Hiatus is a Good Word

I’ve thought about this little blog a lot lately. When I started writing here I needed an outlet for creativity and emotional venting. Also for pondering aloud. 

So much has happened to me since the summer. I said goodbye to daycare due to my kids outgrowing it. I got laid off of my 10-year cube job that I both hated and needed. I decided to sell off our rental house and therefore had to evict my friends who lived there. Then I broke my wrist in early October and am still in a cast. It’s a pretty purple colour but it prevents me from using my left arm very much and I happen to be left handed. 

Much soul searching ensued but not as much as when I was still a full time employee. I was neither sad nor happy about my sudden freedom. Mostly I wondered how I should feel, same as I have after many life events. Divorce springs to mind as one of the more discombobulating experiences that had a similar affect on my daily life. 

Luckily I hired a good lawyer and received a generous severance. Luckily I make money through our basement rental and luckily Husband’s biz is going like gangbusters. 

Yes I need to find a new vocation/focus/activity to keep me productive but until this arm cast comes off and the rental house is finally ready for sale I’m just helping Husband with his work, keeping the house functioning, and enjoying the lack of career expectations. I might work in a cube again if I have to, but only on a contract basis. It’s nice to have that as a fall back plan but I hope I never have to use it.

Meanwhile my midgets get older and I continue to encourage their independence. Boy is a moody 14 and is currently enduring ninth grade. Girl is a young lady, very social and industrious. We 3 are all still very close and I’m doing my level best to stay that way. 

Linked In immediately became irrelevant to my life. So did travel, to some extent. I no longer have a life I need to escape, and so my travel itch has diminished considerably. I’m fucking content, and that surprises me most of all. 

  

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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.

 

You Know You’re White…Right?

This is the comment I hear very often, because I sometimes use the following phrases:

  • Dolla Dolla Bill, y’all
  • Takin’ Care ‘a Bidness
  • Ah-ight
  • Mashallah
  • Zei Gezunt
  • Menches Kint

No, these are not the most professional words to use, but that’s why I’m not in management. I have a lot of freedoms not afforded to people who have an image to uphold. I’m not naive enough to think my off-kilter sense of humour doesn’t affect others’ perception of me, but then again, even if I was a ‘proper’ serious person, I sincerely believe I would be in the same professional position as I am now. My skill set is mostly measured upon the words I smith and deadlines I meet.

I’m a white Christian who married a Jew, who lives in a multi-cultural city and works in an office with many different ethnicities. My weekday lunch time foods are atypical compared to what I grew up eating. It makes sense for me to have varied phrases in my vocabulary, but even I laugh at myself when I say to my very Jewish brother-in-law on a Friday afternoon: Good Shabbas.

Using my Powers for Good

This morning I wrote a quick user guide for husband’s point of sale software at his store. Boy midget will be using these instructions because he’s working at the store this week. He and girl midget will share the job, each making $5 an hour for their efforts.  Thanks to me, boy midget can now answer the store phone intelligently, create a work order, check on work order status, and process payments. They won’t be working full days, but enough to occupy their time and force them to put on clean clothes and brush their teeth while on March break.

I finished another bunch of Barbie clothes, and will get some photos done this week. This will be girl midget’s job, because she offered to do it and I need her help. Now that my midgets no longer require daycare, I like to keep them busy in other ways when they are off school. Also, now that they no longer require constant supervision, their help is actually contributing to our family in a positive way, instead of just taking. As my energy wanes, theirs waxes. As the blossom of youth slowly and surely wears off my face, I watch it unfurl on theirs. Speaking of youth wearing away, Ellie is getting old. This morning I walked her 3 km and there was very little energy left in her body by the time we returned home. I get a great feeling from seeing her tired though, knowing I have done one of my jobs today. Pickle didn’t even peak her head out of the blanket when Ellie and I headed out, and that’s not because Pickle is old; it’s because she’s allergic to snow, ice, and temperatures less than 10C.

More good news around here – the ice boulders are receding and our basement is dry.

 

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.

It’s Friday

Thank f*ck.

I actually don’t dislike my job right now. I feel lucky when I’m walking into our office building, fortunate to have landed a regular job as I had hoped to while in my 20s. Believe it or not I used to yearn for a cube job, not just for the job but what it represented to me: adulthood and all its trappings.

Mostly though I feel indifferent toward my Monday to Friday post. Of course I know I would be up the proverbial shit creek without said paddle without it, but honestly I’m fairly bored. My main motivation to be there is money, second is the significant amount of friends I have amassed while at my current employer.

A few months ago I was pretty gung-ho about finding a new place to work, but I’ve abandoned that plan for now. Or rather that plan has abandoned moi. Jobs such as mine are hard to come by. One would think as a result I would be more enthusiastic about my daily toil but this is not the case. I remember when I used to get excited to discuss fonts (obvs my deep understanding of kerning let me effectively participate in such a discussion).

These days I’m happiest to don my company-issued lanyard when I know I’ll get to see some work friends and my latest project doesn’t require me to work with a douchebag. It’s the little things, no?

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There are no words

Actually I guess there are a few words. But I’m doing my best zen breathing so as not to utter any. If I write anything now, I’ll write something mean; and I don’t want to be mean. What I would like is to be heard.

Sometimes I feel like I’m jumping up and down trying to get my point across but am trapped under a human-sized bell jar.

Looking back on it: I shouldn’t.

I shouldn’t look back, I mean. Looking only forward is sometimes hard to do, just think about Lot’s wife. She couldn’t resist turning back to look behind her one last time.

Husband and I have been midget-free all week, due to my youngest visiting Gramma, and my older being away at scout camp. We have been preoccupied all week though, with other people in our lives. I seriously doubt they know how much their ups and downs affect the ups and downs of husband and I. Actually I hope they don’t know how much their silence, alternated with disrespectful texts, defriending on FB, and then contacting husband only because they need something from him affects us. Because if they do know this? Then I’m even more disappointed, shocked, and saddened than before. I might never sleep again and neither will husband.

I would love for these people to contact husband to see how HE is doing, to ask HIM to have a coffee with them, or to simply give a shit about keeping in touch without also needing something from him. Do I want an apology? Hell No. No no no no no. That’s not what is needed here. What is needed is for them to treat husband as if his feelings are just as important as theirs are. How about if husband is able to tell them he is upset with them, and have them listen? And then they don’t go off in a huff and disappear for weeks at a time? Create a dialog, a back-and-forth, a mature relationship.

This line of thought leads me to wonder if people can really change or not? More specifically, are people able to change their reactions to and relationships with others? I don’t know yet. 

I used to be

I used to be an activist for environmental protection and the rights of animals. I used to be quite interested in world news especially the war in Iraq. That was during my time at university.

I continued these interests after graduation but with less involvement. Eventually the everyday, stress is the wrong word, activities? took up most of my time. Plus, I was tired. Tired of people, namely the men in my life, demanding conformity. I was encouraged to stop trying to ‘stir the pot’ in conversation, stop trying to be ‘different’ and most of all to take on their interests. Stupidly, I mostly complied. Then I got married, which diminished that fire inside of me a little more. Then I had a child, and that fire was extinguished.

I became conventional. I was obsessed with raising the perfect offspring. I gave up all of my own interests in favour of supporting my husband and being consumed by childrearing. I took on the lion’s share of the childrearing, in my opinion, leaving no time for my own continued development. Curling? I was a curling nut before I had a child. I learned the sport when I was 11 years old and played all through high school and university and beyond. I went to tournaments and played regular games twice a week or more. I would take my equipment to the ice some evenings just to get some practise time in. A couple of years ago, after carting my shoes and broom from move to move, I finally donated them to a high school. I had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to commit 2 weeknights every week to a sport I had once loved.

Last night I worked late and so Husband took over kid duties. He picked up girl midget from gymnastics, made dinner, and then took boy midget to Scouts. I usually do all of this because Husband gets home from work after 7:30 pm each night.  I can rely on him to do all of this just as well as I would.

In the last 2 years or so, I have picked up some new interests. I started a serious crochet hobby and opened an Etsy store (AlliNeedisYarn). I have 2 dogs that need to be walked each day. I move our living room and bedroom furniture around a LOT. I’m a budget decorator, always looking for cheap ways to improve our home. I often come up with projects to do and currently I’m planning an extensive vegetable garden for summer. Our living room shelving/furniture needs improvement so I’m going to focus on that this year too.

In the last 9 months or so I have experienced a real rebirth. I no longer self-medicate with wine, carbs, and fat. I no longer worry about keeping out of the fray of public opinion. I have become more myself in the past year than I have been since university when I was in my early twenties. I suppose this comes with the territory when you have children who no longer need you 24×7, or even 10×7. I think we’re down to 3×7 now, leaving me with time to fill. And fill it I shall.

I never thought I could be married and a mother without compromising myself. To me, being married meant stifling my interests, strong opinions, and even talent. It’s interesting to note that my serious boyfriends and first husband didn’t think this way, and they likely didn’t fully understand how much I was bending for them. Children don’t give a crap how much you are bending; they want what they want. Immediately. That doesn’t matter though, you don’t have to give over your entire self. Building them up doesn’t mean you can’t frolick in the sun. Ugh, the guilt we mothers (and probably fathers too but I really don’t know) endure for pursuing our own interests. Seriously? Why do we women do this shit to ourselves? That’s rhetorical because I know the answer is long, complicated, and steeped in gender roles imposed from day one onward.

One thing I have done with my own children is to teach them, from a young age, that I have feelings, likes and dislikes, dreams, desires, and I need just as much love as they do. So there’s that. Now I just need to remind myself.

Too much bad news

I receive, on average, 4 emails a week from various organisations (local politics, global politics, environmental) informing me that bees are all dying, our libraries are closing, global warming is huge and it’s our fault, no one is looking at Fukushima, and our species and all of the other ones who live on earth are doomed. These are all very real issues that require the attention of many people in order for the problems to be solved. But. After I read an email bulletin like that (and more and more lately I skim at best) I feel helpless. I’m just 1 person and I don’t know how to help save our planet, make sure our city facilities are kept operating, and I definitely don’t know what to do about Fukushima. Does anyone? Instead of running around proclaiming the sky is falling, for once I would like to read an email that tells me, point by point, where I can begin to make a difference in this world.

And if these organisations really want to get the average Jane motivated, they should tell her where we are making improvements. Are there none? Really?! I refuse to believe that. These emails are the equivalent of what used to be the evening news, and I stopped watching the news years ago because it made me depressed. So guess what? Enviro groups and political groups just lost an avenue in which they could have reached me. We need to change the narrative from doom and gloom to encouraging and hopeful.