[personal profile] unforth
On Monday, my dad came to visit me. We had a long and wide-ranging talk, a lot of it relating to my #1 and completely failed goal from last year, "be easier on myself." One of the things he suggested was something he's done in the past. The idea is, whenever you are minding your own mental business and suddenly remember something that you did earlier that day, the previous day, the previous week, the previous month, the previous year, or the previous decade or more ago, and you think, dammit, why did I do that? That was a stupid thing to do! Instead of letting it sit there, write it down on a slip of paper, and put all the slips of paper in to a bowl, and when the bowl gets full, burn it without looking at the strips. I think this is a great idea, and I'm taking it a step farther - I'm also going to put in the slips for things that upset me that I can't let go of, things that make me angry but I can't move on from, things I dwell on that I really need to just get over of all kinds. Why am I starting this post with this story? Because writing the decision to write this post immediately prompted one of my worst catechisms that needs to end: "I really should be working." I'm a big girl and I'm on top of everything and getting everything done, I can decide on my own and with my own discretion when I should be working - and right now, I CAN write this post if I want to.

Anyway, on to other stuff. Gah, I apparently haven't updated since before Thanksgiving! How did that happen?

Thanksgiving weekend was nice if busy (busy is the catch phrase for the entire month, really). On Thanksgiving day, my brother and I drove out to visit my dad, where we had an excellent meal and a pleasant surprise in the form of my step-brother being there. I haven't seen him in several years, and he's been having a rough time of it (at least a month of those years he was in prison). However, he's on an upswing again, and he's always been a nice guy and a fun one to have around, so I'm glad to see him getting his feet under him again. The meal was super tasty, too - the turkey turned out great, the stuffing was super tasty, and there were two pies. :) She made almost exactly the right amount of food for 5, too, so there wasn't tons of leftovers (except of pie...no complaints there!)

The next day, I had a "date" with someone I met on OKCupid. It went pretty average. We had done pretty well by e-mail, but in person I didn't really get the feeling we clicked. And though we both said we'd had a nice time when we parted (he said it first, in my defense) neither of us has made much effort to keep in touch, so that's probably indicative. Unfortunately, I've been first too busy and then too lazy to get back on there since then. On the plus side, I got to try a mac n' cheese place on the lower east side that a friend had told me about, and it was pretty damn good.


And boy was a I busy! So from that Saturday until I left for Texas on December 16th, I didn't have a single day off from my day job. (remembering that I define a day off as one where I spend less than an hour working - but that addendum doesn't really matter, since I worked 40+ hours through that period - more than 50 the week before I left). I was running around like a nut, a lot of in all day meetings and attending full-day workshops my clients were running. It was a ton of work, even though I met a lot of nice participants, got to know some of the clients better, got to mess around with an iPad, heard an excellent lecture (the same one two days in a row) by David Nasaw about the nature of biography that has changed how I look at that genre, learned even more about teaching, get to get up close and personal with some giraffes...as in, they weren't bad days for the most part, but having so many in such a short period was really wearing and exhausting. On top of that, I put two of my patterns through testing, made several amigurumi, designed a commission, completed all but one of my hand-made Christmas presents for people, got all my Christmas shopping done, and continued to read voraciously about the Civil War in preparation for my arbitrary decision during this time period that I would start the novel on 1/1...In a way, looking back, I'm very proud of myself. Those weeks of December were proof to myself that when I put my mind to it, I can work really hard at the day job and still keep all of my other balls in the air - I was taking care of the dog, I was working on the novel, I was crafting and maintaining my online craft type stuff, I was even practicing the drums! And put up a Christmas tree!

...of course, it then took me almost two weeks to recover...

On the 16th, I headed out to Texas to visit the family. The timing worked out okay - I managed to get an entire day overlap with my uncle before he had to leave for Germany that Saturday, and it was just about the right number of days. I got to know my grandfather's caretakers better and see that he seems fairly happy all things considered. I got some nice presents, including some things that I really wanted (Civ 5, a new purse, money for amazon.com, to name a few). I ended up having some work to do even while I was away, but I got at least one piece of good work news while I was there (or at least, it was news that we had done what could be done to correct a work disaster that had taken place earlier in the month - good in this context is relative). I really just tried to catch my breath, and what this oddly meant was that I let EVERYTHING fall to the wayside (okay, sure, I still worked out, and I kept reading my very interesting book about the antebellum South) - I didn't craft, I didn't do as much work as I "should have," and even though I had internet the whole trip, I only used it to keep track of my e-mail - I ignored my craft communities and my FB and such. I just didn't want to have to deal. I think it was something that I really needed, in truth.

The trip had a few highlights. Last time [livejournal.com profile] swan_tower and I had talked, we'd discovered that we had overlap time in Texas, with me in College Station and her and [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw in Dallas. This is about a three hour drive, but my uncle let me borrow his car, and on December 20th I headed up to the house where B grew up. The result was a very, very nice day. K had to work for a goodly chunk of it, but we all ate lunch together, and the B and I went to the Dallas Botanical Garden and Arboretum, which was lovely. It had an old mansion decked out for the holiday, and they turn out to have what looks like a really wonderful afternoon tea service which I'll definitely have to go back for. We lucked out in the weather, too, as it was in the high 60s or maybe low 70s. There were still a few flowers in bloom, and most of the trees were still solidly in "fall" mode. Ah, Texas. From there, we headed back, and K finally got to stop working. Her parents had invited me to join them for dinner, which was very generous and ended up being a lovely meal - best green beans I've had (I usually barely tolerate green beans, but these were really, really tasty, I wanted seconds) and the endless supply of spritz cookies... :) We all got to talk travel, because all involved parties have traveled a lot, and they're home was filled with a very nice combination of awesome tasteful Christmas stuff and travel pictures and prints and etchings and such from all over the world. I stayed later than I meant to, did something that prompted me to write another one of those slips of paper to burn and from which I will now move on from, and had a pretty good drive home considering how damn tired I had gotten...though I think I might have run over a skunk...

The next was my 28th birthday, and it passed quickly. Oddly, I'll admit I have no clear idea how spent most of the day, though I went for a jog, and played some of my brand new Civ 5, and smiled and was surprisingly gratified by all the wonderful and varied people who wished me a happy birthday on my wall on FB. Then the brother and I headed out to get Rudy's BBQ, which was my birthday dinner of choice, and I positively stuffed myself on white bread, pulled pork, spicy barbecue sauce, brisket, baked potato, and ribs. There was also a narrowly-averted disaster, for when we got back to the house and unpacked everything, the most important item of all was missing: there was no pint of peach cobbler. Rudy's peach cobbler is so rich and sweet and decadent that it has to be eaten to be believed, and it's one of my favorite desserts anywhere (and a big part of why I picked Rudy's for my Bday, there's better BBQ in Texas. NO PEACH COBBLER! We'd payed for peach cobbler, and I wasn't going to sleep that night with out! So bro and I headed back out and rectified that mistake...and I got even more full on a big bowl of wonderful, delicious cobbler. Soooo yummy. It's a good thing I don't live anywhere closer than a 1000 miles+ to a Rudy's.

Oh, right, and I forgot to mention. It was EIGHTY DEGREES on my birthday. My birthday on the shortest day of the year. Yeah, it's NEVER been warm on my birthday in my entire life. It was really, really awesome.

As a whole, the trip went well. Mom, bro and I managed to hardly fight amongst each other at all - which I think just goes to show how far ALL of us have come.

Unfortunately, the frustration came on the 24th, which was the day we got back. It was a very long day. We were all up very early, got back to NYC, I went home, dropped off my luggage, and immediately packed up my gifts for them and headed back out to go to mom's to celebrate our own Christmas. There was some major drama for me that night that I won't go in to here, but it left me very, very upset - upset enough that I actually outreached to someone just to talk about it (though I didn't get to talk to her until the next day). Like, most upset I've been in a while. I think it was just the culmination of a long, vaguely stressful trip (we all walk a little on eggshells amongst each other because we know the potential to fight is there, and we don't WANT to fight, but it means that things can be hard...hey, we don't get to chose our families, and I actually think I'm pretty lucky, we're all good people, we just have our differences) and my having to make some very adult decisions - and be the grown up in a relationship where theoretically I'm supposed to be the child - but for better or for worse the hour-long trip to get home meant I had no choice but to hold myself together (I would not have done so otherwise), and by the time I got home I was feeling better, thanks to a stranger. She was standing at the bus stop. It was 9:30 PM, and she had worked all morning, gone home, barely napped, and was now on her way to work a double shift that wouldn't end until 4 PM on Christmas day. Which was also her birthday. And she was so matter of fact about it, and so okay with it. Her spirits were good. I'd say she actually seemed happy. And I couldn't help but feel like a heel, in comparison to such a rough day, what'd I really have to be so unhappy about? I kinda wish I could tell her how much good she did me, but I'm sure I'll never see her again.

The next day was Christmas. Bro and I headed out to my dads, where we had a very nice visit, opened some gifts, and both left agreeing that it was nice to have a totally drama-free family day. :) We had a good conversation on the way home, too, that helped me settle in to my new role as fiscal lead for the company (which had me a bit freaked...still does, I suppose). That night, I got a very appreciated and needed phone call from Moon, and we talked for a long while.

I had planned to go to Bull Run and Washington DC and visit [livejournal.com profile] sapphohestia on the 26th, but I found out we'd be getting snow, so I canceled the trip - and a damn good thing, since we ended up getting 20 inches of snow. I started working again on Tuesday, after deciding to take Sunday and Monday off as completely as I've taken off any days in recent memory, and then that Monday afternoon and on Wednesday afternoon I took long walks to photograph the snow in Van Cortlandt Park and Central Park (I wrote a post on my other blog with the best images, if you're interested: take a peak!). I got some work done, but mostly I read - for some reason I ended the year with a "comfort reading" kick that was in fact comforting.

New Year's was uneventful. I got dinner with [livejournal.com profile] ultimabaka on the 30th, and on the 31st I can't even think of what I did, though I thought I went out...oh right, I had an unexpected last minute meeting. >< not so nice I guess. On the 1st I also didn't do anything memorable...oh wait, I know what I did - I worked on my novel.

Something I did in all there must have helped, because I entered this week feeling good. On Sunday, the 2nd, mom held our delayed New Years get together. We had planned to go see Tangled and then eat dinner, but then we discovered that an exhibit at the Met that we'd wanted to see was going to be closing the next day. So we changed the plans and went and saw Khublai Khan, an exhibit of awesome Yuan dynasty (12th - 14th century) Chinese art. A lot of it was lovely - there was this great, delicate glass cup and saucer, a beautifully embroidered top, two huge statues of archetypical warriors and bureaucrats, a cool statue of a horse floating on a cloud, some lovely gold saddle ornaments, a painting of an old guy resting in a yard that was really neat and different from other Chinese paintings I've seen, some awesome textiles, and more - I ended up buying the book. Oh! And there was an AMAZING luohan sculpted out of wood that looked like it could start growing again at any moment. So yeah. Good exhibit. Glad I didn't miss it. :)

Monday, my dad came to visit and we had a really good talk. I don't think I realized how similarly he and I process the world around us, and as such his insights in to himself - that have taken him almost 70 years (gah, only four months now! and to think I was freaked when he hit 60!) to come up with.

Other than that, I've been working and trying to get back in to my good habits. Unfortunately, it's been a little difficult because of writing the novel. Oh, writing the novel...

So I've been doing research for this book since October, but I was still woefully unprepared to actually start writing - I just decided I didn't care any more. So I started on the first. And I've spent no less than four hours on it each day since then (it was 6 hours on the 1st, I was up until almost midnight). All of that time has been to write just my 750 words, by the way - I mean, I'm at 4600 right now for the first four days, but that's mostly because of the explanatory footnotes - the novel itself might not even be 750 a day worth of length. (by way of explanations, the novel is in the form of a diary which was discovered by a modern day historian, who has provided an introduction, and who also is providing commentary and footnotes that make it possible for me to write the diary as someone who was present would have, without going in to extended explanations of things that were from the point of view of a contemporary obvious or well known enough not to require a description.) It's working decently well. But.

So on the first day, I confronted my first decision: would my character be in Company E (the Cleveland Guards) or Company F (the Hibernian Guards)? I won't go in to why these are the only choices now, but they are. So I google the first one. Turns out that the Cleveland Guards still exist. So I google the second....and find two types of references.

One says what I thought to be the case - that Co. F of the 1st OVI is the Hibernian Guards. The second set, though, are much more convincing (though smaller in number) when they say that the Hibernian Guards are Co. B of the 8th OVI. So then...who the hell are the people in Co. F of the 1st OVI??? I mean, I got this information from a regimental history written by the actual god-damn veterans, if they don't know who does, right? Except that actually the history was written by veterans of the 1st OVI that re-enlists for 3 years - my folks are from a 3 month unit from earlier in the war. Right, did I mention there are 6 units called the 1st Ohio? Four are the 1st OVI (Ohio Volunteer Infantry) - one from the Mexican War, two from the Civil War, and one from the Spanish-American War - and then there's the 1st Ohio Volunteer Calvary and the 1st Ohio Volunteer Artillery. GAH! So anyway, I spent hours and hours sifting through sources, and as far as I can tell, a primary document from Columbus from around April 19th states that Co. F is the Hibernian Guards, and every subsequent secondary document has quoted from this (especially Whitlaw Reid, who wrote an early source called "Ohio in the War.") As a result, even the Ohio Historical Society thinks Company F is the Hibernian Guards. But it's not. Articles from the Cleveland Plain Dealer make it blatantly clear that when the train left Cleveland on the morning of April 19th, the Hibernian's hadn't recruited up to strength yet, so they didn't go, so only the Cleveland Grays left. The Hibernian Guard hadn't left Cleveland yet there is NO WAY they can be Co. F, no matter what the primary documents say. So who are they? Co. F appears to be the Franklin Grays, a unit from Franklin, OH - south of Dayton.

Oy-fricken-vey. It took me about 6 hours of research and online searching to muddle through that mess, and it left me with a massive conundrum, since I want my character to be from Cleveland for reasons that are actually rather irrelevant (the first being that it's much, much closer for research purposes than Dayton is). So I decided to hand-wave the problem away...that the Hibernian's wanted to remain an all-Irish unit, so when some of their recruits weren't Irish, they shoved them on the train with the Cleveland Grays, and when they got to Columbus, a delicate distinction missed by the idiot doing the paperwork in Columbus. So when the Franklin Grays showed up under-recruited (and they were understrength) the extra "Hibernian Guards" were simply added on to the Company F, which then got called the Guards in the paperwork forever after. It works. Drink the koolaid. And it means that I don't have to worry about my main character not being Irish, and can have a mostly non-Irish squad in a group called the flagrantly Irish "Hibernian Guard."

And that was just the FIRST mess I dealt with! The one I'm sorting through now is "the missing month." The 1st OVI are rushed forward to the front just as fast as trains can take them. They're in Pennsylvania within days of leaving home. But they can't go on to Baltimore because of mob riots there, so they stay in PA. The riots end on the 13th of May and the way clears up, yet the unit doesn't proceed until the 29th of May, and I have no idea why. That was hours last night, except I still haven't figured it out, and I've decided for now to make a note that I have to sort it through, but that I do at least have a vague idea what they were doing, thanks to the autobiography of John Sherman (the brother of W.T.)

...anyway, this whole long bit makes it clear, I think, why the novel is taking so long. Fortunately, I've now got character sketches and I'm slowly but surely moving in to the kind of narrative that is more about the people and less about the history, which should help...once I get there.
Well, this took longer than I have by a lot, and now I'm running late, so I'm gonna stop and leave! Drum lesson, dinner with a friend, should be a nice evening. :)

Date: 2011-01-05 08:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com
You know, I've complained before about the lack of documentation for things happening in the more distant past . . . but sometimes that's a feature, not a bug. <g>

Date: 2011-01-05 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unforth.livejournal.com
My missing month would be awesome except if not for two things:
1. Some sources say they went to Washington "immediately", whereas Senator Sherman forgets to mention that they ever leave for Washington, so I'm not sure exactly when they arrive.
2. My story starts June 6th, it'd be kinda nice if I knew what hey were up to before that.

But it's okay. Im actually not gonna spend more time on that blank at the moment. Also fortunately, the documentation gets steadily better. I want blanks to fill in - just want be sure they are actually blank! :)

I'm still getting used to the balance...I think I'll get there (I'd better, I can't sustain this level of time investment) ...and I'm frustrated but I'm also kinda enjoying myself, frustration and all. It's AMAZING that I can find this all out without leaving my computer chair.

Date: 2011-01-05 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com
I don't know what we would do without the Internet.

Make more stuff up, probably.

Date: 2011-01-06 01:00 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-05 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skygawker.livejournal.com
That's such a good idea, about the burning slips of paper like that! I want to try that!

(I also like the idea of just setting things on fire, but even without the pyro thing it would be a good idea.)

Date: 2011-01-06 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unforth.livejournal.com
It seems to be helping so far. Stuff I probably would have dwelled on for long minutes now is getting written down immediately, and I find I can move on pretty quick once it's down on paper. Haven't gotten to burn anything yet, but I found a nice large glass bowl, so when the time comes... :)

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