Sunday, February 22, 2009

Missions of Mercy

I would enjoy this not-working thing if only it paid better. Actually, I'm not un-employed, but under-employed -- I'm working part-time as a Web monkey for an office services company and taking on a bunch of fun Web site work. A month into my kiss-off from Sun, and I've been so busy that I haven't had the time to apply much serious effort toward looking for a full-time job. I've attended a couple of webinars (the person who invented that term ought to be slapped with a dictionary), talked with my outplacement counselor, and done some networking. My resume is still rusty and covered with cobwebs, though. That's the next task. I've just been too busy working to look for work.

This is one of those times when having a wide network of friends and acquaintances, many of whom have experienced the same situation at one time or another, will save one's sanity. I've been in touch with several friends who have experienced the same thing. They've supplied me with help, advice, leads to writing gigs, links to useful articles, and so on. One friend got me my current part-time job as a Web monkey for a virtual-office company. Dale has been more than helpful and generous, funneling a number of Web projects my way. Sue recommended that I talk to her neighbor about a site, and a whole new friendship is evolving thanks to her. If it weren't for the people I know, I probably would still be cowering under the blankets. Thanks, everybody, from the bottom of my heart.

Got Nothing But Time -- Oh, Don't Have That, Either

Spinoza knew what he was talking about when he coined the famous phrase "Nature abhors a vacuum" -- and he wasn't talking about our crappy old Electrolux, either. The very second I lost my job, dozens of tasks rushed in to fill the space where work used to be. How did I ever work 8+ hours a day and take care of all of the things that needed taking care of? Oh, yeah, that's right. I juggled. I juggled then as I do now, only twice as much and twice as crazily.

A couple of weeks ago, Dale and I were having a breakfast meeting at her favorite local hangout (the cafe at the local airport). That place serves up a pretty mean breakfast for not too much money, plus you get to watch planes come and go. Can't hate that! Anyway, while we were sitting there, I received a message on my Blackberry from Dinah's breeder in the UK saying that a mutual friend of ours had died in January. He owned a Breaksea dog (Dinah's uncle Badger), and did I know anyone who could help with the dog?

A few texts, some emails, and a bunch of phone calls later, and all was set: I would go to Virginia to pick up Badger and bring him here. I knew Badger back when he was living in the Old Country, and he became one of my best buddies when I went over to bring Dinah home. If I didn't have Dinah's dad Danny on my lap, I had her uncle Badger (Danny's half-brother).

Sure, Badger could have found a home in the area. The National Capital Bearded Collie Club has a crack network of rescue volunteers, and a number of people offered homes when they heard that our friend had died. I admit to being selfish about this one, though: I love Badger and didn't want him to go anyplace else. Greg will probably take us all to the animal shelter when he realizes that Badger isn't just here temporarily (if I can help it), but he's actually been fine with the idea thus far.

Since I'm technically out of work, I have the opportunity to make a mini-vacation out of the trip. I could just drive the 11-12 hours straight, pick Badger up, and beat it home, but why rush? I can visit people along the way -- stop in to see my dad in Massachusetts and give my sister some time off, crash overnight near Baltimore with a Beardie friend and go to a huge local craft fair, visit another friend's new house in the DC suburbs, and enjoy my time in Richmond seeing old friends. If Mother Nature cooperates, it could be a fine little excursion. Badger's a good traveler and gets along well with everybody -- we could celebrate our first road trip together.

That's the thing about being laid off -- the first instinct is to berate oneself for not getting a new job right away, coupled with the fear of what happens if you don't find one before the severance package runs out. It takes some time before you can look past that fear to the opportunities beyond. Having time is a vastly underrated opportunity. I can't say as I've used it all wisely in this first month, but at least I understand that my time is now mine to make use of, or to squander, as I decide.

More On the Time Thing

Although I haven't realized my dream of going straight back to art school as soon as I became newly unemployed, I did sign up for a daytime knitting class with a friend of mine. It's nice to be able to get out of the house and concentrate on nothing but knitting for a couple of hours. The instructor is a mutual friend of ours who once worked at our late lamented local yarn shop, and who has been teaching multiple knitting and crochet classes for the local adult education department since then.

I've taken the opportunity to learn lace knitting. Sure, I can do yarnovers with the best of them, but I've been averse to taking on projects that involve much counting just because I am constantly interrupted here. Any time I have to set down my work mid-row to answer the phone/answer Greg/let the dogs out/go to the door/change channels on the TV, I'm lost. This explains why I've had a simple basketweave throw sitting in a bag in the Frog Pond since the 2004 World Series -- being able to concentrate on anything here for more and a minute at a time is impossible. If I were smart, I'd just frog the poor thing and take it with me to class.

Anyway, the prospect of doing some dedicated lace knitting is exciting. I'll be making something tiny like a bookmark, but no matter. The important thing is that I get to devote two hours to nothing but lace knitting.

Bittersweet Man News

Greg says that he's almost finished with the editing of the recordings for the Sax Quartets CD. He took on the editing tasks for his piece and that of his former professor at BU, Lukas Foss. This past week, we got word that Lukas had died on February 1. We had known he'd been in declining health for a while, and the New Hudson Sax Quartet had to record his piece at Lukas's apartment in New York because he wasn't able to go to them. Still, it's sad news. I never met Lukas, though I answered the phone a couple of times when he called looking for Greg. Sad to think that Lukas won't be around when this CD comes out.

The same label that is issuing the Sax Quartets recording is also recording and releasing Greg's String Quintet. You might remember this piece from my post about "The Ugly Quintet." Anyway, in its new and beautiful form as a piece for strings, the Quintet will be recorded in the Czech Republic sometime soon (if it hasn't already), and will be released at some point. I have no idea whether the piece will be included in another collection, released on its own, or whether it will be part of an all-Greg CD. The label has a whole spiderweb of distribution agreements with Naxos Records, iTunes, and a gazillion other musical outlets. I've been promising that all these CDs in the works will be released Any Time Now, so I'm not going to make any more announcements until I have a copy in one hand and am typing into this blog with the other.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Diary of a Bad Housewife

It's been a week since my job of 11+ years and I parted ways, and it's been one of the strangest, busiest weeks I've endured in a very long time. I wish I could tell you that things were falling into place, and that I'm adjusting to my new status as an economic statistic, but I just haven't made it that far yet. There's still so much to do, and organize, and think through -- and I haven't even had a spare moment to compile a to-do list or four.

The first few days have been somewhere beyond weird. My head's been spinning with all of the strange and unfamiliar tasks I've had to do, plus I've experienced a different emotion every five minutes. I'm told this is a normal part of the process, but it doesn't please me or comfort me much that I'm having to go through it in the first place.

One of the weirder tasks involved having to pack up all of the company-owned equipment here in my home office and drive it down to the office building, then surrender it (along with my badge, my access card, and my Amex corporate card) to one of the security guards. The guards were very sweet to me; it's just that I realized that I was now a guest in the building, and not allowed beyond the front lobby any more. I'm somewhat glad that I didn't run into anyone I know. That would have made for more awkwardness that I think I could have handled.

The Universe does provide, though. When word got out that I was out of work, I was deluged with offers of Web site work -- so many that I need another to-do list just to keep them all organized. In a way, you might say that I got my wish. At one point, I was working on one Web site or another and thinking, "I LOVE this stuff. I wish I could do this for a living." At least for now, that's what I'm doing. The going rate for such work is approximately half what I was making, though -- so I'm afraid that Web work will always have to be part-time for me. I'll have to find another full-time gig doing what I was doing. In the meantime, I have as much "fun work" ahead of me as I can possibly handle. (Thanks to Sue and Dale for getting things started. I am grateful.)

Another thing I caught myself saying was, "If I only had a little time off, I could REALLY straighten up this house." That hasn't happened yet, either. I've been so taken up with all of the crazy details of work (new and old) that I've only been able to keep up with the bare minimum of routine tasks, let alone tackle any of the real messes.

At least cooking is fun again. While I've been working, much of the day-to-day meal prep has fallen to Greg. He can cook better than he thinks he can, but his big meal is breakfast. There are two camps of cooks: those who eat to live, and those who live to eat. Greg is an Eat-to-Live. I'm a Live-to-Eat. In my version of Hell, you get served microwaved spaghetti topped with Ragu every single night. At least this whole new spare-time phenomenon means that I can get to the fish market before it closes, so we've been eating more salmon and less pasta.

My youngest sister sent me a call for help this past week that will result in some more cooking -- only not for us. She lives with my dad, and as his health issues get more complicated, she has had to assume more of his day-to-day care: food preparation, getting him to appointments, listening to the doctors, coping with the increasing number of emergencies, and so on. She asked me to drive down there and take Dad out to lunch a couple of times a month so she can have a respite and some time to herself, and also to make some food that agrees with his diet, freeze it, and bring that. It isn't really so much to ask, aside from the 300-mile round trip drive. My siblings have been helping some, and it's just my turn.

At Least the Knitting Statistics Are Showing an Upward Trend

Thus far, I haven't indulged my very small-but-sweet fantasy of spending an entire day just knitting. I did manage to finish another scarf for Susannah out of some pretty reddish-bronze ribbon yarn in my stash, and I've shipped it off to her. I've pulled some skinny chenille yarn from the same stash and have cast it on for the next scarf (I loathe chenille yarn, but the colors were irresistible). I've also turned the heel on the second of my dad's Scheepjes socks and am making my way slowly down the foot. At the rate I'm going, he might actually be able to wear them before the vernal equinox.

Greg mentioned how much he loves watch caps. At least now I know what I can knit for him that he actually would wear. Now, if only I could find where my Denise needles got off to...