Friday, May 23, 2014

My Midlife Career Change

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that tells you the idea you have is a really great one - if only you were bold enough to go for it? I've got that feeling.

Here's the backstory. My family and I were just cruising along in our busy, happy life where my husband worked and I ran the house, homeschooled the kids and made sure life ran smoothly. And then, two and a half years ago, my husband lost his job without warning. We didn't panic - he's a smart guy and we could get by on unemployment and our savings until he found a new job.

The months stretched on and unemployment eventually ran out. We started dipping into our 401(k) money. Surely we had plenty there, right? Time marched on and the 401(k) balances kept shrinking.

I needed a job of my own. if only to stave off the complete depletion of our retirement funds. In order to continue staying at home, I started to do freelance work - mostly editing, but I would take on almost any job from ghostwritng to transcription to long-distance motivational coaching.

Ends met and I loved the success I was having, but the 16 to 18 hour days were tough. After two years my husband found a great job and I stopped working. I loved the break, but after just a few months I was really itching to get back to something. The kids are not young and they really don't need my hourly supervision and it would be great if we could bulk up our savings again.

I spent some time thinking about what what I would like to do and the one thing that makes my pulse race and makes me grin like an idiot is...Physics. Specifically, Astrophysics.

M31 (Andromeda) Galaxy - star formation happening right now! Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL

Yup, I'm a big ol' nerd, and I love science. My BS is in Chemistry, so it's not really that much of a stretch, at least not in my mind.

I have a history of making big decisions and then somehow making them work. In this light, going to grad school doesn't seem like such a hurdle. Granted, I'm not free to relocate, so I will have to limit myself to schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But really, if you had to limit yourself, Massachusetts is a very good one to pick.

Right now I'm spending a lot of my time studying. I graduated from college a long time ago (1989!) and even with homeschooling the kids, I'm fairly rusty. I've been working my way through the MIT OpenCourseware lectures in freshman Physics and Calculus.

I'm almost done with the freshman classes and I have a plan that I think is a viable one. I'm going to start taking some courses at UNH before I even apply to grad school. As effusive and excited as I am (every other day I come up with another excitng area to research), I'm not very confident about my skills. I think this is realistic for my progress - I really don't know enough to get into grad school yet.

The biggest hurdle I have is paying for classes. Even with the NH in-state, continuing education rate for classes, my Astronomy class this summer is going to cost me about $1700. To help defray the cost and keep the financial impact on the rest of the family at a minimum, I have started picking up some freelance editing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's been a long time since I've written about what my kids are up to, so I thought I'd update you.

Zach and Ben
Ben is 18 now, and he will be graduating from high school soon. There's no actual date set because he's homeschooled, so whenever he takes his last final exam, he is done He's taking a gap year because he thinks he's been working very hard and deserves a break. He completed his Eagle Scout project earlier this year, is the President of our Temple Youth Group and is a teacher's assistant at Hebrew School. So he was busy, but he doesn't believe me when I tell him it's only going to get worse.

Zach, my 16-year-old king of angst has been at the Palace Theatre and UNH summer camp for the last couple of years. He loves musical theater and has been in:Pocahontas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Annie, Shrek, Oliver, Xanadu Seussical and is now rehearsing for Fiddler on the Roof. His taste in musicals runs more toward the dark side - Repo: The Genetic Opera, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, The Devil's Carnival and Next to Normal, but there don't seem to be any children's productions of these available.

Josh as a gargoyle

Josh is studying for his Bar Mitzvah, which will be in November. Our cantor says he's doing well and she is going to have him lead more of the service along with the usual Bar Mitzvah responsibilities. My husband promised Josh that if he led the entire service, he could make my husband shave or style his beard any way he wanted. I'm a little afraid of what might happen, but I'm going along with it.

Tirzah has just turned 11 and is as goofy as ever. The pink hair is permanent, but the tattoo mustache is temporary. She reads like nobody's business and even though she has to go to her bedroom at 8:00, she's often still up reading at 11:00. She claims she can't fall asleep, but it's surprising how quickly she does once the lights are out. It goes against my nature to tell a kid to stop reading, but she gets very crabby when she doesn't get enough sleep.

They're all fine - happy and healthy and on their own paths to adulthood. I'm proud of each of them and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think how lucky I am to be their mom.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Holy Smokes! It's Been Five Years?

Wow, has it been a long time since I've been here! So much has happened in the past five years that I couldn't possibly catch you up on it all. In some ways life has gone on the way you would expect - kids get taller and older, jobs come and go and waistlines shrink and expand (mostly expand in my case). The worst thing that happened was that my husband was unemployed for two years. Generally speaking, we weathered that storm well, but we don't have any retirement savings left. This has caused me to go back to work and I'll fill you in on that soon, because it's really exciting. My exciting news for today is that I wrote and published my first novel, The Shattered Door, in September, 2012. It was a great experience: fun, tough, rewarding, frustrating - I went through just about every emotion there is in the process of writing, editing and publishing my novel. I've written the second book and have to edit it, and the third book in the series is half-written. The kids are all much more self-sufficient now, so I have more time or working and writing, and I've been trying to make the most of it. More on this on soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My two main goals

My major goal in life is to raise great kids and make my husband’s life a happy one. So far, so good on those two, I think. Just staying at home and homeschooling the kids fulfils most of these goals. Our kids are allowed to grow and learn in the ways that best suit them, good homemade food is always available and as a group of people we have strong bonds to each other because we are so physically close day in and day out. My husband has no worries about the kids or the house while he is away, because he knows I’m on top of everything here. Now if only I could get the house to clean itself…

My next goal in life is to write and publish science fiction novels. This one is much harder for me. I spent my college years studying science and even though I wanted to be a writer since 10th grade I always “knew” I couldn’t be one. I’ve spent decades living into that reality.

It’s been 5 years since I said “ENOUGH!” to that thought and I’m on my third novel. The first two are bad. Very bad. So bad they’d make your eyes bleed if you read them. This third one has some serious promise and I’m about 70 percent done with it. I’m stuck on the ending though. The motivations I gave my two bad guys seem rather flimsy right now and I’m trying to come up with something better. I hate it when a writer changes the motivations of a character to suit the story (I’m looking at YOU, Phillip Pullman) because suddenly things aren’t working out in the story. I won’t have that in my novel. So I’m stuck, but thinking.

I’ve got about a month of writing left to finish my first draft. After that I’ll let it sit for a couple of months while I work on writing short stories. You would think a person who has written 2 ½ novels could manage a short story with her eyes blindfolded, but not me. I tend to read and write in long, sweeping arcs of time – give me a 5 book series and I’m in Heaven. 10 pages seems way too small to write a complete story. I’m working on it though.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Home again

It's amazing how it took me an entire week to get ready for a long weekend away.

I spent the last 3 days at Boskone, which I completely love. I took the two older kids with me and left the two younger ones at home. My niece brought her two kids and boyfriend/fiance/whatever-the-kids-are-calling-it-these-days and watched my youngest two.

I love my niece very much, but she's not much of a cook. I spent 2 days cooking and baking so she'd have plenty of food to assemble and/or reheat so it wouldn't be too difficult to feed everyone. I also baked bread and breakfast foods to take with us. All in all, I baked 13 loaves of bread and 6 dozen muffins. You may think that's a lot, but for 10 people over 3 days it's not so much because 6 of them are ravenous kids going through growth spurts.

Anyway, now I'm back and full of fabulous ideas for finishing my novel, and starting the next one.

And, lest you think I was slacking on the knitting front, I present to you the Boskone Sock:

This pattern is Los Monos Locos (Ravelry link) and it knits up quite quickly. I am very happy the pattern is not lost in the variegations of the yarn.

And speaking of the yarn, I bought it from one of the Guests of Honor, Astrid Bear. She has a shop, Damselfly Yarns. This is the Boskone colorway and I'm not sure if she has any left, but it is the Sturdy Sheep blend - 75% superwash Merino and 25% nylon.

I am planning on wearing these socks a lot this Spring, since they are such nice spring-y colors. The yarn feels warm and soft on my toes, which I'll need because Spring isn't always a warm time of year here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

But I have nothing to wear!

Wow, did I just save you from an annoying post.

I had this whole post written abut how I had nothing to wear tonight to Scout Shabbat and how annoyed I am about not having a perfect wardrobe.

Then I decided I should get over myself and work with what I have. And now you know what I'm wearing to Scout Shabbat.

The dress isn't actually shiny, it's just the flash. I do have a head, but I haven't even brushed my hair yet.

Photo taken by Zach, who seems to like photography.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Come on, Summer! It was 6 degrees out this morning and I completely do not approve! It warmed up to about 20 degrees when I took my cub scouts out to play this afternoon but since one of them only had a sweatshirt and no coat, we didn't stay out very long.

I'm moving on to the Fall portion of this project, but I'm about to run out of embroidery floss. I'll have to get more when I'm out doing errands this weekend, and I'll have to find some good border fabric as well.

I didn't get any stitching done with Tirzah today. She promises we can work together tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

After lunch needlepoint

Here we are, in a sort of Mother/Daughter bliss.

This is my daughter, Tirzah. She's going to be 6 this April and we are sitting in my bed working on our needlepoint projects. Yes, her needle did go MIA in my bed when she was done working for the day. Hopefully I'll find it before I roll over on it tonight.

Her project is a small wall hanging for Valentine's Day that says "I love you" and has 2 hearts on it. It's for her father and I told her she would have to work on it every day to make sure it was done on time. My project is the Fall panel of my four seasons wall hanging. I am also working on a Besotted scarf for my husband for Valentine's Day - he's one lucky guy, getting all these hand made gifts.

She got bored after a while and got up, but she did manage to finish almost half of her first heart in a sort of wonky backstitch that I love to death just because she made it.

We're under the blankets because it's chilly and I'm not turning the heat up.

You can see the purple color of my walls that I love so much. The top blanket is the Feather and Fan shawl (Ravelry Link) in a worsted weight yarn. This was my first lace project and It was really difficult to figure out on lace weight yarn, so I switched to thicker yarn and suddenly it all seemed to make sense to me.

My youngest son has made a comic strip for my husband for Valentine's Day as well. The oldest two have no interest in making anything for anyone - I blame pre-teen angst and a pretension to "cool". They have no idea they are the nerdiest kids in the world. They're also still in the school room working on their math.

Photo by Zach Shalek, one of the angst-ridden kids.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Give Away

The Crafty Crow is having a give away here:

It's a nifty looking book called "The Book of Days" and has recipes, activities and fun stuff for kids and families to do.

I hope I win!


Spring is here, at least in my embroidery hoop.

This is the first season of my 4 seasons wall hanging for my office. The purple color is a lovely match for the walls.

The pattern is from the book Shadow Redwork by Alex Anderson. I think I'll be making several items from this book as my office is also my bedroom so some throw pillows and pillowcases will be necessary.

The fabric is from curtains I hung when we were selling our old house. It's a plain white cotton and holds up nicely. I have one curtain set aside for a bedskirt, four curtains hanging in the windows and the rest will be used for a quilt, wall hangings, pillow cases and throw pillows. I am really looking forward to making my office/bedroom a cozy space full of hand made items.

For those of you who can't help asking why my office is also my bedroom? Because my husband snores very loudly and I can't take it any more! Once the kids are older and start moving out of the house I'll be able to move my office into the school room and then my bedroom will be just my bedroom.

Tomorrow I should have a photo of Summer.

Also, this morning's breakfast of cinnamon toast went over without a problem. Maybe breakfast will be smoother for a while now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Musings

Last week my kids complained about breakfast. They are sick of 'the same old 7 things week after week'. The same old 7 things are: donut muffins (basic muffin with lots of nutmeg), pumpkin gingerbread, pancakes, spice muffins (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cloves), banana bread, cinnamon bread toast and bacon and eggs.

All this food is made from scratch (well, not the bacon and eggs) either the night before or early in the morning - it's my ideal way to start a morning. A fresh, warm home made breakfast with recipes I've tweaked to make them healthier but still yummy.

They just want me to buy cereal.

So I've been on breakfast food strike. I haven't made anything for them for about 5 mornings now and they're now sick of having to fend for themselves. They ran out of cereal fairly quickly and the boys who can make pancakes are tired of that as well. Now they're sick of their last option, eggs.

Maybe it's time to start back up with the yummy home made breakfast foods. I have tried a million different breakfast foods and the reason they keep getting these is they're the only ones everyone will eat. Can you believe the kids won't eat blueberry muffins?

The problem is they hurt my feelings. I work hard to make sure they have good foods every day and they'd rather have take out pizza and cold cereal. I'm trying to rise above the whole thing, but I'm feeling very unappreciated.

I know once they move out and go to college they'll be amazed at how life in the 'real world' is and how hard it is to get a good spice muffin but I don't think I want to wait that long for appreciation.

So, what should I do? I think new recipes are in order, but I need tried and true ones because, despite their complaining, they aren't really open to new foods.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Scouting for the day

So, we are learning about Languages and Cultures in Cub Scouts this week and I showed the boys 3 different versions of Rubber Ducky - English, Hebrew and a German Techno version. They were more amazed than anything and really liked dancing to the German one.

Here, for your enjoyment is "Barvizoni", the Hebrew version.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have so much yarn in my office - it's poking out from nooks and crannies. You know, like most knitters. I also have a lot of quilting fabric, clothing fabric and general arts and crafts stuff that is seriously threatening to take over the entire room. So I've been trying to use up what I have and (this is the hard part) not buy more. It's difficult. But then I think about the budget and my resolve comes back a bit. I have no money set aside for yarn or fabric this year and I hope that will help with my clutter problems.

I've been a knitting a lot right now so I thought I'd show off what I've been working on lately.

This is the back of The Alexi Cardigan in Knit Picks Andean Silk Jade. It's not for me, alas. I have one sleeve to finish, do the button bands and collar and it's out the door.

Next up is a toe up purl ridge sock in Knit Picks Sock Garden Hydrangea. It will be great to have such happy looking socks on my feet.

I organized my yarn stash and I have a lot of sock yarn - probably about 10 pairs worth so I look forward to having lots of new socks in the future.

The last project I've been working on for only two days, but I really want it done before late spring. It's the Maltese Shawl from Victorian Lace Today (Ravelry link). I'm very happy with it, and I think it will look very nice with my brown linen sundress that so desperately needs a shawl for cool nights.

So, what are you working on?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's not baby fat if the baby is 6

You can’t call it baby fat anymore when the baby is turning 6. I’m not talking about the baby (see previous entry’s photo). I’m talking about me and my hips.

Before we got married, Paul and I discussed all the major decisions we thought we would have to make in our married life. It was a long process, but it has served us well over the years. We don’t always hold to what we decided over 15 years ago but we have a nice framework to base our decisions on because we have such a good idea where the other person is coming from.

One thing we discussed is how many children we wanted to have. Given our ages (we were both 27 when we married) and temperaments we thought 4 would suit us well and that’s what we did. If we had met and married younger, I would have lobbied for 5 or 6, but 4 is working out very well for us.

So, when you’re having a baby every 2 years, and nursing the youngest one until you are pregnant with the next one it’s hard to loose weight and get back your girlish figure. At least it was for me. Nursing made me hungry in a not always rational way. If I was hungry I started to worry about the baby, even when he (or she) was also eating solid foods so I would eat, and I would relax, because it felt like everything was all right now. See, not rational.

I knew this was going on and I knew my weight wasn’t going down as much as I had wanted it to, but of all the things I had to worry about, my weight was very low on the list.

Well, the youngest hasn’t nursed in almost 5 years now and I’ve definitely taken steps in the right direction but these hips aren’t going to shrink themselves.

So now I’m exercising and eating right. I think I’m not drinking enough water yet, but I’m getting there. I love lifting weights. Even though I am not lifting heavy weights I feel strong and powerful and capable of anything when I do. I like to run as well, but I broke my toe in December (because I accidentally kicked something on the floor during a power outage) and I’m giving it all the time it needs to feel completely better. I use the elliptical machine we have at home instead. And, it’s not like I can run far or fast, but I like the feeling of me and my favorite music blasting on the iPod, just ticking away at the tenths of miles.

And this brings me to my gym, Hampstead Health and Fitness. I love my gym. I love that it isn’t full of skinny, already fit people (although there are some there). I love that they have a child care option for all of my children so I don’t have to worry about them or leave the oldest ones at home. I love that they are open early in the morning and late at night and at least a few hours on most holidays. We don’t get there often enough but that’s a failing in my homeschool schedule more than anything else.

I am hopeful now that Zach has caught up (and then some!) on his Math that we will be able to get there more often.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s new topic – Scouting.

We’re a very scout oriented family. Currently we have one Tenderfoot Boy Scout, one second year Webelos (5th grade Cub Scout), one Wolf Cub (2nd grade Cub Scout) and one Daisy (Kindergarten Girl Scout).

Paul (the beloved husband) is a former Cub Scout Leader but finds he likes working with the older boys as a Boy Scout Leader much better. I am an Assistant Cub Scout Leader (go Wolves!) and a Daisy Leader. I also think I’ll be the Assistant Cub Master starting in the Fall.

So there’s a lot of scout-y stuff going on at our house on any given week.

Last week the Daisies did a service project for ConKerr Cancer. The girls sewed pillowcases for children at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The girls are 5 and 6 years old, so I cut and ironed the fabric in advance. I used fabric from my way-too-large quilting fabric stash – it felt good to use up some of what I had for a good cause.

The girls really liked sewing. They were amazed and mystified watching me wind a bobbin, and they worried about my fingers getting too close to the needle as I was guiding the fabric.

All the girls chose their fabrics, pinned them together and were in charge of the foot pedal while we were sewing.

The pattern is simple, and you can find it here.

The girls were proud of their sewing and were happy to make something for someone else, although some girls really did want to take theirs home.

I have always thought kids didn’t like to sew, but I don’t think that’s true. Earlier in the year, my Wolf Cubs made books about themselves and used the sewing machine to make a sewn binding. They also thought sewing was really cool. I think they would like to make pillowcases, especially if I pulled out the flaming dragon fabric. We’re completely booked for the rest of this year, so maybe next year….

These pillowcases take, literally, 20 minutes to make from starting to cut to finishing the sewing so if you have some fabric and some spare time, please consider making some to brighten up a child’s day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Balance, Take 2

Wow! I'm just now pulling myself out from under an avalanche of custom orders from Lilac Quilts and it's so nice not to worry about how much work I can get done in any given day.

This year I'm aiming to be under-scheduled. With free time I don't get all stressed out if something throws a kink into my schedule. With free time I can get back to working on my novel. With free time I can bake more snacks with the kids. With free time I can get to all those small not-very-important things I'd like to get done some day around the house. Maybe some gardening in the spring?

Paul (my really awesome husband) will be happy. He likes hanging out with me in the evenings and if I'm working like a crazy woman, he feels lonely but he doesn't want to bother me because I'm busy.

Let's hope I can keep to being under-scheduled!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


My life is lacking balance.

In the wake of my husband's raise being delayed and prices for just about everything going up and winter's heat bill looming I decided to reopen my etsy shop, Lilac Quilts and that's sucking all my time.

My formerly neat and tidy office now looks like a bomb went off in it and it's difficult to find a place to work in here.

I think I will have to set myself strict work hours to free me up to continue with the little things, like feeding and clothing the children. And sleep. Sleep is critical to creativity, and good parenting, and being a good wife.

So, I resolve to go to sleep very soon. And starting Monday I will not do any Lilac Quilts work until after dinner (I've got 3 custom orders to finish over the weekend and then I can relax a bit).

And now, sleep.

Take care everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Boo boos

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the toughest girl in town.

Tonight at her brother's soccer practice, Tirzah fell off a rock and smacked her forehead on another big rock. It swelled up impressively and I think it's at about its peak now. Tomorrow her poor head will be a riot of purple, blue and green.

We checked her for concussion, but she's fine. I'm still going to wake her up every couple of hours tonight anyway, because she's never had such a big bump on her head. In fact, I don't think any of my kids have had such a large bump.

It took her 3 deep breaths and about 4 minutes sitting on my lap with a cold water bottle before she decided she felt fine and wanted to go back to playing with the other non-soccer-practicing kids. A girl has to have her priorities, after all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quiet around here

I've been a bad blogging girl. It just amazes me how life sneaks up on me and takes all my free time.

I did re-start my Etsy shop, Lilac Quilts and today's new item is a custom made apron, like the one I made back in the spring. I love that apron and if you did too I'd love to make one for you. What I like most is that I feel feminine in it, it will cover most of any dress I'm wearing and you can still I have what passes for a nice figure at 42.

More later, but now I have to take the third load of laundry off the line and start folding it all.

Have a good night everyone!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The local wildlife

There's a frog in my lettuce. This isn't so incredible except for the fact that the container garden is on the deck on the second floor. That poor little guy had to hop up a flight of stairs just to get to my lettuce. I hope he gets a lot of yummy insects for his troubles.

The children are fascinated by him, particularly as he seems to come and go whenever he wants. It's like a hide and seek game, which pot is the frog going to be in today?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Today's project

Today I'll be making this dress. I'm using the pink version on the envelope. I've never made a lined dress before so I hope this comes out well.

The dress is for my niece's birthday party this Sunday. It's supposed to be 92 degrees out, not too amazing, until you consider that I live in New Hampshire. It isn't supposed to get that warm until August. In fact, right now it's 55 degrees and rainy out.

I'm really looking forward to trying it on - I think this pattern will accentuate my waist and flow over my hips in a floaty sort of way.

I've got to get working on it right away because after today I'm booked solid through the weekend and my husband has to work intermittently throughout the weekend. Saturday we have soccer games in the morning and a trip to the zoo with cub scouts in the afternoon. Sunday is the party. I need to carve out time to go to the gym and write those days as well, and make sure I don't stay up insanely late to get things done.

Off to work!