The boy was home again yesterday with a bockety digestive system. We shooed him off to school today with lots of encouragement.
I’ve been really slow to pick up on podcasts. I spend most of my time at a computer working with words, and listening to words while I do it distracts me. I can’t follow both trains of thought at the same time without failing at both, which not a model of efficiency. On top of that, if I want information, I’ll read about it; it’s a lot faster.
But I discovered the SpinDoctor podcast last summer, and I love it. Sasha, the host, started spinning at just about the same time I did, so we’re around the same level. She reviews things I’m interested in, like DVDs and books and fibre and equipment, and things I’ll probably never experience like the huge fiber festivals, and I like her personality. I generally listen to it while I spin (what better time?) but I haven’t been spinning much lately. There’s been a boy home or work to do or I’ve been knackered by fibro, and to be honest, this yellow Polworth is taking forEVer to spin up as laceweight. (We’re talking a single of about 54 WPI, on the fastest setting of my Louet S15, which is a ratio of about 10:1.) I split the four ounces into two parts to spin a two-ply yarn, and I’m so close to finishing the first half. When I am, I suspect I will stuff it in a bag and spin something else before I start the second half, because I’m so tired of it. I’ve spun all of one ounce of Merino before this, and I find the Polworth very much like it. I really prefer BFL and silks to the Merino kind of sponginess, I have discovered. Longer, silkier fibres are my thing. I don’t know how to explain my liking for Corriedale or Coopworth, then, but there you are.
Anyway. I have discovered that with the weather so cold, I can’t read books, either paper ones or ebooks, while waiting for the boy at the bus stop in the afternoon any more. Enter the podcast! I can stand there and watch for the bus, hands warmly ensconced in mitten, and listen to a bit of an interview or review or whatever.
I’m still not a huge fan of podcasts in general. I find I need to be doing something that doesn’t require a lot of attention in order to listen, and that’s a tall order when I’m fighting fibro fog a lot of the time because the fog demands that I focus all that I’ve got on what I’m doing like cooking, baking, writing, editing, what have you. The car may be a good place, but I don’t have a widget that allows me to plug my iPod into the stereo. On top of that, while I may find a segment interesting, it’s rare that I’m always interested in all the information a podcast covers so I get impatient or bored quickly. I’ve sampled a few here and there, and a lot of the time I find an episode is too long for what it should be.
I have some podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to or try out, especially ones by friends or acquaintances, but for the above reasons I just don’t get around to it. Part of me wants to, and part of me just sighs at the amount of investment it takes in time and energy. I’ll get around to it someday.
Cello fell apart last week. I don’t mean literally (you’d have heard me screaming from wherever you physically are, I suspect) but figuratively. Nothing I played worked. Everything was disjointed, scratchy, jerky, lousy phrasing, no dynamic control, horrible intonation (why E flat major as C minor, why, WHY?)… every time I tried it got worse instead of better. Which is, if you think about it, the exact antithesis of what practice is supposed to do. One of the general bits of wisdom floating around is that you shouldn’t repeat mistakes, so if things are going wrong and you can’t isolate why and fix them, stop and come back later. Except every time I came back it was worse. Friday night I sat down, gritted my teeth, put the Suzuki accompaniment CD on and played the Gavotte at the ridiculous speed it called for. And I did it again. And again. And again. I didn’t stop, I didn’t pause to fix things, I didn’t listen critically, I just played it. And I played it at a speed that was far faster than I’d worked it before, faster than my target metronome marking. And then I put the cello away.
Saturday morning I went to my lesson. We warmed up with my lines in the pretty arrangements of Silent Night and Greensleeves that we’re playing, then my teacher said there was half an hour left and she didn’t think we needed half an hour for the Bach, so why not look at the Bazelaire she’d given me for the next recital? And we played through the first half of the first movement, working on the wacky thumb-index-index pizzicato movement, and it was so much fun. Then we turned to the Bach. I kind of gritted my teeth again, then took a steady breath, threw all my feelings about it away and started. And it flowed, and had phrasing, and drove right on to the end. When I was finished I started to laugh, and my teacher exclaimed and asked where that had come from, and she even made me stand up and take my Suzuki bow. Apparently running a piece at ludicrous speed seven or eight times in a row to recorded piano accompaniment is a good thing. I didn’t even play it through again, or look at trouble spots; it didn’t need it.
I drove home and had a quick lunch. Then the boy and I bundled into the car and drove to the local movie theatre to meet with his best friend from preschool and her mom to see Tangled together. It was so much fun. Granted, listening to Zachary Levi for an hour or so was part of that, but the design, the palette, the characterization, the execution, the pacing and plotting, and the songs and score were all fantastic. (I’d sneaked a listen to some of the songs released earlier that week on various music and film blogs, and had in fact purchased the soundtrack two days before the film, so I knew about that last bit ahead of time!) It has firmly settled itself among my top three favourite Disney films, and very possibly has bumped Beauty & the Beast out of my #1 spot. I can’t make a confirmed judgment as to that yet, because I’m going to need to see it a few more times first. We’ll certainly go see it at Christmas when we visit my parents, because Mum wants to see it and HRH needs to see it, too.
The boy’s friend came over to our house to play for an hour and a half after the film. I made peanut butter chocolate-chip cookies, they played with his trains, and at some point they ran through the house playing cowboys & knights, one waving the wooden sword and shield HRH made and the other with a Nerf gun. It was great.
Her mom picked her up and I headed into Montreal for my piano rehearsal scheduled for 5:20, where we each play our solo pieces with the accompanist. Despite giving myself forty-five minutes to get to NDG I hit bad traffic and was ten minutes late, but things were running behind anyway. I got to listen to everyone’s pieces and their work on the timing or the trouble spots, applauding with everyone else enthusiastically after each. And then, like the Farewell Symphony, they all left one by one as they were done; I was last, with an audience of only my teacher and the pianist. And I kicked my Gavotte again from start to finish. I was very pleased with it. We didn’t need to work on anything or test timing or cues; I loosened my bow and that was that. I’m feeling really confident now about next weekend’s recital. I got home in time to read to the boy in bed. That night HRH and I ended up clearing out the storage room because I was looking for something. We moved some stuff into the laundry room and emptied at least three big boxes. It’s much easier to locate things now. Ironically, though, we didn’t find the box I was looking for.
Sunday was my day at the Yule Fair. I was scheduled to do a talk with Ellen Dugan on green magic and magical gardening, and she was so fabulous. We had a blast. I got to touch base with Chris Penczak and Judika Illes again, too, and pick up a couple of books. I so love working with other authors at these kinds of events. And it always comes as a surprise to me when they say they’ve read my stuff and are impressed, or refer to a concept I’ve discussed somewhere. I had some wonderful discussions with people who came to my signing afterwards, too, and was very touched by some of their stories about what my books have done for them. HRH and the boy came downtown with me and took the metro to see the Christmas window at Ogilvy’s, which was unfortunately half non-functional, before having lunch out together.
We had to leave the fair and get back home for mid-afternoon because I was possibly expecting a drop-off. It didn’t happen, however, and good thing; both HRH and I were coshed by a really, really bad cold and fell asleep while the boy watched movies. I’d felt the beginnings of it when I’d woken up in the morning, but a couple of Tylenol took care of the aches and sore throat for a few hours. I was stunned at how brutally it hit me mid-afternoon, though.
This round of fibro medication isn’t doing what I’d hoped it would do. I’m sleeping well, but I still have the low energy issue and difficulty focusing and concentrating. Now, I do remember that this medication wasn’t a universal panacea when I first took it, but the results were better than this. The only difference I’m seeing is that I sleep like a rock at night and am very groggy for the first four hours of my day. Perhaps not coincidentally, I forgot to take my medication last night, and while I woke up pretty much every hour and didn’t get any deep sleep, I feel better and more focused this morning than I have in a while. I recognise that a couple of weeks of bad sleep like this would lead to me feeling not-so-great-any-more in the mornings, but it does suggest to me that maybe the medication I used before is not quite right for me at this time.
We are not doing Halloween at the new house. We asked the neighbours next door what Halloween was like here and were informed that it was dead, and not in a fun-scary-Halloween-celebratory kind of way; last year they had about two kids stop by. This is, in actuality, a good thing for us, because we were trying to figure out who was going to stay home and hand out treats and who was going to walk around the new neighbourhood with the boy, as well as how to get him over to see his local grandparents to show off his costume like we’ve done every Halloween so far. So instead we will take the boy, his costume, and our pumpkin (about which we are very excited indeed, as it was grown at Rowan Tree Farm by Jan and t! and will make very good pie or soup afterwards) over to HRH’s parents’ house, carve it there, and then trick or treat around their neighbourhood as we’ve done in the past.
Speaking of costumes, the boy is very good at thinking them up, but not so good at being patient with the design and fitting part of it. I got half of it done yesterday, at least. The sewing machine was located, along with my boxes of sewing accessories, and the machine even worked with no problems. (Yes, I was concerned. I have had sewing machines conk out too often during costume construction.)
Saturday afternoon the boy had his follow-up appointment at the Talwar Research Institute. We really enjoy participating in these studies, and it’s always nice to have a researcher pop out for a moment to share a particularly interesting or amusing experience with the boy. It’s also nice to be told that one’s child has a really solid moral compass. It’s not like HRH or I go out of our way to talk to him about right vs wrong, but we do discuss it in relation to things he sees in movies or situations in books or daily life, and he’s sensitive enough to see that certain behaviours hurt other people’s feelings, too. One of the things he reports daily is who is “in the red” at school. His teacher has a traffic-light chart on the wall, and everyone’s name starts in the green zone each day. If a child receives a second warning regarding his or her behaviour their name gets moved into the yellow and they lose a certain number of playtime minutes which are instead spent in the Thinking Chair, and if a third warning is issued their name is moved into the red zone and they have to sit in the Thinking Chair during all of free play time. This fascinates the boy, and he is determined to stay “in the green.” It’s interesting to see how he responds to clearly defined social parameters and expectations in an environment that’s composed of people all his own age and roughly similar social skills, as opposed to preschool where ages ranged from eighteen months to four years and social skills were proportionally varied. And it’s also fascinating to observe his responses to disturbances within that social environment, particularly when they’re initiated by his peers, and to the consequences of those disturbances. School is, we often forget, about socializing people just as much as it’s about teaching them concepts and skills.
I was complimented on my knitting while the boy was in his research session, too. The researcher confessed that she’d tried knitting a couple of years earlier and been defeated by thin, thin yarn and tiny needles, and I told her my secret was bulky yarn and huge needle size. Because really, how else do you make garter stitch look impressive enough to compliment when you’re really not much of a knitter? I’m knitting a dense hood, because my ears are starting to ache from the cold wind at the boy’s bus stop. I’m going to graft it onto a scarf knit from the same yarn but more loosely so it actually wraps around my neck and shoulders (if I knit it at the same density as the hood it wouldn’t drape much). I should travel with a spindle and some dyed fibre to really freak people out in waiting rooms. Spinning that fluorite-coloured BFL on Lady Jane is going really well, too. I don’t know how long spinning 8oz would have taken me if I didn’t have a deadline by which I needed to return the wheel, but I can guarantee it would have been longer than three weeks. I am impressed with my spinning focus and output.
Speaking of knitting and spinning, something that I’ve been thinking about lately is an entry on the Sustainably Creative blog about learning not to hover between resting and doing. Nobbs is an artist with myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome, and the post talks about wandering aimlessly through your tasks and getting not much of anything done as opposed to doing ten minutes of focused work and actually getting something done. This past week when I’ve found myself drifting in front of the computer and unable to focus on thinking through work I’ve stood up and walked away to do something concrete and tangible with my hands, like knitting for half an hour or spinning a half-ounce of fibre or baking something. I may not feel like I’m getting enough work done at my computer (and I’m not if I judge myself by my insane pre-fibro outputs of eight years ago, but it’s hard to shake that and work with a more practical and sensible set of expectations), but at least by the end of the day I can look at something else I’ve accomplished. The fibro is really doing a number on my self-confidence as related to my work output, and part of me is terrified that I’m just lazy. I know; if I’m worried about it, chances are good that I’m not, but you can’t reason away an illogical fear.
And in totally unrelated news, I promise you a photo post soonish, since the owlies have been lax on the photo front these past few months. The camera is frustrating and I’m taking fewer photos of shareable quality, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t post pictures at all.
Right. On to more laundry, and then some focused work. I’ll set the timer for ten minutes when I get back. The tea timer is my friend in regards to focused work. So is protein, I’m discovering. Cheese and crackers coming up!
This morning, my monitor started doing that wonky trying-to-load-the-desktop-and-failing thing again. This happened a few weeks ago and I panicked that it might be the Mac (oh gods no, please, no) because the lovely Mac guitar-chord startup sound had also crackled and slowly faded. (Curiously, that came back after the move, then slowly faded again. Meh, the onboard mini speaker è morto. Not a big deal.) Then I figured out that it was actually a problem with the communication between the monitor and the computer, and after reading a bunch of stuff online I lowered the monitor refresh rate. Worked like a charm. The display did this odd flashing off then on thing once or twice a month upon startup, but always settled down.
Except it happened again this morning, and nothing I did would wake it up; the display would flash briefly and then go dark, over and over. This time I noticed that the power button was also flashing on and off slowly, and when I turned the computer off to try booting again that button didn’t go to amber the way it’s supposed to. Fortunately we have a second computer in the house, and HRH had given me permission the last time the monitor had this stutter to unplug his lovely widescreen monitor and use it. Before I did that, though, I turned his computer on and searched for problems with a ViewSonic flashing power button. And wouldn’t you know, this is a common ViewSonic issue. The monitor tries to load the display, but it goes black repeatedly. The cause is blown
flux capacitors in the power supply, which can be replaced by the user.
Heh heh heh. I get to turn my monitor into a
time-travel machine a surgery patient and use a soldering iron. It will be a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new monitor, and it gives me a certain satisfaction to know that I can extend my monitor’s life instead of dropping it in a landfill and spending a couple hundred dollars I really don’t have on a new monitor. If replacing the capacitors doesn’t work, then I haven’t lost anything but a bit of time and a negligible amount of money, and I’ve gained an experience. Once the monitor’s on it can go for hours, but it’s the uncertainty about if it will load properly in the first place that’s unwelcome. It finally loaded this morning, for example, but only as I was on the floor reaching for the cables to disconnect them in preparation for switching the monitors after twenty minutes of this one flashing.
In other exciting-to-me technological news, I figured out how to hook my iPod Touch up to the stereo. When I was in the shed earlier this week I found the Random Electronics box and scrabbled through it till I found an RCA-to-minijack cable and brought it inside. Yesterday, when I was too dead from all the driving and celloing I had done the day before to do much other than just sit there, I decided to spin a chunk of the dyed BFL I’ve been working on (Lady Jane has to go home in a week, and I want this project done before then so I don’t’ have to switch wheels in the middle, because they spin differently and that affects the yarn, of course) and I wanted to listen to the great SpinDoctor podcast while I did it. I didn’t want to blast my computer speakers like I’d had to do before, though, so I pulled the stereo amp away from the wall and plugged the RCA jacks in, plugged the minijack into the headphone output of my first-gen Touch, et voila, podcast on the stereo. Look, this is a big deal for me, okay? The thinking it out, knowing I had the right cable somewhere (we still haven’t found the last box with all my wall altar stuff and the tealights in it after the move, argh), and the wherewithal to figure the connection out when I got the stereo, the iPod, and the cable all in the same place is a decent accomplishment for me these days.
Speaking of technological experimentation, there are two and a half ounces of that fibre left to spin up. And I have decided that what I originally considered a wood-violet colour scheme is actually more like polished fluorite when spun and wound on the bobbin. Equally lovely, just different. (Photos at some point, yes. This camera doesn’t capture colour and light the way I wish it did, and all my pictures look dull, which is why you haven’t gotten many lately.) It’s interesting to see how colours on a braid of combed top shift when drafted and spun. I find myself interested in the technical adjustments to a Saxony wheel set up in Scotch tension. What happens if I increase or decrease the tension? What happens when I move the mother of all away from the wheel? I’m secure enough to treadle at my usual speed now and my hand speed while drafting has caught up to it. I’m looking forward to Navajo-plying this BFL when it’s done, too, to see how the wheel handles it. I do wish I had time to try double drive, but I’m barely going to get the singles of the BFL done and all plied before it’s time to take Lady Jane back to her home. HRH asked what I thought of double treadling, and I’m fine with it. I thought I might feel ungrounded, but it’s all okay. So I’m no longer worried about getting a double-treadle wheel at some point and not being able to use it properly.
We tend to get caught up in our plans.
Plans are important. They give us direction and structure and context. But sometimes we forget to revisit them, to look at them and make sure they still match who we’ve become in the time between making the plans and the now. Because in the same way that adorable kittens become seventeen-pound cats and tiny babies become strong energetic children bound for kindergarten in less than two months and the novels you write take unexpected turns, we change, too, and to expect us to stick to a plan made for someone five years younger is moderately unrealistic. Five years is a lot of living, and a lot can happen in that space of time.
I’m not saying that everyone should scrap all their life plans. To completely reinvent a life plan every few years would be pointless and a waste of energy. But it’s important to re-evaluate, to seriously examine who you are and what you need on a regular basis to make sure that the details still apply. Otherwise, at some point you’ll lift your head and realise that you’re living the life or writing the book you planned out when you were twenty-eight, only now that you’re twenty years older you wish you weren’t.
Would those intervening twenty years be wasted? Not really; life experience is life experience. But it would have been nice to notice that you were changing along the way, and that the life path you had planned out wasn’t flexible enough to match you as you were evolving. It comes down to a question of efficiency, I suppose. And being as happy with yourself as you can be. Tiny changes along the way to match who you are at any given time are more efficient than a drastic life change at a much later date. Drastic changes are rather challenging to pull off; minor shifts are usually easier to handle.
Amanda Palmer, in a blog post wherein she did some self-examination in the light of her recent experience at a Lady Gaga show, said something that really made me stop and think:
here’s the thing.
it sometimes kills us to believe this, but you are ALWAYS free to choose a new path and hop off the one you’re on.
your expectations of yourself can change on a daily basis. it’s FINE.
your expectations of YOUR LIFE from when you were 12 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, they will gnaw and haunt you. no doubt.
every love you left, every love you never chased, every career path you didn’t follow, every instrument you didn’t practice, every time you kept your mouth shut and should have spoken up, every time you said too much.
but none of that exists NOW. it’s gone, over, non-existent.
the same way your parents’ expectations haunt you. and your teachers and the noise of cultural expectations haunt you.
all these voices in your head bicker and argue and obscure the real key to freedom:
your ability to stand still and ask:
who do i want to be
and what do i want to do
No, I’m not considering something drastic; I’m more philosophical at the moment than anything else. I just found this interesting in the light of a discussion we’re having over chez Emily’s Stark Raving Cello Blog about regrets and pie charts and difficulty embracing the now. We can change the parts of our lives we’re not happy with. It can be a scary thing to do, yes. I left a perfectly safe job to write, and following my bliss paid off (and yet, as I pointed out over there, I very often do not wish to be doing whatever I am currently doing at any given moment, so a major life change is not a guarantee of eternal contentment). And significant change should never be a whim; life plans need to be taken seriously. But we can look at our lives, ask what makes us happy right now, and embrace it without judgement. We need to accept that past things are past things, stop letting them drag us down, stop worrying about things beyond our control, and start focusing our energy on what we can do instead. Because really, we all need more happiness and less anxiety in our lives.
Can I do all that? I have to be honest; no, not completely. But I can try.