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U is for unexpected

Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: life | 1 Comment »

I am a planner. I make lists for every occasion as well as every day, and I keep a set of calendars. Despite all this, I don’t consider myself to be regimented. I chafe under strict schedules and ironclad routines, but at the same time I find it helpful to put things like “water plants” and “deal with receipts” as weekly recurring items on my to-do list. (Things for Mac, if you’re interested — I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I don’t get paid for doing that.)

The key for me is planning with flexibility, because if there’s one thing I know in this world, it’s that shit happens, and you have to be at least a little prepared for the unexpected.

The unexpected is not necessarily bad. Good unexpected things can be the first truly beautiful spring day, an invitation to join a friend on a day trip, learning that the architectural salvage place you’ve heard about but is only open two days each year is opening tomorrow, and so on.

The unexpected could be what you usually think of, too: migraines, a sick niece whose mom has to work, a funeral to attend, a family crisis, a friend or family member in need, an accident, any number of things.

I have a couple of “rules” (I need a better name for those; time to call Metaphor Mouse) when I schedule my work.

  1. I rarely accept work with a deadline such that I have to drop absolutely everything and work on  nothing but that nonstop up to the deadline to get it done well and on time. When I do, it is generally because I have absolutely nothing else going on, or the rush fee is too tempting, or it’s for a favorite client who understands just what she’s asking. 
  2. I preview each project and schedule it in chunks, and those chunks are front-loaded. For example, I just did what I call prelims on a short new book project that came in yesterday. It is due a week from today. It has front matter, eight sections, and back matter. I scheduled the FM and sections 1–3 for today, sections 4–6 for tomorrow, and the rest of the book for Friday. This gives me Monday and Tuesday to do the second readthrough and final corrections (which will take only about half a day total). If something comes up that I have to take care of over the next couple of days, I can shift those plans a little bit.
  3. I learned the hard way a long time ago to be a pessimist about how much time things will take. I’ve been doing this job for more than twenty years now and have a pretty good handle on things, but I still pad my internal schedules. Any time of that padding I don’t have to use is bonus time that I can use to go do something fun.
  4. I almost never pack my schedule completely full. I leave at least one time chunk (a morning or afternoon) free each week so I can catch up on anything that might have taken longer than expected or do things like go to the grocery store or deal with the unexpected.

T is for tea

Posted: April 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: life | 1 Comment »

Tea is my everyday drink. Hot in the mornings and when it’s cool weather; iced the rest of the time. Both of my grandmothers drank tea, and I picked it up from them. Of course, when I was little, I needed four or five spoons of sugar. These days, I take just a bit less than one spoon per cup for black teas, and a half a spoon or so for flowery herbals.

My go-to grocery store tea, the one I have almost every morning, is Tazo Awake. I need a strong black tea to get me going in the morning. I also have teas from Adagio (Yunnan Gold and Assam Melody are particularly good), the local Storehouse Tea (a really nice vanilla), and a bunch of other places. One whole shelf in our kitchen is taken up by our tea collection.

After my fourth cup, in the early afternoon, I switch to decaf. Tazo Honeybush is a favorite, but I also like Stash decaf vanilla honeybush, Constant Comment decaf, and a recent addition, Bigelow Orange and Spice.

I brew my own iced tea out in the sun with plain old Lipton. No idea why, but that tastes the best to me for iced.

I just never developed a taste for coffee. I love the smell of it, and I’ll have a cup every once in a while when I’m in a situation where asking for tea would be a major hassle, but it just doesn’t appeal to me the way tea does.

S is for summer

Posted: April 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: life | Comments Off on S is for summer

Summer is my favorite season. I’m a big fan of fresh air and sunshine and warm days, blooming gardens and birdsong and post–8 p.m. sunsets. Summer is particularly glorious and welcomed here in Northeast Ohio after our long and cold winters. (It snowed here Saturday morning. I wish I were kidding.)

I love that my office has views to the outdoors on three sides and two sets of windows I can open when the weather is nice. We get wonderful cross-breezes in our house, and working in my office in the summer is almost like working outside. And I do that, too, when I can.

I try to take summers a little bit easier, workload-wise. It’s such an awful feeling for Labor Day to roll around and to realize that I didn’t make it to the beach or the park as much as I wanted. The past two years, I’ve been making a special effort to not get too overwhelmed with projects during the warm weather months. I’m still not at the right balance, but I’m working on it.

R is for rest

Posted: April 21st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: life | 2 Comments »

Rest is so important for staying on top of your game and staying sane, and I haven’t been very good about making sure I get enough lately. I sleep well, routinely eight hours a night, but rest is more than just sleep. It’s time to play, to read for pleasure, to take a leisurely walk, to watch the sun set, to sip a cup of tea at a cafe and watch the world go by, to take some photos, to visit with friends.

This year has been a bit crazy, workwise — and I’m glad of it. I love what I do, and I love my clients and doing good work together. I also like watching my bank account grow steadily, which lets me do things like take workshops and go to conferences and order cabinets and, yes, buy a new car. I have other things that I do, too — my jewelry business, and running Cleveland Handmade — and those have been busy as well, if on more of a back burner.

But I’m still working on ways to balance everything I want to do and make rest a steady, regular part of every day, along with exercise and learning new things.

K is for karma

Posted: April 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | 2 Comments »

While I’m not a religious person, I do believe in a kind of karma, in that the kind of energy you put out into the world is what tends to come back to you. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not right away, but usually and eventually.

I don’t think there’s any old white guy hanging up there in the sky, or any giant spreadsheet keeping score, tit-for-tat style. I don’t know what the mechanism is, or even if there has to be a mechanism at all.

If you’re kind to others and treat them well, overall people tend to be kind to you and treat you well.

J is for junk

Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | Comments Off on J is for junk

Junk tends to creep up on me. I keep little bits and bobs of things, knowing that they might someday be useful, kind of a like a refugee from the Great Depression born fifty years too late. It doesn’t help that I have an affection for found-object art and aspire to one day make something that doesn’t look merely like a bunch of stuff attached to other stuff, but is cohesive and feels like it has a deeper meaning.

Junk isn’t always useful, though. Sometimes it’s just being too lazy to make a decision about something, or getting around to actually disposing of it properly. A recent mouse incident in our garage ended with me spending half a day sorting out one specific corner of the garage that had become a catch-all for indecision.

That corner houses, among other things, my show supplies, which tend to end up and stay in a random pile when I unpack after a show, and which themselves need a thorough sorting out and purge once the weather gets a little nicer. I need to add a to-do to my show project list that includes sorting through them a few days later and putting them back where they belong, rather than wherever is most convenient.

I had been saving wine bottles for an artsy friend who uses them, but she twice cancelled pick-up dates and in the meantime they had grown cobwebs and dust and who knows what all, so into the recycle bin they went. Lots of broken-down cardboard boxes ended up there, too.

There were boxes of things to take to Goodwill, a couple of stray tools, paintbrushes that didn’t get put back into the painting things box, and the like.

(I am absolutely terrible when things are piled in front of other things. It’s the kiss of death for ever putting anything away.)

I was able to get that corner sorted out, but have several more to go. I’m looking forward to having my nephew’s help as soon as the weather cooperates and we can take absolutely everything out, clean, and put it all back in a way that makes sense.

H is for Hawaii

Posted: April 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | Comments Off on H is for Hawaii

Hawaii was my home for almost six years. I had an opportunity to move there just before I turned thirty, and I took it.



For the first four years, I lived about ten blocks up from the shore. I could walk to the closest beach in twenty minutes or bike there in five, and did so a few times a week. I got to know a bunch of the beaches along the Waikiki shore, and once I got a car and was a little more mobile, I visited beaches all over the island regularly.

I worked at a bookstore for the first two years I was there and thus had a retail schedule, so I had a few daytimes free to put my toes in the sand. Once I got my job at the press and had a more “regular” schedule, I might head down for a little bit after work, but my biggest chunk of beach time was on the weekends. I’d usually be headed out by eight in the morning with my book and my chair and my towel. I’d alternate reading with dozing and dipping into the ocean to cool off. By eleven, it was usually starting to get too hot, so I’d pack up and head to Big City Diner for breakfast, back when it was a new little hole in the wall on Waialae Avenue, or grab a smoothie on the way home.

I’d while away the midday running errands or reading a book, then usually head back to the beach late in the afternoon to watch the sunset.

This photo was taken at my favorite weekend beach, Queen’s Beach at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki’s main drag, across from the zoo. Once I moved up into the valley, it was the easiest beach to get to, since there’s a big parking lot and lots of street parking nearby. But it’s also a lovely spot, with beautiful sand and great views. It’s near to the action of Waikiki, but just enough on the edge that it’s not so crowded. It’s a great boogie boarding spot, and this particular afternoon there were a bunch of kids out there boarding.

Other than my friends, the biggest thing I miss about Hawaii is the perfect weather nearly year round. I’m close to a beach here, just a little more than two miles up the road, but I don’t make it there nearly as often as I could during the three months or so it’s nice enough to spend time there. I think it’s a matter of habit; because it’s not something I do regularly through the year, I get out of the habit, and by the time I start to get into the groove of going, the summer is almost over and I regret not spending enough time there as I could have. I’m hoping to change that this year.

G is for garden

Posted: April 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | 2 Comments »

Gardening is one of my great joys. My mom was always a gardener, and I must have picked it up from her, although I wasn’t always very good about helping her in the yard when I was younger.



I started with the one postcollege rental house I had on California Avenue in Columbus; the backyard was pretty scruffy, so I turned part of it into a vegetable garden. I grew carrots and beans and peppers, among other things I don’t remember now. In Honolulu, I turned part of both yards there into herb gardens with some flowers.

I started going really crazy with the first house I bought when I moved back to Ohio; I enlarged beds and created new ones, and in the almost five years I was in that house, the gardens filled out quite nicely.

In this house, we have even more gardening space, although much of it is shady, which is different from what I’m used to, and we have tons of deer and chipmunks and other hungry critters, which I haven’t had to deal with much before. It takes a lot of experimenting to find out what they will usually leave alone (lavender, iris, peonies, hellebores, trailing arbutus, creeping thyme, daffodils, tall daisies, coreopsis, lariope, bee balm, lamb’s ear) and what won’t last much more than a day (tulips, crocus, little daisies, solomon’s seal, and a million other attempts).

The photo above is one of my hellebores, the first one to bloom this year, and they’re quickly becoming favorites. I ordered some last year from a mail order place, but they were quite small and will take several years to get up to the size I want them to be, so I decided this year I would simply buy fewer but bigger ones to help fill in the garden outside my office window. I love full gardens, plants that flow together in a natural-looking way, rather than single plants spaced out with open ground between them.

In the summer, I usually spend the equivalent of a full day each week working in the gardens, although that’s usually spread out over the entire week. It’s probably a little more than that earlier in the year too, with mulching and planting and all that.

Do you have a garden?

Have you found something lovely the deer mostly leave alone? 

Do you prefer full, cottage-like garens, or more formal, spaced out gardens? 

F is for Fiona

Posted: April 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | Comments Off on F is for Fiona


Fiona is my sweetie pie snuggle kitty. She’s about eleven years old, and quite petite. My niece and nephew helped me pick her out from Berea Animal Rescue just a couple of months after I moved back to Cleveland. I wrote about her adoption story in one of the entries I wrote for Cat Lover’s Daily Companion.

Fiona likes to sit on my lap while I’m working, and she especially loves to sleep on me when I sleep. She’s a big fan of napping in the sun and running around playing with her invisible friends. Unfortunately, she’s not terribly friendly with our other cats; nearly seven years after combining our households and our cats, she still hisses at them and won’t let either of them get too close for too long. Otherwise, she’s very friendly and a great companion.

Fiona has her own profile over on, and has been held her own against some awfully cute cats.

E is for editing

Posted: April 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013, life | Comments Off on E is for editing

Editing is the main thing I do for a living. (Overall, I spend probably four-fifths of my work time editing, and the other fifth on my creative business, Cleveland Handmade, and other projects.) My clients are mostly publishers, large and small and in between, although I do work for individual authors, too. I work mostly on books and journals, and my projects these days are a nice balance of trade nonfiction, academic nonfiction, and fiction. I work on all kinds of subjects, but seem to called again and again to work on memoirs.


Although I’ve worked on books by some big names most everyone reading this would recognize, I almost never have any direct dealings with them. I did, however, receive a very nice personal note from Heather Donahue, author of Growgirl and actor in The Blair Witch Project, who tracked down me down to thank me for my work. That was especially nice, since it remains one of my favorites of the projects I’ve worked on, and I love her way with language.

I work out of my home office most of the time, although I have been known to decamp to Erie Island in Rocky River or Panera or Starbucks when I need a change of scenery or to be out among the people and I have some work that lends itself to the noisier atmosphere. In the summer, I often work outside on the front porch or back patio.

I am grateful for the success of my freelance business, which lets me make my own schedule and do my work in the way I do it best.