The major down, for us at least, was discovering that our phone service has gone wonky -- we can make calls out, but anyone trying to call in just gets a couple of bursts of static and then silence, and the phone doesn't ring at all on our end. That wouldn't be too big of a deal -- we hardly ever actually use the house line, and if that was all there was to it, we might consider just dropping it entirely -- but whatever is wrong with the phone also seems to be affecting our DSL line, and making it dump us offline every fifteen or twenty minutes, which is really quite frustrating when we live online as much as we do.
So Matt called the phone company, and they have just about the worst customer service evar. The first time he called, he did it from the house line, and they told him they couldn't run remote tests if we were actually on the phone, which... I guess makes sense, but the person he was talking to (after ten minutes of navigating the horrible automated menus) couldn't give him a direct-line callback number. So he had to hang up and get on my cell phone (his is pay-by-the-minute, whereas I'm on a plan and never use all my minutes) and then navigate the horrible automation again. This time it walked him through some diagnostics via automation, and eventually told him to hang up, unplug all the phones in the house, and then try plugging them back in one at a time.
Well, we still have the problem even with no phones plugged in, so he called back a third time and told the automation to go eff itself until it offered to send out a service person. "The earliest available appointment is on... December... ... ... 15th, between 8 A.M. and... ... ... 6 P.M."
Oy. So I'll be working from home on Wednesday so that someone can be there to let the phone guy in. And in the meantime, our internet is a bit spotty.
But on the bright side! We had the first of the moon cookie parties! Braz and Adin and all four of their kids came, and everyone over age 5 was allowed to make 3 cookies each (well, Emma, at 9, was allowed to make 4 and she got to handle her own knife to trim the dough) and then Braz and Adin and I used up the rest of the dough.
(I didn't get pics of the kids making cookies, alas, because pretty much the whole time the kids were working, I was being asked to finish off Penny's cookies for her. Maybe I'll get some pictures next weekend.)
Adin was quite enthusiastic about the cookies, too. Another moon cookie fan, yay!
In case you're wondering, while we were making cookies, Matt was keeping the kids entertained.
We went out to dinner afterward, of course. And then Sunday, when I mentioned to Adin that the kids had left some stuff behind, she suggested we all meet up for dinner that evening, so that's what we did, and that was nice.
And we came home and got the kids in bed, and then Matt and I watched the new Leverage episode, which was completely awesome.
So it was, all in all, a pretty nice weekend! Phone/internet issues notwithstanding.
This week promises to be busy. I've got a software delivery to organize for work, and as mentioned, I'm working from home Wednesday. Thursday I'm going out to lunch with "the girls" at work, and that evening is the 2nd grade holiday concert. Friday is my office's holiday luncheon (they decided at the very last minute that there would be one, after all. I'm glad I didn't get tagged to organize it!). And then Sunday is the second moon cookie party -- which will be more party-like, because we'll have the Hickseses and Leslie and Jeff and Elizabeth and Lorenz all along for the fun. (And since Leslie and Lorenz are our only moon cookie newbies, I expect we'll blow through all the dough very quickly. Though with that many people, we might need to make 2 batches to make sure everyone gets enough cookies...)
What's this? A blog post two days in a row?! Someone alert the presses!
So here's a funny thing: I'm not done with my Christmas shopping yet, though I'm getting there. The next three weeks are insanely busy, between work and social stuff planned and Christmas activities and everything, and aside from the moon cookie parties I haven't figured out when I'm going to do any of my holiday baking. Due to a stupid mistake I made in calculating my vacation time, I'm only going to be able to take off one day (besides Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, which are company holidays), so I'm not really getting a vacation. I had a heart attack the other day when I looked at our joint credit card bill -- we seriously need to cut back on the frequency with which we're eating out -- and that bill didn't even include any of the holiday purchases. As happens around the holidays, my diet is slipping, and I've gained about five pounds since mid-October. (That might have some relation or at least overlap with all the eating out.) Penny's blood sugars are all over the map, and we can't seem to get her to stay in range or calculate a correction that works as advertised. (That, too, might have a bit of overlap with the eating out, though it's a sure bet that's not all of it.)
I should be going off my head with stress. I should be pacing and frantically consulting my calendar and making mildly OCD lists and charts and growling at Matt and the kids for being less than helpful.
But... I'm not. I'm really not. (Okay, I am occasionally growling at the kids, but y'know... they're kids. Sometimes they make me growl. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it more than usual.)
Instead of being anxious about when things are going to arrive, I'm feeling relaxed about it, and when something I've ordered shows up, I'm giddy with excitement. (I also can't seem to stop shopping. I swear, I can't set foot in a store without seeing something I just have to get for the kids. I'm forbidding myself to set foot in Target without Matt along to act as brakes for at least the next two weeks, because that store is just crazy dangerous, and if I pick up any more adorable little tchotchkes for the stockings, we're going to need to hang three stockings apiece.) But even though I'm bemoaning all the money spent, it's... not that big a deal. Yep, I might have to dip into the savings account a smidge. But that's what we've got a savings account for. And really? I'd rather dip into savings to pay off presents and fun than for, say, repairs. At any rate? I'm not stressing over it.
I've all but succumbed to holiday food and weight gain. I'm still trying to make better choices with meals, but by and large, I'm not kicking myself for eating treats. A buddy at work and I have made a pact to support each other with our new year's diets, and I'm... content with that. When 2011 gets here, I'll pack up all the junk food and have Matt take it to his office, and I'll get back on the wagon and track every bite and lose the five or eight or ten pounds. Better still, I like the attitude I have about it: this is what normal people do. Normal people eat a little more over the holidays, and have fun, and don't worry about it, and then they go on diets in January and February. It's not a big deal.
I can't say I'm entirely sanguine about work and not being able to take much time off, but I'm finding ways to make my peace with that, too. I told my boss that for the week before and after Christmas, I'd be working from home as much as I can. There won't be a lot of urgent work to do during that time anyway, and so I can break up the administrivia and the annual cleanup stuff with stuff at home, and be more relaxed about it all.
I'm not sweating the holiday baking. I have some I want to do. But I'm being more spontaneous about it than most years, and it's not going to bother me horribly if I don't get to it all. Last night, I roasted the fresh peanuts we got from our CSA. (I split it into two batches: one salty, one sweet. They turned out really well, though the salty were better than the sweet, in my opinion. At any rate, I'd planned to set them out for this weekend's moon cookie party, since that's the one Jess will NOT be at -- stupid peanut allergies -- but I'm not sure they'll last even that long.) I've got some cookies and some muffins I want to make. But I'll get to them. And if I don't... well, I don't.
All in all: I'm just sitting back and enjoying what comes as it comes. I'm ready to be social. (I wish I could go to a big party, actually, but I don't think either Matt's office or mine is having one this year.) I'm embracing the good feelings that go with the holidays -- the love and the cherishing of friends and family and the awe and enjoyment of everything beautiful and bright and fun and silly -- and just sidestepping the worry and the rushing and the stress.
If I could give each one of you reading this a gift, it would be this feeling. If I could ask for only one gift, it would be that this feeling stay with me all the time.
It probably won't. I'm too much of a stresspuppy. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
The good news is that we've interviewed and selected a candidate and offered her the position that I'm covering that's eating up so much of my time, and she's accepted! The bad news is that, due to a paperwork snafu, she won't be starting until Jan. 3. However, the last couple of weeks of the year are usually fairly slow, punctuated by periods of intense panic. I'd been counting on using those weeks to start getting our new person trained and up to speed on the bewilderingly similar glorp of acronyms and project names we all take for granted, but instead she's going get dropped into the crazy that is the start of the year. Ah, well.
At any rate, I hope to be back to regular blogging in the next few weeks. Maybe. Hopefully.
In the meantime, a little catch-up!
Thanksgiving was lovely:
And then we decorated for Christmas:
(I love this picture... Matt and the kids decorated the tree while I was doing the outside lights, and Matt suggested to Alex that he "spread out" a bit... so Alex valiantly put his ornaments on both sides of the branch.)
This past weekend was especially nice, I thought. We went to a Christmas parade Saturday morning:
And after that we stopped at Wasabi for lunch. Despite which, Penny's blood sugars remained on a fairly even keel all day! Yay!
We'd had plans to go see Santa that afternoon, but Alex's nap ran long (the parade had just tired the poor little guy out) and our Santa is only available from 11 to 4, so we just relaxed for the afternoon, instead.
Sunday morning, we woke to a light dusting of snow on the ground -- the perfect kind: just enough to get the kids excited, but not enough to mess up the roads. It was mostly melted, in fact, by the time we left to go see Santa.
As always, the New Town Santa was amazing. We were the first people there, and no one else had arrived, so Santa talked to Penny for at least 20-25 minutes before another family arrived. Alex flatly refused to sit on Santa's lap, but toward the end, he edged closer to Santa to accept a coloring book, and then threw caution to the wind and gave him a big hug. Santa happily posed for pictures, and his assistant willingly took the camera so we could get a family shot for the holiday card.
(This is not the one we chose for the card.)
Just outside Santa's spot, there was a bench where someone had scraped up probably all the snow in New Town and made a small snowman with it:
That afternoon, I took Alex to a birthday party for one of his school friends. It was at the new Inflation Nation here in town, and holy cow, that place is huge. I'd had to wake Alex up from his nap to go, so he wasn't actually interested in playing until about the last ten or fifteen minutes of the play-period, but he was All About the Elmo hat and Abby Kadabby whistle he got in the party room!
(This was only 1 of at least eight enormous bounce castles/slides/doohickeys.)
So now I think we're all caught up, more or less. I'm looking forward to this coming weekend, when we'll be having the first of two moon cookie parties. (We couldn't find a day when all our friends could make it, so we've split it into two. Given the number of people becoming involved in this tradition, it might even work out better this way.) The weekend after that is the second moon cookie party, and the weekend after that will be... Christmas!
Wow, it comes quick. No, I'm not done with my shopping yet. (But almost!)
So, what've you been up to for the last couple of weeks?
When I was little, we almost always drove down to North Carolina to visit my mom's family for Thanksgiving.
I hated the drive. It was about four hours or so, and I was not a good passenger. I was prone to carsickness (I still am, if I sit in the back seat) and my brother and I got on each others' nerves any time we were thrown together for more than a half-hour or so.
I honestly don't know how my parents managed to do that drive several times a year without killing one or both of us.
But there was one thing I enjoyed about the Thanksgiving and Christmas trips: the shopping centers. See, this was a state highway drive -- no interstates were convenient to the drive after about the first half-hour -- so we weren't insulated from the towns we passed by noise baffle walls and strategically-placed strips of trees. We passed houses and roadside attractions and farms and a couple-dozen little towns. We stopped at the stoplights and looked at the shopping centers while we waited.
And most of the time, the shopping centers were just like the ones at home. But at Thanksgiving and Christmas... they were decorated. Always. Sometimes the houses were decorated, and sometimes they weren't, but of course the shopping centers always were. Tinsel and garlands and lights. Every shopping center was different, and every new design just added to the thrill and excitement of the holiday season.
This is my last day of work for a while. I'm taking off Wednesday through Monday for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we've already got lots of stuff planned for pretty much the whole weekend.
But I might take some side roads, and remember to appreciate the decorations I see while I'm waiting at the stop lights.
When I woke up this morning, the phrase that popped into my thoughts was, "Surprisingly hopeful." It's a nice change of pace; for the last few weeks my dominant mood has been "oppressively stressed."
I'm not sure what warranted the change. I had a lot of dreams last night, though I can't recall them now -- maybe one of them managed to push a button. Or maybe it's that I remembered to take my vitamins yesterday. I don't know what it is that I'm supposed to feel hopeful about, either: the new interview candidate I've got lined up for this afternoon? My determination to go to the gym today? My Christmas plans? Having found my slippers so my feet don't freeze in the evenings?
I don't know. Don't really care, either. It rained yesterday, but this morning was all jewel tones, sapphire sky gleaming between ruby and topaz and emerald leaves. The leaves are usually all off the trees before my birthday, but this year they're hanging on extra-long. It's nice. Everything looks extra sharp and colorful, everything smells like fall, everything feels... hopeful.
I swear, I'm trying to get back to a regular posting schedule!
There's even hope on the horizon; we had a second interview for the position I'm covering yesterday, and there's a third scheduled for Wednesday that I hope goes well. We'll probably make a choice by the end of this week and then ask HR to send out an offer letter next week before Thanksgiving. With luck, I'll have someone in here and starting to train by mid-December.
This week looks calmer than last, at least. I'm hoping to get my enormous pile of paperwork cleared, and possibly even get back to the gym, which I haven't been to in almost a month now (and it's starting to show).
Wait, what's that? Who's that in your RSS feed...? Why, it's ol' Liz! Nearly thought she'd given up and left this blog to become a ghost town, decorated in out-of-date pictures and populated by only a few hardy hangers-on hoping against hope for just one more spider encounter, one more anecdote about the kids, one more tale of corporate lunacy, or even one more miserable whine.
But here I am! Not dead! Not deserted! Alive and kicking!
So what's happened in the last 12 days or so?
I eventually got the Hallowe'en decorations down and put away, and turned over all my paper turkeys to Penny for her to put up. She put a sign on the wall by the dining room: "Beaware! Turkey Atack!" and put turkeys at every place at the table (like tiny placemats), and on every chair. It was merely amusing until she said, "Do you know why I put the turkeys on the table?"
I said, "Um. To decorate for Thanksgiving?"
"They're so we can all write what we're thankful for!"
Wow. I mean... Wow. What an awesome idea, Penny! She wrote on hers, "I am thankful for my family and friends." She's come a long way since last year, when for her class play, she wrote about being thankful for puppies and ladybugs.
Work has been... busy. Thus, the neglected blog. This week in particular was insane, as I had four software components and sixteen documents to edit and deliver, and a couple of those documents were in excess of 200 pages. Next week should be calmer, thank goodness, and the week after that (Thanksgiving week) is currently scheduled to be completely dead. I may take off a day or two more than I'd initially planned, if nothing extra crops up.
I got my first royalty check from my book last week (as those who follow the writing blog may already have seen). If seeing it up for sale made the whole thing feel official, it was the check that made it all feel real. I'm still waffling over what to do with it, though. I feel like this first one should be spent on something celebratory in nature... but what? If it had been the $50 or $100 I was expecting, I'd have gone out to eat somewhere extra-nice, but what do I do with $300?
I had a birthday earlier this week. My 39th, in fact. Vicki came over for dinner on Monday and brought me a present (the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince DVD -- she was shocked and dismayed to learn we didn't already have it, apparently) and then Tuesday morning I got up to extra hugs and kisses from the kids, and presents from Matt (the How to Train Your Dragon DVD and the Mouse and Dragon book and a really awesome necklace) and then I spent most of the day working from home. (Admittedly I stayed home because I was waiting for a locksmith to come and repair our front door, which apparently had gotten something stuck in it and no longer unlocked, but working from home was nice nonetheless.) That evening we had a nice dinner and chocolate cake, and then I stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish reading Mouse and Dragon. And then Wednesday, KT came over for dinner, and she gave me a mix CD (she is the undisputed champion mixer among my friends) and The Hunger Games (which she recommended recently and had been next on my to-buy list and I'm looking forward to reading).
I also got lots of Facebook waves, and cards and presents in the mail (checks and gift cards and Karen sent a gorgeous picture of a flower that she took and I've been wanting a print of since I saw it months ago). So all in all, it was one awesome birthday!
I admit to some trepidation over next year's. When I turned 30, it didn't bother me in the slightest, but for some reason, 40 sounds much more intimidating. Somewhere in my subconscious, I guess, 40 is the age at which physical appearance is no longer expected to be attractive. Which is not to say a woman over 40 can't be attractive, but where a woman in her 30s might be simply "sexy," the same woman in her 40s is "sexy despite her age." (I hasten to underscore that this is my subconscious and very much a mileage-may-vary thing.)
At any rate, it's a bit disheartening to have the magic age looming so closely, when I've only just started to have any real confidence in my appearance.
But rather than get entirely neurotic about it (I hope) I have decided that I'm going to throw myself an enormous birthday party next year. No, bigger than that. Not a joke party, with coffins to symbolize the death of my youth and "Over the Hill" balloons, but a fun party, with good food and great music and games for the kids (and possibly some for the adults) and bright, happy colors. The idea is to drown out the encroaching depression with cheerfulness. Mark your calendar; you're invited!
(Seriously. I'm considering renting a space and hiring a caterer. That big.)
Matt and Braz had a great time at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and from what I saw on the TiVo recording, it looked awesome. In the meantime, we had Adin and her kids over, and Emma and Sarah joined us for dinner. All four girls played outside with the neighborhood kids pretty much the whole time, and I only had to go out and mediate disputes about three times, so mostly Adin and I got to hang out inside and watch the boys and chat. It was awesome.
The rest of the weekend was all about Hallowe'en. We went to Fall Festivals on Friday night (Penny had an awesome time at the middle school, and was less intimidated by the press of bigger kids than I expected). We watched Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas, and a Dora Hallowe'en special, and Penny and I watched the first half of The Mummy, though she decided it was a little too scary for her. We carved our jack-o-lanterns, of course. We made pumpkin muffins, and Penny put about half of them in a pan and wandered the neighborhood door-to-door, doing reverse trick-or-treating. For dinner, we had roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin soup.
Then we put on our costumes and hit the neighborhood!
I took Alex, and this year, he did not get distracted by the joy of rocks. We started with Ray's house, and when Ray's dad dropped two miniature chocolate bars into Alex's little bucket, a little lightbulb went off in his head. This is about candy. From that point forward, he was unstoppable and indefatigable. At the end of our street, I said, "You want to go home?" and Alex said, "No, I wanna do anudda house. More candy!" We did another block and a half. "Anudda house!" Finally, after a good four blocks and as twilight deepened into true night, I said, "Okay, we'll do these three, and then we're going home." As soon as he's old enough to go out on his own, Alex is so going to be one of those kids who disappears at 5:45 and doesn't come back until 8:30 or 9.
Penny, as has become tradition, went trick-or-treating with Ray, and they were gone for well over an hour, and then they returned to the rest of their Hallowe'en tradition, which is to say we gave them glow-sticks to play with, and they ran around in the dark, hyped up on sugar and excitement. (Penny's blood sugar was surprisingly well-behaved all day, despite the added treats and our forgetting to give her a shot after dinner. She was, of course, over 300 by the time we got her to check, but the insulin did its job well and by the time Matt and I were getting ready for bed, she was back in range. She actually woke up low this morning -- guess all that extra exercise caught up overnight.)
Alex played with glow-sticks as well until I took him in for a bath and bed. He was still so wound up as I was tucking him in that I wasn't sure he'd go to sleep for another hour, but he did eventually settle down.
It was a good weekend, a great day, and an awesome evening. Though after all the miniature candy bars I snarfed last night, I'm hoping I can make it to the gym at least a couple of times this week so I don't feel too guilty when I dive into birthday cake next week.
I'm down to the dregs of the cold, which is to say a little bit of a sniffle and an occasional cough. Which is good, because we've got a busy few days ahead of us.
Fall Festival tonight, errands and Art Day tomorrow morning, visiting friends tomorrow afternoon, and of course all the excitement of Hallowe'en on Sunday.
Which I think I already talked about in my last post, so I apologize for the repetition.
I know my posting here has been kind of sporadic. I expect it will continue to be for a while.
I'm playing a waiting game right now at work. Two documents I'm working for next week need new screenshots. (One of them just needs two screenshots; the other needs about sixteen of them, because the author stole a chapter from another product's installation guide on how to install Windows Server 2008, which is fine -- except that this particular product doesn't use Server 2008, it uses Server 2005. So while the actual instructions don't vary much between the two, all the pictures are wrong.)
I did all my paperwork yesterday. Well, all of it that I could do. There's a few documents that I need to scan to PDF, but our copier/printer/scanner is broken, so that task is on hold until the repair guy can get out here. So now I'm just waiting on those screenshots, really.
I need to swing by the bank today and get my passport out of the safe deposit box. Not for any exciting reason, though, alas. My company is issuing everyone a new smartcard badge, only being the company that it is, it's doing it in the most ridiculously byzantine manner possible. So in order to get my new badge, I've got an appointment for next Wednesday to drive to a location about 45 minutes away (at least I don't have to go all the way up to one of the NoVA offices, I guess) and present not one, not two, but three forms of identification: my old badge, my driver's license, and either a passport or official birth certificate. (There are some other options, but those are the prime candidates.) Which, I have to say, is simply absurd. Turning in the old badge makes sense. Showing my driver's license even makes sense, if they want to make sure I'm me.
But seriously? Passport/birth certificate? WTF? Who do you think you're fooling, here? This badge is not going to gain me access to secure locations or classified data, here. It's a key to the building (where secure data is required to be kept under lock and key) and a login for my encrypted laptop. Oooo, a mis-issued badge could get the Bad Guys access to the company intranet, where they could be just as stymied as me by the completely labyrinthine corporate sites!
And seriously? You're making everyone in our office drive an hour and a half, round-trip, for what should be a 15-minute photo-and-printing job? We write software to issue smartcards for the military, stupid company, we know how it's done. We know how excessively complicated you're making it, and we know how stupid it is that one guy can't pack up the camera and a card printer and come up here to our office and get 90% of us in one day.
Friday evening, I think Matt and I are splitting up to take the kids to separate Fall Festival events at various locations.
Saturday, Matt is leaving bright and early (really. like, at 6am) to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity in DC with Braz. I'll get up slightly later with the kids, watch some TV, eat breakfast, and then take Penny down to my brother's for an "art lesson" with him. I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with Alex in the meantime -- maybe we'll just go visit my folks for an hour or so. I'm not sure exactly when Matt will get home, but the rally ends at 3, so I don't expect to see him until 7 or 8 at the earliest. Later if they stop to do something crazy like, say, eat.
Sunday, of course, is Hallowe'en, and I expect Penny to be in full crazy mode all day. Which will either be enormous fun or hugely irritating. Maybe I should come up with a craft/project/activity for the afternoon to reduce the crazymaking potential.
Somewhere in there, we'll need to carve our pumpkins.
What I'd hoped was an allergy attack appears to be an honest-to-god cold. I should've been suspicious when I got sniffly; my allergies usually live in my ears, not in my nose.
The good news is that the sore throat from the post-nasal drip is pretty much gone. The bad news is that it's been replaced with that bricks-for-sinuses leadhead sensation and a persistent, if mild, headache.
I took some Tylenol Cold & Sinus before bed last night. One of these days, I'll remember that nothing really works on my colds and that, whether it's listed as "daytime" or "nighttime", it's going to make me groggy but not allow me to get any real rest. Bleh.
And at 4:30, Penny woke up with a coughing attack and kept both Matt and I awake for a good while.
So when the alarm went off at 6... I rolled over and groaned and fumbled for a kleenex so I could breathe, and then decided that I can excuse myself from the morning workouts when I'm feeling miserable and sick.
If I didn't have documents to cover, I'd have thought seriously about staying home and going back to bed today. As it is, I've got six documents sitting in the hopper. Two of them have to be delivered tomorrow, one goes next Monday (but is huge, and there are three others that will be going with it that I haven't received yet) and the other three are advance prepwork for a massive software delivery in a couple of weeks. I'll also find out today whether one of our customers is going to want an unfinished software delivery tomorrow (...yeah, really. I told the manager that if they do that to me, then someone owes me a drink) so that could be a big scramble, too.
That's not even considering the paperwork that's stacking up and waiting for me to have time to get to it.
On the plus side, the ugly documents that were originally on the schedule for Friday have been pushed down a couple of weeks, so if I get through Wednesday's deliveries intact and the deliveries for Monday are in reasonable shape, maybe I can work from home or even take a couple of extra hours off on Thursday or Friday.
It was a really good weekend -- we enjoyed visiting with Rachael and Rimas and their adorable little girl. I took many cute pictures while we were at Pumpkinville -- check out my Flickr account to see!
I'd link them straight here, but blah blah blah insane amounts of work and also blah blah blah IS dragons not letting me see Flickr myself.
It was a good weekend, though, just the right amount of Stuff To Do balanced with quiet evenings. On the other hand, I had this work situation looming over me like the sword of Damocles the whole time, so I never really quite managed to relax. Every time I started to, I remembered this crap situation waiting for me, lurking just out of the corner of my eye, like a spiderweb I'm trying to ignore.
And to make matters even more fun, my allergies hit with a vengeance yesterday -- I spent the whole day with a post-nasal-drip sore throat. I'm drugged up today, but still sniffly and sore.
It's going to be a completely crap few weeks. I apologize now if my blog posts are extra-short, whiny and/or even entirely absent.
I bought this Hallowe'en Shrinky Dink kit for Penny, on a whim. I fondly remembered Shrinky Dinks from when I was a kid and thought she might enjoy it. (I mentioned it to Matt, who said he'd never heard of it. I was shocked -- I thought every child of the 70s had Shrinky Dinks!)
They're just as fun as I remember. For an hour or so, Penny colored and I cut, punched, baked, and assembled little plastic Hallowe'en decorations. We peered in the oven to watch and marvel as the plastic sheets curled and shriveled and re-formed at a quarter their original size. Then Penny hung them on the little decorative tree, and we were both as pleased as punch with the results; only one of the two dozen or so pieces got stuck to itself and refused to flatten.
I saved the scraps that were big enough that we might be able to do something with them, so maybe later we'll try some freehand pictures and see how those go.
I'm definitely getting more of these. And I might even share some of it with Penny.
Time is a funny thing. It compresses oddly. Things stack.
The document person at my office is leaving for another job. Tomorrow is her last day. As near as I can tell, the job posting for her replacement still isn't posted.
Which means I'm looking at doing all the documentation for my office for at least the next month. And picking up a lot of the slack for another month or so beyond that, as the new person gets settled in and trained.
And I won't say my days were already full, because they weren't, but time is a funny thing, and the times when I was busy before? Those are the same times that the document person was busy, which means that I'll be spending the next few months swinging between insanely busy and dead bored. Oh, goodie.
Penny's school is having its Fall Festival tomorrow night. We won't be going, because Matt's sister and her family are coming in to visit us for the weekend. We're not sure what the plans are with them, entirely, though. I thought a trip to Pumpkinville could be fun, or maybe the Virginia Living Museum's Hallowe'en events. They said something at one point about taking the kids so Matt and I could get away, too, though I don't know if that's still in the cards or not -- it sounds nice, but with such a short visit, I don't know if there will be time.
Penny begged me this morning to take her to the middle school's Fall Festival instead, which is next Friday... and lines up exactly with Alex's daycare's Fall Festival, which I'd assumed we would be going to. (Matt and I may split up and take the kids to the separate festivals, since I suspect there will be little at the middle school festival to interest Alex, and similarly not much at the daycare to hold Penny's attention.)
Note to self: plan a quick-and-easy dinner for next Friday that we can eat as soon as everyone gets home.
Also next weekend, Matt's going up to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity, and then of course there's Hallowe'en the next day...
I'm wearing my purple today for the GLBT Spirit Day in memory of the teens who were hounded and bullied literally to death, and in support of kids everywhere who have been taught that it's wrong to be what they are.
I have said it before and I will say it again: what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business, and thinking it's yucky is not sufficient excuse for banning it altogether. We're adults, for pity's sake: if someone offers you something you don't want, say "no thanks" and move on with your life. It's a rule that applies equally to vegetables, media, and sex. Say no (politely, if you were raised right!) and move on.
Nor is religion a valid reason to ban anything in a country founded on religious tolerance; by all means follow whatever rules your deity of choice has laid on you, but those rules have no place in civil law.
In the meantime, my publisher's LiveJournal community is celebrating the ruling against the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. That's a fight that's far from over, and some are worried that the ruling will end up being a step in the wrong direction, but for now, we're enjoying it.
In other news... Alex has stopped referring to my back-scratcher as a "back'n scratch'n stick" which makes me slightly sad, because "back'n scratch'n stick was just adorable. Sometimes I wish I could just freeze him right where he is. Two-year-olds are supposed to be difficult and horrendous, but Alex is sweet and adorable and wonderful most of the time, and when he's not, there's usually a pretty clear reason for it. I love this age, and I'll miss it when it's gone. How much longer is the word "adorable" going to be my go-to adjective for him? How much longer is he going to run pell-mell into my arms the first time he sees me each morning and evening, or dissolve into a giggle fit when I'm tucking him into bed at night?
Memories to be treasured. He'll be a three-year-old in just two months.
Which is not to say I'm not looking forward to seeing what the future brings for him, and not just because the end of diapers and naps will make planning our afternoons so much easier. Penny gets more complex and interesting with every passing day. Sometimes when we're talking, I forget that she's only seven, her thoughts can be so clear and straightforward. In the last few weeks I've had fascinating conversations with her about acting and theater, about death, about God and religion and faith vs. proof, about college and growing up, and (just to bring it all full circle) about gay marriage. (She brought that up on her own, not me.)
And they're only going to get smarter and cooler and more interesting as they grow.
We had a very nice weekend, actually. Went down to Chesapeake for Jess's birthday party on Saturday, and Alex even woke up in time that he and I were there for the start of the movie! Of course, popcorn and ice cream gave him a case of the wiggles, on top of it being a 3-D movie that he couldn't keep the glasses on for, so he and I left the theater about halfway through the movie and ended up riding the mall's escalator up and down about forty-seven times before I convinced him to decamp to the food court so I could get some dinner. He even willingly ran over to the play area while I ate, and I enjoyed watching him run off all that ice cream and sugar.
Then we went over to KT and Kevin's, and Penny resumed playing with Jess while the grownups chatted. Eventually, Matt took Alex home, and I got to stay and chat until we finally pried Penny and Jess apart around 9, so Penny didn't go to bed until well after 10. I promised the girls we'd plan a sleepover for some point in the next month or so, so I guess I'd better check my calendar for November.
Sunday afternoon, we took the kids over to visit my parents, which was really nice. My dad hasn't seen the kids for a month or so, what with all the travel he's been doing, so he really enjoyed himself. We stayed for dinner and set the kids up with a movie so we could talk, and generally had a very nice evening.
So I ought to be rested and ready to tackle the week.
Yah, not so much with the "ready" for much of anything, to be honest. What's on the list this week?
- Farewell luncheon for my minion today.
- Two different code peer reviews.
- Big ol' stack o' paperwork.
- I'm about 1/3 of the way through a proofread that's due the middle of next week.
- Eight docs for work to be reviewed and processed and delivered, more than half of which are fairly large.
- Software for work to be processed and delivered.
- Need to work out a schedule to balance my downtime at home a little.
- Matt's sister and her husband and their kid are coming to visit this weekend.
Matt's company picnic was mostly fun. Somehow we'd gotten the wrong address and started out wrong, but once we got there, things were in full swing. Braz and Adin and their collection of kids arrived just as we did, so the kids had a grand time running around together, right up until Penny got her leg hurt (a bruise and a scrape, but one of those really bad surface scrapes where even the air makes it sting, poor kid).
But once she calmed down, the rest of the evening was actually quite fun. We ate a metric ton of food, and cheered Braz on in the pie-eating contest (in which he took first place) and sang karaoke (well, I didn't, but I'd meant to -- we just didn't have time) and then cheered on Matt and Braz in the three-legged race (in which they took first place). By then, Alex was starting to crack under the pressure of tiredness, so we packed up the kids and headed home, got them to bed, and then sat up until 11 or so chatting with Karen.
I'm not sure about today, though. I'm obscenely, draggingly exhausted, despite a pretty reasonable night's rest. I didn't get a shower last night, so I feel vaguely grungy. Alex suddenly decided about two blocks from school that he didn't want to go, and instead of his usual cheerful hug-and-kiss-and-bye-Mom! he cried when I picked him up out of the car and clung and cried when I took him inside and wept some more when I put him down with his teachers. "I don't want to go to school!" he sobbed.
"Why, baby? Is there someone mean to you?" Head shake no. "Is there something yucky?" Head shake no. "...You just miss Mommy and Daddy?" Nod.
Sigh. I tried to reassure him, and then walked away, because staying was just making it worse. I know he'll calm down and be fine within half an hour, but I really have no idea what sparked this off, and I hope it's just that last night's festivities wore him out and he was still tired, and not an honest-to-god phase that I'm going to have to deal with for weeks, because I hate having to walk away from a crying kid.
So today has plenty of room for improvement, already. Whee.
Hrm, it appears that Blogger is down this morning, but such is my ingrained morning routine that I can't really conceive of starting a day at work without writing a blog post. Email posting it is, and I apologize if the formatting is completely out of whack or it takes forever to get posted.
I wound up adapting a persimmon applesauce recipe and serving it over my chicken. The apples mushed, but the persimmons held together, so if I was actually making applesauce, I'd have to puree it, I think. The kids liked the persimmons but didn't like the applesauce part -- I think I put in a smidge too much lemon juice for their tastes. (I like very sour applesauce. I tried to go easy on it for them, but I guess next time I'll just use the cider and leave out the lemon juice until I've sorted out their portion.) Anyway, it was a qualified success, so now I know what I can do with the rest of the persimmons, if Matt doesn't eat them. (They went well with the apples, but I still don't like them raw. They taste just a little too much like cantaloupe.)
Sleep score: I had a spider dream last night (yes, thank you, subconscious, for that fascinating insight) that woke me up on a shriek (sorry about that, Matt) around 3am, and then Penny had a nightmare at 5:45, which was just close enough to morning that I couldn't get all the way back to sleep. Decaf just might not do it, today.
Stuff on my plate right now: - Matt gently nudged me to get a crowbar and pry the built-up mail out of my slot in our desk, so I've got... *gets a ruler* ...a three-inch-tall stack of mail to sort through. - Three code reviews to do paperwork for at work. - Three new projects to do contract start-up paperwork for at work. - A novel to edit for my publisher. (Not one that I wrote. This is that editing job I mentioned a while back.) - At least three stories of varying length and complexity (not so) politely waiting their turns to be written. - A stack of publicity leaflets I need to take to the post office to be sent to my publisher so they can take them to cons. - Penny wants me to finish putting up the Hallowe'en decorations. The ones we've got now are apparently not scary enough for her. - Need to print directions to Matt's office picnic. That's tonight, so I really ought to move that item higher up on the priority list. - I haven't done a post over on my writing blog for quite a while, so I should really get around to that soon. - Need to take Penny shopping to get a birthday present for Jess. Though Jess's party is late enough on Saturday that we can go get the present Saturday morning.
At least I don't have any obligations for lunchtime today -- no gym, no allergy shot. I might do that run to the post office, but that's not too much of a hardship, since they've got a nice automated kiosk right in the front. And they're across the street from Trader Joe's, so I might swing by there and see if they've got any good apples. I've been on a real apples-and-cheese kick lately. Or if I stay at the office, I can leave early! Mmmm, leaving early...
And as mentioned, Matt's company picnic is tonight, which will either be fun or miserable, depending almost entirely on the weather. But at least if the weather is crap, we can stick around for an hour or so and then head home and kibbitz with Karen, who's coming along with us for the evening. So I'm looking forward to that. If only I didn't have to go to work tomorrow...
So, rather than another boring complaint about lack of sleep/lack of time/hating my job, I'm begging for help.
Our CSA box included about a pound of persimmons last week, and I want to do something with them before they start to go bad.
I don't really like persimmons raw and by themselves, so I thought I'd cook up something with them, but all the recipes I'm finding either a) make desserts, and/or b) need at least 2 pounds of the dang things. Seriously? Every other fruit in the universe has been used to make chicken and pork glazes or sauces; surely persimmons can be used that way, too!
I'm looking for something that will use between 1/2 to 1 pound of the dang things, which doesn't call for too much added sugar or starch. Unfortunately, I really don't know much about them: do they stew? Do they bake? Can I substitute them for apples? Would they mix with apples?
Bad: I'd actually chipped the tooth itself, not a filling. (-10)
Good: It was a relatively clean chip, with no cracks running deeper into the tooth, so it only required a simple filling to fix. (+5)
Bad: They couldn't fix it right away. (-3)
Good: But they could see me later the same day. (+2)
Good: The timing of the second appointment made it mostly pointless for me to go back to the office, but left just enough wiggle room for me to go to the gym. (+7)
Bad: Novocaine = inability to drink or eat without dribbling, plus also the weirdest looking smile ever, and it didn't wear off completely until nearly bedtime. (-5)
Good: The dentist and assistant rocking out to what they could hear leaking out through my iPhone's headphones. (I had it turned up pretty loud so I could hear it over the drill.) (+5)
Bad: When I met the dentist for the first time (my regular dentist was booked, so I'd agreed to see one of the others, a new guy), my first thought was, "Holy crap, what are you, twelve?" Which thought was immediately followed by, "Oh shit, I think that means I'm officially old." (GAME OVER)
I had some popcorn last night. And as usual, I got a bit of shell caught between some teeth. No biggie; it's a known hazard of popcorn.
So I got out the floss to try to clear it out. Only it didn't work. I couldn't even get the floss into the space, much less use it to pry out the popcorn. So I resorted to a toothpick, which eventually pried the popcorn free...
Along with a bit of what I assume is the filling from that tooth. At least, I hope it's the filling, because otherwise it's a bit of tooth. Apparently, I'm getting old.
This morning, while I was fixing Penny's breakfast, another little chip worked free.
And I'm pretty sure this is the tooth that I was told would need a crown when it came time to replace the filling.
Imagine my delight. Dental work: it's not just painful, it's expensive, too!
The dentist can't see me until Monday. The tooth doesn't hurt, at least not yet, so that's something, anyway.
Yep, I'm tired. Penny had a bad dream around 3:30 and wanted me to come tuck her back into bed. She woke me up by tickling my neck, of all things.
Life is chugging right along, though, as usual. We've got something happening every weekend for the rest of the month: a D&D game, a birthday party, a family visit, and then Hallowe'en. Plus I expect this weekend I'll make a run to the storage unit for my fall decorations box and Penny can help me decorate the house, and somewhere in there we need to squeeze in a trip to Pumpkinville (possibly something we can do with the visiting family).
Alex has had two full days at daycare without needing a diaper change! He's less vigilant at home (especially when there is TV to be watched and dinner to be eaten) but I'm okay with taking it slowly. If he can get into the habit at school, during the day, then eventually it will spill over to home as well. In the meantime, he's inordinately cute about it, every time he goes to the potty and pulls down his pants to show me that there's still a picture on his pullup!
I realized last night that I haven't so much as uncapped my camera since the beginning of September. I've taken a few quick snaps on my iPhone, but no real photography. I need to do something about that. Especially with fall in the air and Hallowe'en on its way. That's prime photography, right there. Maybe I'll take a half-day from work or something, sometime, and wander around with my camera.
Of course, I also haven't touched my scrapbook stuff in months, either. I need to get caught up, or else pack it up. Or possibly get caught up and then pack it up. I'm not sure.
I'm too sleepy to be terribly coherent. Sorry about that.
Yep, made it back into WoW last night. It was surprising how much I'd forgotten. And man-oh-man have a lot of things changed.
But that was actually a sort of good thing. I'd decided back before I quit that I should probably get a mouse and completely retrain my movement. Which would be near-impossible with two-plus years of muscle memory fresh and backing it. It's a little easier now that it's not so fresh. (Though still not easy. I keep reaching for the arrow keys.) And I'm still using the mouse for camera control but not movement.
Not that it matters much, as I'll never have the time to be a raider, even if I were to acquire the gear and skills. I'm very definitely a casual player.
Another blessing-in-disguise: All my add-ons are out of date. Which is actually great, because the WoW interface has incorporated a lot of the things I'd had add-ons for in the first place. And a lot of them were pointless cruft. So getting to start over from scratch on that will be a bit of a hassle, but should definitely be an improvement once it's done.
I wound up logging into my old main just to chat with people -- mostly Matt and Karen, though the raiding folk managed to squeak out a hello before they got sucked into whatever it was they were doing. I didn't actually play her, though. I honestly have no idea what half her buttons even DO anymore -- I'll have to take her back to a low-level zone to remember how to play her. After I fix her talent tree, that is. So to get my actual play fix, I created a new character. That character's on another server, though, so I can check in on Rachel from time to time.
I'm still going to need to work out some kind of schedule. Matt was telling me that he reserves Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays to do at least one thing that is not WoW -- that is, he can play, but only after he does something else first, which is a reasonable idea, except that both Tuesdays and Thursdays are TV nights for us right now. Which means if I copy his schedule, I'm still not finding time to do anything productive. So I think for me, TV nights are definitely WoW nights, and I need to reserve a night or two to definitely not be WoW nights, or I'll never make my editing deadlines.
Don't know if I'd mentioned this: a few months back, my publisher put out a call for editors, and I threw my name in the hat. They sent me a few pages as a test sample, and I marked it up like crazy and sent it back. I didn't hear anything for quite a while, so I sort of assumed that my lack of editing experience showed somewhere: I missed something important, or I was too picky, or something, and they'd settled on someone else. But last week, they contacted me to let me know they wanted to bring me aboard as an editor/proofreader, and was I still interested?
Well, heck yes! Not sure how much will fit in with everything else going in my life, so I asked them to start me off slow, with a novel or two and a couple of short stories a month, and if I have time for more, I'll let them know. It's not going to pay enough to let me quit my day job, but it'll help feed my gadget habit, and it's also a little something for the resumé.
I'm weirdly excited about it. I like editing fiction. I have a sneaking suspicion it's one reason I have so much trouble finishing my stories, in fact: I just keep re-editing them. There's always something I can do to make it better.
Anyway, between that and the WoW, I guess I won't be able to complain for a good while about being bored, eh?
So. Even though I quit playing World of Warcraft a while back, I still follow a couple of sites (mostly because theymakemelaugh). So I knew the Cataclysm expansion was in beta. And I'd been planning on playing it. What I hadn't gotten around to deciding was whether to start back up before the expansion, to re-learn the game and re-train my muscle memory and such, or just wait for the expansion to come out first.
Well, Blizzard made their official announcement recently: Cataclysm will be released in two months, on December 7.
And I started to ponder the decision. Before, or after? Before, or after?
I think what decided me, really, was the world events. Burning Crusade (the 1st expansion) had a few world events that led into it (though I didn't participate much, being a brand-new player at the time). The 2nd expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, had a lot of stuff that happened in-game before it was released, and it was a lot of fun, even just to watch.
And here's a dumb thing that's going to sound like an exceptionally lame rationalization, but it's kind of true anyway: I wrote better when I was playing the game. I was near to tearing my hair out about the amount of my time it sucked up and the general lack of writing time it left me, but when I did write, I wrote. I don't know how that works. Maybe just that the game was enough of a stress-reliever from real life that I stopped blocking myself? I don't know.
But I guess I'll be finding out if it still works, because last night I fired up the Downloader and had it start retrieving patches. And this morning, I created a Battle.Net account and merged my old WoW account into it, and downloaded the authenticator app for my iPhone. And Matt sent me a Scroll of Resurrection.
So tonight or tomorrow, I guess, I'll be back in the game. I'll have to figure out how to avoid dumping all my spare time down the rabbit hole, and I'm still waffling between dusting off my old characters or starting a brand new one. Those of you who play, tell me what server you're on these days and who your current main is, so I can say hi when I get there.
Nice weekend. Saturday we met up with Braz and Adin at the park for Ripley's birthday party. The kids had grand fun running all over, despite a few minor spills. Then we went over to Ruby Tuesday's for an early dinner (thank goodness, because 4 adults and 6 kids is a bit hectic).
And then I went over to Adin's to babysit their four so Braz and Adin could go to a party. That provided some moments of hysterical silliness.
Funny thing #1: Ripley and Sarah announced that they were going to put on a puppet show "for the grownups."
"Grownups?" I said. "Is there more than one?"
"Well," Emma said casually, "I am almost to double digits."
Funny thing #2: After I got the girls put to bed, I started to set up a little station at the dining table so I could do some writing. Just as I was getting set up, Ripley came out. "I need some water," she said. "I want a cup of water with five ice cubes."
I remembered this as one of Ripley's Things, so I wasn't going to question it. But she continued anyway. "If you do," she said, as enticingly as possible, "I'll give you this pumpkin sticker!"
Funny thing #3: After telling me they expected to be back around 11, and after my assuring them that I'd be fine and they could stay out as late as they wanted if they'd just send a text message so I wouldn't worry... Braz and Adin were home barely past 10. There might have been some gentle mocking on my part, there.
Sunday was turn about babysitting: Matt and I dropped Penny and Alex off at Braz's to play and we went down to the Newport News Park Fall Festival. The weather was not as nice as we had been hoping -- it was, in fact, alternately drizzly and rainy all day. But I got to look at cute crafts (and nearly bought a bunch) and I did buy a dried-bean soup mix that sounded tasty, and we picked up a handful of freebie DIY crafts for Penny. Then we watched a short magic show (the magician had a monkey!) and ate a lot of unhealthy fair food. Mmm, fair food.
I really liked the whole trading babysitting thing. It's not often that Matt and I get time together without the kids, and hardly ever on the weekends. We definitely must do more of this.
If the weather had been nicer, we could've stayed a lot longer, but as it was, I think we got back to Braz's just in time, because Alex was starting to crumple from lack of nap. We got them home, put Alex down to rest and sent Penny next door to play with Ray, and then Matt started the laundry while I ran to the grocery store.
Braz and Adin and Adin's kids came over for dinner, and that worked pretty well, too. We had grilled cheese and tomato soup, which was supposed to be a concession to the picky eater. But apparently she doesn't eat grilled cheese, either, so next time I'll just go with my first impulse, which was chili. If she's going to turn her nose up at it anyway, it might as well be something everyone else can really get into.
So now it's back to work for the week. I'm already off on the wrong foot, having sloshed grounds into the coffee bucket, realized it's status report week (which is full of annoying administrivia for me to do), and also realized that I'm going to be taking meeting minutes for the managers' meeting this morning, which I also hate to do. But at least I remembered to bring a book for the gym!
And painful. It feels like I am either about to sprout the world's most humongous zit, or I somehow bruised a tiny spot just at the tip of my nose. I have no idea which it is -- it's been like this for several days, so if it was a zit, I'd think it would have popped up by now, and if it was a bruise, I'd think it would be getting better.
But in the meantime, I look like the caricature of a drunkard, with my red-tipped nose.
As Matt said, we appear to be raising something of a brutal realist of a child. He got to look through Penny's writing journal at Back-to-School night, in which the kids answer questions and draw pictures. One question posed was, "What will you be like when you are 100 years old?" Penny's response: "When I am 100 years old, I will be dead and rotten."
Alex has latched onto Penny's favorite game of pretending to be a family of ___, filling in the blank with whatever she's currently thinking about. Family of dragons, cats, horses, dinosaurs, lions, ghosts, whatever. Then we all have to say what kind of ___ we are. "I'm a white kitten." "I'm a blue dragon that breathes ice." "I'm a triceratops." Like that. Just lately, it's been vampires on Penny's mind.
The other day, riding in the car, Alex said, apropos of nothing: "We be a family of vampires?"
"Sure, kiddo, we can be a family of vampires."
"I'm a T-rex vampire!"
...Well. I guess he wins, then.
Last night, Penny was reading a book from the library. "Mom? Is this guy a prince?" She held up the book to show me the classic actor-with-skull Hamlet pose.
"Um, kind of," I said. "It's a play about a prince."
"Why is he holding a skull?"
"It's a very famous scene from a very famous play."
"Do you know it?"
"Yep. I've read it four times, and seen it performed a lot."
"What's it about?"
...How would you try to summarize Hamlet for a 7-year-old? Like much great literature, it's got a shocking amount of sex and violence. I did, in fact, do my best to lay out the basic plot (using our own family to illustrate the ick factor of suddenly discovering that your uncle has become your stepfather), and not leaving out that Hamlet pretends to go mad, then actually (possibly, depending on your interpretation) goes mad, definitely drives Ophelia mad and to suicide, and that by the end of the play, pretty much everyone is dead.
(...tying into her new mild morbid streak and the previous anecdote about her, I suppose.)
Then we looked at what was actually in her book. The picture was of one of the characters' grandfathers, who had been an actor. So I tried to explain to her about how, because it's such a complicated and difficult part to play, a lot of actors want to play Hamlet, because if they do a good job, it's a big achievement for them. So by having a picture in her book of this guy's grandfather as Hamlet, they were showing us that he was actually a really good actor.
Penny constantly surprises me with how smart she is. I was really impressed at how much she seemed to understand of what I was telling her, though of course, I doubt she got it all. When she'd finished reading her book, she looked up at me and said, "Mom? When can I see Hamlet?"
Ah, sex and violence sings its siren song, even to the 7-year-old set. I told her we'd talk about it again when she was in high school.
I discovered last night, quite by accident, that my ebook Of One Mind has been released to online distributors and is now available at Amazon.Com, AllRomance ebooks, Coffee Time Romance, and probably other distributors that I don't know about. (It's even on sale at Coffee Time -- if you haven't yet, you can pick it up there for only $2.99!)
I know several friends have picked it up (even one or two who have no intention of actually reading it, just to be supportive, which is definitely above and beyond the call of duty!) but I have one smallish request for those of you who did read it... Pretty please take ten seconds to click through and rate the book? Or even take two minutes and write a quick customer review? By all means be anonymous and honest if you didn't like it, but people are more likely to pick up a book on a whim if they see that other people have also done so. I'd really appreciate it!
And if I haven't said it before: to everyone who bought my book, thank you so much for your support. It really means a lot to me!
Hate my job, hate my house, hate my writing, hate my body. Don't hate my family, but I spent the whole morning snapping at them for minor infractions, so they might hate me a little bit right now.
I want crisp blue skies, and for 2/3 of the crap in the house to disappear, and while I'm wishing for impossible things, I want another 10% of my body mass to magically go away. I want a full month's leave of absence from my job, and then I want a new job that isn't the job I'm doing now. Ideally, I'd feel like I'm actually helping someone instead of just doing busywork, and even more ideally, it would be something I can do without having to go back to school, because I don't have time in my schedule for night classes right now. I'd like a story idea to actually stay in my head once I have it, long enough for me to write it. I'd like to be able to set aside two hours every day to write without feeling like I'm neglecting my family.
I want two weeks all to myself. With a fat budget, so I can stay in a big city somewhere -- New York or Chicago or Atlanta or even some place I've never been -- and explore the streets for hours. I'm not even sure it matters if I speak the language. I just want to be brave and do things I've never done and then have the time and environment to absorb and process it.
I wonder sometimes what I'd be like if I hadn't been so timid in high school and college. I don't just mean self-conscious or insecure, because that's all teenagers, really. But I let opportunities slide by because I was afraid they might be uncomfortable. Opportunities for relationships, opportunities for travel, opportunities for expanding who and what I was.
And now I'm a fraud, with a dead-end job with a family and a mortgage and it's like I just woke up and realized that the world is out there, waiting for me with open arms, and I want it, I want it so badly but there are people who rely on me now, and I love them too much to shortchange them.
Or is that another excuse? Another rationalization for being lazy and timid? I don't know. How can I know?
I'm sorry. I've been very whiny lately. I don't know if it's the time of year, or the stress, or the weather, or a pre-menopausal hormone shift, or what. Female equivalent of the mid-life crisis?
How do I know? I think that's the worst part of it all: not knowing if any of it is real.
It's a grey, sleepy day. Fall rain -- the kind that curls up on you like a cat and settles in for days. The kind that makes you sleepy. Or sleepier. Whichever.
It does, however, lend something to the smell of my coffee and the cinnamon and ginger in my oatmeal. It makes my nice warm breakfast feel cozier.
And I'm wearing my new grey skirt -- bias-cut and very flattering, and I got out my adorable black ankle boots that I've missed wearing all summer. And I'm wearing sparkly socks and some new (well, inherited) fun jewelry, and I put my hair up to show off the awesome-but-subtle earrings and accentuate my glasses. Yeah, I'm totally rocking the sexy intellectual look today.
Also as a bonus, today is neither a gym day nor an allergy shot day, which means that I can stay at work straight through lunch and go home a bit early. Whoo! Which works out well, because it's also back-to-school night for Penny's school, and she and Matt (it's his turn to go, this year) will need to eat dinner early.
Another thumbs-up: I got some good writing work done last night. I didn't write all that much -- maybe 500 words or so -- but then I managed to jot down the scenes I think will finish out the story, which gives me a framework to build on. I hope. (I have not been good with the sticking-to-a-project thing, lately.)
So there we are. Hoping for a good day, despite the rain.
We went out to dinner with Braz and Adin and company Friday, for Braz's birthday. Saturday morning, we went over to Braz's again to hang out, because the kids had been so dejected that they weren't getting any real playtime Friday night. After lunch, as we started herding kids toward cars so Alex could get his nap, the offer was made that Penny could stay and play with Ripley while Alex napped. Which was brilliant. So Penny and I got to hang out with them for a few extra hours. Sunday we stayed home all day, aside from the grocery shopping and me taking Alex to get his hair cut (which was a good month overdue -- the shorter hair makes him look younger again and sticks straight up all over, but at least it's not in his eyes anymore). Penny played with Ray and the girl who lives a few houses down from us pretty much all day. Oh, and I took her to Target because she had three whole dollars burning a hole in her pocket and wanted to spend it.
So that was my weekend. I slept in Saturday, and Penny even let me sleep a little extra on Sunday, but I'm still feeling weirdly drained and exhausted. I wonder if it's psychological rather than physiological -- that whole, "I'm stressed and I hate my job" thing. Not much to be done about it at the moment, alas.
This week in brief: Today, Matt is one of the WatchDOGS at Penny's school. I've got book club on Wednesday. Saturday afternoon, Penny's going to Ripley's birthday party (Alex is invited, but given the timing, may sleep through it) and that evening I'm babysitting for Braz and Adin so they can go to a grown-up party. And the next day, they're babysitting for us so Matt and I can go to the Newport News Park Fall Festival without the kids in tow -- really looking forward to that. I love the Festival, but doing with the kids last year was just a nightmare.
And tonight or tomorrow, I need to go back to the grocery store, because I somehow forgot about ten things that I need for this week's meals. Oops.
The weekend approacheth. Thank all the gods and little pink toasters.
We don't have any major plans for it, either. For which also, I thank a wide assortment of deities and whimsical household appliances.
This week has dragged. And I mean dragged. I had Monday off, and I still spent Wednesday evening and Thursday feeling like I'd been stuck in this week for months. I've felt exhausted nearly every moment I've been awake, and it's just fueling my loathing for my job. It was all I could do yesterday not to scrawl "I QUIT" on the walls in Sharpie and walk out the door.
I need a break.
But Matt's monthly D&D game is tomorrow night, which means tomorrow morning is my turn to sleep in. I'm looking forward to it enormously. And then I shall spend the rest of the day trying to do relaxing or fun things. Ditto for Sunday, aside from that being my turn to get up with the kids.
And hope to hell that manages to recover a little of my mental reserves.
But just in case, someone might want to hide the Sharpies.
So Penny asked if we could have a Hallowe'en party, and I'm considering it. Hallowe'en is on a Sunday this year, so you'd think the night before would be the perfect time for a party, but that's the day Matt is talking about going up to DC to see someone speak and might not be back until fairly late. So I have decisions to make:
- Have the party just for Penny and her friends, or try to make it an all-ages party and invite adult friends as well?
- Have it early afternoon on Hallowe'en (which might be awkward for people with their own holiday preparations to attend to), early afternoon on the 30th (which would mean I'm hosting solo for sure), or late afternoon/evening on the 30th (which would mean I'm at least decorating and possibly hosting solo).
The guest list sort of dictates how much energy I'd put into the decorations and food and how wide a variety of activities I'd need to come up with for the kiddies.
Well, tell me, Local Friends: would you like to attend a Hallowe'en party? And if so, when would be better?
Don't know if I'm burned out or coming down with something or what, but I just cannot seem to generate any energy or enthusiasm, for anything.
I haven't really had much enthusiasm for my work for years, if I have to be honest, but it's really reaching new lows just lately. Having to sweat over the office not having any work to do hasn't helped any.
I sat down to write last night and made myself work for about an hour, but it was a chore, not a joy, and I only wrote a few hundred words. And at that, I wrote myself into a corner where the characters aren't going to be able to go where I need to steer them. So most of it's going to get deleted the next time I sit down to write.
Went to bed and crashed hard, and was really hoping to re-energize my system, but I had to get up at 12:30 and spend fifteen minutes or so dealing with an earache. Fifteen minutes isn't all that long, but it screwed up my sleep cycle. (On the plus side, I had a dream this morning that I think helps with my approach to the characters not going where they're supposed to. The dream itself won't do me any good, but it seems to have made a couple of synapses fire that needed to.)
Of course, it's been a week since I've made it to the gym, so it's possible that some of this lethargy is my body ramping down my metabolism. (Stupid body.) I'm going back today, so maybe that will help.
But really, what I feel like I'd like to do is crawl into a hole and not come out for about a week.
In the meantime, I've all but promised Penny that she can have a Hallowe'en party, so I need to start organizing that, and figure out when we'll do our trip to Pumpkinville for carving and baking pumpkins, and just... stuff.
I did wind up speaking at the service; I adapted the eulogy I'd posted here, extracting about three paragraphs and revising them to stand alone. Quite a few other people spoke as well; my grandmom was one of those ladies of effortless elegance and grace who seems to touch everyone she meets. There was lots of weeping.
I wasn't entirely happy with the sermon that was delivered, but if you follow me on Twitter, you already know how I felt about that (this is why I keep my Twitter account private). If you missed it, feel free to email me and ask, but be prepared for a certain amount of ranting.
I was also pretty bemused by the couple who hung around at my uncle's house until after 10pm... They were neither family nor particularly close friends. Even my aunt, who is a brilliant hostess who loves entertaining, was trying to send "GO HOME NOW" signals to them, cleaning up and putting things away and fiddling with the lights, all of which they roundly ignored. I'm sure all of you are much smarter and more considerate than that, but just in case it needs to be said: If you're at a gathering with a strong family focus (funeral, wedding, christening, etc.) and you are not a member of the family, then you should not be the last one out the door unless you have specifically been asked to stay later. In which case you should be making yourself useful and not just sitting around talking. Oy.
Sleep was a bit of an issue -- miscommunication/lack of organization promised one bed to both me and my aunt's brother, and since I'm the younger generation, I'm the one who slept on the couch. We were up until well past midnight both Friday and Saturday nights, and I was up pretty early both Saturday and Sunday mornings. I threw back a lot of coffee, and I'm still feeling tired today.
There were a few other not-fun awkward moments, such as having to go through Grandmom's furniture and stuff in my uncle's garage and try to pick out what of it I want to keep. And later, trying to sort through Grandmom's jewelry and divide it up among us ladies. But I'm content; no one else wanted the desk that I've loved since I was about seven years old (though it will need to be repaired before I can use it), so though I got a few other things, I would have let someone else take them if they'd been wanted. I also got some nice jewelry (some of which I'm keeping in trust for Penny). And I brought home a whole bag of costume jewelry that no one wanted for Penny and Alex to play with.
I had a good time talking with John and Sam and my parents -- it's not often I get the chance to really talk with any of them much, anymore, especially without the kids around to interrupt every third word. And I got to see the pictures from my cousin's honeymoon, which were lovely.
But all in all, I was glad to get home Sunday afternoon, and I'm glad I won't be traveling for the rest of this year. I'm all burnt out on travel for a while.
When I thought I was writing a eulogy for my Grandmother to be read aloud at her memorial, rather than a life summary to be printed and handed out, this is what I came up with. It's a first draft, so still a little rough, but I liked it just enough to want to share it with at least someone. And hey, here on the blog, I don't have to worry about having to stop to cry.
A little over a week ago, I hung up the phone and looked at my husband with the beginnings of panic in my eyes. "They want me to write a eulogy," I told him.
Matt said, "I don't know any good eulogy jokes, but I bet we can find some online."
Telling jokes may be taking it a bit too far, but I don't want this to be maudlin, either, and I have to believe that Grandmom would have felt the same way. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and she knew how to live in the moment and to make the best of any particular situation. Because that's the kind of woman that she was.
Now, this is the part of the eulogy where I'm supposed to talk about her life. But how could I possibly summarize a life as amazing as hers? She was a small-town girl who secretly married a dashing older man, then followed him around the world! (Is my propensity for writing schlock romance showing, there, a bit?)
The slightly embarrassing truth is that I don't actually know very much about her. Here's what I know: She was born Wilma Clarice Evans on March 11, 1920, the youngest of eight siblings. She was 19 years old when she married my grandfather, Ellis, who was in the Air Force. She traveled with him all over the world, living in Germany, England, and Japan as well as multiple U.S. locations. After Grandad's retirement from the Air Force, they continued to travel often to destinations in Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia. For a woman of her background and generation, she was not only well-traveled, but remarkably well-educated, holding not only a Bachelor's degree but also a Master's of Education from the College of William and Mary. She was a teacher and guidance counselor for many years, and she was very active in the community as well, volunteering time and effort to help those less fortunate than herself, and enjoying many activities within her church. Her favorite hobbies included music, reading and playing bridge, and she especially loved playing the piano. She raised two sons, rejoiced in five grandchildren, and was even able to hold two great-grandchildren.
It seems a pathetic summary for what must have been a remarkable ninety years of life. But Grandmom didn't talk much about herself, at least not to me. When I was with her, what she wanted to talk about was me. She always made me feel like I was precious and unique and overflowing with amazing potential. I'm sure my dad and uncle could talk about the force of her personality when she was younger -- how she could quiet a classroom full of teenage boys without ever raising her voice, and how strict a disciplinarian she was -- but that's not how I knew her. When she met me for the first time, she became A Grandmother, and she took to that role with all the considerable energy she had to spare.
I don't know what her approach to parenting was. But I do know that, as A Grandmother, it was not only her privilege, not just her right, but her God-given duty to spoil her grandchildren rotten. But she did far more than that. She did something for us that I wouldn't fully understand until I had my own children: She believed in us. Whatever dreams I nurtured, she knew would come true. Whatever star I reached for, she did everything in her power to lift me a little higher so I could grasp it. And she did it unstintingly, and unfailingly. Because that's the kind of woman that she was.
When I was five years old, I watched some musical program on TV with her and was captivated by the elegance of the pianist's fingers as they danced over the keys, and I told her I wished I could play the piano like that. I think it was the very next day that she began to harangue my parents to get me piano lessons.
And yet, no matter how much she gave, she never asked for a return of any sort. She pressed for those piano lessons, admittedly, from her own love of music and her hope that love would be echoed in me. She saw me as the next Mozart, or at least the next Duke Ellington. ...I wasn't. I never developed the ear she had for music, and I wasn't very interested in working for it. Eventually, I gave it up. Not only did Grandmom never say a word, but she never let me see even a hint of disappointment.
At various other points in my life, I wanted to be such improbable things as an airplane pilot, a mathematician, and a writer. Grandmom encouraged every one of these, sometimes with enthusiasm that exceeded my own. She celebrated even my most trivial of successes, and took my ever-changing interests in stride. She understood, even when I didn't, that the journey was far more important than the destination. She never demanded that I pick a thing and stick to it. She never seemed to want a return on her investments. She asked nothing more of me than that I be happy, and to save her a seat in my cheering section. Because that's the kind of woman that she was.
I could pile on complimentary adjectives for an hour. The few that leap most readily to mind are: Strong. Graceful. Forthright. Loving. Beautiful. Smart. Cheerful. Generous. Shrewd. Kind. Adventurous. Fun. and Gracious. I could even pull out a few slightly less flattering words that no one who knew her would dare to deny, like "determined" and "stubborn."
Grandmom was all these things, and so much more. She was a teacher and a mother, a wife and a friend, a mentor and a haven. No mere words could do her justice, and it's time I stopped trying.
I didn't take my husband up on his offer to research eulogy jokes for me, but I hope that we'll always remember Grandmom with a smile, or even a chuckle. I'm sure that she would have preferred us to remember her with more affection than dejection, and more whimsy than woe. Grandmom would not want us to feel blue too long over her passing. After all, her favorite color was lavender. Because that's the kind of woman that she was.
The Charity Blitz stories finally got posted last night around 10:30. They must have been having some hellacious database problems. (These are the trials of being a tiny company: you don't really have the wherewithal to support a really robust web system, so your webmonkey has to do everything by hand.) Anyway, my story is out, and if you like those kinds of stories and/or would like to support the charity to the utmost, let me call your attention to the package, which gets you all 28 stories at a more than 15% discount! (And now I shall shut up and take my shilling back to the writing blog. Thank you for your patience.)
No blog entry tomorrow, as I'll be up early (probably 5:45ish, which is not even half an hour earlier than usual, but any time before 6am automatically sucks as a wake-up time) to get dressed and pack my jammies and toothbrush and head down to the airport to catch an 8am flight back to Atlanta for Grandmom's memorial Saturday. (This will be my fourth trip to Atlanta in less than a year. I'm beginning to feel sort of proprietary about the place.)
I've still got an "assigned at boarding" seat assignment, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me and I'm desperately hoping it doesn't mean "we're hoping for some cancellations". (But I'm pretty sure it does.) Here's hoping I get that flight, as the next one doesn't leave until after noon, which is a long time to be cooling my heels in an airport. Especially the Newport News airport, which is tiny and has most of its shopping kiosks on the wrong side of the security gate.
I expect a slightly stressy/tense, depressing family gathering. I wonder if I could convince John and Sam and the cousins to go out dancing or something in the evenings. ...Yeah, it's probably kind of tasteless to suggest it. Note to self: download some reading material. At least I finally bit the bullet and bought Pages for my iPad, so I have a doc-capable (at least in theory) word processor available if I find time to do some writing.
I have another story out, which means I'm a multiply published author. Whoo-hoo! Check out the blurb and an excerpt over at my writing journal! (Despite the warning that LJ insists on, both are perfectly SFW, having no graphic images and no action described steamier than a kiss. I do not make the same promise for the publisher's website, however.)
This one is a short story, and it's part of the "Healing Hearts" charity blitz - all of my royalties and a matching amount from the publisher will go to Doctors Without Borders. The story is less than $2 -- check it out and help a worthy cause!
Note: As of about 2:45pm, they're still loading the page. If you click on the "charity blitz" link, you'll see a random selection of about 12 of the 28 stories available, but none of the links will work. If you click on the "story" link above or any of the books on the blitz page, you'll get a "This product was not found" message. I've been assured they're working on it hard, and everything should be functional soon!
Edit: 10:15pm - The stories are finally posted! Links above should be working correctly now!
I swear, I don't know where my time goes. Or more precisely, I'm afraid I do know where it's going, and I don't much like the answer.
I get to work, I get my coffee, I check emails, and suddenly - poof! - it's time for the 10:00 meeting. I go to the meeting, I do a little work, I check Twitter, and - poof! - it's time to hit the gym. I get back from the gym, I eat lunch and check my RSS feed, then I work on a little project and - poof! - it's 3:30 and my day is mostly gone. I barely had time to touch the work that was supposed to be my primary focus for yesterday.
I think today I'm going to try using some timers to help keep my focus. At least until I'm caught back up. It's not a perfect system, but it at least warns me when I accidentally get sucked into something that I thought would only take a few minutes. Especially when that something is productive to neither my professional nor personal life. Over an hour frittered away on making a promotional flyer for my publications? Probably okay (provided I ever actually print the damn things out and take them somewhere that people might see them). But over an hour spent on my RSS feed? Not so much. I need to learn to let the RSS feed slide and let it be the thing I turn to when I only have a couple of minutes to kill. When I've got a spare hour, I should be doing something productive with it.
So for today: timers. Forty-five minutes (minimum) of work, and then fifteen minutes (maximum) of frittering. Hopefully it will help me get back on track.