Friday, May 25, 2012

Working Friday: Niche

I've decided that I don't talk about work nearly enough, so I am instituting a Friday theme on work.

Here is the thing about writing and editing: it's a pretty open field. You can do almost anything in communications: work for big business, banks, newspapers, magazines, and even freelance. There's volunteering, interning, contract, and in-house work. Most of us do some combination of these or all of these things at any given time.

I've worked as both an editor and a writer in technical documentation. I've volunteered for the newsletter of a non-profit organization. I've edited PhD dissertations (copy editing, mind you), the Ministry of Education papers, and role playing game manuals. I've done resumes, web pages, and SEO articles. I've blogged for pay. I've written a magazine article.

It's quite a variety. Here's what I have discovered about myself: I am incredibly attracted to editing because I like making a piece that was decent into something fabulous. However, I've also been stiffed the most when I do editing. Since I cannot eat my fingers or pay the mortgage with monopoly money, I tend to steer away from editing these days. Turns out I am practical like that.

I love that I can get information from people and make it into something that stands out. When I wrote about purified water in manufacturing industries, it was amazing to mine the information from industry experts and put together an article that was concise and readable. My Mother read it and understood what they were doing and how! (Mom is a nurse and has no background in water processes at all.) When I read something that makes my eyes glaze over, I know that this is not the kind of writing I want to produce at all. I am obsessed with readability, audience, and presentation.

Writing, editing, interviewing and researching are skills that are transferable from one end of the writing spectrum to the other. So why do I have a hard time keeping my freelance business afloat?

I've been doing work on this question. It seems that one reason for my lack of work is a lack of niche. As a generalist, it is harder to sell my skills. I've spent time reading articles about niches and talking about the kind of work I like to do the most. After a lot of conversation, thinking, and writing, I have a handle on where I am going.

I've enjoyed writing articles the most, whether they were for SEO or magazines. With a background in technical writing and a vast interest in projects in and around the house, I am gunning for the DIY market. I'm also interested in writing on health topics and parenting themes. So, as I develop my focus, I am striking out again and pushing back at an industry that leaves me flying high one moment and laying flat on the ground the next. It's a wild ride, but it's my path. If you have any connections or suggestions, I am happy to take all the help I can get.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Manners, manners everywhere...

I've been selling things on Kijiji. We have a load of extra things that we no longer need: an outgrown tricycle (both kids are on bikes now), a fishbowl left behind by the previous owners, and our jogging stroller (if the kids don't need a tricycle, they sure don't need a stroller!), to name a few. I go through this stage about once a year and slowly the stuff trickles out of the house and a bit of cash trickles in. It's a good deal, because I get a bit of space back too.

However, I am constantly amazed at the lack of manners and common sense that people display when buying items off the internet. The questions! Think it through: if I have a jogging stroller up for $50, what is the likelihood that it is either a big brand name (if it was, I'd have posted that too) or has an attachment for your car seat? If you are looking to push your child in a stroller that is meant for rougher terrain and can be used while you exercise, this is your deal. If not, move along. I am okay with it not being the stroller for you. ;) When you ask me if your 2 year old will fit on my tricycle, I am going to have to ask you how big your 2 year old is. It's a tricycle, so it will either fit your child now or he or she will grow into it. Asking me if I can knock 25% off the price makes me feel like telling you I can do that, but I will have to remove the handlebars first.

But when you ask to see it and I give you my phone number, please reply. Even if you found something else, it's okay. A seller isn't mad about that. I promised you nothing. But isn't it plain good manners to reply with "thank you for your information, but I am not interested"?

Though my snarky answers to your questions are on the tips of my fingers, I am polite and reply with the information you have requested. Please return the favour and be polite back.

I wonder sometimes if the internet has made our interactions with each other less polite. If somehow it has made us forget that there are manners here too. I've seen it on Facebook, message boards, and in texting. Somehow, because the other person isn't in front of us, we feel free to let basic manners go. I've actually been called names over my opinions/suggestions/experiences on Facebook before! And I have seen people refer to other people in such rude terms that it made my eyes bug out.

So, let's remember what our parents taught us: say please and thank you; use a little common sense; if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, and try to treat people as you would like to be treated.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sharing a Room

My boys share a room. (It's not as nice as the room above, though I would love to do something like that for them someday.) They've shared a room since Liam was kicked out of our bedroom when he was about a year old. It was tough going at first. Liam wasn't the greatest sleeper. Okay, that's a little bit like saying that Godzilla wasn't exactly small. And there were trying times at first. My Mom always laughs as she imitates a 4 year old Xander who said, "Can't you get that kid to be quiet?" to her with his hand over his ears when she babysat one evening.

In our old house, there was no choice. We had three bedrooms and one of them was an office for my work-at-home husband. The kids adjusted to each other and even draw comfort from having a sibling close by.

So my boys think that they should always share a room.

Our current house has enough rooms for the boys to have their own rooms, plus for office space for each of the adults in our home.  Imagine our surprise when we told them that they could each have their own rooms and they protested! There was no way they were going to sleep apart. The world would end if they had separate rooms. What were we thinking?

So they share a room here too. Except that Xander is now old enough that his bedtime is changing. He's no longer tired as early as his little brother. We would like to institute different bedtimes and to give Xander a half hour to read at the end of the day.

So the question is before "the courts" again. We'll see what happens. For those of you who have navigated this split before or have suggestions to keep them together, but give Xander his growing privileges, please speak up.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Quiet Place

Every so often, I spend some time on Pinterest. I like to browse through and see what catches my eye. It's kind of like window shopping. Lately, I've tried a few of the recipes that have popped up.

Today, thanks to my friend Erica, I found The Quiet Place Project.  Go ahead. Take a look. Follow the link. And then think about it.

I recently had my membership to an online mommy board deactivated. There have been questions about it, and although there was a defining moment that helped me to make the decision, the ultimate reason was this.

I'm not going to stop posting on Facebook. Or blogging. Certainly, I like my electronics. But every so often, we all need a break from it. I'm going to post, and then I am going to spend the last hour of my day without the electronic noise in my life.

Go...find your quiet place too.

And to the person or persons who created that site: Awesome!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

People Do This On Purpose?

I have to say up front that I just don't get why people would do this to themselves on purpose.

I blogged over here about my sleep issues and the core of them being my medication for depression. It's been a few weeks, but I have had two changes in medication because of it all and have come off of the SSRIs as a result. Which leads to this post.

Coming off of SSRIs ends in withdrawal symptoms. I've heard that if you do it slowly enough, over months and months, that the withdrawal can be minor. Since the core of my issues revolve around sleep, I don't have months and months to do this. It's been weeks. Today I am a full week of being off of every drop of SSRI.

It's been a hard and long week. Frustrating. Full of tears some days. Other days I've felt like the cat rubbed the wrong way. Still other days, I feel great. While my husband knows and understands what I am going through, the kids are still small; one wouldn't understand and the other shouldn't be burdened with trying to understand. So my husband picks up the slack and smooths things over, while I try my very best to be on an even keel. The kids deserve it, so I am trying.

The worst of the moods seem to have passed. I hope. But there is one physical symptom that will take a while to taper off and it is the one symptom that irritates me the most. I've read descriptions of brain zaps as part of the withdrawal from these drugs, but what I get is more like vertigo in my peripheral vision. If I turn my head while I am walking, the world goes wonky. Turning my head can be side to side, but it can also mean up or down. Try walking and just looking straight ahead!

The only cure for it is to stay stationary at all times. Yeah, that works well for me too! So I have done things in small spurts and try to minimize how much I have to do. For now, I am not driving. When this recedes, and it will, I will drive again. For now, I refuse to put myself, my kids, and other people in danger because I need milk at the store. My husband goes when he can and I wait when he can't. (This takes patience for me, since I don't like waiting and am not used to being hobbled like this.)

Our backyard looks like the Clampetts live here and I desperately want to work on that too. So I get little bits done and hope that tomorrow and next week will be better. The moods I can handle, the inability to get things done just irks me.

And that is why I wonder why people would take drugs, knowing that this is the ending of it all. That withdrawal, both physical and mental, is imminent. I took these drugs because they helped keep me upright when the depression was so thick that I couldn't see my feet, let alone move them. I also wonder why we would even use prescriptions that do this to us in the long run? The side effects from these drugs are a whole other disease! Why aren't we searching out better options?  Understand that I am not saying that these drugs aren`t necessary and that we shouldn`t use them. When I was put on them, I needed them desperately. I know a lot of people who use them and need them badly. However, I wonder why the medical industry isn`t looking for better solutions. Perhaps they are and I just don`t know about it.

For now, I am doing what I can and hoping that each day will get a bit better and I won`t fall over in the process.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wedding Gowns

Yesterday, I was obsessed with what to do with my wedding gown.

It's in the closet, in a bag, still yet to see a dry cleaner. Every so often, it nags at me from the closet and I wonder what to do with it.

I hear about women keeping their dresses for their daughters to wear, either for their own weddings or for playing in or for pictures while they grow. Having two sons makes this a non-issue. I'm fairly certain neither of my boys will want to wear my wedding gown.

I have no desire to trash my dress either. In fact, until I googled "what to do with your wedding dress" yesterday, I'd never even heard of this particular trend. I see the appeal, but it's just not me.

Today I took the dress out of its bag and looked at it. Still very pretty. Simple lines, detachable train, no great pile of beads and bows (as was the style at the time), and still very much within my taste. Perhaps, I will take to making my own tradition and wear it on my birthday, drinking champagne, as was suggested by someone I read yesterday. For now, it is going back in the closet.

So, what have you done with your dress? Do you hope that future generations will wear it? What if you don't have daughters?

*A little side note: the dress above is not my dress. I tried to find a photo of it online, but it's not available, since my wedding was in 1999. All the pictures are done in film, not digitally of our actual wedding, so I'd have to scan and right now I am in the middle of changing computers. It's a pretty one though. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Failures of the Fairy

It's not actually the tooth fairy's fault, but she is the first to come under the scrutiny of my oldest son. He's unsure if she exists and will tell you one day for certain that she doesn't and the next day he comes up with an idea on how to prove it one way or another.

Truth be told, I am a little bit proud.

The big problem is that there is no consistent story about this little lady. Why does she take those teeth? (Ray has declared that she grinds them up to use as fairy dust.) And what should she bring? Money? Toys? Most parents seem to lean toward money, but then we are all over the place for the amount of money.

Today, I heard one that surprised me, apparently one of my son's buddies gets the money AND to keep the tooth!

No wonder the tooth fairy is under suspicion.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Summer is Coming

May just started, so I figured that I had plenty of time to consider our summer plans. Not that we haven't been talking about summer, mind you. We have friends coming to visit in July. I am going with the kids to visit a few people too. And we have already started a list of things to do. (Thank you Pinterest.) So, I do know that Summer is on its way.

What I didn't count on is how quickly summer will be here.

Today, at preschool, a few of us were talking about how soon the year is over. It turns out I only have two more duty days for preschool! That's a milestone. Liam only has 12 more days. That's a shocker. What is more shocking is that come a bright September morning, he will be off to real school. Double whammy: Ontario now has all day, every day Kindergarten and our school is starting that program this fall.

I am sitting in my office, with the sun coming in the tiny window, wondering what that will be like. What will a whole day of this kind of quiet bring? What am I doing next? Fall will bring many changes for our household.

Xander is currently doing what I think will be his last French show and tell for the year. Next week will be his last presentation. And he has long past his 100 books for the year. Amazing! I am very close to having a second grader in my house. When did that happen? He has 37 more school days.

Last fall seems like a long time ago. Winter felt like it took forever to wade through. Spring edged in and edged in and edged in, until we finally realized it really was here (I put our winter clothes away last week, so let's hope so!). But summer, I have a feeling that summer is just waiting around the next bend, ready to jump upon us all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


For most of my adult life, I have made references to myself as fractured. I've lived all over Canada, plus time in Europe and Asia. It doesn't matter where I go, I have people and memories. Places left behind. I carry them with me always. I am just as much the little girl who played in mud puddles under rainy November skies on the northern tip of the Vancouver Island as I am the young woman who swam in a waterfall one summer in Newfoundland. Once, I was a teenager with clear blue skies above me and waves of wheat and flax around me.  Today, I am a mother, a writer, a friend, a runner in the suburbs of the most populous city in Canada.

I've made reference to this, all this time, as being fractured. Broken into pieces.

Sounds grim, doesn't it?

I see why I did that. I cannot choose one over another. I cannot deny that there is appeal to living in New Brunswick, where I once walked the ocean floors and cried at the beauty of the wild edges of this country. But choosing a life where that is my every day and my every breath means that the big skies of Saskatchewan that sustain my soul and the winds that rustle the prairie harvests and whisper to me through time and space are even further from my reach. I felt like I just could not have ALL of it.

Sometimes, I envy my friends who have lived in one place their whole lives and have parents, siblings, and extended relatives down the street or a few miles away. I can barely wrap my head around that concept.

Except today I woke up and realized that these pieces are not a fracturing of myself. I am not broken. I am a representation of all of the pieces that make up our country. I have tundra and rocky mountains in me. My feet have touched both oceans. I have literally flown over our country from one end to the other. I have experienced the hottest summer nights and the coldest winter days this land offers. These pieces are more like leaves. Sweet bits that make up the depth and breadth of the whole tree. Layers of story, experience, life.