Archive for November, 2009

party panic

I am getting stressed about PP’s birthday party next Sunday.

For whatever reason, PP does not want to tell me about school–except that she loves it, and I think she really does love the learning, the reading and writing and math and field trips, and that’s great. But I have no sense who her friends are in her classroom, and have not been able to find out.

This has made planning her party a huge stress.

1. I never get a chance to meet her friends because I drop her off and pick her up from daycare, and many of her classmates are not in her daycare.

2. I never get a chance to meet their parents for the same reason.

3. PP doesn’t tell me about her friends at school.

4. The kids she got along with best last year are still in SK, and I’m trying to get her to invite them too, but she keeps forgetting to bring the invitations over into the jk/sk daycare room.

5. End result being: one RSVP so far. ONE.

I am pretty sure that the Ex’s girlfriend and her son will be there, and a few invitations in the mail may still net us some acceptances, but. ONE.

I am now scared that the reason she hasn’t been telling me about her grade one friends is that maybe she doesn’t have any. Maybe she doesn’t get along with those kids. Maybe the discrimination phase is kicking in. Maybe they’ve decided they don’t like her.

When I dropped her off at daycare this morning, we were very late so the daycare kids were milling about outside playing before the school bell rang. PP ignored the groups of girls talking by the playscape and went off elsewhere, to find who?

I don’t recognize the names of the girls she asked me to invite–I don’t think any of them are in the daycare room.

I could be over-reacting. What do I know? I’m not there and I can’t be there to see what’s going on. Maybe in some weird fluke all of the kids she invited are busy or forgot to give the invitations to their parents–not that this will make it hurt less if no one shows up. Maybe they’re just late and I’ll get a pile of RSVPs at the last minute.

But she is such a social, affectionate little girl. I don’t want this to happen to her.

What do I do?


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I have an idea for a new novel. Or rather, I have a few half-formed ideas of potential characters and situations and settings, and they sort of pop up a dozen times a day with a few lines of dialogue, and then sit down again and refuse to say anything about themselves.

I also have a serious sleep deficit, and it’s about to get worse. But no matter.

This week is the first week of our new schedule, and do you know what the Ex did?


How did you get it so easily? Yep, he cancelled his first Tuesday evening with PP for a business trip. Now, before you say, “Well, a business trip–that’s hardly his fault,” it’s a short trip, a flight of less than one hour, that he chose to take during business hours so he could have dinner with his colleagues instead of taking the flight after PP’s bedtime so he could spend the evening with her. Moreover, he only told me about it last week and expected me to rearrange my schedule and sacrifice plans I’d already made with PP so that he could do this.

What I felt like saying was, “I’m not making sacrifices for your career advancement, asshole. I divorced you!”

What I actually said was, “Gee, no.”

Guaranteed that he still thinks of himself as a dad who does everything to put his daughter first.


I am sewing PP a christmas party dress. It will be light pink synthetic extra-sparkly taffeta with a dark red velveteen flounce and a bit of dark-red tulle peeking out from under the hem. It will be adorable. PP will look like a ballerina princess. So long as I don’t strangle myself first with a piece of taffeta, which wouldn’t work anyway because it would break.

Synthetic taffeta, it turns out, is primarily tinsel. No, really. When you cut against the selvege, it frays into tinsel–long, thing, metallic plasticy strips rather than fibres or threads. Which is fine, but do you know what happens when you sew on it?

It breaks.

The sewing needle breaks the tinselly fibres, and then the fabric runs like a pair of nylons.

After trying many different kinds and sizes of needles, I ended up backing every pattern piece with lightweight fusible interfacing (so that when the tinsel breaks it doesn’t run, but the break stays near the hem) and that seems to work ok. Backing every pattern piece with lightweight fusible interfacing, apparently, is a very time-consuming endeavour.

My recommendation would be not to sew with synthetic taffeta.

But if you are bound and determined to sew with synthetic taffeta because it is so pretty and shiny, spare yourself a lot of trouble by backing every piece with lightweight fusible interfacing before you begin to sew.

And drink a lot of caffeine. You’ll need it.


Can you tell I’ve been saving updates for a while?

Writing an article, working, emailing the Trader a thousand times a day or so–it keeps a girl busy. Plus, well, sewing a dress Just Because and making ornaments and planning a birthday party and (yawn), you know how it goes.

The Trader has asked me to sew him a scarf. I have a bunch of fleece but I’m trying to think of a way to make this slightly more interesting than a long, skinny black rectangle, and apparently I am the only person on planet earth who sews rather than knits scarves. Any ideas?

The scarf is in trade for a quiz on feminism he needs to pass. It’s … never mind. I can’t explain it.

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I have given up. I will never get to work on time.

But no one here seems to mind, and my work is still getting done, and as an added bonus I will continue to feel like shit about not being able to get to work on time. At least, until February, when (drumroll please…) if all goes according to plan I may be able to TELEWORK up to four days per week!

Picture the clouds breaking up, sun streaming through, a heavenly choir singing.

Telework! Four days per week! Maybe! No reason I couldn’t, so long as everything goes according to plan! Hedging my excitement, but with exclamation marks! !!

There is a new telework policy that is supposed to roll out in February. I plan to be first in line. I will cry if I have to (don’t put it past me). I would need to have an Official Home Working Space, but I need to do that anyway for the writing stuff. Then I could walk PP to school, walk home, and be AT WORK! Go and get her for lunch, which we could eat together at home. At least sometimes.

I hope this works. Today was another one of those I-can’t-do-this days. When the house is a filthy mess on Monday morning and I don’t know when I’m going to get it cleaned and a weird rash is taking over my face and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to get to the doctor and I have an article to write and I haven’t been able to find a moment to get started on the research and somehow in the next ten days I need to get PP’s party invitations sent out and I tried to order new cheques but I don’t know if it work because the automated system didn’t say and I haven’t taken my car in for an oil change in … a year … because it took me that long to drive 5k but still, and crap it’s November and I need to start shopping for xmas presents and when exactly is that going to happen and, oh yeah, I have two pitches ready to send out and have I mentioned that the sink is full of dirty dishes?

But yesterday PP bought herself a playmobil dinosaur set with money from her allowance that she had saved up herself. So there’s that.

And she is a reading machine.

And the Trader is coming home today.

And PP and I did have a lovely weekend, even if I ended it more exhausted than I began it. And I have lovely beads with which to make holiday ornaments this year (incidentally it is very easy to spend an obscene amount of money on a pile of beads small enough to fit in a tiny purse). And PP is all excited about the idea of having a gingerbread house party, not for her birthday but sometime in December, so local friends, you may get an invitation for that too.

And I am in a book. I can’t say here which book I’m in or it would bust my super-secret identity, but my name appears in a table of contents.

Really all I need is a duplicate me to stay on top of the housework. Is that so much to ask?

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(I drafted this on August 11. Then the Ex and his custody/Bob move idiocy intervened, and I couldn’t think about this kind of thing. This week the new amendment was finally signed, so ta da! Here it is, finally finished.)

I don’t want people to read this blog. Is that strange? I purposely write badly on it so that strangers will be disinclined to stick around and read it. (So, Dear Non-Readers, if it seems strange that someone with such a clunky ear for language talks about publishing, now you have your answer. You’re welcome.) I’m oddly gratified not to see the stats going up. Thank You for Not Reading!

Except for those of you who are reading. In which case, Thank You for Not Abandoning Me on Account of My Atrocious Writing!

It’s almost September and I am in an enforced Writing Break so I can enjoy the rest of my summer without worrying about deadlines or using my two remaining PP Mondays to harass folks for interviews or rewrite the same sentence on solar power 5,272 times. The article-let is done. (Praise Be!) (Apparently, I am All About the Random Capitalizations today.) School’s about to start back up again November and I’ve somehow lost the fall to ruminations, machinations, dating, decorating, crafting, and not much writing. I finished the one bit and have a few pitches still out (it is not good, Dear Reader, to have no pitches in circulation. Kind of like falling off the wagon on a diet or breaking a bad habit–it’s easier to keep going than it is to get started again). But now that things with the Ex are resolved I am getting some energy and motivation back. Seems like a good time to decide where I want this writing thing to go, what my larger goals are, how I want it to fit together. Of course I did this six months ago, but my five-year-plan from that time has been half accomplished, so maybe I need to be more ambitious. (Seriously. I had a list of six magazines or so I wanted to see my work in. I can now cross four of them off the list.)

The daydreaming part is the most fun. Breaking it down into sub-goals and measurable targets and achievable milestones is not nearly so good. So I’m just going to–in a radical break with my recent angsting and kvetching–just go pie-in-the-sky and think about what I’d really, really like to have happen in five years.

In five years, I’d really, really like not to have a day-job. This means turning writing into a pretty serious income replacement, which will not be easy become my chosen niche is not particularly remunerative. Turns out if you want people to pay you for writing, you’re better off writing about products that companies want to sell. Go figure. I don’t. So I need to find publications that pay real money for the kinds of things I write about, and break into them. So let’s say, four years from now I’d like to have a nice list of publication credits in my chosen niche for publications that pay decently, so that in five years I can be reliably pitching and writing for my dream markets.

And because, even so, writing for periodicals is chancy and poorly paid, I need to have a sideline that can pay the bills and does not require PR work. Because, given the choice, I’d rather have a day job than write ad copy. This is not a judgment on people who write ad copy. I just can’t stand the stuff. I wouldn’t mind writing, say, newsletters or grant apps etc. for organizations who do good work in the same field; I figure those are transferable skills (and contacts) and I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror.

The niche itself is trickier. There is not much of a market for nature writing, my friends. There is a big market for environmental writing, but most of that directed towards the “fabulous products that look totally cool and make your life easier and are also ridiculously cheap and have been made with 20% recycled content!” As you all know, I am not about the Stuff, and I am incapable of shilling the Stuff. I am capable of shilling Ideas. I’ve managed to build myself a nice, fledgling renewable-energy specialty, and that’s a good start–but I want it to be a jumping-off pad, not a destination. (And since I wrote that I’ve managed to break into a few other related subjects as well, so good.)

Eventually I’d like to be able to write about (and get paid for) the Deep Ecological, panentheistic, place-based, bioregional, green kin, quasi-religious ideas that get my heart thumping. Realistically this will never alone pay the bills, and if I can keep going with the renewable-energy thing that would be great. (Because readers will pay someone to tell them that there is a way to have their ecological cake and keep the Big-Screen TV on 24/7, too.)

Have I mentioned how fabulously fun it is to get paid, even very little, to find out about some cool new idea or venture, research the hell out of it, call up the experts and ask them a bunch of nosy questions, write it up, and see my name in print? Nervewracking, stressful, and challenging, yes, but so much fun.

So: Over the next five years:

Keep doing the renewable-energy thing; develop the solar angle a bit more. Keep finding and writing about local environmental groups and activities. Learn as much as I can stuff in my head about the ecology of my city, as well as the big-picture/systems background to various unfolding environmental issues. What I don’t think I can turn into money now should go on-line so I can develop some stories and audiences. This means I need to get better at self-promotion in a big way (I hate promoting myself). Keep the website up to date. Learn Flash, SoundSlides. Learn to record, edit and post audio interviews, and then video interviews. This means treating the Other Blog more seriously. Which means fixing it up, first of all. (And maybe posting to it more than once a month.)

My goal for next year is more prosaic: make enough money to cover off the cost of the iPhone I bought yesterday in the summer. Yay for declaring cool new toys a tax deduction.


Some of the above seems a bit out of date but I’m going to let it stand, except where I noted.

The idealism is what complicates things.  I recently watched the new Moms Against Climate Change spot on youtube and I bawled, and spent a paralytic hour wondering what more I can do because clearly I need to do more. Now! Yesterday!  I need the work I do to be part of that; if there was something I was put on earth to do, this is it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay.

But I can’t be happy working at cross-purposes to my own most deeply-felt values. So. One way or another, I must find a way to make them pay, if my goal is to ditch the day-job.

If that’s not pie-in-the-sky, I don’t know what is.

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I follow a number of partner-of-addict blogs. I can’t help it. It’s my own shameless addiction–reading these narratives of the path I did not take, the “stay and fix it dammit” path. Not all of them are partners of sex addicts; a few have traditional substance addictions or other process addictions like gambling. But for whatever reason, they have all chosen to stay.

There was a time when I chose to stay. I chose to stay for years. I stayed until I snapped and couldn’t stay for one more second. I stayed until I hated him so much I couldn’t look him in the eyes anymore. It’s not like I have no experience with choosing to stay. But the farther I get from that choice, and from the moment I chose to leave instead, the less sense it all makes to me.

I read them and feel grateful and blessed to have made the opposite choice. The farther I get from it, the more it all looks like an elaborate web of justifications to avoid making necessary changes: the addicts still act out, the partners-of-addicts still act heroically and sacrificially to hold it all together; but now the partners-of-addicts struggle under the competing and contradictory necessities of not being pained or hurt by their partner’s behaviours, trying to intervene or control, and relabelling every nice thing they’ve ever done for someone or every poor romantic choice they’ve ever made as evidence of “disease.”

I remember reading on one that she now saw 80% of the people around her as codependent, and felt sad for them. Duckie, the norm and the average and the mean are defined by statistics, and whatever 80% of people are is the very definition of normal.

Now because I was once married to an addict myself, I am supposed to be codependent as well, though my attempts to control his behaviour were mild and sporadic (and, as I’ve since come to believe, entirely normal)–yet somehow when I read these narratives I am never motivated to intervene or tell them how wrong they are or try to get them to see the light. Instead, I wince.

It’s sort of like watching someone insist on staying in a horribly abusive relationship.

Only worse, because these women (they are all women) try so hard to convince you that they’ve made such progress in their recovery that their partner’s acting-out no longer hurts them, because they take responsibility for their own feelings and won’t let it hurt them anymore. And I want to cry.

Can you imagine? It’s like saying, “Oh, this? Last night he punched me in the face and broke my nose and I fell down the stairs again and dislocated my shoulder, but I’m ok! I’m happy, in fact, because I refuse to give him the power to make me feel anything. I see now that no one can make me feel anything unless I give them that power, so I’ll stay and wait for him to work through his recovery and in the meantime I’ll work through my recovery and I’m so much happier now that I no longer give him the responsibility for my feelings.”

How crazy is that? And then they go on about being honest and open about their feelings in their relationships–so long as those feelings are the recovery-movement-approved ones that don’t ascribe responsibility to the addict–and not trying to feel the things they think they ‘should’ feel. The logic gets tied in such convoluted knots it’s a wonder they have enough free mental space to write out a grocery list.

Listen: a guy punches you in the nose, he MADE YOU FEEL pain, and probably anger and hurt as well.

A guy cheats on you with a hundred other girls, he can absolutely MAKE YOU FEEL anger, blame, fear, betrayal, and a host of other nasty things.

And then they start talking about God and God’s Plan (which always involves getting shat on a lot by someone who supposedly adores you) and asking God for guidance and I do think they should rely on whatever works for their own lives but I shudder too. Why would a loving God help you stay in an abusive relationship? It sounds so much like a cult.

I don’t know why I still read them. I have no illusions that they’d ever read my non-recovery outsider ramblings about, you know, just getting the hell out and drawing some real boundaries and making space for actual healing without the fuckhead loser mucking things up all the time. But I am so grateful and happy that I did not follow that path.

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Today I got my best rejection ever.

I got the “we’re going to turn down this pitch but we like you and want to hire you so maybe you can write this article for us instead for 33% more money?” rejection.

This has become my new favourite rejection. In case it’s not obvious, I said yes.

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Incidentally, the movie version of Coraline (I haven’t yet read the book) will freak you right out if you have a crazy family.

I watched it with PP, figuring her family is creepy enough that even at the tender age of almost-six she’s not likely to get nightmares from it (and I was right). I was disturbed, though. Not at the idea that a mother could be evil, oh no. I just watched it and though, yep, that’s Mom.

A bit unfair, maybe, since my mother despite all her faults is not some alien spider-robot-monster who builds a fake world to trap me in a web, steal my eyes, and eat me.

It just feels like it.

Coraline Jones: [on the “Other” Mother] Why does she want me?
Cat: She wants something to love, I think. Something that isn’t her. Or, maybe she’d just love something to eat.
Coraline Jones: Eat? That’s ridiculous, mothers don’t eat… daughters.
Cat: I don’t know. How do you taste?

(Good movie, though. Two thumbs up.)

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