2017: It’s No Game

Draw the blinds on yesterday and its all so much scarier.”

So, here we are. Entering what might be the scariest year in our lifetime. 2016 killed off so many good people. Celebrities, idols, friends’ relatives (parents, siblings) and friends’ friends….it’s like they could feel the shift in the wind and wanted to get out of here before the storm arrived.

“Throw a rock against the road and it breaks into pieces.”

But we – you and I – are still standing. Or maybe you’re sitting. I don’t know. Maybe you are gripping the edges of your chair, gnashing your teeth, and making phone calls to the idiots who are running the asylum right now. Maybe I’ll see you in DC on the 21st. Maybe you’re knitting hats or making signs or trying to find a good use of your energy.

Maybe you don’t think the apocolypse is arriving on fiery steeds. I don’t know. Maybe nothing bad will happen. Maybe we’ll find a way to save ourselves.

In the meantime, since my time allotted to help save the world is minimal, I’m looking for ways to use my nervous energy for the good.

I’m making art. I even actually did a little bit of writing the other day though it was preliminary what-are-all-my-characters-up-to-if-I-start-this-over-from-a-different-angle writing. 900 words worth of that. I don’t usually give myself props for that kind of thing. But since Santa gave the girls Chromebooks for Christmas (thanks to Santa’s second job), I now have my laptop back and it’s a little anxiety-inducing. I mean, I had an excuse all last year and now I don’t have any more excuses. I feel like life is short and I want to leave it with at least ONE decent unpublished manuscript. Maybe when it’s burned with the others, it’ll flare up a little brighter.

My horoscope for 2017 talks about jobs and careers and things flipping on their head and courage and risks and I have had my eye on a couple of organizations I like, that do the kind of work I’d like to be a part of. A job opening appeared and I thought, a ha! Here it is! But I’m not sure it really is. If I was unencumbered and spoke a second language and could take a pay cut and live closer to society, maybe. But while contemplating that, I realized that it’s something I can do eventually. Right now, I need to count my blessings and keep the motor idling for a bit longer. It’s boring to do that but I’m pretty good and finding ways to charge up my brain outside of work.

And I need to keep saying “no” to things, extra things. Things I want to do and be involved in but cannot. I am only one person without a backup person. I am working on letting go of the guilt of not doing all the things. I am reminding myself that my first job is to be a mother to my children.

My second part-time job will start up again in the spring which is a relief. There were a few moments when it seemed like the positions would be turned into something else, a full-time parks job, which I’m not in the market for.

I’m actually planning the vegetable garden again after giving it up last year. I literally dropped the hoe on the whole big weedy mess in August. But now, my slate is slightly less full. One volunteer board is over with and the other is much easier to manage. So, we’ll see. I’ve made a planting plan and have my seed/plant orders ready to send once payday rolls around again.

I’m painting my bathroom which has needed an update for a long while. I’ll add the final coat this weekend and then begin to consider what to hang on the walls and save up for more peel-and-stick tiles for the box that holds the tub. I am really, really tired of looking at that shop class particle board monstrosity. I can’t afford to gut the whole room so I’ll cover up the worst of it as best I can. Frame some photos. Put up new switchplates. Bought a fluffy towel to turn into two bath mats since everything I saw at the store was rubber backed and too big for the space I have. Small inexpensive changes. That is the mantra now.

I’ll be focusing on little things this year. The things I can control. The things that make me happy. I’m lucky in a lot of ways and I’m going to do my best to ride this rollercoaster with my list of things I’m grateful for folded up in my pocket (which is not easy to do since pockets on women’s clothing are a fucking joke). I’m going to hang on tight, do what I can, and hope we come out the other side intact.

“To be insulted by these fascists, it’s so degrading. And it’s no game.”

Mockingjay World

I go away for two months and some change and this fucking year just….blows up in my face.

A dear friend came out for a visit today and we shared our fears about this new potentially-fascist reality we find ourselves in. Should we move to Canada? Go completely off-grid so we aren’t found when things get bad? Will we be able to have the quiet retirements we want? Will my retirement fund implode if we face another 1929 stock meltdown? Who knows? Are we worried about the wrong things?

All I know is that 2016 can kiss my pink ass. So much death and heartache. And yet I think the coming years will hurt even more. Not so much for me (though that’s still a distinct possibility as a single mother attempting to raise two very smart girls in an atmostphere that seems to feel it’s okay to voice sexist, homophobic and xenophobic beliefs) as for others much worse off. I don’t want to live through another WWII. I also don’t want to watch things devolve into bureaucratic chaos either. It all seems bleak. It’s hard to get up in the morning.

I feel like I’m living an episode of Survivor where the most delusionally complacent person is blindsided and voted out. I feel we’ve just voted ourselves out. Not me. Us. Have we been thinking about us? Because I have. I’ve been thinking about us. You. I’m negligible. I’m a drop in the bucket.

I don’t know. Either my fears are ill-founded or we need to strap on our boots and sharpen our weapons for a prolonged fight. Either way, I’m prepping for the fight. There isn’t much I can do, in my tiny white world, that will make a difference. The idiot has invited all the members of The Man to run the show for awhile. I don’t think that’s what his sheep thought they were voting for. Feels a little North Korea up in here right now. Tell me I’m wrong. Please tell me I’m wrong. But lies are what’s for dinner right now. And they taste like stale fish sticks.

I’m focusing on what I can do. I’m making art. Making things. Perhaps when the wrong button is pushed or the wrong dictator has been insulted beyond acceptace and we’re nothing but fairy dust in the sky, it won’t matter, but I’m doing and making and trying to quell the fears my kids have about the future they face. We can laugh and say, oh, this too shall pass, but we haven’t been a country all that long. Not in the scheme of things. Maybe this is a phase or maybe its the end of the world as we know it and we don’t feel so fine. Who knows? I sure as hell don’t.

Art will fight the power until we’re dust. Love and compassion and beauty. So throw it all out there and make a contingency plan. Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like the end of something. This whole year has felt like the end of something. I don’t feel hopeful any more. I feel like all those dystopic novels weren’t actual fiction. They were sent from the future as warnings. Except the people that got us in this mess don’t read so we’re screwed.

Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope I am. I continue to go through the motions and pretend these holidays mean something as if they ever did. We make plans. What else can you do? We fight back. We resist. We insert sticks in moving wheels. We scatter tacks on the ground. We blow pepper in faces. We clog websites and email accounts and voice mails. We take down phone lines. We fight and express ire and refuse to go down without a fight. It’s our right to do so. The ignorant fearful disenfranchised think they’ve won but they haven’t. They put their eggs in the wrong basket. At the very least, the next few years will be clogged pipes and stuck gears. At the very worst….

I have the next few months off from the second job and Santa is bringing the children chromebooks so I’m hopeful (on this microscopic level) that I’ll be able to write again with some frequency. I have lots of photos to post on the other blog. I haven’t been idle, just computer- and time-impaired.

Until I’m jailed for not pledging allegiance to the new order, I’ll be here. I hope you will too. I’m holding up two fingers, Hunger Games-style. The sign of solidarity. President Snow can kiss my ass. I’m on Team Rue.

Teeth and Claws

I couldn’t find my phone this morning. I’m not a married-to-my-phone kind of gal but I use it to time the early morning ten minute writing I do. If I don’t do it, I’m an even bigger bitch to the world. We don’t want that. Every night, I turn it off and leave it by the coffee pot. When I wake up, I turn it and the coffee on. When I get out of the shower, I’m ready to go. But, by the time I found it this morning (living room table – wth?), I’d wasted that precious ten minutes and the cats were flinging themselves (literally) against the back door, howling, wanting their breakfast.

Recently, I’ve taken to hiding in my room, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, to write before I let them in because otherwise I’m covered in “playing” cats while trying to write and protect my coffee from flying animals.

This morning, though, I had to be [insert sarcasm face]  flexible, which pissed me off. I have a routine, dammit! It keeps me sane, for gods sake! I let out a large sigh, cursed the universe, let in the cats, fed their sorry asses, and then went back to my room to write.

Naturally, when they were done eating they came to find me. The kitten, belly full, began to attack the others in the middle of the carpet. Pokey, my long-suffering sleek black panther, jumped into an open window to get away from her. She leapt and leapt at him until he hissed. Not taking the hint, she kept at him until he growled, threw a punch, and jumped out of the window, fleeing to another room. The kitten, convinced this was part of the fun, ran after him. He sat in front of Dusty’s closed bedroom door, meowing to be let in. He needed sanctuary and knew he’d find it under her bed in a kitten-free environment.

I am truly feeling Pokey’s pain these days. I’m chased by kittens all day long in the form of needs, requests, expectations of others. They are piling on top of each other, each with their particular teeth and claws, grabbing hold of my sanity in all the most tender places, the most vulnerable spots. I’m ready to quit and run for the hills but I’d take a weekend with no must-dos. I want that under-the-bed hiding place behind the camera bags and chemistry textbooks and middle school diaries full of angst and woe. I want a window sill high enough to keep the predators of my time at bay. I need a wife. A personal assistant. A new car. Money and time to solve the problems their lack has created.

I am reminded of my favorite Steve Martin bit: “You can be a millionaire! First: get a million dollars!”

It’s Friday. It’s been raining forever. If I was the praying kind, I’d be praying that the football game would be cancelled so my sick daughter can come home tonight at a reasonable hour and get some sleep and kitten-free sanctuary before her band competition tomorrow (before she ends up with pneumonia). Instead I will just send a message up to the clouds to keep pouring down on us (soundtrack: Quadrophenia) until that email comes. Our Sunday will be filled with must-dos, the teeth and claws of things that gotta be done. But hopefully there will be some rest in there, too. Some deep, boneless kitten sleep full of loud purring.

Or, at least a damn beer.

The Season of No

I gotta tell ya, August just about killed me. Everything was too much. The schedule was untenable. I’m back working two jobs which means 12 days on, 2 days off in a fortnight. My volunteer gig has turned out to be much more work than I’d been led to believe it would be. The rules changed suddenly. I’m trying to figure out how to manage my time.

Red got braces a few weeks back and couldn’t eat the first night and was sad and it made me sad and then we figured it out. But it has taken all I have to get through the last couple of weeks. I’ve finally caught up with the mowing but the garden….sigh. Let’s not talk about it. Really, everything started to fall apart when I went off to Nashville for four days. It’s taken a month for me to get back to a place that feels less crazy and unmanageable. It’s very hard when there’s no backup. No one I can count on to help. No one close by. And it’s not like I ever really had back up but life has gotten more complicated lately.

I was lying in bed the other night, not sleeping (as per usual; I rarely get anything other than snatches of sleep on a good night), and listed all the things I have to let go of for awhile. And some of those are things I have loved to do, things that define who I am or who I was until the shit hit the fan. Things I’ve been guilting myself over not doing. Because I can’t do them. I can’t. I have to step back and re-prioritize in the short term.

And then my horoscope – written as an affirmation – for the week popped up in my overloaded in-box. And it was as if I’d written it myself during a long night staring into the darkness of my room. I’ve cut it down to the important bit:

I remember to go with the flow. I remember that everything will happen in its own way on its own schedule and that my schedule might need a little tweaking here or there. Which of my daily rituals work and which don’t? Which parts of my schedule are just too much to keep up with and which help to keep me on track?

 

Yeah. So, here’s what I’m allowing myself to let go for now. I have not put an end date on “now”.

  1. Blog-writing. Maybe this is ironic because I’m writing this but I bit off way more than I could chew with blogs. So the Motherhood one will be put on hiatus or turned into a place to post my art. Or I might just take it down altogether. I don’t know why I thought I could that. Three blogs? I’m out of my mind. I am. I am full of ideas – bad and good – but no time to make them happen. This blog will continue (I mean, it’s not like I’m writing much these days anyway so I don’t feel the same pressure.) The Route One blog will continue because it’s updated whenever I have something to share.
    *
  2. Novel-writing. This novel I keep thinking about? The one I started writing about a year or so ago? I’m allowing myself to not write it. At all. Guilt be gone! I’m officially not writing a novel. If I feel the urge, I’ll move a pen across a pad of paper but I’m not writing a novel.
    *
  3. Volunteer work. As soon as one board tenure is up, I’m not accepting another one. As soon as the second one is up, that’s it. I’m done. Not that I hate doing it. I don’t. It just takes up way more time than I’d anticipated.
    *
  4. Conferences. I used to love them back when I yearned for time alone. Now that I have that pretty often, I hate them. I rarely return with anything I can possibly put into place because I am a solo researcher and all the things I learn are helpful to bigger shops with newer databases that do whiz-bang amazing stuff. I ain’t there and I may never be. I’m kind of done chasing my career. I’m ready to not have a career. I just need the semblance of one until my kids are grown.
    *
  5. The garden. I know. I know. I swear to you, I know what I’m saying. And I say to you I just don’t have the wherewithal to keep up with a garden any longer. The weeds took over when I was in Nashville and the sky dried up and the temperature rose and all my free time was spent mowing and working. And everything kind of died and felt horrible but I can’t feel horrible any longer. I can’t. I can’t even look the garden in the eye. I can hear it moaning. I’ve let it down. I’ve let myself down. I have to stop doing that.

    I’ll go out soon (when, I have no idea) and pull everything up and figure out what I can handle and scale that shit down. Because it’s not just the tending to, it’s the harvesting and turning all that produce into food that’s time consuming. Tomatoes rotted before I could eat them all. Peppers came in prolifically and I tried as hard as I could to use them up. I failed. Most of the cucumbers were turned into pickles (which are still taking up an enormous amount of real estate in the fridge) and a few sat on the counter and slowly turned into ooze. I made hot sauce and spaghetti sauce with most of the tomatoes but still. It got overwhelming. So, the garden will be a different place next year. I’d like to say I’m giving up gardening but we both know that’s a lie. By March I’ll be ready to go back out and try again. Hope springs eternal in spring. Hope is a cudgel that passion hits me on the head with every year. So, I’m not giving up entirely but I might do a lot of it in bags and containers on my deck where it’s easier to deal with. I don’t know.

I don’t know how to quit. I don’t know how to pare down. Whenever I stop doing one thing, I come up with 12 other things I want to do and I try to do them and end up spinning myself into a pool of butter at the base of the tree. I don’t do it on purpose. I might be a glutton for punishment but I’m unable to stop doing. I can’t turn my brain off. I have difficulty sitting and reading longer than half an hour these days.

Sometimes I feel how short life is and I want to cram as much in as possible so that when I do die, no one can say my life was full of nothing. I like to be busy but not to the point of insanity. Finding that line is what I’m trying to do. So, allowing myself to let go of the things I feel I *should* be doing but can’t right now, is the first step.

So, I’ll be back but I don’t know when. This is the Season of No. The Season of Let Me Get Back To You. The Season of I’m Not Dead Yet! Give Me a Call and Let’s Do Something! The Season of Finding the Right Balance for Now.

 

Art For Sale

In lieu of all the other posts I’ve written in my head but don’t have time to write for real, I give you the ART POST. Below are all the stained glass pieces Dusty made this year while working as a volunteer assistant for her stained glass teacher. All of her work has sold briskly in the past so if there’s a piece that interests you, let me know.

Proceeds go to help pay for her band trip to Disney World in the spring.

The unicorn is an older piece. I think she did that when she was 13 and it’s needed a few tweaks and repairs before it was ready to sell.

All of these are much more beautiful in person than my photographs can capture. Especially the “small pieces” made from bits of rare and unusual glass.

Candle holders – $60 (each) + shipping (3.5″ in diameter; 4″ in height at tallest point) – One is primarily shades of red, the other shades of blue

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Large feather – $45 + shipping (9.5″ in length) – SOLD

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Mountains – $70 + shipping  (11.5 x 5″) – SOLD

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Small Piece #1  – $40 +shipping (3 x 3.5″)

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Small Piece #2 – $35 + shipping (4.5 x 3″) – SOLD

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Small Piece #3 – $35 + shipping (3.25 x 3.25″) – SOLD

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Small Piece #4 – $35 + shipping (3.5 x 3″) – SOLD

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Small Piece #5  – $40 + shipping (3 x 4.5″)

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Unicorn – $100 + shipping (16.5 x 8.5″) – SOLD

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Time May Change Me….

I’ve changed. I knew it at some level and I also knew that a lot of it has to do with age and time passing and having older children. But it really hit home when I went to Nashville for a conference in July. I began to miss home before I’d even left it. I worried about the cats and the kitten even though I knew they were in the best of hands. I worried about the garden and whether there’d be enough rain (there was – in spades). But it was more than that.

I arrived at the bizarro-world resort hotel conference complex and after a long board meeting was finally able to check in to my room. Finally, a room of my own. Quiet and basic and mine for 4 days. That was my first thought. My second was: I can’t wait for these four days to be over so I can go back home.

I used to love going to conferences because the allure of the hotel room, of being alone, of deciding when to sleep and what to do and where to go were a vacation in and of themselves. I was escaping a life that was becoming more fraught, more divisive, more depressing each day. Coming home from work should have made me heave a sigh of relief, “Finally, I’m home!” but it was the opposite. And this had little to do with the children per se. It was the knowledge that what I was coming home to was more work, scorn, everything that was not happy or relaxing or even helpful. It was more than a second job and it was the least enjoyable one.

So, getting away for a couple days was blissful apart from the travel which I always hate. So many hours wasted getting from one place to another!

These days, home is the refuge I’d always wanted. Home is where I most want to be. I missed my summer routines, my favorite chair, my first cup of coffee in the morning looking out at my neglected trees. Feeding my cats and getting ready for work. Coming home and deciding in what order I’d do things – mow first and then eat? Or the other way around? Mow at all? Harvest vegetables? Write instead? Make some art? I could do all these things or none of them. I could wash a load of clothes and vacuum at 10pm. Or I could put off until tomorrow what I was too lazy to do today and no one would make me feel guilty or less-than or sulk and stew and criticize.

This summer in particular I missed the children slightly less than the summer before. Part of that was just that I was busy. The days went by fast. I packed two vacation weeks into a three-week period – one away with the kids and one at home with a good friend. And then I was in Nashville and then I was FINALLY home and now it’s August and I have one of the kids back with the other coming home week after this coming one.

But with them or without them, there is still that good feeling. If I’m coming home to an empty house with an evening full of selfishly-driven possibility, or one with the most important people in it and I have to make dinner for three (which I almost forgot how to do) and then mow and then make sure things are picked up and put away….it’s good. It’s really good. And it’s nice to feel at home in my house.

I was going to write about KonMari and minimalism (which I have mixed feelings about) because there was an article in the paper about it (hipsters have discovered it or maybe rediscovered it – who really cares?) and how KonMariing my house helped with this whole process of feeling comfortable here and making it mine (and ours). But, clearly I didn’t get there in time. So that might be another post. Something I’ve been really bad at doing lately. I’m going to poke around in the links given in the article and perhaps share them here if they’re worth sharing. There’s something to be said about having less and my reasons are a bit different than the folks in the article but there’s also something to be said for keeping the things that spark joy, that you love, that make you happy when you see them.

Being home sparks joy. Sleeping in my own bed sparks joy. Hearing my kids thinking their thoughts in their rooms does too. Dusty came home and immediately started cleaning her room. I’ve been neglectful this summer but I also feel that I don’t need to be everyone’s maid anymore. Not to teenagers who can use magic sponges and vacuum cleaners as well as I can. Watching them grown into smart, independent people sparks the most joy. As does, acknowledging that I’ve changed and its been to the good.

Why I Love Summer

The other night, after falling asleep and waking up again an hour later, I got up and prowled around the house. When insomnia hits, I usually try to conjure up a meditative state of mind, writing down all the things that are bothering me or I need to remember, and then I attempt to lie quietly and wait for my body to fall back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, I’ll read. If that doesn’t work, I walk around and peer out windows and listen to the insects. It was a full moon so I went down to the other end of the house to see it more fully without going outside. There she was, shining on the house, keeping me awake. But I don’t mind insomnia quite so much in the summer as I do in the winter. The temperature is pleasant for one thing, everything’s alive outside.

Finally, I went back to bed and thought about all the things I love about summer. I’ve probably written this post before but I’m gonna do it again, ahead of a big awful triple-digit heat wave that even I don’t like. It can actually get to hot for me but being cold is always worse.
1. The heat. I like warmth. I like to be warm. I like to be comfortable in just a sleeveless top and a pair of short pants. I like to be comfortable in no clothes at all. I’m cold natured. I’m not a fan of a/c except when it’s really really hot – it has its place – but I don’t really like chilly air blowing on me, ever. I like walking out of the house in one layer. No coat, no socks, none of that other crap you have to layer on yourself just to get the paper in the winter. It’s a whole production, going outside when it’s freezing. I was meant for warm weather.

2. The humidity. I do. I like it. Sure, sometimes there’s too much of a good thing and I don’t really enjoy sweating and being damp all day but my skin likes the humidity and it feels….right. Maybe it’s that I’m a Southerner. I’m used to it. I don’t know. But humidity is never something I’ll complain about.

3. Cicadas and the night noises of insects. It’s 8:00pm, still light out and there’s something trilling rhythmically outside that isn’t a cricket. Crickets are for other seasons, insects of last resort. Cicadas are music – that chwee-chwee-chweeee-chweeeeeeeee they make tells me it’s summer. They are harmless bumbling creatures. Ugly but harmless. They don’t eat my garden, they don’t sting or bite. They don’t carry disease. That’s my kind of insect.

4. The junglizing of everything, the greenness, the lushness of everything. This is how everything is supposed to look, all time. All the other seasons are just minor transitions to get us back to this: fully leafed trees, flowers, grass. There are sections of the road I drive every day that are covered by a canopy of leaves as the branches of trees over the road make shade tunnels.

5. School’s out. No school buses, kids sleep late most days, teachers are home, everyone takes a deep breath and lets it out again. The pace is slower, offices have skeleton crews as people cycle in and out of vacations. It’s how life should be if none of us had to work all the time and the kids didn’t have to study all the time.

6. Spending whole days reading or daydreaming or napping or whatever you want. I have spent almost entire days reading. It’s lovely. Oh sure, you could probably do it any other weekend during the rest of the year but most of them are filled up with things, chores, activities, errands, demands, commitments. Summer is different.

7. The beach. Everything about the beach I love. The sand, the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing, the horizon melting into the ocean far away with nothing blocking that line between earth and air but distance.

8. Thunderstorms – the sound of thunder and rain pouring down on the roof, the thunder and lightning, that ozone smell, the build up, the release,

9. Fireflies. Another summer-only insect that is harmless and beautiful. Who doesn’t love fireflies? You don’t get that in the winter.

10. Praying mantises. I should probably write a whole post about My Favorite Bugs. I love these guys with their freaky alien heads. I love watching them walk about, trying not to get in the way, scanning for a meal, pouncing on some awful bad bug and eating its head. When I find their egg cases, I protect them. They are a gardener’s friend.

11. The garden. Goes without saying, perhaps, but even though I reach maximum laziness by August and I’m not doing much more than keeping things alive and picking food off the plants, I love my garden. I love the whole process – planning, digging, planting, weeding, protecting, watering, watching things grow – but I really like it when it’s reached full jungle stage in July when there’s not really much more you (me) can do but keep things alive and watered, weed, pick, and then begin to dismantle bit by bit.

Every summer seems shorter than the last. It used to seem to last forever but those were days when I didn’t work, when I catapulted out of my house in the morning after eating a bowl of cereal and throwing on yesterday’s clothes, and went to find a friend to have adventures with or sit around on half broken swing sets and moan about being bored, the whole day stretching out into the evening until dark which came much later than the rest of the year.

Now I’m in an office all day and the most outdoor time I have is when I’m mowing. Which, granted, is a lot of time, but it’s not quite the same. But it doesn’t matter because it’s summer. Whatever I’m doing, inside or out, it’s still summer.