Muse: Trials and Tribulations

Over the past six weeks I’ve been through the mill.

Not a woolen mill where I was metaphorically transformed from fluffy fleece to workable yarn. No, a stone-mill where the wheat gets sorted from the chaff.

I learned whether I was wheat or chaff!

Trial By Jury

In non-chronological order I had three trials over the past while, the first being applying for a new position where I work. It was an internal competition for a temporary position that would have taken me out of Architecture and into mainstream Administration and Management. That’s essentially what I’m doing these days anyway, there being very little Architecture in the pipeline these days.

I applied at the end of April and didn’t know if I would even get short-listed. I got word that I made the grade two days before the interview. I did my best to prepare but I remember feeling that I was at the very limit of my own intellect and ability in the process. The interview was so-so. They asked some excellent questions – questions that I really wish I had an answer for, questions that brought it home to me that I wasn’t in the right league at all. My immediate feeling on leaving the room was that I wouldn’t have given me the job.

With the benefit of  hind-sight I realise I should have been preparing mini-essays and reading-up from the moment I submitted the application form five weeks earlier. Hopefully there will be a next time and I can make use of this insight.
The process was useful to help me realise also that I’m being held-back – possibly deliberately – by those in my current workplace. I need to tackle this but as yet I haven’t got my head around how to do so.

Knitty-Trial

While I was disappointed that I hadn’t acquitted myself better in the interview I was sanguine about it given the lack of effort and preparation I had given the opportunity. It’s hard to accept defeat or failure when you have given something your all. Which brings me to the sad tale of my Knitty submission. Unfortunately, I received word – in the form of a very nice email with really positive feedback – that my pattern submission was rejected. Amy Singer said she loved the pattern and gave special mention to the photography (which was pretty awesome, thanks to DH) but because they rarely print kids patterns “so it’s extra hard to get through in this category”.

Dejected doesn’t cover how I felt. In a word, I was devastated, irrational as that may seem. I knew they rarely print kids’ patterns but I was audacious / arrogant enough to think that this pattern had something more that would over-come this hurdle. Plus, I deliberately sized the pattern to cover from toddlers to teens.

For now, I’m still licking my wounds. Amy suggested I submit the pattern to Petite Purls but for now I’m sitting on it and wondering how best to give it a debut.  Once bitten, twice shy and all that; I’m unsure I’ll put myself “out there” as a designer again.

Endurance Test

Since I like to focus on the positive rather than the negative I’ve got to give you my tribulation. As many of you know I’ve been donning running shoes (and questionable outfits) and training for the Women’s Mini-Marathon. This is my third year to take part (fourth to sign-up :-0) and my first year to have trained sufficiently. By Race-Day last year the longest I had run continuously was 20minutes. I decided to do a back-to-back of my longest training run so I walked for five minutes, ran for 20, walked for 10 mins, ran for another 20 then walked the rest of the way. My time was sufficiently good that I was allowed to enter as a fast-jogger this year.

This year I started my training earlier and was more diligent about sticking with it. As I came close to the end of the 9-week “Couch To 5K” training programme (C25k) – where I was running 20 to 25 minutes continuously – I found a training schedule on Action Aid’s website for running 10k and I started to adapt the last few weeks of C25k to suit. It mainly meant adding an extra run on a Friday and lengthening my other runs during the week or doing some speed-training called “Fartleks”.

Before the race this year I got chatting with a fellow fast-jogger who has a few London and Dublin Marathons under her belt. She had a similar target time of 75 minutes. I told her of my plan to walk for the first five minutes, run for 60 then walk for the last five as a five-minute walk was the warm-up in my training sessions. As it turned out, when the race started everyone around me took off at a run. If I had tried to walk, I would have either been trampled or caused an accident. Denise, my new “running-mate” cheered me to go for it, that I would be fine. So I did.

To my amazement, I finished the 10k just (literally) under one hour, clocking-in officially at 59minutes 52 seconds. Elated, thrilled, ecstatic don’t fully cover how gob-smackingly amazed I am at having done this. I even wonder did I really run the whole route. Surely I must have missed a kilometer or two?

My sister and my neice (her daughter) were also running and we all finished within 90 seconds of each other. My neice passed me just after 9km and called out to me. I called back (we were both wearing head-phones so we’re pretty sure we were absolutely roaring at each other!) that she shouldn’t wait for me, I’d slow her down. However, I tried to keep her in my sights for the last kilometer. That was the push I needed to get me over the line under 60 minutes.

That the three of us will managed to complete the race in less than 60 minutes this year means we will all be in the “Runners” enclosure at the start of the race next year. Then the *real* competition will start!

So in one case I was found to be chaff, in another I was whole-wheat goodness while the Knitty trial still chaffs (see what I did there?!?)

In all cases, I guess, it’s all grist to my mill.

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Over-educated; under-valued

The other day – 6th January – was The Epiphany and on that day, quite by co-incidence, I had an Epiphany. I made the realisation that when I deduct the cost of childcare from my take-home pay I’m left with €900 per month or €225/week. Apparently – according to my twitter-friends who know more about these things – if I stopped working I would get a PRSI payment of €200/week for the first 12 months. I don’t know if that figure is then taxed – researching un-employment benefit has never previously been on my agenda; but if it’s not it means that the difference between me sitting at my desk and sitting at home is €5/day.

This is a very sobering and demoralising thought. Why go out to work? Why not stay-at-home and care for my kids? That is the message my society seems to be sending me. So what if I’d like to use what I trained for five years at University to do; what I did my Professional Practice exams in; what I’ve gained 15 years experience in? So what if I am intelligent, diligent, conscientious, hard-working? So what if my three kids will contribute to this generation’s pension fund in the future? By having three kids I appear to have out-stayed my welcome in the workforce.

I realise this country’s economy is up the Suwannee and we’re in hock to the IMF, the ECB and anyone else we can wrangle a few shillings out of. Regardless, surely there is a case for tax-relief for childcare at source. Surely it is in this State’s interest to offer me more than €5/day to go out to work, pay taxes, pay PRSI and this new Universal Social Fund Levy, not to mention employ two local childcare businesses; than if I were to stay at home, take my kids out of childcare and claim benefit.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re of a political bent, advocate for tax-relief for childcare when the politicians come knocking on your door. Or we might as well bring back the marriage bar.

It is accomplished

Where Oh Where have I been?

“It is accomplished” – a Death

On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

Why Oh Why am I back?

“It is accomplished” – an FO!

It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

One happy customer!

“It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

  • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
  • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
  • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
  • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

The subtle benefit of Short-rows

This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

F.O. Chemo Cap #2

The other day, I told you about choosing to put aside my socks for April (and sacrifice a credit in the sock-a-Month KAL) in order to make a hat for a co-worker who has been diagnosed with an in-operable Brain Tumour. Click “here” if you missed it.

I never took any photos of the hat while it was in progress but I made sure to take some when it was all finished. I’m trying out the new (to me) feature on Ravelry where you can share a page publicly. So if you want to know more about this project, click on the link: http://ravel.me/UnderMeOxter/thh

It’s a side-ways construction and I made it longer than the pattern so that it’s more a Watchman’s style shaping than the beanie style of the original pattern. The original pattern was really for men so I think the longer length gives better flexibility for how a woman might wear it. It could be worn unfolded, to give that slouchy look everyone seems to be after these days. I like how the two colours worked together.

Anyway, I loved doing it and I think the recipient will like it. It’s just a bit annoying that the hamper is still sitting on a desk, unfilled with all the planned goodies and not looking like it’s going to make its way to the recipient any time soon. This is annoying in itself but also… I sacrificed a credit in the Sock-a-Month KAL for nothing!!!

Sundry Items

This weekend alone has given me a whole week’s worth of blog-posts:

  • It all started last Friday evening with Fibre Fun Friday at the Tea Gardens (last Friday’s Blog-post).
  • Then yesterday I took a trip to The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, for a class on Tunisian Crochet by Irene Lundgaarde – more about that in the next Tours on Thursday post. 
  • Among my purchases from The Yarn Room were two pairs of 3.5mm Addi Turbos, which means my Better Mousetrap Socks are back in the running and I have choices to make next Choosey Tuesday.
  • Terrible tease that I am, you’ll have to wait for my next Stash on Saturday blog-post for more details of the inevitable stash enhancement at The Yarn Room.

While I was off galavanting to Co. Wicklow, DH and the kids spent some quality-time together in the garden. Now we have potatoes, lettuce, onions, beetroot, radishes all growing away.

Kitchen Garden

My daughter, the property moghul

DD and I spent some quality-time together too. At her suggestion, we started a game of Monopoly. Our baby-sitter taught her the game a few weekends ago and she’s taken to the whole concept like a duck to water. Her first question, whenever she lands on an un-owned street is “How much rent will you have to pay me if you land here after I buy this?” She doesn’t waste her money on the cheap streets, let me tell you. She is making a killing – at my expense!

I’m back in to work tomorrow morning for the first time in two weeks. I had my second session with the Staff Welfare Officer and she’s agreed with my suggested plan of action for how to try to deal with the crappy work situation. I’m writing it down here so that it’s not just a nebulous plan, floating in my head.

  1. Regardless of what’s going on, take the time and trouble – first thing on Monday morning – to plan my work for the week
  2. Go into my boss and tell him my work-plan – alter it if neccessary – but get his agreement to it
  3. Make a note the conversation with him – either keep a journal or bang off an email to him out-lining the work plan as agreed
  4. Knuckle down and get on with my work and make a note of anytime I’m pulled off it to parachute in on some fire-fight for my boss

The Staff Welfare Officer has suggested that we meet again in a month to discuss how the plan has worked out. I’m bringing a new notebook in with me to work tomorrow so that I can record all goings-on and have something to show her when we meet again. There’s nothing like new stationery to make you feel like you’re making a new beginning. That’s the plan, at least. Fingers-crossed.

I am a WIP

Yes, I said I am a WIP not wimp! Considering I had the cahoonas (or bare-faced cheek) to tell Annie Modesitt that we’d love to see her when I saw her tweet that she was coming to Ireland. Turns out: she’d love to see us too and she’ll be here from 1st to 23rd May. She then sent me a “DM” with her email address so I replied. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens but it pretty-much made my week!

I’m a Work-In-Progress. The older you get the more you realise how true this is. I am ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-maturing, ever-mellowing. The more I learn the more I understand how little I know. I rarely talk about work here. In part it’s because Ireland is a small pool and – as my old boss was fond of saying – everything you write is “discoverable” (He was referring to the Freedom of Information Act in Ireland but it’s sage advice re the InterWebs too – one you’d wish more people would take heed of!) These days I don’t feel like talking about work because lately it’s just “Shitty-shitty-Crap-Crap”.

One thing I know about myself is that a high proportion of my self-esteem is tied up with how much job-satisfaction I’m getting. And the big-thing that gives me job-satisfaction is getting my job done well and being acknowledged for it. The latter only comes very rarely  – most managers forget to say thanks or to even notice if you pulled out all the stops – so you make do with what little you get. Lately, I’m getting nada, zip, zilch. The former – getting to do my job well – has been made nigh-on impossible for me lately, by the powers that be. I’m at the point where I’m throwing up my hands and I’m dangerously close to throwing in the towel altogether.

I’m trying to flag as clearly as possible that certain tasks, which have been requested by our clients, will not get done unless we put staff against them. I’m being really clear in my language too. A recent, direct quote from me: “the priorities in this team are arse-over-tit!” You couldn’t get clearer than that. What do I get in return? A vague promise that Architect F will be assigned to X-project in the future, whenever he finishes the project he’s currently working on. Has that happened three weeks later? No. What am I doing about it? Well, ranting here… at DH… at my Knitting Buddies… at my close work-friends… and otherwise simmering just below boiling point.

And it’s not just having the rug pulled out from under me regarding X-project, which is – by the way – an extension for a family who are living in dire conditions of over-crowding and with a severely debilitated grand-mother (hence my vitriol about the skewed priorities in the team). I’ve recently realised it’s pointless to draw-up a work-plan for my own week’s work because of the amount of fire-fighting my boss (oops, nearly typed “superior” – HA!) likes to engage in. Picture yourself and how you behave in a recently-stocked yarn-shop. Everything’s shiny and distracting and squee and you dart from one squeeze of squishy to the next. Imagine now, trying to have a debriefing with someone who will answer any phone that rings, start reading any email that flashes up, engage with anyone who comes up to his door to ask him a question and who is quite likely to get up and walk away to deal with their query instead.

With my old boss, I’d bring him a list of queries; we’d run down through them and he’d give me a steer, guidance or advice on each item. I’d be out of his office after ten minutes and ready to work my way through my list, acting on his advice. I’ve given up bringing a list of queries to my new boss because I get as far as item one and he’ll lift the phone to try to deal with the whole issue there and then. One word I’d love for him to get to grips with is “Delegation”. That, and “Focus!”

Another thing I know about myself is that I won’t put up with crap for very long. “Grin and bear it” just doesn’t wash with me. In the past I’ve jumped ship altogether and I’m already considering a few options in that regard. In the meantime, in a move to do something constructive and positive about the situation, I started seeing the counsellor that my workplace provides. I had my first session with her this week and it was really useful to talk to someone who – unlike DH or my knitting buddies – knows some of the characters involved and has an insight into the environment that a public sector job entails. At the same time it’s not like talking with my work friends about the situation because that usually just turns into a bitch-fest about the main “villains” of the piece: a rewarding activity but not necessarily productive.

I’m having another session with her in two weeks so it’s a Work-In-Progress. Who knows how it will finish up. Now, aren’t you glad I rarely talk about my work?

Haiku to you!

A few years ago the email below went around our office. It prompted my boss to start emailing his instructions in haiku. There are times I think that the author of the Dilbert cartoons takes his inspiration directly from my work-life. Naturally, I had to rise to the challenge – along with one of my colleagues. It went on for about a week before he kinda admitted defeat by telling us – in haiku – to quit the messing and get back to work. Unfortunately, we can’t find any of the haiku we sent each other. He retired last year and we searched everywhere so that we could include them in a parting gift; but to no avail. The search turned up the original email and the haiku has been close to my heart ever since.

If you’d like to write your own haiku check out my Ban-zai Bonanza Post and put it in the comments. The entries to date have all been about the joys (or otherwise) of knitting socks. But yours could be about anything. The ones included below might give you some inspiration.

It’s a Give-away so by entering you’re in with a chance to win the prize which I’ll draw – by random number generator so it’s not a competition on quality or technique – on St. Stephen’s Day (26th December 2009) and send off by year-end. 

Joke Email re: Haiku

In Japan, they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with Haiku poetry messages. Haiku poetry has strict construction rules – each poem has only 17 syllables; 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third.

They are used to communicate a timeless message, often achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight through extreme brevity.

Aren’t these better than “Your computer has performed an illegal operation”?

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
The Web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
First snow, then silence
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
“My Novel” not found.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao-until
You bring fresh toner.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Having been erased,
The document you’re seeking
Must now be retyped.
 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.