Just touching base

Rain is keeping me happily at my desk, and I thought I’d best let anyone who’s checking know that all is well at Chez Treehouse.
At work, however, not so much.
So: back to the grindstone, and I’ll see you on the other side.


Halloween survived

This year, we got the pumpkins a week ahead, carved them a day ahead, lit them an hour ahead, and generally had things under control.
Nobody decided to be something different an hour before trick-or-treating, nobody complained about their costume. J stood very still for her make up, and was virtually unrecognizable as a witch in green face paint. A was the same blue fairy she was last year, only with fewer outdoor clothes on top. About the same time the girls could no longer contain the urge to crack their glow sticks into light, our friend came over to man the door at home so we could venture forth to demand treats from our neighbours. The glow sticks ignited and attached to costumes and bags, and flashlights in hand, we set out as merry a band as every you’d see.

We ran into a boy from the neighbourhood who used to be in J’s class, and assimilated our little group with his, catching up on news with his Mom and Aunt. The boy said absolutely nothing, but J more than made up for it, explaining all the details of neighbour’s names, families and, oh everything, to him and his mom. Nobody panicked at the sight of the Aunt’s little dog – although A continuously told him, at the top of her lungs, as she climbed down steps from front porches with her growing stash of treats: “You can’t have any!”

The weather was mild and pleasant. We managed over an hour outside, and with the many long driveways in our neighbourhood, the kids earned their few treats before bedtime, and fell fast asleep even as they tried to mumble again that they weren’t even the slightest bit tired.

At our house we had a grand total of 3 groups of treat seekers – for a total of maybe a dozen kids, including ours. We have enough candy to last us till New Years.

Any time at all

Wednesdays, we have a standing arrangement with our baby-sitter; she comes over for an hour or so, Beloved Husband and I get out for a walk together.

This week, we weren’t feeling well, either of us, and we decided to go to the little mall near us instead of marching around outside in the cold. BH had some toys he wanted me to see at the department store at one end of the mall, and then we’d check out the grocery store at the other end. At the department store, I did a full tour of the toy shelves tucked into the furthest corner of the department store, while BH moved on to the electronic section closer to the mall doors

That’s where he was when he heard the shots. Being him, he recognized the sound. But, unusual for him, he discounted the possibility. I didn’t hear a thing, and I met him in electronics just as staff closed the mall doors, not too unusual at 8:45 . Then, when we made our purchase, the outside door was also shut. The store was locked down. After a very brief delay, the doors were opened; we went out, and then into the rest of the mall to do our other shopping.

Two people had been shot to death in one of the mall stores, as it turned out, men who were involved in drug distribution.

Apparently a purposeful shooting, and we were at no virtually no risk, though it shocks me to think what if we had finished our perusing a little earlier, and had been wandering past as the gunman tried to escape? I can vividly picture that going very badly.

But what I really did see is bothering me. As we entered the mall, about half-way along, a woman ran past us, with so clear an expression of pain on her face that BH remarked on it. I made some comment on stupid high heels. She ran down to the crime scene and began to cry. I pulled BH on, to do our shopping, but I can’t get her out of my mind. Presumably she knew the deceased, but is she deeply connected? Married to one of them? How is she now?

This kind of thing doesn’t happen often in our city. It isn’t a big place or a highly crime-ridden one. But that undercurrent is there. And, crime aside, life can end abruptly. I’m hugging my kids and BH a little harder than usual this week.

An update

Already a week to Hallowe’en.
I’m doing better than last year – The kids have worked out their costumes, the pumpkins are purchased.
Now, I only have to catch up on the cleaning, cooking and laundry, decorate the house, shovel out my personal, financial and scouting paperwork, organize clothes and gear for fall, tidy up the yard toys, put the gardens to bed, rake, organize our social calendars (through till January) to ensure we get to see ANYONE on weekends, get back on the exercise program and get some Christmas preparations in place.

This weekend was all good. I spent 15+ hours at a course on how to be a Beaver Leader, and met some lovely fellow leaders, new and experienced. Sunday morning, the girls got to ride their bikes (with training wheels) on a 4 ish Km route – which involved run-walking for their parents to keep up. Thank God there are two playgrounds enroute, where at least I get to stand still and just push swings.

I was exhausted. I made lunch, then imposed quiet time. I lay on the couch with my book – kids in separate rooms – until my book fell from my hand and I slept. The kids got me up shortly after that. A had fallen asleep on the toilet and needed consoling. Not my finest moment, but we recovered.

Then we managed a two-part grocery trip, wherein I managed to buy neither supper ingredients nor two vital supplies: eggs and raisins. Again, we managed. Following a late supper and baths, Dad came home, and we all put together a map of Canada (200 pieces – the Northern parts are tricky – all the same colour!) and then bed, and laundry/ the last 2 episodes of Big Bang Theory Season 2 (? maybe 3?) bed and oh, my God it is Monday again.

I’ve just recalled I can post by email.
So this is a bit of a test – let me know if it is unreadable or less-than coherent. A real post with less “and thens”, and more actual stories, to come.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

I have a problem with procrastination. Since forever, I guess, but definitely since I was in high school. Probably my reluctance to clean up my room as a kid was a symptom of the same thing.

Anyway, I have a whole slew of rationales for my behaviour, and a whack of techniques to try to overcome it. I’ve tried as many antiprocrastination schemes as a cream puff adict has diets.

They all work, if you do them.

If you don’t, you live in a state of anxiety that affects not only your work life, but your ability to deal calmly and effectively with your family. It leads to overeating, over-caffeinating, losing sleep (and thus shortened attention spans), general malaise and low self-image. In short, it saps the joy from the everyday. It sounds a lot like depression, and can in fact spiral into full-blown depression, with the inability to think straight, reach out, or make decisions. 

I generally can’t make myself do the things that are necessary to deal with procrastination head on. I am embarassed every time to discover I am this weak. I have moved beyond guilt to real shame that I live like this so much of the time, despite being old enough to know better.

There’s good days with bad weeks, good weeks with bad days, but there are rarely any periods untouched by some aspect of me mishandling my time. While not being productive, I’m wondering about the meaning of my procrastination, what I am trying to saboutage, what I’m afraid of, what it means for my life choices. Is there work I could be attempting where I wouldn’t be constantly stringing myself up like this? Is it all a symptom of my poor planning that I fell into this career, and not one where I would have better flourished?

But then I realize it is as much a part of my home life as my work, it is a part of my learning style and my essential self. It’s not avoidable, despite my best intentions. My reoccurring thoughts of  “if only I had …” (fill in career path – studied nursing, stayed home with the kids, become a postie) don’t help. I’m not stupidly pursuing a career that is an anathema to my basic work style. I am simply working within my own flawed paradigm.

Scarily, the stakes are getting higher: I have children to care for, a mortgage to pay.  However, at times, I am strangely optimistic. I think, or at least I hope, I am seeing a gradual trend towards pulling back soon enough that I don’t completely crash and burn. I don’t accomplish things the way I want yet (flashbacks to every report card I ever brought home: Moosilaneous would excel if she would just apply herself) but I pray I’ll manage.

Now back to work!

Expect the unexpected

This week I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a delightful baby boy, age 3 months, and get re-acquainted with his lovely parents. We’ll soon see more of them – they are all moving back to this part of the country! I’m really looking forward to our families bieing friends.

In enjoyed holding the babe, which pretty much goes without saying. It was really interesting, talking to his parents about their recent, and our not-so-long-ago, experience of birth, nursing, and just having a baby in the house.  Our discussion reminded me again of  our great good fortune in having generally healthy, happy pregnancies, births and babies. Honestly, it is just that, great good luck. We talked about how little I felt inconvenienced by pregnancy and breastfeeding. After all, Iwas just so thrilled to have it happen, expected it to be my last chance, and had experienced most of the various unpleasant side effects before. The various drawbacks, even combined, were pretty much as expected.  Having babies and little kids in the house has been tiring, frustrating work, intermingled with moments of pure joy.

I believe  that childbearing and for that matter, childrearing, thus far, has been one big lesson in acknowledging both our lack of control and the miracles among us. That point of view, where learning gratitude is entwined with adjusting ones expectations, was really well summed up in this quote from Ellen Painter Dollar published in the Literary Mama Blog:

I recently came across one theologian’s description of people without any obvious illness or disability as being “temporarily able-bodied.” There is such truth in that. All bodies break, all bodies fail. The power of childbearing does not lie in our bodies’ ability to do exactly what we want and expect them to. My body has never done exactly what I wanted and expected it to, especially when it came time to birth my babies. The power of childbearing, rather, lies in our bodies’ ability to bring forth something exquisite, miraculous, and imperfect (as all human beings are) from its own exquisite, miraculous, and imperfect depths

I struggle to remember that all of life is a series of surprises and our attitudes make it what it is.

the ragged sleeve of care

I used to have dreams, now I have nightmares.
I manage to awaken without memories of what I dreamt, but the sweat, the twisted sheets and the elevated heartbeat tell the tale.

I guess the tale could be  much more risque, given the symptoms, but trust me, this isn’t about that kind of thrashing about.

My nightmares, I think, are continuation of my constant anxiety level. I worry about how I’m working, raising the kids, affording all of this – just how we’re going to manage, and if we’re going to manage.

I honestly can’t see past this fall to pin my dreams on something more distant. I have no hopes, really, except for happy healthy kids, no visions of how that is supposed to come to pass.

Sometimes I think that is a failure of imagination – after all:  to do, one must first dream – but lately I’m glad that my limited creativity prevents me from spending even more time conjuring up worst case scenarios. I’m certainly glad my poor memory doesn’t let me know what happened in those moments just before I woke up, gasping.

I try to focus on the immediate goals and concentrate on getting from here to there, but maybe the problem is that I need to know where “there” is.

Learning Pride

Proud is powerful.

Pride is something I want for my children. I didn’t find anything much to be proud of, myself, until I had children. I was moderately good at a number of things, but never excelled at anything. I didn’t feel a level of accomplishment in anything that could be described as pride.

Clear self- perception issues exposed here, but hey, I stand by the statement that I am a Jack of all trades, Master of none. I was a seriously flakey dilettante, or maybe it was ADD.  OK, I felt occasional pride in things I did often and enjoyed, like cooking or sex, but it was a very delicate pride, a puff ball that could be dispersed by the slightest breath of criticism, real or perceived.  

I was amazed to feel truly proud when I had my babies. I was proud of what my body had accomplished and that my children were thriving, despite my uncertainty and obvious mistakes (and those certain to be discovered years later on the therapist’s couch).  I had read of many women who had had problems with carrying, delivering and breastfeeding their babies. I knew it wasn’t really a personal accomplishment, just luck. My pride wasn’t so much about my accomplishment  as I felt proud of my new standing as a mom, something I had longed to be.

But it was a strange source of pride – I was proud for doing something that the majority of people the world over had already accomplished: becoming a parent.

 Maybe it was more of a sense of relief than of pride, really. I had, in a sense, arrived. Suddenly, in at least a small way, I fit in. I was, for want of a better word, normal. I completely understood why Murphy Brown (yes, I know she was a character on a TV show, but hey, get your cultural icons where you will) sang: “You make me feel like a natural woman” to her baby the day he was born. She, like me, had always been an outsider, and here she was, really a part of something: the bond with her child, but also the continuing story that is the human race.

 For the first time, it all made sense: the way the rest of the world lives, what motivates them, what rules they live by, where they are going. Baby and I were one, and yes, I was proud to be one of “them”.

 I no longer feel that pride of solidarity much. My world is too different from any other mom I know to feel one of the Moms of the World much. However, at my advanced age, with my high-stress job, fairly fragile health and two still-thriving little kids, keeping going is an accomplishment. So, I have learnt to be proud of just hanging on.

 And you know, besides being very proud of my friends, their accomplishments and diversity, I am also very proud of having made those friendships, having nurtured, (however spottily) those friendships, having been accepted by those people I greatly admire and just, well, being a person with a great bunch of friends. So that’s another thing. I am proud of my efforts to make friends and be a good friend.

 I’m still looking for something I do well enough to be proud of it as an accomplishment, and looking forward to being an accomplished person.  But in the meantime, I have begun to be proud of my efforts, the inroads I’m making, towards becoming the friend I want to be, and a person I’d like to be, even if that is just defined for the moment as a person who keeps on going.

 I’m hoping that I can exhibit that pride to my children, so they grow up understanding the pride of growing, not just achieving. But I also hope they feel pride in who they are and what they do, before they’re old enough to be grandmothers!

It’s snot impossible…

Seriously, where does all the mucous come from?
BH thought I was kidding when I asked. He pointed out that it is pretty much concocted on-site (the implication being: after all, it isn’t an operation that can be out-sourced overseas or anything). Thanks for the help, honey.
I mean I understand that the mucous membranes create it, but who thought they could produce this much. I mean really!
Sorry, it just is a topic that is pretty much front and centre in my mind these days. I’ll step back a bit:

My early tentative good feelings have been borne out:  Spring has come a month early to these parts. We had a magnificent Easter, the sun came forth and pulled flowers out of the ground in front of our very eyes!
We had our first annual Easter Egg Hunt (held on Good Friday – all about the chocolate, nothing about the liturgy) with a great turnout of littles, bigs and in-betweens. That worked out fabulously – everyone contributed: my best friend supplied not only good cheese, great and abundant chocolate, but also fabulous white sangria! (have I mentioned that’s our summer’s project at the Treehouse? Sangria perfecting? Ah, yes, we have lofty goals!) The rest of the weekend passed in a blur, with more sunshine and a visit from darling brother and his dog.

Then, the coughing started. The kids had it first, of course, but man, when it got to me, it hit hard. The kids trouped off to their new daycare, and I collapsed. Hours at a stretch of exhausted sleep – not a moment of luxuriating with a good book or anything.  How do single or stay-at-home parents manage? I struggled through the weekend, thinking I was getting better, only to collapse again on Monday. If there wasn’t someone to take the kids for a while I don’t know what I would have done. After that,  I worried about work so much while I was off that I possibly came back prematurely. But hey, I sound so awful I get a lot of sympathy on conference calls. This may or may not be balanced by the alarmed looks at in-person meetings while I hack up a lung.

In other news, Monday BH is orchestrating the possibly final part of our move, with professional movers (!). I don’t recommend the convenience of having two houses for an extended period. It makes moving  pretty much death by a thousand cuts. I would rather we had found the time to just devote to the move and have it done. Although I must point out,  I’m not doing any of the move, just trying to set up the usual household systems etc. However,  I am loving living in our new house, love the light and space, and trying to track the kids down in the far reaches of the garden. (Note to self: dark or green clothes, no matter how fetching, will no longer be purchased for fear of losing the littles amongst the greenery. Everyone should have my problems. )

My only real problem with the new place is not as I expected, that I feel out of place due to snootiness of neighbourhood (turns out, I have a very strong “fuck-em if they can’t take a hick” attitude) but guilt. I have always been priviledged, I know this. I grew up with great advantages, education, health, oportunities etc, but this, this new place is ridiculous. I wonder if I can get over the need to apologize for my good fortune?

Last night the girls got haircuts. J is cuter than a button with a short bob that shows off her heavy tresses, while A’s fine hair makes her look remarkably like the kid in Les Miserables posters – except possibly better fed. When I woke J this morning, I couldn’t help exclaiming again over how grown-up she looked. She reached up and felt her bare neck and said “and its still there”. Yep, it wasn’t an elaborate haircutting dream sequence, honey.

Back at work, I continue to try to string together effective sentences while my synapses are clearly mired in this gelatinous goo. On Fridays, my workload seems doable. The rest of the time, I feel like I may or may not make it to the end of May. Perhaps I could find someway to hang on to this hopefulness the rest of the week?

So I promised a story.

 There was a small tempest, earlier this week, over at Dani’s blog.
Some Mommybloggers I greatly respect discovered they were included in a Master’s thesis, available online. I was, I admit, fascinated with the thesis, their response to it, and how that response evolved online.

But in my comment to the original post, I alluded to how it all reminded me of a story.
I could relate to the pressures of trying to tie together a paper that really wanted to go in a billion directions at once.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I studied linguistics. This does not involve, contrary to popular belief, and fortunately for me, actually learning a whole whack of languages. Instead, it concentrates on theories about language and languages. I love that stuff.

Anyway, for one of my courses  (I think I was following up on some theories posited in earlier research) I decided to look at gender differences in language – by studying graffiti. Chosing this topic involved some serious short cuts to make it manageable – I’d look only at one set of bathrooms (men’s and women’s) on campus, documenting and reviewing what I found. 

On the walls in there,  I  found a striking difference – men made assertions, women sought community or affirmation. But in the process of trying to winnow down my thesis into something manageable, I really missed any possibility of producing anything generalizable.

Plus, I must say I had a hell of a good time seeing the reaction on faces of students hanging around, observing both my boyfriend and I heading into our respectively gender-designated cans, then coming out some time later, each trying to shake the kinks out of his or her hand. And commiserating with each other about “how exhausting that was” – while being visibly excited to compare notes… Yeah, that must have looked good.

I had enlisted his help to record the comments in the boy’s room, and it took quite a bit of doing to jot down all that he saw. Our hands were worn out from transcribing, folks, transcribing!

Need I mention this was before the day of cell phone cameras? Nowadays it would be a breeze to just nonchalantly photograph the walls of the stall for posterity.

My point being:  I wonder whether the authors of some of those discussions (and I did record some surprisingly personal, lengthy discussions) ever thought their work would be the subject of “academic” review?

Maybe this new media, creating more public space, also creates such a sense of community that it becomes really easy to forget who else can wander by and use your words, draw conclusions about your life, and cast aspersions on your ideals. Made me want to write a couple of theses myself – despite my propensity to dissolve into a puddle of procrastination at the sight of my work being reviewed.  

But hey, bring on the aspersions! That’s what I’m signing up for.