Category Archives: work

A place in the world

Yesterday I got the idea in my little head that it would be fun to be an online moderator for a new site I joined for mothers in my local area.  They have all kinds of forums that have eaten up more of my day than blogging lately.  One of the forums is called “Natural Living and Attachment Parenting” and they had an announcement about needing a moderator.  I emailed the woman in charge of the site, and she informed me that the position has been filled.

I may live a pretty straight and narrow life these days, but I’ve been known to hang out in alternative-land.

I was a vegetarian for about five years, and would still be now if it weren’t for all these carnivores I live with clamoring for charred flesh.

I lived without a car, using my bike and bike trailer or the bus for all my transportation, for 9 windy rainy wonderful years.

I’ve baked my own bread, fried my own tortillas, made my own clothes, costumes, quilts, cloth bags to carry groceries in, even went so far as to crochet some little bags to put veggies in so I didn’t have to use the plastic ones from the produce section.

I breastfed each of my kids for three years (it’s sad that this is considered alternative.)

I shared sleeping quarters with each kid for at least three years.

I homeschooled my first child until 8th grade, my second until 5th grade, and my third is now homeschooling “first grade.”

I had natural childbirth with midwives and lived dirt poor so I could stay home with my babies.

I’ve lived without tv, phone, bank account or credit cards, I even lived for a time in a house whose only heat was a woodstove, and then I lived for a few days in February without wood.  No better way to wax alternative than not to be able to feel your toes.

I shopped and worked at health food stores for years, trying out all the funky “new” foods that the rest of the world considers staple but Americans find so fascinating, like millet and tofu.

I recycled, reduced, and reused, including finding half-broken furniture and such and repairing it with materials bought at a thrift store or yard sale.

I’ve had an organic garden, composted, grew veggies, mulched with my lawn clippings.

I’ve used a clothesline, canned my own jam with blackberries I picked, crocheted my own afghans and cured illness with home remedies.

And I drank microbrews as long as I could afford to!

And that doesn’t even include all the weird things I’ve done in the name of following my bliss.

I got it into my head when I saw that announcement that I might have a place to share all this, to make my experience be useful to someone, to be needed.  I might have an incentive to stop my slow slide into the disposable convenience of mainstream complacency and regain some of the habits, skills and attitudes that made me feel so self-sufficient and conscientious.  

Of course, I can still post and comment in the forum.  The truth comes out that I just wanted a bit of spotlight, I wanted to alleviate a bit of my new-in-town floatiness by having a place I belong.  I feel way too  much disappointment for a fleeting idea that just came to me yesterday.

So I look at all the projects that I have neglected in the past couple of weeks, developing conversation classes, translation, studying to qualify as an interpreter, and I decide to attack them with renewed vigor.  

Here I go, clicking to put a check mark in the box next to “vigor” and pushing the “renew” button.

And here comes the inspiration…

Wait for it…

Wait…

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Class update

The two students who showed up were great, but unfortunately they were also at opposite ends of the language experience spectrum.  So I need to split them into two groups… two groups of one!

My problem is I’m a hard worker, a good idea generator, a good teacher, good at communicating in three languages, but I don’t know the first thing about advertising and I really don’t want to have to learn.

Sometimes I resent the fact that I am supposed to handle so many aspects of a situation instead of being able to focus on something.  

But I guess that’s what happens when you strike out on your own.  If you stay on the beaten path then you have some pre-established means of assistance to take care of some of the more mundane, less interesting aspects, like getting the word out.  But when you begin to forge an alternate route, you spend a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel.

So far, it is worth it to have the freedom and control to do it my own way.

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Language class

Tonight’s the big night.

I managed to get approval from the recreation center to use one of their classrooms, I worked up a good curriculum, and I have two people who say they will come, three if you count the rec center director who wants to sit in.

Not the resounding success I had hoped for, but ya gotta start somewhere.

I suspect that this particular class will go the way of the writing groups I have tried to start in the past, which is nowhere fast.

But I have come up with several positive points to dwell on so that I don’t get discouraged:

  • Scheduling this class, whether it flies or not, gave me the incentive to put together a few weeks worth of conversation class curriculum, something I have wanted to do for a couple of years but always stopped myself with the thought, why?  What particular group of students am I directing it at?  etc.  Planning this class has focussed me enough to get it done.
  • Perhaps I will impress the director with my class packet and my teaching style and he will list my class in the next rec center schedule, which may generate more students than my pitiful few fliers around town
  • I will have put the wheels in motion  (As Mary Poppins says, “Well begun is half done.”)  This includes having the incentive to buy a dry erase board with necessary accoutrements, ten-sided dice (for practicing numbers), and to make a picture file for use in demonstrating vocab/generating conversation.

I know it sounds like I’m being negative in my assumption that this particular class won’t go anywhere, but I have a list for that too:

  • I feel more comfortable assuming the worst, and being pleasantly surprised when things don’t completely suck
  • It feels more emotionally responsible to see this as the first small step/attempt and not set myself up for crushing disappointment by thinking, “This is it!  It’s this or nothing!”
  • I feel like evaluating things realistically is the only way to figure out how to succeed, to know what is working, to change the things that don’t work

None of it feels like work to me.  When I come up with activities, worksheets, dialogues, conversation starters, etc. I do not feel the effort required but am carried away by my enthusiasm and interest.  I find myself looking forward to this kind of work.  In fact I have to be careful to remind myself that it is important, because I tend to put it off too long the way I would set aside reading a book or watching a tv show or any other form of entertainment that must wait indefinitely because I have to cook and clean and mind the kids.  That’s how much I enjoy planning a class.  If that isn’t the ultimate in nerddom, I’m not sure what is.

So we shall see what comes of it this evening.  If there is anything of interest to report, I will write a post about it tomorrow.  Otherwise, I will write a post whenever I get to step two!

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An update from outside the box

I realize that starting a business is technically NOT considered operating outside the box.  Probably more like creating another box, really.  My box is going to have to fit somewhere inside of or at least next to other boxes already in existence.

But I’ve never had a box before.  I feel like a toddler who, upon opening an awesome new present, only wants to play with the box.  Mostly because there isn’t much inside my box right now, there’s pretty much only the cardboard walls and a couple of flaps to twiddle with at this point.

What happened was, I went to the local rec center to propose a Spanish conversation class, and the director loved the idea.  He gave me an instructor application which I brought home and proceeded to fill out.

Turns out I need a license from the city.  

So okay, I look up “business privilege license” on the web (“privilege:” presumably they don’t want you to forget that earning a living is not a right) and get to the appropriate form which I download and print.  I dutifully begin to fill in the blanks on that form.

Turns out I need something called a “Federal Tax ID,” which I again look up online and am directed to the IRS site on which one may get an “Employer Identification Number,” which is essentially starting a new business and getting the little number that you will put on your tax return.

The really cool part about all this is that it was fun.  I’m learning that I know when I’m on the right track when my enthusiasm mounts rather than dwindles as I encounter twists in the road.  Instead of sobbing hysterically and wailing “Why meeeeee?” in my most pathetic voice, which is my M.O. when ambushed by red tape, I was getting jazzed.  My own business, huh?  Pick out a name, pick out some goals, allow your inspiration to coalesce around a box, inside which you can put your brilliant ideas, then your efforts, and maybe someday your accomplishments?

Yeah, alright.  Let’s do it.

It’s still only in the embryonic stage.  If I showed you the ultrasound it wouldn’t even look like a box, it would just be a lump in the form of a tax identification number stuck to a dream.

But someday maybe it will be a lovely strong box, oak, perhaps stained a warm brown in homage to the cups of coffee that inspired it, with forest green trim, and it will have little ribbons connecting outward to tutoring clients and language classes, to translation jobs and writing projects, and it will be bubbling happily with words.

That’s the plan, anyhow.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Pursuing happiness

Like with a harpoon.  Or a high-powered rifle.

It is a basic American right but we misread it with alarming regularity.  We translate “pursuit” as “sit on the couch and wait for it to be advertised.”

I was raised by great parents, don’t get me wrong, but ambition and go-getting were never part of my lesson plan.  My parents were amazing when it came to including me in projects that they themselves were working on.  My Mom let me stick pins into her tomato pin cushion as she took them out of the pant leg she was hemming.  My Dad always made sure I was on hand to fetch a tool for him, and I prided myself on knowing what a vice grips was.

But if I wanted to take on something by myself… forget it.  Key phrases I distinctly remember as responses to my project ideas: Mom: “Maybe someday…”or “Well, I don’t think so.”  My Dad was a veritable font of encouragement, greeting my attempts at pretty much anything, from laundry to baking, with: “Does your mother know you’re doing this?” and, my favorite, “You’re just going to screw that up.”

So I used this upbringing as my excuse for being a passive slouch in my 20’s.  That’s what the 20’s are for, really, blaming your screwed up life on your parents and popping open another cold one to replace the baby bottle you wish you were still sucking on.

Then, with any luck, you turn 30.  Or maybe you have kids.  Either way, you realize it’s time to grow up.  You realize that, considering the messed up state of government, traffic and the universe, your parents didn’t do half bad.  It finally dawns on you that, hey, what you do every minute of every day has as great an impact on the world as what they did.  You realize that someday, someone is liable to blame everything, from the president’s idiocy to the drought to their own bruised self-esteem, on yours truly.

Time to make it count.

Lately, being a stay at home mom and thusly contributing precisely jack to our family’s economy, I have been wishing that I could work outside the 9 to 5 box, get a few off-the-beaten-path gigs going, like say a couple of tutoring clients or a translation assignment, maybe a freelance essay published, just a few things that will allow me to continue the priceless work I do taking care of my family and home while covering a couple of bills.

I’ve been hiding in the shadows with my list of ideas, feeling shy and unconfident.  And suddenly ridiculous.  These jobs ain’t gonna drag themselves out of the woodwork.  

What else is this life for but shooting for the moon?  What else does being a grown-up mean but taking the full blame and credit for how I spend my life energy, which is the only currency we truly have with which to purchase satisfaction?

Who am I if I am not pushing my boundaries, trying to grow out of those unhelpful characteristics which I developed, for whatever reason that now no longer matters, when I was just a pup?  I will never know who I am and what I can do if I don’t move forward, fueled by the visions, however improbable, that infuse me with enthusiasm when I chance to glance their way.

A secret: happiness IS the pursuit.  

Getting there, if we ever do, would just be icing.

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Noisy Chores

My chores each have a different pitch to their whine: that incessant complaint that each makes to get my attention and ruin any chance I have of doing something enjoyable until I’ve attended to the work at hand.

An unmade bed makes a soft noise, sounds kind of like, “I want to look priiiiiteeeee.”  Most days I just reply, “Hey, take a look, if I can’t be bothered with my own face then there’s no hope for you.”  Then the bed changes its tune.  Starts whispering, “Naaaaaap!” So I oblige.  Can’t be overly cruel to the furniture.

A full laundry basket makes a low moan almost completely below my radar, kind of a “Helloooooo” as though from a mole lost down a hole.  The mole isn’t really bothered about being lost down the hole, since it’s in its own territory, but it still would like some attention.  Clothes must like being roughed up a bit.

I can’t hear dust.  The thickness of the general household coating must result in the dust voices canceling each other out, a situation I highly recommend.

The dishes, on the other hand, have a high squeal.  I can’t even go near the kitchen without being assaulted.  It’s kind of an ear-piercing “EEEEEeeeuuuww!  EEEEeeeuuuww!”  Approaching this task requires that I steel my nerves in the same way I imagine an EMT might have to force themselves to save someone who had killed the EMT’s dog.  

If you haven’t guessed, I DESPISE the dishes.  I would rather clean the toilet… in a gas station bathroom.  I would rather clean out the fridge… in a frat house.  I would rather organize the garage of the worst pack rat in the world.  But please don’t make me do the dishes.  My goal in life is to learn to scream louder than they do and maybe scare them off.

I still feel guilty about a recent trade I made with  my 12 year old.  He was whining about having to mow the lawn, a chore which I absolutely LOVE, so I threw out the idea, jokingly of course, because who would be foolish enough to even consider such an idea, that we switch: I would do his weekly mowing if he took on another night of dishes.  He accepted without hesitation.

I must stand up for him and say that he is a very smart and wonderful kid, but he has apparently lost his mind.  I am very concerned.  We have gone through a whole week of this arrangement and he appears content with it!  I came in after mowing, glowing with the experience of sun and fresh air, and then stood proudly at the front window where my handiwork was laid out in public, to be admired by all of humanity, and I said to him, “You REALLY don’t  like mowing?”  I was giving him another chance, see.  I’m not completely heartless.

But he remained firm.  A day later when he was doing the dishes, I expected to hear the customary wailing and gnashing of teeth that I myself always emit when faced with such horror.  I came tiptoeing into the kitchen, arms shielding my head from plates that might be flying from his rage, bracing for the inevitable outcry of a tortured soul, and he turned to me and said, “Hey Mom.  You okay?”

Am I a bad person for allowing this arrangement to continue?  What am I going to do if Child Protective Services finds out how badly I’ve tricked my own offspring?  

You’ll have to excuse me… my radar is picking up a dirty diaper in the vicinity.  If you’ve never heard it, you really don’t want to know what noise THAT makes, but it is definitely NOT to be ignored.

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Self-Esteem

I finally hung on the wall of my bedroom the diploma I earned from the University of Oregon: a BA in French and Spanish.  

Sometimes we just need a little mental boost, and I regret to say that, though I prefer valiant deeds of glory, sometimes it can come from a piece of paper.

On another wall of the bedroom is the framed first page of an article I had published last year in the Lake Magazine, a little rag put out by the po-dunk newspaper my husband was working for at the time.  Part of me wants to believe that this personal connection was the only reason my piece got accepted, but then the other part of me (who I like better and better as the years go by) tells this self-defeating part, “Who cares?  Why do you have to wreck everything? Shut up!”

Accompanying the article, which is on the subject of Halloween, is a photo I took of my daughter who is wearing a Tigger costume I made several years ago for my son.  What a shot in the arm that framed page is!  An article I wrote, displaying a photo I took, of a costume I made, worn by a lovely girl who I also made!  Framed and hung by my husband, who takes much better care of my mental state than I do.

I decided I shouldn’t leave it all to him, and so to counter my current state of aimless and lethargic bottoming-out, I thought I should hang another reminder that I HAVE done SOMETHING with my life, even if all I can seem to manage lately is to fold the laundry and to make sure the kids eat a vegetable now and again.

The balance between humility and pride is such a precarious position to maintain, and I am constantly learning how to better walk that path.  For me it always comes down to, how can we strive for perfection while acknowledging that we are never going to arrive?  How can we better ourselves constantly while at the same time giving ourselves credit when we genuinely have done the best we can, even though it won’t ever be “The Best”?

I’ve decided to try surrounding myself with a few more reminders that I AM striving, that I HAVE succeeded and that there is definitely hope that I can fulfill tasks I set for myself in the future.  Maybe that’s an alternate purpose to a diploma, not just to prove to the outside world that we have achieved something, but to remind the inside world, the one in our head, that we did indeed get to where we were going.  One of the bumperstickers of life.

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