Getting back on the horse

I haven’t blogged here in ages because I was looking for a job, and as I found out previously, the hard way, it’s not a good idea to blog about trying to get a job, because even if employers don’t find the blog, the paranoia that they might find it would be nerve-wracking enough.

In the meantime, I really amped up my birding blog, and since major spring migration has finally begun in New York, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time birding and posting photos of birds.

As for jobs, I finally got some. I really wanted to freelance as a copy editor/proofreader, and then after realizing that would be pretty hard to get into without more experience and super connections, I tried to get full-time jobs in publishing houses, which, as if I didn’t learn a few years ago, is also difficult to do without the right connections. Even after I made a bunch of connections through alumni networking and the workshop internship in the fall, I still couldn’t get a job as an editorial, production, or publicity assistant.

Meanwhile, the savings dwindled and the husband got more and more nervous about finances. That led to my decision to apply for a lot of other types of jobs.

In March I started working on a freelance basis as a proofreader for a company that provides training in web development. It’s pretty sweet, since I get to learn a bit of computer stuff while testing their workbooks; so far I’ve done a few lessons in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, WordPress, HTML email, and other stuff like that. I think my understanding of coding, though extremely basic, is even improving. I’d like to learn more Photoshop and Lightroom, since I am trying to get better at digital photography, but too bad I don’t really get to tailor my work projects or get software suites for free.

That month I also started working part-time at Teachers College again, in a different program and department than before. It’s not bad, even though I have no benefits as a part-timer, because I’m good at helping faculty and students and all that. And then there’s the possibility that this could turn into something that has benefits in the future, like tuition credits, and I could do some conflict resolution or TESOL courses if I wanted, maybe even some writing workshops or journalism classes. Or ornithology….

And then there’s this writing gig I got, because I applied for a job I really had no business trying to get — so there are advantages to aiming high, you know — as bilingual editor of a Chinese-English lifestyle magazine aimed at affluent tourists from China. They liked my writing, I guess, so when they asked my cash-strapped self whether I’d want to write an article about sunscreens and translate it into Chinese, I said YES.

Since that first article, I’ve done one on aftersun skin care and another on a new Chinese restaurant in the city, with more in the works — one on a new trilingual private school and yet another skincare one. Of course, these are for the summer and fall issues, which haven’t come out yet, so I have yet to see the payment for them, but I’m sure I’ll be raking it in soon….

You may laugh and think I’ve sold out, writing about skincare and sunscreens and makeup, but the truth is that I AM interested in that kind of thing. Of course, they had me revise my original articles quite a bit, because safe products — environmentally as well as health-wise — are more my thing, and this magazine is more interested in high-end, luxury products that I cannot afford (and even if I could afford them, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to spend that much money on a single product).

So, yes, in a way, I did sell out, but I also chose to feature only those products that I thought were safer … that is, if I could find out what ingredients were in them. That’s the problem with luxury products — the more expensive they are, the less likely you are to find the ingredient lists online — proprietary formulas and all that, I suppose. But hey, if you have that much money to blow on a skincare product, I guess you’re not really going to care what’s in it, right? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever — I’ll post my real article on the best(-for-you) sunscreens and aftersun products here soon.

Back to jobs: the best news is that I may start freelancing soon as a proofreader for a book publisher! A connection from the workshop came through, and I got to meet the managing editor for the publisher, who gave me the copy tests and feedback and put me on the roster!

Another fun prospect is that a friend of mine from my knitting meetup wants me to help write copy for an online yarn store/magazine that she is planning to start. Of course, I wouldn’t be making money doing that at first, but I’m happy to be doing it as a labor of love.

I actually didn’t knit at all for about three months, because in mid-January I started having pain in my right wrist. I was, after all, spending hours knitting from November and December on, sometimes for hours on end without stopping. I never did go to the doctor, because I figured I’d just be told to stop knitting for a while and wear a wrist brace, which I did do, and now it is better. What’s weird is, I think that it really feels better now that I’ve started crocheting and knitting again! I still don’t do it often or for long periods of time — maybe once a week for an hour or two — so I’ll have to keep monitoring it.

Now the challenge is how to fit MY OWN WRITING into this schedule….

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Knitting instead of writing

The holidays are officially here, which means a great deal of knitting and too-ambitious plans to make gifts, as well as that familiar feeling of sassy fatness from eating way too much.

sohotombeanie

one of many hats knitted this fall

turkey

Manischewitz-brined turkey for Thanksgivukkah

The knitting is beginning to take a toll on my hands and the development of carpal tunnel or some other form of repetitive strain injury. If I knit for a while, my fingers start to get tingly, and lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with my right hand asleep, and it takes a while for me to shake it awake. I may have to reassess the list of projects to make over the next month.

It has also taken over every free moment of my life, which means I haven’t written, not even in a journal, for a week now, and I’m definitely not fulfilling the contract I made for myself for the duration of the writing workshop I’m taking, which was to write for 45 minutes at least six days a week, which was nothing compared to my initial NaNoWriMo idea of writing 1,660 words per day, so I thought it was doable.

Today, I am proud to announce, I went to my first yoga class in a loooooong time, so the fat feeling is dissipating, while the motivation to do other things, like write in my journal, update my neglected blog, look for and apply to jobs, is increasing. All is not lost!

Back in grad school at Ohio State, I developed a daily yoga practice, which was excellent for my health in general but especially for my depression, and the combination of that with learning about mindfulness meditation made me think the clearest I think I ever did in my life. While reading Wherever You Go, There You Are, I had this very sad revelation that I had lost my way in life, that I had gotten distracted by other things, like material possessions–fashion, beauty products, academic degrees, social status, etc.–which I thought were essential to finding a good mate, a good career, a good life.

I was in a master’s program in Chinese literature, partly because I had acquired this desire to be in academia and get my PhD in something (it didn’t really matter, at the time, in what) and become a professor, like my parents. There were good reasons for wanting to go into Chinese lit, but not good enough, and I realized I wasn’t doing what I once thought I should do with my life, and that was mainly to be useful in the world, which came down to practicing nonviolence, because trying to help others starts with trying to stop harming others, and especially yourself.

At that time, I also realized I had harbored a dream of becoming a fiction writer for a long time but was always too scared to try it. Nearing the end of my program, newly on antidepressants and having successfully defended my thesis on Lu Xun, I decided to find a job in publishing in New York City and try to write. Then, of course, I discovered how hard it would be to find a job in publishing in New York City. That’s when I got distracted again and went into teaching.

The point is, doing yoga has helped me be more mindful, and it’s a good thing that I am starting to do it again. So: more writing, less knitting.

No more NaNoWriMo … I think

Even though the week got off to a rather harrowing start — when I went to move the car for street sweeping and found our car window smashed in — things seem to be going pretty well, especially on the writing front, though I have officially given up on NaNoWriMo. (Their messages to me, however, try to sound perky and encouraging, making it sound like it’s possible to get the word count back up. I don’t know about that.)

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Everyone was nice and concerned about the car, but the car was actually fine — I was just grateful first that it was still there, and second that nothing was taken from it, even though there’s nothing of any value in it anyway. And even though the replacing of the window cost me $300, at least I was able to find a place to fix the window that day. I was saying to someone that the car thing wasn’t actually the worst part of the day.

Because when I finally made it into the office, I (or I like to think someone who used the bathroom ahead of me, because I don’t want to blame myself, haha) managed to clog up the toilet, so I got the plunger, but it wasn’t working properly. Making sure it wasn’t just me not working properly, I struggled with it for a while, but in the end I had to go out and buy a new one. That one did work, but I had just spent most of what little time I had in the office doing that ridiculous task. (Those at the workshop don’t want me to scare off any future interns from working there, but since it was my poop in the pot, I wasn’t going to make anyone else deal with it. Just teaches you to take your dumps in a reliable toilet is all.)

Then I decided to make myself a nice, comforting cup of hot cocoa, but of course I took a big sip and it was scalding my tongue and I didn’t want to spit it all over the place or let it scald my throat, too, so I just let it burn my mouth before gulping it down. My tongue still feels messed up two days later.

The good thing about that day was workshopping my story. I had good feedback on the writing I had submitted, because the workshop has definite guidelines on being supportive, so I came away feeling confident about it. It needs a lot of work, but I don’t worry as much anymore about whether or not people want to hear my story; it seemed that there were enough interesting parts to keep people wondering and wanting more, and that makes me feel happy. Of course, I haven’t gone and read the comments on the hard copies yet, but in time I think I will have to courage to do so. And I might even get up enough courage to read part of it or an edited version at the open mic on Friday, which the AAWW is holding.

In other news, I am a knitting fiend these days, since I volunteered to make some hats and things for the AAWW fundraiser for typhoon survivors in the Philippines. Like I’ve said before, I’d rather knit than write. And apparently, I’d even rather do chores than write, sometimes, because yesterday I was super productive like I have never been in my entire life, taking the car for an oil change, doing the laundry, and making dinner, even while finishing the sewing up on a couple of knitting projects, which I usually detest doing. Just so I didn’t have to even think about writing. Which is why I think NaNoWriMo is over for me, and my very own knit-yourself-sore month has begun.

Of handmade pasta and knitting

On the Friday night before my Sunday birthday, Shane’s friend Enrico had me, Shane, and their friend Evan over for dinner, and when they found out that my original plan to celebrate my birthday by doing karaoke that night had fallen through, I think they might have felt obligated to make dinner a special occasion in my honor. It was indeed special, and I deeply appreciate their efforts. These guys are incredibly good people.

The three of them are playing Bach inventions together, Shane and Enrico on guitar and Evan on cello, with plans to provide musical entertainment at the Columbia econ department’s Christmas party. They are expecting me to join them on the violin for Christmas tunes. But more on that at a later date.

Shane and I had invited them over the weekend before, to play music and drink lots, and we fed them some slow-cooked venison (courtesy of Shane’s hunting family), which they greatly appreciated, so much so that Enrico, who is from Italy, vowed to make pasta for us the next time we got together.

After getting out of Spanish class Friday evening, Enrico went home and made pasta dough, rolled it out with a rolling pin, and hand-cut the tagliatelle he later cooked and served with a creamy mushroom sauce he just threw together. It was divine. Then he brought out a caprese salad. Oh my god, some of my favorite foods….

Note to the ladies: Enrico is single and apparently a brilliant doctoral student in economics, which means he’ll probably be making the big bucks after finishing school. Plus he is a great cook. And he even bought me flowers for my birthday!

I mention the handmade pasta on this blog because Enrico made a remark that is relevant to the idea of doing work that has visible outcomes/tangible results: He said that choosing to spend an hour making noodles often makes more sense to him than sitting and doing economics on a computer for three hours, after which he doesn’t see the result of his efforts anywhere in the world; but with pasta-making, you have pasta.

Like many people, I’m guessing, I completely relate to this — especially with the cooler fall weather arriving and as I feel a push to get some knitting done. All of a sudden I want to knit a million accessories for myself, not to mention the tons of holiday projects I’ve planned for other people, many of which have been in my Ravelry queue for years.

And instead of writing more, like I’m supposed to be doing, and reading the next book on my list, I just knit. A noodle, or a scarf, is just so much more satisfyingly and physically present than, say, an economics paper (or whatever economists produce), or a short story.

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?