It’s Come to This

I’m a bad cook. Seriously bad. By the time a woman reaches her mid-forties, she should possess a vast repertoire of go-to recipes that are repeatable success stories. I do not have this, partly because I decided to stop eating all animal products 2 years ago and so had to basically throw out all of my stand-by foods, and partly because I just don’t have that cooking gene.

I don’t improvise, for example. I follow a recipe and hope to hell it turns out as promised.

This coming weekend, in a week, we are hosting a big dinner at our house. Attending this dinner are my mother in law and my 2 stepdaughters who are foodies to the nth degree. And everyone eats meat. I just…can’t. I can do all the cleaning and I am a good kitchen assistant, but the I cannot be head cook. Nope nope nope. Luckily, Husband is good at wrangling food and slinging hash. And I’m good at looking busy.

Husband, who is the most consistently supportive man ever, reluctantly admitted last weekend that I am a terrible cook. This admission made me snort with laughter, that I actually got him to admit something unflattering about me.

Perfect attendance for me at work next week, for reasons I will explain later.

 

Do you know who you are?

In the past year or so, I have been gradually gaining more and more free time. I don’t know what to do with myself because this amount of free time might be temporary.

My youngest turns 12 this weekend, and my other child is 14. We are entering the parental home stretch, and aside from helping with school projects, making food, and driving them places, they don’t need me very much (not physically, anyway). I strive to cultivate our common interests, just to keep a connection with them. But even these activities don’t take much work, especially when compared to 3 years ago.

I’m not the same person I used to be. Most of my free time was gobbled up with mundane tasks and I got used to that. As a result, my personal interests withered quite a bit or were modified to keep me at home minding children outside of school hours. I hardly ever leave the house anymore, except to walk the dogs, go to work, run a few errands, or have a meal in a restaurant. Very rarely do I head out just for the heck of it. I’m simply unused to having that option and I’ve been domesticated. I am also aging, and therefore have a lot less energy than I used to. (For example, I am hiring a gardener to dig up our tiny front lawn and replacing it with gravel.)

Some weekends whiz by with very little interaction with our offspring. Girl midget cleans her room, collects her allowance, and vanishes. Boy midget often has a group project to work on, or he is off playing games at friends’ houses. I spend a significant amount of time cleaning the inside and outside of our house, but its appearance doesn’t reflect that. One can rearrange only so much furniture and purge only so many belongings; I feel like I need most of the items that now reside in my home. But maybe I could do more, right after I have a glass of wine.

Maybe I need another project? I’m working on finding us a good house swap for Hanukkah this year. Nearly anywhere in Europe is cool with us, basically. We are looking for a cultural getaway, somewhere there are museums or sites to see and we don’t need to depend on a car. I also have to work on organizing our house because we have renters coming in August. That one’s boring, but very necessary.

Maybe this abundance of free time isn’t temporary? Dare I hope? Can I get back to being ‘myself’? Someone with varied interests and a busy calendar of activities for myself? Can I take on a big project without needing buy-in from the other people who live in my house?

How I Embraced the Cubicle and…who’s kidding who? I hate this shit.

Lately I’ve been called upon to be a personal cheerleader for a co-worker/friend. Usually it’s me who hates being here, marking time and providing necessities of life to my family unit. Last week and the week before that I was home a lot with sick children, and I determined I don’t want to be a stay at home mom (sahm) even if it’s an option, which for me it is not. I don’t know if sahm dissatisfaction is linked to my fear of being ‘unproductive’ or becoming a 1-dimensional drain on our family’s resources, but I definitely felt bored by the end of that period. I don’t even want to use word unhappy to describe myself. That word feels too strong for my malaise and too weak for the stirring I feel inside me that wants to burst out of my chest.

Last week and this week, my friend Anne is going through a phase where she feels unrewarded at work, meaning she feels her work doesn’t make a difference in the world. Normally she feels satisfied by her projects and is content to bang out documents as required. I reject the idea that if she was better paid she would be happier. Same for the notion that her working for a different company in a different cube would provide her with a solution.

This week on the Bill Burr Monday Morning Podcast, Bill puts cube workers on blast and asks rhetorically if anyone hoped as a kid that one day they would be dealing with spreadsheets and other paperwork in an office setting. My answer to that is Yes, I did. The idea of having inside work that is clean and uses my brain was very appealing to this farmer’s daughter. No longer would the weather determine my productivity that day, and I predicted I would receive regular praise for my brilliant ideas and Protestant work ethic. Sure, I’ve experienced this, but now my dreams have changed. Now I want some freedom to explore my new interests and make money while producing meaningful services or products to the public at large. I’ve never wanted to be famous or outrageously rich, so my humble goal should be simple enough to achieve.

My hypothesis for Anne is that, no matter what office she works in, she will ultimately be unsatisfied because she will not be doing work she really wants to do. What does she want to do? She doesn’t know yet and that’s causing her mental discomfort. I was at that point last year, and by now I’ve come to the realization that my discomfort is ok and doesn’t need to be resolved at the moment. I don’t know what I want to do next, and that’s ok. This is the idea I’m trying to convey to my good friend; it’s ok if we don’t know what to do yet because someday we will.

I’ve been listening to many podcasts lately and some of them pertain to entrepreneurs. Sometimes I’ll hear a good sound bite and I try to remember it. Keep in mind I’m always riding my bike while listening to these, so I haven’t a pen and paper nearby to jot down these ideas.

“People put more value on entrepreneurs than they do 9-5ers”

It’s true generally the entrepreneur is glamorized, while the ‘wage slave’ is not.

“We eat at TGIFridays, not TGIMondays.”

Weekends are what we live for, supposedly. But no one’s tweeting about the crappy parts of making a living as a guest speaker or consultant. Mostly all we see are photos of beaches or mountains with the caption, “This is my office today.” What about a photo of a bland hotel room and a picture of a squished cereal bar that will serve as dinner that night? Not so glamorous but much more relatable. That tidbit was provided by Kevin Kostella, who creates The Freedom Lovin Podcast.

I’d like to think I’ve got my eyes wide open about the prospect of being a business owner, not that I have a business in mind yet. One inspiring site is My Wife Quit Her Job. This man blogs about his family’s transition from a typical dual income household of working for other people, to running an incredibly successful online store. His wife was working at a 6-figure job and hated it. She hated it so much that her sadness and anger filtered up to her family life, making Sunday evenings just awful. A solution had to be reached, and so together they found one.

Husband and I periodically but regularly discuss what else I could be doing to earn income for our family besides working in a cube in an office building. We have some ideas but nothing is without risk and all of the ideas take time and effort. I’m willing to devote time and effort in this case but not as much if I am not guaranteed success. Or practically guaranteed. I suppose that’s what holding me back.

 

Putting ourselves last

Our kids’ emotional needs come first, because whatever our needs are, our personalities are already formed and our emotions largely predictable. Even if they aren’t, we are adults. It’s too late for us. The clay has dried. It’s not too late for our kids though. My midgets have a great relationship with their Dad and with me, because their Dad and I have consciously grown those relationships and supported each other’s involvement in the lives of our midgets.

Maybe I’m so passionate about this issue because if I give this situation my ‘all’, and my midgets turn out emotionally stunted or damaged in spite of this effort, I don’t have to blame myself. My first instinct is always to avoid offending someone or affecting them in a negative way. This has led to my avoidance of conflict, although I’m working on that. So perhaps my passion comes easily to me because my life goals are aligned with the goal of raising my midgets surrounded by love. I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where a working mother was jealous of the bond between the nanny and her child. I have never felt that way toward my caregiver, and in fact used to call her my midgets’ day-time Mommy. She is still an integral part of their development, and, together with her husband is one more element of love added to my midgets’ lives.

Just this morning I was patting myself on the back once more, after I read an article in the newspaper.

I can’t imagine how guilty I would feel if I screwed up my chance at perfect parenthood. Perfection is a pipe dream, I keep telling myself, but I don’t believe that. I am doing the best I can, same as all parents do, so what makes me think my method is correct? Will I look back on this in 10 years and see I was wrong? What will I do then, to console myself? I’ll probably tell myself I did the best I could, and at that time I will have to admit I didn’t do a perfect parenting job. Perfection is always my goal; through all of my schooling and achieving traditional milestones. That’s what got me into the wrong marriage, into a beige cube job that probably doesn’t suit my personality, and pushes me to push my midgets into socially sanctioned roles of good helpful teens who will be university educated and gainfully employed. And then I see a TED talk like this, which makes me question my effectiveness in preparing my midgets to be happy successful adults.

I want my midgets to be proactive, creative, and independent. Does achieving a university education and a ‘regular’ job promote these qualities?

Marry, Fuck, Kill

Marry, Fuck, Kill!

Also, if you’re feeling particularly snarky today, I recommend Go Fug Yourself. Hours of snark, like having a snark faucet in your home or office. One of my fave saying (Sweet Cracker Sandwich) is from this site.

 

 

 

 

Short and Sweet-ish.

Sometimes when I click on a link or menu item that I’ve clicked on 100s of times before, I will position my mouse to anticipate where the next link or button will appear. That’s just a little game I play to keep myself amused.

What would happen if I decided I wanted a lower paying physical job instead of the beige one I have now? I call my current job beige because the walls, carpeting, and people are beige. I’m not referring ethnicity; rather to attitudes/acceptance/facial expressions of coworkers.

I’m not a spring chicken (and thank goodness, because I don’t want to get eaten this summer). Physical jobs are for the young or people who haven’t any other options. Of course I’ve seen the toll a physical job takes on a person no matter their age. The young (under 30) generally thrive. They show off their amazingly tight abs, arm muscles, and suntan. Anyone over 40 though, who is doing a physically active job, starts to develop bodily ailments because they are literally wearing out their joints, bones, ligaments, and muscles.

Generally I like trading my brain capacity for money. I wish that capacity was worth more money and required less time, but overall I feel like this is the best I can do. Is that…sad? I don’t think so? I don’t know.

This year will be busy because there are lots of changes coming about.

Know Your Enemy

It’s important to direct your displeasure at the correct source of irritation, whether that be a person, place, or thing.

For example: F*cking snow. The actual problem here is that I would need to change the location of where I live. It’s not the northwestern hemisphere’s fault for providing 4 distinct seasons; she’s just being herself.

You’ve Got No Common Sense!

Ok, full disclaimer: I read ambiguity into sentences where most people wouldn’t. Part of the reason I am a good technical writer is that I appreciate and use clear language to describe concepts and list instructions.

In my non-work life, when I’m helping move a heavy object or do other physical task with a partner, I follow instructions exactly. If you tell me to move right, I will move to MY right. If you tell me to Lift up the object, I will ask how high or I will ask why, because otherwise I don’t know. A better instruction for me would be to Lift it up a few inches, or Lift it up to get it past the newel post, or Lift it up so we can make our way up these stairs. When I lift and move forward (or backward), I put my back into the task, full steam ahead, so you’d best be prepared or else tell me beforehand that I should move slowly.

(Oh! Another great development at our house is that boy midget is now old enough and strong enough to help move furniture and other heavy stuff. Awesome.)

When I was hoeing weeds in my childhood, or picking up large rocks in the field in preparation for planting, I kept focussed on the task in front of me. I didn’t scan the ground at the sides of me, just in front, unless I was told to do otherwise. Because of this focus, in which I would let me mind wander so as to keep myself from dying of boredom, I would not see weeds or rocks that were outside of my chosen path. And for that I was told I had no common sense, because if I had, I would know enough to look around.

I don’t respond well to YELLING. I don’t like those boot camp workouts where the instructors are from the armed forces and tell you you’re a quitter who won’t be able to finish the set. I’m in fact working out for fun, not to be insulted. Otherwise what’s the point? Why would anyone sign up, take their precious time and money and give it to someone who is mean? It doesn’t make sense. And to talk to a kid like that, well, that won’t work out very well for the instructor and kid’s future self either.

We are constantly being told that to love someone else we need to love ourselves first. Does any of that self-flagellation make sense in the context of self-love? No. And that’s why I think fat-shaming and dieting doesn’t work, like, ever. If you love yourself you will treat your body well. Maybe sometimes I treat my brain well by eating some ‘junk.’ But still. I love myself. I don’t yell at myself.

I still have goals and I challenge myself physically at times. I’m not a gym person but I get outside and I love doing yoga. Doing yoga at home hasn’t been that successful, partly because my novice form needs an instructor present and also because my dogs simply will not leave me alone when I’m doing a downward dog. Yes it’s true, they think I’m playing and get right under my face. Then the barking starts. Then a midget needs something from me. So effing peaceful and zen, right? Augh. It’s easier to say Bye guys, see you in an hour or so after yoga!

Boy midget belongs to Scouts and has done for about 5 years now. Scouts teaches common sense, there’s no doubt about it, but it teaches through calm instruction, teamwork, and positive outcomes. Before I get too preachy here, I have to say I sometimes lose my patience. I yell. And then I apologize and we all move forward.

I would love if my kids would see me struggling with bags and get up and help without me having to tell them. This might be a woman passive-aggressive thing. To me, this is a big part of common sense. I teach my midgets to be more responsive and we all benefit.

On Wednesday evening when Husband arrived home with a carload, I helped unload it even though we were all sick at our house. The next day boy midget mentioned that he felt bad about not being able to help with that. Success! That’s what I want; not the guilt but the common sense.

I leave you with this.

Questions you shouldn’t ask

Don’t ask me to contribute to a charity. Have I mentioned that I have offspring, a home, and dogs to maintain? I feel like charities are getting more needy, but my salary is shrinking (no cost-of-living increase for, oh, 7 years now), and I feel more put upon now than ever before. Also, is it wrong of me to think charities need to focus a bit more on our fellow countrymen? I see adults and children alike, on a regular basis, who need help.

Don’t ask me what’s wrong. I wouldn’t know where to start, because I don’t know exactly what’s causing me to look sad. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

Don’t ask if I want another glass of red. Duh.

Don’t ask me how I will tell my tenants we are going to sell that house next year. I haven’t figured that out yet. If I tell them it’s because of our 7-year plan, they will probably be angry for us being callous (even though it’s my house to do with as I see fit). I need to strike just the right tone between nice/apologetic and resolute/firm.

Don’t act surprised when I get pissed about having asked you to participate in a Christmas ritual that you thought was unimportant and so didn’t join in. It’s all important. It just is, and I can’t believe these traditions are so important to me. This actually pisses me off more than anything else, because I never thought I was the traditional type. Gah.

P.S. While putting together the nativity scene at home, I convinced girl midget that pregnant Mary broke up with God to be with Joseph. Such scandal! Yes I cleared it up later. If you can’t have fun with your own midgets, why did you have any in the first place? Mine still think kids aren’t allowed in Las Vegas.

Here, There & Everywhere $

Last night our city withstood a terrible windstorm. Some homes fared better than others; ours are intact although a fence came down. No big deal, right? Wrong!

I live in a city. I don’t have access to post diggers, circular saws, or any other fence repairing/replacement tools. I also have no skills in that area. There was a time when I could count on the men in my family to instinctively know what needed to be done in any outdoor situation, but that’s no longer the case. These days I hire out. Hiring someone is not itself a panacea; you have to hire the RIGHT person with skills and integrity. Not an easy find. My go-to resource is usually Homestars.ca. There you can find all manner of trades and read their reviews too. And then yesterday my confidence in this site was compromised! It turns out that lots of people who post glowing reviews are not real customers. And the negative reviews are often not even posted. So there is another level of scrutiny I have to go through: now I have to pay attention to how many reviews a certain company has, to make sure they are real reviews. After all, who could falsify over 100 reviews? Don’t answer that rhetorical question.

Luckily we know a ‘fence guy’ who has done great work for us in the past. I texted him (all hail the mighty text!) and he called back quickly with an estimate and ability to send someone over today. But the price tag was too high for us, so Husband and I needed to find a different solution. It isn’t a matter of calling a neighbour to help us out; no one else around us knows what they’re doing either! The solution we came up with was to pay the fence guy to install a temporary fence for the winter. This will be done today, considerably cheaper than the option of completely replacing that side of the fence. And the debris will be cleared too. Used to be we had to get to know our neighbours and make friends in the community so we could pool our collective knowledge and help each other. Now we have to develop a roster of trustworthy tradespeople while surrounded by less skilled, less honest ones.

This past weekend I went to Alberta to attend my little bro’s wedding. He’s a plumber/steamfitter in a small town, so his life is very different from mine. I’ve always prided myself on my physical strength and ability to figure out how to ‘make do’. What a shock when I realized this weekend that I don’t remember how to do anything outside the usual house cleaning and very minor repair. Used to be I’d have confident support of men and women in my network around me, to help figure out a solution for whatever outdoor problem had arisen, but no one else around me now has that skill set either. Weird.

This weekend I remembered a lot of sights and smells of my childhood, which was incredibly comforting. I hadn’t realized how removed I am now from my roots. I work in an office, I have lily-white hands, I studied English Literature, I manipulate words. I occasionally pay others to do manual labour at my house. We had a new door installed a couple of weeks ago, by a handyman we know. Despite all of this evidence, I still believed I was a down-to-earth, can-do-it person. I mean, I can write the absolute shit out of a technical document or anything else sent my way. But that’s all so…intangible a skill set. My abilities seem so imaginary; made up, even. I know that’s not true, but compared to the skill of putting up a fence, I doubt I would survive very well in a post-apocalyptic world unless someone needs a written manifesto.