Monday, December 31, 2012

The Geologic Scale

Parenting is frustrating. I was not gifted with the patience gene that I see so many of my friends with. Of course, they laugh and deny they have such a thing themselves. But their kids are breathing, well-adjusted, well-educated, well-behaved, and they have often dealt with mountains of circumstances that would have me skittering back to the cave, whimpering, to hide under a mountain of old blankets with my favorite stuffed animal.

Don't get me wrong. In public my children are angels. In fact, of all of the home-schooling cliches out there, I would never have guessed the one I would meet most often would be the 180-degree opposite of what I had heard so much about. "Pardon me, do you home-school?" Yes...? "It's so obvious, because your children are well behaved, articulate, helpful, intelligent...." Whereupon I look around frantically, wondering where my children have gone to. You know, the ones that test me to destruction, refuse to do chores until I have done my psychotic Klingon kabuki, and in their adolescent glory still expect me to do something about their siblings' breathing habits. It's bothering me! Make it stop! But I guess that's one of the perquisites of parenthood: Everybody else gets to see the polished product while we're the ones who get to see nothing but endless vistas of polishing.

Sometimes I just have to lock myself in the bathroom and indulge in some deep breathing exercises (I categorically deny that this is where I keep my stash of dark chocolate and sci/fi books) and remind myself of just how far we have come since I brought the little wiggling footballs home. Of just how long it has been since I looked down on my first born and thought - You're sending me home with this fragile creature? Are you out of your mind? I don't know anything about babies! EB is now as tall as I am, and MB and LB aren't that far behind, so maybe the on the job training took.

I think about other issues that simply ceased to be issues as time went on. MB still has a daredevil streak that makes me think of adulthood in terms of if, not when, but at least we've grown out of the "If you can climb it, you can jump from it" phase, and it appears that the "It's 6 a.m. and neither parent is awake, so let's walk 13 miles to my friend's house without telling anybody, despite me not having the faintest idea of where I'm going" bit has gone away for now. They all know how to do the chores and, once the PKK has been gone through with varying degrees of intensity, do them quite well. I'm pretty sure the PKK will go the way of the dinosaurs when the Banshees are old enough, but, like Cosby, I'm also pretty certain they'll be living with somebody else when it happens.

The logic circuit is almost fully installed in EB. I cannot take credit, only advantage whenever possible. It's nice to be able to explain (according to EB, in huge, nauseating detail) what I want, what I expect, why I want it and why I think it's reasonable to expect it. I get what I want how I want it maybe 15-25 percent of the time, but five years ago that wasn't even possible. LB's logic circuit is beginning to integrate; in a year I can expect to have conversations with all of them that they'll all understand. They won't often like or agree with or even do what I'm telling them to do, but they'll understand it.

Then pfff! they'll be gone. At some point they are going to be fully mature and I am going to be sidelined, no longer central to the game. In fact, that slow inexorable geologic shift is already happening. EB wants to go to another school, private or public doesn't matter as long as it isn't here cooped up with me. And I am going to let that happen just as soon as the study habits have been stepped up to public school speed. I don't want it to happen. Wait a minute, weren't you a wiggling little newborn just last week? Where are you going? But I'll let it happen. Because as a parent I'm going to be wrapped up in the parenting until it is no longer needed, and then I'll step back. It looks like eternity from the inside, and then suddenly it's all over. Because that's life on a geologic scale.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

erm...Bah, Humbug

Christmas week left me feeling distinctly unChristmassy. This is normally my time of year, I plan for it, I plot, I find items all year round that would be the perfect thing for any of the Banshees or DBS or Mom-in-law. All of which I did this year with my normal amount of enthusiasm right until Christmas actually got here. A few days before Christmas I realized I had a profound case of "meh". Christmas got here this year because of inertia, I think, and because the Banshees would have been unhappy if it hadn't happened. All I'm doing now is enjoying the whole get to sleep-in thing and looking forward to getting back to normal.

Okay, the mom-in-law dropping by Christmas morning? Loved that. Also loved the look on the Banshees' faces when they got to the gift, the one they never even saw coming but was what they wanted more than anything else under the tree, and DBS loved what I got him so that was totally cool. But me? Meh.

What I was happy about? I planted my two Wickson crabapple trees and so far nothing has eaten them, which is good, because they came to me as beautiful as can be expected for two bare-root, year-old mail order apple trees and I want them to thrive and become more beautiful. They are supposed to get as tall as 14 feet and to be very good pollinators for a variety of other apple trees, which why I settled on them, considering I have very little self-restraint when I get into a new enthusiasm. (Say it with me: Wickson, Arkansas Black, Sierra Beauty, Gravenstein, Winesap, Blue Pearmain, Pumpkin Russet, Wolf River, Saint Edmund's Russet, Newtown Pippin, Black Twig, Foxwhelp, Niedzwetzkyana, Red October, Twenty Ounce, Victoria Limbertwig, Winterstein. (Italics are the ones I don't have, but would like. Some day. When I get more land than I have now! But color it as good as gone that Wolf River and Saint Edmund's Russet are going to make an appearance on the current acreage.) I see a micro-market garden in the suburban desert, and the mini-orchard is part of my starting that eensy project.

I lost my neurotic hen to a very determined coyote, but none of the other birds were harmed. Maybe this will be the year I find my Trout runner ducks again. It's a good, tidy little dream to have. I'm happy with the winter this year because I look into the back yard and see the bones of possibility - if the weed trees come down here, then I'll have room for a couple of apple trees more. If I get the land weeded and worked and shaped to my purposes, then I'll have room for the duck pasturage and Hopping Goose Farms might be able to produce one or two veggies and some staple crops. I might be able to put some root storage in back there, in time, with hard work and patience and a touch of money.

I am happy that, while I don't have the money quite yet to spend on getting Hopping Goose off to a roaring start, I do have a few dollars and dimes here and there to do the small and necessary things. I'm grateful beyond words that I have the money to pay the bills we run. I am happy that we have the possibilities we have, so that even if our modest dreams seem beyond our reach, getting to the foothills of those dreams is not.

So the Christmas magic flatlined a little for me this year. There is other magic.

Friday, December 21, 2012

And One More Thing...Like I Have Any Room For It...

A friend proposed co-authoring a book. She is currently in her latest manifestation of the 72-hour day, month-long work-week phase while I'm winding down from one - we alternate, I think, because the universe can only hold so much.

I said yes.

Of course.

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bleh

NaNo was a bust. I was too far behind and all of my efforts to catch up resulted in a crazed attempt to garner word count at the expense of...well, everything. I should like the story to be a story when I'm done with it. So when it got to the point where there was plenty of blather but no actual furtherance of the real writing, I quit. It was a lot harder to quit than I thought it would be. I wanted it. I can, however, garner 50,000 words at any time of the year - even in 30 days if I so wish - so perhaps this novel is merely postponed.

On the bright side, in the last week of NaNo, when I was struggling with the realization that my frantic wordsmithing was in service of all of the wrong things, one of my Facebook buddies introduced me to Coursera. And not just any course, my absolute Holy Grail of Courses, an honest to gods How To Think class. Not a What To Think Class, an honest-to-goodness HOW to think class. I have been searching for something like this for more than a decade, ever since I realized that I could spot an argument that looked specious as all get out but that I could not put my finger on exactly why it was a bad argument. Which is absolutely infuriating because one of the first things you need to do in order to counter a bad argument is to spot why it's bad. So, yes, How To Think, sign me up. Of course I'm already about a week behind because of the fall-out from NaNo and the pressure to actually keep the Banshees alive, functioning, and possibly actually learning things, but I suspect that I'll spend the rest of today catching up.

MB is baking bread. EB is showing off hairstyles, LB is probably buried in a book and ignoring her chores.  After our knit-together at the local bookstore we're going to come home, bake gingerbread cookies, hunt up civics lessons, and I'll try to persuade them that if they can hear the clickety clickety click of my fingers on a keyboard, then it probably isn't a good time to try to strike up an in-depth conversation about the basic unfairness of being themselves in a family that is trying to teach them some semblance of civilization. Because that conversation will not go well at all. Welcome to Monday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Finish Line Keeps Receding

8232.

I need to write 8232 words today, and tomorrow, and Friday.

Oh yes. And I need to make sure the Banshees are fed and watered and educated.

And that the house doesn't burn down.

Not to mention there are geese and chickens and ducks that would prefer to be fed. And watered.

I have preserves to pick up at 4:15 p.m. and yes, they are worth the break in the writing. Moonstruck Farms apple butter and spiced peach preserves are always worth the trip.

But oh. I am so behind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Miscellaneous Blog Post Blues

Let's see.

I'm in day 27 of NaNoWriMo and so far behind I think I'm officially immortal. Procrastination means that now, instead of writing a measly 1667 words per day, I have to write a shade under 10,000 per day in order to make my 50,000 word count. Okay, I can do it, but I can't guarantee these words are going to be quality, or even coherent. But I guess that's what editing is all about, right? I just won't be able to do any editing in December because we're going to be taking 30 days out to study civics. Not sure exactly  how - that's the penalty for making it up as you go - but I'm sure I'm going to be raiding the local public library again. Have I mentioned how much I love that place? We didn't quite get done with Sumeria in October, so we're going to be revisiting that in December as well. Between that and holiday knitting I'm not sure how much sleep I'm going to be getting in the next 33 days.

On the bright side, the Eldest Banshee has a much higher word count than I do toward her qualifying novel. I may berate myself for my awkward ways, but I'm pretty proud of my budding novelist. MB and LB are doing okay but they haven't taken to it the way she has. I told her that if she will let me edit it, I will get her a hard-bound copy through Lulu.com. I think it's a win-win - I haven't been able to finish anything worth professional binding, but I just love editing and I've always wanted to formally lay-out a book, and her book gives me a great opportunity.

Don't tell DBS but I have one or two...okay, maybe a hair under a dozen...fruit trees coming in over the next four months. That's a little more than he was bargaining for and I really have no idea where I'm going to put them all, but, well, my enthusiasm got away from me again. There are hundreds of apple varieties and I had to narrow them down to how many? I did narrow them down, I promise I did, but I still ended up with 8 apple trees. Gravenstein, Winesap, Sierra Beauty, Blue Pearmain, Pumpkin Russet, Arkansas, and two Wickson crabapples. Do I have to mention the English Morello cherry (pies, preserves, canning) and Sweetheart cherry (fresh eating)? At least I held myself to just one peach tree, if only because I'm not sure I'm going to have enough land for anything else.

LB is our only successful gardener at this point. She took some seriously over-ripe sweet potatoes and buried them in the front yard. After a few months of careful watering she dug them up last week, and I made candied sweet potatoes with half of the results. The other half she's saving for baked sweet potato. I asked her if she wanted more sweet potato slips for the Spring, and received an enthusiastic yes! I'm hoping she leaves me enough room for the russets, reds, and fingerlings I want to plant.

Our local credit union branch is closing down. Darn it, darn it, darn it. It was located in a local grocery store and the grocery store, if I understand it correctly, is closing its doors, so no more favorite credit union branch. Pff. It makes me want to go kick rocks. They had the friendliest and nicest of people as tellers there, and I am going to miss them. Phooey.

Monday, October 8, 2012

And Sometimes You Fall Off Of The Face Of The Earth

I dream big and then am paralyzed by my dreams.

Turn land that I'm living on into a potager, maybe a micro-ranch, possibly a market garden? Sure.

Start a business? Why not? And how many? We've got spinning, knitting, soaping, jewelry, general purpose artwork, welding, editing, the aforementioned market garden, and a few others that could be viable with a little capital and a lot of work.

Home-school Banshees until they graduate high school? Yeah, I can do that.

All of it at once? By just one person? Now you can see why I might look at the work load I've given myself and then curl up in a little ineffective ball of overwhelmed.  Other people do these things and make it look, if not effortless, at least possible. But one of the earliest lessons I ever absorbed was how to fail and let me tell you I've gotten damned good at it over the years. It's a self-destructive little lesson, insidious, poisonous, and I have had the devil's own time learning how to combat it.

It doesn't help that I've been in mourning. Nobody has died, it isn't like that, but a couple of friendships have been put on hiatus. One just drifted away - there was never any real sense that they wanted to the end the friendship, it was just that their lives just got so busy and the get togethers we used to have started to conflict with new events they were more interested in, and there just weren't enough hours in the week for the life they wanted and the friendship we had. Life happens. Nobody is the bad guy. The other friendship, well, she's the sister I wish I'd been born with but she's undergoing a couple of major life transitions and, like a true sister of the spirit if not the dna, is trying to shovel 72 hours into 24 in order to cope. There just isn't time for me anymore. I understand, but these were my foundational friendships, the sort of people you could call at two in the morning if you needed emergency help of any sort, and now I've got huge hole in my life where these people used to be. I don't make friends easily, and in any case the 2-a.m. friends are very very rare indeed. I'll make new friends, or at least have friendly acquaintances, but for now I'm in mourning. People are moving away from me. It's never easy. It always hurts.

Then there's the situation I find myself in. The job I had at the beginning of the year did our finances a tremendous amount of good, but that tremendous amount of good just got us from deep in the hole to ground level. There is no overestimating how good it feels to be able to pay the bills on time, but I may never wholly get over the dread of not having enough. And these dreams I have? Well, those dreams cost money that I don't have. Sometimes that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, or pry myself away from the computer monitor for the rest of the day. I haven't been getting to my usual knit-meets or to the local homeschool park day. I just haven't had the energy or the inclination.

That's been going on for the better part of two months. It took me a while to recognize it and then a couple of weeks of wrestling with the issues, and then just a grim realization that if I want to feel better eventually I am going to have to do a few things that I really don't want to do, and I need to do them now. Like exercise. I feel better after I've gone a few rounds on the treadmill, even if I don't really see me losing a huge amount of weight that way. Screw the weight, I need to have motion, and even half an hour on the treadmill makes me feel better. I need to start getting up earlier in the morning. I'm a night owl, that has always been my inclination, but I find that if I can get up before everybody else in the household I can actually have a more productive day. I'm not even going to bother to analyze why, why right now is not important. Getting up before everybody else in the house is important. These two actions may not get me everything on my wish list but they go a heck of a long way to making me feel better and do more.

Hey, I got up early this morning and I actually had breakfast. And now I'm blogging. In about ten minutes I'm going to be facing off against that treadmill again (coffee first. must. have. coffee.) and after that - well, I have been promised a Wickson crabapple tree if I get the front yard cleared. I really, really want that tree. I'm not feeling un-depressed, not yet, but motion is life and I mean to keep moving.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

DBS said that if I weed the front yard, I can get my apple tree. If I clear the entire yard, front, back, and sides, I can get a couple of new ducklings.

Now, there's a man who knows how to motivate someone!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Dual Boot Dynamic

I'm not sure if I'm a proto-geek or an aspiring polymath. I'm not really all that computer gifted, although I find that building your own is a heck of a lot of fun and one of these days when I find the time and concentration I'm going to learn a whole bunch of computer languages. Or maybe just one or two. I'm middle-aged, there isn't a whole bunch of time to get it all done anymore. It's that last sentence that probably pushes me more into aspiring polymath territory than anything else. There simply aren't just a couple of interests I want to pursue. Left to my devices (and given a handy extra hundred years or two) I want to pursue lots of interests. My patron saint would probably be Thomas Jefferson, warts and all.

I'm not a huge windows fan. Insert your favorite diatribe here, as I have probably shared in at least part of that viewpoint over the years. Vista was my main motivation to try Linux and Ubuntu has been my variety for several years now. Love it. If I was young, unmarried, and childless, I'd probably bounce around a few other distros to see what was out there (and spare me, I already know that there are probably polyamorous partners out there juggling world-class careers and a passel of children. Mazel tov, congrats and all that, but you're that talented. We're talking about me and my capacities right now!) but Ubuntu fits me and that's where I stuck. I keep windows around because I have to, but I keep Linux around because I love it. I'm slightly more talented than your average pet rock when utilizing it, but I love it.

I had to go without for several months because my newest computer build had a microscopic hard drive on it and there was no way I could run a dual boot. When I finally got back in the game, Ubuntu had decided to go with a totally different way of running a desktop, so there has been a learning curve. I'm still not completely sure I'm going to be able to navigate around this new way of doing things without at least a large ball of twine and a big stick of chalk, but once I got done playing around I found the same old dynamic seems to be working. If I'm in windows I waste time, if the Ubuntu is up then I'm trying to be productive with something.

Yeah, I'll hang around Sullivan's place. I'm a political junkie and I have to have my fix. Same with Maddow. But sooner rather than later I'll pull out the assignments I need to write for the Banshees, or start plotting out a short story, or layout the planting beds for Hopping Goose (I swear I'm going to get that potager going if it kills me and harelips every mule left in Texas!), or look up my fairly dormant blog system and make an entry or three. I'm sure this duality of approach says something about me, I'm just not sure what.

What I do know is that I've spent a good six weeks in a haze of some sort. I haven't really wanted to do anything, go anywhere, interact with anyone. I've just wanted to stay in my cave and be very very still. Of course, with a mate and several Banshees, that was a wash from the very beginning, but still: I didn't go anywhere and didn't do anything unless I had to. I knew something was wrong but I just wasn't doing a very good job of snapping myself out of it.

Changes come when they come. A few days ago, I actually made myself breakfast instead of scrounging for whatever was easy and quick. I started thinking about what I'd written on this blog and how far from those goals I had fallen. I pointed out to the echo chamber of my own skull that failure could always happen following an effort, but failure always followed lack of effort. I watched my son, my lovely MB, as he cheerfully made some of the most gawdawful, mis-proportioned figurines out of polymer clay and then, oh then, they began to get better. A little better, and a little better, and then a whole lot better. It isn't that he doesn't know how to fail, it's that he accepts imperfect first tries as the price of learning how to do better. And doing better is very, very important to him. More important than not getting it done at all for fear of never doing it right.

So I fall, so I get back up again. So I falter, so I learn, so I go on. It may very well be too late to get everything done in this lifetime that I want to do, but that was probably true the day I was born; there is just so much to do around here that no time would ever truly be enough. The weather is cooler now; autumn is here, my favorite season, the season I have always associated with new beginnings. And I have switched from windows to Ubuntu again; things are beginning to look up.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I think I'm going to have to give up on political sites and pretty much everything that makes the internet interesting to me until after the election. I'm too wound up about it all. It's living in my skull rent free and it no longer has my permission to do so.

Resolutions: Sumeria still needs conquering. So does NaNoWriMo. And I promise to read How To Not Give a Fuck (dot com) once a day until I feel better or the whole blithering mess just goes away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How do you get over feeling like you're a failure, and that everything you touch or dare to dream about will only end in failure?

Have got to get a handle on this. There isn't much life left to waste.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Beginnings of a Very Bad Science Fiction Movie

The office chair has been purchased. If I had the funds I'd get two or three more. I checked out my backsliding ways and decided that I've slid far enough, it's time to get back to the grind. I haven't been dedicating myself to writing the way I should, so here I am. There's also a facebook group/yahoo group/loose federation of writers on the internet that is nudging me every now and then, so more regular writing and (gasp!) even more fiction writing is on the horizon. I'm keeping a pad and pen by the bed so I can jot notes down as I'm getting ready for bed. For some reason that's my most productive idea time right now. It probably has something to do with my penchant for last-minute stuff. The short story I'm working on has been kicking around in my head for a while, so it's time to get it pixelated so I can move on to developing other ideas.

Right now, in between bouts of computer surfing and blogging, I'm dealing with a run-away sourdough starter. The fungus that develops both breads and beers has to be kept fed and in an environment that will keep it happy, so every day I add a little flour and a little warm water and stir vigorously. However, I haven't had any time to bake in the last few days, so right now I have probably half a gallon of sourdough starter, maybe a little more, and the beginnings of what looks like a very bad science fiction movie. Today there will be baking, even if the Banshees aren't going to be available to eat much of it (yes, you guessed it, chores not being done, personal hygiene either barely or non-existent, lots of Monster High play time. I loathe Monster High. Have I mentioned that?). I don't know how many loaves of bread or batches of sourdough pancakes or -- hmm, I wonder if sourdough crackers would be possible? -- whatever else I can dream up to get the starter back down to the size where it can fit back into its little quart jar. Sourdough bread takes me a little while longer than my usual add everything together, mix vigorously, let rise & bake regular white bread. I add flour, water, and starter. And wait. Then a little more flour and a little more time. Then a bit more flour and a wodge of salt and a smidge of sugar. And wait. Then a little oil and the rest of the flour, and if I've read the starter right and the moon is in the seventh house and all the stars are aligned in the heavens, it will rise into a real live loaf and I can pop into the oven and actually get bread. I've been working on sourdough on and off over twenty years and mostly it has been off. Way off. But I think I'm improving and from lots and lots of experience I really don't think I'm going to let it go until I'm either dead or routinely successful. It took me more than 25 years to figure out how to knit (self taught from books and woefully stubborn), so I know that some problems I never truly let go of, even if I've thrown them in the back of the closet for a couple of years (knitting, not sourdough. There are limits, even for me.).

The One Thing I did yesterday was get the weather-worn-out tarps and one disintegrating pool into trash cans and out to the curb. Yay! The Wilderness still is weedy, overgrown, junked-up and unappealing, but it is less so than it was yesterday. Today I need to finish up cleaning our little ice chests and putting them up and I'll probably put the soaker hose out where I need to dig post holes. Tomorrow...well, tomorrow I hope I've got the wherewithal to actually dig a post hole. I've got the rebar. I've got the cement. I've got the bents. I've got chicken wire and bird netting and every other darned thing necessary to get started with Chez Quackers II (except the ends. No doors or framing for doors or experience in framing for doors or hanging doors, but by the end of CQII I'll have experienced every how-not-to-do-it possible, so there's that) and no excuse at all to not do anything.

Okay, maybe one excuse to not work as vigorously as I'm used to. A couple of weeks ago I started up with a not-so-much lower back pain as a really-high-up pelvic pain, as in, it hurts where the pelvic bone joins to the spine. After three or four days of that, I got a little sharper than ache pain all the way down my left leg. And the day after than, no pain but numbness all the way down the outside of my left leg down into my foot. It's very bizarre not being able to feel bits and pieces of yourself. It's probably sciatica, and I'm doing a round of ibuprofen, ice, and gentle exercise. My favorite activity of sitting in front of the internet all day is probably out for a while. Or should be. I still indulge far more than I should, but I'm trying to be a good person about it all and pare back. I think the universe is gently poking me and reminding me about all of the time I retrieved since I went on strike, and suggesting that I quit wasting it by checking G+ and Facebook and Andrew Sullivan nine zillion times a day. Okay, universe, I'm listening. Or trying to anyhow. Maybe I should do some before, during, and after pictures of The Wilderness as I try to persuade it to be Hopping Goose Farm.

I'm still stumbling along with the whole Teach Your Banshee Drafting Techniques. Part of that is that I have to go check the metal shed to see if my old apprenticeship books are out there, and if so, how badly I want to battle the black widows for possession. I'm temporizing by seeking out lettering and drafting technique books on the used textbook market and finding, I'm hoping, some amazing bargains. I have no issues with thirty-year-old texts; right now I can't afford Autocad or any of its cousins so all of the texts on those are moot. A thirty-year-old text is right about my technological level. Besides, my Banshees already know how to deal with computers. They really need to learn how to control a pencil better and the lettering should help with that.

Yesterday I realized that I may have stumbled upon a unit studies sort of situation. Technical drawing has applications in any direction you care to throw a rock at. MB wants to build a full-scale Dalek and I have been tearing my hair out in frustration trying to explain the concept of detailed drawing to the boy. Ah. Hm. Perhaps learning the ins and outs of technical drawing might help? The idea I had to teach them how to imagine and draw up a floor-plan has morphed into the idea that, with the proper drafting techniques, we could attempt to draw up and then build just about any building in history, from ye olde mudde hut to the Great Pyramid at Giza. Sounds like fun to me, although I'm more likely to work on barrel vaults and domes. Architecture has a reason behind most of its idiosyncrasies, and I'd like to know more about what lead up to those characteristics. VoilĂ , history!

I'm still turning it around in my head. Like welding, technical/mechanical drawing touches every aspect of our lives. I don't know how or even if I'm going to be able to get this up and running. It is, however, a subject that I find very interesting and that may be the best way of dragging the Banshees along for the ride. Find a subject, light a passion, feed the fire. If done right, if the fire gets lit, there may be very little dragging involved.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

10 minutes and the wrong way to go about things

MB is a talented person. Highly talented in several areas. One unfortunate aspect of his multiple talents is that he can get me into a position where I forget every single strike principle I forged over the last few weeks. That child can yank more chains, pull more levers, and push more buttons than his sisters, his father, and his uncle combined. Defin'tly.

So yesterday I had one of those 48-hours-in-24 days, with lots to do and a limited amount of time and sanity to accomplish anything. In the top 3 priority list was new shoes for everyone -- hey, I've got two adolescent Banshees and one pre-adolescent (and I use this in the physical development sense, not exactly chronological age. Bear with me!) and the growth spurts are astonishing on occasion. MB has the feet of a hobbit; big, broad, sturdy constructions set under a spindly critter not yet five feet tall. He's at the stage that scares most penny pinching parents, a massive growth spurt that causes the huge amount of food I keep on hand to look almost foolishly paltry on occasion and causes various bits and pieces of him to multiply in size on a weekly basis. Good grief, I thought I was going to have to hem those pants two days ago. And, of course, whaddaya mean your brand new shoes are too tight?!?

Also, over the weekend the Banshees managed to get away with a large amount of murder because MB had a birthday one day and another the family had friends over. I relaxed some of my rules and predictably, the Banshees ran with it. When Tuesday rolled around with with its list of to-do's longer than my leg, Banshees one and Banshees all decided that 1. chores were back on the 'suggested' list and 2. personal hygiene? What's that? And there was no bigger protester than MB, the same MB who has been begging for new shoes for quite a while now. All morning it was a constant refrain of "When are we going? Are we going shoe shopping now? When are we going to go get shoes, Mom?" Meanwhile I'm looking at a tousled head that hasn't seen a brush OR a shower with shampoo involved in days, and the kitchen is looking more and more like a missile testing site, and the room MB currently resides in...well, that really would take a trained archaeologist at this point.

We have a lot to do, so I broke the first rule: I nudged. I reminded. I set out hints large enough to make an elephant shear off. And got exactly...nothing. Not a twinge. Not a peep. Not even a vague hint of recognition that something big and gravity-disrupting might have entered the solar system. After the fourth hint and no clue, I finally asked MB what the terms and conditions were to go anywhere in my company. "Ah. Um. Chores? Personal hygiene? Homework?" Yes! Recognition! Maybe we're getting somewhere! So off he goes to run himself through the shower, after which he comes out, sits at the table and...reads a book. For a long time. While his hair dries in tangles and nothing. else. gets. done. It is now 11:30 a.m. and I have shoes to buy, groceries to get, a new office chair to acquire, a soaker hose, and that list of things to do hasn't gotten any shorter than my leg. Maybe even a bit taller. The rest of my Thou Shalt Not list shattered. Thou shalt not provide carrots. I reminded him that we were waiting on him to get his stuff done so we could get him shoes. Thou shalt not lose thy temper. Oh. Big time broken. Thou shalt not lecture. I lost track of time. It's easy to do. Thou shalt not accept half-measures, haphazard, or last-minute as actually done, done correctly, done on time. I had places to go and it was not one of those days I could leave Banshees behind. Thou shalt enforce Consequences fairly and calmly, and let those Consequences speak for themselves. Yeah. Not today. Probably the funniest -- okay, it was more humorous later but that's how these things go -- part of the whole affair was how that, while I was white hot frustrated with MB's behavior, I was even angrier with myself for letting him get to me like that. He's only half-way to being an adult and is still being trained for the position. I AM the adult, and I know better.

I have learned that there are certain patterns I need to avoid or change to be healthier. When sleep deprived I'm irritable to the point of psychosis and therefore not a good mother, so I learned that sleep is an imperative I cannot ignore. I have known for ages that I'm an introvert that needs a certain amount of alone time to be able to function as a good parent, but only recently has it been brought home to me just how important solitude is to me and how much the lack of it has damaged my ability to function at all. Squalling like an amped up Klingon has never been productive in this household -- but it's a pattern I learned in childhood and it's the pattern I have used for much of my children's childhood, so breaking it is going to take time and a nearly infinite amount of patience, and the ability to forgive myself for screwing up on occasion. Deep breath. Get up. Try again.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Repeat Until True

Not: "Is this possible?" but "How can I make this a reality?"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Downside

I knew it was going to happen. Nobody changes habits of a lifetime without some bumps, bruises, and major caterwauling protests. Today they have all ganged up on me to try to nudge me back to the remind, remind, remind, rant, rant, rant, scream, yell, lecture, and cuss mode. And today...well, today was not a good day to try it. I was up too late last night, not enough sleep today, grouchy, sticky, overheated, and just in one of those everybody leave me the *! alone today moods.

So EB has decided that she just isn't going to do an ounce of housework. She'd not going to bother pretending to try to do it. She isn't bothering even to lie about it (the classic is Of course I cleaned the bathroom mom. Nevermind about the trash all over the floor, the moss growing in the toilet, and the black ring around the bathtub. TRUST me, I cleaned it.) She's also not bothering to brush her hair or worrying about personal hygiene in any way. This is a child that, lip full a-quiver and with tear-filled eyes, swore yesterday that she had the worst case of cabin fever it was possible to have before breaking out the AK-47 (okay, she didn't use that phrase and doesn't even know what an AK looks like, but I follow the sentiment). At the time I pointed out - and I actually used my really-truly reasonable voice - that the keys to the front door and the commuter vehicle are in her hands. The housekeeping duties are not onerous, she has a toothbrush and a hairbrush and access to warm water and soap AND knows how to use them all, and the homework duties aren't exactly back or brain breaking. Yeah. So today she decided to full-on test my resolve against screaming and throwing heavy objects by partially cleaving to the dining room table, hair all-afrizz, book in hand, and oblivion to her surroundings in every line of her being. Deep breath. Not entirely successful at keeping my temper today. Suggested that she take her book and her attitude of I'm not doin' nuthin and herself and put them all in a room where I don't have to look at her doin' nuthin quite so blatantly.

MB will work for incentives. His incentives. He actually said, a few days before I went on strike, that he didn't see why I insisted on them doing chores if there wasn't some kickdown involved. As close as I can remember, his actual words were along the lines of "What's in it for me?" Which is when - and I'll try to give y'all the boiled-down version - I pointed out that every. single. time. we've worked from an incentive perspective I get a few days to maybe a full week of exemplary behavior, followed by a few days of half-hearted stabs at doing what he's supposed to, sort of a lick'n'a promise approach to everything, and then there is absolutely no attempt at doing chores, hygiene, or homework but there is a LOT of playing dvds, video games, computer time, hanging upside down by the curtain rods, whatever. Uh uh. No more. Do the chores etc. because you are supposed to. That is what civilized members of caring families do. He's been haphazardly caring for the dishes, doing them semi-regularly (which is an improvement, no disputing that) but washing only about half to three-quarters at any given time. The Banshees and I have already had the talk where we all agreed that half-done isn't good enough and won't earn you any attaboys. I told them all that I have rewarded half-done with hopes  that it would encourage all-done (and all done correctly) but all I got was a lot of half-done. I was grouchy today and I owe DBS pizza (with all of the OT that man is doing, he wants pizza, he gets pizza) and I was grumbling that I was going to have to rearrange the dirty dishes and wash the counter before I could get around to cooking and then I had to figure out how to cook soap in a dirty disorganized kitchen. Did somebody summon a Tasmanian Devil? Because the minute "pizza" and "soap" popped up MB hit the kitchen like an extremely motivated tornado. I cook for kids who have done what they're supposed to do, and allow them to carve soap if we have any on hand. Head, meet keyboard. I really am going to have to quit creating incentives that are so obviously labeled carrot.

I'm afraid to look at the laundry, so I'm not going to do it. I'm going to cook pizza. I'm going to cook soap. I'm going to have a long, long shower and hope that it makes me feel better. I may have a nap. But I'm not looking at the laundry.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Winner

With three Banshees, sometimes deciding who gets to go first is a little like trying to figure out the Peloponnesian war. This is whether everybody wants to be first, or when everybody would rather not do it at all. And this, my dear ones, is where that D&D habit we're trying to pick up really comes in handy. When I have three screaming, squalling, protesting Banshees, ye olde 20-sided die comes out and that sucker has decided more conflicts than Carter has liver pills (and if you get that reference, you have the same sort of parents and grandparents that I did). I still don't know if we're ever going to get around to that first D&D campaign, but you'll get that 20-sided die when you pull it from my cold, dead fingers.

Ick

Just got back from the feed store and was dumping a 50 pound bag of lay crumble into the metal container I keep my feeds in, and down at the bottom of this huge back were huge moldy lumps. Whiskey tango? Called the feed store up and they said, bring the bag back in. Um, can't, just dumped it into a metal bin? Okay, come by tomorrow and get a new one. We had some get wet, sorry for the inconvenience, etc.

I like this place. They've been a great feed store for me for more than three years now, closer to four if I want to think about it too hard, and we haven't had too many glitches in that time. But selling a bag you knew had gotten wet (and this thing had to have gotten pretty wet around the bottom!)...er, I dunno. Will give you the benefit of the doubt. But ick.


Routines

We all have them. Mine for many long years is to get up in the morning and hit the internet and then stay there, reading, for hours. Which would be all right if I wasn't hitting the same old sites hoping that something new would come up, and if I didn't have the Banshees to raise.

Even before The Strike I knew that I was spending far too much time in the interwebs and I had even figured out why: When faced with the unbearable, I hide. What had become unbearable was my home life, the same intractable problems every day, the same grind without ever even the hope of daylight at the end of the tunnel. There is never enough money, never enough time, not ever enough resources. I have dreams, little bitty modest dreams these days, and there aren't even crumbs to be had to feed those dreams. These are days where every dollar is accounted for and there aren't enough of them to go around. These are times when there is only one parent to watch the children and there is no time left over to do anything else. I can't even get a single Banshee to perform a chore they've been doing for years, and that they've known for years just how to do. It's easy to feel like a failure. There is no money. There is no time. Suddenly I'm 45 years old and what stretches out in front of me is decades of penury, of never having enough, of always being afraid of the minor emergency that will lead to the death spiral of not being able to meet the basic obligations of food, water, shelter, medical care.

Situations change with time, of course. I'm still so damnedly cash poor that there are stretches of time that I can't go to my knit-nights because I don't have the gas money, let alone the price of a cup of coffee. There are a lot of places I don't go because I have to preserve that tank of gas as long as I can. Still, the job I had earlier this year has eased some of the harsher pains of being working class, half a paycheck away from utter disaster. DBS is working insane amounts of overtime to keep the wolf from the door, and the Banshees aren't toddlers anymore. It's possible to leave them alone for stretches of time without worrying about whether they're going to try to juggle knives or stick forks into light sockets. So it was possible to have one of those transitional epiphanies - the ones that don't actual stick at you like a bolt of lightning, but rather take a few weeks to sneak up on you before grabbing you by the ear and making themselves fully known. That's sort of what The Strike was, really. The realization that the Banshees weren't toddlers anymore, that I didn't have to stand between them and every little consequence, that I didn't actually have to be present for every moment just in case. Well.

There are days when it works so well it's frightening and there are days when nobody does much at all but I'm still astonished at how well it's going overall. I'm writing more and yelling less and if the Banshees are so loud that I can't hear myself think I pull the headphones on and write anyway (Alison Krauss and Union Station right now, but I have a fairly wide range of listening interests). The writing is important, so important that I'm hesitant to actually look at it directly and acknowledge it. This is the one thing that has been lost for the better part of a decade and a half. For nearly fifteen years my voice has been stilled and I'm afraid my skills have atrophied horribly.

There were reasons. Lots of them. I had been hurt so badly at one point that I couldn't write, and that is a hurt so profound that until it happened I didn't think it was possible. Writing is how I dealt with pain, with hurt, with the myriad confusing disasters of life. To have that excised from my existence was so crippling that only now, perhaps, am I figuring out how much I lost. The poetry, gone. The fiction, gone. The long essays to myself that are my way of deciphering what is going on and how I'm dealing with it, gone. And then the Banshees came along and for a long time I was essentially a single mother with no social safety net to fall back on. (There was a cousin, bless her heart, who is the only reason I have any sanity at all left from that era. It's too easy to write these stories without including that bright spot of hope.) But where I had been too hurt to write, now I was too busy. Three toddlers is no walk in the park, unless that park includes tight-rope walking over a pit of jagged glass while juggling chainsaws. I did a little humorous writing about coping with parenting and homeschooling in that era and realized that I had missed out more than I thought during high school -- I am a natural class clown. But the deep down writing that I had been doing since I was 11, no, that was gone.

I think that's why blogging here has become so important. As rambling as it can get, it is also serving as my gateway back into what I thought gone forever. It doesn't really matter that it's rambling, it's also writing. My voice. It's how I'm figuring out how to get done what I absolutely must have done. I'm discovering that what I took for granted as impossible is now imperative. I'm realizing that withdrawing from heavy internet usage isn't going to be so much painful as a matter of changing habits. Less Andrew Sullivan and social networks and half a dozen news outlets and more blog time, more time spent with my Scrivener program (I cannot help the shiny gadget magpie in my system, I just manage it), more time doing the literary equivalent of wind-sprints while preparing for November's NaNoWriMo.

My slow-developing epiphany is tugging on my ear and saying that my life is undergoing a seismic shift. An era is ending. An era is beginning. This is just the chaos before coalescence. And my writing is back!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Much Ado About Nada

Our little freezer has been cleaned and now I have to find it a permanent home. Ack. Our big freezer (unplugged because 1. we don't have the money to keep it filled and 2. don't have enough money to keep it on) is taking up room in the garage. No, I'm not getting rid of it. I live in hope, and besides, it was a gift from my father. I'm sure I could clean out more room in the garage but it's hot out there and I'd like to put the little freezer someplace where it won't have to work so hard. That's probably going to mean some place in the house but who knows where. We're kind of stuffed to bursting now.

Also on the agenda some time this week is cleaning out the big freezer. Not looking forward to it, but very much looking forward to it being clean. That way if we ever do get dug out of this mountainous pile of debt and I get a little monetary breathing room, I can use the thing again.

I need to get the MB's birthday present into the shop so it can get a new tire and inner tube - he's getting my old bicycle, the one I never ever use, and clearly from that never ever use there is some decay evident. So, new inner tubes, new tire, a little clean up around the gills. Also need to get DBS's bike into the shop for new inner tubes. He never ever rides it either but swears this time will be different. Hey, maybe I can get them all to go on long bike rides on Saturdays and I'll have some time of blissful silence. I'll probably fritter away the moments by doing nothing, but on the other hand I could use it productively in writing, or housekeeping, or annoying the ducks.

Some time today I need to get to the post office to forward some mail on to my brother. Some of his orders were already enroute by the time he got laid off and set his nose East, so they got here after he'd already gotten there. I'm finding it hard to peel myself from the computer, as usual, but I'll get it done and get on with other things. Like moving the duck pen so we can have a win/win over the weed situation (I get fewer weeds, the ducks get a snack).

We're not going to park day. Again. I miss the park day. I hope to go again some day. But I've still got Banshees with personal hygiene issues. ("What? I'm supposed to brush my hair? Every day?? And wash it too? Oh, the humanity!") I've still got Banshees who happily cover the dining room table with dishes, books, and toys, and then abandon the lot to play elsewhere ("What? When did the rule about picking up after ourselves go into effect? Really?!? As long ago as that?"). Guys, by the end of this year I will no longer have even a single child in the single digit age bracket. I'm pretty sure y'all can figure out how to pick up after yourselves. The problem is, and I'm totally, completely, and utterly at fault here, is that I keep getting between them and the consequences of their behavior. I know they don't want to lose xyz but there are no consequences so far beyond mom reminding them to pick up and yelling when they don't. I think a few xyz's are going to go into the trash before the Banshees realize that yes, as a matter of fact, picking up after yourself is a vital skill in this household.

To distract myself in the meantime, I have to remind myself that there are quite a few cleaning projects of my own that have gone begging because I spend so much time getting between Banshees and consequences. My desk needs to be redone. Desperately. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if a natural spot for the little freezer wouldn't be exactly where I've got my home office area right now. The only thing keeping me from moving everything is the internet connection...but I'm sure there's a way around that. Longer cable? Installing Wi-fi capacity on the computer? It's not like I do a lot of online gaming, so latency wouldn't be as much of an issue. Hm. Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pfft

The house did not get cleaned. The dishes only got about half done. The laundry won't get done tonight. I feel like I have had an entirely unproductive day, which makes me grouchier than I should be. That's what happens when I let the internet suck me in for too long. Headache, general malaise about the state of the union -- can you remember when so many of your fellow citizens despised and distrusted so many of your other fellow citizens? -- and annoyed lethargy are my usual side-effects. They don't make for a pleasant place inside my skull and it makes for an unsettled household.

So -- deep breath. And another one. Take a third and grab a chair so I don't fall over from the resulting dizziness. Sit still and focus and realize that I'm likely to be grouchy for the rest of this day. I let too much get by me and there isn't enough time to do enough in order to convince myself I used my day wisely. That isn't the Banshees' fault, that's mine. Go let them play. Tomorrow will be better. Part of tonight can be better. After all, I'm writing something! And I haven't written consistently in a cat's age. I didn't do MB's dishes for him but I arranged the sink and the dirty dishes in such a way that I can access what I want and ignore what I have to. The laundry is mostly done, probably just a load sitting in the dryer right now. That can be lived with. No housekeeping - well, it still isn't as bad as it has been in the past, way back in the past, when it was just me in charge of three toddlers and the housekeeping went zinging way past hell in a souped-up hot-rod basket.

Some of the dishes got done. Some cooking got done, and not by me. Most of the laundry is done. These are the good things that happened today. No, I don't think it's enough. I'm not going to think it's enough until the Banshees are self-starting on chores and other facts of life that aren't always the most fun, but nearly always have to be accomplished. But screaming, ranting, raving, yelling, reminding, becoming exasperated and wholly out of my mind by frustration...well, that's how Mom raised me, and it doesn't take a very long look in the mirror to remember how well that turned out. As in, the very first apartment I had probably got vacuumed the day I moved in and the day I moved out, and we won't even go into the condition of the kitchen and its sink. Mom's methods did not teach me how to keep house or to be self-starting on activities that I didn't care for but absolutely had to get done. How could I have imagined that these methods were going to work on my Banshees? But we parent a lot the way we were parented, even if we are on guard and think we'll never be that way with our precious children. So. I went on strike. Aikido parenting in its nascent form. It isn't a natural form of parenting for me and I have to tell you, my nearest and dearest think I'm nuts (and oh yeah, I think I'm crazy too) but what else could be done given the material I'm working with (me, not the Banshees)?

Today I got the mini freezer into the back yard so I'll be able to wash it tomorrow. Today I wrote a little more in my neglected blogs. Today I decided that what I'm doing is Aikido, even if I only have the barest roughest idea of what that actually means. Today I reaffirmed that anger is still not the best way of dealing with frustration. Today I spent time with LB knitting and writing, working on grammar and spelling and penmanship. Today I spent time with MB and his baking and EB just talking. Tomorrow I will spend a little less time on the internet and a bit more time working on this project known as My Life.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recharging

One of the concepts that has been buzzing around in my wrinkly little brain lately is the one of introversion. My favorite definition of introvert versus extrovert is that the introvert might like people but find interactions with said species draining, while extroverts gain energy from those interactions. I, and I don't want this to come as a shock to anyone, am a raging introvert. I like people. I love people. They're fascinating and I'm friends with several and parent to a few more. Hell, I even happen to be one. But after extended exposure my head starts feeling rather swimmy and distant and I long to get to a quiet place for some extra-strength silence. I need alone time.

This last week has been one long out of balance off-kilter experience. From the unexpected and dreaded "there's a relative in the hospital" call (relative is currently okay) to a long-planned get-together with friends (I had lots of fun!) to dinners and lunches with family both near and extended, I'm wiped out. I crave peace like a bibliophile needs a library. I found myself getting snippier and snippier with the Banshees and their chores. I promised myself I wouldn't snarl -- but we have emergency house-sitting and then there are people coming over to our place and then -- and then -- and then --

I did tell everybody and their closest cat that this was going to be a work in progress. Well, this is the progress part, where I fall down with a thump and get back up again. I need alone time and I need quiet, and once again I realized that I don't get this when I'm constantly worrying about and monitoring chores that the Banshees are in charge of. I have chores of my own and I don't get to them if I'm chivying and chiding the offspring from morning til night. It does look like there are going to be some consequences this week that I'm not looking forward to, but I also have a yard to weed and a closet to clear out and Christmas knitting to work on.

So I'm going to push away from the computer and curl up with the knitting and Misomer Murders and let my brain relax to the point where closet-cleaning and yard-weeding look doable even if they'll never look exactly good. Clean closets and clean yards look good; the process whereby those looks are achieved are akin to law-making or sausage creation: Nobody wants to get close enough to actually see it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'm going to miss the town square

I loathe FB's new timeline. Loathe it. And it's probably cutting off my nose to spite my face but I'm gone from that particular town square. You can find me here, you can find me at G+, and if you still remember what email addy's are, you can find me with one of those. 

Wow. I think my day just got extra hours.

Four Days In

So it's been about 4 days since I've gone on strike and the results are mixed but on the whole good. I still can't get a floor vacuumed with any sort of reliability but about half the time the dishes get done and the laundry has been pretty much spot on, if still getting done entirely too late for my tastes. On the other hand, my blood pressure is down and I've lost every single excuse I've ever had for ignoring what I need to get done.

DBS wasn't entirely happy with the start of this program -- he has had to pick up all sorts of overtime to make up for my lost income, and in return he asks for little more than room to make coffee when he comes home. The first day of the strike he came home to an uncharted wilderness where the dishes were clean but the cups were not, where there was silverware aplenty but no path to the coffee maker. That's when I sat the Banshees down and explained that while the yelling and ranting and nagging had stopped, the chores still had to be done and there were consequences to be had if they weren't. It wasn't as if I could just ignore all of the dishes piling up to the ceiling, as that would be patently unfair to their father and myself. It's just that I would be doing only the dishes I needed to do in order for their father and I to eat without contracting some nasty food-borne disease. I would cook, but only for those family members who were willing to pull their own weight. The Banshees looked as if they were faintly shocked. What, you mean I can't have a slice of the bread that just came out of the oven just because I won't do laundry/wash dishes/do housework?? As a matter of fact, yes, that's exactly what that means. I won't lift a finger to keep any Banshee from cooking for themselves but if the dishes don't get cleaned up afterwards those dishes are going to Coventry until the offending Banshee figures out that cooking something means cleaning something.

As the days have gone by other issues have come up and we have a conference to explain the consequences. Don't want to indulge in personal hygiene? Fine. The only iron law I have at this point is that the teeth are going to get brushed. I don't care if I have a 6' 10" Banshee to deal with (and I may at some point) I will sit on you and brush them myself if I have to. I sort of figure a 6' + kid is going to have problems with an overweight out-of-shape middle-aged woman mom-handling them that way so there haven't been many issues with the teeth. However, you don't want to wash or brush your hair? Fine, we'll still have to go to the grocery store and run other errands so you'll have to go out in public that way. But. But. I don't have to take you to park day, to the library, or to any other place you'd like to go and I KNOW you guys have a monster-sized case of cabin fever. In fact, the Banshees have a case two-man tent fever. They've been cooped up in this house for so long they're willing to chance a public school education just to see new faces and explore new places. No personal hygiene = no going anyplace fun. It's amazing how quickly the kids got cleaned up. It's still hit and miss over getting the hair brushed, but one thing at a time.

It's hard to think of a consequence for not doing the housekeeping every day. Honestly, being a member of this household means that dust bunnies the size of small trucks won't raise so much as an eyebrow. But it does mean I can't invite anybody over, and for a Banshee who is dying to have a social life that is just as crazy-making as not being able to leave the homestead for a museum visit or a park day. It's going to take longer since we're not known for an active social life, but I pointed out to Eldest Banshee that we're going to be known for an inactive social life for a lot longer if there's enough dust on the carpet to raise a large crop of garlic and the guest bathroom requires a Sherpa to navigate. This is a work in progress, obviously, and I have no idea how it's going to play out. However, I remind myself that the old way wasn't good for much more than getting my blood pressure up and I'm really feeling much better these days.

No excuses. It's odd not having them around anymore. If I don't weed the yard it's because I've been sitting on my rump all day, not because I've had to manage unruly Banshees. If I don't blog it's because I'm in my sixth hour of solitaire, and if I don't win NaNoWriMo this year it's because I've been indulging in Facebook and obsessively reading news sites and political blogs. Now, I'm sure I could still face myself in the mirror every morning but I'm also pretty sure that's not who I want to see.

Just one more thing. No more excuses. And hey, I'm blogging more!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Change Just One Thing, Every Day

Three days ago I realized I had fallen into my old trap of wanting to change everything about my life right now. Not the Banshees or DBS, of course, but those parts about myself that keep sabotaging everything else I want to do. My problem is that I want to change myself the way I want to clean the house or clear the yard or create a potager or write a book or start a business: I want to do it all at once, immediately, or at the very latest some time yesterday. I can make plans to change like nobody's business. They usually take up a day or two, or even a week if I'm really enthusiastic, and then nothing changes at all. I still haven't gotten the house clean the way I'd like it and the yard is still a shambles; the potager, books, and business are still pipe dreams, and I haven't changed nearly as much as I'd like to.

So three days ago, I decided to be kinder to myself.

Two days ago, I decided that I would change just one thing, every day. One thing is doable, sustainable, and small enough to be harmless. Mostly harmless, anyway.

Yesterday, I went on strike. I've been battling the children on chores all day, every day for the better part of forever. It isn't working. I quit. I will not nag one single time more about dishes or laundry or housekeeping. I'm also not doing any dishes or laundry or housework that the Banshees generate. There is food. There are clothes. There is shelter. They've got free access to all of it. I simply maintain that if someone creates chaos they need to assist with restoring some order. However, I'm not going to spend any more time trying to get anybody to see my point of view. Life is short and I have other projects I'd rather spend that energy on. (I also wonder how much chaos is going to occur before order starts kicking in, but it's sort of in terms of "Maybe I should start a pool on this, and how many months should I put myself down for, 32 or 24?")

Today I decided to work on Tai Chi every morning. I'm hoping that besides making my knees wobbly it might help with my peculiar sense of meditation. If I have to knit in order to hear a lecture, it makes no sense to sit still in order to clear my mind. And as much as I'd just love to have the house to myself for extended periods of time, that isn't something I can foresee happening for the near future. Or the medium future. Maybe some time next year? At any rate, right now I need to be able to clear a space for myself inside my head instead of inside my walls.

I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow.

I've got a very long list of items to choose from, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pre/Concurrent/Post Apocalyptic Meltdown

I have them. Some weeks, lots of them. They are not fun for anybody involved, and they usually develop because I have had it up to my twee little eyebrows over something I've been yattering about for days/weeks/months/years (pick your timeline, we've covered them all).

Dishes: That includes all of the dishes in the sink, on the counters, on the stove, in the oven, and (my personal favorite) every single dish, fork, spoon, knife, cup, glass, and coffee mug left on the table. They're on the table because the Banshees think it a quaint and outdated custom to carry dirty dishes from the table to the sink. ("Oh, mom, that's SO 20th century!")

Housekeeping: No, this isn't an interesting variation on the obstacle course. You aren't supposed to dodge the debris on the ground with the vacuum cleaner, you're supposed to pick it up and put it in the trash and then vacuum over the area the debris previously occupied. That cute little hose attached to the vacuum cleaner is not merely a decorative item, it's actually used to pick up dust in the corners that the vacuum cleaner proper cannot reach. And yes, I do require the dining room chairs to be moved now and again so you can clean under the dining room table. Nobody's eyebrows should need removing from their hairline over being exposed to such concepts for the zillionth time.

Laundry: Okay, do I really need to point out that the laundry cycle does not involve in any way, shape, or form the floor as a method of storage. It just doesn't. I've never once included the following instructions: Wash, dry, toss onto bedroom floor, repeat. Those tall rectangular items we stashed in your rooms are know as dresser drawers in our neck of the woods, and they've been known to function as clothing storage in a pinch, NOT just as a tall flat surface to store your works of art (high altitude dust bunnies, who knew?).

Rooms: I think I remember what color the carpeting was in there. I'd like to be reminded of it now and again.

And good grief, could we please remember that if you're going to forgo following any and all of the previous advice, there is absolutely no reason to look shocked when your immediate maternal ancestor starts screaming like a piccolo in a high gale?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Split Infinities

It's 1:48 on a Monday morning. And normally I'd be in bed, because normally I'd be getting up around the same time as the Banshees and starting our normal routines of getting chores done (normally through me reminding and them ignoring until I resembles Vesuvius and they are completely bewildered by the smoldering seething frustration that they themselves caused). But I'm up this morning and I'm going to try to stay up another hour. Because I now have paid employment and it's all on nightshift.

6:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday I work at a little construction site in the desert. There's a solar plant going up there and I'm helping to build it. I don't know technicalities and don't bother me about blueprints. I know the solar towers are tall, more than 400 feet at last rumor. I know the temporary elevator only goes about halfway up. I also know that my permanent workstations all appear to be from the top elevation down to just one floor above where the elevator reaches, and I'm going up and down those stairs. All. Night. Long. Not easy when you're 44 and 110 pounds overweight. I expect to lose weight if I'm out there long enough and put any effort at all into eating healthy.

It isn't a pleasant feeling workplace. I don't say that because it's hard physical work; I don't mind hard physical work and that's a good thing, because Boilermaking has its fair share of the physical. And I don't say it because I'm 400+ feet in the air on a building that's only partially built. It's built enough that I feel safe doing what I'm doing. No, these feeling of unease are entirely about the people and the psychological subcurrents that are pushing me hither and yon. I know that being out of paid employment for 14 years has left me a little rusty in more than one area of my job. I just get the feeling that ain't no one out here can be trusted not to stab me in the back the first opportunity that comes up. The GF seems to think that the job could be finished in the next 48 hours if only people would understand where he's coming from. The rest of us think that X needs to be finished before Y can be tackled, having all the materials and supplies in place to do the job would come in handy, and having an opposite shift that isn't spending 10 hours undoing what you've just spent 10 hours putting up would be just peachy, thanks. Also, he isn't willing to pull anyone aside and say, "Here's what I saw, could you put it in perspective for me?" He walks around in a perpetual state of faith that people are trying to screw him over, every incident is viewed from the worst possible angle, and explanations are not needed, not wanted, and I get the feeling that they aren't even close to being believed.

So the job culture sucks. And I don't know how long I'll be employed. I'm just going to work as hard and as smart as possible and leave the politics to those who can actually do anything about them. The work is interesting, I'm going to learn as much as I can about it and do the best job I'm capable of doing. The paychecks are fat and after a couple of months, if I'm there that long, my household won't have that haunting look of gnawing, chronic need. Jobs aren't always mentally comfortable or compatible. Being a grownup means you do the best you can at them anyway.

Working out of town gives me a strange, surreal feeling of division. When I'm there, I'm there. I'm there to work, I have duties pre and post shift that have to be taken care of, and I'm getting my routine together of when to wake up, when to go to sleep, when to shower, when to shop, when to get ready to start it all over again. There's a lot of silence, which I'm very out of practice in dealing with, but not a lot of thinking deep thoughts quite yet. I'm still working through the silence. It isn't so different from when I was working for a paycheck the last time, although the pressure of being the sole breadwinner is no longer there. We need the money so very badly, but it's to get the debt-load under control and to take the pressure off of the steady income-generator. There is still pressure, because of the long-standing bills, the long-deferred house maintenance, the repair projects and the homeschooling expenses and the other bills and expenses that have been too long denied because there simply wasn't the funding for them.

When I'm home, it isn't the same routine as before I began my employment. The spouse and the Banshees are growing into their new lives, lives that don't have me in them full-time. The first weekend the children dropped the ball on everything, as if my very presence negated the need for them to lift a finger. I think it was an effort to make things the way that they used to be. How dismaying to learn that the old ways weren't ever making an appearance again! I'm home just long enough to want to stay forever, and then I have to pick up and go back to the out-of-town job that keeps me five days out of the week. There isn't enough time to get done what I want. I'm starting my own honeydo list and figuring out priorities. The poultry runs need to be done. There are D&D games that I've promised the munchkins. There are shoes to buy for children whose feet become two inches too long for their footwear overnight. There are hugs to give, reassurances to repeat, yes, I'm coming home; yes, I'll be safe.

I like the paycheck. I like the work. But it's clear as glass that the real reasons I am out there at all are all at home, waiting for me to join them every weekend. I work so I can live. It has never been a question of being the other way around.

Friday, February 10, 2012

pssst

I promise you that I love my family. Love them. Would stop a bullet for them. Challenge trains to push them to safety. I wouldn't trade any of them for any amount of treasure.

But.

If I don't get some alone time soon everybody's gonna be visiting me in the loony bin.

For the last ten days to two weeks, everybody has been sniping at everybody else in every single combination you can think of. Constantly. Spouse has been on vacation so he's been helping out enormously (thank you spouse!) but the non-stop warfare has worn me thin. That last little nerve has been scraped raw and everyone has broken out the tap shoes to dance on it.

There isn't a single room in this house I can go into that doesn't already have somebody in it. Usually somebody who wants something, or two to three someones who need mediation. If there isn't someone in that room there will be soon, because I have to call them in to pick up the mess they've left behind. The mess they didn't think to pick up because they were "only leaving the room for a moment" three hours ago. And then they glare at me as if I did something wrong by insisting on a behavioral standard that has only been in place since the day they were hatched.

There isn't anything I can do without being interrupted constantly by a steady stream of people who need something from me. There isn't any time to recharge. There is only constant need from people who think that I never need down time, never need quiet, never need to be left alone, never need to be looked after, never have needs of my own. Ever.

Spouse thinks I should just ignore the smaller stuff. Everything would get better if I just didn't let it get to me. And he's probably right about some of the atmospherics. Unfortunately I have learned through bitter experience that if I don't stop some of the screeching at a lower level I will lose complete control of my sanity when it (inevitably) gets to the higher pitches. He can ignore it with equanimity. I cannot. Not fair, perhaps, but that's life. What it means in reality is that he emerges from his video game to find a smoldering wreck of a wife who's just been handling things as patiently as possible until she's ready to throw dishes through walls. Not that I ever have. Thrown dishes, I mean. I know who gets to clean that mess up.

There isn't any solution. There is no place in this house or on our property that I can go that has an explicit "Leave Me Alone" signal to it. If I try there's an inevitable parade of people who need reassurance that everything is all right, that everything is going to be okay, that the keep-away sign doesn't really apply to them, and that I really still love them, don't I? There isn't any money to go any place else for a day, or a weekend, or even a few hours and just forget that I have all of these responsibilities laid on my shoulders. There isn't any money for sheer wanton retail therapy. I've been staring at a new gardening toy (defined as a toy by its complete lack of necessity) for months now. I won't get it. It isn't as if it runs into hundreds of dollars. I could probably get it and all of its accessories for maybe $80, including shipping and handling. We just don't have it. If I really want to spend irresponsibly it has to be for something that the children need and there isn't any other way of getting it other than robbing Peter to pay Paul.

If I can't have the money we need to hold body and soul together, and I can't get the job we need to get that  money, then damn all, I need down time to make peace with what I lack.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Place Holders

I like writing great big long posts. Since few people other than myself actually read them I get to indulge in all sorts of nonsense. It is all by its lonesome, quite wonderful.

The long posts, however, take long times to write. And there are days when I don't have the time to write all of what's in my head into a post. There are also days when, horror of horrors, I don't actually have a lot I want to say. Nevertheless, I still want to write something each and every day, or even each and every other day. I need to build momentum. I need to built a habit. Damn it, I need to write. So I've got place holders. Random musings. Short comments. Occasionally wailing (don't knock it, it has kept me out of the headlines more than once).

So, the Place Holders for Superbowl Sunday (and more importantly, DBS's birthday):

I have to make a birthday cake for DBS. Okay, I don't really need to need to, but he's a good guy and deserves some recognition around here. But I'm not going to bake a full one, neither he nor I nor Banshees need to be eating birthday cake for days. I'm going to bake a glorified cupcake that serves 5 and spread it with cream cheese icing and we'll all love it and it will go away.

I need to make salsa before the game. Technically I already did, but that was two days ago and despite making about three quarts of the stuff Friday it's all gone now. I suspect the scientific term for what happened was that it was completely inhaled by the other four members of the household, despite having a tad too much cilantro and having gone a couple of serranos too far. So, more serranos, more cilantro, more tomatoes, good grief did I really run us out of lime? I also need to make more hummus and chop up some dipping veggies. I love potato chips and sour cream dips, but considering that I need to lose 110 pounds and I need to grow Banshees in such a way that they never get to the same point, the traditional chips'n'dip needs to be quietly sidelined. We're still going to overeat today, but I figure that it's going to have a lower overall calorie count and be more nutritious. And I have those walking exercise dvds that are slowly and in fits and starts becoming a part of everyday life. As much as I'd like to pull a 180 on my lifestyle it isn't going to happen. Only slow and steady and incremental changes have any chance at all of lasting forever, so slow and steady and incremental it is. Homemade pizza and hummus and veggies and salsa and homemade bread and corn chips (okay, the corn chips aren't the healthiest choice, but baby steps, baby steps) instead of a commercial pizza and potato chips and sour cream dip and soda for Superbowls. Gentle exercise every day instead of no exercise at all.

Yesterday I managed to lure in (okay, I mentioned and they all yelped enthusiastically) a friend and his children to my incipient D&D universe. Friend has played before and sounds like he's DM'd his share of games, so I hope he's patient with my stumbling about. My mantra is that it's supposed to be fun, and we'll just roll with that. So now, with luck, we've got a monthly D&D meeting. Yayy. I supposed MB is going to make me have weekly meets as well with just the Banshees and DBS. I draw the line at nightly. At least, I hope I do. We're just going to have to see.

And lastly, I hope it's as good a game as the last time these two teams met in the superbowl and I hope it has the same ending.

Oh goody. It looks like MB is finally done with the kitchen so I can start food prep. I'm hungry, need breakfast!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Random Resolutions

No more how-to books. I have more than enough for what I want to do, and I don't have the time or energy for new hobbies. New books do not equate new skills.

No more excuses. I know I'm going to look ridiculous dancing around to that fitness dvd, and I'm going to know that until I realize I can breathe better for every single day I look ridiculous. It's a fair trade.

The back yard is not going to turn into a garden on its own and all the new toys in the world won't budge it an inch closer to completion. Nor is the bird housing going to miraculously appear where it's supposed to, complete with a magically sprouting bow, unless I put some (okay, a lot of) sweat equity in. And the front yard is going to look gawdsawful until me, myself, and I get off of our collective rumps and get out there.

Time to get back into formal schooling. We all feel better (despite the moaning and groaning) when we're doing something every day. It feels less random and more like the goal we've got in mind is achievable.

I promise to buy myself a new bit of clothing every time I lose ten pounds. T-shirts and jeans don't count.

I promise to buy myself a gardening toy each time I achieve a major gardening goal. It doesn't have to be a big toy, but it has to be a significant goal.

I promise that I am going to write something, anything, every day until I get enough steam to write the books I've been promising myself for 30 years.

I promise that I'm going to start all of this after park day, and after I get done DM'ing the tavern brawl I promised the Banshees. So say it will be about --

Right. Now.

No More Excuses.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Story I'm Sticking To

I'm going to say that it's all MB's fault, or I would if I weren't reminded of the fact that the 90% being off in his own fantasy land comes from my side of the family, and the 10% laser-intensity focus comes from his dad. MB has developed a rather interesting habit, one that I think is going to do very well for him if I don't do something rash out of sheer exasperation. He is very persistent when he wants something. And I don't mean this in the I'm gonna nag Mom until she gives in or sells me for organ donation sort of way. I mean this in the I'm going to actually do my chores and then remind her every minute of every morning, noon, and night that I'm realllllly interested in doing something and she's my only teacher. 


It takes way more time to describe it than it does to be effective. Because I really can't say no to a kid that really wants to learn something. Like knit socks. Or write for long stretches of time. Or, may all the universe hear and have pity, go on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Now, D&D has been around the periphery of the family for a fairly long time. A good friend who has been adventuring since about 30 seconds after Gary Gygax invented the game has offered to lend me books, lent me a cd, and sent me some pretty nifty links that I managed to multiply. After an initial wave of interest, the Banshees went back to their usual pastimes of ignoring chores, baiting each other unmercifully, and attempting to will the idea of formal schooling out of existence. And that's how events stood until about four days ago. I swear on my own life I don't really know how the conversation got started, but I know how it ended: With three Banshees deciding that D&D sounded like a wonderful idea and couldn't we all get started, like, yesterday?

How, exactly, did I let myself get backed into Dungeon Mastering? The last time I tried it I was absolutely lousy. Of course, the last time I tried it I was also an uptight 20-year-old who was trying to run the least imaginative, most buttoned-down campaign in the history of the game. It was a very predictable disaster. Worse, I was never much of a gamer even before that, preferring to invent my worlds wholesale on paper (and then with pixels) rather than have to deal with dice and other people. But I'm the grown up and I'm the only one who has even the faintest inkling of what has to get done, so here I am, doing it.

First, I put to the vote the idea of taking a week or two to research versus just starting as soon as we can and learning as we go along. Unanimous vote for adventuring on the fly. Fair enough. I poked around the links both borrowed and researched and came up with a working plan. Oooh, monsters! Wow, there's the rules list! And I cannot tell you how giddy I was when I found a first-level module; I'm all for inventing my own but I'd like to offer the Banshees an opportunity to have the same characters at the end of the campaign as they did at the beginning. Somebody else's writing will be better for that, for now. I did look at buying the starting triumvirate, the DM guide, the Player's Handbook, and the Monster Manual (version 3.5, nobody I've talked to likes 4 at all), but the $100 that's going to cost has to go towards actually feeding real, live Banshees. We're just going to have to cobble as we go.

Second, I told the Banshees that because I have no idea of what I'm doing, they were just going to have to put up with moments of suddenly glowing rock formations or mysteriously illuminated trees, or just some shaft of light pouring out of the heavens and a voice announcing that This Is How It Will Be From Now On, which is the DM's way of saying that she finally located the relevant rule governing this particular convention. Banshees are so far pretty cool with that whole idea.

And lastly, at least for now, everything is on hold until I can get my hands on some polyhedral dice. I can't do anything about pit traps or collapsing barrel vaults or tiny monstrous spiders (sorry, the concept of a jumbo shrimp arachnid has been making me break out into spontaneous giggles all day) until I've got the polyhedrals and a whole lot more research under my belt. I know what the d6 do, and I'm pretty sure of the d20 and the d10, but for the Life of Brian I cannot remember what a d4 or d12 are for. I swear I've given more thought to this than most of the research papers I've had to write over the years.

As long as I'm researching or otherwise paving the way, life is peaceful. Ish. But the moment it looks like I'm flagging, MB appears at my right elbow and lets me know with that quiet and polite and inexorable persistence, that this is really very important to him. So I show him what I've been doing, perhaps teach him the difference between a Rogue and a Raven, and send him on his way with only the faintest twinge of guilt over preparing to send my mildly math-phobic children into a pretty math-intensive game.

They only think they invented sneaky.

Friday, January 13, 2012

BTW, addendum

Mentioned gaming to the Banshees. They're all in favor. And while it may not seem so on the surface, it's all Jeff's fault. Mainly because he provided me beaucoup resources last year, so I'm only half as lost as I normally am.

Now all I need are dice, paper, a couple of books, and a post-archaeological dig kitchen table.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BTW

Okay, short one here. I want to mention a couple of things.

One: Pandora + Dropkick Murphys =

Two: Dione, this is all your fault.

Okay, wasn't expecting that

In the middle of deciding what to clear and clean and get rid of first, chance cast my eyes at my ancient mariner of a computer, a Dell that's just a year younger than my 11-year-old. It has been a trooper, slogging along year after year with only one major meltdown (Mistake Edition crossed with a very bad vintage of Norton) but after Windows 2000 was installed instead this computer has been solid as a small mountain. And that's even after I decided to dual-boot the system to Linux/Windows 2K (Linux dominant) after deciding that I would never put Vista on any system in my system for any reason in the known and any possible unknown variants of the universe. No Vista + can't afford Apple = Linux variant Ubuntu. Love Ubuntu. Love it. I rate just above rocks when it comes to computer geekdom and Ubuntu has been very forgiving of that.

Time wears on us all, however, and the Dell is showing its age along with some predictable wear and tear. I'm not sure exactly why the computer screen is in perpetual, just-barely-noticeable waver mode. I'm not entirely certain the power supply is going to last too much longer. It's still stable enough that I can get it to turn on and I can probably get most of the data and I've known that I needed to do that for the better part of a year now, but it has been spending its days on a table, all hooked up and gathering dust. The night before last I finally got the impetus to poke the power button and start assigning files to the usb stick or to eternity's dustbin. It's been a pretty easy task so far. After all, the absence of these files hasn't exactly been earth-shattering for the last ten or eleven months. So there I was, tap-tapping at the keys like a dyspeptic raven, thinking that if I worked at this diligently I could scrap the hard drive and dispose of the other bits and pieces in about a week, when I realized that I wasn't exactly extracting data without an audience. Banshees. I was surrounded by Banshees, drawn by the eerie glow of the monitor, utterly fascinated.

"Mom," one finally said, "Can we play with this?"

Um. Okay. Just not tonight. Tomorrow?


"Cool."

Believe me, these kids have memories longer than the proverbial tail of time. They have internal clocks they set to some mysterious algorhythm. Sometime around o'dark thirty the next morning MB appeared at my right elbow. "Can I play with the computer now?"

So I set up an Open Office word document and told him to have at it. And he did.

Then EB and LB woke up and after half a morning's patience (a titanic effort in itself) asked for their turns. It got to the point where I needed a crowbar to pry them off of the keyboard long enough to get chores done. They showed each other how to Save and when to use Save As. Fights broke out over whose turn it was to play with their stories. I had to resort to the old stand-by: Pull out the timer and everybody gets a 30-minute turn.

Do you know how many tufts of hair I have pulled out trying to get these children to write? They have the most fascinating stories going on in their minds, but getting them to put that down on paper has been one of those epic battles the ancient Greeks used to shake their heads over. I guarantee Ulysses would have headed home to Penelope a lot sooner if he'd been charged with getting a trio of wayward Banshees to write something, anything, down. Turns out I was using the wrong tools. All I needed was a hugely outdated computer with some free office software and about 10 years of don't touch Mom's computer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Changing my internet diet

Last night was one of those nights. One of those nights where it was downright blissful, instead of blisteringly annoying, to be up at 1:30 a.m. and just puttering around not doing a heck of a lot of anything. One of those nights where I have one of those multi-threaded thought patterns running in the background of my brain, sometimes running parallel, sometimes intersecting, sometimes flattening out into a broad ribbon of perfectly coalesced concepts.


Part of it was just reveling in the silence. I'm a solitary person by nature, but that pretty much went by the wayside when I had as many children in as many years as I did. DBS and I can be solitary or together when it's just the two of us, but there's no way of being alone anywhere in this house as long as more than one person is awake. So here I was, with hours and hours all alone, all because the Banshees fell asleep at their appointed hour without too much battle, and the worn out spouse had long since surrendered to slumber himself. There was just me, slightly  ditzy from the latest cold virus, my silence, and my thoughts.


One thread was spinning itself out of the deeply seated need to get my house in order. There's nothing figurative about that; the yard is a mess, the house is a mess, we're overcluttered and underorganized and we didn't get one trick-or-treater at Halloween because I guarantee you the yard looked entirely too well-disheveled for comfort. There's spooky, and then there is the threat of the grape vines actually swallowing somebody whole spooky. The yard needs to be in order because, well, because I always knew that someday it was going to be important to me and someday just bit me on the rear. It left an itchy bump in my psyche, something that must be exorcised, and the only way to do it is - O dear me - is to actually go out there and do it myself. To finally convince my inner being that fell swoops and grandiose gestures are all well and good, but it's going to be the monthly, weekly, daily routines that actually tame this yard so I can make of it what I wish. Personally, I want the front yard to be a lovely pasture for the geese and the ducks. The geese go after greenery with such passion - I really wish I liked my salads as much. DBS won't let me do much more than that, no tomato trellises, no raised beds of peppers, not so much as even a tiny plethora of Musque du Provence pumpkin vines. Still, the back yard is fairly sizable, I'm sure I could throw a couple of squash plants back there. The MdP has been especially fascinating to me since I bought a 20-pound specimen of it a year ago. So dusty looking on the outside, so very orange on the inside, and so very tasty as a pumpkin pie. Oh yeah. I need to get the birds properly housed (and yes, I know I've been saying that for a while now) and I need to get our Survival Garden going in style.


Another strand was plying itself together out of two different thoughts. One, the house and our desperate need to get decluttered and organized: Two, the Banshees and I need space and structure to really do well with the homeschooling. 


I fought for a long, long time to get the house organized and then, a couple of years ago, it hit me that this goal would not and could not be obtained as long as we had all of this stuff.  I've never been taught how to throw something away. I've always felt lousy about getting rid of something that was useful, or could be useful, or might be repurposed somehow. I even bargained a little -- hey, if I just gather this stuff together and put it on Freecycle or take it down to second-hand store -- that'll be all right, right? But sad truths need facing now and again; taking it to charity or giving it away is only going to work in this household after we've gotten rid of a whole lot of things that we don't use, or can't use, or can't find to use. So during the Christmas season I told the Banshees that there was no sense in ignoring the issue, some of the objects in our house were going to go into the dumpster because we just need to get out from under it in any way we can, even if it isn't very pretty and offends our odd sense of thrift. 


Yes, it's lovely that we have all of the art supplies. What good do they do anybody if I can't keep the table clear long enough for them to be used? What good is that old computer if I can't set it up where the Banshees can use it? These kids are ready to grab at any learning and absorb it through sheer osmosis; how do I get in front of that if I'm behind in everything else that matters?


And come to think of it, why haven't I finished National Novel Writer's Month (50,000 words in 30 days, I love November!) in so many years? I'll never be Stephen King but I can write any amount of wordage in a short period of time, so why haven't I?


Why haven't I written on any of my blogs in more than a year?


That is when, of course, all of those lovely little threads curled around each other and turned into a lovely pellucid pattern. 


Too much Facebook time. 


Oh, I spend far too much time on the internet by any measure. I love my political blogs and news outlets, and most of my friends and relatives know by now that all they need to do is tickle me under the nose with an interesting research problem and I'll come back to them in a few minutes/hours/days with the issue researched down to the furthest code on its DNA strand. I love research. Adore it. Did I ever mention that Connections was one of my favorite series?


But I let myself be pickled by Facebook. I'd cycle back -- are my crops done? Has anybody responded to my post? What funny poster has my brother come up with today? Who knew Sulu was so hilariously ornery? Cycle out to a political blog, come back, go figure out who's selling Shetland sheep or Shetland fleece or cobweb weight Merino 2-ply (I have a shawl that I'm planning that's going to take at least two years to knit, I need to have yarn I can get along with!), come back to see what's going on in the town square of Facebook. Obviously, I like hanging out there. Also obvious, but harder for me to see (and believe me, there are none so blind as those who just won't see) I was using this for every excuse under the sun for not getting everything that I really needed to do, done.


I have a lot of objectives that I'd really like to achieve. But I'm not going to get anywhere if I do nothing but hang out in the ether all day. The weeds don't pull themselves, they just get brown and sere and glower sullenly at me. The Banshees do teach themselves, but they need their resource center to be a little more, ah, shall we say present? Honestly, they may not be getting the public school edition of education, but I've found myself hurling sources of knowledge into the melee and ducking while they pounce on it like starving wolverines. They're avid, they're ready, and I'd better have a lot of supplies on hand if I want to survive this. (SO looking forward to teaching more advanced maths. And archaeology as it applies to cleaning of bedrooms.) And the words, the words will not write themselves. I'm not going to get better at wordsmithing if I'm not working at it. Do, or do not do. There is no try... as Yoda was so fond of saying. I have books in me. I need to let them out.


So, if you're here because you've missed me on Facebook, these are my few reasons for spending less time at the public square. I miss you too, but there are some things I need to work on, and here is where I'm likely to work on them.