Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When you can't produce a human, produce something else

Okay, okay, that title is a bit melodramatic, but I was looking for a segue from previous posts, which were somewhat depressing and even seem to have caused some worry. (Thanks for checking on me, Arizaphale!) I've just been busy, and it's all my doing, and it's great.

A little backstory: We moved from California on New Year's Day, 2004. David and I both did a thorough job search and his panned out before mine did. Once he had steady income and health insurance, we saw our way clear to becoming a family. Two months later we knew Eli (or his theoretical female counterpart, Sarah) was on his way. I kept up my job search and got an offer about a week after our happy news, but the insulting salary offer made it easy to turn down. I found some college admissions consulting work but two days before I was supposed to meet with my first client I got put on bedrest. Rather than bring in any money, I instead managed to watch every single episode of Dawson's Creek on daytime TV. (It's important to have goals, you see.)

Once Eli arrived there was no question that I'd stay home with him - I've never been conflicted about that - and of course there wasn't time for much else. Just when it seemed like I might have some time to take on a little part time work we decided to move again. And then we needed to settle in. And that brings us to the present. And it's been three and a half years and other than a fabulous, healthy little person running around the house, I don't have much to show for it.

But I think some switch got thrown a month or two ago, and now I'm a machine! And that makes it hard to find time for blogging. In fact, I don't even think I've had the mental space to think of anything interesting to blog about, let alone sit down to write it. So that brings me to this: my what-have-I-been-doing entry.

When I was in graduate school I edited a book and created the index for it. I loved the process of creating that index, I'm sure because it tapped into my love of organizing and highlighters and my training in qualitative research. So, when I saw a course offered last year in book indexing I enrolled pretty quickly, figuring that would be a great way to make a little extra money. As a former university instructor and administrator I have a large enough network of book authors to get me going, and the work flow is easily controlled. I took the course and then promptly did nothing with it. Fast forward about six months and I created some marketing materials and David - bless him - made me a website. And then I promptly did nothing with that. Well, fast forward six more months (to a week ago) and I finally managed to get all of my marketing materials off. Thirty-nine little packets of indexing goodness. Boy did that feel good. So that's Item One.

Item Two is a bit more creative. Eleven years ago when my nephew was born my mom made him a bib. When my sister and brother-in-law requested a few more, she turned the project over to me and a hobby was born. I had so much fun making these things and apparently other people liked them because I often heard "You should sell these." Believe it or not, the primary reason I didn't is that I used a button closure on them and I was worried about the button coming off and a child choking, causing me to be sued and lose all my earthly possessions. (I know. The logic astounds me even now.) Fast forward to about a month ago and something got me going and I decided to sell the bibs. I set up a shop on Etsy that's not live yet, but will be soon. So in preparation for that I've been sewing like a madwoman. I wanted 30 bibs to start with and I now have 32. Fun.

Item Three: Mystery Shopping! Are you familiar with this? It's when you pose as a regular old customer but you're secretly a spy, recording the good, the bad, and the ugly of your shopping experience. A local friend of mine who works in retail needed someone to do this at one of her shops and I volunteered since I had done this many times when I was in graduate school. (Since restaurant mystery shops typically reimburse for food, it was a great way to feed myself.) That got me thinking, "Hey, I could do this for extra money." So, for the last six weeks or so I've been all over town eating and shopping and taking notes and recording times and making $8 here and there. It won't pay the mortgage, but it sure does keep me entertained. I'm keeping my eye on one company that does spas, restaurants and hotels. Their assignments get snatched up fast, but I'm determined to get myself a two-night stay somewhere soon.

Good old Item Four involves even more of my past life, this time in the form of a resurrected journal article from 2000 that never got published. A woman I worked with in California - who was then a student and is now an assistant professor - is the guest editor of a special issue of a journal that it's perfectly suited for and she got in touch to see if I wanted to submit it, so the thing has taken on a new life. I've had to dust off all the intellectual parts of my old brain and see what it's still capable of. It's slow going, let me tell you, but it feels good to be connected to my old work. It was work that had meaning, so I'm proud of it. (I have a Ph.D. in education and did work related to getting more underrepresented students interested in and going to college.)

And finally, Item Five. This one I'm especially passionate about. I joined the Recreation Commission in our town when we moved last year and I'm sort of the resident playground advocate. The other members of the Commission have more of an interest in other forms of recreation (like playing fields) so I'm always the one to say "What about the playgrounds?" We're in the early stages of planning for a new playground and I'm bound and determined to not only make it fully handicapped accessible but also relevant and interesting to children with all kinds of disabilities and challenges, from autism to Down Syndrome. It's been a great excuse to research something new and explore potential funding sources (this equipment is likely to cost about three times as much as "regular" equipment). These are very familiar processes, since it's what I did in my academic life. I'm knee deep in it.

Last weekend we visited my parents and they happen to have a playground like what I'm describing in their town. We took Eli for a visit and I took some photos.

Looks like your run-of-the-mill playground, doesn't it? Really, in essence, it is. It's more spread out because the various components are connected by ramps; there seem to be more grab handles scattered about to help kids (and, let's face it, parents) pull up to higher levels; there are "bump outs" so kids in wheelchairs can wheel right up to the various places of interest. But at first glance you'd never see a difference, and that's what's great about it. As we drove home from the playground, I told David that I'd be so proud if I could make this happen for our town. But as I've thought about it more, it's not pride - it's just excitement, pure and simple. I mean, how great would that be for a child who hadn't been able to visit the playground before to be able to enjoy it just like her friends. So yeah, I've been devoting some time to this.

So with all of that, and some other things like a weekend away, some ebay selling, some hand-me-down clothing organizing, some administrative stuff I took on related to one of Eli's activities, and some general end-of-summer slacking, I've been busy! It's funny how in cyberspace that makes me appear quiet while here, in my world, I'm a noisy, bustling ball of industry. I don't know what caused this new surge of motivation - maybe there is some connection to feeling less-than-productive in other areas of my life - but it does feel good.


Arizaphale said...

I am so pleased to hear you've been busy and are feeling productive! Sorry to be a mother hen and all :-) but make sure you don't over do it too. (that's rich coming from me) It is great to dust off your brain though isn't it? and sewing is so therapeutic. I'm about to embark on some myself. You sound like you've got a lot to offer in many areas and I know you will be a blessing wherever you turn your attention. Just call in now and again and let us know what you've been up to! Cheers.

Anna said...

Sounds like you have so many exciting things going on, you're inspiring me!

That playground sounds amazing, and I can't wait to see your Etsy shop, I love Etsy, my new favorite place to browse.

Make sure you make time for an ice cream cone at one of those favorite places we have in common!