Thoughts about money/income and skills

After a busy week of rushing to finish drafts of 3 installation manuals for a project, and finally resolving (I hope!) an issue with health insurance, I’m ready for a weekend! Since Father’s Day is tomorrow, and I didn’t really get much “me” time on Mother’s Day, I decided that I’m taking time for myself today, while my husband and second son are fishing.

Right now, I should probably be sleeping in, since I’ve had about 5 or at the most 6 hours of sleep every night this week, because the baby has taken hours to get to sleep (sometimes not until midnight, when I want to be in bed by 22h00 to get my preferred amount of sleep) and the four year old has been waking up around 06h00 because of the sunlight entering the room because we pulled back the curtains so that they would not cover the window AC unit. Instead, I’m writing. 🙂

I was up for an hour before starting this post, getting something to eat and spending time with the four year old. Because my husband and the kids spent hours this week doing many loads of laundry that had piled up, I don’t feel obligated to spend most of my waking hours on a Saturday cycling through multiple loads of laundry. Not having that chore today definitely helps me feel less stressed. Or is it anxious? (We often interchange the words, yet they’re not the same.)

One thing I’ve done for myself this past week is read Laura Vanderkam‘s book All the Money in the World during my pumping sessions at work. (Note: I do not receive any monetary compensation from sharing these links, nor did anyone ask me to share them.) It’s an interesting read, and I hope–no, plan–to implement some of her ideas (mostly about focusing on increasing income instead of cutting small expenses, which I already do as habit.)  About once a month I do go out to eat with friends from work (spending <$5 on a special) and get Chinese takeout for my family (for an average of $25 per order), but beyond that, I do not spend money on any of those expenditures that many people cut from their lives if they are trying to save money. I’ve never been in the habit of frequenting a salon, or buying coffee, etc.

Last night, after I got the baby to sleep while the other kids were still playing before bed, I had the chance to converse a bit with my husband (until the baby woke up just before it was time to get the other kids to bed). I told him that I can’t decide where to focus my small amount of personal time: on writing fiction or on sewing.  I do want to write my stories and publish them, yet I also want to do more sewing. He commented that I write better than I sew, which is true because I’ve had much more practice writing than sewing. I want to develop my sewing skills because I want to have a more practical skill that I also enjoy–which I can’t say about cooking!–and I feel that in really tough times, people will not pay for fiction if they are more in need of new or repaired clothes, in which case sewing will be more valuable than writing. I like being creative with fabric; I even dream about adding pockets to pants for the boys.  Still, I prefer writing (whether it’s fiction or not) to sewing. Writing makes me more happy. So does reading. Besides spending time with my family without the pressure of household chores and other responsibilities, my favorite activities are reading and writing.  Although I am a professional (technical) writer, I would prefer to be a professional writer of fiction and of non-fiction that I decide to write.



Pumping Ahead

My schedule of pumping during the day (and having someone else feed the baby from a bottle) and only breastfeeding her in the evenings and overnight is working rather well. For the past week I have been able to pump at least 4 oz extra of milk, so I have been freezing that extra milk to build up a supply for when I go back to work, so that I’m not just pumping for her next day’s food.  During the day, I pump every two hours, sometimes every hour if necessary.  A couple of days, I have just kept up with her appetite, and yesterday, I didn’t think that I would get enough extra to freeze, but I did in the late evening.  I haven’t actually calculated how many ounces she consumes in a 24-hour period, but I think that if I can keep freezing at least 4 oz a day of breast milk, then I’ll have at least 200 oz in reserve before I need to go back to work; hopefully that will last her a few days. 🙂

When I need to pump more frequently, I feel as if I barely get time to do other necessary tasks (getting and eating food, getting more water, using the bathroom, helping the other kids) in between pumping sessions.  I want to be able to get back to some of my sewing projects, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time throughout the day, and start to pack the piles of out-of-season and outgrown clothes that have accumulated in the living room.  At least I still feel a bit productive when I pump; I read (email, blog posts, articles from websites that I like) and keep up my water intake.  Yesterday I drank over 2 liters during daylight hours.  I stopped using a 16.9 fluid oz plastic water bottle; right now I’m using a 1.5 liter bottle, until I dig out my reusable water bottle that’s buried in one of the kitchen cabinets.

Speaking of pumping, I need to pump again now!

Pondering Poetry

Instead of writing much here tonight, I spent my free time catching up with several connections on LinkedIn and then writing the first draft of a poem for a contest that I want to enter.  The poem can be a maximum of eight lines, so this will be a challenge for me, since when I do write poetry (which is only occasionally, and certainly not as much as I write my other creative work (fiction)),  I prefer to write longer free verse. (Sometimes I do write rhyming poems, but they are definitely another challenge.)

Since the deadline for entries is Feb. 15, I’d better finish my poem before the baby comes, because I doubt that I’ll have time after the baby’s birth but before the deadline, or rather I doubt I’ll have much interest in writing poems then.

Even though I haven’t attempted to create many different forms of poetry, I do like most kinds, from Shakespearean sonnets to limericks.  Some of my favorite poets are Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, and pretty much every Romantic poet.  Of course, now that I’m thinking of poetry, I want to dig out my poetry books, but I will need to wait to do that because it’s getting late and tomorrow is a work day, so I need to get some sleep.

Do You Remember Learning to Write?

Do you remember when you learned to write?  Do you remember learning the process of stringing words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, so that everything makes sense?

I don’t remember much about actually learning to write.  I do remember that, except for keeping a journal, which I started in second grade, I didn’t much like writing in elementary school, got better at it in middle school, and loved it by high school (so much that I was one of about 2 dozen seniors to take the elective Composition II, in addition to AP English).  Although I’m a professional writer, I’m not a teacher, and I find it easier to tutor adults than children, so I struggle to help my own children with their writing assignments, and I feel that their teachers are not teaching them the actual process, that they are instead just handing out assignments and then grading them.

My oldest, who is a voracious reader, doesn’t seem to understand the reason to add details to his papers; he only wants to write the bare minimum, and doesn’t seem to care if he doesn’t include all of the points that would give him the highest grade. Tonight I was helping him to finish a one-page paper about a historical figure. His assignment was to select a historical figure that he admired, give a brief biography, and explain why he chose that person and what he could learn from him or her. He had a decent draft, but it needed more details. I asked him a few questions to encourage him to think more deeply about the subject and to add those details.  He insisted that he had written enough; he didn’t think that he needed to add any more to the paper, and didn’t seem to care that he could make it better by adding a few sentences here and there. After I had asked a series of questions about the facts related to the life of his chosen historical figure, he reluctantly agreed to add a few more details, and eventually wrote enough to fill the entire page.

Although I was happy that he made the paper better by adding specific details, I was still annoyed at myself for not being able to communicate more effectively why those details were important, why I was asking him to do more work on the paper (instead of accepting the draft as it was), dismayed that it took him a while to understand, and apprehensive that we will repeat this in the future.  Perhaps it’s time for a conversation with his Language Arts teacher.

My Dedicated Writing Space is Taking Shape

I can finally sit comfortably in my sewing->project room!  Today I cleaned the junk out of the space where I wanted to put one of the arm chairs from the living room (where it wasn’t being used much, anyway, so no loss there), and then moved the chair into that space.  (I moved the boxes that were in the space that the chair now occupies into the space that the chair used to occupy in the living room.  Thankfully I was able to throw away some of the junk!)

Then I started to go through some of the many piles of papers that I had uncovered when I swapped the metal shelving unit and the table.  Among some of the piles I found some writing notebooks from 2014 and 2015 that I didn’t realize were not with my others, so I was happy to have found them.  One of them included hand-written pages of several scenes for one of my novels.  I had completely forgotten about them!  Those pages are now in the binder with the rest of my pages for that novel.  Maybe my next project should be to plan to transcribe those pages into digital format!

Now, though, I need sleep.  Moving all of that stuff, and not taking a nap today, really made me tired!

An Update About My Need/Desire for a Dedicated Place to Write

I finally decided that my sewing room should be more than just where I sew (which I haven’t done lately, anyway); instead, it should be my project room.  The room has good lighting, and if I do move an armchair into it, it will be comfortable enough for me to sit there and write when I’d rather do that than sew.  It still doesn’t have space for my writing notebooks, office supplies, etc., that I want to have nearby, but I eventually realized that I don’t actually need to have them in the same room.  As long as they’re close enough, and not in the opposite end of the house, or on another floor, then I can live with them not being in the actual room in which I plan to do most of my writing in the near future.  On Tuesday, I had the inspiration that I was awaiting.

I had the idea to swap a small table and a metal, multi-shelf unit in the living room, and to use the shelving unit as the storage location for my writing materials.  The table was just outside the door to my sewing room, so even if my writing notebooks, office supplies, etc. are not actually in the room where I plan to spend time writing (after I finish setting up), they are close enough on the shelving unit in the living room for me to access when I need them when I’m in the sewing/writing (aka project) room.

Each night this week since Tuesday, I spent a few minutes moving the piles of papers, small boxes, and other items that had accumulated on both the table and the shelving unit. Today, finally, I actually swapped the table and shelving unit (without taking down the Christmas tree).  One of my boys helped me to pile the boxes (half of them with Christmas decorations) onto the table again, to get them out of the way until I can put them back into the attic.  I filled half of the shelves with notebooks and folders to which I want easy access. I would have filled the shelves completely, and would have made space for the chair in the sewing room, if I had had more energy.  Maybe if I get more sleep tonight than I did last night (because my husband was up ill most of the night), I’ll have energy tomorrow to complete those tasks.  I can’t wait to start sitting in my project room to write.  Here’s hoping I can do it soon!

Needed: A New Writing Space of My Own

I really miss having a space where I can put all of my notebooks, writing tools, and office materials together, where I can sit comfortably and write.  Since my husband and I switched bedrooms with the 4 boys this past summer, to give the biggest bedroom to them, I’ve not had a specific space in the house for all of that, or for writing. That bedroom has a built-in desk area with drawers & shelves; I had some of my books and notebooks there.  Even though I hadn’t been able to sit there to write during the last few years because we had the crib in front of it, I could move the crib to access the drawers and shelves. The bedroom that my husband and I now call ours also has shelves, but half of my shelves are now occupied by diapers, wipes, and other things that are not books or notebooks, and there’s no space anywhere in the smaller bedroom to set up a writing area.

So, I’ve been trying to figure out where I can set up my new space. Some rooms have (space for) a comfortable chair, but not good lighting–and I don’t have extra lamps lying around not being used already, nor do I really want to go buy new ones right now–and some other rooms have good overhead lighting, but no space for a comfy chair.  Still others are currently too cluttered (family room, my husband’s old office in the basement) to start using now or in the near future.  Making space in either the family room or the basement will require multiple days of clearing out stuff, and I’m not about to tackle either project while 8 months pregnant, even if/when “nesting” kicks in (which doesn’t always happen for me).

What’s more, I don’t even have a personal working computer to call my own right now, so even if I had a specific work area, I would still be writing by hand.  (My work laptop is strictly for work for my employer, so I can’t use that for my personal writing, and my tablet is not conducive to composing more than quick memos.)  (I’m typing this on the kitchen computer, which is set up for quick searches (recipes, the weather, etc.) but not for use for more than a few minutes at a time.  Thankfully, the wireless keyboard still works on my lap as I sit away from the cupboard on which the computer monitor sits. It works for now, but it’s too uncomfortable to do repeatedly.)

Earlier today I considered moving one of my living room arm chairs into my sewing room, which does have good lighting. There’s only 1 space where the chair could fit, but I’m not sure if it would be best to put it there.  Also, I would still have the problem of where to put my books, notebooks, office materials so that they’re all in the same room. I’ve used practically every available bit of storage space in my sewing room already. The only way that I could add space would be to add shelving above the 3 doorways in the room, but then I would need to use a step stool (or ask my husband or my oldest son for help) every time I wanted to get something off or put something on a shelf, since the shelves would be too tall for me to reach otherwise.

Considered another way, though, I should count my blessings that I have such a first-world dilemma, that I have so much stuff that I have the challenge of where to put it all, that I have multiple rooms in my house, that I even have a house(!), and that I can do something more in life than spend all of my waking hours gathering food and water and preparing meals, only to go to sleep at night before getting up to repeat the activity the next day.  Countless people around the world would be in awe of all of the stuff in my house, especially all of the toys that my children leave out and don’t put away in bins or on shelves without repeated reminders to clean up after they’re done playing with or using something. Hopefully by April I’ll have the energy to tackle the clutter in the family room, and the basement this summer.

Now, though, I need to get some sleep!