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Tag Archives: middle age

My life as a house remodel

Today it’s taking more of an effort to enter into the moments, feel the hope, the tingling of possibilities. Walking down to the coffee shop, I only half-notice, then recollect, small gatherings of starlings clicking and writing in the maples above the sidewalk, then two brown wrens conversing, tails bent up and twitching as they shifted between twigs of the only shrub in a block of mowed lawns, the beautiful Salish Sea, in unnameable tones of bluegreen and grey lapping in, and along the way, periodic views of the light reflected off sand bottom punctuated by flat rocks and waving seaweed. Dogs joyfully wagging and sniffing, eagerly running down to the beach under the gray sky. Now I sit facing the window that looks back the way I came, wondering why I was not really present to the moments. Yet people, people are almost too present to  me. I came here to be an anonymous part of a gathering, with the possibility of seeing an acquaintance always welcome, though not likely. I came with the expectation of pleasure, in the freedom to just go somewhere on the spur of the moment wot  the health and time to do so.

But the feeling now is that nothing, nothing will develop from this, that it’s just a thing to do for a break, and I used to need breaks a lot, from my busy household, from the conflicts that sometimes arose there. And later, just to habituate myself to getting out again, no longer needed as a caregiver.  But it’s not a break I need anymore; I need to rebuild. This is not the same life I inhabited before, and I don’t know exactly what to make of it. And build I shall. I am grateful to have access to an abundance of materials, but not sure how to define the space and boundaries, scope out the project, which things to stockpile, how to lay out the work schedule and list of deliverables. Which parts of my past and current life to carefully extract, save, and re-purpose, and which to crack apart with a sledgehammer, pry away with a crowbar and cart away to be reduced to basic elements.

I become aware that two (three? more?) otters have just appeared in the water at the end of the dock and are undulating right to the shore, climbing up the rocks, and no one has seen them yet. It’s a dog, arriving with its owners above on the trail, who gives the signal, and they humans realize something is up, and soon see the curious, whiskered faces of the otters and share in the excitement, holding back the dog with a firm hold. Why are the otters so bold, suddenly, to come all the way onto shore?

The coffee shop is crowded; people are feeling a coming spring now that the Arctic air flow has gone whither it will. The baristas are maxed out and not making very good lattes–no foam; mine has developed a skin, but one must adapt. It’s not the quality of the brew that attracts me here, and I know many people would avoid it for the additional reason of their apparent lack of inclusiveness, as expressed by their refusal to carry a full diversity of free publications. As if, by limiting diversity of viewpoints in cafe owners, one is affirming diversity. I feel the location is worth it. Plus it has the right number of spots always open to stay and write without feeling one is depriving new customers.

Today I wondered if I should be keeping receipts, as I have to define a new direction of the corporation I now run, dormant after the end of my husband’s years as a software consultant. If I fire up my writing and editing as a business, I could claim 50% of meals expenses. I am far from earning anything that way, though I did earn a little in years past.

I continue to watch the scene outside. The otters have swum away, but a small flock of sparrows that nest in the rafters of the shop–apparently legally now, as someone seems to have shamed the cafe owners into removing the metal spines that formerly discouraged them–are squabbling. It’s quite a hierarchical and competitive assembly, but there is peace enough that one male is splaying out his short little wings and preening. Another looks like she has a down feather stuck in her mouth, as she works her beak to try to drop it, then suddenly flies up to the rafters, pulling the gazes of the three approaching walkers, to place it in one of the nests.

The sun is just breaking through, the caffeine is taking the edge off my dullness, and soon the post-church crowd will be here. I have some ideas from this session: since I’m planning a remodel of my house, currently at the design and semi-wild-ass estimation stage, I could use the process as a metaphor, learning from the proven efficient, effective, and articulated project development process of the design-build firm to do my life remodel. Older dwelling, adequate until now with plenty of creativity and compromise, the site of many struggles, joys, comforts, and even a legacy, needs reworking. Define needs and and wants, prioritize, budget, redesign, order materials, with a focus on local, low-impact, underutilized, restored components. Invest in a reasonable stock of beautiful new or lightly used elements that enhance value and utility and will stand the test of time. Order materials, do demolition myself  with the aid of a few skilled friends and family; identify hidden flaws of structure and systems, integrate repairs and upgrades into plan and budget; schedule contractors for phase one. And, with the otters and sparrows, take risks, be curious, but make sure the lining of the nest is insulated, even if from down fallen from my own breast..

 

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A stay-at-home-mom looks toward the future

A stay-at-home-mom looks toward the future

Am I missing a strategic time to get back into a paid career path, by taking yet another year at home with my children? I’m back at home full time this year, with one son who is learning at home. My other three went back this year–one to community college (in Running Start, so technically he’s still in high school), one in regular high school, and one in middle school.

I enjoyed the work substitute teaching last year–it was a confirmation for me that I do want to keep working with teen people and that I have something to offer, if I can keep it alive. I keep coming back to that drive–to help kids busting into that abstract thinking, individuating stage figure out who they are as learners, knowers, feelers, doers, communicators. It’s a charge just to be with them–they’re so interesting, so varied, and so important to this world–not just in the future, but now. And they need all the help they can get as they develop their ethical principles, ’cause without ethics, how can they keep from adding to the mess this world is in, let alone be useful, or genuine leaders and heroes of all kinds? Over and over, when I read and hear of corruption and dishonesty in our leaders, and bovine acceptance in the workers under them, I get fired up about it–ethics! Ethics! And I mutter under my breath with Uncle Digory, “I wonder what they do they teach them in these schools.” And at home. Fresh-faced young people, some of whom are not so fortified against the temptation to incorporate cheating, meanness, theft, bigotry, conformity, laziness, exploitation, tyranny, arrogance, … into their personal repertories in some effort to succeed, rebel, or make a mockery of the best intentions of educators. So we work at that, questioning, encouraging, setting examples before them of greatness, and ask that question: Who do you intend to become? Not just what.

I still have the appropriate teaching license, and still feel young enough, though I would need to update my skills and learn a new groove–regular schedule, call in a sub when I’m sick, rules, paperwork, accountability to lots more folks. Coursework in the new technology, latest educational research, current cultural and psychological considerations. An internship or two would be great, and I need to make contacts in my home district, which was closed to new substitutes for several years so I had to commute.

But I am just not done with being a stay-at-home mom yet. Nor could I imagine having enough left over after teaching all day to keep up with home management and staying connected with my kids. Even with three in school full time, I’m amazed at how much of a challenge it still is get the house clean (they all still make messes, and have hardly any time now to pitch in), the pantry stocked and a bit of yard work done, organize bills, accounts, inputs and outputs, supply clothing, school supplies, and so on. And of course there are the roles of homework helper, proofreader, sounding board/consultant, after school driver, and planning assistant. I don’t do near the job I’d like to, though I’m making progress, and the kids are more independent, which counts for a lot. The older ones actually liked to hear about my substituting experiences, and were tickled to see me so energized.

I’ll take it a year at a time. My husband is currently shouldering the money burden so I can be at home more, and homeschool our youngest boy. We weren’t in a financial position to do that for several years, so it’s a privilege now. I feel very useful in my current position, for the housework and logistics even, but more for the homework help, support, just being there, having enough physical and mental energy to field concerns and questions my children bring to me, the ways I can try to fortify each young person in his or her individuality, sense of responsibility, commitment to becoming equipped to use their skills, knowledge, gifts to be a blessing. I get to ask them in various ways who they want to be, remind them they’re practicing with the folks at home who they’ll become. Not so pretty sometimes, and I’m not so proud of my own example sometimes.

On occasion I’ve try\ied to get out there, volunteer a bit, go to a few meetings, but when it comes down to adding more responsibilities, I have had to back off. I don’t want to hear myself turning a kid down for homework help, a tea date or invitation to walk the dogs together because I have to do a write-up or make a poster, head out for an event or make a bunch of phone calls. All I can manage is a few late nights to myself blogging, to see if I have anything to say, and learn to say it better.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Parenting & Family, Personal Growth

 

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