Above the Fold

It’s the new term of the week. Had never heard it till I got a front-page article “above the fold.” I actually had two by-lines on the front page in this edition, and it feels awesome. Even though it’s only because a senior reporter is out of town for three weeks, and I have to cover her usual Village Board meetings, and because the meeting covered so much material, including a big bike race, that I had to write two separate articles.

I am really, really excited about this job. I am having a ball writing for this amazing publication, getting information out to the people in the community, even though the subject matter is not always riveting. I am so excited, in fact, that I suggested going to the local high school football game today to cover it, since our paper needs more sports coverage. My husband, of course, will help me, but I am glad I did go to my own high school football games as a teenager with friends on the flag team….

To help with this great job, I am looking into buying a better digital camera, to get better photos for the paper (and for myself). Does anyone out there have suggestions for a good but not too expensive entry-level digital SLR camera?

If I were offered a full-time job in the city, I think I would have a hard time leaving this paper, and I can’t think of many full-time jobs I’ve applied to that would make me want to leave.

On discernment, or lack there of, and health insurance

I am currently on a discernment committee through the vestry at my church. (Don’t worry, I won’t talk much about church.) A discernment committee, in the Episcopalian church, is created when someone in the parish wants to go to seminary and become a priest. The members and the candidate meet once a month for 6 to 12 months in order to “discern gifts for the ministry” or some such thing. We meet this person every month and talk to him about why he thinks he is being called to the priesthood, in order to make a judgment about whether the parish should recommend him for the seminary.

I have recently been struck by the absurdity of my presence on this committee. Not only am I one of the most opinionated and judgmental people in the group, I have no idea how to discern my own calling in life, let alone that of someone else.

I thought I had been called to be a bilingual, public-school elementary teacher, serving a low-income population of immigrants and their children learning English. I still feel passionately about bilingual education and advocating social justice for immigrants and minorities in the U.S., and maybe in the future I’ll want to work on those issues again, but I now know that teaching children in large groups is not the way I am supposed to achieve those goals.

The other day, I went to fill out an application form to be a substitute at the public school in town. I didn’t have time to finish the application there, so I brought it home and said I would bring it back the next day. That night, I had a nightmare about teaching a class of rowdy adolescents in my old school. I never turned in that application, and I am not sure I ever will. Obviously I feel a level of anxiety about classroom teaching that has not yet dissipated.

The dilemma I am experiencing right now is that I am paying $680 a month for COBRA to continue my health insurance, and my husband does not have health insurance, because it was much too expensive to have both of us on COBRA. We thought we’d be able to find something for him that was cheaper, in the age of Obamacare, but we haven’t so far. With the income from my part-time job at the paper and his from music lessons, we make more than the cutoff for poverty, so we don’t qualify for most forms of governmental health plans. But to expect to pay over $1500 a month for health insurance for two people is not feasible on what we do make.

The imperative at the moment is to find health insurance, and the only way we know how to do that is to get a job with benefits. We have been searching, though, even in the city, for a long time, and we haven’t exactly been offered many … or any, really.

Yesterday, I went to a job interview in the city for a full-time administrative aide position in a university department. I know it would be great to be able to have (1) a job that pays a reasonable salary, (2) health insurance, and (3) tuition credits as a benefit. The night before the interview, I looked at all the classes I would want to take if I were to get the position: language classes so that I could feel more comfortable pursuing translation, publishing or editing courses if I want to try going that way again in the future, web stuff because everyone wants someone who can do web stuff….

Then I wondered, at 35, whether I should take this job if they offer it to me. Do I want to be a secretary and delay an attempt to work as a copy editor or writer? Or maybe this is just a way to take a much-needed break from being burned out by teaching, and a time to really figure out what my calling could be?

Finally I conceded that I probably won’t get this job anyway, because they are spending the whole week interviewing people, and I have to admit that I didn’t show much excitement for the position, so I may not have to make that decision after all.

I guess I should work on making business cards and a website for myself, while still looking for a “real” job that I would love to take, and use my time wisely while I still have it. What exactly constitutes “wise use” remains to be seen.

The Bee Garden: An Aran Sweater

One of the hobbies I picked up to occupy my nervous hands, which always have to be doing something, and that would be constructive instead of destructive, is knitting. Right now I have about 20 projects going and have been dragging my feet to finish. The only thing that gets me to finish a project is a deadline. I don’t just mean a deadline like, oh I’d better finish this by the end of the year or by Jan. 15. I mean that I only really ever finish something if (1) it’s a gift and has to be done near the date of the celebration (because I can’t often finish by a person’s birthday or by Christmas, and if I’m way late then I’ll wait till the next year, or the next), or (2) I really want to wear or use something on a particular occasion or season.

My friend Steven, whose knitting blog Bitches Get Stitches I follow, always tries to knit a sweater to wear for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck every October. I thought, hey, I’ve been meaning to make myself a sweater for years (the only ones I’ve knitted were two for my dh and one rather ugly thing that I wore last year to Rhinebeck), and so I decided to start an aran sweater (with some red wool I got at a yarn swap and then used to make a horrible sweater dress that was completely impractical).

Hybrid sweater from Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern — custom fitted, because dh just loves his tops TIGHT.

The Dude Sweater

The only sweater a guy would ever ask his significant other to knit: The Dude (a brilliant pattern someone copied from The Big Lebowski)

The dumbest knitted dress ever before it got frogged

We watch quite a few documentaries on netflix, and over the past couple of years we’ve gotten into things about food and farming, like King Corn or Food Inc., or like today’s installment, Vanishing of the Bees. I am certain that when I become a farmer (because today is one of those days that I am sure that I will be), I am going to keep bees. To show my love for both plants and bees, I used plant- and bee-inspired cables for my aran sweater.

The sleeve I started recently, using off-center trellis from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns

Back of the sleeve, using wave of honey pattern

The front of the sweater body, using trellis with moss stitch

Back of sweater body, with honeycomb pattern

The only thing now is to finish the sleeves and attach them and knit up to the collar. Unfortunately, I did not read the whole Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern all the way through, and she’s telling me to baste and cut and sew, and there is no way I am doing that! I am planning to try to do a seamless finish, like a raglan, but I am not sure how that will work with the cable patterns. The decreasing of the body will inevitably affect the cables, and I don’t know what will happen.

Knitters, any suggestions?

More tangible results

Monday we hiked parts of some trails we hadn’t done before, and we reached the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Hudson Highlands. The weather was perfect – blue skies and a high in the 70s. It may have been pleasing without the view, but it certainly felt good after an hour of climbing to be able to see the river, the mountains to the west, and the falling-apart castle on Bannerman’s Island.

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There was even a deer near the trail at one point, who did not mind us as we passed quite close to it.

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Now, two days later, my knee is protesting, as it often does after a long hike. I don’t know what the problem is, but it aches like the dickens and is all inflamed. It usually goes away after a day or two. In any case, there are positive results of a long hike, and I was glad that my dh persuaded me to do it even though I hadn’t really felt like it. I got much-needed exercise and spent several hours in the woods; there is something fulfilling about walking around in so much green foliage. Going up and down the trails, especially having to scramble up and down rocks, presented a healthy challenge and gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Another accomplishment was the third article I wrote for the paper, about the first day of school in Garrison. It was surprisingly easy to write after having struggled over the one about the Cat Sanctuary, to which I felt very attached. I suppose it’s because I felt detached from the subject that made it easier to write. When I wrote about the cats I kept wanting to talk about my personal experiences there, and that is not what the editor wants. (Most of the reporters there probably want to write their our own weekly columns, and the editor’s job is to keep us from injecting ourselves into his paper.)

I have had rejections from some jobs I’ve applied to and still haven’t heard from most of them. So it was particularly gratifying to go volunteer at the farm on Tuesday, not my usual day. Harvesting beans and arugula, as tedious as it was, made me feel accomplished. Even spraying radishes was satisfying….

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I found out what the farm apprentices make, though, and I doubt I will be trying for one of those any time soon.

Blog vs. Print

Blogs — who reads them? If you are reading this, then I guess the answer is you. But I have to be honest, I don’t read them, unless I’ve searched for a recipe or a knitting pattern and it’s embedded in a blog.

I have to apologize, then, to my friends who have blogs. Honestly, I am the kind of person who scans my facebook feed and gets most of my news that way, and yes I feel sorry saying that. Every so often, I will click on a link from Huff Post or NPR to read an article on politics or the environment, or to watch a Daily Show or Colbert Report clip (not the entire episode, because I don’t have the attention span). OK, I’m trying to make myself look cultured and educated; I also spend a lot of time watching cute animal videos on youtube. C’mon, how many times have you watched the baby panda sneeze? It’s still funny every single time. Or that dubbed video of the dog having a conversation with his owner about maple-smoked bacon?

What’s happening to me? I have no attention span anymore. I get an article on the internet that is over 2 pages long, with all those little numbers in their little boxes at the bottom of the page, and I just quit. If I had it in my hands in a newspaper, and I really wanted to continue reading, I would, I suppose. But I have more trouble staying focused when reading on a computer screen than when it’s on paper — too many other places I could go, I guess, and it makes my eyes go buggy after a while.

I love working as copy editor for our local news website now that they have a weekly print edition. I hardly ever read it online (apologies to the crew); the one time I did was because there was an interview with my knitting/spinning friend in town. But this goes to show that the publisher made an excellent decision to go the paper route, despite what the managing editor says about it being outdated and a poor financial investment — he’s right that things are going in another direction (take the beautiful tablet magazines these days). But there are many people who have said the same thing I have: they never read it online, but they do read the paper. We, the paper and book people, are still a force to be reckoned with! (As well as poor people who do not have ipads and kindles.)

Back to my original question, who reads blogs? Who has the time to sift through all of the information on the Internet? This is why print publishing is still alive (though many would say, dying) — people need a filter, a middle-man, a gateway to help them sort through what’s really worth their time. (I use facebook, which is not a great mediator, but if my newsfeed friends like it, I will probably like it.) And you can safely say that if someone has gone to all the trouble and expense to get something printed on paper and designed to look nice and distributed widely enough, that maybe it has some value, at least to some people.

And back to the theme of my blog — the paper edition is a much more satisfying product than the news website, no matter how great the site is. It is not only visible but tangible as well. And this is why I am happy at this job (that and the fact that it’s only a couple days a week), and why I remember enjoying my time at the English-language daily paper in Taiwan in the early 2000s. I can see the product and feel proud of it, especially if it’s an article I’ve written. Sure, I can write anything I want on the Internet (I’m doing it right now), but to get it out to the whole town, that feels completely different, and awfully satisfying.