Category Archives: Wordsmithing

On Being a Generalist

Recently at work I was talking with someone about what kind of work I enjoy most and what interests me most, and I came back to my usual knee-jerk moderate position: I find it hard to want to narrow my focus too much because I like the variety, I am interested in things on a wide span of the spectrum, and so on. The person said, yeah, of course, “you’re such a generalist,” you do it all. This wasn’t intended as a bad thing, but it was a comment that stuck with me.

Am I a generalist? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I suppose I am. I do have diverse interests. I like to read theologians, pastors, mom bloggers, public policy wonks, social justice advocates,  football message boards, minority perspectives on politics and culture, and The Onion. I like things that are funny and things that inspire me, stories that are true and stories that ring true. I want to know what we can learn from the great minds of the past and what’s trending on Twitter. I don’t feel much need anymore to act like “high culture” is better than “pop culture” or pretend I’m above the latter. I’m an idea and information junkie but not a book snob.

I think mostly this is a good thing. It has helped me be able to edit a wide variety of books and enjoy the diversity. On the other hand, though, no one can be an expert in everything, and I do feel that there are some things I used to know a lot about that I’ve lost my expertise in a bit as my interests have changed or broadened. Part of that is due to changes in life stage, mainly parenting, which brings up a host of new issues while reducing the time in which to sit around and ponder them (although many you do spent a lot of time actually acting on some of them!).

In fact for now I am actually working on broadening my generalities even more, focusing more on fiction these days. I think that’s a good thing–generally speaking!

Workin’ for the Man Every Night and Day

I think I’m getting the hang of this working thing.

Go figure, I think I like it too. Yes, the days start early and the drive is long, and sometimes I sit at my desk in my cold office for so long that my pulse slows to roughly 40 bpm and I have to take coffee via IV to get going again. But on the other hand, I don’t have to repeat simple requests seventeen times in a row seven thousand times a day or help wipe any part of any other person’s body.

At work my office has a door and a huge stash of snacks and no Mr. Potato Head parts on the floor. Sometimes there are coffee runs or people stopping to say hi. And I get to have LIVE, INTELLIGENT CONVERSATIONS with actual, mature, ADULT HUMAN BEINGS.

For example, last week I got to spend an hour with two others comparing ideas and opinions on designs for a major project. I love that kind of thing. People think that editors must be quiet, shy introverts, but I am a collaborative person and I think actually an extrovert. Those conversations and connections to the bigger picture give me the energy to go back and do the focused solo work. I did miss that sometimes as a freelancer. (Of course, there is also the imposing wall of deadlines looming over me to keep me focused. Yikes!)

I have my morning routine down pretty well and was just able to simplify our daycare/grandmacare schedule. AJ is doing great with the new routine, although she was happy to spend Saturday at home just lazing around in her pajamas and then ballerina outfit. Me too. (Well, minus the tutu.) I did feel like I should have been working on the weekend, since that was when I got a lot of my freelance work done, but it is nice that now when I’m off, I’m really off–no choice, no guilt.

Today was the first day of Aaron’s new semester, so we’ll soon see how his weeks flow and how all this goes with him juggling a ton as well.

Time to go juggle some chili into my crock pot.

Workweek 1 / Prayer Request

First week down. I commuted to work four days and the weather was only nasty three of them. Today I was able to work at home, which probably saved me the embarrassment of falling asleep at my desk. The mornings came very, very early this week.

Aaron ended up not going on his retreat because of some doctor’s appointments and things he needed to deal with. So he could stay with AJ some of the days I worked and get dinner going before I finally got home. Thank goodness! AJ did great with letting me drag her out of bed, bundle her up, and drag her out in the dark (baffling to her) to head to Miss J’s day care or to meet my mom. I don’t think she gets yet that we’ll be doing this all the time.

Going back to work at the same place I worked six years ago is strange in the way our whole life has been since moving back to Michigan from Oregon: The same, only different. Familiar, but it’s changed. Old friends nearby but lots of new people too. Really it was like being in one of my crazy dreams: I dreamed I went back to work, and you, and you, and you were there . . . and they gave me your old office but stole all the furniture except one of the crappy brown chairs and a pile of screws.

The first day was a lot of meeting new people and chatting with those I’d worked with before, getting set up on the computer, and regretting those shoes as I toured the building which is now much bigger than it was. I’ve also been gradually recalling the terminology and processes I didn’t use as a freelancer–how to set project schedules, how to do pre-production tasks, technical terms like cast-off and loose lines and Green Envelope. It’s like dusting off all that German I learned back in school (Kennst du Ingo? Ingo ist mein Freund.). But I was pretty much able to get right to work.

If it wasn’t clear enough that this is a good place to be, Wednesday we all got a reminder: someone from editorial was in a severe car accident on the way to work. We waited to hear anything at all, then heard he was in surgery and did one of the remarkable things about working at a Christian company: those who wanted to gathered in a conference room to pray for Jeff, his family, the doctors, the other person in the accident.

Like they prayed for me eight years ago when Aaron’s brother died.

Like they have prayed for so many.

I stepped in the room as they were already praying, and this struck me so hard I was immediately in tears. But many eyes glistened as we agreed For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory and the company president reminded us, “This is why we’re here. This is so much more important than what’s on your desk any given day.”

Please join the many praying for Jeff. They did surgery on his heart that day and are now most concerned about pressure in his head. Family has come from out of state to be with his wife and young daughters. Miracles have happened but he needs more.


More blogging soon–after I go catch up on my sleep. Ah, Saturday sweet Saturday . . . suddenly I love you so much more.

New Year, New JOB!

Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na . . . I got a job!

Or rather, the job got me. I wasn’t really looking for it, but some opportunities you just don’t pass up. Especially when you really need benefits like insurance you can afford. I just had to get my ducks in a row (hence the photo) and find some blogging time amidst it all before I said anything here (the “40” hint was for 40 hours a week).

This came about a couple weeks ago and I start Monday (when, most inconveniently, Aaron leaves for a week-long retreat). I’ll be a trade books editor at a publishing house. Let’s call it Family Religious Publishers for now, although some of you know its real name because I used to work there before we moved to Oregon and have been freelancing for them for the last six years. So they know me, I know them–heck, I even have my old office nameplate ready to slap back on the wall.

So I’m not really nervous about it, but I have had my freak-out moments over the last couple weeks because it is a total life organization makeover: Who will take care of our child? How will I get to work? How late will I get home and when am I going to cook, eat, shop, braid hair? I’m going to have to get up how early?

The job is about 45 minutes away from home, although I will be able to work from home one day a week. We couldn’t make that work with only one vehicle, so we had to find a second car. Obviously we needed day care for the Joygirl. Clearly my wardrobe has atrophied significantly over the last six years.

Day care: One of our neighbors has been extremely pleased with the in-home day care person she started using this fall. And my daughter has declared that she is marrying their son, so shouldn’t they spend some quality time together? Unfortunately Aaron’s schedule for this semester is terrible–more afternoon classes to work his internship and study time around–and the day care lady couldn’t take AJ late enough a couple days I would have preferred . . . but eventually we figured out how to make it work. I think. Thank goodness for my mom, who is helping out a couple days a week. AJ has spent a few days at day care already to get used to it and she seems to have enjoyed it and had no trouble at all saying goodbye to us, so I feel good about it.

Transportation: We couldn’t possibly pull off this schedule with one vehicle, and I wouldn’t want to commute in a giant gas-sucking truck anyway (except on snowy days). We needed to find a car that gets good gas mileage but is still comfortable for my 6’5″ husband and our budget. We tried various wagons and ended up with a 2005 Scion xB–the box car people seem to either love or hate (Aaron thinks it looks “badass”). It’s small but it’s funky, the interior is surprisingly big, and it gets 30+ mpg. (I’ll post a photo when I locate it under all the snow we just got.)

I wasn’t really ready to be excited about the job until I had those two major things under control–more like Good Lord, what have I done?–but now I’m ready to actually think about the working part. Freelancing definitely has some great advantages as far as flexibility. But it was hard to work at home with a three-year-old and honestly, I think I will appreciate her more and be a more patient parent when I’m not with her 24/7. I will enjoy working with people again and having a clear line between work at home. And after a month I will have paid vacation/sick time and the all-important health insurance. WILL WORK FOR INSURANCE.

Ready or not, publishing here I come!


work for insurance.

Brain Drain

I’d love to share with you all the deep thoughts swirling in my brain these days, but the problem, dear readers, is that I have none. Someone stole the plug to my brain tub and they are gone, gone, gone, sucked away into some other series of tubes.

I’m not keeping up well with all you prolific NaBloPoMoers, let alone the hottest news and trends from the world at large. I’m sure I had an original, world-outside-these-walls thought last week, but even I probably wouldn’t care any more if I could remember it, and it certainly would no longer be a “current” event.

Some days it’s classic mommybrain, the condition of a previously intelligent woman’s vocabulary and attention span being lowered to roughly that of their child via the sheer repetition of potty-related conversations and the stupidity-inducing tone of Elmo’s voice.

But right now I’m also experiencing more brain drain than usual from my work: I am three weeks into a project that is much longer, more complex, more important to get right (not that there are any small authors, only short books), and more in depth than my usual projects. I’m grateful to be doing it, but it requires the full range of my editorial superpowers for as many hours a day as I can stay sharp, lest I still be working on the project when my child finally leaves the house and gives me my brain cells back.

Also, it’s Thursday. “I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” Aaron is at his internship long after AJ’s bedtime, which means is an awfully long day for him and a full dawn-to-dark work/kid on my own day for me too. Me talk gibberish by 9:00.

The happy news (besides that NaBloPoMo is almost over so I won’t feel the need to publish these excuses anymore) is that Aaron has all of next week off for Thanksgiving. Sure, he’ll have to study and I’ll have to work (a lot!), but there will be snooze alarms and breakfasts together, family dinners and football games, pies baking in the oven and our favorite college girl crashing on our couch. And if that doesn’t refresh the brain, it certainly refills the heart.

Work-at-Home Parenting: A Quiz

Imagine you had a very large and important work project requiring great concentration and you also had an almost-three-year-old at home. Would your child:

(a) be sweet and fun for the friend who kindly helped with babysitting

(b) go on a two-day nap strike, complete with hours of wailing

(c) pee on the couch

(d) all of the above

I think anyone who works at home knows the correct answer.

Week 3 in Review

Week 3 of school drawing to a close. It was kind of a weird one, with Aaron having extra meetings and things. AJ went to my parents’ for the night again on Wednesday, increasing the number of times she’s done that by 100 percent. Last night we had dinner with our new pastor and his wife before Aaron went to a church meeting and I went to pick up AJ. Aaron is starting to find some direction for his internship which is good since the school didn’t give him much.

I have been busy with work and also chasing new work possibilities around campus. I apparently just missed an opportunity to work for the seminary’s writing center but may be able to in the future. Meanwhile I am working on getting my name spread around for doctorate students and others who may need editing help that the writing center can’t give. The nearby undergrad college may prove fruitful as well (that is, if any of the students have any money–hmm). I feel good about this and yet as a freelancer I can’t bill anybody for this time spent making my job sustainable. It’s necessary but it takes time that could/should be spent doing paying work. The freelancer’s eternal dilemma.

Tonight we attempted to see the African Children’s Choir at the college chapel, but it was truly overrun by the crowd. We were sweating like mad in the balcony and couldn’t see, so we bailed out after a couple songs. Fortunately, we had already made it to see them at a different church last week.

Tomorrow morning we are going apple picking, hooray!