Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's Going To Be Nerve-Wracking Until It's All Over With

The Banshees have spoken. They want more structure than I have been able to give them. Considering I have been tearing my hair out over my inability to get them to actually, you know, FOLLOW the structure I've tried to put in place, I probably should be getting a high quality wig or figuring out how to be gracefully bald in public. However. Charter school it is then. And O, the roller coaster that has been over the last two weeks.

Their first choice rejected them. Too far behind. Which was something I had been saying for a while, but being my offspring, they kinda went deaf when it comes to parental pearls of wisdom. No, some poor shell-shocked administrator, who has surely seen everything before, had to be the one who told them: "Sorry, but you're not going to be able to keep up with our curriculum when you're this far behind." Him, they'll listen to. Oy. So they're trying to catch up, and I'm trying to get them into an online charter that will give them the "structure" they so desperately (ha!) want.

Transcripts are going to be a real bear. I'm still trying to figure out how to get these into a shape that will actually be informative. Then there are the birth certificates, proof of residency, health check-ups, and other assorted detritus that I have to get into faxable form and shoot off to the online academy.

Children. They drive you to drink, and then deny you the ability - because parenting is a full-time, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job, and until you have a tag-team partner, you have to do it sober. My tag-team partner has to carry a full-time job, so my full time job is being a Responsible Parent, sometimes when I least want to be. Being a grown-up is not for the faint-hearted.

Still, we're inching along. I'm gathering the paper-work, figuring out how to navigate an email faxing system, and wrestling with transcription. It may be informative to tell an administration that your student is two to four grades behind their age-cohorts in math, and they absolutely kill at anything related to Shakespeare and Goosebumps, but it isn't exactly information in a form the administration can use. One way or seven, however, they're going to get the "structure" they think (HA!) they want.

And they are probably going to shine.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Taking Stock

I finished my Camp NaNoWriMo effort - 75,363 words in 31 days. Maybe 5,000 of those words are worth saving, and I think I'm going to try to save them. The whole experience this round has been fun, and so what if less than seven percent is salvageable. I prefer to think of it as a solid core around which to build.

There is also no doubt in my head that I'm having hormone storms and the general stress of life isn't making them any easier. Now that NaNo is off my stress list, I have time to integrate exercise back into my daily existence. DBS said I was a lot easier to live with when I was exercising (okay, he was much more diplomatic about these things because he really doesn't want to hurt my feelings). I'm sure the Banshees thought I was easier to deal with too. Tomorrow night I need to have my workout gear on hand because I'm gritting my teeth and getting with it again.

Tomorrow I have to get outside and work on the duck runs as well.

And I have to figure out which time slot in the day is marked Writing Time and is sacrosanct from all demands save those compatible with sustaining life.

Thinking about putting at least two of the Banshees in some sort of pubic school setting. Maybe they will take to it like ducks to water. Maybe they'll find they don't like it. Maybe they'll find some setting in between and make some serious decisions for themselves. But they need a break from me, and I need a break from them, and it has nothing to do with our affection for each other. They just need something different for a while and so do I.

Now I have to spend some serious time on veggie prep. Volunteering for the vegetable co-op means I'm bringing home a lot more than I am used to, and I have wasted much more these last two weeks than I'm comfortable with. Time to get out the hack'n'slash skills and prep for lots of steaming, baking, boiling, grilling, and just plain old getting it ready for fresh eating. Better diet will probably also help with the whole I think I'm going mental thing as well. I may like eating a lot of beige things but that doesn't have to be the only color group in my diet!

Not A Breaking Bad Fan

In fact, I've never seen it. But Ozymandias? Totally a fan. And I've never heard a better rendition.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Literature: Or, How To Torture Your Children

I mentioned to the offspring how a certain music video always reminds me of The Masque Of The Red Death (Gorillaz, Feel Good, Inc.). Naturally, they looked at me as if I was suddenly growing yet another skull so I had to go find a copy of the story and, upon finding, promptly began to read it to to them ("Mom, is this a terribly long story?")

No, actually, it isn't. But it is dreadfully unsettling - or, as EB put it, "Man, that's creepy."

"Yes," I said happily, "That's Edgar Allan Poe!" Whereupon I searched out Christopher Walken's version of The Raven, googled up a copy of same, and let them read while Mr. Walken provided audio.

Just for the record, I'm putting this in the "Things To Do Around Halloween" file.

Oooh, look, James Earl Jones has a rendition!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Uh Oh

I have been having a lousy year. I can be normal and turn on a dime and feel way beyond miserable, and there doesn't seem to be a discernible reason for any of it. In fact, I told my beloved husband this morning that the last time I felt this way was in high school....

Oh Crap.

Hello menopause.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I have quit going to Facebook. This has cut my anxiety by an unbelievable factor. It's great. I don't feel awful all of the time anymore. My first impulse was to post this intriguing fact on a social network.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Did I Mention I Was A Luddite In A Past Life?

The computer revolution started when I was in high school. It doesn't seem that far away but it's 30+ years ago when I wanted nothing at all to do with the digital revolution. Fast forward and I have more computers in the house than I have sense, and that's saying a lot. Oh, most of them are old and cranky - one is just a year younger than MB, and he's turning 13 this year. There's the one I inherited from my father and brother when they updated, but it's probably 7 years old at the very least. The one I built is a little over a year old, maybe two, but I love it because when something goes wrong I know how to fix it. For the most part. 82% of the time - and the rest I want to take my emergency reprogramming tool (a.k.a. ax) to it just like the rest of the electronics in the house. There's DBS's computer, which is his purview and his problem. And then there is my laptop.

Okay, I bought this one without doing my usual careful research and review. It was a refurbished Dell 5150 and I just loved, loved, loved the model number. I should have known better. It has overheating issues that fried the internet connector, so we have to rely on a pcmcia adapter which I broke, and which has taken me several years to getting around to replacing. I've used it as an internet-blind writing desk, which is not a bad idea when you're as distractable as I am. Writing is hard work when inspiration leaves you flat, I'm as susceptible as the next person when it comes to putting off the hard work, and the internet offers so much that is so much more fun than hard work. Which is a character flaw that leaves me very sympathetic to the Banshees when they would rather Netflix or play the umpteenth round of Monster High Soap Opera, or read a good book for the zillionth time, than do their chores or their homework. But still. The dishes still have to get washed and the writing still has to get accomplished, and we all have to be grown up when we don't really want to be all of the time.

The time has come, my dearest walruses, to talk of many things - one of which is my inevitably having to chase work like a full-time job in and of itself, the Banshees' ability to educate themselves in my absence, and the need for a mobile platform with which to accomplish this. Since we have absolutely NO free cash - and I mean zero, zip, zilch, I have to plot for 9 months to afford the gas to get to a museum, NADA free money in the budget, that means the little old 5150 must be pressed into service again. So I found a cheap little replacement pcmcia card - already I like it better than the old one, and I've been busy this afternoon updating and revamping the poor little laptop.

Oh, it is a slow little computer compared to my desktop. But it is trying. And it will run the Teaching Textbooks software, which is what the Banshees currently use to learn math. I will have to sell a kidney when they get through the levels we have, but it's all in a good cause. (They have pre-calculus. My high-school math-phobic self would be shocked to know I'm plotting to get that program for myself. I might let the Banshees have a crack at it if they're nice to me.) I have to call TT tomorrow because their program tells me my key to #6 has been used once too often, but it should clear up okay. I'm currently replacing the antivirus because hey, you ought to do that every few years or so. This is taking hours. Hours and hours and hours. I'm tip-tapping away on the desktop while keeping a wary eye on the little 5150 and hoping it doesn't do something counterproductive, like burst into flames while its downloading Avast. I seem to remember that it has problems with its media player - bother - which could be a headache because Yale online has so many lovely, wonderful, toothsome history classes. (Seriously, check out Videolectures.net, look for Yale, and take a lunch with you. You'll thank me.) Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and now that the computer can connect to the web I can download a usable media player. Woo-hoo! I also took the time to put in Revo Uninstaller. I love that utility.

When and if I find work long enough, I'll get a bottom-of-the line new laptop and put this one out to pasture, i.e. convert it to a pure Linux Ubuntu machine. Then I'll have to start clearing out the rest of the electronic detritus that has accumulated on the flat surfaces of the house. I've got figure out how to effectively kill the hard drives before carting them off to the electronics graveyard, but once they are gone, oh my goodness the amount of household real estate I'm going to be opening up boggles the brain.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Every Once In A While, It Hurts

I just did the math. This household pulls in about 126% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of this size.

In Southern California.


So, no, I can't come to the lake to celebrate summer with you. I'd love to, you're good friends, and all of my other friends will be there. But I can't pretend that it's even possible for me to keep up with that and still pay the bills that need to be paid. Yes, I know it's only $20 to get in, plus the $30-$40 worth of gas (the van is a gas hog, and that's why it stays parked most of the time these days), plus the food and drink for the barbeque - that's easily between $80 and $100 total for a day out. I'd love to go. It hurts that I can't. I hate having to see that look in the Banshees' eyes when they realize they are going to get left out again. But I have lived with the aftermath of living up to and a little bit over each paycheck, hoping to get caught up with everything on the next paycheck, and I have to say that being on a first-name basis with bill collectors is not worth it. I can't lie to myself. Nothing will get better if I do.

So no, I'm not being a cheapskate. Yes, it really is that bad. EB is having a birthday soon and I'm facing up to probably not being able to get her a present, or if I can, it will be a little token present and nothing like what she really wants. That hurts even worse than not being able to get to a picnic by the lake. She's trying to give me the money she got for Christmas. She wants to help. That makes me want to cry. She shouldn't have to worry about this.

There will be food on the table. The bills will be paid and the lights will stay on. It's just that there isn't anything left over for - well, for anything.

And if I think about it, if I let myself think about it even a little bit, every once in a while - it hurts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Short One

I'm sitting here thinking I shouldn't be sitting here - because I know I've been using the computer and the internet as hiding places so I don't have to think about my life outside the electrics. 

Short summary: Our finances suck. Awfully. We're in beans'n'rice and whatever we can scrounge up out of the back yard territory. Our fixed expenses are getting paid but there is precious little left over. So that means one of my primary escapes has got to get cut off at the knees. I can't hide in the internet all day, every day, because that costs us money in electricity. On the bright side, that leaves me time for a massive gardening effort. Between the loss of my sedentary lifestyle and my home-grown food initiative, I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose weight and, more importantly, gain a bunch more muscle and endurance. I like endurance. I like the idea of having stamina again. So, while I have to mourn my delusions, I also get to celebrate new beginnings. These are my own silver linings - hey, so I don't have the gas money to get to my ridiculously cheap gym. I have a huge yard that I can dig up, sift through, refill, and plant things in! I have trees - some need coddling, some need killing, and both are going to take some work, and work means I'm going to lose weight. Lost weight means I'm going to have the energy to work a little harder and a little longer. And there may be radishes at the end of this tunnel....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Notes From The Back of Beyond

The gentleman in Texas relented and sent me a breeder's dozen (in this case, 14) of Trout Runner duck eggs. Four were crushed enroute (I love the USPS but occasionally they take a rugby match attitude towards packages) and their contents spread all over everything, so he sent me 10 replacement eggs for the cost of shipping. If anything goes wrong after this, I'm pretty sure it will be my fault, not his. I washed off the first batch with an egg disinfectant and popped it in the incubator and pretty much commenced worrying as if worrying could do anything to help hatch an egg.

The first batch of eggs has a due date of Friday, May 17th. However, one egg is a rockin' and a rollin' and squeaking furiously right now. Please, little duck, hatch and be well. I told my poor beleaguered spouse that I really need to be shipped off to an extended weekend to Anywhere But Here right about now, because I'm going to be hovering and twittering and chewing fingernails up to elbows until I know everything is going to be okay. And it's early. And they need to be left alone to get on with things. And telling me not to worry is like telling a fire not to burn, ain't gonna happen and we all know it. Phoo. The second batch of eggs is due in three and a half weeks, so we have this nerve-wracking wait to do all over again. Gah.

I have 20 tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, and an Anaheim chili plant to put in the ground. Every time I get up the resolution to dig holes, the wind decides it's going to blow through here at 55 miles per hour. Does somebody sit outside my house and take notes for this sort of thing? Yeah, she's getting motivated to do something, what can we throw in the works to screw that up? On the other hand, all of the fruit trees are still alive (if you knew me, you'd know how...well, unprecedented that is) and despite my best efforts a couple are trying to bear fruit. I've decided that I don't care if my Morello cherry tree ever gives me a crop, the tree itself is beautiful enough to keep around just because. On the other hand, I'd really like to try to make cherry preserves and I've read Morellos are just about perfect for that purpose. So, I guess pretty will work but pretty plus fruit would be wonderful.

I did well at going to the gym for about a week, and then realized that I can't afford the gas to get there. So I have a couple of choices: 1. figure out how to exercise around the house (and we all know how that's been working out) or 2. go to the gym when I can take the spouse's econobox. So far neither of those choices has been my all-time favorite but if I want to lose weight - heck, screw the weight, if I want to feel healthy again - I'm going to have to find a way to make what I have work instead of wasting time pining after perfect scenarios. I'm leaning towards getting up at two in the morning so I can hit the gym, work myself into exhaustion, come home and collapse into a heap without being fussed over. That's really going to take a profound internal-clock makeover. Worth it. But oh, ouch. I love my sleep. I get a little psychotic if my sleep is twiddled with. I don't want to do this - but I sort of have to if I'm ever going to see my feet again. It's still going to take another couple of weeks before I work myself into it, but if I can get the routine going it will be so very worth it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trout Duck Blues

The one source I thought I had - the one that, if she ever showed up on ebay again, I was sure was I going to get Trout hatching eggs, has informed me that she sold her stock off a little while ago.

I can't print what I said next, not if I want to keep this a friendly blog. I just wish I'd known she was getting out of the Trouts when she was getting out of them, because I might have nice little flock by now. But - well, these things happen. I'll keep looking. Right now the only place I know that sells hatching eggs or stock is in Texas and they don't ship anything. Not eggs, not adult birds, nada. Phooey. You know you have an obsession with a bird when it's beginning to look like your only options to getting one are taking a round trip train ride to San Antonio for hatching eggs (carrying along an incubator you can use on said train) or flying to Britain to negotiate the importation of a breeding flock - and that these options might necessitate selling off a kidney -and it sounds like a perfectly reasonable solution.

If I had the room I'd buy a batch of the lady's Grey Runners. They are also very good looking birds and she has been wonderfully helpful. Unfortunately, until I win the lottery and move into better digs, I have to be careful about my bird acquisitions, and that means I either give up on the Trouties altogether, or hang in there until I can find what I want. Ah well. Hang in there it is.

I hear Britain is lovely this time of year :).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Taking a Shillelagh to My Fears

I finally went back to the gym today. It's been probably a good eight years or more since I've been there, and sitting in the parking lot looking at the front door was the hardest part. I'm not even looking to lose weight, although I know it's going to be an inevitable outcome if I do this right. I'm looking to feel better. I'm looking forward to going on a hike without feeling like my lungs are on fire. I want to shop for clothes again. I want to know I can go out in the back yard and dig holes all damned day long if it is necessary.

My brother is on the telephone telling me that the hall is hiring any moment and it's a plum job that could last for months, and I have spent a weekend getting bent out of shape over it. I'm on the verge of running around on high-gear panic. The kids aren't ready, I'm not ready, do I really have enough travel money to cover this until payday...? And then calling the hall and finding out I haven't moved an inch on the out of work list was  crashing, crushing, wondering are they ever going to send me out to work again? Of course they are. Eventually. Maybe not now. Probably not now. But eventually.

So I'm online now, blogging away, to tell myself to chill the hell on out. I have a check list. I know how to prioritize. If I got called to work today, then things would have this interesting way of just working themselves out. If I don't, I'm still setting up and meeting goals. Everything is going to be all right one way or seven.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Underfunded Blues

Time was, even when the spouse and I were spending stupid, there was enough to fund what we needed to get funded plus the stupid spending. Then gas prices went from under $2 to $4.65 (under Bush jr., so waaaay before our current president) and suddenly what had been a perfectly adequate paycheck wasn't so much anymore. Not just because of the spike in the price of fuel, but because of everything else that spiked shortly after. Food. Household goods, little and large. Everything that a paycheck-to-paycheck household uses on a regular basis. It took us a while to realize that every impulse buy that we indulged in was no longer covered by the paycheck. It took us a little while longer to realize that even our legitimate debts had increased simply because our ability to pay them had decreased. We got to look at that debt-spiral that has first the big indulgences, and then little indulgences, and then day-to-day necessaries go from manageable to unpayable in an eyeblink. It was like dealing with a flock of Weeping Angels.

Oh yeah. Whoever came up with Core CPI? Screw you. I can tell you that never once have I seen gas prices jump the way they did and then go back to "normal". I can also tell you that I have never seen any of the other items affected by the price of fuel go back to "normal". Ever. Our income didn't jump to match the price of fuel or food, ergo, we have seen some immense inflation in this household. Stuff that in your ear, sideways. By the Great Colander of the FSM, I really wish an economist or a congressional member, preferably one with an active brain and more than vestigial conscience, would swap places with us for a month.

Thanks to the job I held early in 2012 we've managed to bring ourselves back from the brink a little. We're no longer on a first-name basis with any collection agent and it looks like we're going to be able to keep ourselves that way. Even so, when December came around I found myself falling into a little bit of a situational depression. Christmas had been covered months before, because I had done all of the shopping ahead of time, giving myself time to get as good a price as could be got and carefully avoiding the emotional last-minute shopping. It's just that as much as I hate to admit it, I really missed the emotional shopping. I miss being able to get even a little thing on the spur of the moment because I have to be so careful with the finances. And it really got under my skin when I realized I was starting to slip back into the "it's just a little thing" mentality. Yes. $6.99 or $12.99 or $8.65 are all little amounts of money, but if you're spending that every single day of the week or even just once a week, after a while it starts to ad up to the internet bill you can't cover, or the telephone service that starts to be just a day or two away from disconnect. In addition, the realization that just cutting out that mindset wasn't enough just about killed me. I had to work on the idea that spending the entire paycheck just wasn't an option anymore. There had to be a savings plan to cover the expected but irregular bills (car insurance, anyone?) and the genuine emergencies (in case we wear out another washing machine).

Let me tell you, I didn't think a savings plan was a viable option. There are days when I'm absolutely certain it isn't a viable option. But I also figured, fairly grimly, that I was just going to have to find a way to make it an option. And I'm not talking about one of those Yahoo Finance articles where the indebted finds out that, wow! you can pay off $XX,XXX of debt pretty quickly if you just quit vacationing in the Bahamas quarterly and stop buying all of the latest Louis Vuitton gear. (Really, Yahoo? Really?) On the other hand, we had killed off a credit card and had paid off the last car note. Maybe I couldn't plow all of that back into a savings account, but I could try. So I've started putting this sad little amount into a savings account every single paycheck and then I just ignore that it's there. It isn't for an overdue gas bill and it doesn't go towards feeding my notorious yarn addiction. It's there for our irregular bills and emergencies and nothing else. It has, however, made our incredibly tight budget that much tighter.

I'm here to tell you that I am one miserable mommy blogger. My inability to spend my way out of the blues is adding to the indigo color I'm acquiring. My new-found refusal to lie to myself, even a little bit, about my ability to buy my way into a better mood is a skill I've long needed to acquire -- but still. Ouch. I've just spent six weeks being touchy, irritable, miserable, sullen, and just about as much fun to live with as a bear with a sore head. I also knew, that like every other habit worth acquiring, this was and is going to take some time. There are some signs that this is beginning to become the new normal. I immediately tell DBS about the state of our bank account if I feel an overwhelming desire to spend on something. The state of the savings account may be pitiful, but at least it's there. I'm looking at projects that I need to do and actually thinking that maybe I should get something done on them, possibly even within this epoch. The desk needs cleaning and the yard needs clearing and the Banshees are going to need some formal instruction in drafting and how to construct a research paper. I have fruit trees that need to be planted (Whee! I have Sierra Beauty, Pumpkin Russet, and Blue Pearmain apples and a Morello cherry tree that need holes dug ASAP. Just thinking about that cheers me up. The trees, not the hole-digging.) I may not be able to buy the seed potatoes or any of the other homesteading staples just yet but I have the tools to create the planting beds. And ah! The ghosts of hobbies past: I have enough material to make and carve soap, enough supplies left over from my Steampunk Adventures to play with at least a little, and not all of that polymer clay was bought with Banshees in mind. So yeah, I have a serious case of the Underfunded Household Blues, but even that can be overcome by restructuring habits, retraining the brain, and patience.