little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: a day’s work

Ooops, I didn’t mean to be away that long

Awkward. I was going to write a post about my new job and then I was going to write a post about Fiji and then I was going to write a post about Rabbit’s bike and then I was going to write a post about family life and then I was going to write a post about books and then I was going to write another post about my new job and then I was going to write a post about something else, chickens or politics or coffee or washing or Lionboy or asparagus most likely, and probably definitely about the garden at some point, which has been The Project most weekends lately and now we have 46 kinds of edible things growing in it and here’s some spring evening photos because I’m sorry I’ve been away and I might be back.

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Mysterious happenings

20160507_152131_resizedI came outside the other day and found the Rabbit tying the watering can onto himself. He said he was sorting out a system so he could take the watering can to the tap and fill it. It was a pretty complex arrangement, but he seemed happy so I left him to it.

A bit later, he wasn’t wearing the watering can any more, but he was going back and forth from the kitchen sink with a cup of water. I threw him a towel and left him to it again.

Later still, I came out and found him looking very pleased with himself. The kitchen floor was dry, and he had something to show me. “What have you been doing, kid?” I asked. “I planted a broad bean,” he said. “I made a hole in the vege patch and put the bean in it and watered it.”

20160507_152246_resizedHe took me by the hand and showed me. Nice stuff, wee one.

Sorry, kid

Ian took Rabbit to the dump yesterday. Rabbit saw the very big digger and promptly had an existential crisis:

“But I already want to be a linesman on the weekends and a pilot and aeroplane engineer during the week and now I want to drive that digger as well … and there’s simply not time to do four things!”

Hits us all that way at some stage, kiddo.

Taking stock

The holidays are over, and I’m ready for this new year. The boys have one more week of holidays: the Cat is at soccer camp for four days and the Rabbit is hanging with Ian in his last week before he turns five and starts school. I’ve booked a Mama–Rabbit day for Friday, so have four days to get myself organised for the year and start working out the patterns and routines that will carry me through. And I should tidy my office. And get things for two birthdays. And weed the garden.

I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’ve got a fair idea of what the building blocks need to be and mostly need to work out how to fit them all together.

Exercise
Slightly odd choice for my number one concern, but one of my big lessons of 2015 was that regular exercise makes a big difference to my mood and ability to cope with shit. By shit, I don’t mean big stuff like deaths and discord and disaster, but more the mundane things like cooking dinner, folding the laundry and getting the kids to bed.

I had a break after Christmas and was a bit nervous about going back this morning, but I survived. We did lots of walking with hills and steps over the holidays, which probably saved me, but it will be ‘interesting’ to see how I go with resistance work tomorrow. I reckon I need to go three or four times a week and I don’t know when to fit that in. My favourite times are in the morning after breakfast, around 4pm, and in the evening. The morning is probably the most practical option most days, but needs to be early enough that it doesn’t cut into my work day too much. Am open to suggestions from people with experience in juggling all the things, but please don’t suggest early early morning or any time before I’ve had something to eat. That ain’t gonna happen.

I guess the other thing to do more of would be walking to pick the boys up from school and more family adventure outings at weekends. Oh, and we’re hoping to walk the Rakiura Track in a year or two, so we’ll need to practice with longer day walks and some overnighting in huts.

Work
A few changes this year. I’m done with Critic, so it’s back to building up the business and keeping a wee eye out for a dream job. I’m pretty excited about having more time when Rabbit starts school, although not really ready to lose all those extra hours with my baby. But one lot of pick-ups and five clear days a week will be AMAZING. My main aims are learning how to be more productive and focused, running more workshops, finding a few more key clients, doing most of my work during ‘work hours’ and not in evenings or weekends, and honing my editorial chops.

I kind of wonder whether I might start reading in my thesis area again. I was doing a PhD taking a postcolonial look at contemporary settler writing from Australia and New Zealand when I had the Cat and gave it up to find something that fitted better with family life, but there are days when I miss it bad.

Writing
Yes, well. A bit like the exercise, I’m aiming for regularity here and for gradually building up my skills and capacity. One focused hour a day is my goal, and I guess we’ll just have to see how that goes. Sometimes it’ll be the blog and sometimes … other stuff.

Family
Look, this one is always the same. I want to be calmer, less grumpy, better at resolving arguments between the boys and to have more time to play, listen and understand. I’m also on a ‘reclaim the evening’ mission, and it would be great if everyone cleared their dishes and kept their clothes in order.

And that’s me. What about you?

Best testimonial ever

This one actually made me cry. Just a little bit.

Am at the tail end of Friday night wine and pizza, so it’s possible I’ve made a typo in transcribing this. That would be ironic.

Mary, when nothing made sense, you made it all make sense. Every single week, I could count on you to save us from embarrassing mistakes and contradictory headlines.
Josie Cochrane, Critic editor 2015

Summer of the little red pen, Part 1

P1070964The story of my summer could be told by rendering the tables I worked at. I had a proofreading job, a biography dense with carefully harvested details, a picking up of the surface of a man’s life, fragment after fragment after fragment, to slowly reveal the soul beneath. I was irritated a lot of the time, sometimes amused, glancingly charmed. There was a quote at the end so lovely and apt I cried and forgave all.

A man! A competent man! was the subject’s frequent cry. Find a man and he can sort everything out, untangle, organise, catalogue, guide. The irony bit deep — look around the publishing team and you’ll see mostly women cranking this thing into shape, chipping, shaping, squaring and burnishing until the light refracts in lean, arrowed lines. I snarked, moved on.

P1070930I started in Wellington, in a small apartment at the top of a villa on the edge of a terrace. Every day we climbed up and down the hillside, dropping into town for outings and supplies, goat-tripping back up when it was time to go home.

We kept the windows open, and the boys made a hut in the living room every morning. We battled over the tv and ate gelati and found our way to the water.

It was almost Greek, but not — too grey, humid, careworn. The wind was always there, ruffling, blustering, making me grumpy. Clearly I still have feelings to work through where Wellington is concerned. I had a revelation about this last weekend, as it turns out. The water is the wrong colour, too much rock, not enough mud. Does it need to be said that all this is just my shit and I fully tautoko all you Wellington lovers?

Anyway… Ian worked early every morning — in the studio at 5, on the air at 7 — and every second evening. I worked when he came home, sitting at a desk on the landing, a tall window to my left, or at the kitchen table, with the buildings and the harbour and the hills to my right.

The Cat remastered the transport system and the Rabbit went a little wild. We ate Japanese, and I got my hair cut. The fruit was dire. I missed the light, the gentle, still warmth, the dark stone of home. Near the end, I softened a little; the bush and the absolutely positivity won me round. We saw old friends, heard each other’s stories. Our hearts were open, and full.

IMGP4909We had a couple of nights at home, then a long day’s travel to Adelaide. It was an extended family thing, Ian’s side, three generations in two houses near the beach, children scattering and knotting in small, shifting clusters. I spent long days in a dark room at the back of the house, a makeshift table, a lamp on the paper. I drifted in and out of the kitchen, grazed on fruit, cuddled my boys in brief, distracted moments. In the evenings we ate together, drank wine. We slept well on firm single beds, the boys peaceful in the quiet and the dark.

IMGP4927There was something of the monastic about it all, and on the last day the tumbling joy of the sea. The Cat and I took boogie boards out together, launched ourselves into waves, grinned and egged each other on, sun hot on our skin. When I got into the shower, my body was covered with leaves and seaweed. I washed it away, but the happiness stayed.

We came home, and our house felt like an old friend. The Rabbit went back to day care, and the Cat did a soccer holiday programme. I worked in every gap, through a sleepover and a birthday and too much of too many nights. I used every table in the house — in my office, the bedroom, commandeering in the end half the kitchen table. Ian parented around me, keeping the wheels turning as I wrestled this bastard job to the ground. I got lost in my head, tunnelled deep among the words and the people and the referencing intricacies of the book. I’m not sure how I did; it feels too close. I liked it though, the brain work, the focus.P1070970

I couldn’t work like that all the time, not without more childcare, but it was a good summer and I’m drawn to it, this editing gig. If I have a vocation, it’s here.

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Pomodoro joy

P1070645This little dude is saving my arse. One of the downsides of the home-officing, freelancing work situation is that procrastinationary time is not paid for. If I want to be paid for an hour, I have to work that hour, and I have to do so in an environment that offers all manner of distractions: housework, the internet, bookshelves in every room, a garden, a valley to run down, a kitchen and a coffeepot, and a heating system that relies on old-fashioned wood-lugging and match-striking.

But this, my friends, is a pomodoro (tomato timer, more prosaically) and it’s both cute and an ingenious time management device. Basically, you set the timer for 25 minutes, work those 25 minutes without distraction, then take a 5-minute break, then set it for another 25 minutes. After four rounds, you get a longer break — perhaps half an hour or so. You can find online apps that count down the time for you, but I like the ticking, bright red, kitschy version.

P1070644This is only my second day on pomodoro time, so I’ve yet to fully master the 5-minute break, ahem right now, but I find the 25 minutes very manageable, especially if I stick some music on as well. It’s also worked for monitoring the kids’ screen time and keeping track of kitchen timing.

And on a day of worry and tiredness and scattered thoughts, I’m glad of a bit of simple, shiny, useful good cheer.

The office

The sun has returned to our wee patch, and it is DELIGHTFUL.

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The support crew is pretty awesome too…

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Rabbit turns three

In which Rabbit has a birthday, does cooking, writes a shopping list, plays with his big brother, catches fish, and commandeers his parents’ bed. All in a day’s work.

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