Hermit Out and About

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Hermiting is hard. My answer to “Do you want to go…” is nearly always “No.” But from time to time, I have to suck it up and go somewhere, because holding Tom hostage at home isn’t really fair. Staying in and having some adult beverages and watching Netflix used to be an option–my favorite–but apparently we don’t do that anymore. Well, I do, every night when Tom goes to bed, but I guess that doesn’t count.

Tonight is one such night, when I have to dress like a normal person and go out. There’s a 17021379_855781954559544_4158933835694194326_n“battle of the bands” at our favorite bar, The Brown Pelican, and he wants to go…so we’re going.

I used to love music, and we followed one particular band, going on multi-day roadtrips to catch several shows on consecutive nights. But a falling-out (lead singer/guitarist turned out to be a ginormous ass-crumpet) led to me no longer liking music…at all.

Back in those days, going out involved meticulous planning, with every detail of my hair, makeup, outfit, shoes, and accessories carefully coordinated. Now, I’ll get a shower. Probably.

While the main challenge is that I’ll have to converse with non-canine individuals, today has another obstacle. It’s March 31, technically spring. It’s also Easter weekend, or so I’ve heard, since I’m non-religious, and that’s considered a spring holiday. But it’s also a little chilly, with the temperature expected to be around 50 degrees this evening when we head out.

Definitely too cool for my cute summer tops. I tend to be cold, so even a short sleeved top is probably out. But if I wear a sweater, will I look like an idiot? Too cool for my new sandals…but black boots? Too winter-apparel-y?

I thought about wearing a garnet-colored long-sleeve top with my first knitted scarf, 29571342_10214115474733336_8294067764251296272_nwhich is light-weight and could be okay, but that might look like I think I’m still in Minnesota rather than eastern North Carolina.

So, what to do? Barring a meteor strike or robot uprising, we’re going. I’ll probably spend an hour standing in my closet and staring at the available options, which is almost like shopping because I go out so rarely that I find myself saying, “Oh, hey, I didn’t remember I had that.”

Probably too late to knit myself a light spring sweater, especially since I’ve only been knitting for a month and have no idea how to go about sweater-making, and it takes me two weeks to make a stupid scarf.

Whatever I end up wearing, the strategy will be what it always is, which is to reach the correct blood alcohol level to make me temporarily forget I’m a major introvert and avoid a panic attack. I probably won’t have a terrible time, but it’s not even 10 a.m. and I’m worrying about it, and that’s a lot of hours getting myself worked up over nothing.

See? I keep telling everyone hermiting is hard, but only other equally-dedicated introverts believe me.

(DISCLAIMER: As an editor, I desperately want to punctuate the graphic at the top of this post. I normally won’t use any meme with spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors, but I love Bugs Bunny too much to pass this one up.)

Slow and Steady Setbacks

I thought I was going to finish the zig-zag scarf, my second-ever knitting project, yesterday…but nope. I’ll explain why in a minute, but first, I did officially block my first-ever scarf yesterday.

I’m pretty pleased with it. There are definitely mistakes, but I’m not too worried. However, it’s spring in eastern NC, and I don’t usually wear scarves anyway, but we’re going downtown Saturday night, and it might be cool enough to wear this as an accessory with a garnet-colored top I have.

Scarf 2 is long enough, but I’m trying to end on a part of the colorway I like. I was sure I’d finish yesterday, worked on it a bit in the afternoon, then when I started again in the evening, disaster struck.

The pattern isn’t that hard, and I’ve been working on it so long it’s rather mindless, as long as I take a second as I start each row to remember where I am. But if I become too mindless, I sometimes lapse into knit stitches on the purl row, and I did it again. I noticed the ridge a couple of rows later, and was glad I had a lifeline.

Turned out it was good I had two lifelines, kind of like a back-up parachute. When leaping out of a perfectly good airplane, it’s fairly certain you’re going to need that first parachute, unless your goal is to see how deep a crater you’ll make when you hit the ground. It’s nearly as certain I’ll need at least one lifeline upon occasion, since I’m still so new to knitting.

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Lovely, lovely lifeline

But when I got to the first lifeline, something was wrong. It didn’t look…right. Sigh. Back-up parachute time. By then, I was sweating, because if the backup chute failed, I was just going to have to start flapping my arms and hope for the best.

I was very, very meticulous as I reached the lifeline and began putting each loop back on the needle. Then I figured out where I was in the pattern–I always put the lines in rows 10 and 20 of the 20-row repeat–and deduced I had the needle in from the wrong direction, and had to feed it (so carefully) onto another needle going the right way.

Heart attack averted, but the 15 or so rows I had to frog amounted to at least an hour and a half of work. Not a huge deal, as while working on a crochet lace tablecloth, in which each round took several hours once I reached a large diameter, I once took out multiple rounds, or about two days’ worth of work.

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But I really wanted to finish the scarf yesterday, block it today, and start something new.

I have a new circular needle, smaller size, arriving today, which I think I’ll use on a small blanket, but I really want to order THIS, a full set of ChiaoGoo stainless steel needles with interchangeable cords. Spendy, but I figure I’ll come out ahead in the end, rather than ordering each needle size and cable length individually as I need them. Yes, I can justify nearly anything once I decide I want it.

Do you have a favorite full set of knitting needles? If so, tell me fast, before I one-click the ChiaoGoo set!

Classic: Nobody Likes Team-Building

One of the absolute best things about working from home is I am no longer subjected to the dreaded “team-building events.” I estimate 90% of people hate these things, but we’re all forced to endure them. And let me tell you, extreme introverts hate it more than the less introverted can possibly imagine.

This is a Classic Fermented Fur post from ten years ago. How many of you can relate?

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It is a well-known fact, to those who know it well, that I hate those participatory, team-building, touchy-feely, business seminars. Let me be absolutely clear about this.

I hate them.

Loathe. Abhor. Despise. Detest.

I do not like them. And I need a bigger thesaurus.

And yet that is exactly what I’ll be doing next Tuesday. All day.

We recently re-started our work with our ActionCOACH (yes, that’s how they spell it), which is a worldwide business coaching network. Our coach is an unbelievable dynamo. She’s from Australia, and she does not have a low gear. Think “ADHD hummingbird on crack.” She rock climbs, surfs, bungee jumps, kayaks, and (for all I know) participates in triathlons with entire populations of third world villages perched on her shoulders. Still, she is always impeccably dressed, has lovely – if very pointy – shoes, perfectly sculpted nails, and a dark tan.

As a part of our return to the ActionCOACH fold, we’re being subjected to participating in a Team Alignment Day. I understand the importance of strengthening our team relationships, and finding ways to get along and work better together, because (unfortunately) this is one of our ongoing struggles.

I’d just really rather not be there.

As the Practice Manager, though, there’s simply no way out of it. I must attend, participate, and pretend to be happy about it. I do have enough experience from years of front desk work, pretending to like people, that I will likely pull this off, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’d rather have all my skin peeled off, strip by strip, and fed to rabid jackals.

Tell me if this agenda sounds like fun:

(Setting, a meeting room at a local hotel. The room will be too chilly, I won’t get to sit where I want, and there will not be nearly enough breaks.)

8:00 AM: Welcome and overview

Welcome team

(Yeah, yeah. Yippee.)

Why we are here today

(Because somebody made us be here. Oh, and they’re paying me $15/hour.)

Why to invest in a business coach

(Because we’re clueless, and you’re that damned persuasive)

Introduce business coach

(Hi. We’ve met.)

8:10 AM: Introduction

8:20 AM: General Principles of Success

(By now, I already have to pee, and I want a cigarette. Brain cells may already be starting to atrophy.)

8:45 AM: Setting RAS: What I want out of today

(My answer: More smoke breaks, free lunch, and an early dismissal. An open bar would also be appreciated. And a cab ride home.)

9:00 AM: Game

(I do not like games. And these “games” are never, ever fun.)

9:10 AM: General Principles of Success (Continued)

(Oh, goodie. The 25 minutes of this we’ve already had weren’t nearly enough.)

9:45 AM: Break (15 minutes)

(Translation: Two cigarettes and one quick potty stop. I will probably return to the meeting room out of breath, my pants half zipped, and toilet paper stuck to my heel.)

10:00 AM: 6 Keys to a Winning Team

(If she can just help me get them to stop whining and do their damned jobs, I’ll be happy.)

10:15 AM: Strong Leadership

(Easy. Get a bigger baseball bat team motivation device.)

10:30 AM: Common Goals (Created prior to Team Day)

Business Vision

Business Mission

2007 Goals

(I’m pretty sure that last agenda item should read either 2008 or 2009 goals. Of course, if I re-write my 2007 goals, I could make it look as if I actually accomplished some of them.)

11:30 AM: Rules of the Game

Business Culture Statement (Created on day with Team)

(We’re a holistic veterinary practice. Our vision and mission from the 10:30 segment, and our culture statement, are all very new-agey, all about respect, empowerment, trust, healing, and harmony. Sounds lovely in theory, very tough to pull off in practice when you want to slap someone silly for remaining an idiot after all your generous attempts to de-idiot-ize them.)

12:15 PM: Game

(Perhaps I can pretend to have diarrhea, and thus get an early start on lunch.)

12:30 PM: Lunch (45 minutes)

(Lunch. Is. Not. Included. I am not amused. I shall have to venture several blocks to Chili’s, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but 45 minutes is not enough time for a dozen people to eat lunch, take care of necessities, and get back to the meeting. Especially if they take a detour through Bismarck, which I just might do.)

1:15 PM: Action Plan

5 Ways Profit and 4 Ways Business Building Strategies (Created on day with Team)

(“Created on day with Team” means “We’ll all talk simultaneously and spout off a bunch of random, inconsistent, impractical, off-topic nonsense, and Lori will write it down and attempt to form it into something that won’t make us look like absolute vapor-brains.”)

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2:30 PM: Support Risk Taking

(How risky would it be to make a break for the door right now???)

2:40 PM: 100% Involvement/Inclusion

(I can only promise 75% involvement. Any more than that and my brain begins to swell. I shall have to fake the other 25%.)

2:45 PM: Break (15 minutes)

(See “9:45 AM.”)

3:00 PM: IVVM (Dream Builder)

(I have a huge problem with this part every time. This coach is all about attracting wealth and success, much like The Secret, and simply saying “I will achieve/have/experience this by this date” and it will happen. This has thus far not proven true for me. The other part of the problem is that they encourage our personal dreams and goals as much as business ones. Since all my personal goals and dreams involve things like a remote northwoods island full of dogs, a wildly successful writing career, and never, ever having a “real job” again, I’m not sure my goals are exactly compatible with dreams for the business. With work, I have a hard time looking ahead to next month, let alone 5 and 10-year plans.)

3:15 PM: Top 7 Things Learned Today

(1. Next time, claim to have leprosy.)

3:45 PM: Team WIFLE

(Do you know about WIFLEs? It stands for “What I Feel Like Expressing Is.” You then express whatever needs expressing. Work-related, personal, weather, good news, concerns, whatever is on your mind, always concluding with, “and that’s what I feel like expressing.” Everyone then says, “Thank you, Lori.” I cannot spontaneously WIFLE. When we do this at staff meetings, I have to mentally compose my WIFLE the night before. This is one of those spectacularly lame “getting to know each other as individual human beings” things.

Hey. Remember me? I’m an introvert. That’s all you need to know.)

4:15 PM: Conclusion: Time to Get Into Action

(“Time to get ready to take a nap.”)

At 4:30, I get to exit the parking lot, leaving behind skid marks and a huge, billowing cloud of dust.

Naturally, no Team Day is complete without a bunch of personality profiles and “what I think of our team and business” stuff. We had to fill out and fax in all that stuff this week. I’ve done about 688 of those personality profiles over the years, and guess what? I’m an introvert. (See Team WIFLE) I’ve always been an introvert. I will always be an introvert. Anyone who knows me at all is aware of the fact that I’m an introvert. They also know I’m highly anal-retentive, non-confrontational, and very unpleasant when pushed past my tolerance levels. They’ve seen the results.

Still, I am tired of a lot of the intra-team behaviors that we haven’t managed to change or eliminate. If by some wildly improbable chance this helps fix some of those, it might be sort of worth it. Maybe. Possibly.

I will be ten times more tired at the end of this Alignment Day thing than I ever am after a regular work day. All this people stuff sucks the energy right out of me. It’s a ton of effort and extraordinarily draining for an introvert to pretend to be able to function with normal people, non-stop, for an entire day. That’s why I was so thrilled when we were finally able to assign me to practice management full-time and get me the hell away from the front desk forever.

It may be somewhat more uncomfortable than usual this time around, though, since at least some of the staff probably sees me as the Wicked Witch right now, following last week’s careless screw-ups and subsequent Consequences. We’ve been saying for ages, “Hey, one more screw-up or one more crappy attitude and there are going to be some Consequences, gosh darn it!” Yet until then, no Consequences ever manifested. So maybe it’s not so strange that people actually were surprised when it happened. But I know how to be the Bad Guy now, when I have to be. I don’t like it, but I like warning people about the same errors and attitude issues till my tongue goes numb even less.

Maybe the cure for being an introvert is just getting too pissed off to remember that you are one.

 

Good Boundaries Make Good Neighbors

I’m not a people person, but I’m especially not a kid person. The only one I’ve ever cared about was mine, and he’ll be 34 tomorrow, so even that is well in the past. I do not want to hold your baby. I don’t want to hear the cute thing your toddler just did. I am not even remotely interested in your daughter’s dance recital.

However, if your puppy caught a grasshopper, I totally want to hear about that in great detail.

As I mentioned in THIS post and THIS other post, we have new occupants in the rental K1361house across the street, and this is causing me some anxiety. When we moved here four years ago, it was occupied by a 30-something single woman with an elderly dog, and then a couple of young Marines. They were good, quiet, friendly, but boundary-respecting neighbors, and I was okay with that.

A little more than a month ago, people appeared over there. I had a hard time figuring out who the residents were, as the various individuals spotted seemed to vary. But after a month of observation, I’m fairly sure the ones who live there are a woman and two younger-teen boys.

Yes, I realize the “normal” thing to do would be to walk over there to say hello and introduce myself. If you don’t know anything else about me, you should be aware that “normal” is not a word ever used in any way regarding my social skills and interactions, unless it’s prefaced by “ab-“.

My issues come from the numerous other children who are there on a regular basis. The woman must do some sort of daycare, either for relatives or as a business, as two toddlers (maybe more…honestly, kids all kind of look the same to me) are usually present. There are also a boy and a girl of approximately middle school age. Maybe others. I should probably keep some sort of logbook.

This is a lot of kids.

Plastic outdoor toys started to show up in the yard. Then a portable basketball hoop was placed at the end of the street. Our house and theirs are the last on our respective sides of the dead-end street, and I have to admit that’s a pretty good setup for a basketball hoop. What they don’t know, however, is that patch where the road ends is considered overflow parking for our two houses. We only have a small gravel drive in the front of the house, so if you have company, that’s where they go.

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Kid-faces blocked, because even I realize that’s kind of wrong.

Now the truly horrifying part. I’ve noticed these kids, who are definitely school age other than the toddler-types, are present throughout the day. Know what that means? Home school. These other kids who I don’t think live there–it’s only a two-bedroom house–might be part of the home school setup. Maybe she has some sort of cooperative with other families in her church or something. She has a “pray” sticker on her truck, and that seems like the sort of things church families probably do.

I’ve also noticed the boys tend to be out playing basketball at very regular times, suggesting home school “recess.” Our late-great dogs Darwin and Brody would’ve been very upset by this, slinging bark-drool all over the front windows and destroying the blinds. Mozzie and Oliver will take off barking if they hear a distinct noise or kid-related squealing, but other than that are doing pretty well. In fact, I have a feeling Mozzie might actually like kids–much to my dismay–because he’ll sit at the window quietly and watch them play.

I’m generally the tense, curmudgeonly one…but for some reason this basketball hoop is bothering Tom a lot more than I’d expect. The ball bounces into our front yard, and he gets all territorial. I’m supposed to be the territorial one. He’s supposed to be the laid-back, friendly, tolerant one who will chat with the neighbors when they cross paths outside, finding out who they are and letting them know we’re harmless but have definite boundaries. Now I’m finding myself saying things like, “It’s no big deal. They’re not hurting anything,” when I’m more accustomed to saying, “They’re out there…all the damned time.”

I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. I have this shifting herd of non-adult humans running around out there, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. Luckily, the room where I spend 90% of my time is in the back of our house, away from the road.

I’m really, really glad they don’t appear to have a dog, though. A dog running around out there would not be appreciated by my dogs–or by me.

Sanity-Saving Lifeline

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I’ve only been knitting about a month. I’ve made a bunch of practice swatches, a dog dishcloth, a scarf, and am working on a second scarf. Thank goodness for Facebook, because my crafty friends have been giving me helpful tips, including using a lifeline.

As much as it offends my over-achiever personality, mistakes happen. Stupid, soul-sucking, project-tainting mistakes. In crochet, since you work one loop or stitch at a time, it’s easy to rip out the work back to the mistake, even if it feels like a rusty ice pick to the heart to destroy hours’ worth of yarny goodness.

With knitting, though, it’s much harder. Some of this is because I’m still new. I’m at about a second-grade level when it comes to knitting, while I have a metaphorical PhD in crochet. But with knitting, you work with a full row of stitches on the needle. If you discover a mistake while on the same row, like if your stitch count is off at the end, you can usually figure out where the mistake is and un-work the stitches back to that point. Still tricky for me, as I can still lose a loop that way, but it’s possible.

If you don’t realize your mistake until several rows later, the expletives begin to fly. If you simply start pulling out rows to get back to where you can fix it, you then have to try to identify one complete row of loops and get each one back on the needle without losing a single one. Tough enough in a 35-stitch-per-row scarf. Much harder for a wider shawl or blanket.

I’ve learned knitters call ripping out stitches “frogging.” (“rip-it, rip-it, rip-it,” ha.)

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Which brings us to Monday night and the lifeline.

I’m doing a zigzag scarf. It has a left-slanted segment, then a right-slanted one, ten rows each. Each consists of a pattern row and a purl row, repeated five times for ten rows. Late Monday, I discovered my mind had wandered and I had repeated the left leaning segment, meaning I had a long, 20-row left chunk, totally breaking the symmetry. Can’t fix that by throwing in an increase or decrease in the next row.

Motherfluffer.

No choice. I had to go back to the end of the previous segment and re-work the ten offending rows. Thankfully, I’d listened to Jody and had been putting a lifeline through rows 10 and 20 each round. This is a purl row, so no worries about getting it through a K2tog or YO.

In theory, this was all hunky-dory. In reality, not so much, and I almost got a nosebleed thinking about it. But a-frogging I did go, with a churning stomach and nervous sweat upon my brow.

When I got to the lifeline, I handled the scarf like it was made of nitroglycerin, tissue-thin crystal, and bunny-fluff. I carefully and meticulously inserted the needle through each stitch that had the lifeline…and we all survived.

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This is how I placed the line. I use crochet cotton and a tapestry needle and work it carefully through each loop, being sure to get all strands of the yarn in each stitch. I do this in row 10 and 20, and when I get to 10 again, I pull out the first line and use that, so I always have two.

This is what it looks like.

I almost didn’t bother with lifelines, because I’m pathologically lazy, and taking time out from knitting to do something so dull and utilitarian makes my teeth itch. But lifelines are like insurance. A nuisance to obtain and pay for, until you need it. The claims are a pain to deal with, and the item in question might not ever be as pristine and perfect as it once was, but in the end, you’re glad you had that security.

Bottom line, I’m still alive, my scarf is still alive, and my house isn’t full of broken objects hurled about in a flurry of frustrated anguish. I’ll have to be a much, much more experienced knitter before I consider “working without a net.”

Grumpypants

Did you know if you do an image search for “grumpy golden retriever” or “golden retriever in a bad mood” you won’t find much? This shouldn’t surprise me. Goldens are almost pathologically cheerful. They can pull off sad, or disappointed, or bored, or play-snarling, but it’s not easy to find a grouchy golden.

Why was I looking for a picture of a grouchy-golden? Because I’m in a vile mood today and wanted a photo representation, preferably in dog form. After extensive research (three or four minutes trying various combinations of bad/vile/grouchy dog in a Google image search), this guy is the clear winner and accurately depicts my current outlook.

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“Whatever you’re thinking of saying or doing…don’t. Just. Don’t.”

But why? Nothing really unusual here at Furwood Forest today. Awoke to customary puppy-snuggles, it’s not raining, internet is working. Some non-standard and disturbing stuff in the work inbox, I guess, and routine tasks that have a few extra-fun complications involved.

Mainly this, though:

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My to-do list is significantly heftier than my motivation, which does present a problem. I find that on days like this, it’s best to unplug, disengage, and do something mindless. Sadly, this is not an option today.

The only plan I can devise is to fire up the brain-focus and get work done so I can then shift into mindless mode and work on my scarf, which is growing quite a bit. It needs to be at least a foot longer, because I want to wrap it around and still have lots of knitted goodness draped down over my front when I wear it.

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A better solution would be to follow the dream I had last night–no, not that kind of dream, so get your mind out of the gutter–and go to England to visit my longtime author friend, where we will go shopping and buy pear vodka (which it turns out is really a thing) while I try to figure out if dollars work in the UK.

That sounds like a lot more fun than what I need to do. But alas, England is far-far away across a vast ocean, and a check of air fares for flights leaving today tells me it would cost about $3,000 to hop a plane to London, and that’s before I factor in the price of the pear vodka, which I can assume would be substantial, because I feel like I want a lot of it.

And this concludes the whining portion of the day, or the whinging portion, as they say in the UK–a word I love for some reason, and also I’m working on my British English so I’m prepared when I finally decide to get a passport and go there.

Actually, there’s likely to be a lot more whinging (see what I did there?) but the only ones who will hear it are Mozzie and Oliver, and when they get sick of listening to me, I might finally get a photo of a grumpy golden, and also a standard poodle, filling a definite void in the meme universe.

Classic: Brody The Mouse-Barker

Some of you might remember Brody, our dearly departed Great Pyrenees, patroller of the yard and guardian of all the things. These classic posts took place ten years ago at our house in Minnesota.

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Rodent Rescue Part One:

I’m not at my most mentally acute at 5:25 a.m. Or at 6:25. Or, truthfully, 7:25. This morning at 5:25 I was in the shower when I heard Brody barking outside. Admittedly, Brody does bark outside a lot. Every day. Until I go outside and chase his fluffy Pyr-butt into the house before the neighbors call Animal Control.

But this was not his usual guardian-type “Brrrrrrrr-ROO-ROO-ROO!” It was a constant series of short, staccato, emphatic yips, and he sounded a bit agitated. The last I’d seen him, he was near the pool, an area in which he doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time due to the risk of accidentally dampening his paws. Brody isn’t a fan of anything moist, unless it is frozen and piled in drifts in the yard.

I told myself I’d just quickly finish my shower, and then go see what his problem was. Then I got thinking, “What if the big idiot fell in the pool?” He’s never been in there, so he isn’t aware of the stairs at the shallow end as a means of exiting the dreaded aquatic death trap. I began picturing a 100-pound, soaking wet, massively furry, coat-blowing, freaked-out, pissed-off Great Pyrenees who would take until September to dry and decided I’d better get out of the shower and see what was going on.

I wrapped a towel around myself and ventured out to the sliding glass doors, where I observed Brody lying by the pool, front paws draped over the edge, staring intently at something in the water, and barking like a broken record. Clearly, further investigation was in order. I hopped back in the shower to rinse off, then threw on some clothes and headed outside.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was inspiring Brody’s bark-fest. There was a mouse (or possibly a vole; I don’t really know the difference) swimming in the pool. Actually, he was drowning in the pool. He’d paddle frantically for a few seconds, slip beneath the surface, then fight his way back up. I had to help him!

I’m an animal-lover, obviously. I go out of my way not to kill things, at least as long as they stay in the Great Outdoors where they belong. If this mouse (or possibly vole) were pooping in my silverware drawer, I would immediately set a death-inducing trap to put an end to his intrusion once and for all.

I looked around for the pool net and didn’t see it. I did see the pole on which the net belongs, but the net was nowhere to be found. I stuck the pole in the water, and Mr. Mouse tried to climb up on it, but it was too narrow and slippery, and he kept falling off.

Next, I grabbed a beach towel that was lying near one of the Adirondack chairs, and tossed that onto the surface of the water, thinking he could scurry up onto that and I could pull him out, without having to risk actual hand-to-mouse contact. He did not see the carefully thought-out logic and refused to approach the floating towel.

Finally, I picked up a stainless steel bowl, waited for drowny-mouse to get close to the side, and scooped him to safety. I deposited him in the mulch near the fence, hoping Brody didn’t pounce and eat him. That would have been bitterly ironic after my heroic efforts to keep the little rodent alive. Brody continued to monitor the pool for wildlife, and I watched the mouse (or vole) huddle by the fence and begin to groom himself back into composure.

This was a lot for me to accomplish by just after 5:30 in the morning! Plus, it totally blew my morning routine, and we all know how I thrive on routine, especially in the early morning hours when independent thought is far more difficult than it is later in the day.

I hope Mr. Mouse (or Vole) returns my good deed by staying out of my pantry and silverware drawer. If he is foolish enough to pack up his entire rodent family and move in, I will have no qualms about smushing all their little heads in my decidedly not humane mousetraps. I have rules. Just stay out of my house, and we’ll get along fine.

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Rodent Rescue Repeat:

Something suspicious is going on in the rodent world. Once again, before 5:30 a.m., Brody discovered a mouse swimming in the pool. I’m pretty sure it’s a mouse now, because I think voles have shorter tails. I probably need to research that. But if these guys would just stay the hell out of my pool, I’d be spared the necessity of answering this crucial question, which would be fantastic because I really don’t have the time.

This mouse was in much better shape than the one yesterday (if, in fact, it is a different mouse at all), apparently having gone into the drink not too long before he was discovered. Tom had returned the pool net to the patio area, since yesterday it had been downstairs somewhere so he could repair some tears in it.

I scooped mousey-boy into the net and began raising him out of the water. You’d think he’d be grateful, but was he? No, he leaped out of the net and back into the water (which made Brody eight different kinds of crazy) several times before I basically dipped and flung him in the general direction of the fence, where he rustled through the grape vines.

Now I have serious questions. What is going on with these mice? I haven’t fished a mouse out of the pool all summer, and now I’ve done so two days in a row. I have several theories.

  1. This was the same mouse, and he either has suicidal tendencies or was brain damaged in his near-drowning yesterday and returned to the pool as the result of a post-traumatic episode.
  2. These mice were contestants in some kind of rodent reality show, the object of which is to last the longest in the giant, chlorinated ocean. 5:00-5:30 a.m. is prime time for mouse television viewing.
  3. These are teenage male mice, and this is their version of Jackass.

Butch: Hey, Ralphie, bet you can’t swim across that pool, bite the dog on the nose, and then swim back.

Ralphie: Sure I can, Butch, just watch me!

(Splash, paddle-paddle-paddle, gasp, sputter, glug)

Ralphie: Hey, Butch, little help here?

Butch: (Coming from the bushes) Snicker, snort. What a moron.

  1. For some reason, Brody has become the nemesis of all the neighborhood mice, and this is an assassination attempt. They are trying to lure him to a watery death, and the Suicide Swimmer is bait.
  2. They are not mice at all. They are lemmings.

I suppose it could also be a well-planned diversionary tactic, keeping me focused on the back yard while hordes of mice are moving into our laundry room. I hope that’s not it, because I really don’t enjoy tracking mouse-trap casualties on the whiteboard in the kitchen (much). At one point a few years ago it read: “Lori, 11: Mice, 0.”

Ultimately, I just hope Brody’s bladder doesn’t explode. He’s so focused on patrolling the pool for mice that I think he’s forgetting to go out in the yard to take care of necessities. Which, of course, could also be part of the mice’s global dog-destruction plan.

I would feel a lot better if I could decide if these mice are really smart or really dumb. That would help me narrow down the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

Knitting Right Along

I’m making significant progress on my first knitted scarf. I feel a little less like I need a couple of extra hands, or additional fingers on my original equipment hands, or that my existing ten fingers each need a few fingers of their own. I still have a long way to go before knitting is as natural to me as crocheting, but I have 40 years’ experience with crochet and only a few weeks knitting. The over-achieving perfectionist in me weeps at this realization.

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Getting long, but I want to be able to wrap it, so I have a way to go. I imagine I’ll see where I am when I finish this ball of yarn, then decide if it’s done.

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In this close-up, you can see the white crochet thread “lifeline.” One of my Facebook friends clued me in to this trick when I had a near-disaster. I’d finished a row and had a disturbingly wrong number of stitches, so I started working back to where I thought the error was, but bungled it to the point I didn’t know which stitches were really stitches and I thought I’d ruined the whole thing.

Fearing the worst, I went all last-ditch-effort and just pulled out a few rows, until I came to a spot where I thought I could see all the loops and meticulously, painfully, anxiously slipped each one onto the needle. Amazingly, it worked.

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Good thing, too, because my knit-picky nature will not accept the above as a valid belief system.

Now I’m using lifelines. When I complete a Row 1 in the pattern, I use a blunt needle and some crochet thread and slip it through each loop on the needle. Theoretically, if I screw up again and can’t fix it just by un-working a few stitches, I can pull out everything back to the lifeline, which since it goes through each stitch in the row, will keep me from losing the stitches, allowing me to slip them back on the needle and go from there.

The thought of having to do this makes me hyperventilate a little, but the first time it happens, I’m sure I’ll be glad I have this back-up plan in place.

It sure will save a lot of wailing and swearing and throwing of objects and stabbing-of-things-with-knitting-needles, which is a “win” in my book.

A Day In The Life

It’s Monday again. Back to work for most, but some of us never really stopped.

When I tell people I’m the Managing Editor for a publisher, it’s hard to define what that means, so I thought I’d give it a shot here. I’m kind of exhausted just thinking about it, so let’s see how I do.

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The “editor” part is easy enough to understand. I edit books, working with the authors to get them all bright and shiny and ready for publication, both for my Limitless/Crave authors, and a select group of indie authors.

The “managing” part is much harder to describe. In short, I coordinate with a team of authors, editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover designers, marketing professionals, and the publisher’s executives to move a book through every step in the process, from submission to release.

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Honestly, I wear so many hats that most days I am technically nine feet tall. 

My first step every morning is checking email, and what I find there sets the tone for the rest  of the day. Email might include:

  • Receipt of a manuscript I was expecting for my editing schedule
  • Lack of receipt of said manuscript, or an email explaining why I don’t have it and begging for “one more day”
  • An author with a happy announcement
  • An author upset about something
  • An author upset about everything
  • Other team members being upset about the upset author
  • A long email exchange brainstorming new title ideas for a book or series because the original one sucked
  • A completed edit from one of my editors to be sent along to the proofreader
  • People inquiring about openings in my editing department…often misspelled and poorly punctuated
  • Drafts of cover blurbs to be reviewed/revised, and sent to upper management for approval or rejection
  • Exchanges with authors about release dates
  • Someone asking the same question I’ve already answered six times, as well as posting the information in one of our author groups
  • Messages from the cover artists asking where the hell the blurb is for the current project
  • An author announcing they have a great idea for a new series, and should they write it now, before they complete the series in progress? (No.)
  • Discovery that a newly-signed manuscript is 340,000 words, roughly four times longer than we’d prefer, followed by convincing an editor to tackle working with the author to divide it into palatable bits

And that’s just for starters.

I check the contract status report. If new books are on there, I have to log them all and start planning their edits, proofs, and creation of their book cover art and blurbs. If the author is new to us, I have to email them a welcome, list of instructions, and an overview of our editing process. I also have to check the budget, because none of this stuff is free.

I check the cover design status sheet. Once a book has a release date set, it needs to go on this sheet, and I send the assignments to the artists, giving them ample time to complete  the project.

I cross-check all my spreadsheets. Book log (which has columns for every step in the 13348883_10208326038441047_398668350_nprocess), blurb sheet (which shows release date and where we are on the writing of the blurb for the online listings and cover), contract sheet, cover design sheet, budget, release calendar, and my personal calendar. Doing this helps me spot inconsistencies or places I dropped a step along the way.

We have Facebook groups for our authors, promotion, a separate group for the authors with our Crave imprint, a readers’ group for Crave books, a group for the authors in our 13 and Carnival horror anthologies, and a readers’ group for them as well. I need to monitor all these, answer questions, cheer-lead a bit, and occasionally smooth ruffled feathers.

Our anthologies are almost a separate process, and somehow I ended up being primarily in charge of coordinating them. I work with the authors of previous anthologies, our marketing team, and the executive team to decide on a theme for the collection, work out submission, editing, proofing, and release dates, write the call for submissions, receive the submissions as they come in, work with submissions to determine which to include in the anthology, notify the authors (chosen and rejected), add newcomers to the relevant Facebook groups, assemble everything and send to the editor…

Are you tired yet? I am.

I love email and Facebook messages. I’d far rather do all business this way, but our CEO often prefers to call and run through a list of things rather than try to sort through email. Her brain works on approximately 48 tracks at a time at 9000 miles per hour, and shifts direction so suddenly and frequently I have permanent whiplash. There are also a few authors who require lengthy discussions or who comprehend complex conversations better by phone. I do it, but every phone call leaves me dying for a very large adult beverage. (I’m not a phone person. I literally only talk to the husband by phone, and that’s extremely rare, as we usually text.)

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Once I’m sure no part of this house of cards is in danger of immediate collapse, I can tackle my own daily editing project. Yes, it’s rare for me not to have an edit on deck. Right now, my first truly open date is in September. I figure out where I need to be in the current edit to remain on track to complete by deadline–because I DO NOT miss deadlines.

While editing, I have to keep an eye on email, because it never, ever stops. With authors all around the world, time zones mean nothing. I used to keep email open all the time, but for my own sanity, I had to start logging out in the evenings, being sure authors know they can reach me by Facebook messages if I’m awake, in case of emergency.

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Editorial Assistants Oliver and Mozzie

Don’t forget I work at home, which means occasionally breaking for laundry, unloading the dishwasher, a snack, a shower, letting the dogs in and out and in and out and inandout, feeding the dogs, making dinner, telling the dogs for the billionth time to shut the hell up because the neighbors are actually allowed to enter and leave their own homes, sit on the porch, or drive their vehicles, though they would not be if I had any say in the matter.

 

Only when email is relatively quiet and I’ve met my editing goal for the day and no dumpster fires are currently in progress can I ease back a bit and do what I do in my off time, which right now is knitting and Netflix. Still, I have to be available for time-sensitive author-wrangling and question-answering, so I use the pause button and stitch markers a lot.

While it can be a bit overwhelming at times, and there’s never a dull moment, I can’t imagine having any other job, unless maybe professional beverage-tester at a beach bar somewhere is an option.

With all this going on, you can probably figure out why I’m unofficially retired from the Author gig and focusing on blogging, though I’m writing a lot more in the blog than I have on novels over the last few years. Which, I think, is how it’s meant to be.

Yarn Stash Busted

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Either this is not true, or I’m not a lady. One of those.

As all yarnoholics know, parting with a single skein is akin to giving up a semi-major internal organ, and there’s always so much glorious new yarn to “adopt.” Lace weight, chunky, variegated, wool, bamboo, crochet thread, cotton, alpaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

First it’s a basket. Then a storage container. Then more storage containers and other random receptacles…until it’s out of control.

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been married for almost 35 years, and crocheted for62e1f42d3f808a79d7283d6a480605d5 around ten years before that. Lately, the stash had exploded from the walk-in closet in my office and begun to infiltrate every corner of the house. The couch in the office could barely be seen, there were baskets and bins on the floor, the breakfast bar looked like the discount table at the yarn shop, yarn was spilling off the end table in the family room, and I couldn’t close the lid of my storage ottoman.

I had four storage bins, two laundry baskets, a small wicker basket, a duffel bag, a few boxes, and the storage ottoman bursting with yarn.

Step One, get Handsome Husband to help me haul all the storage containers to the living  room.

Step Two, dump all yarn on the floor. This is reminiscent of what happened in fifth grade when a student’s desk was chronically messy. You’d come to school and discover Miss Vidas had dumped your desk contents on the floor, leaving you no option but to clean it up.

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This is after I filled a trash bag with odds and ends that were too small, tangled, or ratty even to donate to the thrift shop.

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Hello, Mount Yarn.

Step Three, commence to sortin’.

I started various piles. Cotton, lace/sock weight, worsted, crochet thread, chunky, sport weight…you yarnsters know the drill. This was especially necessary because I had partial balls or skeins of some yarns strewn throughout various locations, and I wanted to match them up so I knew if I had enough of a particular yarn to actually make anything.

Anything I didn’t totally love, or bought for things I never made, or didn’t have in enough quantity for a decent project went in the donation pile. I know people go to thrift shops for remnants or discarded yarn, either to make stashbuster projects, other small items, or to donate to charity.

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Big ol’ bag of donations. Included are two partial afghans which could be bound off where they are or finished.

Lots of yellow and orange. I hate yellow and orange. I bought multiple skeins, though, for some project or other that never got made.

Mozzie bolted at the rustle of the first plastic bag, because plastic bags are terrifying. He stayed in the bedroom throughout the process. Oliver, being a poodle, wasn’t about to miss a second, because poodles must observe, evaluate, consider, and process every single thing. Thankfully, he didn’t decide to help.

I applied the rule I give all my authors when I’m ordering them to drastically edit down their word count. Be ruthless. Be objective. You won’t even miss it once it’s gone. Great advice, but hard to follow.

Also, not great on my back, sitting hunched on the floor, crawling around from basket to basket, digging through the mound of assorted yarn. But that’s what ibuprofen is for.

Finally, after sorting through it all and encountering some projects I’d started–no lie–at least 25 years ago and putting sentimentality and unnecessary yarn aside, I reached Step Four, organization. This is what I had…

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Behold! A mere two storage bins! The top one has worsted weight and cotton. The bottom has fine and sport weight, crochet cotton, and a bag of assorted Caron Simply Soft. The storage ottoman, which lives in the family room where I spend 95% of my waking hours, has the favorites, new purchases like the glorious mandala yarn, my knit-kit and crochet gear, and the yarns I’m currently using. The two small boxes are the beautiful Chroma yarn I just bought for my first knitting projects.

And now I realize I have room for more yarn…and a coupon for 20% off from JoAnn’s.