Friday, October 28, 2011

Packing It In

Crazy workstuff.

Picking Alex up from daycare and taking him to dinner and then back to daycare for their Fall Festival. Then over to Braz and Adin's for the usual Friday night hangout.

Saturday: Pumpkin carving. Pumpkin seed roasting. Butternut and acorn squash roasting and attendant soup making. Also, the weekly grocery shopping needs to happen a day earlier than usual, because...

Sunday: Craft fair with Penny and Adin and girls up in Richmond. Leaving town at 10, back probably mid/late afternoon.

November's weekends are already filling up. We don't have anything planned (yet) for the first weekend, but then after that there's a party on the 12th, two events on the 19th (one for me and one for Matt, but we'll need to juggle the overlap), and then Thanksgiving weekend.

I haven't laid out plans for December's weekends, but I only have to look at the list of Things To Do (family photo session for our cards, house decorating, Santa visit, moon cookie party, Christmastown, shopping, wrapping and mailing, 9 days in Illinois, some gathering with my family) to know already that it's going to be a busy month.

So basically, for most of the next two months, if I've got an entire half-day where I'm not doing something, I'm going to need to be finding some way to use it to make the following weeks less crazy, if at all possible. Early decorating, cooking/baking, planning, or shopping.

Which means I'm not waiting until after Thanksgiving to start my Christmas shopping. Those of you who might reasonably expect gifts from us this year, update your wishlists and then stay off of them, or else brace for potential duplicates, because I'm strongly considering trying to be at least close to done with my shopping by the first weekend of December. (Not counting stuff for the kids. I know myself well enough to know I'm going to keep buying stuff for them right up until the last possible minute.)

We're three days from Hallowe'en. Let the "holidays" begin.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


My cold has dialed itself back to a persistent cough, so I'm trying to muddle through with it.

Despite feeling vaguely crappy and muzzy-headed most of the time, though, my last few days have been wildly productive, personally if not professionally. I got a short story submitted to a call, edited a novelette-length story for my brother, did the first pass on a novella edit for Torquere, cleaned up a novelette-length story of my own and sent it off to a couple of beta readers (anyone else want to volunteer?), did some planning for the weekend, and ran assorted errands.

On my list for today: catch up some workstuff, stop by the store for treats for Alex's class party tomorrow, place some calls for my birthday party (about time! chorus all my friends), start putting together Christmas lists for the kids (we got the first official relative request last night), and do some planning for Thanksgiving. Other things coming up in the near future: second-round edits for the two stories I'm editing, birthday shopping for Matt and Karen, baking some winter squash that are on the counter at home waiting on me before they go bad, digging out my Hallowe'en costume, and working on the holiday planning (gifts and gatherings and travel requiring some tight coordination).

This weekend is Alex's school Fall Festival, and the craft fair up in Richmond for me and Penny with Adin, and any last-minute Hallowe'en planning I need to do. In addition to, y'know, the usual weekend stuff.

It seems there's always something to do, and always something else I'd rather be doing...

Monday, October 24, 2011


It should have been a highly successful weekend. I got out of work early on Friday and took Alex to Busch Gardens for a couple of hours, and then we all met up with Braz and Adin for dinner. I finished up that story I started that morning at about 3300 words, which is crazy-fast work for me.

Saturday, the family took a short trip down to visit my parents -- we were only there for about an hour, as my dad is recovering from surgery and was in a lot of pain -- and then later, while Matt and Alex were napping, Penny and I went to the neighborhood Hallowe'en party. We did the limbo, played "Pin the Parent", and Penny painted a pumpkin and took a few whacks at a piƱata. Then Jess came over and all three kids played together most happily right up until their assorted bedtimes. The girls went to bed and (eventually) to sleep, and no one woke me up before 6am, which is pretty much all I can ask for, with a sleepover.

The kids continued to play (mostly) nicely together all day Sunday, and while Matt and Penny were taking Jess home and Alex was napping, I made a few edits to that story and submitted it! Sunday evening had us back over at Braz and Adin's for dinner, with soup and grilled cheese -- yum! We got home only a little late for Alex's bedtime, and even had time to squeeze in one chapter of reading with Penny. I went to bed early and slept soundly until about 5:50, when Alex came in to tell me he was coughing and wanted to snuggle with me.

Sounds like a great weekend, doesn't it? And it would've been... if most of us (excepting Penny) hadn't spent it dogged by what I thought on Friday were allergies, but by Saturday afternoon knew was a full-blown cold, complete with headache and backache and a face so tender from sinus inflammation that it actually feels like my glasses are sitting on top of a bruise.

I'm at work today, but I'm pretty well doped up on Tylenol Cold remedy and sucking down tea by the gallon, and I've printed out a red X and taped it to my mostly-closed office door to warn others away from my germs.

I'm hoping for a fairly slow week at work, because I've got a lot of stuff I need to do, and this cold is slowing me down a lot. Everyone think healthy thoughts our way, would you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I spent way too much time in meetings yesterday, but it ended up being eerily productive anyway. I pulled together a development plan for a new project, did some paperwork from a rushed delivery last week, created a corporate repository for the mini-audit we're about to do, attended four meetings (and mostly managed to keep my sarcasm to myself), and typed up some meeting minutes. I also went to the gym, edited a short story (someone else's), made soup for dinner (mm, soup), and wrote about a thousand new words for the story I'm writing.

All in all, a productive day, indeed.

Today, I need to gather up some artifacts for the mini-audit, do some more paperwork, review a delivery, work on editing another story (someone else's), and go to the chiropractor. I might go to the gym again, and I might swing by Target for more apples. (Honeycrisps -- my very favorite apples, only available for about 2 months out of the year -- are $6 for a bag of 10. I'm eating like five a day.)

(I might also hit Target for a smoothie blender to keep at the office, and ingredients. Better for me than the junk food in the snack bar, and Caren told me a couple of weeks ago they have a really nice little smoothie blender for only about $15.)

So that's my day. What're you up to, today?

Monday, October 17, 2011


Karen, in the state for a few days, came up to visit us on Friday night. We folded her into the usual Friday evening with Braz and Adin -- went out to dinner, then went back to their place and got the kids tucked into bed and settled in to drink and play Cards Against Humanity. There was much drinking and hilarity and a good time was had by all. Yay!

Saturday afternoon, I took Penny to the most awkward birthday party ever (we got there a few minutes late, and there was no one there but us, the birthday girl's mom, and the little brother. The birthday girl -- and most of the other guests -- didn't arrive until more than a half-hour after when we'd been told the party would start.) and then we spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Jenn and Brian. More eating out, a round of Pirate Fluxx, and another game of Cards Against Humanity, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite games.

Sunday, I roasted the pumpkin we'd got from our CSA and Penny and I made muffins with it, and then after Alex's nap (and a snack of pumpkin muffins) we all went up to Pumpkinville to pick out our Hallowe'en pumpkins. (I was mildly disappointed in the selection this year, though, especially with the pie pumpkins, and they've added additional "fun" things like a bounce house -- that you have to pay extra for, of course, causing the kids to whine and complain when we say 'no' -- so we may go elsewhere for our pumpkins next year.) I took pictures, but haven't gotten around to getting them off the camera yet.

We got home right at dinner time, so we had tacos for dinner, and then Penny and I started the next Little House book. (On the Shores of Silver Lake -- I'd forgotten what a downer it is, with the illness and blindness and lack of money and then the dog dies... yike.) After the kids were in bed, I wrote a little bit, then read a lot more. I'm not 100% positive, but I think I may have fallen asleep reading.

It wasn't my best sleep ever, though, I have to say. Between Alex getting me up to deal with a wet spot on his bed (his pullup wasn't even all that wet; I guess he was just laying on it wrong and it leaked) and the sinister and disturbing dreams that chased me all night (don't worry, no details) I'm still pretty logy this morning.

I need to figure out when I'm taking my part-time time off this week, and put it on my calendar so people don't schedule me for things. And I need to prep for a sort of mini-audit early next week. And the guy who usually takes notes at the Monday meeting isn't here, which means it'll be my job, yay.

This weekend is Penny's school's fall festival; Matt and I need to decide if the whole family is going or just one of us with her, so we can pre-order our tickets and dinner packages. And the neighborhood fall festival is this weekend, as well.

So apparently, we've entered the fall/holiday busy season without my having time to brace for impact.

Friday, October 14, 2011


One of the buzzword phrases floating around the Day Job over the last couple of years is "employee engagement". That is, for those of you who aren't fluent in Corporatespeak, the extent to which employees are committed to their jobs and whether they're more likely to stay with this company than merely use it as a resume rung. The theory is that employees who are highly "engaged" are more likely to produce high-quality work, and to go above and beyond.

I find the whole thing vaguely disturbing and, frankly, a little insulting. Back in the 80s, when it became accepted practice for companies to simply lay off employees in order to get through lean times, rather than reserving such measures for drastic measures, the corporate structure lost its right to any kind of employee loyalty. If you're not going to take care of me, then there should be no reason for me to feel the need to care what happens to you, either.

But here we are: employee engagement. The way they determine employee engagement is by issuing a series of (supposedly) anonymous surveys. The surveys contain some questions which seem to make sense to me ("Do I know what is expected of me at work?" "Do I have the materials and resources needed to accomplish my tasks?") to the unnecessarily and creepily feelgoody ("Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?") and the utterly ridiculous ("Do I have a best friend at work?").

Let's be completely honest: It would be nice if I had a "best friend" at work, but while I sincerely like most of the people I work with, and while one or two of them might even qualify as friends, "best friend" is a social designation, not a business one, and I don't think the corporation should be privy to my social life. If my boss seems to care about me as a person, then that builds my personal loyalty to my boss, but it does nothing for my overall loyalty to the company -- because I know that, if profit margins dip, my boss's boss will tell him to reduce overhead with some layoffs, and my boss, whether he cares about me personally or not, will have to do it.

Oh, and one other thing. When they schedule an hour-long meeting to talk about how we can improve our engagement scores, and they schedule that meeting to run past 5pm? I am definitely not feeling engaged.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ass: Kicked!

Our farm box last week contained half a dozen persimmons, which is a fruit I don't use much. The flavor is a little too cantaloupe-y for my taste, and they're slightly high-maintenance, what with the spiny leaf and the inedible rind and the stealth seeds and the need to wait until they're completely ripe or else suffer tannin levels that make the flesh taste/feel like chewing on moist black tea leaves.

But they were in the box, and I like to at least try to use the stuff in the box -- we're paying for it, after all, and it can't hurt to help the kids vary their palates a little, either.

We'd eaten a couple of them raw the other night, but they weren't a big hit that way. So I experimented. Chopped a red bell pepper (also from the box) and about a pound of chicken breasts, and tossed them into some oil along with a teaspoon or so of curry powder. (Most curry recipes want tablespoons of the stuff, but my kids don't like it enough for that.) When the chicken was almost done, I threw in a can of diced tomatoes, two persimmons (diced to make sure the seeds had been found) and some frozen peas for color. When that had simmered a bit, I added about 2/3 of a cup of light coconut milk, and a tablespoon of granulated Truvia to accent the sweetness of... well, everything. I served the whole mess over couscous.

It was a hit! Penny and Matt and I loved it, and even Alex (who as a rule does not like cooked vegetables) managed to eat half his chicken along with the couscous.

Dinner/persimmon ass: kicked!

(Though now I have the rest of the can of coconut milk in the fridge and nothing to do with it. Hmm, bet it would make delicious smoothies...)


Once the kids were in bed, I sat down to write. I'd finished the previous session mid-scene (I've seen writing advice that you should stop mid-sentence, even, just so finishing the sentence will help you get moving a little, but I've never tried it) and I'd had a pretty clear idea of where it was going, so it was easy to drop back into the story and push forward. By the time I realized I was entering my "getting tired" taper, I checked my word-count and I'd written roughly 1700 words!

Not only that, but I still have a pretty clear idea of what comes next -- really, just the final chapter with its payoff sex and warmfuzzies -- and then I'll be ready to do my draft review and shoot it out to my beta readers. (Anyone interested in joining those ranks? Good feedback is hard to come by!)

Writer's block's ass: kicked!


I stayed up a smidge later than I'd intended, not because I was writing, but because after I finished writing, I went downstairs to plug in the iPad (the battery was sorely drained) and to start downloading the new iOS 5 update, and of course I had to fiddle with things for a while.

And then Alex woke me up at 5:30 with some incomprehensible complaint about noises in his room... and got up again at 5:40 to tell me the cat was in his room... and again at 5:50 to tell me he wanted a clean pullup...

My sleep's ass... kicked.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Blues

I'm not actually blue today, just a little tired. I was up late last night, mostly writing. I wrote somewhere between 1200 and 1400 words, which is a good session, but then I had to delete about 2000 words I'd previously written, so the overall wordcount on the story went down. I count it as progress anyway, because before I did that, the characters were headed somewhere completely Wrong and I had no idea how to drag them back on track. So the answer turned out to be backing up to before they made the wrong turn in the first place and trying a different approach.

So I'm feeling good about that and about the story in general, and I think I'm still on track to have it finished by the end of the month, as long as I remain diligent.

But then I sat up a bit longer to leave comments on a couple of messageboards, and when I went down to shut off my computer, I realized I'd left in the middle of a game, so I finished that out. And then I had to check my RSS feeds, and...

By the time I was done and ready to go to bed, it was closing in on 11:30. And then the damn cat "lost" us. (Every night when we go to bed, he sits downstairs, bewildered and forlorn and lonely, crying, until we coax him up the stairs and into our room. Every. Night. You'd think he'd eventually form a connection, but no.)

And of course Alex woke me up at 5:57 to tell me he needed a new pullup. Sigh. I'm honestly wondering if we should just move him to underpants at night and brace ourselves for a couple weeks of washing sheets on a daily basis.

So. Tired, but not actually blue. The post title is just because I like rhymes.


Kid anecdote: Alex and I were standing in line for something at Busch Gardens (probably the Elmo ride) and I was standing on one foot, with the other out in front of me a little ways -- you know, like you do when you're in a long line. And I looked down and realized that Alex was standing in exactly the same position. He wasn't looking -- his attention was all on Elmo, or a bush, or another kid, or... something else. So I switched feet, just to be silly.

A bit later, he looked down, and hurriedly switched his own feet. So I waited, then switched again.

This time, Alex glanced up at me and grinned as he matched my stance again.

The game held us for several minutes, and at odd moments again throughout the afternoon.


I'm in need of some tech refresh. The external hard drive I'm using for backups is too full to continue using it for backups, so I need a new one. I'm thinking of getting a hot-swappable drive dock or a mini-RAID, just to make it easier to expand the next time I fill up a hard drive. But I should probably get on that sooner rather than later -- the system warned me this morning that it's been over 2 months since my last backup, which means if I have a hard drive failure, I'm losing all my Cancun pictures that aren't uploaded to Flickr.

Speaking of hard drive failure, my computer is well out of warranty and beginning to slow down and get chunky on me. (I have a backup drive at all because a while back, my hard drive glitched -- it came back with only minor losses, but it was a nervewracking experience.) So I'm probably looking at a new laptop by the end of the year.

(Note to Matt: I'm pretty sure neither of these are covered by either the birthday or Christmas No Buy Zone.)

I'm in dire need of a system re-org, though, so I'm considering how best to go about that. Before I get the new computer, and then let the re-org copy over when I sync the new machine? Or only sync a few select things (e.g., music and photos) and move the rest by hand, reorganizing as I go? It's a dilemma.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We took the kids to Busch Gardens yesterday. The plan was to meet up with KT and Kevin to celebrate Jess's birthday. We'd sort of forgotten about it being a "holiday" weekend (not for us, of course, but there are apparently still plenty of places that get the day off for Columbus Day) so we weren't really braced for the place to be as crowded as it was -- it took us over 45 minutes to get through parking and ticketing, and everything was crazy busy the whole time we were there.

We did eventually meet up with the others. We watched a dance show that terrified Alex, not because of its spooky Hallowe'en theme, but because it was so effing loud. Once it was over, Matt and Penny stayed with them so they could go do big-kid rides, while I took Alex back over to the Sesame Street area.

He had a blast. Since it was just the two of us, I gave myself up to it and let him make nearly every decision about what to do and where to go. We rode Prince Elmo's Tower about six times, and Oscar's Wiggle Worms once, and Gover's roller coaster once, and he spent ten or fifteen minutes getting soaked right to the skin in the water play area, until a show started and its noise terrified him. (That was a theme.)

The only real difficulty is that Alex has not yet given up his afternoon nap, so going without led to a little moodiness, from time to time. But it wasn't too bad (there was plenty to keep him entertained). He was so completely exhausted by bedtime, though, that he didn't even want me to sing when I put him to bed. So I kissed him and went to take my shower, and when I was done, I peeked in on him -- he'd fallen asleep so fast that he was still in the exact same position he'd been in when I left the room.

Next time, I'll remember to pack a swimsuit, or at least a change of clothes for him.

And there will be a next time, because while we were standing in line, Matt and I looked at the price of admission (almost $70) and then at the price of a one-year pass ($100) and decided, what the hell. So now we're all set for casual half-days or evenings or whatever we want to do for the next year. Matt and I want to go back some evening to see the scary parts of Howl-o-scream? Done. Come summer, want to take the kids over to play in the water park for an hour or two, or run in at night just for the fireworks? Done. Matt wants to take Penny to ride a couple of roller coasters some day when she's got a half-day of school? Done.

Plus half-off admission to Christmas Town, which I really want to do this year. Done.

We'll see how much we actually end up using them. Matt's had a year pass and Penny had a summer-long pass already, and I think they only went a couple of times.

But this morning, Alex is still chattering endlessly about how much fun the Elmo ride was. And I've got these great memories of him dashing in and out of the water spouts yelling, "Mom! This is so much fun!" And I think... Yeah. We're totally going back.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I've never liked being in the car. When I was a kid, it was a kind of torture to go visit my mom's relatives, because they all lived about two hundred miles away in North Carolina, which meant four hours in a car. Even when my parents broke the trip up for us by stopping halfway for a meal, I hated it. Friends would tell me about family trips where they were in the car for whole days at a time, and all I could do was marvel at the imagined torture of it.

It got a little better when I got old enough to drive, but I still don't much care for it. My friend Karen drives down to this area from New York at least twice a year, and I can't even comprehend being willing to do that. Any trip that's going to take more than four hours to drive, I want to know what my flight options are. I waffled on taking my first real job because the commute was going to be more than half an hour.

That one has come back to haunt me, because now every morning, I'm in the car for the better part of an hour, driving Alex up to daycare and then driving Penny back down to her school before I go to work. It's not my favorite part of the day, but I've mostly made my peace with it. The kids have learned that I'm not terribly communicative when I'm driving, and they largely talk to each other, and Penny brings a book to read after we've dropped Alex off. Once I'm alone in the car, I switch the radio from music to comedy.

So I cope.

And yet, a few times a year, I see something that makes it worth it. A couple of years back, I saw fog lifting from a freshly-plowed field; the mist hung thick and swirly in the air at a level four feet off the ground, the early sunlight making it sparkle. I'd never seen anything quite like it before, and I've never seen it since.

This morning, there was a thick fog hanging over the swamp -- and only over the swamp, glued there like cotton balls. As I was coming back that way after taking Alex to daycare, I was approaching the bridge down a slight incline, and the fog was still there, tall enough to swallow the trees and everything else on the far side of the bridge. For just a brief moment, it looked like I was about to drive off the end of the world and into oblivion.

As I reached the bridge and my visibility extended, the illusion expanded, and it seemed that the rest of the world was being created at that moment, simply because I was ready to pass through the barrier. (At the time, it was a profound and almost spiritual image. Only now, as I try to put it in words, do I realize that it sounds like crossing zones in a video game. Blame my inadequate wordsmithing, and not the experience itself.)

I wondered, as I pushed through the fog, what would happen if it was a barrier -- or a portal. Would I find myself lost in a featureless grey space? Pass through into a world that, in fact, hadn't existed in the moments before I entered it? Would I disappear entirely from this world, or would another me from another world enter at the same moment I left and take up my life where I left off?

Maybe I am in another world now. Maybe I drove through that portal and am now in a new world, taking the place of the me that was here yesterday. Maybe I'll say something to someone later that's not quite right, and the person I'm talking to will pause for a moment and give me an odd look, and wonder what's happened to me.

How about it, blog readers? Am I a traveler in an alternate dimension (or from your perspective, a traveler from an alternate dimension?) I must say, though -- if that's the case, alternate-world me doesn't do a very good job at keeping up with her paperwork.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


God, I just keep disappearing, don't I?

As I told KT yesterday when we met for lunch (entirely on her initiative, because I'm so brain-burned lately I can't even properly function on Twitter), it's probably for the best, anyway, because pretty much everything I would have posted for the last week and a half would have been half-coherent ranting about the damned project I was on and the incredibly rude and condescending customer we were working for.

But I took most of Monday off, and all of Tuesday. I've written 5500 words (or so) in the last three days, decorated the house for Hallowe'en (okay, I have to admit, Penny did most of the decorating), acquired some cute ankle boots for the fall and winter, edited a story, paid my bills, and spent a lot of time playing mostly mindless video games. I took Penny to the Fall Festival and bought jewelry and fair food, and I made roasted butternut squash soup, and I hung out with friends and family. I feel much better now.

I came back to work yesterday to find a frikking huge pile of paperwork waiting, and four software deliveries that weren't supposed to happen until the week after next, and learned that a new project has been awarded some special attention from corporate which is going to make it a much bigger pain in my ass than usual.

But I feel almost okay with it. Not, you know, happy. But accepting. Resigned.

And so it goes. And so do I.