Funny how a for-fun blog will get shuttled to the wayside in favor of a paying gig.
Just wanted to reassure all and sundry that I am still on this side of the grass.
Funny how a for-fun blog will get shuttled to the wayside in favor of a paying gig.
Just wanted to reassure all and sundry that I am still on this side of the grass.
So I have this recurring fantasy.
Said fantasy does not include piles of money or Channing Tatum, although I may exercise my option for that fantasy on another day.
No, said fantasy is more in keeping with the rich interior life of Yours Truly, The Closet Hermit. I admit it, I prefer my own company probably just a little too much. Particularly when the weather is cold. I’m not a lot of company these days.
But I digress. Central to my fantasy is this:
This, dear friends, is a caretaker’s cottage, located on an estate just one street over from my home. The cottage is situated in an orchard well beyond the main house, and it is empty, empty, empty.
I don’t know when the last humans occupied it. I’m pretty sure it’s occupied by a host of non-human creatures, mice and snakes and such. And I’m pretty sure the rooms are tiny and unkempt, and probably full of junk. The man who owns the estate is something of a collector.
I walk my dog along the lane that skirts the edge of the estate (such a grand term for it, when really it’s been reduced over the years to a bit acreage and a cluster of buildings) and I allow myself the freedom to fantasize about that little cottage. I daydream about what it would be like to have it as a workspace. I visualize a table in the sunshine, in front of a window, where I could set up my computer and write the next Great American Novel. I visualize an easel set up where I would be able to get back to painting. I visualize a table and shelves where I could stash my crafting stuff.
In short, I fantasize about having a little space all to myself, where all my stuff could exist peacefully in the chaotic format it tends to assume, and no one would touch anything and everything would be right where I left it.
I suppose most women, if they are wives and mothers, have similar fantasies. Just to have a space for themselves that no one can intrude upon. For me, the best part about it would be the absence of distraction that is endemic to writing, which I am beginning to miss. (Not that I don’t write every day I’m at work… there’s only so much tech talk you can research and regurgitate before you start feeling a little cold about it.) I haven’t felt this way about my writing in a long time and I’m a little afraid of it but at the same time a little excited about it too. It’s been a long, long time since I felt that slow burn. I haven’t had an idea hit me yet, but when I do I hope it’s a good one.
Growing up, I was one of those weird kids who read the thesaurus for fun. I liked knowing different words for things, to be able to say the same thing in a number of diverse ways, or to be able to use a similar word to change the nuance of a meaning. As a student, I was one of the very few in class who got all charged up when the teacher assigned an essay or research paper. In my spare time in 5th and 6th grades, I began to write stories. Bad stories, to be sure, but I was learning to play around with sentence structure and plot and tension and all those other things that make reading enjoyable. This was a pattern I kept up right through my college years, where I majored in English because literature and writing were the things I understood and loved most of all.
I hadn’t the vaguest sense of what to do with myself once I graduated college, beyond “get a job, any job” and so that’s what I did. I was just lucky enough to land in a place where my talents were recognized – an ad agency. My boss needed someone who could write, because frankly he couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper sack. And for 20 years that’s what I did – I wrote. Oh, I did other things, too, and that’s been helpful (or at least has paid the bills) but my main identity has been writing.
When that portion of my career (and I call it that because that’s what it is) was over I really despaired of ever finding another good fit like that again. When you live in a podunk market you don’t have a lot of opportunity to be gainfully employed as a writer without also having to be something else. The writer part of it tends to be a smaller piece of the pie than you’d really like.
As luck would have it, I managed to find another spot where my ability as a writer has some value. It’s a slow boat, yes, because heretofore they haven’t had anyone on staff dedicated to writing, and I’m there on the slimmest of margins: I write content for the company blog. That’s where it started, really, and it does seem that my boss wants to utilize my talents in other areas because he is starting shop me around as a content creator for other websites.
My new position is with a software developer, you see, and these guys tend to be hard-core code and numbers kind of guys. I might be a bit like an exotic flower to them. But I like it, and I like them, particularly since they don’t require me to be particularly gregarious. Everyone pretty much sits shyly in their own cube and crunches code. I like that about them. It feeds my solitary tendencies.
(Sidebar: I seem to like my own company probably just a little too much.)
My greatest pleasure in this position is when they give me a handful of topics and a broad latitude and then leave me alone with it all. I’m filling up my little portion of the company drive with lots of content. Those 20 years writing ad copy have been particularly helpful because I recognize that the company blog is no more than a sales tool, a marketing piece, a branding opportunity. It’s just more of the same as I’ve been doing for 20 years.
And I’m getting paid for it. Woot!
Every year – well, most years – we make a pilgrimage to the beach. This usually coincides with Spawn’s fall school break, and it is much-anticipated by all of us, for a variety of reasons. For Spawn, it’s a week off from school. We could go to the dump for a week and the kid would be positively thrilled about it. For my husband, it’s the promise of all the golf he can handle. For me, it’s the absence of a routine. Really, a break from the constant go-go-go to tutoring and lessons and activities and doctors appointments and the like is by far the best reason to take a vacation. To heck with golf.
October is in my opinion the best month to go to the beach. The weather is perfect and the crowds are pretty thin. Snowbirds haven’t yet flocked south and clogged up the roads and stores. The majority of the people on the beach in October, at least where we go, are visitors from overseas, which adds a nice international flavor to things. You can get into a restaurant pretty easily. And there is always a seat at the tiki bar. Long live the tiki bar.
This year we planned to spend two days on the beach and accordingly booked a hotel right across the street from the beach. (Sidebar: another great thing about October at the beach is that the hotel rates are much lower.) It got us out of my aunt and uncle’s way for a couple of days (since our m.o. is to go somewhere where we know someone and save some serious cash by crashing at their place — yes I know we’re in our 40’s and should be out of the crash pad business but old habits are hard to break if you have no desire to break them) and gave us a chance to all hang out together for a while. My husband had been working insane hours for the 8 weeks prior to our trip and had only been home a total of 8 days in those 8 weeks. Not, however, that we had much of a chance to miss him — Spawn’s and my schedule was pretty insane, too.
So it was with a great anticipation we unloaded the rental car of all our beach gear and traipsed across the street, set up the umbrella and chairs, applied sunscreen, and settled in. Spawn and my husband ran out into the waves while I sat in my chair, took a deep breath, and let all the tension go. I could feel my shoulders start to relax, dropping down from their clenched position up around my ears. I dug my feet into the warm sand and admired my pedicure.
Eventually I was coaxed into the water, where Spawn and my husband were enjoying a rather hefty sandbar, and was enjoying the warm salty water and the movement of the waves while Spawn dug around in the sandbar. And then, Spawn let out a yelp and came up with a bloody arm. The kid sliced open an arm on a conch shell.
Let me tell you that if you have to find a doctor’s office in a strange city, it can be done, and quickly. And you will walk a mile in the sun and in a wet swimsuit with sand up your ass, too.
After an hour’s worth of hysterics, during which the kid was adamant that the cut did NOT hurt, the doctor finally made it in to see us and assured Spawn that the cut wasn’t going to need stitches. They closed the cut up with a series of steri-strips and sent us on our way with a script for antibiotics, and that effectively ended any plans we had for further fun in the ocean.
My shoulders returned to their original position up around my ears.
Six hours at the beach and that was the extent of my enjoyment of it all.
I returned home several days later feeling a little gypped.
The weather here in Podunk has gone south, and rather quickly, and I don’t even have my memories to keep me warm.
So I’m well into my third month of only having one part-time job instead of two (though that may change soon, I am not entirely comfortable with putting all my money-making eggs in one basket) and I am starting to settle into something of a niche.
As with every job, there are things about this job that I really enjoy and other things I don’t particularly relish. Essentially I have a foot in two different departments, and when I say different I really mean that they could not be more different. One department is mostly paperwork, dealing with attorneys and their attendant penchant for crossing every T and dotting every I and the filing of said paperwork. For the most part, this department – to me – is bo-ring. But I opened my mouth and managed to get myself assigned to this department in my quest for more hours (and therefore more money in the ol’ paycheck) and so I’m keeping my head down and not trying to gain any further job description there. The other department is much more along the lines of who I am, which is to say, full of opportunities to write. The primary focus here is on web development, which is not an entirely new subject for me, other than I do not understand code and probably never will. I am trying to get more work out of the powers that be in this department, trying to grow my quantifiable usefulness there.
One of the things that has cropped up since I have been here is my usefulness as a ghost writer. It started off slowly, as good things generally do, with a couple of blog posts for the company blog. They handed me a couple of industry articles to rewrite, and I turned the information into original content (oh internet, where were you in my college English-major days?) which they decided they really liked. Before this, the company blog was only updated sporadically, and now we’re doing regular updates every other week. I’ve got enough on the company server to keep them in blog content through the end of October right now. Recently the company decided to initiate a company e-newsletter, the content for which Yours Truly is responsible. All of this is good and encouraging. I want more of this.
Just today I got a request from one of the guys in the department (sidebar: the department I favor is staffed 100% by guys — booyah!) (see also: women are exhausting) to give him an estimate on ghostwriting a blog for a client. The prevalent thinking here is to make me available for client sites as both a content writer for sites and a ghostwriter for those sites that also include a blog.
While this is exciting in the extreme, because it is solidly within the confines of my comfort zone, the only thing I have any real concern over is how to present this writing on a resume. I mean, it’s one thing to author content on a website or blog, but without a byline how do you prove the words came from your brain? I’ve asked this very question on some writers forums I belong to, and I haven’t really gotten solid feedback. There would be an assumption, of course, that as a staff writer you would be uncredited for the words you write, but in presenting a portfolio of work it’s going to be tough to prove that certain content came from you. So I really don’t know what to do about that.
But on the other hand… boo!
This past weekend I journeyed back to my alma mater to help my sorority with their fall recruitment. It’s been 20(ish) years since my college/sorority days, and while I was excited to be back on campus and soaking up the youthful energy, I was also reminded of just how far I’ve come in the interim.
Translation: I do not have the energy I once did.
When you are in the age range of 18-21 you tend to want to be as independent as possible, and that’s all well and good, but as you get older you learn that there are people out there who are willing to help you. And you figure out that when people help you it doesn’t diminish your independence unless you let it. And when you have passed a certain benchmark in the “getting older” part of your life (say, past the age of 40), you are more than happy to help people who are half your age.
It’s too bad that when you’re in that 18-21 age range you don’t really understand any of that.
When I arrived on campus on Saturday, I found the sorority girls in a full-blown panic over things that should not have been panicked over. That is to say, if they had their ducks in a row ahead of time the panic wouldn’t have taken place at all. The alums that came to help the girls with rush (me included) were pretty much groping around in the dark for answers, and very much wanting to take some of the pressure off the girls with all the little party details, so that they could focus their energies on the recruitment part of the thing. But no, these girls were trying to do it all themselves, and they were starting to lose their shit.
Rush is a pretty stressful time for everybody involved. Party planning, decorations, refreshments, skits, lines to learn, figuring out what to wear… it’s a lot to keep all those balls in the air. When you’re an 18-21 year old woman (girl?), all that stuff can take on a level of importance akin to national security and you tend to get a wee bit peevish and a lot of times there are tears. When someone else comes along and offers to help, you should happily take that help, yes?
You would think.
To be fair, when you’re under a lot of pressure it’s not always easy to see an outstretched hand coming to your aid. When we finally were able to wrest some of the little detail stuff from them, the stress level went down a bit and they were able to get in there and do that recruitment thing that they had been training for all summer. And once the last party attendee was out the door, the girls were so very thankful for our help.
The fly in the ointment here is that there were representatives from the national headquarters of our sorority “helping” with all of this. Things would have gone so much more smoothly if they had involved us alums from the get-go, but they didn’t even seem to want to acknowledge us. It really put a lot of the alums into a snit.
And here is where I tend to differ from the rest of the women in the room. While I want this fall recruitment to go well and our sorority to maintain a strong presence on campus, I am not heavily invested in how they treat those of us who are old enough to be their mamas. I mean, yes, I was a bit put out about the lack of communication — mainly because I am not a big fan of flying by the seat of my pants — but I didn’t necessarily take it personally.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I much prefer the company of men.
Summer continues unabated here in Podunk, replete with sky-high temps and no rain. It’s been so hot here that we’ve resorted to renting movies and staying indoors rather than brave a day at the pool. When it’s too hot to go to the pool, it’s too hot. And the fact that I, a hot weather lover, am saying it’s too hot… well, it’s too hot. My flowers are all pretty crispy by this point.
I’ve made the big shift in my work life, beginning the extrication process from my job of 20+ years. It’s been a little bittersweet, considering the circumstances. But since I now have a car payment to deal with, it’s necessary. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a winning lottery ticket. I wouldn’t even need to hit the powerball, just let me hit the rest of the numbers and give me several hundred thousand. Would certainly put salve in a few wounds. At any rate, the new gig is okay, the people are nice, and the work isn’t too taxing. It tends to be a bit tedious at times, but when you’re a part-timer, you are also a beggar, and beggars can’t be choosers, don’t you know.
Spawn has had an amazing summer thus far. A week of sleep-away camp, and several weeks of nature daycamp, plus lots of lying around in front of the TV, playing with the dog, and hanging with friends. I could live like this forever. Taking the kid off medication has been great — improved appetite, improved attitude. We’ve only given the kid the medication on the weeks of camp, where focus and attention are required, and I can honestly say I can tell the difference. A lot of parents will say that their main concern with ADHD meds is that it will alter their child’s personality, and they find that it doesn’t. I beg to differ. I’ve even mentioned this to Spawn’s doctor, how much more agreeable the kid is when we’re med-free. And what’s more, Spawn has started to resist the meds, too, questioning taking them. I’m in a bit of a quandary about it, but past experience of friends with children who have gone down this path tells me that the cusp of puberty is pretty typical for this reevaluation.
School starts here in about three weeks. My annual dreading of the first day of school has arrived right on schedule. Add my reticence about the meds into this and my head is about to explode. And I haven’t even begun to look at the school supply lists yet.
Bright spot? Starting school so damned early means that at least we get a week of break in October, during which we will go to the beach. October at the beach is perfection.
And speaking of puberty – or as Spawn’s doctor has dubbed it, “teenager disease” – things are happening. I’ve noticed a few small physical changes, and the kid’s appetite has been through the roof, and my early-bird has taken to sleeping in (meaning, past 6:30). And the heavy sighing and eyerolling — oh my. I’m trying to maintain a certain amount of perspective about it, even trying to see the humor in it, but it also makes me a little maudlin. Just last week, we took Spawn’s first pair of roller skates (quads) to a sports consignment store and traded them in for a pair of roller blades. Because roller blades are cooler than regular roller skates, and the kid’s foot has grown two sizes, anyway.
The end of this week will bring my biennial family reunion. And true to form, I have been looking forward to it for so long that I’m almost sad it’s here. Then I won’t get to see my far-flung relatives again for two more years, barring any funerals. Which may become an issue. The older folks are getting pretty feeble. But for four days we will be all together (most of us), and we will be eating and drinking and playing horseshoes and golf and laying by the pool and going to the casino and taking wine tours and going horseback riding and bowling and go-karting and boy I really wish I could bottle it.
Summer, despite all of its’ challenges, tends to make me greedy for more. There is a relaxed attitude in summer that I find is most closely related to my natural state. I particularly enjoy not having to adhere to a rigid schedule — we eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired. Sometimes I count a day of swimming as good enough for a bath. And if I want to eat ice cream at 9pm and call it dinner, so be it. What’s not to love?