. I gave Penny one (she loves anything pink) that says "Hope" on it. Didn't realize until I got out to the car that mine said "Survivor," which I'm not, but whatever. I turned it inside-out. It's not like I'm going to wear it much. Or even keep it. (Honestly, rubber bracelets of any color are really ugly. Who came up with this?) But I feel pretty good about having made my donation to the cause. Wonder if I could get them to do something to support World Diabetes Day in November? Kind of short notice, though. Eh, well. Maybe next year.

All the toddlers in Alex's class ran over to me to ask for hugs while I was getting his jacket off and put away. I obliged them. I like hugs.

Penny made bracelets last weekend for two of her friends at school. After forgetting them all week, she brought them in the car with her yesterday, but wouldn't put them in her backpack. So naturally, when we got to school, she forgot them. And then got mad at me when I refused to go back out into the pouring rain to get them for her. So this morning, when I suggested she put them in her backpack so she wouldn't forget them, she took my suggestion... except one of the bracelets was missing.

After we got Alex to daycare, we pretty much emptied out the whole back seat of the car, looking for it, but we couldn't find it. She was obviously disappointed, but mostly took it in stride and agreed that she'd make another bracelet this weekend.

Matt's doing the WatchDOGS program today, so I dropped her off with him rather than walking her up to school myself, but as I was driving out, I happened to glance over and -- spotted the missing bracelet in the parking lot. It must have fallen out of the car yesterday morning. I quickly pulled into a spot, ran over and grabbed the bracelet, then ran to the crosswalk where Matt and Penny were to give it to her. Her eyes lit up and she squealed with delight. "Thank you, Mama!"

That felt pretty good, too.

I'm going to have a good day. You too, okay?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It is a grey, dark, rainy day. The kind of day where I don't mind so much having to go to work. The kind of day where I don't mind that my office at work has no windows. In fact, the temptation to mostly close my door and den up is pretty strong.

I have three candles burning on the side of my desk, and they smell like apples and pumpkin and cinnamon. Like fall. My space heater is doing its best to keep my little office warm, and in a little while, I'll go get a big mug of vanilla coffee, and that smell will mix with the apple and pumpkin and cinnamon, and I'll nurse it all morning. And when it's gone, I'll have orange spice tea.

There's still work to do. The proposal effort is still going. But the urgency for my part of it has relaxed, for now. I'll probably still have to come in for at least one day this weekend, but I'm not thinking about that, right now. I spent yesterday getting caught up on a bunch of other tasks, and I'm down to just a handful of things to do, today. And they're not things I dread -- they're tasks that might actually help some people, tasks that will provide me with a little bit of challenge, that will exercise talents I don't get to use nearly often enough. I'm even looking forward to them, a little bit.

There are worse ways to spend a dreary dark rainy day than with satisfying work and pleasant smells and tastes and the flicker of candlelight on the periphery.

I am... content.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Cozywarm is what my bed was this morning when I didn't want to get up.

But (alas) here I am, ready for another day.

We almost didn't have our group dinner last night, as Jess wasn't feeling terribly well, but she was no longer feverish by afternoon, so we decided to risk it anyway. It was a blast. Having the girls eat at their own table, in a different room from the rest of us, worked out really well -- they got to have their own conversation without being overridden by adults, and the grownups got to chat without being interrupted every ten seconds. We did get called in a couple of times, and Matt went in once when it sounded like things were getting a little too rowdy, but all in all: super-fantastic.

Everyone liked the soup (except Jess, who I hadn't realized doesn't like tomatoes -- but I didn't worry about her too much, because she hardly ever eats dinner anyway) and then we had chocolate cake to celebrate Jess's birthday. (Alex ate an entire grownup-sized piece by himself, and then went looking for more, much to Karen's amusement. Eventually, she'll post pictures and I'll snag them.)

They had to leave shortly after dinner, unfortunately, to get Jess home in time for bed. But it was really great while they were visiting. I wish we could see them all more often.

I had a more or less free evening, and I probably should have tried to get some writing done, but I wanted to catch up on my collected RSS feeds, and by the time that was done, it was already almost 9:30. Not really enough time for good writing. So Matt and I watched the TiVO'ed Big Bang Theory and dorked around on our computers, and then I fell into bed and didn't wake up until around 4, when Penny launched herself onto my stomach to tell me she had a really, really, really, really bad dream.

Coffee. Coffee is my friend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Play it By Ear

I actually got to go home and leave all my work at the office last night. It felt wonderful. I even managed to get some writing done. Took me a while to sink into the rhythm of it, but once there, it flowed nicely. And I think I'm achieving some success at updating my character who's supposed to be in his late 20s but previously sounded like he was sixteen. The next scene is going to be harder, because I need one of my characters to make a very difficult decision and reverse a position he's been standing firm on for many years, which is tough to do. But I think I've got a hook that will work. I just need to dig up the time to write it.

I think tonight we're having Karen and KT and Kevin and Jess over for dinner, which will be wonderful. Which means I need to run to the store for ingredients on my way home, and I might need to pick up some cheap soup bowls, because I've got a grand total of 4, which means that even if I give Penny and Jess soup in cereal bowls (which is guaranteed to make a huge mess) I'm still a couple short. (Or possibly this is a good excuse to go pick up a set of not-cheap, nice soup bowls. Even better!)

Of course, our table doesn't seat eight, even in a squeeze, so I think I'm going to let Penny and Jess sit at the kids' little drawing table to eat. I'm sure Penny will be ecstatic at this development. She loves to eat at that table for picnics.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Paper Cuts

It's the death of the thousand paper cuts, I swear.

Worked 14 hours this weekend (Okay, that one isn't a paper cut; it's a gaping wound). Developing at least eight canker sores and/or blood blisters on the inside of my mouth (probably from stress). Burned my tongue making dinner last night. Penny woke us up at 4:15 so we could put her back to bed after a dream woke her up. Stressy dreams between then and when I got up this morning. Spilled water all over the floor while trying to take my meds. Had to take a detour to get Alex to school this morning, as the road I usually use was completely blocked by three fire trucks, two police cars, and two ambulances that I could see before the road curved. Left both kids at their respective schools in tears this morning. Changed the radio station to get away from a song I don't like, changed it again to get away from political ads, and the third station was playing the exact same stupid song I don't like from the first station. The enormous spider outside my office is still there.

Should concentrate on positives, or I'm never going to get through the day...

KT finished the entire 3-day, 60-mile Susan G. Kommen walk for breast cancer this weekend. I talked to her on the phone a bit Saturday night, and she sounded tired, but otherwise really surprisingly chipper. Keeping an eye open for her tweets as she progressed was surprisingly motivational for me. I can't even begin to express how proud I am of her. Or how disappointed I am that she didn't get the postcard I sent for her. (Positive! Positive! Right, right...)

Both kids were really just fantastic this weekend. Alex's encroaching Twoness even backed off a bit, and he was perfectly happy to play near me without having to be picked up every thirty seconds. And Matt was wonderful about trying to keep them out of my hair and taking on extra household crap so I could get my stupid work done.

We went out to eat Saturday night and had the most amazing waitress ever. The kitchen screwed up our side orders, but she was awesome. Even though the kitchen screwed up our orders, I want to go back, just so I can ask to be in her section. Also, we managed to drive a cranky old couple not just out of our section, but out of the restaurant entirely. If the kids were being loud or obnoxious, I'd have felt embarrassed, but they were actually being really good, so it was just amusing. (Seriously. I can totally sympathize with not wanting to be near kids, but in that case, may I recommend not going to a chain "family-style" restaurant before 6pm? Really. Use a brain cell, folks.)

The fall weather continues apace. In honor of the cool weather, I've planned soup for dinner twice this week. And I'm having my leftover roasted carrot and parsnip soup that I made Friday for lunch today. I love soup.

I have an apple-scented tea candle burning on the side of my desk at work. It is pretty and soothing. I have enough little tea candle refills stocked up at work in various yummy fall scents to last me until Thanksgiving.

Even though I'm not having time to write, I keep getting ideas about how to improve the story I'm currently focusing on, and I'm jotting them down so I don't lose them. Eventually, I'll have time to write again.

The proposal I'm working on at work is due next Monday. I'll likely get called in to work next weekend on assembly, but after that, I'll be free. And I'll have a buttload of extra hours. I'm going to take at least a couple of half-days off from work and do things that are not related to work even a little bit. Or possibly even computer-related. Some more clothes shopping, perhaps (I still only have like 3 long-sleeve shirts that fit). Take my camera into Colonial Williamsburg and go shutterbug crazy. Something.

There, that's a little better. Now: time for a meeting.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Burned and Raw

Yesterday was busy, but actually pretty good. I got lots of work accomplished and avoided feeling like I was spinning my wheels to no good purpose, and I managed to get to the gym which both got my blood moving and got me outside (if only briefly) to appreciate the fall weather.

So I was in a really great mood, right up until I got home.

Which is when I tried to make dinner. I thought I'd try some roasted carrots and parsnips, since it's fall. I've never had parsnips before, and thought it would be fun to try them. So I got home, cut them and the carrots up, and put them in the oven. I let them go for twenty minutes or so, and then started on the pork chops. I didn't want them to be anything too fancy, so I thought I'd just bread them and then pan-sear them.

Except that the breading started burning before the pork was even remotely cooked. It set off the smoke alarm, in fact. I scraped off the burnt stuff and kept going, and eventually, they were finally done.

Which is when I took the carrots and parsnips out of the oven (which had been in there for well over half an hour, by this point) and discovered that they weren't fully cooked yet.

So we had our plain, slightly-burnt and (as it turned out) over-salted pork chops with some raw carrots (and the kids had applesauce), and we had it a good 20 minutes late. Sigh.

On the plus side, I found what sounds like a lovely recipe for carrot and parsnip soup, so I'll stop at the store on my way home today to pick up an onion and some celery and make that, and I can have it for lunches or something. (And if I like it as much as I think I will, it might become a fall/winter staple for me, because it sounds wonderful.)

Note to self: Bake pork chops, not fry, if they're going to have breading on them, and save the roasted root veggies for the weekends, when I have time to get them started a full hour or so before we're going to eat.

The rest of the evening was better, though. I did a little more writing -- not the impressive chunk that I managed Wednesday, but a fairly solid amount for me lately, plus made notes for future improvements, so that felt good. (Also, I threw some twitter silliness back and forth with Braz and Vicki, which is always fun.)

So, all in all, a pretty good day, craptastic dinner aside. (And yet, I chose to whine at you about the dinner. It wouldn't do for anyone to think I was feeling happy, after all...)

Today, Penny has a half-day at school, so I'll be packing up just a smidge after 12 so I can pick her up. And then we'll head home and I'll set up my laptop and work from home for the afternoon. I might have to work a little this weekend, but we'll see. Most of my stuff for the proposal is done, and what I'm down to now is reading other people's stuff and suggesting edits.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I actually had an evening of my own last night. I was feeling a little scattered and not sure what to do with myself, but I decided to try to get some writing done. I've got a story (possibly a novella -- I haven't done a word count yet) for which I really like the concept, and the plot only needs a little tweaks here and there to tighten it up, but there's this exposition section right at the beginning where I have to let the reader know what's different between our world and the story world, so they can go into the story with that in mind.

It's necessary, especially since this is a short piece and not a novel, where things could unfold more slowly. But that exposition, as it stands, is really, really horrible. It's boring. And it feels contrived. And worse than that, it feels oddly patronizing.

But about a week ago, I had a flash on how I could fix it. Yay! Except it means completely rewriting the whole scene. Boo... But in doing that, I could also fix a couple of other minor points that the story has (like needing to give some more background on one character, explaining some societal differences that come about as a result of the core concept in the world, sketching in some early hints of one of the plot points. Like that. So yay!

So I took a stab at that. I'd started this a couple of days ago, got a few paragraphs in, and found myself painted into a corner. So I erased it and started over again. I started writing a little before 9. I took a short break around 10, when Matt moved his DVD from his laptop to the TV (the DVD player in his laptop is getting aged and pissy) so that I could move upstairs.

At about 11, I was pretty much done with the section. Or at least a draft of it -- I still need to read back through at some point and make sure I at least touched on all the salient points. I'm pretty sure there's one thing that needs to be explained in more detail. But I'd gotten the skeleton of it out there, at least, and most of the meat.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the word count. I'd written over 1800 words.

That's more than I've written in a single session since before Penny was born. I'd just about resigned myself to having lost the ability to write more than a thousand words in a sitting. Looking at that wordcount, I nearly cried.

This morning, I'm back to work and back on the treadmill. I've got a software delivery today, this proposal still breathing down my neck (one more week...) and a half-dozen other little tasks that need to be done. Plus I really, really need to get to the gym today. So it's back to Crazytown for me.

But last night was a much needed, much appreciated breather.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where I Am

I had a doctor's appointment this morning. Having my feet in stirrups at 8:15 is exactly the way to start a day, eh? This was a followup to the biopsy I had about six months ago. The doctor says the red patch he saw before is still there, so he did a swab-test that'll go to the lab to see if it's still abnormal or if he needs to go in and remove it. So now I'm waiting to hear what the lab says. Whee.

On the plus side, having an 8:10 appointment got me in and out very quickly; I was at work less than fifteen minutes late. So hopefully I'll be able to chug through my work for the day early and not have to work late to meet my deadline.

Also, today is (more or less) my diet anniversary. I posted comparison and progress pictures over on the diet blog. It's actually fairly astonishing to look at a whole year's progress at one time like that.

That's all I got, today. Time to dive into this work and hope I manage to finish it on time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I love fall, stupid spiders aside. (And the stupid spiders are out in force this year, and have been hanging out much longer than usual. Usually the birds have gotten them all by now. What gives? Aren't the birds hungry this year?)

But I love fall anyway. The weather these last couple of days has been just perfect - crisp and chilly in the mornings, warm and sunny in the afternoons. I've got Honeycrisp apples for my afternoon snack all this week. I've been burning tea candles in my gorgeous little crackle-glass holder at work for the past week. There are Hallowe'en decorations going up everywhere, and the leaves are finally starting to change colors. (Must make time in about a week or so to go for a few walks with my camera.)

This is my favorite time of year, for about the next six weeks. I need to remember to enjoy it.

I talked to my aunt yesterday for a while, and hashed out a few details on my trip to Atlanta in mid-November.

I'll be taking Penny with me, and my aunt sounded very excited to be expecting us. We'll only be there for a few days (fly down Thursday, fly home Sunday), but she was talking about trying to meet up with some of my cousins, and looking into various things that I could do with Penny. There's a children's museum close by their house, and of course there's the aquarium and the Atlanta zoo. (Penny seemed especially excited by the idea of the zoo, when I mentioned it to her.) I expect it will be a busy trip, but I expect it to be fun, too. I'm looking forward to it. Now, to make my flight reservations, and figure out what I'm packing and how to pack it...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back To It

Saturday didn't go so well.

I wanted to go to the Fall Festival at Newport News Park. Penny was enthusiastic, and Alex is always happy to get out of the house, so it seemed like a good idea. I even thought to pack lunches, so we wouldn't have to guess at carbs for Penny or points for me.

Walking up to the festival, though, routed us straight through a playground. Alex saw the swings, and from that point forward, all he wanted was to go back to them. Have I mentioned that he's starting in on Two-ish behavior? Yeah. There was a lot of sobbing and crying and whining until Matt gave up and took him to a playground to swing.

And Penny wasn't too keen on the crafts that I wanted to look at, and she didn't want to stay in the kids' area while I wandered around to look at stuff. She had fun in the kids' area, at least -- did some crafts and got some free takeaways. But I'd been hoping to wander more. I've found some really cute things, in previous years. But by the time Penny was done with the kids' area, Alex was in a near-continuous state of meltdown, and we decided to just give up and head home.

Alex fell asleep in the car about halfway home, unsurprisingly. And then, having had a ten-minute nap in the car, he completely refused to take any more nap once we got home. Matt took him along to the comic store in the afternoon, and he fell asleep again, but once again refused to nap at home.

You know what kind of mood you get out of a toddler who's had two ten-minute naps? A Very Bad Mood, that's what. The rest of the evening was horrible. We gave up on the notion of going out to eat for dinner and got takeout instead. And then the takeout place forgot my soup, and the thing I'd ordered was not remotely appetizing. (I don't even know why I ordered it. I can't blame that part on the restaurant. Seriously - I don't like spicy food, I don't like peppers, I don't like mushrooms, and I'm not the biggest fan of spinach salads. So why would I order a chili-lime chicken spinach salad with peppers and mushrooms? Major brainfail.)

The only unalloyed good thing about Saturday was that Penny pestered me to keep my promise that we could decorate for Hallowe'en. I started out feeling like it was yet another chore, but her enthusiasm was contagious. We hung streamers and various doodads all over the house, and by the time it was done, I wanted more.

Sunday was some better, though Alex continued to demonstrate his near-Twoness for us. But I took a trip to Target to pick up a couple of things and wound up buying more Hallowe'en decorations while I was at it.

And a costume, too, which was a triumph in itself -- I haven't been able to buy an off-the-shelf costume since I was still trick-or-treating. (There were the no-money years, and then there were the fat years.) I was so excited to be able to buy a costume that I wanted to buy about four of them. It took me a long time to decide. I thought about a fairy costume so Penny and I could match, but the adult fairy costumes are -ahem- short, and proud as I am of my lost weight, the skin on my legs is still kind of... saggy and baggy and not really what I want to be showing off. Same problem with the pirate wench costume. The tavern wench costume had a long skirt, but didn't really appeal. The snow queen costume was gorgeous, but looked hot. The Cleopatra costume was pretty, too, but I didn't think Penny would get the reference, and since she's about 85% of the reason I'm getting a costume in the first place... no go. I finally settled on a Gothic robe and told Penny I was going to be a witch, only without the pointy hat. She was very impressed by the spiderweb detailing.

It seems slightly ridiculous to buy a Hallowe'en costume just to have something to wear while I stay at home and hand out candy -- there isn't even a chance of wearing it to a party or to work, since Hallowe'en is on a Saturday this year. But I'm okay with being slightly ridiculous, if it'll keep this odd sense of enthusiasm going.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even be inspired to decorate for Christmas, this year.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I got so caught up in ranting about the proposal that I forgot to talk about the whole reason I was writing about it at all:

However dark the cloud, there's always at least a glimpse of silver. In this case, I have so far encountered two little sparkling stars that make me smile every time I see them:

1) My main point of contact with the other company we're working with on this proposal is Mr. Moneypenny. I swear I'm not making that up, that's his honest-to-god name. (I usually avoid using the full/real names of people I encounter at work, but this one is too good to pass up. And not likely to score very high in a google search, heh.) I've so far avoided making any Bond references in my communications with him -- he's probably pretty sick of it, I'd imagine. But the temptation to do so anyway is really quite incredible.

2) While compiling a list of various contracting officers for assorted contracts -- most of whom are located in the DC metropolitan area -- I discovered there is a town in Maryland actually called Suitland. Suit-land! Ah-hahahahaha! How very appropriate! How the hell did that slip through?


I hate working proposals. Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.


For those of you not in the government-contractor world, this is how it works: The government issues a Request for Proposal, which is anywhere from 50 to 300 pages of dense legalese explaining what the project is that they want to get done and exactly how they want the proposals built and what criteria they'll use to choose among the submitting candidates. We then have about a month -- that's an average; I've seen them as short as a week and as long as three months -- to put together our company's proposal, which is generally about the same size as the RFP. It's much more complicated and messy than this, of course. Especially because all the usual work we have to do doesn't exactly stop while we do all this proposal stuff, so you have to decide what falls through the cracks, and more often than not, even after you've eliminated or postponed the cruft, lots of people still have to work overtime. (And we're all salaried, of course, so that's unpaid overtime.)

The first time I was asked to work on a proposal, I worked 12-hour days for the better part of a week to get my section done. When I'd finished, I turned in my section... and the manager in charge of the proposal decided she didn't like it, threw it all out, and had someone else rewrite it.

This is not remotely uncommon, though I didn't realize it at the time.


Alas for me: my boss has apparently decided that no major proposal shall be submitted without my stamp on it. So to speak.

Usually, he just has me review stuff that other people have written, to fix grammar and make readability suggestions. Sometimes, if we've got a tight pagecount limit (the RFP will tell us how many pages we're allowed to submit for various sections, and usually also tells us exactly what font and point size to use, too) he'll use me to help trim wordy bits down.

This time, he put me in charge of gathering and polishing the resumes for our key personnel. I've already bitched about that, but it wasn't going to make me work late.

Then I looked at the proposal outline and realized I'd been written in for a few other paragraphs, here and there. It made sense -- they were paragraphs on QA, and Risk Management, and other things that are closely tied to process, which is my job. That was enough to push me to some overtime, but not a lot. I've done these for previous proposals; all I had to do was pull some old files and rearrange them so they contained all the keywords from this particular RFP. A few hours, tops.

And then they decided that they were going to put me in charge of the Past Performance section. This is, in essense, the company's resume. We list a (specified) number of contracts we've already worked, and describe how they relate to this contract, and explain how wonderfully we did them. And there's a questionnaire we have to send to our customers from those previous contracts that they fill out and send back to the government (so we can't see their answers) so the government can find out whether we were really wonderful or what.

So now I've got to come up with seven 2-page project descriptions, in which I have to try to make us sound amazing! and cutting-edge! and indispensable! and most of all relevant! The seven projects we're showcasing have already been chosen for me. One of them belongs to the subcontractor we're teamed with on the proposal, and another is for a project in another division of the company. Someone else will write those, but I'll have to vet and edit them. (One of them has already come in. It's 4 pages long -- somehow, I have to figure out how to cut it in half.) And I'll more or less be writing the other five myself.

And it'll all be due before the end of next week.

On top of all the other work I've got, which has not exactly been scarce, lately.

Which is why I expect to be working some this weekend.


Which is why I'm wearing my bearmonster shirt today.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Hey, it's the first day of October! And the weather couldn't be more perfect - crisp enough to need a sweater in the mornings, blue skies and fluffy clouds... Weirdly, the leaves haven't started turning yet. Not even random little bunches here and there. Which means either everything will turn brown and fall off the trees all at once sometime in the next three weeks, or we're having a late fall and everything will still be perfect and gorgeous for my birthday.

You can probably guess which one I'm hoping for.

I'm slowly crawling out from under the stress. The PMS seems to have faded, and yesterday's contract closings are done. There's still the proposal (and my boss added a whole new section to my responsibility list for it yesterday) but I took some of it home last night and managed to get several paragraphs drafted, so that puts a dent in it, at least.

(I also very carefully shaved off enough points to have a couple of drinks last night. I emptied two "airplane" bottles of liquor, and didn't even feel a buzz. You'd think, as much weight as I've lost this past year, that I'd have turned into a cheap date, but apparently not. How very frustrating - I don't drink often, but when I do, I really want to feel it! Oh, well. At least I wasn't hung over this morning.)

I have a list of administrivia tasks as long as my arm to wade through today, but it's all low-key, low-urgency, in-my-own-time stuff. Here's hoping that helps me relax some more.

Penny got into her jewelry kit last night, and made me a necklace, a bracelet, and a "headband", all of which I dutifully wore.

"Daddy, look," she breathed, awestruck. "Isn't Mommy almost pretty?"