Lions, lambs: month two done

Sunday, February 28, 2010
And just like we all knew it would, February has disappeared with a blink and a yawn. Now that we’re on the last day of February, it’s time to be held accountable for the month past and to set goals for the month to come. The vast majority of February’s goals have checks next to them. There’s one short story project that continues to evade attention each month and I am four queries behind where I wanted to be. Oooo, that’s not so good. In my defense, in the past couple weeks I’ve undertaken a rather massive project and I’m not sure it makes sense to put energy into seeking out more work when it already feels as though I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Since graduating from college, March has always marked some sort of transition in my life. In addition to containing my birthday, the month has signaled the end of work in London, the end of temping for a major retail corporation in the Cities, and this year, the end of waitressing. I’m anxious to see what the summer brings.

With the end of waitressing, comes April! I’m ready for the travels, although neither Andy nor I have devoted any energy into figuring out a rental car for the Pacific Northwest trip. Maybe not completely ready yet. . . .

March’s writing goals will have to take into account the April travels. In the new year I’ve managed to make a variety of continuous engagements, which means I’ll have to do double-duty next month, doing both March and April’s assignments. The novel rewrite is also slated to wrap up in March and there are plenty of other things to focus energy on. If this keeps up, I’m not going to have time for a day job. Haha. Case in point: I sent in two articles this morning and when I entered them into my submissions log, I realized I’ve submitted ten articles already this year. I may be dreadfully behind with queries, but it’s also important to note that I’m light years ahead of where I was with my freelance work last year.

Watched the first two periods of the Slovakia/Finland bronze medal hockey game last night. It looked like a bronze medal game. Compared with last Sunday’s U.S./Canada games, the game moved at a sluggish and somewhat under-motivated pace. I left at the end of the second period, right when Slovakia was up 3-1. I’m sad to have missed Finland’s comeback, but not as sad as I am to have missed every single bit of women’s hockey this Olympics. Andy and I had plans to go in the U.S/Canada game this afternoon, but the game starts before Andy’s off work and with a half hour drive to work, we’d miss way more of the game than we’d actually see. Despite having watched barely any of them, the Olympics have provided some sort of structure to the end of February and it’s kind of strange to think of them wrapping up already.

March tomorrow.

Will it come in:

Like a lion?
or a lamb?
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Winter Ice

Friday, February 26, 2010
The ice always comes to the big lake towards the end of the winter. Yesterday when I drove down into town, I found the harbor covered with puzzle pieces of ice that reminded me of the aerial patchwork view of the land when you're flying over the United States. I was wrapping up some errands in town when I drove past. "That's pretty," I thought to myself, remembering that for some inexplicable reason, I'd decided to throw my camera in my backpack for this particular trip to town. "Maybe I should take some pictures." So I did.


 
 
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I'm Down With That

Thursday, February 25, 2010
I have a dear friend who is allergic to down. She travels frequently for her work and often has to speak with the front desk of hotels to exchange the down pillow they provided her room with for one with hypoallergenic fill. Since I’m a wimp when it comes to confrontation (it can be hard being a Minnesotan: how loath we are to make cold calls or to send food back) I’ve always been grateful to be free of such an allergy, among other reasons. Just as it’s hard to imagine going camping with a peanut allergy, it’s hard for me to imagine surviving a winter in northern Minnesota with a down allergy.

That said, my life has been largely down free. But that all changed this Christmas when Andy gave me a down vest. Since then, I’ve been a down convert. The vest gets worn almost every other day. Since my desk is right next to a window, when I’m sitting at the computer for hours on end, I often find myself needing any extra layer.

Simultaneously, this winter my winter coat marked its tenth year in my possession. The coat has been worn to death. After ten years of wear, the only wardrobe malfunction it’s experienced is the zipper pull tab breaking off a couple years ago. While I’m sure it will continue its legacy of wear, at ten years old it’s starting to look a bit dated and it’s always been a bit too long. I haven’t been actively looking for jacket to replace said antique for my everyday winter outerwear, but it’s crossed by mind a couple times every winter that it might be time for a new coat.

Yesterday, I made a very fast trip down to Duluth to run errands (oh the joy of having groceries and toilet bowl cleaner again) and after lunch in Canal Park, Andy and I wandered over to the Duluth Pack store because I was interested in looking at their stock for an article I’m working on. One thing led to another and I ended up walking out the door with a down winter jacket in tow. Well, I guess I’d kind of been looking for a new jacket. . . .

The jacket got a good test last night. We’ve been having pretty balmy temperatures for highs later, but it’s been getting well below zero every night. When I drove home from work last night it was -6 and when I walked into the Shack, the temperature display on the off-peak heater display read “42.” Because we’d been out of the house all day, we hadn’t been blocking the door (when we’re inside, we stuff blankets against the floor crack and also drape a blanket over the entire door to keep out cold air) nor had the extra space heaters been turned on. As a result, the off-peak heater got overwhelmed and panicked. I ran around in my down vest and down jacket for about an hour last night while I turned on the space heater and did various unpacking chores to keep moving and warm. When the heater’s register read “46,” I went to bed and when I woke up this morning it said “58.” It’s only been just this very hour (4 p.m.) that the heater’s finally hit its regular “65.”

It’s been another week with the “going, going, gone” mentality about it. It seems these days there’s always something I should be, or could be, working on. Being busy has always struck me as a good thing, as long as it’s kept in check. Lives demand fullness.
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Mrs. Bailey Would Be So Ashamed

Monday, February 22, 2010
When I moved into a house in London, the landlady Mrs. Bailey had one specific request. “Just don’t go draping your wet laundry all over the banisters,” she said in her Yorkshire accent. “We don’t want it to look like a Chinese laundry.”

The house was equipped with a compact two-in-one washer/dryer combo in the far corner of the kitchen, the kind I’d learned to dread during my semester in Ireland. Despite making a noise equivalent to a rocket ship’s ignition every time it hit the spin cycle and despite sometimes keeping your clothes locked inside the machine for upwards of four hours, when the machine finally ceased its rocking and whirring, you often opened the door to find your supposedly dry clothes sitting in two inches of water. At times, Mrs. Bailey’s lighthearted command could be hard to follow. I resisted however, strewing my clean, but sopping clothes about my spacious room and over its teeny heater.

I don’t live at Mrs. Bailey’s anymore and although my current laundry situation is much more straightforward with a separate washer and dryer, clothes don’t always come out of the dryer completely dry. Andy’s been known to gripe a teensy weensy little bit when his multitude of polarfleece pullovers gain a musty smell from being folded and put away damp. So the last time I did laundry, I strung a rope through the hooks on the downstairs ceiling (perhaps there for this very purpose) to hang the obviously still wet garments from. Which is how the Shack turned into a Chinese laundry on Saturday.

Navigation proved tricky, but not impossible. Still, it left me longing for an outdoor clothes line and the smell of sundried clothes. The smell of Shack dried clothes is fine, but not nearly so nice.
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See A Little Light

Saturday, February 20, 2010
I see a little light, I know you will
I can see it in your eyes

-- Bob Mould


It seems the spider plant on my desk is taking a big, start of the day stretch as it takes in a big yawn full of sunshine. While I’ve been reveling in the increased amount of daylight for the last couple weeks, nothing in the Shack is happier for the sunlight than the houseplants. The Christmas cactus remains impervious to new growth, but I can almost hear the spider plant and philodendron squealing with delight as they stretch and grow.

I have the weekend off and it already seems as though I’m squandering my free days. Despite the fact that I have my third load of a gazillion loads of laundry going (I thought I’d been staying more on top of laundry . . . apparently not) and there are three loaves of bread rising on the off-peak heater downstairs, I also have a stack of research books from the library that I need to devote some serious attention to and a bunch of miscellaneous other writing stuff to focus on. Because the internet had one of its pathetic days yesterday (we have satellite wireless internet which comes with tight 24-hour broadband restrictions. Whenever internet usage goes over the allocated broadband, the internet feed slows down to a snail’s pace or ceases completely until we roll into a new 24-hour usage cycle), I didn’t bother to check my gmail and as a result have spent the majority of this morning so far, when not kneading bread or running back and forth from the laundry room, responding to emails.

I stopped to fill up the bird feeders on one of the trips back from the laundry room. It crossed my mind that it’s been a while since I’ve bothered to count the birds for Project Feeder Watch. I’ve also been out of suet for the woodpeckers for the last couple weeks, although they’ve been complacently nibbling on the sunflower seeds.


I may not be able to keep up with the laundry or the bird feeders, but for some reason I continue to harbor a desire for chickens. I’m really not much for birds as pets so it’s not as though I harbor a desire for the squawking and guano that comes with chicken ownership. But I can’t shake this feeling that the eggs I buy at the grocery store shouldn’t be such a pure white shade and I also can not afford to buy organic eggs on a regular basis. The answer to this dilemma? Chickens. It’s a slippery slope though, I think, that starts with chickens and ends with a cow. I’m not really sure that’s the direction I want my life to take (Farmer Ada?) and I should probably focus on finding a place to plant a garden this summer before I get too swept up with chicken dreams. Might be time to "see the light" when it comes to that cockamamie notion.

I have a couple freelance articles that need some attention, but I think they’re being put on hold until the weekdays, especially since I have some of the preliminary interviews done already. Now that the housework is slowly getting caught up with and the birds have been tended, I’m devoting my attention to research, a chapter revision and some queries. I feel better about things after I've had some uninterrupted work time which means I need to resist the temptation to stick my nose back in the Ruth Reichl book I started yesterday while on a short, after work, ice fishing expedition. I actually caught a fish while Andy was off setting up a tip-up in another hole. To be honest, I felt the wiggling and tugging on the end of the line and said, quietly, "Uh. uh, Andy? Something's happening."  Andy continued on his way to other hole. "Something's happening," I said, a little louder. Andy came back and reeled up a lake trout about the size of a water bottle. Needless to say, we had tuna melts for supper last night.

Have a happy, restful weekend wherever you are and no matter how you plan to spend it.
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Productivity Take A Dive

Thursday, February 18, 2010
I have a penchant for quoting Bridget Jones. Although my all-time favorite quote of hers is “I will not be defeated. I chose vodka and Chaka Khan,” I’m also rather fond of “It’s a truth universally known to man that when one part of your life starts going well, another part fall spectacularly to pieces.” Things aren’t exactly in pieces around here, but after a wonderful writing week last week, writing has not gone well this week. It’s not writer’s block in the literal sense of the term, but writer’s block in the sense that other commitments are blocking me from spending time at the page. For one thing, I’ve worked quite a few more hours than I did last week. Then there was book club on Tuesday and Andy’s had the last couple days off, so yesterday afternoon was spent ice fishing.

In the years spanning the period of time between now and college graduation, I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I wanted to be a writer and spent very little time actually working consistently towards that goal. In those days, it wasn’t unheard of for me to go for days, even weeks without writing. Now that I average at least three hours a day working on writing, I find it off-putting to have projects lurking on the edge of my consciousness all day, yet never having the time to work on them. As Jane Yolen writes in Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft, “like an athlete or a dancer, I am uncomfortable – and even damaged – by a day away from my work.” Do I even need to tell you what I haven’t been working on this week? It’s February 18 already and there’s still a frightful amount of things on the February “to do” list.

The new all-in-one printer/scanner/copier is here and all hooked up. It’s wireless, which works great in my teeny office space. I’m excited to have the ability to make copies and scans just an arm’s reach away.

After a brief junket to town yesterday morning to retrieve said printer and the last of my tax forms for 2009 (I can file now. Yay!), Andy and I headed up to the cabin to spend the afternoon ice fishing before I went into work for the evening. I don’t think I’ve been ice fishing since I was six and most of that experience was spent playing cards in a cozy warm ice house with my great-aunt. This time I got into the action a little more and learned how to drill a hole. It’s not that hard, but it’s not that easy either. The trick is to keep ice auger straight and spin it at a consistent rate of speed. I didn’t quite master the trick and as a result had somewhat crooked holes full of slush. Andy can drill a hole in about 30 seconds through almost 30 feet of ice. It takes me a good five minutes, at least.


I can’t say I’m much of an angler. I understand fishing as an excuse to spend time outdoors, but I don’t care for the taste of fish enough to really be excited about catching them. Luckily we didn’t have to worry about hauling in a big catch. The closest we got to a bite was a fish taking a couple minnows off of one of the lines. But it was a gorgeous day to be out in the middle of a frozen lake. Although it was windy enough to cause some windburn, the temps soared into the 30s and the sun was bright enough to make sunglasses mandatory. After setting a couple tip-ups,

we wandered down the lake to check out what looked like a black box on the horizon, but which turned out to be a giant snowball. Now how did that get there? It's amazing what the winter wind can do on a flat surface.


Now that the days are getting longer and warmer, Andy’s keen to spend more time poking at fish through holes in the ice. I’m happy to come with, as long as there’s plenty of cocoa and I have some knitting with.
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Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 14, 2010
No great plans around here for the most romantic holiday of the year. I’ve never been much for Valentine’s Day. I’m keen on the chocolate intake synonymous with the holiday, but I find it hard to attach real sentimental attachment to the day. I suppose you could say the same of Christmas and Easter, but I do have sentimental attachment to those two holidays and while I hesitate to go down the road of calling Valentine’s Day a “Hallmark Holiday,” it kinda is. Only Secretary’s Day (or is it Administrative Assistant Day now?) means less to me. What I truly dislike about Valentine’s Day is that it’s one of those holidays that girls assume is only worthwhile if they’re in a relationship. When they are in a relationship they place so many unfounded expectations on the day that they always get their hopes dashed spectacularly. While I was in college, the day always seemed to end with a cranky lot of girls. But maybe that was just from too much chocolate. . .

The extent of the romance today will be not fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes (we’re attempting to clean up the kitchen every evening so I stop coming down every morning to start the day screeching about what a mess it is), saying “I love you,” and, if I get around to it, I might make a loaf of banana bread. Last year, I sent Andy this card.

It’s a little water-pocked because it’s hung on the outside wall of the shower. Although the shower’s entrance is in our bathroom, the shower itself juts into the kitchen, bordering the stove on one side and serving as a wall in the kitchen on another. When we need to dry cutting boards after we’ve washed them, we balance them on top of the corner of the shower’s walls, probably how the card keeps getting splashed.

Speaking of showers, last night, the space heater in the bathroom seems to have died. Either that or it just doesn’t feel like heating above 53 degrees anymore. Luckily we have another space heater on hand that puts off a ton more heat anyway. However, I’m pretty sure the plug-in only has two prongs and you’ve just got to be careful with any appliance that has the equivalent of a goalie mask on its front.

Yesterday after work, Andy and I set out on a hike to explore a snowmobile trail the lodge musher discovered the day before. Someone’s been snowmobiling where they shouldn’t be, or at least a trail’s popped up in recent days away from the established system of snowmobile trails. Regardless of how the trail got there, and despite some whining about how much my knees hurt, we had a great tromp down the lake, up a ridge and then across a small lake that before has been accessible only by ski trail. As usual, I forgot to bring my camera with, but we followed the sunset west on our walk, the sun sitting golden on the horizon and rays of light filling in the cracks between dark gray/blue clouds, like a golden cup of light that runneth over. Just before we hit the main road to circle back to the Shack, we found a beaver lodge with a wintering beaver, or two, in it. Andy smelt it first – there’s a distinct musty smell that comes from critters living close quarters for several months – and when we clamored up to get a look at the top of the lodge, there was a melted away portion of snow where the warm air of their breath and activity escapes. The beavers aren’t actually hibernating. They have plenty of food stored up and from their lodge they’re able to access the open water of the frozen lake we’d walked across.

There’s a light snow falling outside so I’m going to stay in and try to get a bunch of work done. I need to finish a draft of chapter and of a commentary and there’s also a bit of research to get done as well.

Have the loveliest of Valentine’s Day, wherever you are and not matter how you choose to celebrate.
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As The Days Grow Longer

Friday, February 12, 2010
In the middle of February there’s a sudden “ah-ha” moment when it becomes apparent that the days have gradually grown longer. While driving to work on Wednesday for a 6 o’clock start, I realized although the sky held the dark blue glow following sunset, I didn’t need my brights on. This morning, sunlight peeped over the lake’s far shore as the alarm buzzed. And yesterday it crossed my mind that from this point forward, the number of times I’ll have to use my car’s block heater should be relatively few. Winter is far from gone but the deep, dark part is all but behind us. Even my mother, who holds a vindictive dislike for winter admitted, “This winter really hasn’t been so bad.”

Truthfully we’re not so very far off from the Vernal Equinox on March 20. On Tuesday, I had a discussion at work with a regular at the bar over what determined Easter’s date each year. I stated, somewhat erroneously, that “Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.” (That’s the basic gist of Easter’s date, but it’s a little more complicated in a way I don’t quite understand about the “Paschal Moon.”) March’s full moon occurs on March 30, placing Easter on April 4 this year which in turn means starting Sunday we’re on a domino roll of holidays: Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday. Lent already . . . and I have absolutely no desire to give up anything! ;)

The amount of sunlight we receive in a 24-hour period may be increasing, but unfortunately that doesn’t correlate with an actual increase in days’ length. A shame, since I’m reverting back to my college ways and seem to be taking on an ever increasing workload. Yesterday I had to head to town for an interview and ended up multitasking by having a couple meetings as well. (I got to use my handy mileage chart in Bylines to document this tax-deductible trip.) I came home yesterday afternoon with three more story assignments and a reminder to get going on the radio commentary I’ll be contributing, probably on a monthly basis, to the local radio station. Then this morning, our neighbor called to ask for some help with an article he’s been asked to work on.

Doubt demons? What doubt demons?

All of this goes to say, I need to determine the best way to guarantee everything gets done in a timely fashion. Turning the interview I did yesterday into an article needs to be my first priority since that’s my looming deadline. Beyond that, there’s nothing that’s desperately urgent, but I can’t let any of the balls drop and I certainly can’t forget to stay on top of the novel rewrites and querying.

My all-in-one printer showed up at my parents’ house about ten minutes after I left there yesterday. I’m anxious to retrieve it, but am actually too busy to justify the trip to town. The retrieval alone would take at least two hours and once I got it back to the Shack, I’d have to set it up (despite the fact that my portfolio is up to date and I have nothing to scan) which would lead to rearranging my office, which would lead to me flirting dangerously with my deadline. Ah well.

I’m off to write an article. And a sidebar. And then an outline. Good Lord, could it be that Ada is spending the day working as a freelance writer? You know, the occupation she went to college for?! Someone told me this week that you have until you’re 35 to decide on a career. But I settled on a career when I was 18 and as plodding and as unconventional as it may be, I’m sticking with it because in the end, it doesn’t seem like I have much choice in the matter.
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Walks After Dark

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
As the winter carries on, I continue forth with my apparent subconscious desire to turn into a winter dumpling. It’s not that I mean to avoid exercise in winter, it’s just that I always manage to convince myself that there’s a better way to spend the daylight hours. So last night, Andy and I set out after dark for a walk across the lake.

Each footstep we took sank into fresh fluffy snow then broke through a tough snowy crust before finally settling on the packed layer which covers the lake’s ice. When you’re 55 miles away from the nearest grocery store, the night is free of the typical noises of traffic and people. When there’s barely any wind and the birds have gone to bed and the squirrels have ceased their daylight chattering, the noise produced by two people trudging through the darkness is significant. There’s the scrunch of footfall, the swish of pant legs through the snow, the tinkle of kicked up miniature snowballs being skittering across the snow’s surface. Often as we walked, I was sure there was some other noise coming from across the lake but realized when we stopped moving that the hollow, almost howling, noise I’d heard was nothing more the echoes and reverberations of our steps. To make so much noise in such a solitary world can make you feel that you are very big, but one look at the stars on top of stars shining brightly in the sky above, reminds you that in fact, you are very small.

With the stars close at hand, the conversation quickly turned to other worlds. Last winter Andy read and I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The first book of the trilogy, The Golden Compass takes place in the north country, not so different from where we currently reside. At the end of the book, the main character, Lyra, walks on a bridge of light to another world. Looking up in the night sky, last night, we commented that it seems as though you actually do that.

Here in this world, there is so much I could be doing that I’m not doing anything at all. I held one interview yesterday which means I have all the information to write an article today. While I sent out one query this morning, that just means five more need to go out before the month’s done. I need to get stuff pulled together to submit to my alma mater’s literary journal and of course, there’s always a chapter to write.

When we turned around last night we found ourselves walking into the wind. We had to stop so Andy could pull up his hood and dig a facemask out of his pocket for me. The walking which had been easy going the other direction grew punchy and we drifted on and off of the packed path left by the snowmobile the day before.

Sometimes it’s like that.

I ordered an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier yesterday morning only to discover after I’d made some pdfs of my clips at my parents’ house in the afternoon that I’m dearly in need of pdf editing software. (I only have Abode Reader on my computer.) The constant act of self-promotion that is the freelance writing game often grows exhausting, especially to the world’s introverts. The only things more prevalent in my life than the doubt demons are the worry demons: am I doing this right?

But no matter how the wind blows, I know if we keep walking and keep muddling along, the light shining from the cabin’s window grows brighter and brighter.
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For the Win

Sunday, February 7, 2010
“Everyone sleeps well at the cabin,” Andy commented when I joined him in the kitchen this morning a little after six to make an egg sandwich and pour myself a cup of coffee while he got ready to leave for work. Last night we made the impromptu decision to throw together some food, clothes and other belongings and head up to the cabin for a couple nights. After Andy left, I decided to get a little more good sleep and headed back to bed for two hours before dragging myself out of the bedroom and into the realm of productivity. I threw a hunk of chuck into the crockpot with some onions, carrots, cabbage and potatoes, took a shower, and booted up the computer to get to work.

Maybe it was the knowledge that I don’t have to be at work until 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday. (Yay!) Maybe it was the comfy couch in the roomy living room with large windows looking out on the snow falling steadily on the frozen lake. Or it could have been the comforting smell being emitted by the crockpot. Whatever it was, I revised an entire chapter in one sitting, and this was one of the longer chapters. Usually I spend about a week on each chapter. I spent five hours revising the chapter. Then I spent the two minutes deleting the next chapter in its entirety. Of course, the deletion means I next need to write a brand new scene but my knowing to delete the following chapter as well as having in my head the events that will replace the deleted scene solves yet another structural issue.

I’m sure the momentum I’m currently experiencing with the novel stems from finally working through the mucky middle and reaching the building point of the novel’s pinnacle. The main character’s no longer so cerebral and is beginning to change. It’s been fun to turn the sloggy rough draft of this WIP into a story that builds on itself and now that I’m getting closer and closer to completing the current revision, I’m anxious to get to the end so I can print out the story and actually hold it in my hands. Because I knew quite a bit needed to get moved around, deleted or otherwise modified in the rough draft, it made little sense to print out the rough draft since it’s easier to deal with such major edits on screen. Now that everything’s falling into the proper order, I want to read the story on paper instead of on screen.

I need to head into town tomorrow for a couple interviews so I did a bit of thinking and researching for interview questions too today. After a couple years away from routine interviews it’s taken me a little while to get back into holding effective and efficient interviews, but I’ve felt less like a dithering idiot in the last interviews I’m done and I think I’ll try to make that a trend. No one wants to be a dithering idiot.

My Bylines 2010 Writer’s Desk Calendar came in the mail on Friday and I have to say, even though I’ve read multiple praises for the calendar, I wasn’t sure what could make a day planner so phenomenal. I mean, it’s a day planner. But honestly, the calendar is just as wonderful as everyone gushes. There are places to write down mileage, goals, notes, and submissions. There are biographies of everyday writers and lists of holidays and helpful websites. I can do away with my complex system of tracking various writing goals and accomplishments on Post-its, and pages in various notebooks. Now it can all be kept in one compact little volume. I wasn’t paid to say this, but needless to say, I’m impressed.

The snow’s picking up outside. The meteorologists were probably correct in saying we’ll have a couple new inches before the day’s end. With the days growing brighter and longer, I don’t mind this freshening new bit of snow at all.
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Problems Arose Pending a Copier/Scanner

Saturday, February 6, 2010
Over the last year, the Shack has undergone the slow transformation from a teeny hang-out spot to a cozy little home. Now when Andy or I say “let’s go home,” we both know we’re talking about the Shack. And as a writer living in the woods in this itty-bitty dwelling, the Thoreau metaphors abound, although Thoreau’ little cabin probably would fit in the Shack about three times if you break down the square footage. This might make the Shack appear to a veritable castle in comparison with Thoreau, but let us all remember that Thoreau was one person and that he ate the majority of his meals over at the Emersons which means he didn’t have to deal with running out of countertop for dirty dishes,





 





or having half of his couch covered with winter camping gear,





or having a home office that makes the standard office cubicle seem roomy.



The great thing about being a writer is that it’s not an especially complicated profession. Not a whole lot of gear is required to be a writer, nor does one need to possess an innate sense for mechanics or really anything else. As long as you have a pen, paper, brain, and the ability to ask questions, you’re pretty much set. There’s really no need to have an office bigger than the Shack’s postage stamp-sized one.

But every once in a while, I wonder how Thoreau did it. When the books I’ve perched on the railing around the loft’s ladder fall downstairs for the third time in one day, I realize that I’ve quickly outgrown the work space available in the Shack. Because although I have a computer and printer as well as shelves filled with office supplies, reference material and personal documents, I harbor a deep desire to be the owner of a copier/scanner.

I don’t really need a copier/scanner – my parents own one after all and I’m welcome to use it – but it sure would make my life easier sometimes. Not only would it often remove a step from the query process, it would also make it much easier for me to maintain a profile of clips. Right now I have publications I’ve been published in recently stuffed onto a shelf for the day I actually decide to make copies of the articles as well as save a pdf copy on my computer. The portfolio is something that really needs to be kept up to date so I don’t have to scramble every time I get asked for clips, but for the time being, I’m letting it slide. There’s just no place to put a copier/scanner in the Shack and I’m not organized enough to remember to grab the publications and my flash drive every time I run to town.

A friend mentioned last week that a little more room could be created in office area if I pushed the desk back farther. I’m worried though about moving the little spider plant on my desk too far away from sunlight and I don’t want all the camping gear stuffed in the corner behind the desk to become any less accessible than it already is. Perhaps I’ll work out a way to finagle a copier/scanner into the Shack, perhaps not. In the end, we can almost always make do with what we have.

We must, as Winston Churchill put it, "Keep buggering on." Today, despite the lack of a copier/scanner, I need to follow up with some correspondence, finish an article, revise a chapter, write a query, feed the birds and do laundry. I should also mention that I'm truly glad to have a couple days off to spend dinking around in the Shack home office. 

Since I'm in a sharing mood, here's a picture of Andy's new truck. It's great and I'm sure it's lovely to drive, but it's a manual transmission. I understand the concept of manual transmissions, just not as it applies to me. Andy's anxious to change that perception of mine and I guess this summer will bring driving lessons.
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On Itty Bitty Months

Thursday, February 4, 2010
My goodness February took off with a bang. After two mayhem filled days of serving eggs and hot cocoa to mushers at the restaurant, the John Beargrease is over. I saw one dog team come in through the corner of my eye while I was working, but my primary job was making sure all the mushers, handlers, judges, vets, and volunteers were feed and watered. Although I was in the fray of things, I really saw very few sled dogs. It was a lot of fun. Now everyone’s properly worn out. Although everyone is expecting tourism to pick up in February, especially over the President’s Day weekend, for the time being it’s back to the same old, same old.

That said, I’ve got a load of freelance work that needs to get dealt with over the next week. I completed and invoiced one article this week, now I have three more to get written. I’ve done two interviews already this morning and am busy trying to schedule in-person interviews for early next week, despite the fact that I can only assume what my schedule is. No rest for the weary around these parts. When did life get so busy?!

On top of the freelance work (and the five novel chapters that are slated to be revised before the month’s end), I’m trying to get re-involved with the local community radio station. For four years during my teenage years, I was co-producer of a weekly children’s radio show for the station which may, or may not have influenced my desire to go into the communications field. I’ve spent most of the seven years that have elapsed since the last broadcast of Ragamuffin Radio thinking I wouldn’t be returning to this community. Now it seems silly not to be involved again. The station offers great opportunities to further develop some skills and has a great passionate, hands-on nature.

Sometimes opportunity knocks. Sometimes you have to move around some doors before opportunity finds them. Right now, I have to figure out what exactly I want to do at the station.

Andy has a new truck! Although he turns a little green at the gills when he thinks about how much he spent on the 2008 Toyota Tacoma, the greenness quickly fades into a big goofy smile whenever he drives it. After over a year of trying to jam two people and some belongings into the teeny cab of his older Tacoma, it’s really, really nice to have an extended cab with room for: groceries, suitcases, cd cases, boots . . . . It’s a much smoother ride too, but now we’re really on a budget.

For the last seven years, I’ve submitted to my college’s annual literary and artistic journal. This year, with the focus on getting the novel done already, as well as the constant pursuit for paying gigs, I’ve spent very little time working on short stories or poems. I’m not much of a poet and since any monetary compensation for poetic efforts is usually best described as a pittance, I will probably remain “not much of a poet.” I’m okay with that, but it did dawn on me that I have nothing to submit to this year’s Out of Words. Actually, the annual has been re-titled The Freshwater Review since I graduated. Regardless of what it’s called, the deadline is February 25. I should be able to dig something up in the files. Or maybe I’ll just whip something up . . . in my free time. Haha.

March is going to be here in no time, I just know it. Might I request a longer month?
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February and Puppy Tails

Monday, February 1, 2010
Schnikes! How the heck did it get to be February? It seems everyone I talk to share a mild disgruntlement over how quickly January passed us all by.

The roads are slippy out. The cars are taking nosedives left and right off of the road. On Saturday a large pickup truck (by large, I mean, this thing was designed to keep us dependent on foreign oil supplies) appears to have spun around on the highway before plopping softly into the ditch at the top of our road. It’s been a week since we’ve gotten any substantial snow which leaves the roads with a snow cover glaze. A nice steady pace and no sudden applications of the brakes seem the best methods for staying on the road and out of the ditch. And that goes, whether or not you have four-wheel drive and even if you have a big-ass truck.

Andy’s truck isn’t in the ditch, but he’s thinking of ditching it. For the past year, he’s been involved in a long, intrapersonal soul search for a new, slightly larger truck. Today may be the day. He’s headed to Duluth to check out a couple trucks at a couple dealerships.

Got Friday’s article sent off for fact checking from the source. Hopefully I’ll be able to turn it quite a bit ahead of schedule. I stumbled upon this Gloria Steinem quote last night while Andy was watching We Were Soldiers and I was idly flipping through a magazine: There’s really a shortage of good freelance writers . . . . There are a lot of talented people who are very erratic, so either they don’t turn it in or they turn it in and it’s rotten; it’s amazing. Somebody who’s even maybe not all that terrific but who is dependable, who will turn in a publishable piece more or less on time, can really do very well.

That shall be my mantra from now on.

It’s an early morning for me. I’m trying to get some writing done before I head to work because it’s going to be a long couple work days. (Since we’ve all been working an average of 20 hours a week, any day longer than 4 hours now constitutes a long day: I spend more time and am getting close to making more money writing.)

But today the restaurant is the mid-way checkpoint for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon which means we’ll be serving up burgers and cocoa like nobody’s business. In my middle school days, a friend and I always used to always help out at an annual dog sled race. I’m looking forward to being close to the action again after a ten year hiatus. I'll let you know how it goes.
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