Monthly Archives: December 2016

2016: A Review

Black eyed peas soaking in preparation for black eyed peas and ham for New Years Day #2017.  They kind of look like tiny disembodied Rorschach heads.

This is the time of year that we’re supposed to look at our accomplishments from over the past year and make plans for the next. Because that’s the thing we do, I’ve been giving it some thought.
I know a number of people like SMART goals. For those unfamiliar with SMART goals, they need to be

S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

I hate SMART goals. Forbes magazine had a great article about why SMART Goals are sometimes stupid. I like HARD goals better.
H – Heartfelt – you need to care about them
A – Animated – they feel alive to you
R – Required – you have to do them (saying forget you to them is not an option)
D – Difficult –  hard enough to be a challenge, but not so hard as to feel overwhelming.
In no particular order, I present 8 things I’m thinking about right now which I think I should do to motivate self-growth and improvement. Why 8? Because that’s the number of things I’ve been thinking about right now. Things might be added throughout the year as I complete tasks.
  1. Go to 3 cycling classes and two weightlifting classes every week in 2016. Cycling classes may be replaced with actual biking in warmer months. Likewise, I may choose to lift weights on my own if I find a plan I really like.This is related to improving my overall health, or “being the healthiest you that you can be” as my Primary Care Physician put it. I’m not diabetic, which is a good thing, and my lipids are mostly good. We’re watching a couple of other things in the background that could become something if I don’t take them seriously, but for the most part, we’re at maintenance and watchful waiting.
  2. Follow the dietary guidelines given to me by my doctor.Most of the things aren’t huge changes. It’s a matter of diligence.
  3. Finish one existing WIP every month in 2016.
    I currently have 14 unfinished projects in my Ravelry projects, which is not in line with my personal value of “Finish what you start or cut your losses and move on.”  This goal works to address this.
  4. Develop a list of 12 handknit items to add to my wardrobe in 2016.
  5. Finish one new project every month in 2016.I only finished 9 projects in 2016. This was an improvement by 50% over 2015 when I only finished 6 projects. In my best year previously I’ve finished 20 projects. This would make 12 new projects and 12 finished off malingering projects. I want to knit more and I want to wear more of my own hand knits, so making 12 new things for my wardrobe is a way to feed into that.
  6. Write one short story a month in 2016.
  7. Finish a book by March 31, 2016. Other books may follow if this goal is met.In Stephen King’s On Writing, he says he finishes a book in that amount of time or he moves on to the next thing because he’s not interested enough in the story to actually see it through to completion. Seems reasonable enough to me. It’s not as overwhelming as trying to NaNoWriMo, but it’s still a deadline and solid commitment to finishing.
  8. Read 12 books by December 31, 2016.

The farm on my desk

Nerys and Manolo and Anne and Martina and Calvin

I have set up the farm in one of the cubbies in my desk, though somewhere along the way I have managed to misplace my lamb. First task, find my lost little lamb. Next task after that: figuring out where I can set up a little 1:24 scale sheep farm.

When I was growing up, I wanted a farm. There would be a house: a grand old Victorian lady, like the house in the Addams Family (only white and more in keeping with the Rustic farm setting.) with several huge barns for the animals and equipment.

I imagined I would keep heritage breeds like Babydoll sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, and Rhode Island White chickens (Foghorn Leghorn might have claimed to be a Rhode Island Red, but he was a Rhode Island White.) Maybe even a little orchard with some Swedish blue ducks to help keep pests under control in the garden. (yes, Mama. Actual little blue ducks.)

When I looked into it in my early 20’s, I found the cost to start such a thing was beyond prohibative. It was soul crushing. There was no way that I, as a temporary worker making just above minimum wage when I was luck, would ever be able to afford such a thing. No amount of saving would make it possible. The land alone was so far out of my reach that it made university tuition look attainable by comparison.

My farm was the first dream that I let die. I planted some herbs in a pot and put them on the windowsill in the apartment I was barely affording to pay the rent for and moved on with my life.

I don’t regret it. Some dreams aren’t worth the cost of keeping them alive. That’s not to say that farming is a bad dream. For someone else, it might be their most important dream – the one they have to attain in order to feel whole. It just wasn’t my most important dream and I knew it wasn’t when my thought was “Compared to that, paying for going to University seems easy.”

I’ve let go of things I regret letting slip away. Getting married. Having a family of my own. Moving to somewhere warm. Making a living at writing. Some of those are pretty much gone forever. I will likely never have them as part of my life. It’s okay that they’re gone, even if I regret not having done them. For example, I have a good life as a single person even though I did want a family. I enjoy The Day Job and the security it brings me far more than I ever enjoyed being employed as a web page copywriter.

Others, like being published in something other than the university literary magazine, are still viable – even if it’s not the primary way I make my living. Even if I’m not trying to make it the primary way I make my living. Being a web page copywriter brought me a great deal of clarity on that front. My dream isn’t making a living at writing. My dream is writing things that entertain others. It’s being published again because someone else enjoyed what I wrote and thought others would too. I have stories that want to be told and they will not shut up until they’re out of my head and on paper.

The little plastic sheep that I got as a joke for #Whinebeck photos have since become my farm. It’s obviously not the same as a real farm. I think that’s the point. There are no animal chores. No feed to throw or manure to clear. This farm never has bad economic years. There are never stillborn lambs or sows that die farrowing, no hens that stop laying or apple trees that don’t produce because the blooms were killed by an early spring with a late cold snap.

This farm is still a dream farm. It’s a reminder that the fate of dreams is not black or white. Some dreams are realized. Some dreams die and leave holes within us. Some dreams grow and change and are better for it. Others fade just fade and are replaced by new dreams.

My pot of herbs has become three raised beds in the back yard that feed me tomatoes (the actual fruit, not the imaginary unit of time) and peppers during the growing season. Sometimes through the winter, when I get lucky. My sheep are 1:24 scale and never need feeding or sheering. My writing may not ever pay my bills. It might, however, entertain or inspire someone, and that seems like payment enough.

There was supposed to be writing

There was supposed to be writing today, but what popped up in my news feed when I sat to make words happen on virtual paper threw me so far off my game that I never quite recovered.

Carrie Fisher is dead. I haven’t felt so emotionally drained by a celebrity death since Jim Henson. If Henson, through Kermit the Frog, was the spiritual father of my creativity, Carrie Fisher, through Princess Leia, was it’s spiritual mother.

Something in her portrayal of the Galactic Princess who didn’t need saving touched me deeply. The line between Ms. Fisher and Leia was thin to me: wanted to be her when I grew up, whether that was Leia or Carrie Fisher herself.

To see word of her passing sucked the wind out of my creative sails today. The world is a smaller, sadder place for lack of what she might have added to it in the future.


Crouching Tabby, Hidden Peanut Butter Balls

Not today, weight loss. Not today!

 On Christmas Day, Mama brought over my present: All my favorite Christmas treats. From top left clockwise around: Grandma Johnson’s peanut butter cookies, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, Praline Pecan Chex mix, and Peanut Butter cookie wrapped peanut butter cups. I was told I had to share (despite the fact I wanted to hide the peanut butter balls in particular in the freezer.
I left them out on the counter while we all went downstairs to begin our Christmas Kung Fu movie festival. First up: Hero. We came upstairs after the movie to start dinner and grab some snacks. We were greeted by two peanut butter cookies lying out on the counter and a half-eaten peanut butter ball, little more than a chocolate base sitting in the green container Mama brought them in.
Someone ate one of my peanut butter balls and tried to drag off two of my peanut butter cookies! Who could have done such a heinous thing?
Sully the cat

The culprit returns to the scene of his crime. The offending stench peanut butter and stale kibble mingled on his breath.

We were innocently watching Hero. Meanwhile, upstairs, Sully-cat was making his own dramatic martial arts film inspired by Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon. He cleverly stalked and then summarily executed the wily peanut butter ball for its crimes against Catitude and tried to make off with two accomplice peanut butter cookies for later questioning. At least that’s Sully’s version of the story.
My version is the vile fuzzy beastie ate one of my Christmas Peanut Butter Balls. When I promised Mama I’d share them, I meant with the roommate and the scarf-owning friend, not with any of the fur-bearing critters that share habitat with me.
The offending tempting treats have been closed up and put away since Sully-cat has shown far more interest in them than warrants an obligate carnivore.

Christmas Scarf Watch: 20161224 –  Completed

I made it. The scarf is now drying after it’s initial washing. No scarf IOUs will be needed this year.

The roommate documented the measurement for me. I ended up being slightly short on my count. It actually took a full six tomatoes (three hours) to complete the last of it. I’m unsure if the deviation was just that I slowed a bit as I went due to my hands hurting, or simply knit faster when I was timing myself to try to figure out much longer I would need to finish.

I felt so accomplished that I gave myself the rest of the evening off from knitting and watched the roommate play her new video game: The Division. The storyline of the video game is good because how could it not be good when it’s based on work by Tom Clancy.

I’m still just a little disappointed at the lack of zombies in the game. Thugs? Yes. Bioterrorists? Of course. Zombies? Completely missing. It’s so sad. I think it’s a tragically missed opportunity for zombie Knicks fans.

At least the game is educational. I’ve been learning lots about New York. The game maps are actually based on Google Maps for the city. I’ve even been to Virtual Madison Square garden, which makes me want to go visit the real thing.

The most important thing I’ve learned from the game so far, though, is that pretty much everyone has military grade weapons stashed around their apartments for you to find once they’ve been evacuated because of the Dollar Flu. I’m surprised that more New Yorkers aren’t just climbing up onto their rooftops and camping out in lawn chairs with their sniper rifles and machine guns and picking off passers-by for fun while they wait out the whole Bioterrorist plague thing.
I would have expected the roommate to do more sniping, like she’s done in Fallout and other games, but The Division doesn’t seem well set up for solo play and many of the scenarios seem to need to be seriously over-leveled in order to play them out alone. Because of that, there haven’t been as many opportunities for her to find a good spot to set up and head shot mobs.
I made the roommate (read: pestered the roommate to do it until she acquiesced) pick up her free holiday hat for her character. It’s a nifty red and white holiday themed fair isle stocking cap complete with Norwegian Star motif and Deer. It screams holiday cheer as she’s mowing down AI opponents with her AK-47, so at least there’s that.

Christmas Scarf Watch Update: 20161223 – The race is on

​Scarf watch: length 65 inches of 78 inches.

Tendonitis report: Yes.

Tomatoes behind schedule: Let’s call it one. It should be three, because I should have planned on finishing today and not tomorrow, to allow for blocking. I did take time to weave in the ends so far, so I’ll only have one end to weave in when I finish.

Tomatoes remaining: Let’s call it 5, just to be safe. 

Odds of finishing before Christmas: Promising (Don’t get cocky!)

Desperation level: Waning (Seriously, don’t get cocky!)

There are just a bit over 13 inches of scarf left to knit and perhaps 2 and a half hours of work left before the knitting is finished.

I’m on Winter Shutdown now. It varies a bit from year to year, but The Day Job shutters the doors from from December 23 through January 2 in order to do vital maintenance in the factory and facilities. Lucky me, since the office is closed, too. In theory, I should be able to manage knitting time over the course of the day to finish the scarf and block it.

In practice, the roommate may have other plans for maintenance around the house that I need to help with since we’re hosting the Holiday festivities here this year. 

There’s a fighting chance of actually meeting my self imposed deadline. Wish me luck.

It will take a miracle

Let’s not talk about how far behind I am on the scarf. I keep telling myself that I can make it, that I can finish it before Christmas Eve. In a fit of starry-eyed optimism, I even put a tomato on it before work this morning.

In my saner moments, I keep hearing this scene from the Princess Bride in my brain.

I want to succeed. I just don’t know that there’s quite enough time left between now and Christmas Eve, especially if I leave time for trivial finishing things like “blocking” and “weaving in ends” and “sleeping.”

Finishing and sleeping are overrated, right?

Enough stalling by writing. Back to knitting.



Winter Solstice

I am sitting in the dark and I am tired. This year has been long, so very long. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to make it this far.

You may not have noticed it, but I’ve been battling with my health behind the scenes. I’ve been trying to keep everything appearing normal while we figure out what all is wrong and get it under control. Things aren’t under control by any stretch.

I’ve been trying to keep the depth of it from my friends, from my family, from this blog. Until I really know what’s wrong, I don’t want anyone to worry. I’m just so tired and the constant effort to keep up appearances? Some days it’s everything I can do just to keep up with The Day Job, let alone anyone and anything else.

It’s been a tough year for everyone. I know that. I don’t want to be a burden. I just don’t know how much longer I can keep up appearances.
It’s exhausting.
Tomorrow is my last official work day this year. After that, I’m on Winter Shutdown from The Day Job and won’t officially return to work until January 3. (I have a small Shutdown task to do, but I think that will only take part of a day next week.)

It’s the longest night of the year and I feel the depth of it in my marrow. Tomorrow the night will once again recede. I’ll get a few days of respite because of Shutdown. I need them to recharge.

Please let them be enough for me to recharge.