Monthly Archives: January 2014

Trudging Through January

I need to be honest with myself about something. It’s okay to not enjoy what you’re doing. It’s a valid way to feel, especially in January when sunlight is at a premium and the cold snaps suck the life out of your bones and soul.

The project I’m handling for work right now started out as okay. It was given to me in a rough state, and I had plenty of warning regarding its requirements and inflexible deadline. The editor asked specifically for me to handle it, which was flattering and confidence-boosting, and my copy chief gave me a general raise for the consistently excellent quality of my work (woo!) plus an extra project-specific raise because it was heavy and on a tight deadline. I went in very positively. And as the pages dragged on, I got more and more bogged down. I began to feel irritated with the author for not doing her work properly. And then as I hit the halfway point, that irritation bloomed into fully formed anger, and I started dragging my figurative heels. Working on it made me feel so negative that I found all sorts of ways to not work on it, which is unlike me. (Having to go the grocery store every day this week was not a way to avoid work; it was necessity because things weren’t being written on the list as they were needed, and while it gave me a bit of the break in the morning between dropping the kids off and coming home to work, it was still frustrating on another level.) I was having so much trouble that I couldn’t choose music to work to, which is a sign that something has gone very, very wrong indeed. Nothing worked.

I have to struggle with some inner tension about this. I don’t like not enjoying what I do. I take pride in my work, and I get seriously upset when others don’t. When sitting down to work became an instant trigger for anger, I needed to step back and think about what I was doing and how I was handling it. It’s my job to fix other people’s writing. If they did it right the first time, I would be out of that job. I was requested for this project because I am sensitive to an author’s reception of an edited manuscript. (Been there, done that, and apparently I am also naturally gentle and civil in my communication.) Part of my frustration is also stemming from how slow my pages-per-hour rate has been, because the manuscript needs so much work. I’m working hard and feeling like I’m getting nowhere, which is always guaranteed to tax my patience.

I know part of my tension is also coming from the weather. We’re suffering an incredibly bitter cold snap right now. The kids haven’t been able to play outside for a week, which means that the daily high temperature has been below -25 C for over a week now. Owlet is going through some kind of developmental phase where her own patience is being tested, and she’s flipping into tantrum mode so easily that we’re kind of taken aback, because it’s very unlike her to do that. Sparky is working on taking responsibility for bringing home the correct books and papers necessary to do his homework, and you can read between the lines there and extrapolate the frustration both of us are feeling about that.

So I have had to step back and disengage from my personal frustration about this project. I am here to help this person. Being angry about the uneven research and the vague, circuitous writing and incomplete sentences doesn’t help. It’s my job to turn lazy, vague writing into succinct, active prose that conveys information clearly to the reader. This is a non-fiction project (as my last three have been — hmm, that’s interesting; I edit fiction more quickly, I must remember that) so I’m doing a lot of fact-checking. That slows my pages-per-hour rate a lot.

I will put on yet another pot of tea, and get back to it, now that I feel a bit more grounded and on an even keel again. Sometimes I just need to write it out.

Back To School

Everyone in the house is back at work and school today, except me. I worked overtime through the holidays, which wasn’t much fun for anyone, let me tell you. It was a nightmarish project, and I handed it in last night, so now I am free for however long it is before the next assignment comes along. This is traditionally a slower time of year.

I owe the journal a Christmas roundup and Owlet’s twenty-nine-months-old post from yesterday. I’d like to do a 2013 in review post, but at the rate things are going it probably won’t happen. Let’s consider it a pleasant bonus if it does.

[NOTE: Those two posts were published on January 13 and now have been backdated.]

Owlet: Twenty-Nine Months Old!

This past month, Owlet learned how to play hide and seek. I tripped across this while some of Sparky’s godsisters were playing it with him while they were visiting, and found Owlet sitting under the chair at my sewing table. “What are you doing there?’ I asked. “Ssh,” she said. “She’s playing hide and seek,” HRH explained, who was helping. It was rather adorable. So now she has added “hidaseek?” to her game of “chase me, chase me!” It’s nice to have a wider range of games to choose from.

She learned “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” at daycare, and sang them all December long with great gusto. Or rather, she sang the first verse of each over and over. Sparky and I managed to teach her the “fa la la” bits of “Deck the Halls,” which provided some relief for our ears.

This holiday season she finally got the concept of parties, too. The first one was the daycare party. “Par tee?” she said. “Chrissmass par tee? Chrissmass par tee, yay!” “More par tee,” she cried when we had to leave to take her home for her nap, an hour later than usual. We promised her more par tees throughout the month, and she grudgingly agreed to leave.

The laid-back “Shuuure!” has returned to her vocabulary, which has levelled up again in an undefinable way. Maybe it’s just that her pronunciation has sharpened a bit, making what she says generally less fuzzy and easier to understand. Maybe it’s the new and as-of-yet still occasional use of the pronoun “I.” Maybe it’s that she’s putting concepts into words more easily than she used to. All I know is that not understanding her is now a rarity, and when she does say something that is gibberish-like to our ears, it’s more frustrating than ever for everyone involved because we’re all so used to communicating clearly.

She has similarly levelled up in her physical self. Suddenly a bunch of her leggings and pants are too short (speaking of which, Sparky’s jeans all suddenly all too short as well, argh); suddenly the sleeves of her snowsuit are just barely long enough; suddenly half her socks are only good for wearing to bed now. She can put her hands into her mittens and get her thumbs into the mittens’ thumbs on the first try. (WOO! We worked really hard on that this winter, let me tell you.) She can go up and down the stairs without a death grip on the railing or an adult’s hand. And I’m just going to come out and say it: She’s toilet trained. We were holding off confirming it until we knew she was night trained, and she’s mostly fine then. She wears a pull-up just in case, but they’re dry in the morning. During the day she takes herself off to use her small potty whenever she needs to and often doesn’t tell us, which means we have to remember to check it periodically.

Her two-year-old molars are finally coming in, after a couple of months of irritation. The lower left one is in, and the lower right has finally broken through. She’s old enough to stick her fingers in her mouth and say, “Mouth hurts, Ty Knoll, pease.”

Her current favourite books are In a People House, her Frozen storybook, and the Sofia the First book she got for Christmas.

Bedtime has become a kerfuffle of sorts. She goes to bed nicely for her dad, not so much for me. So we’ve split up the bedtime routine: I do the reading part, and HRH takes over for the cuddle. It makes me a bit sad, because I love the cuddle part of bedtime, and I miss singing to her, but this way it’s over in half an hour as opposed to two hours. She just thinks it’s playtime if I’m cuddling her, and still hasn’t figured out that if she’s quiet I’ll stay, but if she continues to bounce around our time together will be over, and then we have to go through the crying and the repeated returning her to her bed.

Over the Christmas break, Janice brought us the stunning quilt that she has been working on since before Owlet was born, and it’s simply beautiful. Back when she proposed doing it, I gave her a general colour palette, and we discussed patterns. I wanted something that looked like a Brigid’s cross, and we found a pinwheel variation that looked perfect with the right piecing. The guild acquaintance whom Jan had lined up to do the actual quilting got through her queue of other work and finished it up this fall. It’s crib sized, and I was worried that the switch to the big-girl bed meant we wouldn’t see it very often, but it’s folded and lying across the foot of her bed so we can see it every day, and the colours work perfectly both against the coverlet and in her room.

Look how gorgeous this is.

And look how the feathery quilting motif softens the right angles of the pieced quilt top.

(The quilt is straight. My photos and how the quilt was laid on the bed are not.)

The soft green flannel of the back complements it perfectly, and I cannot get over how perfect the binding and border fabric is; the brown and gold pulls everything together. You can see the quilting motif really well on this side.

Both my children are very, very fortunate to have heirloom-quality quilts made for them with love by family friends, along with the heirloom-quality knitted items. Someday they’ll know just how wonderful all that stuff is. For now, they just know joy because we have friends who love them, whether they bear gifts or not.

Stuff I Did In 2013

Wow. Busy year.

Knitted two and a half pairs of socks. No, actually, if we’re adding up individual socks I knit three full pairs, because I knit three for Sparky’s Gryffindor socks, two for my slipper socks, and one so far for my own pair of regular socks. Ha ha! Six socks! (Too bad that’s not how it actually works. Sigh.)

I knit a complete child’s pullover sweater. How crazy is that. It was also my first test knit for someone.

I knit one and a half cap-sleeve sweaters for myself. The half is because I had a half-done one languishing in my cupboard since something like 2006, I finished it, realized it wouldn’t fit, frogged it all, and reknit it. It’s technically finished, but I need to undo the bindoff and add an inch to the bottom. I should add that I made some original modifications to the neck and sleeves that actually worked. I think I’m getting this knitting thing.

I knit a lot of blanket squares for my friends in my online mums group. And then I seamed two of those blankets together and knit the borders on each from yarn spun especially for them.

I spun twelve ounces of yarn for a friend’s project. I spun a similarly crazy amount for my mother’s stunning cabled wrap, and then dyed it, too. And I wonder why I don’t have a lot to show for my spinning time this year. Most of it belongs to other people!

In other areas of my life, I switched the bread recipe I use, and I’m liking the more artisanal loaf we get from it. I also started making my own yogurt, which is a big thing because I loathe yogurt. HRH and Owlet adore it, though.

I stopped using commercial cleansers and moisturizers on my face, observing how much happier and healthier my hair and scalp were when I quit using sodium lauryl/laureth-laden shampoos and silicone-sibling conditioners, and thinking that my face would probably react in a similarly positive fashion. Turns out my face is much happier not being stripped of everything (good and bad) and then having stuff smoothed back on to rehydrate it. I’m using the oil-cleansing method, and my tricky-to-handle, acne-prone face has never been happier. So happy, in fact, that I only have to do it every two days. So yeah, colour me impressed. (Also appalled at the ruthlessly-strip-then-requires-deep-moisturizing-with-unhappy-stuff-that-needs-to-be-stripped cycle that our consumer society has tricked us into repeating endlessly.)

I cut my hair, a lot. I’m hacking off three-quarters of an inch every four to five weeks. It’s nuts. I thought a couple of times that I’d grow it longer again, but I look so tired when it’s shoulder length that snip, off it comes, and I look so much healthier and brighter with it at about chin length again.

I was pretty healthy overall, the trip to the dermatologist and his concern over one of my moles aside. (That’s being taken off and sent for analysis next June. It’s difficult to reconcile “concern” with an eight-month wait for removal and analysis, but whatever.) The other health scare that had me sent a specialist also ended up fine, so another deep sigh of relief and hurrah for that. (Also, I now have a gynaecologist who is awfully nice.) I went back on my fibro medication this summer, and after a two-month period where it felt like it wasn’t doing anything, things suddenly clicked into place and the pain is manageable and energy levels are more consistent. Sleep is less of an issue, although still a big sensitive spot for me.

I kept up with Downton Abbey and Sherlock, we discovered the My Little Pony reboot, and I dropped Game of Thrones because the level of depicted violence and sex turned me off. I know, I know; I’ve read all the books. But the way HBO is portraying it is different, and it’s not enjoyable to watch for me. And life is too short to make myself read crappy books or watch TV that I don’t enjoy. I’m getting very good at cutting stuff like that out of my life.

In fact, I’ve looked back over the past couple of years, and I’ve done a better job at releasing toxic friendships and limiting contact with people who stress me out. I have a limited amount of energy to keep myself going. I need to protect it. I’m doing a pretty good job at saying no and focusing on the most important things in my life.

I’ve done some editing work that I’m very proud of, both private and through the publisher I work with. I’ve had the privilege of reading some great stuff before its release and helping to make it even better. I love my work, even when it drives me to excessive chocolate consumption like the most recent ones did. (Oh dear gods. You will never know, because the resulting books have correct facts and dates and are stronger in general. That’s what I do, and I’m fine being anonymous.)

I didn’t have a lot of time for cello, but I seem to be doing okay in that area. Just getting out once a week and carrying through on the orchestral commitment was a priority. We played some great stuff in orchestra, and I’m proud of my Suzuki work, too.

I read much less than I usually do (hmm, I should start including the books I edit; those totally count, why do I not do that already?). Although “usually” has taken a hit these past threeish years, so maybe this new lower finished frequency is the new normal. Standouts for me were the second in Elizabeth Bear’s Steles of the Sky trilogy and Kerstin Gier’s entire Ruby Red trilogy. I finally got around to reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which was lovely. And courtesy of Tamu, I got to attend Neil Gaiman’s only Montreal book signing/reading tour stop ever (it’s hard to believe, but his previous stops here have been con-related, and he retired from touring after The Ocean at the End of the Lane one ended).

Music-wise I discovered The Doubleclicks, who should adopt me, because wow, it’s like they know everything inside my head. Also, cello.