Archive for January, 2012
How do you use the internet? Well, besides the very obvious act of sitting in front of your favorite screen and reading these words. And these. And the ones to follow.
There are different ways of using the internet and I’m struggling with that right now. On one hand, you can create things of value: blog posts, record keeping, lesson plans, deepened knowledge. On the other hand (which is very often the same hand), you can consume content until your brain leaks: social media, Pinterest, reading blog posts, chasing links reading one thing after another. I’ve shaken both hands, sometimes at the same time. While I kid that I would have gotten nothing accomplished in college with today’s internet (remember the dial-up excitement of the 90s?), I also know for a fact that an iPad or even a first generation iPod would have made music school a lot easier. I was at Northwestern University the other day for a homeschool event; while sitting in a lobby I watched the students peck at their laptops between classes and turned a really ugly shade of green…16 years after I got my undergrad. Soooo much easier.
But I digress. As usual.
Being constantly plugged in has its pluses and minuses, and sorting those out is today’s challenge. I can’t turn off my phone, it’s the only phone in the house. I don’t want to turn off my internet, Pandora keeps me sane. And I’d shut down the browser and email and any possible thing that could distract me, but I need those to actually get work done. The problem arises when I need to write (and my writing projects are increasing daily, much to my
soul-crushing fear of failure delight) and my brain whimpers for relief.
“Jen! Just five minutes on Facebook! Share some posts on your blog page! Connect people! See if someone posted a funny picture of a cat doing the cha-cha with a tangerine in the backseat of a Edsel!!”
My God, I can’t even finish this without allowing distractions to smack my brain around. However, the cat was quite amusing.
To create or to consume, that is the question (sorry Shakespeare).
So what is your answer?
- The next person who tries to cheer me up by telling me Chicago is having a remarkably mild winter will be lucky recipient of a papercut from my Wellbutrin prescription. Sweetbabyjesusinastockingcap, I grew up here, I know this is a mild winter! Just please recognize that I spent the last 14 years in an area that gets over 300 days of sunshine a year, is a mile closer to the sun than I am now, and that is where I was diagnosed with SAD. I’m about to buy another Happy Lamp and wear it as a hat.
- I am now a contributor to Christine Fonseca’s new blog, An Intense Life. Looking at the other contributors and who they are and what they’ve accomplished, I
feel like a total hackeram honored and humbled to be writing there. The only thing I have up there right now is my bio; my posts will be on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month.
- Never in my craziest insomnia moments did I think that finding a community after the move would be this difficult. Are we all this busy, that reliant on social media? I know I’m an introvert, but I’ve made efforts to reach out, and my reaching out again and again is starting to look pathetic. How hard do I have to beg to find a tribe for me? For my homeschooling son?
- Wednesday begins the longest month of the year, made longer by the necessity of adding an extra day to the end so the Mayans don’t get pissed and send the earth flying into the abyss. Or something like that. Regardless, February is the cruelest month, and the 2012 version will either be really really fabootastic or suck little green frogs inside out. I do not exaggerate this in the slightest.
- My parents took the boys for the night yesterday and Tom and I got to enjoy some delicious silence for 27 hours. Yes, I counted. However, by reveling in the rare treat of a house that wasn’t reverberating with the echoes of little boys, I got jack diddly done. So dinners and homeschooling this week will both be of the Seat Of My Pants, Flying variety.
- My dear friend, Deborah Mersino, is moving on from Ingeniosus and taking a dream job in Oregon. As a result, #gtchat is on temporary hiatus until she and the chat sponsors find someone to run it. I will pass along the news once it is live again; this chat is much too important to lose. As for Deborah, I am so happy for her. We lived just close enough in Colorado to get together a few times before I moved, and I wish we could have hung out more. She is truly an amazing woman, and someone I miss terribly. While online is a great way to stay in touch, it’s just not the same. I wish her and her family the best as they dive headlong into this crazy move (she has to be out there in the next couple of weeks), and hope I get to meet up with her again soon.
Now. Here’s hoping I can whip through a last few things before my second wind hits. I’d kinda like to sleep tonight.
It’s been almost four years since I essentially collapsed from exhaustion. Unrelenting stress will do that to a person. Ironically, last year’s stress was considerably worse, but I had coping strategies learned from that collapse. Going gluten free, for one. Getting enough sleep for another. And respecting the day’s energy.
Wait. No, I’m still trying to learn that one. I’m good with the gluten free, I really try to get enough sleep (kiss my rosy red <ahem>, insomnia), but respecting the amount and kind of energy I have and working with that is still a struggle. Most days I feel pretty good and can get a lot accomplished. It may not look like a lot got accomplished, but it did. Then there are days like today, when I feel like I’m walking through Jello and concentrating on making lunch is a struggle. I know I haven’t been glutened, but I have a wicked headache that no amount of ibuprofen and caffeine is touching. I’m not the only one struggling today; A slept until 9:30 this morning and doesn’t feel well. School this lovely Friday has consisted of him reading several chapters of history; the rest of the day will be spent on the couch watching documentaries (right now it’s Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking).
So as he and I muddle through the day, I try to work on things and feel guilty that I’m not doing anything of great importance. Emails stare at me while my headache stares back. I’m trying to work with the energy I have, so that I can rest enough to recover from whatever the hell is giving me this headache and bounce back tomorrow. I’ve learned that if I don’t respect the energy I’m a lot worse off in the long run. I’m grateful that he and I can be at home to rest and still learn and work.
All that said, this post sucked my thinking energy dry. Back to the couch and documentaryapalooza.
Well, nothin’ like writing a depressing post about insomnia and the soul-crushing thoughts that creep through your mind late at night and then just disappear for nearly a week. So let’s go another direction, talk about something entirely different.
Let’s talk about sex.
Specifically, fruit fly sex. Yes, you read that correctly. I can call myself an expert on fruit flies because I had a unit on the life cycle of fruit flies back when I was in second grade. Never mind that that particular unit was thirty-one years ago, I’m on this. We had tubes of fruit flies lined with blue goo. They hatched on the blue goo, they ate the blue goo, they pooped on the blue goo, they surely had a little nudge-nudge at night on the blue goo, and then they died a happy little blue goo death. Circle of life and all that…with blue goo.
Last I checked, I have a house completely devoid of blue goo. And yet the fruit flies appear and have little fruit fly orgies and squeal little fruit fly squeals of delight in little fruit fly labor and delivery rooms somewhere within these walls. They are everywhere, and because it is winter and supplies are scarce in fruit fly world, they are tiny. Tiny enough that when you slap at them everyone else in the room thinks you are either having a seizure or a bad LSD trip. It was like this in Colorado, it is like this here. And I think I know why.
I am a fruit fly badonkadonk magnet. They swarm to me, wanting only to bask in my fruit fly badonkadonkness as they make other little fruit flies. I suppose I should be honored, but frankly I’m a little skeeved out. Little fruit fly hussies. I’d show them all the door, but they’re small enough they’d find a crack and sneak right back in. They know I’m on to them, though. They’re all in hiding, wherever that may be, waiting for my attention to be otherwise diverted before they continue with their little fruit fly key party. I just never figured my lead role in life would be as a fruit fly centerfold.
Or it’s the bananas. Yeah, they’re hitching rides on the bananas. I like that idea a whole lot better.
The house is quiet, dark but for the backyard motion sensor light. It flashes on as it is jostled by the wind, casting vague shadows on the curtains. The boys sleep, finally silenced by the exhaustion they always refuse to acknowledge. The dog clickety-clacks through the darkened rooms, looking for a soft place to land. And the husband breathes deeply beside me, well into the dreams he began down on the couch earlier in the evening. I lie there, half-asleep.
This is when the gremlins come out to play.
They whisper to me, getting louder and more insistent the more I try to ignore them and try to sleep.
The homeschooling won’t work, you know. You’re just in the easy honeymoon stage. Once more structured curriculum is introduced, you’ll be back to the battles, but they’ll be all day. And you won’t be allowed to complain, because this was your idea. The best part? There.Is.No.Plan.B.
You do realize that you’re just not going to make any friends here, right? It’s been six months and you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve gone out. You’re never going to have the kind of tight-knit community you had back in Colorado. The sooner you accept that, the better.
The minutes tick by. I toss and turn; blankets on, blankets off.
Your book is going to suck. Doesn’t matter what you do or how hard you work, it’s going to be a miserable piece of shit. No one wants to read about raising a twice-exceptional kid. No one believes these kids exist. And you have a hard enough time finding the funny on a daily basis; getting that onto the page? Right. Good luck with that.
The economy is not going to improve. You’re never going to find a part-time job to help stabilize the family budget. Regardless of how desperately you all need a vacation, it isn’t going to happen. Home improvements? And the massive remodeling project you want to undertake? Will.Never.Happen. You built your dream home in Colorado and left it there. Better just accept that. It’s easier that way. Just keep praying your rapidly aging van keeps trucking on. Peace of mind? No.
Music on, music off. The husband rolls over and begins to snore.
J is getting lost in all this. He’s such a quiet and loving kid, and he’s going to grow up resenting you because his squeaky wheel sibling needed so much. And A has never handled change well. You’ve thrown more change at that kid in the last few years than he could reasonably handle and you wonder why he lashes out? Way to go, mom. There’s an award for you around here somewhere.
You’ve wasted your 38 years on this planet, Jen. What have you done with your life? You were given every opportunity: a loving family, a great education, citizenship in a country that rewards hard work. You have little to show for your time here. The people you grew up with have careers and recognition that match their similar upbringing; you see them in print and on the news. You’ve done nothing.
A trip to the bathroom, a drink of water. Surely sleep must come soon. But no. The gremlins have saved their best for last.
The best part, Jen, is that none of it matters. Someday you’re going to be cold and dead in the ground, and none of what you do or work for or care about will matter.
Blessed, dreamless sleep.
The day breaks with the sun glinting off the snow from the previous day’s storm. The gremlins are banished for another day, their whispers gone from my ears. Life is good.
Until the bed is warm and the house is dark and the gremlins again come out to play.
I went grocery shopping last week. Yes, I know, news flash. We were out of nearly everything, and so it was a Costco and supermarket run. On a Saturday. It was not pretty. And it was not cheap.
I suppose I got spoiled, living in Colorado where there was a natural foods store on nearly every corner. Where organic produce is front and center, not wedged in the back near the jicama that has been there since the store opened. Where there is an expectation of quality and reasonable cost. And where you know that if you’re gonna drop some coin for food it’s actually food. Psst! Sunflower Market! I’m talking to you! I miss you! You never call…you never write…how about you come visit me in Chicago?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock…not that there’s anything wrong with that…you know food recalls pop up about every three weeks. Ground beef, cantaloupes, spinach. You name it, there’s probably been a recall at some point. Except for heavily processed foods. Hm. That just occurred to me. I can’t remember the last time I heard of, say, a Velveeta or Twinkies recall. That stuff even scares away e coli. Impressive. So we have to worry about the safety of our food.
We’re a mixed grocery family. A and I are gluten-free, he is also dairy-free. He and J are both picky eaters (though I am cracking down on that crap). A is quite underweight, I need to lose a few. Tom eats anything except pickles, the poor ignorant man, but has his food demands as well (must have breakfast cereal and always takes a sandwich for lunch). Mix that all together with a dash of I don’t like to cook when I’m hungry, and serve with a hefty side of healthy food is damned expensive.
When Tom and I first moved to Boulder, we lived on his teeny tiny wee widdle teacher’s salary as I went to grad school. We learned very quickly how to survive on that, and it was mainly through slashing grocery costs to ribbons. Our food budget (groceries and any rare dining out) was $200 a month. We became experts at shopping only the sales, doubling coupons like maniacs, and stocking up when things were cheap. Seeing savings of 40% or more on our grocery receipts was not uncommon. We’d buy bread at $.50 a loaf, canned beans at 10/$1, things like that. We had no cause to worry about the quality or safety of the food we were buying.
Things are quite different today.
Gluten free food is insanely expensive; a loaf of bread is minimum $5 for maybe five tiny sandwiches worth. There are very, very few coupons out there for gluten free foods. If it’s ever on sale, it’s maybe twenty cents off. There are ways to procure gluten free foods almost cheaply (Amazon has great bulk deals), but in general I pay through the nose. I also try to avoid foods that have ingredients that don’t exist outside a factory. You will never find something like the aforementioned Twinkies in my house. Velveeta perhaps, on the very rare occasion. I am weak around queso. Very weak.
Because of this our food budget is more than four times what it was 15 years ago, second only to the mortgage in the budget. Not just inflation, not just dietary restrictions, but also because I am afraid of our food supply. I don’t trust it. Ground beef can be cheap, if you don’t mind the fact that the five pound chub was probably ground from a half dozen different steers. A muffin mix can be really inexpensive, if you don’t look at the ingredients and see that the “berries” are listed below the various food colorings. I regularly have to balance cost with quality with nutritional value with how much I do or do not trust the food supply at any given moment. Pretty big mental scale hanging around my neck as I maneuver my cart. And I’m lucky to have the option of that giant scale, though if the economy kicks us in the teeth any further that option will have to go the way of cable tv.
Real food is insanely expensive, and that’s the majority of my cart. Knock wood, none of us have had a cold or the flu or the general plague this winter. I can’t remember the last time any of us got a knock-down-drag-out virus, and I really do attribute a lot of that to diet. We were all more prone to illness before I went gluten free and had to read every damned label out there. But reading those labels has put the fear of food into me. I hate going grocery shopping and wondering if the produce or the lunchmeat or the chicken breast is hiding something that could make us ill. I hate paying for groceries, knowing that I could be feeding our family for a lot less if I bought more processed foods.
I wish I could trust our food supply 100%, but I just can’t. Too much food is made by corporations or grown by pharmaceutical companies. This summer it’ll be organic produce from farmer’s markets (that I’ll freeze/can/put up), orders for 1/4 grass-fed steer and 1/2 happy hog (love my freezer), and my own personal garden. I pale thinking of the cost, but…I can’t do it any other way.
I love her to pieces, but I am convinced my dog is hell-bent on driving me batshit crazy as fast as caninely possible. I can think of no other reason for her existence on this earth.
Rosie is a sweet dog, very mellow. I rarely write about her, because as darling as she is, she’s about as interesting as pocket lint. Unless it’s pocket lint from the boys, then it’s probably mixed with Legos and random trash. Except for her Flatulent Superpower (Able to clear an entire room faster than the speed of light! Now with super-magic-longevity! Her aroma gets into a car’s air system and WHAM! Months later you get to repeat the pleasure!), she’s like a platypus. She doesn’t do much.
Ironically, as I wrote that last paragraph, Rosie started growling in her sleep. Tom and I waited with great anticipation to see if she’d suddenly leap from the couch and chase her dreams into the furniture. I am only a little embarrassed to say that I was disappointed.
In Rosie’s eyes, I am Alpha Dog. I’m the only one she listens to, which is kinda nice. I’m not accustomed to a creature in the house actually listening to me. However, this comes with a down side. I cannot take so much as five steps without her shadowing me. She’d be the worst spy ever. Sometimes I just walk a few steps to see if she’ll move, and sure enough, it’s like she’s on a short chain, following me nearly step for stepstepstepstep. You must picture that with the sound effect of her nails clickityclickityclickity on the hard floor. Her favorite thing to do is to walk directly in front of me…no, wait, in front of me is being generous…directly beneath me and look over her shoulder with every step to make sure I’m coming. This is especially awesome descending our incredibly steep stairs. It’s just a matter of time before I end up in traction. Making eye contact is as good as giving up the next half hour to belly rubs…on her stinky one-third-Basset Hound belly. Sitting down with idle hands will result in a cold nose prodding those idle hands, demanding attention. And belly rubs. She knows when it’s 5:00PM and will not leave you alone until you feed her. I could knit a chihuahua every week with the sheer amount of fur I vacuum.
All this is just daily life with our sweet girl. But lately she’s gotten more…ornery.
While we were out a few weeks ago she dug into A’s zipped backpack, pulled out the snack box that was closed with an elastic band, disassembled it, ate the granola bar in there wrapper and all, and puked it back up. The granola bar was still in rectangular shape. A few weeks before that, she somehow got ahold of a Ziploc baggie of Cub Scout chocolate covered caramel corn that was in one of the boys’ backpacks. We didn’t discover what the hell had made her so sick until we endured nearly a week of EVERYTHING MUST GO! ALL EXITS! NO WAITING! Thankfully/not-so-thankfully the basement carpet is brown. On the bright side, the boys have gotten good at checking for land mines. The dog walker once texted me that it appeared that Rosie had learned to open the Lazy Susan cabinet and started to dig through it looking for food. I swear we feed her. She has recently taken up the hobby of eating her own poop and puking it back up once inside. I’m getting really really good at cleaning up dog vomit. Sadly, not something I can put on a resume. She has commandeered the loveseat and sits on the back of it like a kitten during the day, looking out the window. In the evenings she curls up on top of the pillows and naps…when she’s not chewing on and licking her tail to the point the cushion is soaked. Why yes, a carpet/upholstery cleaning is in our near future!
She’s making me bat.shit.crazy. And I suspect a near-future vet visit is just going to send me down Batshit Crazy Road just a little faster.
Back up a couple of weeks, and you’ll see I snuck in a sentence about a book when I was expounding upon being grateful:
I am grateful to have been asked to write a book on parenting (and now homeschooling) the aforementioned twice-exceptional son while trying to find the funny (yeah, I’ve been sitting on that announcement for some time-more on this at a later date).
I have a hard time talking about it, afraid that if I look it straight in the eye it will either vanish or attack. Better to observe and monitor it through peripheral vision. Or with a towel over my head and a large book with Don’t Panic on the cover. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, can’t believe I now get to do, and overall am trying to keep myself from freaking the freak out. If you ask me about it in person, kindly note that I will probably turn about a dozen different shades of red. This is normal…mostly.
The book will be out this summer, published by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum press.
Between now and then you can find me writing and actively trying to find the funny. It’s around here somewhere…
My previous adventures in time management can be summarized thusly:
Present Jen is the Future Jen of Past Jen’s present, and Present Jen is pretty pissed off at Past Jen’s decisions not taking into account Future Jen’s present desires.
Clear as mud? Yeah, for me too. I’d draw a flowchart, but Present Jen doesn’t want to piss off Future Jen by taking the time to do so, and Past Jen is backing out of the room slowly and carefully, praying no one takes notice and blames it all on her. It’s a laugh riot of personalities around here today.
After reading all the wonderful comments about time management the other day, I’ve had to confront the fact that it’s not entirely about managing my time, it’s about managing me. I’m going to be constantly interrupted for at least the next ten years, so I’d better just suck it up buttercup and find a way to work around that. The problem
has been is that once things are quiet and calm, I don’t want to do a damned thing. I want to sit and revel in the quiet calmness, and there is the dilemma. The plans I have for my life do not get accomplished when I’m sitting and hungrily swallowing silence and calm, and then later I look back and mentally kick myself in the head for not taking advantage of that time of peace and quiet.
This is why I’m at the library this afternoon writing instead of at home. Even with Tom taking the boys to the sledding hill this afternoon, there are too many distractions at home. Here I have the peace and quiet, and trust me, I’m not distracted by the shelves of music history books in front of me. Rather, they’re incentive to keep working: “Jen! You’d better get your list accomplished while you’re here or we’re going to haunt your dreams tonight!” That’s the set of The New Grove Dictionary of Opera talking. It’s mean.
So here’s how I’m going to attempt Me Management this week: act in the present as if my future self was staring at me over its bifocals and thinking, “WTF Jen? Really?”
Future Jen does not want to sweat like a feral pig this summer when it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity, so Present Jen is going to avoid consuming anything that would prevent weight loss.
Future Jen does not want to be an old cantankerous woman, so Present Jen is going to continue being grateful for all she has, and add in some yoga so she can move without sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Maybe return to some weight lifting.
Future Jen wants to take this blog to the next level, so Present Jen is going to MAKE THE TIME to participate in the 31 Days to Build A Better Blog challenge. Past Jen did the challenge once, and Present Jen is seriously pissed Past Jen didn’t take it seriously enough or make time for it.
Future Jen does not want her sons to think she is permanently attached to her computer, so Present Jen is going to get off the machine and read a book. Not necessarily with them, but near them.
Future Jen needs a vacation, a renovated house, a retirement account, and peace of mind, so Present Jen is going to somehow find employment that flexes around homeschooling because if PastPresentFuture Jen doesn’t get a vacation soon it’s gonna get ugly. Driving cross country in a gypsy caravan with a flatulent canine is not a vacation.
And finally, Future Jen wants Present Jen to remember that beating oneself up over what Past Jen did is defeating, and to just keep going.
Again, clear as mud?
PastPresentFuture Jen will learn to work in harmony if it kills
me them us.
I’m over at freeplaylife today, guest posting about being a new homeschooler. Tiff has been a mentor of sorts when it comes to homeschooling, waaaay back before I even thought about having an inkling regarding the possibility. She is one of the most fearless women I know, a passionate unschooler, and a lifelong learner. Her oldest daughter gives me such hope. Naturalist struggled with writing for years, very much like A, and just recently did a month-long writing workshop. Hope. It’s what’s for dinner. And lunch. Breakfast with a side of coffee.
Pop on over and join the party at freeplaylife.