Saturday, September 27, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside

by Susan Seyfarth

I'm obsessed with insulation.

I know. Weird, right? I've been living in this house for almost ten years now, & while the heating bills in the deepest, darkest heart of winter can be a little steep, they're not impossible. January always stings but no worse than the year before. We budget for it & we're fine.

But my husband had a boys night out last weekend & when he arrived home at nearly 3 a.m., I was still sitting in front of the computer googling geothermal heat pumps & pellet stoves. And then I laid awake for the rest of the night fretting about unsealed joist spaces, uninsulated kneewalls (don't ask) & the fact that my bathroom fans apparently vent directly into the insulation in my attic rather than out the roof as god intended.

But as I said, this is nothing new. My house has been in exactly this condition for the previous nine winters & we have survived handily. Ice does not form in the toilet bowls overnight & we have not yet had to twist hay into sticks to burn in the stove for warmth, a la Laura Ingalls Wilder.

So what's going on, you ask? Why the obsession with insulation?

I think it's because I'm in the middle of writing a new book. I'm in the middle & I'm terrified.

The middle is a scary place . The middle is where the fun beginning is over & the awesome, crackerjack ending hasn't yet begun. It's the part where all those wonderfully inventive seeds you sowed at the beginning have to do the hard work of becoming that incredible ending they have the potential for. Only now you can't remember exactly how all those dots were supposed to connect. You can't see your way anymore, & you're lost & afraid. You think, "This is it. I used up all my talent on my previous books. I'm finished."

So I'm in that dark place professionally. Then I look outside & see that the world is a dangerous place & the economy is perilously close to the crapper. Is it any wonder that I'm feeling the need to control something? Heck, anything.

So okay, what are my choices? As a stay at home mom, about the only things in my world that fall under my direct control are my writing (not going well; see above), my kids (who, it should be noted, are not all that controllable) & my house.

Which explains why I'm obsessed with battening down the hatches for the coming season of hardship. Winter is bearing down on me & I don't feel any more prepared for it than I do to write the rest of this book. So I'm cracking down hard on the only thing under my control. And googling the crap out of alternative energy. And writing into the void on pure faith that something will turn up.

Something always does.

So what about you? What do you do when you're afraid? What do you grab hold of when the world seems to be spinning out of control? A bowl of ice cream? The remote control? A romance novel? Insulation? Tell me about your geothermal heat pump & your solar panels! Come on. Somebody's got them, right? Fess up!

51 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

ha! He's mine!!!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Well, having got that very mature reflection on the nature of life out of the way, great post, Smoov! I hear you on the control thing. I must say a romance novel is what I reach for when I want the world to leave me alone for a little while. That promise of a happy ever after gets me every time. And heaven protect the writer if I DON'T GET IT!!!!

By the way, good luck with the story. I'm positive it will be another masterpiece, my Golden Heart winning friend!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Anna! Congrats on the GR! Hope he behaves for you. Or misbehaves. Whichever you like. :-)

And I'm with you on needing my HEA when I'm feeling like a pick-me-up. That, plus a bag of pretzel & a cold beverages = hours of enjoyment for me. Throw in a babysitter & I'm in heaven.

Thanks for the good luck on my latest MIP (mess in progress). I can use all the luck I can get!

Anna Campbell said...

Mip is a great term, isn't it, Smoov? We've got Keira to thank for that one. I've put the rooster to work doing housework - with a book due, it's desperately needed. So much so that even old chooks have decided to pitch in!

Keira Soleore said...

Missed. Darn it!!

Keira Soleore said...

Foanna, don't you be calling The Magnificient One an old chook. He might just declare a strike in his union of one rooster.

Smoov, today on NPR, I heard one of these refering to a piece of music as smoov: hip, rich, flowing.

Now, I'm off to read your post and comment on it.

Keira Soleore said...

I so-so-so-oh-man-so hear ya about not having things under your control. Early on, I realized that what I did have under my control was: ME. As in, writing, working-out, yoga, and meditation. Hobbies? Huh? In their place there's laundry, homework, sniffles, dishes, soccer games, two-hour music classes (don't ask!), school spirit days, and whining. And my beef with all of this is that I don't get a pay raise, a moral event, or stock options for doing a perfect load of laundry, say. On some level this is rather funny, but when I'm feeling frustrated and useless, that all Banditas better beware.

Anna Campbell said...

KEIRA!!! Where you been, gal?

Donna MacMeans said...

Oh - Smoov - I feel your pain. I was in that exact place when we were in San Francisco with a deadline looming.

My advice - twist it. Now's the time to spin everything in a new direction.

My refuge when the world spins out of control - bank reconciliations. Seriously. I can always count on the laws of addition and subtraction (especially subtraction) and I can lose my creative lack of control in the sheer beauty of making everything balance. I'm responsible for five checking accounts. The statements can't come soon enough, LOL.

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Susan!

My great pick-me-up for when life spins me out of control is calling one of my daughters for a famous kid quote.

The latest -- Precious two-year-old Annie's taking a bath and looks up at her mom, saying, "Mom would you be very disappointed if I pee in the tub?"

That helps every time!

limecello said...

Susan - Insulation is a better thing to obsess over/freak out about then say, a lot. When I'm super stressed, I clean. Or cook. A lot.
I've been known to bust out the toothbrushes, q-tips, and toothpicks to get at minuscule spots in cleaning sprees.
I cleaned so much I think I started to take off the "design" of the bathroom sink in an apartment in college. I distinctly remember having cleaned everything so much I had to go outside and windex my car windows - only it was before winter finals, and so cold the windex kept freezing. Ack.

Pat Cochran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Cochran said...

Oops! I lost my comment!

Congrats to Ms. Anna on the Golden One!

Just got our power back after Ike
on Thursday evening and got internet service back this evening.

Will be at a family gathering to
celebrate our youngest daughter's
graduation from college tomorrow
and hope to be back to the Lair
on Sunday. I have certainly
missed all of you!

Pat Cochran

Helen said...

Anna yes he is all yours for the day and I am glad he is helping you with the housework so as you can write

Susan great post we all get to that point at some time I have just had a call from work someone rang in sick and because I am the superviser even on my days off they ring me I have 4 days of this weekend and loving it and now they want me to go into work from 8-00pm to 6-00am not this little black duck I have a book to read I sorted out the problem for them and now I can get back to reading because I need to unwind and that is how I do it read or send for the grandchildren to liven me up.
Hang in there Susan the book will be great I can't wait till the day I can pick up one of your books to read.

Have Fun
Helen

Helen said...

Pat
It is good to see you back safe and sound how are things in your area now all going good I hope we have missed you.

Have Fun
Helen

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Helen,

Things are looking much better now, although there are still some folks
who are waiting to have their power
restored. We are all giving thanks
to the crews who came in from all
over the country and even Canada to
help in the restorations. They are
true angels!

Pat Cochran

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, fantastic to hear you're OK. It's been an awful time, hasn't it?

Christine Wells said...

Susan, as usual, excellent post! I know what you mean about the mid-novel slump. Doesn't everyone? It's usually when i start getting my best ideas for other books. Sometimes, I do allow myself to wander and write something else for a while. Sometimes I indulge myself with an absolute binge on a writer who doesn't write in my subgenre, eg Linda Howard or Nora Roberts. But if insulation works for you, you go, girl! At least that's a useful mode of procrastination:)

congrats on the bird, Anna!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anna--the GR does HOUSEWORK?? Good lord, I'm going to have to start getting up earlier. I need a house-work-doing rootster. I wonder if he does insulation...

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats on the GR Anna! If I had known he does housework I would have gotten up earlier too, or stayed up later as the case may be.
I have the tendency to pick up a book when life gets to be too much to handle. Not only do I go to England (Scotland, France, Ireland, etc,) to escape I go back to the 1800's (Ha! They'll never find me here!)
Susan, I am a firm believer in insulation, having lived in a house once that had NONE! No lie, the wind would blow and the ceiling tiles would lift up and my curtains would move around the windows. It was not good, not good at all. I have seen ice freeze on my electic outlets.
When I finally bought a house that was the main thing I checked on, is it insulated and how.
Jo, I totally lost it over the kid quote, bless her little heart, when you gotta go you just gotta go.
Pat so very good to know you are safe and hopefully the worst is over.
Keira, my MIA friend, I know part of the reason you have been gone tell us the rest of the story.
I think I may have to re-read The Dangerous Duke to escape today, three teen-aged boys on the agenda and I am going to go chasing after a Duke!

Louisa Cornell said...

Congrats on nabbing your own French maid, er hen, er Golden Rooster! Does he wear a cute outfit when he cleans?? Send him my way next! I need the help!

Susan, I understand completely being at approximately the same place in my current MIP! Scares the heck out of you, doesn't it?

My refuge of choice is a good historical romance novel, curling up in bed with the furry foot warmers and having a great DVD playing at the same time. And of course - CADBURY'S!

The current financial swan dive is very disconcerting. I am SO glad the dear DH insisted that we pay this piece of land off! One more payment and this piece of junk mobile home will be mine as well. Not much, but hey, it IS a place to live as long as I can come up with the taxes every year.

Keep plugging, Smoov, I have a feeling your best is yet to come and that is saying something!

Eva S said...

Congrats Anna, I'd love someone to do my housework too! Now that I'm back to work after 8 months at home I could use some help here at home.And at work, sometimes it seems like they all have been waiting for me to come back and solve their problems...
When I get home I do as Dianna, escape to the 1800's with lots of chokolate and forget about everything else!!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Keira wrote: Smoov, today on NPR, I heard one of these refering to a piece of music as smoov: hip, rich, flowing.

Wow. Kinda makes me sad my claim to smoovness wasn't quite so ironic. I'd love to be hip, rich OR flowing. All three would be an embarassment of riches & I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Keira wrote: And my beef with all of this is that I don't get a pay raise, a moral event, or stock options for doing a perfect load of laundry, say.

Amen, sister. The children are clothed, healthy & (relatively speaking) well-adjusted. The house isn't falling down around us & I recently found the moral fortitude to make a dent in Mount Laundry. Where's my performance bonus??

Susan Seyfarth said...

Donna wrote: My refuge when the world spins out of control - bank reconciliations.

I totally believe this. There is something SO reassuring about accounting, isn't there? The absolute beauty of knowing that if there is a credit there absolutely will be a matching debit. It's just a matter of finding it & putting the two together. It makes me happy every time I think about it.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jo wrote: Precious two-year-old Annie's taking a bath and looks up at her mom, saying, "Mom would you be very disappointed if I pee in the tub?"

LOL! My kids don't even ask permission.

Susan Seyfarth said...

limecello wrote: When I'm super stressed, I clean. Or cook. A lot.
I've been known to bust out the toothbrushes, q-tips, and toothpicks to get at minuscule spots in cleaning sprees.


Oh my. Will you come over? Please? I have a feeling this insulation project is going to get messy & I may need cleaning-inclined reinforcements. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Pat Cochran wrote: Just got our power back after Ike on Thursday evening and got internet service back this evening.

Pat! Welcome back to cyberspace! We've missed you & are so glad Ike hasn't done you any permanent damage! I must say, listening to the stories of people who've been impacted by Ike has certainly put my own little insulation panic into perspective.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Helen wrote: now they want me to go into work from 8-00pm to 6-00am not this little black duck I have a book to read

I have to say, I like your style, Helen! Glad you got everything sorted out & can get back to enjoying your book. And thanks for the vote of confidence that someday I'll hit the shelves. Just imagining it gives me a fun little thrill. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christine wrote: I indulge myself with an absolute binge on a writer who doesn't write in my subgenre, eg Linda Howard or Nora Roberts. But if insulation works for you, you go, girl!

Ooooh, good one, Christine! The only thing I love more than reading a great book is sneaking a great book when I know I ought to be doing something else. Guilt only heightens the pleasure for me. (Is that wrong? It feels a little wrong.) I remember sneaking a quick chapter in here or there back when I was working outside the home. I'd tuck the book into some papers on my desk & pretend to by studying some report. Mmmmm, good stuff.

Susan Seyfarth said...

hrdwrkdmom wrote: I am a firm believer in insulation, having lived in a house once that had NONE! No lie, the wind would blow and the ceiling tiles would lift up and my curtains would move around the windows. It was not good, not good at all. I have seen ice freeze on my electic outlets.

Oh my goodness! Okay, now I feel like a whimpy whiner! Ice on the outlets? Geez. The worst that happens around here is that I wear my scarf & hat indoors. I'm a whimpy whiner when it comes to being cold, but I'm a stickler for keeping the thermostat low, so I bundle up. My husband comes home his climate controlled office where he's down to shirt sleeves by lunch & I'm bundled up like Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Louisa wrote: My refuge of choice is a good historical romance novel, curling up in bed with the furry foot warmers and having a great DVD playing at the same time. And of course - CADBURY'S!

This brings up a great point, Louisa. When I writing or reading, I can't have anything else going on at the same time, media-wise. I can't listen to music or watch a movie. I can of course eat. Nothing gets between me & my ice cream. But can you effectively read or write while something else is playing in the background? It's not a distraction?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Eva S wrote: When I get home I do as Dianna, escape to the 1800's with lots of chokolate and forget about everything else!!

There's just something about a historical novel, isn't there? I don't know what it is--immersing yourself in an entirely different world or time, or just the mannered language, the social structure, the clothing. I don't know. But I, too, turn to historicals when I really want escape.

Caren Crane said...

Anna, congrats on the GR. Um...hide the silver. *g*

Susan, I SO HEAR YOU on Googling geothermal insulation. When life feels out of control, I start planning vacations. Why? I think because I can make concrete plans, print out maps, make reservations, book airline tickets and feel like at some point in the future, I will be in control of EVERYTHING that is happening.

Of course, anyone who has ever taken a vacation is having a good laugh over that! *g* But in its infancy, travel is completely in your control. If only it stayed that way.

And yes, the middle of a book inevitably sends me racing for the internet to plan...something - anything!

Kirsten said...

Susan, you know a heat pump or solar panels won't do a darn bit of good if you don't get the insulation first right? :-) As your local energy efficiency spokesperson, let me be the first to tell you -- hie thee to your local heating and cooling contractor for a duct sealing bid! Get that insulation, girl! There's probably great rebates to be had right now from Excel (I know there are here). Go forth and research them -- you have the perfect excuse, because the earth will thank you! :-)

But as to your other question...when I'm stressed, I must admit I don't seek other outlets for my stress. I HAVE to dive in and make progress on whatever I'm worried about. The thought of putting aside what's troubling me to read a romance novel actually gives me hives. I think it's a sign of mania, actually. **g** I can't rest until progress has been made and I've relieved some of the stress. THEN, when I'm back in control, I can relax a little and do what comes naturally -- being anal and cleaning the kitchen. ;-)

Hugs on the MIP! You'll get over the middle before you know it and slide to the finish!

Christie Kelley said...

Susan,

We looked at geothermal and solar panels before doing the remodel. No, we didn't go for it. With the cost of the remodel both were just too expensive to add in right now.

Now, where do I get scared in the writing phase--the ending. From the black moment to the happy ever after. It scares me to death because I want it to be perfect and believable.

I'm off to the community fall festival in the rain. Tomorrow didn't look any better so they decided to go ahead today. Truth is, they had to cook the pig before it went bad. Thankfully the GR is safe down under.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Caren Crane wrote: When life feels out of control, I start planning vacations. Why? I think because I can make concrete plans, print out maps, make reservations, book airline tickets and feel like at some point in the future, I will be in control of EVERYTHING that is happening.

Oh, Caren, that's it right there, isn't it? The illusion that if you seize control of SOMETHING you've seized control of EVERYTHING. Like nothing can go wrong because, by god, you have TICKETS.

And yet, it's such a satisfying little fiction. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Kirsten wrote: Susan, you know a heat pump or solar panels won't do a darn bit of good if you don't get the insulation first right? :-)

Yup. Sadly, this occurred to me only after I'd stayed awake all night thinking about geothermal heat. Happily, it occurred to me before I went & weatherstripped all my windows. :-) Because apparently, closing up one or two leaks in your attic & sealing those ducts will save you more than replacing all your leaky windows.

So I have a three HVAC/insulation guys coming next week to give me bids & I have an electrician coming, too, so I can fix a few nagging issues (like the bathroom fans venting into the insulation rather than out the roof) before I lay in a whole bunch more insulation. :-)

And I stand in awe of your discipline, as always. A girl who can be terrified of something, who tackles it head on, without the benefit of procrastination? Hats off, m'dear. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christie wrote: Now, where do I get scared in the writing phase--the ending. From the black moment to the happy ever after. It scares me to death because I want it to be perfect and believable.

I hear that. My only problem is that by the time I've gotten 3/4 of the way into the book, there's usually only one way out. I don't have much choice. If the ending's going to blow, it's going to blow. I just have to write it. I figure I'm going to go back & change the beginning & the middle anyway, right? So why spend too much time worrying about writing the perfect ending that I'm probably going to have to sacrifice big chunks of anyway?

Probably not the most mature approach, but there you have it. It works for me. :-)

And I totally understand that the price tag of geothermal got out of hand. I nearly died when I realized that I was looking at a bare minimum 20k expenditure.

But if I ever build from scratch & am already shelling out for a giant hole in the ground? You can bet I'll shell out a bit more & invest in geothermal.

Joan said...

My geothermal pump? Is that anything like long johns?

:-)

I'll do you one better on the sagging middle of a WIP. I'm going through a drooping middle with my SYNOPSIS!!! Say it with me. I HATE SYNOPSIS!!!

I'm good with reading, taking a hot bath, getting in my comfy clothes when I'm stressed. Watching a favorite TV Show (Yes, I now have every episode of Andy Griffth memorized)and just trying to "let it go".

But that didn't work too well last week after Ike. By hour 32 I was a knot of "stuck in the dark, no internet" tension.

I've been having chocolate IV infusions since then.

Kirsten said...

I wouldn't call it discipline -- I think it's really more about insecurity. LOL. If you ask me, procrastination takes a significant amount of confidence. You must know, deep down, that you'll be able to pull something fabulous off in the end. My "must tackle it immediately" mantra is really just profound terror that I'll never be able to accomplish it in time otherwise!

Nancy said...

Great post, Susan! I try to read, rather than eat. I used to write for escapism, but that was before I started trying to sell what I wrote. As you note, this selling thing induces new forms of anxiety.
So I read, maybe go to the gym, or, if all else fails, clean the shower. Cleaning generates a sense, however temporary, of control!

I put my first novel aside when I hit the middle because I reaized I didn't know how to go on from there. I wrote fan fiction for several years--until the dh pointed out the the stories I was writing, if put in normal manuscript style instead of cheapo, crammed-for-making-many-copies format would, in fact, be novel-length. But I still don't like middles.

Anna, congrats on snagging the bird. Make him work!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joan wrote: I'll do you one better on the sagging middle of a WIP. I'm going through a drooping middle with my SYNOPSIS!!! Say it with me. I HATE SYNOPSIS!!!

Yes. Yes, I do. I also hate synposes. They are possibly the only thing I hate more than writing the middle of the story. I've heard some people say they can write a nice, detailed synopsis, then simply write the book around that. And it all falls neatly into place, because you did the heavy lifting of figuring out what was going to happen before you sat down to write your first draft. But I put this rumor in the same camp as the stories I've heard about babies who sleep through the night at two months. Urban myths. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Kirsten wrote: If you ask me, procrastination takes a significant amount of confidence. You must know, deep down, that you'll be able to pull something fabulous off in the end.

This is an awesome insight. And it also allows me to feel way better about my bad habit. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Nancy wrote: put my first novel aside when I hit the middle because I reaized I didn't know how to go on from there.

Did you ever go back to it, Nancy? Or did you start something new & chalk it up to a learning experience? Because the temptation is so great to start something else, & I worry that if I give in I'll end up with a pile of starts & no finishes. I've heard people say it's beneficial to get the creative juices flowing again by "cheating" on their story by starting something else (Mme, I think? Anybody else?) but I can't wrap my mind around that. If I drop the momentum, I worry I'll never get it back.

Louisa Cornell said...

ADD, Susan! At times I can write, listen to music or have the television on low AND deal with playing animals! Other times I need complete quiet, but for the most part I write while listening to music.

I think my day job is the reason I sometimes need the noise. At work I make a hundred little decisions per day, sometimes several at once. I never in a million years thought I would be able to manage what is essentially a separate business inside a place like Wal-Mart. There are still times when I think "I can't believe I am doing this!" Lets just say I fake competence REALLY well!

One day a bread vendor came to ask me about another vendor stealing his space on the shelves. In the meantime I had a customer asking me where something was AND I had a cake decorator asking me what colors to mix to come up with crimson icing. I answered the customer, shot out the colors to mix to the decorator, signed a requisition and then told the vendor to take his space back and put the other vendor's merchandise in a buggy with a note from me saying "don't do this again." The guy was stunned. He said "How do you do that?" I said "I'm a woman. I can multi-task. Have a nice day!"

So when I sit down to write having just one thing to concentrate on can be great! And at other times I need just one more thing so that I can focus better on my story. Does that make any sense at all?

By the way, Smoov! Got my RWR today. Great photo of you with your Golden Heart booty!

Joan said...

And it all falls neatly into place, because you did the heavy lifting of figuring out what was going to happen before you sat down to write your first draft. But I put this rumor in the same camp as the stories I've heard about babies who sleep through the night at two months. Urban myths. :-)

You've heard that rumor too? Do you think it's true? Or are they eating some weird mushrooms or something?

:-)

Louisa Cornell said...

They had better be eating mushrooms, Joan! If there is a writer anywhere who does this I vote we sic the Golden Rooster, Demetrius and Company AND the cabana boys on them to do them severe bodily harm!

Joan said...

Golden Rooster, Demetrius and Company AND the cabana boys on them to do them severe bodily harm!


Louisa, why give them something they might enjoy?

*VBEG*

Louisa Cornell said...

ROFLMAO, Joan!!! You are one wicked, evil woman! No wonder I like you!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joan! Louisa! Naughty girls! :-)

But, just in case, are we employing the cabana boys as hired muscle? Because I'm sort of stuck in the middle of my latest book & could use some, um, motivation.

:-)