Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mourning books

While the move over all went well, the lead up was horrible.  We had a tiny tiny budget for the move, since J didn't have steady work when we moved, so we piled everything into the cars and what didn't fit got mailed.  Besides gas, we ended up spending about 280 on mailing all of our books.  Because of the cost, and because most of the boxes of books had to be carried so much, we were pretty aggressive about getting rid of books before the move.  That meant agonizing and agonizing over what to get rid of and what to keep.  We ended up getting rid of quite a lot, but nothing we're sad about losing.

What I am a little sad about, and what still makes me feel a little unsettled in the house and in my writing, is that the Post Office lost two boxes of our books, one box personal and one box professional.  We had trouble for a while figuring out exactly what was missing (in order to file a claim) because 1. it was the holidays 2. we hadn't had all the boxes delivered yet, so it was impossible to know what was missing and what was just in the mail and 3. we own more than 300 books and don't use all of them every day, so the missing ones kind of blended in.  The Post Office seems to be working hard to track down our boxes, but what makes me a little unsettled in my writing is that I usually write with a stack of relevant books on my desk.  I don't always read them, or really even look inside them, but it's just become part of my method to build a little fort out of the books I'm talking to in whatever I'm writing and then write.  Maybe this just all goes to how much a creature of habit and stuff I am, but I want my book fort back.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

RBOC: Self Distraction

  • It is much easier to do academic tasks which are not writing when there is writing to be done.
  • Cutting down a big piece of writing to fit length requirements for writing samples for grant applications is easy to start but agonizing to finish: no matter how many times I do it, I always think before I begin that it will be easy because I'll just skim and cut out the junk, and then spend way too long arguing with myself about whether to leave something in and then get side tracked into looking at my research files and end up not cutting anything.
  • A friend who is self employed and works alone says: I hate arguing with that jerk out in the shop because he always wants to do things the hard way and he always wins.  
  • [An aside: this friend is your go-to guy if you want a historical bucket made.  If you've watched Pirates of the Caribbean, Deadwood, or Hell on Wheels, or been to Jamestown or Plimoth Plantation and seen a bucket, he made it.]
  • The jerk I work with wants to endlessly go through research files instead of actually writing, and is winning right now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Freelancing sucks, but is ok sometimes

Pipe Dreams installation in the lobby

As previously mentioned, the job that J had just after moving to Snowy State dried up just in time for the holidays.  He's still technically on staff there, but they have no hours for him since the theater has no shows starting until February.  But this is why we moved back to Snowy State instead of jumping with both feet into some place totally new and distant--a couple of weeks pounding the arts/humanities pavement in Snowy City landed him an awesome short-term contract building exhibits at Large Regional Museum, with just the right timing to let him go back to First Theater if LRMuseum decides not to renew his contract.  I'm hoping they do renew, because staff gets free tickets and it's one of my favorite museums in Snowy State.

I don't think either J or I really realized how tenuous either of our employment situations would be when we started dating.  Our parents are in fairly stable fields--they all experienced the shadow of layoffs, but they all found jobs before leaving college and were able to buy houses within a few years of graduating.  Partly it's a factor of the fields we've entered (J and his sister, me and my brother are all in arts or non-profit fields vs the medical and science fields our parents and grandparents are in), but talking to everyone this Christmas, I think we all thought the model of "land a job senior year of college or last year of grad school, buy a house two years later" was the model that we were going to follow also.  

We've none of us (that is, me, J, and our siblings) had a hard time finding work so far, but it's not the kind of work that's familiar to our parents--we work contract to contract, seasonally, sometimes having to move around the country for work or partners' work.  And I don't think it's going to change, at least for us, for the foreseeable future.  From talking to our parents, their periods of tenuous employment were in their teens and college years, but ours are probably going to go into our thirties or at least late twenties, part of the unfortunate extension of adolescence in this country.

The move to Snowy State and the craziness of dealing with J being a freelancer has been stressful, but at least we're in a large regional center, with family support and lots of job opportunities.  I'm planning on going on the academic market next year, and while I'm not looking forward to it, at least it won't be our first time at the rodeo with the horrible application and interview and disappointment process.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting back in the writing box

1. Clean Christmas off the desk
2. Stare at Pinterest
3. Get crackers
4. Chase cat off desk
5. Make nest for cat on desk
6. Open chapter file
7. Reinstall bibliography software
8. Put cat back on desk nest
9. Reinstall wordprocessor software
10. Get more coffee, stare at Pinterest
11. Take nap with cat on couch
12. Give up on actually writing, transcribe research photos instead

I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing daily, which is tough coming out of the move-and-holiday induced torpor, and looking at leaving town again soon for research travel.  The cat desk nest actually helps with this, because the cat only sits at the desk for as long as I do.

Christmas was good, if hectic, because I rush between three different celebrations for my side of the family and then J and I rush out of state for his family Christmas, and we're only just back now, and still not all unpacked.

Not much Christmas baking got done this year, except for this amazing easy delicious gingerbread cake.  Seriously, this is the easiest, tastiest cake I've ever made from scratch.  The candied lemon peel, whipped cream and pomegranate seeds aren't in the linked recipe, but the colors and flavors made the ginger pop a lot more.

We had needless drama making it, since we were trying to cook it at the same time as a duck in our tiny, tiny kitchen, but it turned out really well, and we're going to make another for friends later this week.

Hope your 2012 is off to a pleasant and productive start!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We're here!

Writing dropped off the priorities list after my last post in October because we did, in fact, move to Snowy State (although there's still no snow here).  J got a job in Snowy State literally days after my last post--a college friend called on a Thursday to say that if J could be there on Monday, there was a job waiting for him, so he drove off with a car full of stuff and the cat.  It's not a super reliable job, since theater work is unreliable work: when it rains it pours, but when there's nothing, there's nothing.  Because J works on the technical set construction end, his kind of jobs dry up once the acting starts, as with the start of all the big Christmas shows.  

Between my stipend and pinching our pennies, we're doing ok.  J lived with my mother in October/November while looking for an apartment, and I stayed in Cloudy City to finish teaching, sublet our apartment, and finish the move out on that end.  The Post Office has lost at least two of the twenty-three boxes (yes, 23!) of books I mailed, which concerns me since my academic and craft books are hard to find and expensive.  

My sewing machine is also somewhere in transition across the country, so with the unpacking and holidays there will be minimal craft making.  I've felt a little at loose ends since getting unpacked because I usually mix writing time with craft project time, and most of my sewing/craft things are either still in the mail or were donated.  I'm trying to keep purchases minimal right now because of J's job situation and all the travel I'll be doing for research after the holidays (hello, airplane craft projects), but it just feels odd to have so much of our usual stuff around and then reach for a pair of scissors and not be able to find them or be sad to not have glitter.  (Although there is no such thing as too much glitter anyway).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moving forward . . .

My mother works with a lot of corporate bureaucrats, although she isn't one herself, so "moving forward" is one of her favorite phrases to use when she's annoyed with the way things are (not) progressing.

J had another job interview yesterday, near Major Metropolis.  It was a place that sounded good at first: union, union wages, health care, good pay, good location.  But at his interview he was told that overtime is mandatory, there are layoffs every three months of people who are deemed "no longer useful" and the shop only works when there is work, and sometimes there isn't work.  That last part is pretty standard in the theater business, but the rest sounds sketchy, especially since we would have to move long distance for him to work there and there isn't much other work for him in the area if he were to be laid off.

Moving home to Snowy State is looking more and more likely, since he's gotten some offers for short term work there, his professional network is pretty strong there, and our families are both nearby if he can't find something for a while.  Cost of living is also lower.

Moving to Snowy State is looking so likely, in fact, that we're selling a lot of our furniture this week and making preparations for him to drive out there at the end of the week if we don't hear a gold plated offer from the sketchy place.  It's a bit jarring, because we've been sitting on our hands for so long and now things are suddenly moving forward so quickly.

I had to go through my fabric stash to get rid of things for the move (Snowy State is a multi-day drive, and we can't afford movers or to ship much).  Some of it I was able to get rid of with a sense of relief, because I've been sitting on it for so long that it's no longer exciting, and there's an awesome sewing/fabric thrift store in our town that only does donated fabric and notions, so it's going to a good cause.  But I still have a ton that I have plans for but no time for.  I'm increasingly excited to move near family in Snowy State, but parring down my fabric stash and the plans I had for it feels like a big break with the plans I had in Cloudy City.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where have I been?

Out of the stockpot, into the fire?
It's been since July since I posted!  It got so easy to push off posting until next week, then the week after, then the week after.  Mostly this has been because of anxiety over two big issues that came up over the summer.

J has done lots and lots of applications, and even got a job offer, but the place that offered him the job stopped responding to phone calls or emails before he had a chance to start.  He's currently in limbo at another place where he got to the final round of interviews (as in, he was one of three candidates), but the hiring committee has pushed off notifying for two weeks running now.  Both of these would have meant major interstate moves for us, as would all the other applications he's put out without hearing back about.  Right now we're contemplating a move back to Snowy State, where our parents live and J has a network for finding freelance work because we went to school there.

The other big issue has been a threatening-to-become-major medical issue for me, some joint pain which has started to impair my mobility and ability to do things like type, knit, and sew for long periods.  I thankfully have insurance coverage for it, despite J's work situation, because I'm still insured through my family due to my student status, so that at least has not contributed to the anxiety.  The good of it has been that my doctor hasn't found indications of rheumatoid arthritis or anything else which would cause long term damage, but not having a diagnosis means also not having a treatment plan.

So while nothing actively bad has happened to us, the lack of forward motion, the looming certainty of our January get-out-of-town deadline, the uncertainty of where we would go, and the possibility of losing my ability to do both my job and my favorite hobbies for an undiagnosable medical reason has made for a lot of anxiety and fear here at chez Construct.  That the joint pain may be itself a symptom of anxiety over the whole situation hasn't helped.

I'll be trying to get back into the swing of blogging again.  AB's posts over at Secret Confessions of a Trailing Spouse have always been encouraging, so I know this too shall pass.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood

I've never used Planned Parenthood--I've been incredibly fortunate that my healthcare has been covered through my family for my whole life, and that my privilege to be a full-time at this point in my life has allowed me to keep that coverage into adulthood.

But that coverage has been dependent on a lot of things which were never certain--on my father keeping his job, on my maintaining a relationship with my father, on my ability to attend college and graduate school.  Without violating anyone else's privacy too much, I'll just say that I have both friends and family who currently or in the past have lacked health insurance to cover even the most basic care.  I have both friends and family whose health care is currently uncertain because it's being threatened by both state and federal budget cuts and government shutdowns, and being used as a bargaining chip by the so-called progressive left in this country.

I've been to Planned Parenthoods, various ones, several times, with friends who didn't have health insurance, who couldn't access health insurance for fear their parents would find out about their use of birth control, whose health insurance didn't cover the care they needed, who used to have health insurance, but who lost it due to unemployment, who had to leave college due to health issues and could no longer be covered by their parents' insurance, who left marriages and therefore lost health insurance.  Their lack of insurance has made me very aware of the temporariness, the contingency, of health insurance, and therefore care, in this country.

Emergency care is available to the uninsured in this country only to the extent that it stabilizes the emergency--care providers are under no obligation to treat the underlying problem which caused the emergency, or even to provide follow up care.  Government-assisted or -provided care is available on a contingent basis as well--contingent on what legislators believe to be moral, contingent on politically motivated budget cuts, contingent on the government staying open, which, as we're seeing on both a state and federal level, is not a guarantee.

I support Planned Parenthood because health care ought not be contingent.  It ought not depend on staying with an employer, in a relationship, on being born to the right parent, on maintaining a relationship with a parent, on student status, or on the moral, religious, political decisions of others, be they relatives or legislators.  Lacking either universal care or the political will to institute universal care in this country, I support Planned Parenthood because it offers care that is contingent on nothing more than individual need.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Planned Parenthood

If you haven't heard already, Shakesville and What Tami Said will be hosting a blog carnival of posts in support of Planned Parenthood on July 7.  If you have been affected by access (or lack thereof) to Planned Parenthood, visit Shakesville or What Tami Said to see how to participate.  I have never accessed Planned Parenthood services myself directly; I'll be posting on the privilege which has enabled me to say that, and why it's important to me that Planned Parenthood be available (hint: it involves valuing affordable healthcare for everyone, even those who don't have the good fortune to be related to someone with a job which provides family healthcare).  If Planned Parenthood or affordable healthcare access is something you value, consider adding your own post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Deaccessioning

The cat and I have been spending some time in the guest bedroom going through things to get rid of before we move.  Currently it's sewing patterns.

I learned to sew mostly on my own and later working in the costume department of a living history museum, like Plimouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg on a small scale.  (It was an 1840-1890 midwest town and I also worked as an interpreter, so I was the young lady school teacher.  Also a lady blacksmith.  Also a male soldier. Basically it was the best high school job ever.)

The costume department made our own clothes and the clothes for the rest of the staff and the volunteers, and the museum either couldn't afford bulk licencing from pattern companies or couldn't find patterns correct to the costuming director's standards.  The more experienced folks drafted patterns from their own research, original clothes in our or other museums' collections, or modified slopers.  That was probably the most long-lasting benefit I got from that job--I stopped working there after my second year of college, after four years working there, and never worked up the skill/nerve to draft anything more complicated than a lined jacket, but it definitely gave me the confidence to try later in college and grad school.  (Not trying to brag, but re-reading that, I can't believe I drafted my own lined jacket at 17.  Working with ladies who whipped out whalebone corsets and full hoopskirt dresses and Victorian jackets sans patterns definitely put things in a different perspective at the time!)  I also did some volunteer reenacting in the 17th and 18th centuries and sold clothing to people for several years, so I have a lot of other self-drafted and commercial patterns from that as well.  I kept almost all of the patterns, slopers, and muslins which fit me, and since I haven't done any more reenacting in grad school, they've just sat in a box for the last three years.

I've sorted things to get rid of and keep, getting rid of things that either just wouldn't fit me now or which I could easily redraft.  Do I need a 17th century cap pattern or an 18th century corset pattern in the near-term future?  Probably not.  Will J and I get back into reenacting some time period once he's working a job which doesn't require 80 work weeks in the summer?  Definitely.  In the mean time, what I kept now takes up four manila envelopes in the file cabinet instead of a whole box, so that feels better.

I felt sort of sad going through everything, because those patterns represent a learning experience I didn't really appreciate at the time and cutting ties with an activity and subculture that had and has a lot of meaning for me, which I don't have time to participate in any more.  But deciding to get rid of patterns which I could easily redraft also felt pretty good:  I hung onto them when I moved because I wasn't confident of being able to recreate the clothing which I had given away or sold when I moved to Overcast.  I've grown a lot in my sewing, and if I did it once I can do it again.