I’m letting the blog expire on the 21st. This shouldn’t be a terribly huge surprise, as I haven’t updated since last October.
Instead, I started a newsletter. I’m not sure what to say about it because I’m not sure what it’s going to be about. It’s called “The Engineers Newsletter” but generally won’t be about engineering. It’s a vehicle for personal essays, which I’ve brainstormed various topics with no underlying theme. I know I’m doing an exceptional job of selling it here, but if you like me or my writing, perhaps you’ll want to sign up. I expect to write on a monthly basis, but likely I’m overestimating. Either way, it’s certainly not going to clog up your inbox.
I thought it was past time for a blog post, so here’s what’s been going on with me and my family lately. Since the last update I did was back in September 2018, I have a few things to catch up on.
The biggest change for our family is that my husband Will became a stay at home dad! This is an old update; we’ve been doing this for about a year now. I don’t remember the exact date. Like all things, there’s positives and negatives. We have to make less money go further, but we also have more flexibility. Since I work from home, it means we’re all home most of the time. That’s been a challenge for me working, so I’m on a waiting list for a local coworking space. I hope one opens soon!
In other big news, we got a puppy! Maebel came to live with us last May. She is a lab mix rescue and while I love her, she’s been a lot for this Cat Person to handle. I realize a puppy pic is required here.
And here she is now (about 9 months old)!
This summer, Will and I took a trip with my dad, uncle, and some cousins to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We camped, canoed, and picked tons of wild blueberries. It was beautiful.
In September I went to San Francisco for a conference called Calibrate for software engineering leaders. It was amazing, and I’m sad it’s the last one but happy I was able to make it to attend this one. I stayed an extra day and met up with a friend. Her fiance happened to be joining some clients on their belated holiday party on a boat in the bay. We were invited to join. It was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me, a Michigander who doesn’t get out to the West Coast very often!
I haven’t spent a ton of time gaming. I briefly dabbled with WoW Classic, but got bored and gave up. I’ve played some Civ 6 (the Gathering Storm expansion is a lot of fun), Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition (for the third time), and I have gotten further in The Witcher 3. I was thinking about how last year I did a game of the year, but I don’t think I have the heart to do that this year. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and buy RimWorld even though it never goes on sale on Steam [rage emoji]. I know I’d love that game. But I did have my question answered in this episode of the Massively OP podcast, so that’s cool (if only I could pick an MMO to actually try and find a guild in). I showed my kid Indy* Fruit Ninja on my phone and we play that together sometimes!
I’m still doing a lot of knitting and yarn dying, but since I can’t knit yarn as fast as I can dye it, I’ve slowed down on the dyeing front. Here’s a recent skein dyed based on early fall colors and I love how it turned out!
My husband and dad have been working together to build a deck for our house in the backyard. It’s almost done and they just need to add stairs. We live in Michigan, which means they’ve had to do a considerable amount of deck building in cold and even snowy weather. (I don’t have a photo of the deck. Don’t tell my husband.)
I barely won NaNoWriMo! This is my second win. My first was way back in 2012. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month.) I finished at 50,010 words. The novel is incomplete, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably rewrite most of it if I decide to continue the project.
Speaking of challenges, I finished my 50th book for 2019, completing my Goodreads challenge. Book number 50 was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I highly recommend it if you like real world magic and secret societies.
And that’s it, sort of an early 2019 recap! Bring on 2020!
While this week was difficult, there were little moments of joy sprinkled throughout. I realized that our wedding is no longer a vague ways away, but in a few weeks. Despite the stress dreams, I’ve been enjoying the last few bits of planning. Instead of rings, we’ve decided to exchange framed hand-written vows. My mom and I went shopping for accessories. Tomorrow I’m going for a bra fitting. Oh la la!
I’m a natural worrier. I worry about the weather, the violinist who hasn’t emailed me back, and if I’ll like the flowers. The one thing I haven’t worried about is the man I’m marrying. I think that’s the important part.
I’m loving An Unkindness of Ghosts despite having limited reading time. The world building is exquisite and Aster is unlike any other protagonist. Sadly I won’t be getting much extra time to read soon.
Online, I enjoyed Wired’s article about Microsoft’s parental leave requirement for subcontractors. When I had my son, I had to go back to work after about 8 weeks. It was hard enough for me, someone with the luxury of a job sitting at a desk to go back when I did. It’s even harder for people who work on their feet. This line in the article stuck out: “paid family leave was the most desired workplace benefit.” Shout it from the rooftops, people!
One of the hardest things about being a mother is the judgement. We live in a society where nearly every parenting action, particularly of mothers, is scrutinized by others. Kelly in the City’s thoughts on the subject closely mirror my own. I’m so grateful for the judgement-free online community parents I’ve found.
Battle for Azeroth has been the perfect stress relief this week, particularly getting absorbed in the Nazmir quest chain. I think the fiancé may want to play our Alliance mains with me again soon, but he’s been leveling a shaman.
Tonight we played some Pokemon Go and walked to a small event downtown. The ice cream sandwiches were delicious. I always forget about Pokemon Go as a game I play, as it’s just become a regular part of life. My interest in it has been waning lately. We need some new Pokemon to catch.
Today marks the end of Blaugust. I’m glad I participated. It was the catalyst for me to launch the blog and a way to connect me to a larger blogging community. However, I have felt pressured to post more, perhaps lower quality posts than I would like. Yesterday I was working on a post and trying to get it finished. Eventually I decided I really wanted to spend more time and thought on the topic and posted some photos of my cat instead. I don’t mind posting (literal, in my cat’s case) fluff and I love injecting some humor in my writing, but some of the topics I want to tackle require more thought. Those posts are going to take longer than a half hour at lunchtime or 45 minutes in the evening to explore.
At the same time I tend to try to be too perfectionist in my writing and sometimes I need to just let go and hit publish. Perhaps the scales need some time to find the right balance.
That said: I’ve decided to go on hiatus until around the end of October. I have so many things coming up including my wedding, my honeymoon, a work trip, my son starting a new daycare, and some personal things. If I have extra time, I may spend it working on some of the more in-depth pieces I have brewing in my head so I can finish them when I start back up again.
This is going to be the last “Reading, Playing, Writing, Doing” update, but it’s not going away! I’m merging this feature in with Happy Friday. Instead of just a list of links, Happy Friday posts will now include this information about what I’ve been up to. I enjoy writing this more than the link lists. On Friday I look at my Happy Friday draft and see two links in there and then I have to scramble to find more so it feels like a full post.
I finished Song of Achilles and started An Unkindness of Ghosts. Since I bought a paper copy, I wanted to get my lamp setup for comfortable reading. The outlet was too far from the bed so I looked for an extension cord. My fiancé said there was one in the garage that was nine feet long. While nine feet was too much, he went and got it anyway. It was closer to 20 feet. Too long. I looked behind the bed headboard and, lo and behold, an outlet! The bed had to be moved a little, but now the lamp is in the perfect spot.
After a cultural victory in Civ 6, I’m finally done with Civ 6. This left more time to play World of Warcraft. Since my fiancé and I are leveling Alliance characters together, I’ve been playing my Horde character solo. Here she is dressed up like a pirate:
I’ve been having more fun with the Horde side quests than the Alliance ones. Princess Talanji might be my new favorite character. Sylvanas, who? Forget the Horde, I want to defect and join the Zandalar. Even though I’m a Blood Elf and not a Troll. I’m saving how much fun I’m having in Vol’Dun for another post.
My main writing accomplishment this week was to complete the outline of the one short story idea I have. It’s about the apocalypse, psychological experimentation, and a strawberry.
The theme for the week was “meals with relatives.” We made dinner for my uncle who’s officiating our wedding and my aunt. I cooked these herb butter chicken thighs and they were as easy and amazing the second time as the first. We made waffles for breakfast for my parents. Tonight we’re having dinner with my fiancé’s mom and his aunt. For once we’re not cooking!
Yesterday we went to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. There we picked up some deliciously tart rhubarb jam and smoked salmon. We had brunch at Social, which is one of our favorite places mainly because the first time we were there they gave us two free appetizers. I had the prettiest looking avocado toast ever.
Three weeks ago I started this blog. I was flush with ideas. The blog concept had been slowly cooking inside my head for months before and Blaugust got me to take it out of the oven. It was finally ready to be shared. While my posting frequency has waned since the beginning, I’m still here. I have more to say. I’m not going anywhere.
The theme Blaugust this week is Staying Motivated, so I thought I’d explore my motivations for starting and continuing this blog. The main focus of this blog is parenting in the digital age. I think other parents and I share some common fears about how different technology is now from when we were kids. I want to address some of those. I want to talk about how having an identity as a gamer can mesh with having an identity as a parent.
I want to thank everyone who has commented on and liked my posts so far. It says to me that people are here for what I’m saying, that it has value, and that I should keep doing this. Thank you!
I also have more personal reasons for blogging. I can practice my writing in small doses. I’ve been working on a new novel and writing it always feels daunting. It’s just the beginning of something huge. There are emotions to process. Many times I want to write, but I’m not in the right headspace to work on the novel. Blog posts are a perfect bite-sized chunk of writing that I can finish and put out there in an instant.
Back when I blogged anonymously about my life, blogging was an excuse for me to go out and experience things. My motto was: “Bad decisions make great blog posts.”
Eventually I grew up a little and the internet became less anonymous and I started writing in a paper journal instead. Even though it made my hand cramp up, I continued it until just after my son was born. I’d been writing just before going to sleep and when I had a newborn, I just wanted to crash.
I wanted an outlet again, and I thought long and hard about what kind of blog to create. I’m too messy for a lifestyle blog, so eventually I settled on “nerdy parenting blog.” I think this should motivate me to get out, more, too, but in a different way. Such as, I’ve never been to a nerdy sort of con. I’ve been to hacker cons and programming conferences, but those are different. I’d like to go to one, and maybe bring my son. Perhaps he and I should check out Free Comic Book Day. There must be other nerdy events out there for kids! This might help get me out, when I’d rather just be an introvert and stay home.
My final motivation is also for my kid. I want him to know that there’s more to me than my job and being a mom. I’m also a writer, a gamer, and a nerd. Even if he ends up being more of a jock, I want him to know this side of me. And for that to happen, I need to embrace it myself.
I write in my paper journal every now and again that my son isn’t a newborn anymore. The hand cramping keeps me from doing it more. Cover photo by Easton Oliver on Unsplash.
This is going to be a short one. It has been a week. My son’s daycare is closing, meaning most of my free time has been spent scrambling to find a new one. Work’s been extra busy for both me and my fiancé, and all I want to do is play Civ 6.
The Best Ted Talks for Moms Parents – I updated the title, because why just moms? I like TED talks because they’re short little bursts of information. You don’t need 40 minutes to set aside to watch. You don’t even need to watch; I often just listen. Perfect for moms parents.
I wanted to write a little about myself, in particular, my in-progress writing projects. I’ve been writing fiction since I was a kid. The first story I remember writing was in the style of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which was called If You Give a Cat a Strawberry. Everything is better with cats.
In high school I wrote bad, angst-ridden poetry on index cards and then forced all my friends to read them. I had an online diary back then on diary-x, which burned to ash when the site crashed. In college I learned to write poetry better, and had one published on a literary website. That’s gone, too.
After college I wrote technical pieces for the blog of whatever company I was working for at the time. The short, technical writing lead me to write for a few larger publications, the highlight being FastCompany. I’d like to do more of this kind of writing in the future.
The Young Adult Novel
Meanwhile, I tried to do Nanowrimo upwards of seven times before finally winning one year with a young adult science fiction novel. I spent the next few years editing the novel until it became a chore. I wanted it to be perfect. I struggled with every word and thought and re-through the plot during my showers. Every time I worked on it, I felt this burden of wanting to scrap and rewrite most of it. This “scrap it” concept battled with strong attachments to my characters and wrestling with how to best present my theme in this sci-fi setting. And the constant wondering how to “up the stakes” in this thing. Finally, I gave myself permission to put it aside and start something new.
Untitled Fiction Novel
I’m not even sure what novel to put this beast into. I call it a “beast” not because I’ve written a lot of words, but because it represents a beast in my mind that needs to get out on paper. When I lived in New York, I worked for a bizarre company. There is more than enough in my memories alone to fill a book, but I’ve been working on putting a fictional narrative together. Revisiting this experience is hard. Not because it was necessarily a bad experience, but that I loved living in New York so much that thinking about it hurts my soul. Sometime I’ll have to revisit my old (paper) journal entries to help me put my memories in order. I want to keep that book, and those feelings, locked up.
Here’s a recap of what I’ve been reading, playing, and doing this week! It’s been a fairly low-key week. My fiancé took Indy to his mom’s (Indy’s grandma’s) yesterday morning, so I was able to have some alone time. As an introvert, this is essential, and as a mom, this is rare. It also means more time for reading and gaming!
Our pick for this month for work book club is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It tells the story of Greek hero Achilles from the point of view of his partner, Patroclus. Miller doesn’t hesitate to capture how terrible it was for nearly everyone in ancient Greek society, particularly women. My knowledge of Achilles from from the film Troy. I know how the story ends, but I’m engrossed regardless. My coworker liked it so much he’s already read another book by the author plus The Iliad and The Odyssey.
After a bit of fun playing our low level goblins, my fiancé and I decided to pick something to boost to 110. After all my talk of going Horde, we picked Alliance. He wanted to be a Gnome. He’s a Mage and so I picked a Draenai Warrior. I thought if I could tank we could more easily get into dungeons.
Flash forward to after I confirmed the boost when I remember why I never tanked before. I get lost. The tank always seems to be the person who knows where to go next in a dungeon and I am terrible with directions. I suppose if it’s too terrible I could switch specs or finish leveling something I started way back when. A healer this time.
I spent most of today’s nap time playing Civ 6. I have a special relationship with Civ and Sims games that involves buying the latest version right away, playing it at launch, then initially hating it and wanting to jump back to the previous version. Then I’ll let it be for a while until I get the urge to play again, and at that point I’ll be hooked. Sims 4 has been more difficult and I still miss some of the features from Sims 3, but I’m totally on board with Civ 6. The Civ games are a series I can see myself playing with my kid when he’s older. My latest game has been as Gilgamesh.
Although, reading Song of Achilles has me wanting to play as Greece. I hardly ever Finish Civ games so I’ll probably start over!
Last week I wrote a lot of blog posts! I’m sure that will continue this week. Currently bouncing around in my head is a great idea for a fantasy novel, but I’ve been really itching to write a short story. Maybe I could condense the concept into something smaller. Meanwhile my in progress novel remains untouched.
We tried a new taco place: Stan Diego. It’s a joke, because the town it’s in is called Standale. There is a big orange VW van with surfboards on it inside which I think is supposed to represent San Diego. I’ve been there several times and never saw one. Indoor vehicles aside, the chicken taco was phenomenal.
This morning we rode our bikes to a nearby park which boasts a play area for smaller kids. I found this appealing because I’m always terrified Indy is going to fall off big play equipment. Of course, the first thing he wanted to do was go down the slide in the big kid area. The tall one where the hand rail is higher than his head. He also climbed up the jungle gym, with me right behind.
The bike ride part was genius. It’s easier to get a toddler to leave the playground if he’s going in a bike trailer instead of the car.
What did you read, play, write, or do last week? I need to publish this post now–before my bedtime!