Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday on my mind

I took a drive up the coast yesterday for work; I had to make a presentation at an event about two hours away. So I left the house at 9, on the first sunny morning I can remember in weeks, and headed north on the interstate for an hour before turning east. The second half of my drive was on a state road, through sun-dappled trees and past scenic lakes and farmhouses. I had Greg Brown on the iPod and all was right with the world. There weren't many cars on the road, so I was alone with my thoughts and Greg Brown's husky voice.

By the time I arrived at the event, I'd pretty much forgotten that the rest of the world exists. I was startled to have to make small talk, and I got bizarrely nervous during the presentation. I do a fair amount of public speaking for work, and it usually doesn't bother me -- I'm typically nervous beforehand, but things go fine and then I'm done. Yesterday, though, in my two-minute talk, my voice started shaking and then I noticed it shaking and then it shook more. No fun.

Luckily, I had made an appointment to have lunch with an editor about half an hour away, so I was able to escape the conference and start heading down the coast, coming back a different -- and more beautiful -- way than I'd gotten there. This time my views were of hills over the ocean, of gorgeous waterfront homes and ramshackle boats.

My lunch with the editor went incredibly well; I'm hopeful that there will be more to report on that front within the next few weeks.

And then I headed home. It had clouded over by that point, and Greg Brown was done singing. So I switched to Iron & Wine, which seemed appropriate for the glooom, and drove south on familiar roads. Even with a quick stop in Freeport for some much-needed attire, I was home by 5. Even better: My cell phone never rang once on the whole trip.

Better yet: I have the day off today. I worked on Columbus Day, which is a company holiday, so I'm taking today instead. I originally planned to drive to New Jersey for the weekend, to see my parents and grandparents and some friends, but for a variety of reasons I cancelled the trip. So here I am with an entirely free day -- nothing planned other than a drive down to the farm this afternoon to pick up the last vegetables of the season. I slept until 8:45, and am still in my pajamas. I've got WFUV streaming through iTunes, and the dogs asleep at my feet.

I'll probably do some of my typical Saturday chores -- bill paying (ack! putting the mortgage in the mail), weeding through the week's mail, etc. -- and then I've got a freelance writing/editing job for a local academic that I may try to put a dent in. (He's already well past his deadline for submitting this project, so he's offered me a bonus if I can get it done quickly.) I brought a laptop home from work so that this task can be accomplished from the couch. And, if I get around to it, I may take Rocky for a walk on the beach.

I can't tell you how much I needed a day like this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I don't feel so guilty about turning on the heat anymore

Forecast for this evening, courtesy of the National Weather Service:

Rain/Snow Mix
Current Temperature: 40

Monday, October 24, 2005

Did you hear about that thing they call the Internets?

Compared to my husband, I am quite technologically advanced. I've got a PDA and an iPod and a blog, for chrissakes, and I know how to do very minor techie things on my computer such as resetting it to an earlier restore point when some dumb Windows update screws things up.

Compared to many of y'all, though, I am an utter neophyte. Case in point: I just set up an account on Bloglines and it is totally rocking my world. I love coming home from work, plopping in the desk chair and seeing at a glance who's updated (though I know it's not always entirely up to date). I like eliminating the needless surfing to find blogs that haven't been updated. And, yes, I know the entire world has known about things like Bloglines and RSS feeds and all those fancy things for quite some time, but it is still New to Me.

But it's funny... I find myself less likely to comment now that I have to take what seems like the extra step of clicking through to the original post, then clicking to comment. Besides which, the Bloglines entry doesn't say anything about how many people have commented, which sometimes is what prompts me to look at the comments (like when Phantom gets eleventy three million responses to a post about turning on the heat). Has anyone else had this problem?

Still, it seems kinda absurd to be blaming this newfangled convenience from keeping me from interacting with people. Comments are where the action is, and I'm guessing I'll get used to the Bloglines interface and go ahead and make that extra click. It's good exercise for the pointer finger anyway.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The heat is on

We gave in last weekend and turned the heat on. My mom was here for the weekend. She's perpetually chilly, and we figured it was easier to just turn the furnace on than to make her uncomfortable for the whole weekend. After she left, we said, we'll turn it off again for a couple weeks.

Yeah, right.

It is not even Halloween and already I have had to defrost my windshield and dig out my scarf and gloves. So the heat is on, and it's staying on. We're going with the cost-savings strategy we used last year: The digital thermostat is set on 65 for the times when we're home. If we want to bump it up to 68, we can, but otherwise the default is 65. (Previously, it'd been on 68 when we were home, which meant that making it significantly warmer in the house required turning it up to 70.) I think I turned the nighttime temp down to 58 or something, too. We've got a price cap on our oil -- something ridiculous like $2.69 a gallon -- but it still behooves us to be as conservative with it as possible.

The only problem is that a few key rooms in our house don't have heating registers. Rooms like our bedroom, and the office where my computer sits. (Perhaps that's the reason for slow blogging of late.) If the Big Plan actually happens, I'm going to have to figure out some heating solution for the office -- an electric space heater, maybe?

And speaking of the Big Plan, I've got a meeting this week with the editor of a magazine for which I write frequently, who's interested in brainstorming with me about potential ways in which I might contribute more to the publication. Should be interesting.

(Apologies, by the way, to anyone who now has that terrible Glenn Frey song in his/her head... it was totally unintentional, but now I am suffering, too, believe me.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Still alive

Just a quick update to say that I have not drowned in the torrential downpour, nor have I been driven crazy by the Thing About Which I Cannot Speak. Instead, I've spent the weekend doing wedding-related stuff with my sister and my mom, who's up from New Jersey for the occasion. I believe my sister won some sort of North American land-speed record for wedding dress shopping -- after 90 minutes at the Scary Bridal Superstore, she had a gorgeous dress in hand. The salesgirls were shocked -- shocked! -- that she did not want to pay $10 for a special garment bag for the dress, but otherwise all was well.

The challenge, reserved for yesterday, was buying the bra. We spent many hours at many stores; the solution, bizarrely, was at Sears, perhaps because not many women think to go lingerie shopping at the same place they buy their power tools, so they had a lovely selection of strapless bras in many sizes. On the books for today is a walk on the beach with the dogs, perhaps an afternoon matinee and some lovely beet & swiss chard risotto for dinner. Somewhere in there I've got to get some work done, but I'm not sure when that will happen. And to be honest, I don't much care.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Five idiosyncracies

Songbird tapped me for this meme a couple days ago, and it's a good thing. There's more stuff going on that I am not at liberty to blog about... and so of course it's all I can think about writing. Times like these are when the meme-y goodness comes in handy, though it's going to be challenging to limit the list to five. Here goes:

1. I am an irrepressible gossip. Not necessarily in a bad way, though in my low moments it is. I prefer to think of it as sharing what I know. I like keeping people posted about what's going on with me and with other people we know. Over the years, this habit has created some great friendships between people I know who didn't start out knowing each other; they heard stories about each other from me, then had plenty to talk about when they finally met in person. (R. in Virginia and S. in New Jersey(!), that means you.) At work, though, it means I can't keep my damn mouth shut about whatever I happen to be thinking at the moment... particularly if I am dealing with a poorly written story by a freelancer. I think karma will probably catch up with me on this one should the Big Plan occur as scheduled.

2. I frequently choke, in an apparently loud and alarming fashion, while doing nothing more than attempting to swallow water or coffee. Said choking, which often occurs while I am reading or otherwise occupied and thus apparently not paying full attention to my swallowing, typically causes others to gasp in alarm and yell, "Are you ok?" Except for Darren. By this point -- six years of marriage, several more of togetherness -- he is totally unfazed by my wheezing and hacking. Which sometimes causes our friends to think he is heartless as he sits there completely ignoring me. I see it, however, as true understanding.

3. I have a hard time sitting still and doing nothing. I am quite accomplished at sitting still and reading, or sitting still and crocheting (speaking of which, I have got to get going on Christmas presents...). But I am lousy at just sitting and thinking, or staring off into space. Even if I put it on my to-do list, I fear it would not get accomplished. (That was a little joke for my fellow Type A's out there.)

4. When I get back in bed after the middle of the night trip to the bathroom, I have to sleep with the pillow over my face. I guess it's a vain attempt to keep morning from arriving, but I'm not sure.

5. I love -- I mean L. O. V. E. -- The OC. It is shallow and silly and almost literally sophomoric, yet I am totally wrapped up in it. I have a dumb fangirl crush on Adam Brody (which, thank you, is not illegal). I have regularly scheduled viewing parties with a small -- really small -- group of friends, during which no one is allowed to talk while the show is on. I have been known to get a little teary-eyed during particularly melodramatic moments. And I own at least one of the "Music from The OC" albums.

Phew. That was like confession, yet without the absolution. I'm not sure who's reading the site these days, so I'll pass this one along to Angry Pregnant Lawyer, Ginga, Carter, Anita and Phantom Scribbler. Anyone else who wants in, go for it.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Farewell, Lil Blue

Well, old friend, you've served me well these last eight years. Now you're headed to a new home in north-central Maine, away from the salty sea air. I know you loved me, but did you really have to fight so hard when we took your license plates off? I'm sorry we had to resort to the hacksaw, but you gave us no other choice.

Don't be jealous of the Prius; it wasn't you, it was me. And, besides, I'm sure you'll be happy in your new life, with a nice single dad and his three kids. I bet they won't fill you with little dogs, or toss junk in your back seat or play the radio really loudly. I bet they'll pat your steering wheel like I did when you're going up big hills, and gasp in astonishment when you hit 80 effortlessly.

I'll always remember you, Lil Blue, and that trip we took all the way down east a couple years back, and the drive we made together to Aroostook County last summer, not to mention numerous trips to New Jersey and thousands of miles on Maine roads. You were reliable and loyal, and for that I am grateful.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Witness for the procrastination

jo(e)'s numbers meme

Number of cats who live in my house: 0
Number of dogs who live in my house: 2
Percentage of those who are snoring audibly at my feet: 50
Number of sisters I have: 1
Average number of times I eat every day: 762
Number of words assigned for the freelance story I’m working on: 1,200
Percentage of those already written: 50
Hours I’ve been at the computer today: Four and a half
Number of blogs I’ve read between sentences: Many dozen
Additional hours I would like to spend sitting at the computer today: 0
Odds that I will finish the story before Darren returns: 8 to 1
Number of times I've been to California: 3
Number of times I've been to Europe: 2
Number of times I've been to Florida: 1
How far, in miles, I live from my parents: 400
How far, in miles, I live from my sister: 1.5
How far, in miles, I live from the nearest grocery store: 1.75
Years I was vegetarian: 5
Years since I started eating meat again: 10
Years I've lived in this house: 4
Years I've lived in this state: 8
Number of schools I attended between kindergarden and H.S. graduation: 7
Longest I have lived in any one place, in years: 4

And the fear sets in

Development of the Big Plan, which seriously needs a more catchy title, hit a big wall this morning. As I do on many Saturday mornings, I was sitting at the computer, paying bills and entering our mounds of receipts into MS Money. I was looking at the schedule of upcoming deposits when I realized what it would look like without my salary there. And what that looks like is grim. Darren's monthly salary does not even cover our mortgage. To look at it another way, with his salary we can pay pretty much everything else... but that still leaves a gaping hole where the mortgage payment goes.

That certainly puts things in perspective about how much money we need to have in the bank before I can quit my job -- six months of mortgage payments, maybe, plus a bit more? The good news is that if you add up all of our various savings accounts, we're only a couple thousand dollars away from that goal. The bad news, of course, is that those accounts represent all the money we have in the entire world (plus my 401k and a tiny little investment account). And that is a scary, scary feeling, especially with events like my sister's wedding, Darren's birthday, Jelly's tooth-cleaning (a $500 affair) and the holidays coming up... making opportunities for saving few and far between.

We're going to have to sit down and talk about how aggressive we are going to need to be about saving if this is going to happen. Back when we were planning to buy a house, we were hard-core about saving; due in part to a really lucrative freelance gig I had on top of my full-time job, plus all the hoarding we did, we came up with the down payment in a year or two. So I think we just need to come up with a similar goal -- a hard number -- and work toward it. Scary.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Catching up

Things that have happened this week:

I sold my car (for asking price!) to a very nice man who drove here from about 100 miles north after dark on a Thursday to look at it.

I discovered that the homework for my editing class isn't due until next Wednesday (and that everyone else had thought it was this week, too). Also discovered that the other editors in the class think my hours are insane. Songbird, I think this is one of those keys you were talking about.

Two editors have said they'll give me plenty o' assignments if I do follow through on the Big Plan(!).

Operation: Jelly Snooze
's latest phase, in which we put her in the chair in our bedroom, rather than our bed, when she wakes up and wanders in the middle of the night, failed miserably at about 6 yesterday morning, when she noticed I was awake and dove off the side of the chair and onto my bedside table. She continued charging at me -- YOU'RE AWAKE! GET UP! FEED ME! I LOVE YOU! -- until she ran into the large and messy pile of books and magazines and sort of bounced off the table and onto the floor. (It's a good thing the table is about 18 inches off the floor.) Whereupon she commenced the whole routine -- YOU'RE AWAKE! GET UP! FEED ME! I LOVE YOU! -- again.

Blood test results came back from last week's doctor appt re: baby-making, and everything's fine. Darren did a test of his own, about which I will say no more, and I've got an HSG test scheduled in a week or two. Followup appt with my doc is on Halloween, which somehow seems appropriate.

No exercise.

Little in the way of cooking, though I did order out a really nice greasy pizza the other night.

Work. Lots and lots of work. I swear, I am going to become a much more interesting person once I can stop whining about my job.

An interesting message for a Friday morning

You Are Changing Leaves

Pretty, but soon dead.

Seen at Phantom's and Badger's.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Glutton for punishment

So as we've discussed, there is a mountain of work at my actual job, and another mountain at home in figuring out whether I can quit. Plus there's that freelance assignment that's due Tuesday... which is why this online class I decided to take is feeling the most moronic of decisions. The lecture was posted last night, and the homework -- homework! -- is due by tomorrow at noon. Why they did not allow some weekend time for the assignment, in a class aimed at working editors, I will never know.

So if you'll excuse me, I must toddle off and think up two story ideas for Esquire magazine, as well as an entire theme issue for Time. Argh.

PS: Sorry, Sox fans -- not such a great night for you, eh?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sunday night blues

It's been a busy weekend in these parts, with a few bouts of socializing interspersed with some serious time on the couch reading. Darren's still in Florida -- he comes home tomorrow night -- and I have to admit to having enjoyed my alone time. (Well, it wasn't all that alone -- this morning, for example, I had the privilege of meeting Phantom Scribbler, LG, Baby Blue and Mr. Blue, who ran his Half a Big Race in impressive time and spirits. They're all as swell as you might think from Phantom's accounts of them.)

Now it's Sunday night, the pooches are asleep on the floor at my feet (actually, that's not true -- they're monitoring my every muscle twitch in case I take a step toward the closet where their food is kept) and I'm grumpy. I'm feeling at sea about the potential for freelancing full-time; as Phantom will attest, I am capable of talking about little else at the moment. But I am also full of fear about potentially making the move; it's a tough existence, to be sure.

I was also drawn to look at the help wanted ads this morning and saw a posting that looks vaguely interesting, though it's in an area I said I don't want to pursue. Of course, I immediately looked up the organization online and spent much time on the couch daydreaming about how I could help reach its goals -- all in 35 hours a week, of course, with plentiful vacation time and no need to ever work on the weekends. Do I want to apply? I don't even know.

What I do know, though, is that all of these things combined are showing me that it is time to start figuring out the next move, whether that comes in two months or two years. That's an unsettling thought, and I think it's contributing to my habitual Sunday night malaise.

The cure? Usually some lousy TV. I don't know what's on on Sundays, but I've got some tasty eggplant-tomato-basil casserole leftover from last night, plus some coffee heath bar ice cream in the freezer. That, combined with cable TV, oughta cure what ails me, at least for the moment.