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.