Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One month in: What have I learned in my process of self-reflection?

Honestly, I haven't really learned anything new. Nor have I come closer to making a decision about my life (hence why I intend this to be a multi-month process).

For the month of January I took a pretty standard approach to decision making.

Step 1: Identify the decision to be made
What kind of career or job do I want to have, or what kind of career or job do I think would make me most happy?

I wonder if this is an over simplification of the decision to be made, or perhaps, I'm trying to put this decision into too simple of terms. It's what I've decided to build on, which might get hashed out better in subsequent months and styles of decision making.

Step 2: Identify alternatives
As I see it, I have 2 paths I can follow.

Librarianship/Research: For the purpose of this exercise I see librarianship and research as the same option, or that they have the same value. Both represent the more 'standard' job. Both would likely be reasonably steady hours, greater pay, and rely on my degree and work experience. In a year's time I'd be looking into courses on stats, or research methods, or librarian-related courses to improve my job prospects.

Aerials/Writing: Unlike the above, these are not exactly the same job, but I feel like to do one, it might require the other because there isn't a lot of money to be made at either. This would definitely be the path of the artist. In year 2 of this process I'd be focusing on taking further aerial teacher training, and figuring out how to market my current books, while writing a new one.

Step 3: Identify uncertainties
One of the biggest problems I have is coming to peace with my level of income and my contribution to the Milne household. I have a lot of wants which require money: nice clothing, nice house, fun vacations, good food, good wine, a car in good working order.

If I choose the librarian/research path, my income won't be much of an uncertainty, but it's a huge one if I choose the aerials/writer path.

Building on this is, what is it that makes me happy? A small part of me thinks (or maybe just imagines), if I figure out what will make me happy, the choice of career will become obvious. Some beacon will shine out of the fog of my life and tell me what I'm supposed to do with myself. Then the whole income level won't matter because I'll be happy, and isn't that the most important thing in life?

Step 4: Gather relevant information
I took this stage as coming up with a list of pros and cons. I repeated this exercise on a couple of different nights, thinking I might have slightly different insights on different nights, then compared what I came up with.

Elements I would consider important in a job:
  • Ability to be physically active.
  • Ability to have creative outlets.
  • Some flexibility in hours to allow for: being available to Ruth if she needs me during the day; occasionally volunteering with a charity.
  • Yet some consistent number of hours a week (anywhere between 15 and 20, I think).
  • If not receiving benefits, being paid sufficiently to offset not having them.
Elements I would dislike in a job: (which may basically be the opposite of my list of pros)
  • Inconsistent hours or schedule OR too ridged a schedule interfering with the amount of time I can spend with Ruth and Andrew.
  • A desk job where I sit all day.
  • No opportunities to exercise my creativity.
  • Low/little income, and/or no benefits.
  • Too much time spent alone OR little social interaction.
Step 5: Make a decision
As I stated above, I wasn't necessarily expecting to come out of this single exercise with a final decision. I can't deny, however, certain elements: physical activeness; creativity; flexibility; at least some interaction with others, are jumping out at me.

You would think at this point the signs would be pretty clear, but there's that uncertainty I identified. How much or little income am I comfortable with? That is what I need to figure out.

I had a dream last night (after having written the bulk of this blog post) that seemed aptly timed (and rather suggestive):

I was at Base Camp at Mount Everest. Andrew and Ruth were with me to wish me luck, but I was getting cold feet. I wasn't sure I wanted to go on the climb (the success rate is low, many people die). Additionally, I was supposed to go to Australia (I'm not sure where this came from) after I was finished the climb, meaning I wasn't going to see Andrew and Ruth for weeks. In the end, I decided to stay at the base of Mount Everest, to spend time with my husband and daughter.

A much smaller 'mount' I actually scaled. The Notch, in Jasper National Park, on the Jasper Skyline Trail.
I still remember worrying as we climbed The Notch that I had gotten us into something I shouldn't have, as Andrew was suffering from a bad head cold at the time.
That was a heck of a day, 20+ km, 3 mountain passages.
Until next time.



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year! Now, what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

Back in September I interviewed for a part-time research assistant position. I was turned down, told I was their 'number two.' At that point I decided I wasn't going to apply to any other jobs unless it was a perfect fit.

Instead I was going to do aerials, write, and sew (and take care of my daughter, of course). I was going to train lots, work on my new story idea, and start building a homemade wardrobe.

I also needed to do some deep thinking. I spent sometime researching decision making techniques, making note of several I thought could be helpful. I made an unofficial deadline of September 2018 (when Ruth starts JK) to decide if I was going to take more courses in librarianship/research or instructing aerials.

I was going to put on my big girl pants, and make some decisions about what I really want in life and what makes me happy.

At the end of November I was contacted again about the research assistant position. Certain circumstances had led the first pick to find a different job, was I still interested?

Well crap. I hadn't expected that change of events. I'd put the initial disappointment behind me, and had settled into the idea of staying at home and working on things at my own pace. The trouble was, what if by the time my deadline came around, I decided I needed to find a regular job? It would be 5+ years since the last time I'd worked in a regular office setting. I'd have no up-to-date experiences or references for a librarian/research job.

I've taken the job. Besides the issues above, it is, in fact, a fantastically important research project dealing with mental health and the work place (put very broadly).

As the holidays came to an end, I was looking at my official, up-to-full hours (full, part-time hours, that is), start date of January 2nd, and I was (and still am) kind of panicking. I feel like my plate is full, boarding on over flowing.

In the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in a year I have for the next 3 years I need to:
  1. Work (up to) 21 hrs/week.
  2. Teach aerials 4-6 hr/week (offering to do more day-time hours next fall).
  3. Train aerials 4-6 hr/week (at least)
  4. Exercise (cardio/strength conditioning) 5-6 hr/week.
  5. Write (ha!).
  6. Sew (ha! x2).
Then there's the general life stuff of: taking care of/being present for my family, making home cooked meals (most of the time), making sure there's clean laundry, keeping the house tidy enough that it won't drive me nuts (I'm looking into a cleaning service)...anything else? Getting enough sleep, I suppose.

Oh Boy.

Now, let me circle back to something from before.

Above all else, what I must do over the next 3 years is think about what I want to do with my life, and this is in fact that actual point of this post.

My New Years resolution is to spend the next year thinking about what makes me happy, and what I want to do as a job/career. Aerials, write, sew, or librarianship/research. Maybe a combination of 2 of these, but not likely more. By the end of 2018 I would like to have an action plan for 2019. What do I focus in on? What do I re-train in? I'll still have until the end of 2020 before things come into full effect, but I need to know what I'm doing once my present contract is up.

Not only do I need to put on my big girl pants for me, but I need to put them on for Ruth. I need to demonstrate to her how to lead a happy and fulfilled life no matter what career path I choose.

Happy New Years everyone.



Awesome photograph by the Awesome Alexa Baker, who some how manages to make me feel like a model.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Continued sewing adventures with vintage style patterns

As promised, another blog post! And it's once again about sewing.

Does this sound familiar: You finally decide it's time to go shopping for new clothes, you brave the mall, then when you actually go to a store (or stores), you can't find anything you like?

This is me, almost always. It's so disappointing and frustrating when you can't find clothing you want to buy--especially when you've spent months saving up the money. Part of it for me is, I'm usually looking for something a little...different. In my teen and early twenty years, that meant super colourful. Now in my thirties, I think I'm looking for something with a vintage feel.

I don't remember when I first learned how to sew, maybe around grade 7 or 8? That's definitely when we had 'Home Ec' class, although come to think of it, I could already sew basic boxer shorts by then, so maybe earlier. My mom always sewed--for as long as I can remember. She didn't make whole wardrobes or anything, but she usually made me Sunday Dresses, and one or two other things. She sewed my wedding dress, too.

Although I've known how to sew for a long time, I am NOT an expert. I make mistakes, don't get my corners perfectly turned, or my seems exactly aligned. I get frustrated and rush things when I just want to get it done. But, I can still put together reasonable garment, that as long as you don't examine it up close, looks decent enough.

Sew (see what I did there...), without further ado, behold my next vintage-style piece:

Initially I thought I'd make the pants to start, but I mixed up the yards and metres, so I knew I'd have a ton of fabric leftover if I didn't go for the whole overalls. I went with a plain black, light denim fabric, but purchased some fun rainbow-holographic buttons to jazz them up.
Laying out the pattern, as my Mom taught me, saving as much leftover fabric as possible. Also, I have to do this on the floor, since we still have the same tiny Ikea table we had when we moved to Edmonton 12 years ago.
My sewing machine isn't quite the same vintage as my overalls, but it's still a heavy-duty classic. 1970 Kenmore sewing machine, solid metal and weighs a ton. It was my Mom's, but she's got a fancy-dancy computerized thing now.
As is often the case with sewing patterns, I don't fit nicely in a single size category, which can be something of a problem when I'm making a garment that has to cover me from top to bottom, like a dress, or overalls. I've got huge aerialist shoulders, a tiny chest, an average waist, and hips that are much more narrow than what pattern makers expect for my waist size. As I said, I'm NOT an expert seamstress, so figuring out how to make patterns work can be a tricky.

For the overalls, I cut out the size that was supposed to fit my waist, but once I sewed the pants together and tried them on, I discovered I was swimming in fabric. From there I took the seams in by 3/8 an inch on ALL SIDES. I might have over done it a tad, as the finished product is a bit snug. I continued to adapt the seam width for the bodice.

Beyond the sizing issue, my biggest problem was making the button side of the waist band lie flat. There's so much fabric in the spot where the waist band meets the top of the pants that no matter what I did (I only felt comfortable trimming the extra fabric so far) that I couldn't get a nice, neat seam. In the end I decided it was on the side of my body, and right where the buttons would be, so no one would really notice.

Hopefully I'm right.
Me! In the finished product.
The overalls are pretty comfy, even if I took the seams in a hair too far. I sewed the buttons as close to the edge of the button placket as I could, so it works. Honestly, the biggest downside with these overalls is there are 7 buttons to do up, plus 2 more for the straps, meaning I need to be careful with planning my bathroom breaks.

Next up, a 1950s style skirt (already complete), and bolero.



Monday, November 27, 2017

I am Wonder Woman

I don't recall how I came across this pattern. I was probably idly looking through the Simplicity website as I do from time-to-time, and saw it. I'm not a huge comic book geek (I do have a small collection of manga and graphic novels), but I do enjoy super hero movies, and as many others did, I loved the new Wonder Woman. So, I knew as soon as I saw this costume I needed to make it.

I soon discovered that Simplicity brand patterns are no longer available in Canada, so I ordered it online. About a week later it was in my hot little hands. I've never sewn something so complicated, but I was confident if I took my time and set small goals, I could have the costume done for Halloween.

I managed it. Starting at the beginning of September I made my first (of many) trips to the local Len's Mill Store, purchasing fabric for the shirt, shorts, hair band and bracers (I have awesome black boots and saw no need to make the boot covers). By perseverance (and probably a small degree of panic), I had the outfit done by October 27th (the night I was MCing a Halloween showcase at the studio where I teach).

I'm not going to go over the whole sewing process here. For one thing, I'm not a great seamstress. I'm reasonably happy with the job I did sewing the costume, but if you start to inspecting things too closely, you'll notice the flaws. For example, none of the zippers are even, or more precisely, none of the edges around the zippers are even. The other issue is, this was a pretty complex pattern. It would take me ages to write out my experience sewing it.

I've got four other vintage-style sewing patterns currently in my trunk. Literally, I keep my sewing and knitting supplies in an old steamer trunk, which acts as our coffee table (and general hide-the-mess space). I've got grand plans to sew some of my own wardrobe, we'll see how things go (I now find myself suddenly more busy than I'd anticipated).

I'm nearly done a set of 1940s style overalls, which I'll blog about next.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hello again...What's new? Not much

Hello again, dear reader. Yes, it has been a while. Seven months, I think?

What's new? Oh, not much. I'm still as uncertain, and indecisive as ever. Aerials, motherhood, writing, and librarianship all continue to fight for supremacy in my confused and befuddled heart and mind.

Andrew remains a wonderful support, although I know he's getting frustrated with me, a) because I can't seem to make a decision, or even in progress toward a decision; and b) because he can't help me. I'm not going to delve into this right now.

What brings me back to my little blog space? Well, it's NaNoWriMo,...which in the past I have despised (writing ridiculous amounts in a month does not make one a writer). I'm definitely not going to meet the fifty thousand word goal, but I AM writing. For me, that's pretty big. I haven't had a new set of characters to write about in over three years (hm,...wonder why). I haven't had a new story idea in three years either. I was beginning to despair that that aspect of my creative life was all over.

After a recent re-watching of Casablanca, I had an idea. Something about the phrase 'Everyone comes to Rick's, got me going. Any maybe I could take some of the elements of my favourite book, Sunshine, put then together and come up with something interesting? Whether anyone else will find it interesting remains to be seen.

So, I'm here to proclaim to the hill tops and back: I AM WRITING.

I will try to blog again soon about some other (non-writing) projects I've got planned for November and December.

My current self-published novels available on Amazon. Cimwai's Bay, The Cure, and Circus of Love, under my pen name, Peggy Fitz



Friday, March 17, 2017

Face Value: Or, the value of pounds and inches

In my effort to continue exploring my value, I thought I would take a few moments to consider my appearance and how I feel about it. As the saying goes, 'Beauty is only skin deep,' but I, at least, find it difficult to go about my day-to-day life without giving some value to how I look. I know it's not the most important part of Self Value, but it's one that makes an immediate impact on people. Before I open my mouth they see me as a Caucasian, average height, blue eyed, blond-ish female, and that can form a great many opinions that have nothing to do with my inner value.

I have never thought of myself as beautiful. Many years ago I told Andrew he was not allowed to tell me so.

I don't even really think of myself as pretty.

To be honest, I often don't think of anyone in such terms, except perhaps my daughter. Interestingly, Ruth has started to say, "I cute," surely something she's heard people say to her (I mean, WE'VE heard people say it to her). When she says this, we usually respond with something like: "Yes, you are cute, Ruth, but that's not the most important thing about being you." Then we list characteristics we think are important such as: being hard-working, caring, helpful, etc.

Personally, I think my eyes are a little too small, as are my ears. Once I learned how to live with my hair I have loved it, although it's changed a lot since Ruth's birth. I like my eye colour, although they're plain blue.

I tend to think about people more in terms of body shape. Does this mean I'm sizeist? Yes, probably. I was a plus-sized child and teenager, and none-to-happy about it. I was teased some, but not intolerably so. I was definitely aware that I was bigger than most of my classmates, and I didn't really know how to change this aspect of myself.

It is difficult to lose weight, and honestly, I did it by accident--mainly, by being stressed in my first year of university and not eating properly (which is also how a lot of people gain weight...I was the opposite). I continued to slim down over many years, then I started aerials.

Aerials completely changed my body. It can be difficult to find shirts that fit me right. I have a tiny chest, and massive shoulders and biceps. More than once I've had to do 'the worst striptease ever' to get out of a shirt in a dressing room. If I was a better seamstress, this would be the perfect time to start making, or at least modifying, my own clothes. I could corner the market of fashionable clothing for muscular women. Alas.

I love my rockin' biceps.

I also have abs. But here's how I describe my stomach: It's a washboard with a couple of light dedicates still on the board.

Why am I saying this? I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad, and I hope I'm not pissing anyone off too much. I'm saying this to demonstrate that even someone who is physically fit still has a lot of body-hate. I still look at other people in the studio and think, my stomach isn't as flat as theirs. Why do I have to love chocolate, and cookies, and ice cream so much? Maybe this is partially to do with my youth. Even though I shed the initial pounds 18 years ago, I still live in fear that I'll let them slowly creep back on.

Here's where I try to circle back to Self Value. I know that my appearance shouldn't matter one wit in how I value myself, but thing is, if I'm not comfortable in my own, fair, freckled skin, how can I have a high Self Value? I suppose I need to go back and reflect upon the statements I made in the fourth paragraph. I don't really think about anyone in terms of beauty, and when Ruth says she's 'cute,' Andrew and I rhyme off various things we think are more important.

So, regardless of what other people think of my Face Value, I value the following about myself: my creativity, my skills in the kitchen, my family, my good health, my skills to multi-task, my ability to be thrown into a project/situation and hit the ground running, and my strength.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Clearing one thing up: the afterward of the afterward

Gentle Reader, it seems that one or two of the commenters in Facebook may have made a slight mis-interpretation of part of my original post about Value. If 1 or 2 people in the comments made this mistake, another 5 or 10 who didn't comment probably also drew similar conclusions.

In my original post I wrote about how motherhood changed my view on my career, and how I want Ruth to know she is valued for who she is--and for her to value me. From this, it seems that a few people may have assumed that part of my 'Value Equation' included: What is the value of motherhood? This wasn't my intention.

I enjoy being a mother far more than I imagined I would have, and this is part of the reason why I'm reluctant to return to a full time career. I want to be present in some of the most formative years of my daughter's life, and so I have her at home with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I also want to be available to Ruth if she gets sick at daycare or school and needs to come home early, or be an occasional chaperone on field trips, etc. for sometime yet to come.

However, my not being sure if I want to return to a professional librarian career (full or part time) is related to my uncertainty of what I want to do with my life and not to having a daughter. I think it's fair to say I was never completely happy working as a research librarian. It was okay. I liked the people I worked with, and I didn't feel like my soul was being sucked by some horrid corporate mind-set, but I didn't exactly live and breath for research methods either.

What I meant by bringing up Ruth in my original post was that as she gets older, and she looks at Andrew and sees him as a University Lecturer with a PhD, and looks me and sees an Aerial Instructor (with a MLIS), I hope she doesn't see my choice of career as less valid. They are very different career choices, one fairly traditional and brings in the bulk of our family income, the other not so much--on either count.

Although, as a couple of people pointed out on Facebook, if there's ever a Parent-Career Day Visit Type-Thing at school, kids will probably be way more excited when I explain what I do, compared to most parents.

Does this make sense? Has this cleared up the difference between Value of Career, and Value of Motherhood?

Until next time.