Posts from the Work Category

By Becky Reno

I stood in front of my students on the last day of the very first class I taught. I had this group of soon to be social workers for 10 weeks, and tried my best to convince them that a. the world isn’t fair and b. they can and should do something about it. I struggled, searching for words that would somehow impart all the hard earned wisdom I’ve grudgingly gathered over the years, in my last three minutes with them. The best I could do was beg them “remember that everyone is doing the best they can at all times. Including you. Even if it doesn’t seem good enough, it is.”

That’s the thing with our theme this past month- work: we’re all doing it in one way or another. We all have to get there, whether we’re talking about the physical journey or an emotional one.

Our work might have started as a way to pay the bills, and along the way turned into a family (sometimes literally).

Some of us are doing the work of welcoming a new member of the family or the daily drudgery that comes with them.

We’re taking on the division of work in a marriage and the work of maintaining marriage.

Then there’s that work that involves putting ourselves out there, and the need to drop the never ending judgement.

I wanted my class to understand this. That we’re all doing this work, or some semblance of it, every day. Every. Single. Day.

If I would have had about 2 more minutes with them, I think I would have taken a deep breath, and imparted this last bit of stoic wisdom on them: “let your freak flag fly.”

This is what I’m hoisting up on a stick. Apparently I’m the last woman under the age of 74 to use a shower cap.

Here’s the thing. In addition to doing the best we can, we’re a bunch of damn weirdos. Every single one of us. I’m so damn tired of trying to stifle that part of myself in order to try to appear to be some version of “normal” so I can (unsuccessfully) dodge the judgment raining down from others. I’m determined to embrace my aberrance and you’re going to help me. For the month of May we’re celebrating some of the little, and big ways that we all deviate. I’ve spent just enough time with this fantastic group of women to assure you- you’re not going to want to miss this.

Grab that flag of yours and join us, won’t you?

By Jill Greenwood

So here’s the real skinny. When I was in elementary school, I desperately wanted nothing more than to be a nun. I’ll let that sink in a little for you. A nun. As in a celibate, religious worker. And I wanted it bad, people. So bad that I joined the flippin’ Nuns Club at school. What does one do in the Nuns Club? Well, I’m not quite sure . . . but I was in it dammit! And when I watched my teacher read stories to us, I would fixate on her habit and later when I would glance away, I could still see her outline and was convinced that it was a sign from God calling me to be a nun. Seriously . . . I had issues with it.

Truly, I hadn’t quite figured out that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a teacher. Up until the third grade, the only teachers I had were nuns (big shout out to Srs. Marcia and Mary Louise!), and they had a huge impact on me, not because they were nuns but because they were teachers. The kind of teachers who took the time to help you learn phonics or how to correctly spell the big words. The kind of teachers who understood if you were having some down days because your sister was in the hospital because she was so tiny. The kind of teachers who had particular laughs that you remember to this day.

But I resisted being a teacher for the longest time. And I’m not sure why but resist it I did. Through two different majors. Some freelance technical writing. Babysitting other people’s kids. Doing book keeping on the third shift at Walmart. Working as a pharmacy technician. Anything but teach.

Something clicked around my 30th birthday. I’d taken a dip in the teaching pool by working as an aide* in an intermediate school. I loved working with the students. The people I worked with were amazingly talented professionals. Something, however, was lacking. I wasn’t at the front of the class. It wasn’t my lesson that I was helping a few kiddos get. And so to get to where I really wanted to be, I had to do the hardest thing in the world. I quit. Left a building that I loved and children that I enjoyed working with. Walked away . . . so that I could come back and be a teacher.

It took me about 18 months to get my certification. After that, I worked as a day-to-day sub for a few months (note to all you soon-to-be parents: do not name your child Okay . . . it will be confusing for him in school). For the last three quarters of a school year, I taught reading and English to sixth graders in a district 45 minutes south of me. But I was missing my home – the school where I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. So when a friend called and said there was an opening in my old building, I leapt at the chance to go back. Seven years later . . . best choice ever.

Love What You Do

I love what I do, but it took me a long time to get busy doing what I love – 35 years precisely. Could I have figured it out before then? Probably. But I guarantee you that I wouldn’t be the teacher that I am today. I wouldn’t hear Laura’s voice when I quietly say, “I’ll wait,” to get the class’s attention. I wouldn’t even know who Eratosthenes is or why the hell he had a sieve if it weren’t for Cookie. I can’t teach prepositions without thinking of how Rick did it. So, to the teachers who taught me to read, I thank you. But to the teachers who taught me how to be a teacher, I love you all . . . and thank you.

What are you doing? Do you love it? Or do you need to get busy doing what you love? Take that first baby step . . . dip a toe into the water. Even if you are just trying to carve out some time to quilt or read or hoop or use the bathroom without having a kid attached or sit quietly . . . you have my permission. Or, considering I say this a lot, your homework for today, get busy . . . and tell me all about it.

*Instructional aides? Some of the hardest working people I know, and I love each and every one of the talented women with whom I’ve had the pleasure to teach. Don’t even get me started on secretaries . . . they are the glue that keep most buildings together.

I really wracked my brain to come up with a topic for today’s post.  It shouldn’t have been this hard.  I work.  I wear many different hats, and spend my days doing a variety of jobs.  There were any number of topics I could have touched on.  But what I kept coming back to when thinking about the various types of “work” that I do, was that I’m constantly working on myself and striving to be the best version of me – the real version of me.

Here’s the history:  I was born to parents for whom conformity was king.  They were immigrants who came to Canada in search of a prosperous life.  For them, appearances were everything, and as their first born child, everything I did (or wore, or said) reflected on them.  I grew up with very high expectations of how I was to present myself, what career I was supposed to choose and what sort of lifestyle I was to have.  For a kid like me, who was extremely creative and highly sensitive, this environment was totally soul sucking.  I went through the motions, always pretending, hiding my true feelings, desires, and beliefs.

Adulthood has presented some great opportunities for growth.  My twenties were all about figuring out what mattered to me and what I wanted out of life.  There was marriage, then babies.  Dabbling in a variety of creative endeavours to figure out what I was good at and what made me crazy-happy.  There were some ups and a hell of a lot of downs.  Great learning experiences.  Things that I’m proud of, and things that I said and did to myself and to others that I’m not so proud of.  Typical growing pains stuff.  All worthwhile.  Now, at 36, I know who I am, what I stand for, and what matters most to me.  All is finally well in my head, right?

Wait.  Why is it still so hard to be my true self in front of other people?    It’s nuts.  On one hand, I’m this chick who could give a fuck what other people think of her.   On the other, I’m still the little girl so used to pretending.   The little girl wins out more often that I care to admit – and I want it to stop.   I want my friendships to go deeper, I want my kids to have a role model for being unabashedly yourself, I want to be free of my mental constraints.  Most importantly, I want to die satisfied that I gave being “the real Carmen” an honest shot.  Right now I’m at the point where I don’t have a fucking clue how to go about it – besides just diving right in and being truthful about where I’m coming from and what I struggle with.

Putting this out there on the interwebs is a huge step for me, but my goal is to be radically authentic and that takes guts.  It means saying the shit that scares me to death.  Writing this post is actually giving me heart palpitations.  In my head the voice is screaming, “Don’t let them see your weaknesses!”  It’s how I survived for years, and that mechanism is still triggered on a daily basis.

So, lovely readers, this is what I’ve been “working” on  lately.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Have you found a way to be 100% yourself, without question?  Or do you struggle like I do?

It happened in the middle of my rental home kitchen last year. The moment I became a photographer. I mean, I’d taken photos for the last 5 years, nonstop, every day. I’d taken classes and been on photowalks to learn the ropes. I’d watched every tutorial on youtube under the search “how to shoot in manual mode”. I’d even licensed some photos to Getty Images and was making some pocket change every month. Photography wasn’t just something I did, it became how I saw the world..real truth. Not the fake shit everyone pretends or wishes was real. You can’t hide anything in a photo. The look in the eye, the mess on the floor, the people who are there, the unkempt hair, the place where you stand…it’s all there. A blur of shifting moments, light, connection, pattern, emotion, and truth.

I think that is what hooked me on photography. But taking pictures and calling yourself a photographer are two different things, and I hesitated to make that leap on account of being self conscious about not being classically schooly trained in the fine art of photography. So it remained something that I thought of as a somewhat obsessive hobby. I took pictures not to sell pictures, but to get to the truth of the matter. I took pictures to share with other people what I saw…because usually it was something subtle that they’d missed. I took pictures because if I put my camera away for even 10 minutes, my fingers would get antsy and my mind would get obnoxious with the thought, “There’s your shot. Take the shot! That’s the shot right there! FOR GODSAKES PICK UP YOUR CAMERA AND GET THE SHOT!”

And then, there I was, standing in the middle of the kitchen with my kids throwing eggs at me. It was for a photo idea that I’d been kicking around in my head ever since reading the quote “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!” At that point in my life I had an imploded marriage, changing friendships, discarded religion, and traumatized kids; and the imagery of broken eggs wouldn’t leave my mental space. The only way to make it go away was to capture it for real…that’s just how my mind works. In my year of letting go and breaking down, I turned my camera on myself. I was having to find my own truth, and the only real way I knew how to do that was to photograph it.

So I gave my two daughters a dozen eggs each and told them to throw ’em at me and at the kitchen cabinets while I took pictures using my remote setting. My son was in the other room skyping with a friend. “What’s going on over there? It sounds crazy!” his friend asked. My son responded with, “oh, nothing. They’re just throwing eggs around the kitchen.” After a pause, his friend asked, “Why?! That doesn’t make any sense!” And my son said 6 words that changed everything.

“Because my mom is a photographer.”

I’d never ever call myself that. But when he said it, everything clicked into place. I’m not a photographer because I only use film instead of digital (I don’t). Or because I am a technical genius with my DSLR (I’m not). Or because I have clients calling me every day (nope!). Or because I charge a bijillion dollars for an hour of my time (ha! not!).

I am a photographer because the only other option is to be a crazy lady. A crazy lady obsessed with trashing her kitchen.

“Hey kids, throw eggs at the cupboards for me! Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” sounds so much better than “We gonna throw eggs all up in this house! Why? Because the voices in my head told me to!”

“Hey, oldest daughter, I’m going to need your help pouring gravy on me once I get myself into this oven. Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” is much less of an express ticket for her to go right to a therapist than “honey, will you put some extra gravy on my back, I’m stuck in the oven. Why? Cuz I’m a crazy mo fo, fo sho!”

When my youngest daughter walks in and I’ve emptied the contents of the freezer onto the ground so I can fit inside, and then she observes, “Mom, I don’t think freezers are for people…” it’s more comforting to say “Photographers look at things in a different way. It’s what we do!” than it is to say, “I know honey, but mama’s having a little mental breakdown over the state of her frozen emotions that are now thawing out so why don’t you eat some of this nicely chilled out pizza and when mama is done and all dried off and dressed, I’ll join you for lunch!”

My goal is to find a locally owned record store or coffee shop somewhere that will put up a few of the better photos from my series I will call “self portraits: divorce edition!” for a day or two until the locals are sufficiently freaked out and the images are taken down. Just long enough for me to take my kids and say, “See! A gallery show! This is what I was working so hard for! Doesn’t it make perfect sense?!” Then the next time I crawl into a metal bin and they tell me that normal people don’t do stuff like that, I’ll remind them of my gallery show and say “I’m not normal. I’m a photographer!”

It’s sad that in our society you can’t just be spectacularly unique and own that shit, instead you have to justify it by getting a respectable income for it and/or the accolades of lots of other people. Usually I rage against such restrictive societal norms. But, my kids are involved in this, and so I’ll do what it takes to play by the rules if it means they won’t have to come up with a sensible explanation to their friends about why the kitchen is covered in spaghetti sauce other than “because my mom is a photographer.” Therapy bills averted all the way around! At least in the short term!

Since my son claimed the title for me, I’ve found that the experiences followed. When I saw myself as a photographer, other people did too. I have freelanced my way all around a bunch of different countries, being paid to use my camera to capture my vision.

I am photographer! Hear me roar/scream/throw food around/wrap myself in bubble wrap!

Do you have anything in your life that you find cathartic and enjoyable? Do you work at it and make it a part of what you “do”?

I really wish when you start telling people you’re planning a family that married folks with kids would pipe up.  I wish instead of saying “Get your sleep now!” they’d say “Honey.  Listen up.  Marriage didn’t change my relationship.  Children did.  Don’t work hard to keep it the same because that’s a pointless battle.  You’re going to have to work really hard to evolve as a couple and to keep it together.  Oh and always feed the baby veggies first and then go with fruits.”  That’s what I wish people would say as they rub a pregnant lady’s belly.  But I’m guessing that if someone had told me, I’d nod my head and silently think: They’re wrong.  We’re different.  But no one told me that.  I didn’t have to fake listen to a wise woman’s advice.  Two years later, there was no one for me to say, “Damn Wise Woman, you were right.  I’m sorry I doubted you.”

Pre-kids, we could stay up late and I didn’t care if he was still sleeping until 10 a.m.  I actually enjoyed the alone time in the morning.  Pre-kids if we went to Target, we only went down the toy aisle if a new line was released.  And it was for a few minutes tops.  He never whined when I said “No” to a purchase.  Hell, I never said “No!”  Pre-kids we might have chicken for dinner.  Just chicken.  No fruits or vegetables.  Chicken.  Pre-kids we both had ample free time to invest in our solo hobbies.  Pre-kids we could see a movie he wanted and then my movie choice.  Pre-kids we could wait an hour for a table at our favorite restaurant.  Pre-kids if we fought, we could be also loud as we needed to be for our points to be heard.  Marriage was easy pre-kids.

Then Coop came along.  He wasn’t the kind of newborn who nursed and slept.  He was the kind of newborn that nursed, and nursed, and nursed, and then cried when he wasn’t nursing.  He was the kind of newborn who needed to be walked around for an hour before he was slapped back on the boob for another hour.  Those kind of nights can lead to quick and vicious fights, but still marriage wasn’t difficult.  Because we could still do all of the above.  Minus the movie.  And there was a romantic feel to all of it.  I was holding a baby who was part me and part my husband.  And despite the long nights and constant nursing, we were making a family work.

I don’t think marriage got to be work until Cooper had very definite opinions maybe around two-ish.  Yes, my kid had opinions before two.  He liked the right boob over the left.  He loved reading Richard Scarrry books, but I could hide them and he’d move on.  Two hit and he was more independent.  He had opinions.  The kind of opinions that wore you down or the kind that made you stand your ground and look as irrational as a two year-old.  Those kind of opinions.  Plus there was just more to do.  Toddler and normal daily activities can be exhausting.  We had to have dinners with more than just chicken.  Our free time to devote to leisure activities was being whittled down.  By Year Two, all the time spent getting to daycare, doctors appointment, and sick days made Free Time feel like it was a mythical being.  Solo time felt amazing, but also could be resentful.  If Mark went to a movie, I wondered about my movie time.  It never seemed to happen because my friends never did movies.  After two years, that didn’t seem fair any longer.  When he slept until 9 a.m., I was pissed.  And when I slept until 9 a.m., he was pissed.  Two is when I realized that marriage was going to be work.  Since then, I’ve noticed it goes in waves.  Peaceful and steady.  And when one of us starts to take the other for granted, the waters get choppy and dangerous.  Last week, it was dangerous.  And it was my fault.

When I’m really busy with work, I want a break at home.  But that never happens.  I’ll come home from driving five hours and I’m bombarded with homework questions, dinner, grocery trips, and I usually step on a Lego.  He works all day and then pulls single Daddy duty when I’m away.  I know that’s hard work.  But when I’m in the midst of really busy work, I don’t care.  He’s supposed to take care of the kids.  He’s their father!  And that’s where I get in trouble.  It’s not appreciating him fully.  And if I want him to appreciate I’m working full-time and can still put dinner on the table at least four nights a week, I have to appreciate him.  Last week was a Two Hotels-in-a-Week week.  I can get particularly snippy and all Martyr-ish during those weeks.  I got home from the first hotel and was pissy.  We fought.  We went to bed pissy.  We woke up pissy and I drove to Michigan pissy.  He was pissy, but at home.

When I called from the hotel to check in, our anger was still alive.  I ate my dinner at the bar and a man came and sat next to me.  People love to talk when you eat at the bar.  This man told me his wife was about to retire from the FBI.  When I asked what she was planning to do with her free time, he said she’s a quilter.  Finally, someone I wanted to talk with.  He said she loves to make t-shirt quilts.  “My husband really wants one, but I have no desire to make one” I said.  He asked me why.  I listed my reasons: sewing on knit scares me, wanting to quilt makes me finish the quilt, and I love fabric not t-shirts.  He paused and said, “You should really make your husband that quilt.  It’s a nice quilt to have.”  He said good-bye.  I was still too mad at my husband to even entertain making him a quilt.  He was lucky I was coming home.

I woke up, worked, and drove home.  During the four hours back, I couldn’t get the stranger’s voice out of my head.  And that’s when I realized that I behaved like a big ole bitch.  And marriage was like that damn t-shirt quilt.  We do nice things for each other because parenting is hard work.  I didn’t want to make it, but he would really love it.  And that’s exactly why I had to do it.  It wasn’t going to kill me.  I wasn’t changing my morals by making a quilt.  I wasn’t saying, “I’ll do whatever you want from now on.”  It was simply a nice thing to do.  It was only a little time and work.  He deserves that.

The waters of our marriage will always flow from peaceful to choppy and back again.  Sometimes he’s the reason we’ve got waves and sometimes it’s me.  Right now, there’s no other person I want on my boat.*

*I reserve the right to change that because he could be a huge asshole next week.  Can’t we all go from sweet to assholely in a week’s time?

When I was knitting, I had a difficult time with one response from people looking at my project.  “I couldn’t do that.”

I was always shocked by their statement.  Of course they could knit the sweater!  What the hell was wrong with them?  All they had to do was practice with some needles and put in the work.  That’s all I did.  No magical skills: just practice, patience, and some time.  If they really wanted to make a sweater, they could. I really wanted to make the sweater.  So I did.  And so could you.

Long ago, I abandoned my knitting needles and for the past year, I’ve fallen back in love with my sewing machine and quilting.  I learned to quilt the same way I learned to knit: I got some books, followed some bloggers, and I worked on the quilt.  When people say there’s no way they could quilt, I laugh.  If I can, anyone can!  And I’ll give a few tips to get you started.

Pick fabric you really really love!

There’s color theory out there and you should learn it.  Someday I will.  But to start your quilt, run out and find some fabric that completely speaks to you.  You see it and your heartbeats really hard.  You have to own it.  You sleep and dream about how it will look draped over the couch.  That’s the fabric to start with.  I’d recommend 100% cotton and something gorgeous.  You’re going to be looking at the fabric for a long time, so find something you won’t get sick of.  Psst…  Don’t hold me to this. I ’ve had yards and yards of stuff that I wanted to marry.  And then randomly, I hate it.  But find one piece you must have.  And coordinate with it.  My favorite places to shop online.

Learn the basics.

I’ll give you a Quick and Dirty basic for sewing a simple patchwork quilt top.  Cut a bunch of  equal squares of washed fabric.  Try 6 inches to start with.  Take two and place right sides together. Woooah!  You’ve lost me with right sides.  Never fear, my friend.  The right side of fabric is the side you want the public to see.  Take the pretty sides of both squares and make them kiss.  Line up those cut edges.  And sew a quarter of an inch from the cut edge.  Now you have a seam!  Iron the seam to one side or open it up with the iron and press.  Pick a method and then research the great Iron to Side or Iron Open debate.  Flip it over to the pretty side and iron once more.  You’ve got the first two blocks of your first quilt!  Repeat with more blocks and more rows until it’s big enough to cover your tush.  That was painless, wasn’t it?  I realize I’ve over simplified, but not by much.  Go Google the rest and try not to get inspired by what you find.  Because she’s my current Quilting girl crush, visit her first.

Keep your recipient in mind.

Erika, you never said it’d take a long time? Well, duh. That’s a given. Blankets don’t materialize in an hour. But keep working. If it’s for your house, remember that someday your babies will take long naps under it. Think of the future when they might beg you to take that beloved quilt to their own house. If it’s for a friend, think of how she’ll wrap herself in the quilt when she’s exhausted, happy, sad, or needs a bit of comfort. It will force you to return to the sewing machine. Because no one receives a handmade blanket and says, “Bah. I guess Thanks.” People love a nice blanket.  The quilt above was made for a friend’s new baby.  A bunch of us got together and made a wonky log cabin quilt.  Most of the women had never done a quilt, log cabin square, or a quilting bee.  But it was one of my favorite project and it was a perfect gift for a beautiful new baby.

Let perfection slide.

This one is huge.  I’m certain that if I was a perfectionist, I’d never finish a quilt.  If I was worried about every little mistake, I’d take my machine and sew over my fingers multiple times.  On purpose.  A little wonky corner might make some quilters lose their minds.  I’m good.  A lot of cut-off tips and I’ve got an issue.  I’ll rip and try again.  Or I’ll come up with a new design for the quilt top.  I’ve had two finished baby quilt tops that were tossed into the garbage pile because I didn’t like it or it was going to be too much work to fix.  I don’t give a shit.  I don’t want anymore work than I imagined when I picked the project.  Whenever I’m basting a quilt, I vow to never make another blanket.  When I see a pucker or a wrinkle, I start sweating and swearing while trying to smooth it away.  Finally I give in and start quilting.  I put my hands to the Quilt Gods and hope the back isn’t lined with puckers.  And then I grab my machine and say “I’m gonna quilt this MoFo.”  If there’s a pucker or two, I don’t care enough to stop sewing or to rip it out.  And if someone doesn’t like my blanket because of that little mistake, I’m pretty sure we’d have issues beyond their dislike of my boo-boo.  They’re probably unforgiving in all areas of life.  They’re a pucker fucker.

I don’t claim to be a knowledgeable quilter.  I’m a half-assed lazy one.  I doubt most Quilters would even call me a true quilter.  I’m sure there’s snobby quilters who would laugh at my over-simplification of this tradition.  I’m just a girl who loves fabric and likes to make blankets to nap under.  And that very simple desire is why my mistakes don’t bother or shake my confidence.  Maybe a little over-simplification will push people to make a blanket.  And in my opinion, every house should have at least one handmade blanket.  Helps make the house a home.

So let’s review.  You can make a quilt.  Find a sewing machine (I’m too lazy to hand quilt, so I won’t even advocate that nuttiness).  Learn the basics.  Buy some beautiful fabric.  And get to work!

Don’t want to make a quilt?  I get it.  It’s not for everyone.  Want to do something else, but you’re pretty sure you can’t do it?  Write a novel.  Cross stitch.  Run a marathon.  Swap out my quilt words and insert: write a bunch of words, make a bunch of X’s, run.  Over simplify something, put in the work and finally do it.

we knew it was coming, but we thought we had more time. we thought it would be a girl and that she would be a little older. we were  wrong.

a week and a half ago we were out running errands when we met boyd. the humane society was set up next door to target (our original destination) and as always, we went over to look at the dogs. i’m not sure if i was the only one that noticed him laid out and totally relaxed in some little boys lap, seemingly indifferent to the crowd of people milling around. but, when the boy left i called bea over to have a look. we spent some time with him and when it was time to go none of us really wanted to leave him. we stood around for a good ten minutes debating whether he was ‘the one’. okay. we weren’t really debating. we knew we liked the dog. what really happened is matt and i stood there asking each other repeatedly for five minutes if we were really ready for this. as in really really ready. then that turned into asking “are we really doing this?” for another five.

it’s been 16 years since we’ve had a puppy, but we had not forgotten how much work, time and effort it takes to teach and train a pup (one reason i thought we’d go with an older dog).  we knew what to expect with house training, and as far as puppies go, he’s not doing too bad.  of course, i forgot how loud or foreign noises can literally scare the piss out of a puppy. and the little pisser liked the living room rug, so i rolled it up and stowed it away until he knows better. i won’t go into lengthy detail about the poo situation other than to say he’s done great on that front and i am so glad we have a big backyard  that backs up to a wooded area. i avoid being the pooper scooper at all costs. i figure i take care of paying the bills, matt can can be the scooper. they’re both shitty jobs.

we also knew he’d chew on anything and everything. i think he’s pulling a fast one on us though. sure there are the random shoes (those are his weakness), miscellaneous socks and pieces of chalk carelessly tossed onto the nearest surface after being pulled from boyd’s razor sharp teeth, but he has yet  to destroy any of those things. the worst damage done so far has been to the plug for my phone. so, i’ve been without a phone for a week because i’m too lazy to go out and buy a new charger. seriously, i’m just waiting for the epic damage. i’m certain there will be a day i come home and find my favorite chair pissed on, chewed on, shat on and puked on. i think he’s plotting and biding his time. maybe he’s feeling us out before he decides how bad the damage should be. whatever he decides on, i’ll be expecting it so he can take the surprise factor and shove it.

before boyd joined our family i briefly thought about how it might be more work (and a pain in the ass) to raise a puppy when there are small children in the house. so far, i’m not finding that to be the case. yes, there is another mouth to feed, more toys lying around that no one wants to pick up and as mentioned above, more pee and poop. but, the kids are naturals with him. they help in feeding him, taking him outside, encouraging him when he does good, telling him no when he doesn’t, they take the shoe from his jaws and replace it with one of his toys. they argue over whose bed he gets to sleep  in and whose turn it is to give him a treat. (can i just add here that all this is such a relief considering we have a fish and a crab that neither one of them could give a flying you know what about. for example, the other day i asked henry to feed his fish. he said, and i quote, “what fish?”. i gave him the look for a couple of seconds and then he said, “oh.”.) but, they don’t scoop the poop. if we even ask then they give us the look.

so, while we definitely have our work cut out for us, ahem . . .

this is the best thing we’ve done in a long while. (especially in the pet department. dang fish.).

*the title of the post is a bea quote. she has said that at least 3 times a day since april 7th.

I feel I should preface this post by divulging that right before I started writing, my brother arrived with a bag full of assorted whiskey bottles and announced we were going to do a taste test. And so we did. That being said, I’m surprised I can still remember words like “divulged” and “preface”, but I still have time for the alcohol to kick in so my grammar and vocabulary might devolve by the end of this. My punctuation is already shot. But I just used devolve properly in a sentence, so punctuation can suck it!

So, this month’s theme is ‘Work’. When I was growing up, I internalized that my work would be getting married and having kids and keeping the household running. I could be reading things wrong, it’s always tricky to look back on the personal experiences one’s had as a child and get a clear picture of the truth. But I do know I went to Sunday School faithfully every Sunday for two hours and was taught how to be a good wife and a good mom. And to get a good education. So there’s that.

But the whiskey is sidetracking me. My point here is that I have given up a career path to follow the “stay-at-home-mom” path. Many in this tribe of “SAHM-ness” make homemaking their job. I don’t disagree…staying home with kids to be the primary provider of their needs is a job. A hard core job. It’s the workiest work ever. Always on call, always thinking ahead, always being asked the who/what/when/where/why, always being the go-to…it’s extreme!

But! Knowing how hard it is to work as hard as I do, I enjoy the hell out of the perks. So while it IS my job, I don’t call it “my job”. First of all, no one in their right mind would apply to this. Seriously. The hours are 24/7. The pay is nothing. You’re around whiny, stinky, demanding people all day. Who would sign up for that?!

But omg, the perks are fanfuckingtastic. Especially if you can work it out so you do a little something called “unschooling”, which is like homeschooling but without all the curriculum crap to tie you down. If you’re an unschooler, then you just play with your kids and go on field trips all day. It’s pretty awesome. This week, the kids and I explored tide pools at the beach and then the next day hung out at the pool.

(photo mosaic courtesy of two amazing iphone apps: PicFrame and Instagram!)

In the past there have been park days, days at Disneyland, days in cardboard forts, days picnicking in the mountains, days and days on roadtrips, party days, hula hooping days, days at the beach…all kinds of days.

These days fill me with happiness and gratitude.

But nothing turns me into a shrew faster than someone else making snide comments about how they wish they could just sit around all day at the pool. Or hang at Disneyland. Or play at the beach. I don’t even have to have whiskey on board to get me all feisty with that kind of shit. Nevermind that when I’m at the pool, I’m always on guard against my kid’s accidental drowning or some kind of blunt force trauma to the head via running/slipping/diving/jumping wrong. Nevermind that while at Disneyland I’m hyperaware of some kind of getting lost/getting snatched/drowning in the Tom Sawyer River scenario. And the beach?! Please. It’s no day at the beach when I’m at the beach with my kids. Hello a little something called: riptides/kidnapping/pervy dude hiding in the public bathroom/falling over the handrails on the pier/drowning/getting suffocated by sand (I saw it on Rescue 911 people!!!)/getting 3rd degree sunburn.

I’m not particularly paranoid or freaked out, I’m just aware and on guard. It’s my job. Or, I should say, if it were my job I would quit it and ask for disabilities in the form of PTSD therapy. Instead, it’s just what being a mom is all about.

Those snide comments put me on the defensive. Like, excuse me. When you have put your hands in someone else’s shit and cleaned it up on average of 3 times a day for approximately 9 years, then you can talk to me about pool days. When you have turned the other cheek for an accumulation of 15 years towards the fruits of your loins who you love more than life itself but who won’t stop kicking/licking/throwing up/biting/whining/crying/screaming/harassing/hounding you…then we can talk about a day at Disneyland. When you have spent an average of 5 hours a day between the hours of 6 am and 3 pm pointlessly cleaning up after children that go about making the same sort of mess even in the midst of you cleaning it up…then we can talk about lounging at the park at midday.

I hate getting all bitter and defensive like that. It makes it sound like being a mom is such a chore. And it is…but it’s not. If I made it my job, then it would be a major buzzkill. So I don’t think of it as my job. I think of it as my life. My crazy, awesome, busy, messy, chaotic, blissful, non stop, round the clock, intense, passionate, loud, noisy, constantly changing life.

So here’s a toast to everyone living their lives in whatever form it takes. Working, playing, living, sleeping, putting in long hours, nurturing, office working, asskicking…whatever it is you call work. Or whatever it is you work at and call life. I raise my whiskey cup to you. Hell. I raise the entire whiskey bottle up. Cheers to you. Well done. May you dig deep and hang in there when you need to, and enjoy lots and lots of perks for your efforts!

I’d like to know…what do you call your life’s work? And does it vomit on you at unsuspecting times?

When I was a kid there were quite a few years where my mom worked a day job and then cleaned a bank at night.  On a few occasions I tagged along with her and  loved the covert feeling of being in a place that was meant for daytime, after dark.  It was a place that in the daytime was all bustle and business, but after dark I was able to fill the stifling silence with a blaring radio, scribble on as many deposit slips as I wanted and explore the surface of safe door with my fingertips.  My fascination for empty public places even brought on dreams of being “accidentally” locked inside my school or the shopping mall overnight.  This is where my mind wandered when it came to night time.  For some reason I thought people just disappeared.

In these days of mothering little ones, my evenings out are few and far between.  When I do venture out into the world after dark I’m always surprised at how many people are about.  I don’t mean on a Friday or Saturday night.  That’s a given.  But on a Monday?  In my deluded mind I thought that since I was lounging in pajamas watching bad TV, so was everyone else.

When it comes to work, there are all sorts of jobs that need to be done after hours once the people have “disappeared”. On this particular night, my camera and I headed out into the neighbourhood at 9pm.   Certainly not a time when the streets are completely quiet (3am and I are not friends), but late enough that the city is winding down.  I loved catching a glimpse of who’s still on the clock at that hour.  I wonder how many of them thrive on the late nights and how many of them wish they were home tucking in their kids.  In my case, I couldn’t wait to get back to my hubby and my couch, feeling truly grateful that being out at that hour was totally optional for me.

Ahhhh . . . work. Such a dirty word. What exactly does that conjure up for you? If you’re lucky, it’s something that you love. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a paycheck. But this isn’t in praise of work. There’s plenty of time for that in your life. This is in praise of doing nothing. Not a damn thing.

Every once and a while, it’s good to do fuck all nothing. Just sit back and let the nothingness wash over you. I’m not advocating taking a full day to wallow in nothing (but if you can swing it . . . have at it), but ten minutes will do it. There’s plenty of time for the hustle and bustle of your daily life. Time to let the kids watch a few more minutes of the telly and enjoy the nothingness in your space. Time to put aside that “to-do” list that you have. Time to simple breathe in and breathe out. To prove a point, here’s a list of what I ought to be doing today:

  • the dishes (they’ll wait; they haven’t figured out how to walk yet)
  • putting away my clothes (all clean and stacked . . . and I’ll wear them all eventually)
  • grading some vocab (probably should get on that one)
  • dinner planning (hmmmm . . . didn’t I receive a Living Social coupon for a site that will do it for me)
  • mow the lawn (damn you, early spring)
  • research topics for next year’s units (ahhh, sounds like a bit of fun for summer)
  • cleaning the bathroom (nope . . . took a vow before God and man to avoid that one)

I’m pretty sure that there are more things that I could add to that list, and it would never seem quite complete enough. So here’s what I have decided to do today instead:

  • nothing (I can do that)
  • zip (mastered that one as well)
  • zilch (ohhh . . . the zilch and I are good friends)
  • nada (even in Spanish, I can do nothing)

I started the morning having breakfast with some friends. We get caught up on the laughs that aren’t appropriate for work, and laugh our way through a few cups of coffee.  Now, I might get caught up on Great Expectations or watch a few episodes of Boardwalk Empire. Or perhaps I’ll read and knit in the quiet. I take great pleasure in doing nothing, and I do it well. On the rare occasions that I can do nothing, I plan on living up to my expectations. So, take some time and close the door and do nothing. Sit back and put your feet up and do nothing. Now that I’ve given you permission (because that’s what you were looking for, right), how are you going to spend a little bit of nothingness?