Caturday Quickies: Recent developments

So . . . I went to work Monday morning to learn that I had been successful in the Consultant process. Yes, I am now in another qualified pool. Treading water at the moment, thanks.

On Tuesday, Phil got a call from the municipal engineer. Apparently all the reports were in and they were ready to start work. He wanted to meet with us after work to discuss the plan and get our sign off on the work.

Our former front yard

Just a reminder of how things currently look

The plan they had come up with was to blast out the rock, rebury the gas line, build a three foot knee-wall, and then slope the yard down from the house to meet the knee-wall. They’d have to demolish and build a new set of front steps for us, because the slope on the yard would necessitate two much longer legs on pylons. The slope would be about 60 degrees.

Phil said, “Do we have any other options?”

He explained that the bus stops by our house, and we have kids who tromp through our yard on their ways home to the apartments up the hill. There are also a couple of bars down Regent Street whose inebriated, late-night patrons also seem fond of our yard. Should any of those individuals take a tumble down the 60 degree slope and off the three foot knee-wall, they could be injured. Worse, we’d be liable.

To his credit, the engineer agreed with Phil’s assessment and together they discussed options.

What are we going to get? A full six to seven foot retaining wall with a railing for safety. Much better.

Three quarters of our driveway will also be re-paved because it also has to be sloped properly. In the process, they will be re-seating the two water shut-off valves that are in the middle of the driveway. We’ve had persistent issues with frost heaving and buckling around those.

Though we’re basically losing the full easement from the front of our lot, the city is not going to be expropriating now and they seem perfectly content to leave us easement-less until the street is developed in X year’s time.

So yay!

I also had a wee setback with the video project I was working on, but found a permanent (and easy) solution within a day. Thank you, National Service Desk 🙂 Joy! This will make doing further videos super easy, and super fast, relatively speaking.

Now onto the next WWC2014 post: The Anthology Jam. All sorts of good information on getting your stories published in anthologies 🙂

Caturday Quickies

By the way, the kitteh in this blog image is our dearly departed Thufir (Howat, the Mentat Cat)

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Further thoughts on uncertainty

I guess I was a little over the top last week. Several of you reached out to me in concern, and I thank you, every one, but I’m okay. Really.

Writing is one of the principle ways I address feelings of anxiety and depression when they arise. It’s very much like I wrote last week, I pin my thoughts and feelings to the page. Once they’re there, I can gain perspective in a way that I can’t when talking to family and friends.

Phil, love him as I do, like most partners, tries to offer solutions. I have to find these for myself. My mom and other family can only commiserate, really, and after a while, repeating the same story over and over again to friends only serves to intensify my negative feelings.

Let me tell you, that beast does not need to be fed.

A few things happened at work in the last week that helped a bit.

  1. The project I was working on finally worked out.
    I’ve been struggling with this thing for weeks.
    Short version: I’ve been making some screen videos. The recording was okay once I had some dedicated time to write my scripts and work out my storyboard. I’ve had to learn how to use a new video editing program (thank you Lynda.com), edit the videos (again, no sweat), and export the final product. This is where my lack of experience in formal video editing has come back to bite me in the ass.
    I tried format after format, but either the audio was choppy, the program required add-ons that I cannot install, or I ended up with a monster file. How monster? A seven minute video was over 5GB. Whaaaaat? That’s like a whole movie!
    In any case, I finally got most of my problems resolved.
  2. I’m no longer going to be travelling for training. Generally, I don’t mind it, but this would have been three weeks away from home. Mellie is a happy camper.
  3. I managed to negotiate my self-funded leave. This, too, is a boon, but this weekend, I’ve been thinking that I might defer it until the spring.
    Yes, I’m a bit toasty around the edges, but I’m not burned out yet. The summer’s break from training and monitoring has been a balm. My trips to Ad Astra, Can Write, and When Words Collide have fed my creative side, and I think I can move into the fall refreshed.
    There’s some truth to the saying that a change is as good as a rest.
    Plus, it will be nice to resume my full salary for a portion of the year. The way I had to rearrange my leave around training and monitoring means that I also didn’t get the time I wanted off. I had wanted the last week of October and the month of November so I could do NaNo again this year. It’s going to be most of October and just a week in November.
    Spring might be a better time.

Otherwise, work is still up in the air, but things will sort themselves out eventually. They always do. I just have to pull myself back into the here and now, appreciate each day for what it is, and take it as it comes. Projecting too far into the future is not a good thing.

At home, we’re still in a holding pattern, waiting for reports to get to the city engineers regarding the rerouting of our gas line (currently naked) and the removal of the rock in our front yard/building of the retaining wall.

Creatively, it’s been a low month.

I’ll write about this a bit more in my month-end update, but I’ve been in a state of collapse since my return from Calgary.

It’s not writer’s block. My well is topped up. It’s just my creative brain’s reaction to going all out for so long. I had a bit of a stumble back in the spring, but then I jumped right back on the writing bandwagon with a vengeance. It was a great few months of writing, but I think writer me wanted a holiday.

It’s the joys of writing with a day job. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m getting old enough that working two jobs is a bit much for me. I think I’m going to work a day of rest into my schedule.

And now the new television season is about to begin. I hate to say it, but I’m a bit of a TV junkie. I watch, as I read, for story. There are a number of new shows I want to check out. I’m getting increasingly picky, though.

Last year, I worked out a great system with my lap top. I’ll see if it continues to work this year.

That’s it until next week, when I’ll get into The Next Chapter update.

What’s going on in your lives, lately? Just drop me a line in the comments and let me know.

Muse-inks

The uncertainty post

I mentioned a couple of (a few?) weeks ago that I’d be posting about the uncertainty in my life these days. Then I went away to When Words Collide and all bets were off. The literary festival was great, but the pace was intense.

So I figured I’d give you this piece before I got on with transcribing session notes from WWC. That will start next weekend.

The uncertainty at work

This is a multi-layered situation.

  1. Massive hiring requiring massive training.
    Last December, a first group of internal hires came through my office to be trained. I trained them, was briefly given an acting assignment (all of three weeks in length), and when I returned to the training team, I was given a special project, and thus largely excused from the burdens of training and/or monitoring the 50 additional internal and new hires that started in January.
    In March, I piloted the training that was the result of the special project and then cofacilitated two sessions of Business Writing to help a colleague achieve her certification (good news there – she got it!).
    As the new fiscal started in April, the second round of training and monitoring began. Once more, I trained the local group and it soon became apparent that while my manager wanted me to continue to work on special projects (three this time), that this would not be possible.
    I dove into monitoring, and then into advice and guidance, which, having been ignored to give priority to the monitoring, was backlogged by several weeks. Our mandate is to respond to these requests within 48 hours. Yeah.
    Starting in September, there will be another wave of new hires to be trained and monitored followed by a third in November, which I may or may not have to assist with because the position they are being hired for is outside my expertise.
    I’m steeling myself for several weeks out of town in September, and further training in late November.
  2. We may be losing our manager.
    This is a mixed blessing, because my manager is younger than I am, she has a lot of potential for mobility, and, more importantly, she has the skill set to take her fairly high in the corporate hierarchy. Our manager is a driving force for our team, though. She fights for us, and ensures that we have what we need to succeed in our jobs and careers, and what we need to achieve work/life balance.
    About the time I was assigned the second set of special projects, she received and accepted the offer of an acting senior manager. For a few weeks, she attempted to manage both teams. This soon became untenable, and the training team received an acting manager.
    This was supposed to be a temporary situation, until the assessment process for the senior manager’s position was concluded and a permanent senior manager moved into the position. The thing is, my manager’s in that process. If she’s offered the position, she will likely accept. Or she should, because it’s an excellent opportunity for her.
    In the meantime, we have a very capable acting manager, but one who is unfamiliar with our business line, and the responsibilities of the team. We’ve been there before. When I started with the training team back in 2009, we were without an actual manager for years, and the team had been for years previous to that. It does not make for a good situation. Most acting positions last a day short of four months, and with that many changes in leadership, the team was foundering.
    Plus, there have been several retirements among the executives in the last year or so, and as gaps appear, they must be filled, generally from levels below.
    I anticipate we’ll be in a very reactionary mode for some time while the corporate structure stabilizes.
  3. I’m on the verge of giving up ever moving beyond my current circumstances.
    The last pool I was in, for consultant, expired Dec 31st, 2013. Since then, I’ve applied for no less that five other positions. I’ve been screened out of all but one. That one is also for consultant, and I was almost screened out of it, but managed to squeak by. At the interview, most, if not all of the candidates must have failed the written portion, because they had a second written test. We were supposed to know the results of the assessment by the end of June. I think the board members must be on holiday.
    I’m coming up against a geographical brick wall. Our regional headquarters is in Toronto and our national headquarters is in Ottawa. I live in neither city, nor am I willing to move. This is the reason I’ve been screened out of several of the assessment processes. Even though our work environment is virtual (I currently work on a virtual team) someone in the hierarchy wants to consolidate skilled workers in our respective HQs. I get that, but still feel the patent inequity of the situation. I have skills. Mad ones even. While I’m content in my current position, the coming overload of training and monitoring and the potential lack of, or frequent change in, management makes me much less content in the day job.
    I’m getting to the point, though, where I want to give up the fight. Even if I make it into the next consultant pool, I’m not likely to get anything more than an acting position, precisely because I’m anchored in Sudbury. There’s no indication that the situation will change any time soon.
    Always hovering on the edge of my mind is the possibility of leaving the day job early in order to pursue my writing. Do I want to persist in a losing battle for the remaining years of my career?
    Also, Phil may be looking at reducing his hours, transitioning to a subsistence job, or retiring in a few years (which option depends on the uncertainty at home – see below). Since he works for a charity, and I work for a larger employer, I’ve always made more money that he has. Even when I make an agreement for a self-funded leave, that basically takes us to a rough parity. But I still make more. I won’t take the risk of sinking us below the poverty line so I can write full time. Though if I can write full time, there’s a much better chance that I will be able to make a reasonable income within a few years. What will we do for those critical years, however?
    Quandries, quandries . . .
  4. My satisfaction with my writing life is quickly outstripping my satisfaction with my day job.
    Yeah. So. That’s pretty self-explanatory, but my last point, above, is a concern. A big one. I have no answers.

The uncertainty at home

This year, the city has been working on Regent Street, right outside my house. This process has involved the tearing up on my front yard and driveway. A retaining wall is going to be constructed once our gas line is rerouted and the rock in our front yard (which is the same rock in our basement) is hacked away. Our driveway has to be sloped properly and will be resurfaced afterward. There’s no estimated time on when this will happen, but they can’t leave things the way they are for the winter.

Regent Street construction

There has been talk of developing our little street and of extending it through to the other side of the block for years. And I mean YEARS.

The driveway . . . for now

I’ll be clear: this is not happening now.

We’ve been told that it is happening, though. At some vague point in the future. Officially, no one can confirm anything.

In order for this to happen, Marttila Drive has to conform to the dimensions of the cross street. They’ve already made the opposite side of our street conform with Bouchard, which has narrowed the street considerably. On our side, there is a huge rock to deal with, and our house.

Our former front yard

Apparently, there will likely be a new turning lane when the street is expanded. This will cut into both the side and the front of our yard. The proposed retaining wall is already at our front step. Our easement is effectively gone.

This means expropriation.

Really, it’s not a bad thing.

If we had to sell our house, we’d have to invest tens of thousands of dollars to do so, and we probably wouldn’t get the investment back. The value in our property is in the fact that our zoning is commercial/residential, and the property is deep. Yes, it’s mostly Pre-Cambrian Shield, but that’s not unusual in a city like Sudbury. Most developers anticipate blasting.

Plus, it’s not the best place to live with the constant traffic, which includes transports, and the continual noise, which includes inebriated patrons walking home from the bar down Regent.

We’ve been led to believe that the city will make a reasonable offer for the property based on the assessed value. We’re good with that.

My mother lives next door to us (yes, two Marttila’s living on Marttila Drive – it was my grandfather’s property and I’m so over the notion of always having a Marttila live on Marttila Drive, thank you very much) and she will likely opt to sell, if her property is not also expropriated, and we’ll work on some mutually satisfactory solution. My mom’s pretty cool, and Phil and I have already discussed the option of a granny suite, or a duplex, or some other, at this time unnamed, solution.

But we don’t know when any of this will happen.

Last year, one of our neighbours went to an information session and he was told that the development would occur in three to four years. But plans change, and this is why no one Phil has spoken to has been able to tell us anything. It’s so aggravating.

Though our mortgage is paid off, we still have a sizable debt on our line of credit, and a car loan.

This is why I’ve been so reluctant to take any kind of chance on my writing.

I’m still working steadily toward the publication of at least one of my novels, and this year, I’ll have two short stories published in paying markets and I just won a prize for another piece of short fiction (yay!). This still amounts to less than $500 income from my writing. I’m not comfortable with leaving a $60K a year job for that, as wonderful as the publication credits are.

So that’s the deal.

The only stable things in my life right now are my relationship with Phil/my family/my friends, and my writing. It’s enough, and I can still claim contentment, but the rest just makes my head ache.

Thanks for letting me vent.

I’ve tried my best not to descend to the whiny, self-pitying voice in this post. I’ve tried to stick to stating facts, but I know my irritation has likely leaked through. Honestly, these are all first world problems. No one will die, or even go hungry, as a result of any of the above.

Unless I break completely and decide to quit. We might go hungry, then.

I keep this in mind as I wake up each day and I hug my contentment tightly to myself, take a deep breath, and move forward.

I have absolutely no control of all the uncertainty in my life. I can only control my own reaction to it and how much I let it affect my life. Frankly (Frankl-ly?) I don’t feel like giving it that much power.

I’ve bound it in words now. Writing is potent magic 😉

Wishing lots of that for you, my friends!

Break a pencil!

Muse-inks

Sundog Snippet: Uncertainty

English: Circumzenithal arc and sundog over Ci...

English: Circumzenithal arc and sundog over Cirrus clouds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just wrote about being a little overwhelmed and stressed recently.  Part of that is my work situation.

Without getting into too many details, I’ll give you the quick picture.

My current acting assignment as regional training coordinator will end August 31, 2013.  I’ve already been extended once, and while there is a possibility that I’d be kept on, I’m not sure if that’s in the cards.

As an actor, I really don’t have the option of applying for a self-funded leave, but I’m really in need of one.  I’m approaching burnout.

My main duties, to manage the regional training plan and budget for my business line are a continual source of stress.  Change is the name of the game, and I try my best to make sure that things work out by redoing several tables and excel worksheets every time there is a change, but it’s a lot of work.

To keep myself motivated, I keep my fingers in the training and training design pots, but that only adds stress (good as that kind may be) because I have to do these extra duties in addition to what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’ve applied for a couple of positions recently with our internal learning college.  One is as an instructional designer, and that’s where I want to be.  The other seems to be a position much like the one I currently occupy.  I haven’t heard anything about either of these processes yet.

We are reaching a point where, after the tumult of business transformation last year, a number of our boomer employees will be retiring.  This will open up another couple of consultant-level opportunities for me, but I don’t know that I’d enjoy either position.  We expect further retirement announcements in the coming months, and some at significantly higher levels.

These executive-level retirements will have a trickle-down effect and as our structure shifts to accommodate these new absences, even more opportunities may become available.  It will also throw us into a new round of chaos.

I’m not looking forward to it.

Part of me hopes that I’ll be back to my substantive position and that I’ll be able to take a break in the fall.  Another part of me is invested in the instructional designer assessment process.  It’s where I think I need to be.

The bottom line is, I don’t know where I’ll be situated in my work world in a few months time.

Writerly GoodnessChange may be the new constant, but I’ve had enough.  I am not agile.  I may rise to the occasion, but not without cost.

This is it for the Learning Mutt this week.

Next week, I’ll blog about my first training for trainers gig.