Pandemic Diary, the Collection from Nothing By the Book

Pandemic Diary: Paradigm shift: choices, agency, uncertainty (March 17, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Navel-gazing in the time of corona (March 19, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: A love letter to this tiny, messy, imperfect house (March 20, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: On the gentle art of inconveniencing yourself for the good of the herd… (March 22, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: What is my mission? What’s yours? (March 25, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: We’re all interconnected and I wish you’d all screw off and give me some privacy! (March 26, 2020)

Pandemic Diary, or Suffering for the sake of covidiots; selfish like all the rest of them (March 28, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: A pissy note to my friends who aren’t working (March 30, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: From one sanctimonious prick on a self-righteous soapbox to another (April 1, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: On Day 23, like cabin fever but not (April 5, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Easter has been cancelled; apologies (April 10, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Even if we don’t exist, let’s pretend that we do (April 16, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: You can take your silverlining and shove it where the sun don’t shine (April 20, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Evil thoughts on Day 40+ of the Cuarentana (April 25, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: You’re losing time, but don’t worry, I’m on it (April 26, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Alberta reopens for petrosexuals’ golfing pleasure (May 3, 2020)

The Year of Hell, with the Good Bits, too (2019 Collection)

Life’s real troubles are rarely about a boy, but “survive” was definitely our family theme for 2019. We did, and we will even danced a little.

But it was an awful, awful year.

Game face on

Happy birthday (the war’s not over)

Suffering, loving, living… home

She danced, who is she?

Some words of wisdom from the House of Snot & Vomit

All the good things in the year from hell, or, conscious loving

I believe I can fly

“I’m crushing your head!”

Work, heroin, and a heroine named Clementine

Jane does Disney like this: no mouse, no rides, a hell of a lot of angst

But you don’t understand–I really am feeling stupid, or Arguing with the therapist and non-problem solving strategies

Deep Texting Conversation with My Teenager

So, yeah, I met Julia Cameron (in the flesh!): The power of story, dialectics and the creation of god

Heaven Hangover, or, thoroughly non-journalistic reflections on the Investigative Journalism Intensive, Banff Centre 2019

Manufactured Memories, for Suzie

If you want to save the world, fund libraries, use libraries, love libraries

Two in high school, one at home equals… I don’t know, I’m really bad at math

Confessions of an unreformable plant killer

Finding Water, grateful for Julia Cameron, kinda whiny anyway

The kids are all right, but you’re old and out of touch: a love letter to libraries inspired by Susan Orlean et al.

“You are amazing”—you are partly right

Her story, my story, our story

This is a happy moment

Halfway to 90: on flying, smashing the patriarchy, and other dreams (May 21, 2019)

We “celebrate” mothers but we neither value nor support them: if you’re not gonna walk the talk, take your hallmark holiday and shove it (May 12, 2019)

Kick like a girl (April 28, 2019)

Because laughing is good, even when it’s hysterical (March 30, 2019)

Privilege, burnt quesadillas, and betrayal (January 27, 2019)

Anger as Fuel: Latin History For Morons, Microaggression Defined, Calgary Artist Eman Elkadri’s Social Justice Art #raceissues (January 12, 2019)

 

52 Weeks Project (2018 Blog Post Index)

For 2018, I had set myself the goal of returning to regular–religiously weekly, actually–blogging. The only “rule” was that I had to post once a week. Otherwise, I was free to navel-gaze, freefall, freestyle, and freeform and be relatively incoherent.

The really terrifying thing about this collection? It reads so honest, doesn’t it? It fails to document–notice?–what was really going on in my family, my life, with my daughter.

It is a hard year to revisit. Nonetheless, I expect, some time in the future, I will be glad to have documented it.

Table of Contents for 2018: 52 Weeks Project

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)

When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic)

The year will end on a Monday (Week 52: Guilt and Gratitude)

one last thing…

Trio on benches at laundry park3

“Mittens?”

We come out of the warm YMCA building, the chlorine scent of the swimming pool still clinging to us. Ender, with the determination only a four-year-old possesses, drags his sled down the stairs. Clunk, clunk, clunk. Slam! It lands on the bottom. He looks over his shoulder. Scowls at me. He’s tired. Hungry. Probably, despite the snowpants, sleeping-bag-jacket, and over-the-face toque, cold, because it’s the coldest, snowiest December YYC has seen in 112 years.

He plops down on the sled in a Buddha pose.

“Mittens?”

I ask, kneeling down beside him.

“No! My hands are NOT cold!”

He’s tired. Hungry. Contrary. It’s at least -15 Celsius.

I shrug. Get up. Start pulling the sled.

It’s a beautiful, clear night. The air feels clean—sparkling—even as it hurts my lungs, bites at my exposed cheeks. I pull the sled on the cleared-of-snow-but-there’s-so-much-of-it-everywhere-I-kind-of-want-a-snowmobile paths. Look at the twinkling lights. The sleeping-bag-parka-engulfed people. Turn my head.

“Mittens?”

“No.”

I shrug. Start walking again, my hands warm in my mittens. I think of what 2013 was, and what 2014 might be. I think of milestones, real and artificial. I think of hope-despair-desire-acceptance-creation-destruction-reconstruction. A plot line emerges from all those thoughts, a fascinating one, and I hear a conversation in my head that sets it up, and I fall in love with it, but it doesn’t really fit into what I want to do, ultimately, with that piece of work, and then my thoughts leap to the unBloggers Manifesto I want to write for Nothing By The Book for January, a polemic that in its current form is not doing quite what I need it to do, and I know it’s because I’m pulling too much into it, going off on too many tangents, and for a piece of writing to work, it needs to be focused, and a polemic piece of writing needs to be brutally so, digressions and tangents only work if you pull them back, at just the right time, to the central idea, the theme… or the chorus…

I turn around.

“Mittens?”

“No. Not cold.”

Mittens Pin

I cross the bridge. The lights are beautiful and almost make me forgive Christmas its existence. And I think about… beauty, definitions of, abstraction of, and that thought takes me to my daughter-who’s-about-to-turn-nine, so beautiful in mind-soul-body that it makes me ache, so full of potential and wonder that it’s that thought, and not the cold air, that stops the breath in my throat for a second… and I think about all the ways that I think fail her as a mother, all the ways that I am not what she needs, and tears swirl in my eyes—but maybe I am what she needs? And, really, what a silly question, because I am what she has and she is what I must learn—and, tears still dancing in the corners of my eyes, I turn my head…

“Mittens?”

He shakes his head. I never imagined motherhood to be this—so full of such intense joy and such paralyzing pain. So full of summits and valleys. So glorious, so rewarding—so fucking heart-wrenching. And that thought takes me to twelve different places at once, and I’m not sure how much self-awareness I want to chase in this moment, so I choose to chase the idea that self-awareness, for all the pain it brings, is also a source of power and that takes me to such very, very interesting places…

“Mittens?”

His hands are folded in his lap, and he’s bent over them. Head bopping. Falling asleep. He bops up. Scowls at me.

“Mittens?” I repeat.

“No.”

I walk faster. Over another bridge. Through the steam rising from the cracks in the ice of the river. I look at the water, ice, snow, steam and feel a shot of resentment and fear. I try to see beauty… and not next year’s flood waters. And I grit my teeth and don’t chase that thought. Find another. Oh, this one I like… I smile—my nose runs, because it’s so cold—my mouth opens and I almost stop moving because all I want is that thought and, irreverently and irrelevantly, I also glory in the fact that it came to me in this moment when I am alone… except I am not, because I am MOTHER and I am never alone, even when I am.

I look over my shoulder…

“Mittens?”

“Not! Cold!”

I can’t really run in my boots and on the snow, but I walk as quickly as I can. Home, home. I cannot wait to be home, and not just because it’s cold, and I love that thought, that feeling. I want to get home.

“Mom? My hands are cold.”

I’m about… what? 200 meters away. Maybe less. I kneel down beside the four-year-old. His hands are pulled into the sleeves of his sleeping-bag coat. I blow on his fingers and slip on his mittens. Kiss the tip of his nose.

Do not lecture, and so, enjoy the brief victory of mind over impulse. Pull the sled the last 200 meters home.

I wish I could tell you that the next time we go out in the cold, he says “Yes” the first time I try to put on his mittens. But he won’t.

I wish I could tell you I will never again doubt that I am what my daughter needs or let my thoughts go to all those other unproductive, painful places.

I wish I could tell you that, somewhere between the YMCA and home, I found the answer to EVERYTHING. Because how awesome would that be?

But, I just want to tell you this: You can fight over the mittens. Cajole, badger, plead. Force.

Or you can wait for those little hands to get cold.

And when they do—put on the mittens. Silently. Without the “I told you so’s.” Or too many expectations for the next time.

Fuck, yeah, it’s a metaphor.

Jane

P.S. Happy New Year, beloveds. I am torn what to ask of 2014. In the closing weeks and months of 2013, I rather wanted a less eventful year. But now that it’s here… eventlessness is so boring. And unfulfilling. So, 2014—be eventful. Be FULL. I’ve got plans for you. And you’d better be prepared to rise to the occasion.

P.P.S. “Jane, why are you anthropomorphizing a calendar construct?”
“Because… Metaphors. So useful.”

Coming sometime this month: the unBlogger’s Manifesto. Minus all of its digressions. Or maybe not. Focus is key. But it is digressions that make life and thought interesting…

P.P.P.S. “I love this! I want more!”
“I am so pleased. Connect with Nothing By The Book on Twitter @nothingbythebook, Facebook, and Google+. Or, for a not-in-front-of-the-entire-Internet-please exchange, email  nothingbythebook@gmail.com.”

After the flood: Running on empty and why “So are things back to normal?” is not the right question

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He asks the question with a smile, as a casual opener before we move on to “real” issues, and is shocked and appalled when I burst into tears because, well—I don’t cry.

“Are things back to normal?” he says and immediately wishes he hadn’t said it, and doesn’t know where to go from there. And I’m shocked too—I don’t know where the hell those tears have come from, because I’m fine, we’re fine, everything’s just fine.

Except, of course, it’s not.

We had this flood in YYC and Southern Alberta back in June, you may remember (my flagship post about it was unLessons from the flood: We are amazing, and if you want facts, visit the evolving Wikipedia entry  or the Calgary’s Herald’s The Great Flood of 2013 page), that devastated my neighbourhood and so much of our city. An army of citizen volunteers turned out in the tens of thousands to respond to the crisis. It was amazing. It was euphoric. It had us walking on air and out of crisis mode in a couple of intense weeks.

People were asking a week, two weeks after the flood—as soon as the rivers receded, as soon as most of the debris that was our basements, our houses, our possessions, our lives, was taken off the streets and into the dumps—“Are things back to normal?”

And in late July, August, euphoric, proud, we could smile and say, “We’re out of crisis mode.” And maybe talk a little about insurance, and the Disaster Recovery Program, and plans for reconstruction. And laud our mayor’s leadership and bitch out the provincial government and, you know, do all those “normal” things.

I’m not sure when “normal” got harder to fake. Maybe in September, when we’d reconnect with people we hadn’t seen for a few months, and they’d say, “So—did you have a good summer?”

Funny—we are so socially programmed to be inoffensively happy and placating, the autoresponse to that question, which the mouth starts to form before the brain has a moment to reflect, is, “Yes. And you? That flood thing? A minor inconvenience. Moving on. Going to Disneyland!”

I did not have a great summer. We did not have a great summer. And things are not back to normal. What does that mean, anyway?

I look at him as if he can give me the answer, but of course he can’t. And he’s never seen me like this before, or under stress before, but he’s spend the summer ripping out friends’ basements, and they’re none of them quite “normal” right now either. But they’re not talking about it. “We’re fine, everything’s fine.” So what’s going on? What’s up with us, what’s tearing us up, as we move into month five after the flood?

I struggle to put it into words.

The obvious answer is that reconstruction is not going well. The rip-outs, it turns out, were the easy part. Putting things back… Well. We’re all at different stages. Sunnyhill’s probably further behind than many others because of our need to rehabilitate all 41 damaged units simultaneously. But I don’t know anyone who was affected who’s totally “done.” Most of us—all of Sunnyhill—have been back home for a long time. But we’re living in reduced, scarred spaces. An eternal mess. That’s hard. I know every time I walk in and out of my front door, every time I see the ripped door casings, the dismantled walls, the hole where my hall closet used to be, my jaw tightens.

So. That kind of sucks. But—really—I’ve been through renovations before. Who hasn’t? We are, I tell him, the mildly inconvenienced. We know this. Bitching and complaining about naked joists, drywall dust and “what the hell did the contractors do now?” seems like such a First World Whine. And that’s the other thing.

We feel bad—guilty—over feeling bad. Because. India. Colorado. Fuck, High River.

That sure doesn’t help.

He refills my glass. He tells me about his friend, whose house is fine but whose rental property was devastated, and how guilty she feels that her own personal loss wasn’t greater. That she was, ultimately, only financially inconvenienced, while her tenants lost—everything.

Stupid, I say.

Human, he counters.

I start crying again. He gives me his napkin to wipe away tears, snot. I hide my face.

We’re exhausted, I say when I can talk again. I’m the mother of three young children who all went through severe insomniac stages—and I’ve never been this physically exhausted. And it’s not from physical labour, the way it was during the crisis. We were entitled to be exhausted then, right? But now—others are doing the work (or getting paid to do work the results of which we’re not seeing, I snarl, and I laugh, and he does too, because that’s “normal” for me, much more normal than these uncontrolled tears). We’re just doing the everyday stuff—well, a little more, and so much of the everyday stuff is more difficult, but… Not entitled to complain. Not engaged in heavy physical labour. And, frankly, letting a lot of the everyday stuff go. Never did one thing to the flooded garden this year. Cleaning windows? Ha. I barely clean the kitchen. And my kids have never eaten so much take-out, ever. So what are we exhausted from?

Living? he says, gently.

I shake my head.

Frankly—I look at him through the wine glass, and it’s the refraction of light through liquid that blurs his features, not the water still swimming in my eyes—frankly, we’re exhausted from being so fucking positive and amazing. We know we pulled off a miracle. We were awesome. We were strong.

And now we’re really tired, and we’re done—except, of course, we’re not done.

Because things are not back to normal.

But tears aren’t swimming in my eyes anymore and I heave a sigh of relief.

Jesus, that felt good, I tell him. And then—I’m so sorry. We were supposed to talk about…

He interrupts me, waves my apology away. And he tells me—how he’s been struggling. Trying to figure out how to be a good friend to his floodster (we don’t do the victim thing in YYC, and survivor’s a rather dramatic term, don’t you think?) friends post-crisis, and feeling at a loss. And how he needed to hear this as much as I needed to tell it. And how he will never ask anyone in any of the affected Calgary neighbourhoods “Are things back to normal?” ever again.

We laugh. Order dessert. More wine.

In this moment, although things are not back to normal, I’m fine. We’re fine.

Or, at least—you know. Functional.

• 

The writer engages in overt emotional manipulation, both to achieve a level of release and to communicate that which is hard to articulate. My family and friends won’t finish reading this post—they’ll be texting me in a panic before they get to the end of the first paragraph. Chill. Although things are definitely not back to normal—and for the love of any and all of the gods I don’t believe in, do not ask your flooded (or otherwise whacked by life’s events) friends and neighbours if things are back to normal, ok? Just don’t—life is unfolding as it must. And in my own beloved little corner of the flood plain, we are all doing what must be done. And—because we’re a community—we’re helping each other through it. (And possibly drinking too much wine, but. So be it.)

But if you’re on the hills and edges of the flood plains—if you’re on the edges of any life affected by a traumatic event—and you’re struggling to figure out how to help your friends who are clearly post-crisis but equally clearly not-ok, do this:

  • Listen. Don’t tell us how strong, wonderful, amazing, or lucky we are. Just listen. Let us feel bad, sad, frustrated, furious. Tired. We know we’re amazing. We kind of need permission to be… whiney.
  • Connect us to help. If you’re a local reader and you need to help a local floodster, a good starting point is the resource list provided by Alberta Health Services here. But babe, remember how I was telling you during the crisis to see the need and fill it, how saying “How can I help?” isn’t enough when people are in shock? Sending your friend the link or telephone number may not be enough. Walk the line between empathy and obnoxiousness as best as you can, but a “May I call and make an appointment for you?” is likely more helpful than “Here’s a link I thought you’d find helpful” email. For your hard-core entrepreneur friends who don’t want to do stress-relief acupuncture and roll their eyes at sacrocranial therapy etc. etc., the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has some hard-core resources—that include getting connected with counsellors if that’s what you need.
  • Recognize that we’re not as… full, or resilient as we used to be. And so—take less. In a way, take more—we’re not as patient or tolerant as we used to be either. Nor necessarily as rational. Deal with it. And, if you can, look for ways to fill us up. (Preferably not just with wine. Although that sometimes does do wonders.)
  • Invite yourself over. Our scarred houses are difficult to love right now. Sometimes, company is difficult to seek out. But isolation really sucks. Come on over.
  • Invite us over, or out. Our scarred houses are a little oppressive right now, but suck us in with all their demands. Get us out.

For my neighbours, who are awesome, and doing all the things. But who are also exhausted and running on empty, and need to have those feelings acknowledged and respected. (Especially my beloved L. So much love and appreciation for all that you’re doing.)

For my friends, who helped so much, and who are always trying to help. In the most creative, occasionally disturbing, ways. (Yeah, I’m talking about you. I’m not saying it didn’t work… but that was really weird. Still. Thank you.)

And, for myself. Cause I really needed to cry.

Cheers.

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“Jane”

Sat., Nov. 2nd P.S. You’re breaking my heart but also feeding my soul with what you’re sending to my in-box. Yes, you are free to share this piece wherever you think it needs to be heard. The private place to cry is nothingbythebook@gmail.com. Much love. J.

The AP Hair Style: I don’t brush my children’s hair. It’s a massive philosophical thing. Really

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When my kids were teeny-weeny—but already hairy—my friends and I used to joke that you could always identify the attachment-parented kids at playgrounds and playgrounds by the “AP Hair Style.” That is—unbrushed. Unkempt. Wild.

Now, ya’ might think that’s a granola-hippy-natural kind of thing.

It’s not.

And you might think—goddamn lazy attachment parents, not with it enough to perform the simple task of running a comb through their kids hair in the morning.

Screw you.

Or you might think—if you’re a self-identified AP mama, perhaps—that it’s because… well, it’s not important. And there are more important things. Sleep. Play. Breastfeeding. Perusing the fair-trade-all-wooden-no-plastic toy catalogue. (I’m not making fun of you. OK, I am, a little. But–I’ve had that catalogue too. Chill.)

Nope. It’s actually really important. The not brushing even more so than the brushing.

Ready?

I didn’t brush—don’t brush—my children’s hair when they did not want me to brush their hair—because it’s their hair.

Hold on.

I’m going to shout it.

IT’S THEIR HAIR.

Part of their bodies.

I do not assault it, when they are unwilling, with a hair brush, any more than I would assault, do violence, on any other part of their bodies.

THEIR BODIES.

Their own.

Under their own dominion—not mine.

Their wild, messy hair? Part of the lesson that they’re learning that no one—not me, not nice Mr. Jones down the street, not that creepy dude in the park, and not their first, over-eager boyfriend—has a right to do anything to their bodies that they don’t want them to do.

This is a lesson our children need to learn, repeatedly, while they are close enough to us that they will learn it, hear it.

But we don’t teach it with words. We don’t teach it with scary lectures or with fear.

We teach with how we treat their bodies. From their nose to their toes, and all the parts in-between.

And their hair.

Think about that next time you wield a hair brush.

xoxo

“Jane”

COMMENTS FOR THIS POST ARE NOW TURNED OFF, so we can all have a peaceful weekend. And for those of you continuing the debate on other fora:  a not-so-gentle reminder that name calling is not debating. Criticize the idea. I want you to. No name calling or being nasty to other commentators though, ok? Not cool.

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Other People’s Awesome

For all the parents on the verge of *that* conversation with your daughters (and sons), here is a brilliant Dear Daughter, I hope you have awesome sex piece from the Good Men Project.

For the bloggers in the crowd having social media anxiety and overdose: Joel Comm’s I am leaving social media.

For the bloggers in the crowd who want an easier way to share my stuff and to have me share your stuff, come join me on Triberr, at Ain’t Nothing But a Blog Thing Tribe or, if you’re a homeschooling blogger, at Undogmatic Unschoolers.

My neglected (by me) blogging sisters have been turning out all sorts of awesome these last few weeks. Jean at MamaSchmama wrote a beautiful I can make it home  piece into which she sneaked some lovely introductions to some of her favourite (and mine—she is clearly a woman of immaculate taste) bloggers. Kristi at Finding Ninee wrote what I think is a love letter to her son titled Forgotten Loves  that will a) make you cry and b) make you hug that squirmy love in your live extra-extra-hard—and Rachel at Tao of Poop was clearly on the same page with I Used to Love.

And while I’m tugging at your heart-strings, let me turn you over for a few minutes to Jen at My Skewed View, who delivers a birth story so poignant I’m tearing up as I remember it, and I read it more than a week ago: Eight Years Ago Today.

Jessica at School of Smock wrote a great piece about why pregnancy books now piss her off  and Stephanie at Mommy Is for Real reminded us all why we never eat out anymore. With our children anyway.

And Sarah at Sadder But Wiser Girl was also full of advice last week. She tells you to always check your underwear (and then some… you might need to change your underwear after reading Sarah. Just a word of warning). Jenn at Something Clever 2.0 also made me pee this week. So maybe read this post before changing your underwear…

Deb at Urban Moo Cow made me really, really, REALLY happy I don’t have a toddler anymore. Can I admit that? I can. I’m good with that. I don’t want any more babies, either. EVER.

But I’m super-super-super happy that Stephanie at Where Crazy Meets Exhaustion is glowing. Really. (Note to my most beloved: Vasectomy. Now. No more babies. Ever. But that’s a topic for another post, perhaps…)

Last thing: new friends. I’m getting to know these people this week:

Dysfunction Junction

and you should come play with me.

-30-

P.S. Where the hell is your like button? I turned it off. Cause if you really liked it, I want you to tell me. And I don’t really need to ego stroke from the other. xoxo J.

unLessons from the Flood: We are amazing

I didn’t really panic until I hit the first police barricade and was told I couldn’t get into my neighbourhood. The police officer and I eyed each other through my window.

“We can’t let any more cars into Sunnyside,” he said.

“I need to go get my husband,” I said.

“And our dog!” Flora piped up.

“We can’t let any more cars into Sunnyside,” he repeated. Then looked at me again. Cut his eyes to the right.

He might as well have said, “But you know the area well, of course.”

I nodded.

Sharp turn right. How many other ways into Sunnyside? The main roads would be blocked off… but, yeah. Residential streets. Roundabouts. Alleys.

Text from Sean:

“Worst case scenario, park on McHugh’s Bluff. I’ll bike up the hill.”

It’s good to have a Plan C.

But Plan B worked: about 12 minutes later, after several not-entirely legal turns—one of them right in front of another police cruiser—I was in my driveway. The sky was blue, although the clouds south of the city were terrifying, and coming closer.

And I was home… and my neighbours were throwing things into their cars… and, yet, none of us really felt a particular sense of urgency, even though we got, at 5:45 p.m., the call to get out of our neighbourhood by 7 p.m.

See, our city’s two rivers, the Elbow and the Bow, get angry every once in a while. We get massive snow melt most years; every few years, they rip our riverbanks. And there was crazy flooding already south and west of the city—but… we were so sanguine. I mean, this is Calgary. One of Canada’s largest cities. Natural disasters don’t happen here.

Still. We’re responsible citizens.

“Are we going to flood?” Flora asked, in tears.

“No,” I said, firmly. “This is a precautionary evacuation. We’re just leaving so that the emergency crews don’t have to worry about us. Chill. Grab some books, your iPad—sleep-over at Grandma’s. No big deal.”

But. Those clouds. Disconcerting.

An hour later, with some clothes, computers, and Sean’s film equipment (our livelihood) in the truck, we were in evacuation traffic. But of course, right? What in a big city emergency doesn’t involve a traffic jam? Especially when you’re evacuating 100,000 people in a city of a million?

Texts from family and friends: “Are you guys high enough? Are you safe? Are you dry?”

Our response: “Evacuating. But safe. No worries.”

That was Thursday, June 20, 2013.

It was, honestly, kind of fun.

Ender’s commentary: “Does the river have a leak? Shouldn’t someone plug it?”

We laughed.

The rain that came down on us as we were navigating evacuation traffic and already flooded bridge and road closures to get to the safety of my parents’ house—providentially on very, very high ground—was a little scary.

But. You know. It was rain.

“Kind of an adventure, hey?” Cinder said. “Holy crap, look at that thunder!”

Kind of fun.

***

It stopped being fun in the morning when we saw what the rivers had done.

Our neighbourhood looked like this:

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… and, by comparison, we got off easy.

If you want your heart torn to pieces, google “High River flood images” and see what the rivers have done to our neighbours in High River.

Not that Calgary was unscathed. The damage was… astounding. Our downtown core—the financial core, the business centre of one of Canada’s largest, richest cities—under water. Paralyzed. Some 100,000 of our people—out of their homes.

The rivers—gone mad. Still flowing, ripping.

It was, we found out, not just the worst flood ever in Canadian history, but the worst natural disaster in Canadian history.

“Well,” I told Sean—who’s from Manitoba, a Canadian province famed for its rampaging waters and regular floods, “when Calgary and Alberta do something, we do it all the way. Even natural disasters. Eat your heart out, Winnipeg! Our flood’s more epic than yours!”

And we laughed hysterically. Because, you know. If you don’t laugh…

We spent the first day after the flood doing what our amazing mayor, Naheed Nenshi, told us to do. Staying home. Staying off the roads. Letting the emergency crews do what they had to do.

It was the hardest thing ever.

You know how you watch the reactions of survivors of natural and other disasters on the news, and there’s all these people clamouring to go home, even though it’s dangerous and stupid?

I will never mock them again.

We wanted to go home.

We wanted to see home.

On Saturday—day two after the flood—we broke. We started calling and Facebooking and connecting with the people in Sunnyhill—our immediate community—and we met in a safe area… to plan? Compare notes? Cry? I’m not sure why we met. I think we needed to see that we were all ok.

And then… we broke orders. We didn’t mean to, you know. We were just going to stop on top of the McHugh Bluff to look.

But.

Home.

We walked down.

Thigh-high water in our street, spilling over sidewalks, lawns, and the adjacent Curling Club parking lot.

Water everywhere.

No way of getting “home.”

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We looked.

The kids played on the playground—high and dry.

I let tears flow for the first time.

I don’t think the pictures really do it justice.

There was so much, so much water.

So much destruction.

It was overwhelming.

Our children—how resilient are children?—thought it was kind of cool. “Can we swim in it?” Cinder asked at one point. “Jesus Christ, no, it’s probably full of sewer water,” I choked out. They ran. Climbed trees…

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Cinder took this photo of our Common area from the Tall Pine.

… and skipped rocks in the flood waters. Ender earned himself a cameo in one of the flood videos:

 (That’s one of our neighbours kayaking through our Common. An experienced paddler, she was rescuing some of our people’s documents. You see, we didn’t really take that evac order that seriously. Some of us didn’t even take underwear, much less passports… The video is by Calgarian Bradley Stuckel and co.–did they not do a beautiful job? My filmmaker husband is uber-impressed.)

On Sunday (the flood waters came over Thursday/Friday night), Sean and I sold our children to friends, and, along with most of the flooded out Sunnysiders, waded into our neighbourhoods ahead of the all-clear from the city to see what the hell was going on with our houses.

It was, I’d like to say upfront, after seeing what we waded through, an incredibly stupid and dangerous thing to do.

But you see… it was home. We had to go see.

We reacted, all of us, in different ways to what we saw.

Sean went shopping for clean up and demolition supplies, and then to a community planning meeting.

I, unable to deal with the massive destruction on the ground floor, went up to our kitchen, and cleaned out the fridge—power, of course, was off, and had been since Thursday, and everything was rancid. And then cleaned, scrubbed the fridge. Because that, I could do.

And then…

And then, friends, my city’s people pulled off a miracle.

I think, in the future, the enormity of what the flood did to Calgary will be underplayed because of the rapidity with which the city stabilized and returned to some semblance of “normal” within a week.

We evacuated Thursday, June 20, 2013.

A week later, parts of our downtown were open for business.

The majority of the flooded houses in my neighbourhood had been ripped and disinfected: saved. All of the 41 (I said 38 in my earlier posts on calgarybusinesswriter.com: forgive me, numbers not a strong suit, ever) flooded units in my little sub-community of Sunnyhill were gutted, cleaned, bleached, demolded: saved. (Here’s my initial call for help to our friends, neighbours, and citizens; here’s the thank you and another thank you because one is just not enough—and here’s my take on why and how they performed this miracle.)

We lost, as a city, as a province, a mind-blowing amount of infrastructure. Roads. Bridges. Our beloved Zoo! Individual houses, and so many possessions (me: never buying anything. Ever again). But our response to this crisis, as a community, as individuals, has been amazing.

What grabs the headlines during so many other crises, and disasters? Looting. Riots. In Calgary, we had too many volunteers. And the Calgary Police Service wrote the citizens a thank you letter

Our people opened their houses to evacuated relatives, friends and strangers. Started a laundry brigade for the evacuees. Fed displaced residents and the army of volunteers. Turned out in hordes to rip out basements, clean up debris, help any way they could.

Laughed in the middle of the chaos:

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We put up “Need Sewer, Need Power, Need Cute Firefighter” signs in our windows:

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(This isn’t my photo; it’s a FB/Twitter viral sensation–if you took it, tell me and I will happily credit you.)

Why our mayor is awesome and you should have nenvy too: “To all the people with the ‘Need Cute Firefighter’ signs in their windows’: We’re working on it,” he tweeted in response. And man, he delivered:

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Ender wanted to pose with the cute firefighters. It was totally Ender. Not his mother. Really. Um. Moving on…

We have a crazy amount of work ahead of us, as individuals, as neighbourhoods, as communities—as a city and as a province.

Are we back to normal? Not quite. But we’re “back.” And we’re working on defining our new normal.

But after what YYC did in these last two weeks—we’re gonna get her done. No question about it. Because—we are Calgary. We acted as a community, to save our communities.

We are amazing.

You want to see more pictures of how amazing we are? Of course. Here are a few more:

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“Please don’t give my daughter an eating disorder. But you will. You will…”

2011. Flora is six and lives in a bit of a bubble. There’s no TV—and thus commercials—in the house. No glossy magazines. The meme videos she watches on Youtube are big brother-tested and, while generally in poor taste, rarely an assault on the self-worth and identity of a young woman. She chooses her clothes among her favourite friends’ hand-me downs, and loves them because of who they came from. “Designer jeans,” to her, are an ethically troubling line of scientific research.*

She eats real food—and lots of delicious, sweet things. She never has to clear her plate. She can eat dessert first. Or never. For breakfast or in the middle of the day. She eats when she’s hungry, and does not eat when she’s not.

She loves herself.

And then, that stupid bastard, he tries to wreck it. When she’s six.

He’s not a bad man, you know. Just a guy. With a TV and without a daughter. I think he was just trying to be nice, make conversation.

This is what he said:

You’re eating a second ice cream? You are going to get so fat.

To my six-year-old daughter.

He moved on. Forgot. The effect on her? That evening, as she comes out of the bath, my six-year-old daughter looks at herself in the mirror—for the first time in her life, critically. She thrusts out her belly. And asks me:

Mom? Am I fat?

And I, who have spent much of my adult life struggling against the eating disorder and body image damage inflicted on my teenage self, I freak. But manage to hold it in, for her. And hear the story, what’s prompting this. And engage in a little bit of deprogramming. And tell her, that the next time I see him, I will explain to him why what he said was inappropriate and wrong and ensure he will never say that to another little girl again.

I figure by the time I see him, I will be… less angry. Because, you know, I know he’s not a bad man. Just a guy. With a TV. And no daughter.

But I’m still furious, seething. And so, what comes out of my mouth, instead of the rehearsed, rational statement I practiced, is this:

I understand you tried to give my daughter an eating disorder.

And he’s shocked—hurt. Doesn’t understand. Then, as I explain—a little appalled. Both at me, and I hope, at his lack of reflection? But perhaps not. I do think, however, he won’t call a little girl fat again. Or suggest she might be getting fat because she’s eating an ice cream cone.

But he hasn’t changed, he doesn’t understand. No, I don’t think I was that effective.

He’ll never do it again, because he’s afraid the little girl’s psychotic mother, who clearly has issues, is going to go medieval on his ass. As I did.

And you know what? That’s good enough. Not perfect. But good enough. That’s what I think in 2011…

Green tea (matcha) ice-cream with red bean.

2013, now. Flora’s eight and a half. A specimen of physical perfection: healthy, strong, athletic, beautiful. She kicks ass in Tang Soo Do. Does one-handed cartwheels for fun. Can outrun just about every boy on the Common, except for her big brother.

Eats when she’s hungry. Doesn’t eat when she’s not. Snacks on chickpeas. Loves ice cream. There’s no TV or glossy magazines in the house. She’s still lives in a bubble, at least some of the time.

But when she gets out of the bath tub, when she’s in the swimming pool change room—not always, but every once in a while, I see her looking at herself in the mirror—critically.

It rips at my insides.

I thought I could save her. But how can I? She has nine-year-old friends who talk about diets—who are on diets. Too many women in her life, around her torturing themselves, hating themselves. Unhappy with themselves. Passing the message on.

It’s everywhere. She’s learned “fat” is a horrible insult when thrust at a woman. She’s learned the look, shape of her body is what matters the most to too many people.

She’s not even nine yet. She still doesn’t know about designer jeans. But she knows this.

I thought I could save her.

But you won’t let me.

Inspired by Urban Moo Cow‘s guest post on Finding Ninee in the This is Our Land Series: The Greatest Gift

* My kids are brilliant. Deal with it.

The Authoritative New Parents’ Guide to Sex After Children, Redux

(or, how to make sure you keep on doing that thing that landed you with children in the first place!)

Two Hearts

Ambitious title, but I bet I’ll deliver. Tell me afterwards. Two caveats. First, if you’re currently childless, don’t read this. It will either depress or embarrass you. Especially if you’re a guy. It’s the weirdest thing, really: when it comes to talking about sex and bodies, there is no creature more uptight than the childless male. Anyway, if you’re one of those, go read How I got deprogrammed and learned to love video games or Math + Gun = or … (I’m not being sexist, am I? You can read this if you really want to. But I know you’ll be mortified… Here’s a test: let me tell you about the time my bestest male friend first saw me breastfeeding. Where are you going? Come back!)

Second, if you’ve got young children and you’re having all the sex you want—really? Honestly?—you probably don’t need to read this. But you should anyway, because maybe at the end of it, you might be having more sex. And what could be better than that?

And thirdly—I said two caveats, right? Oops—in case you haven’t noticed, this post is going to be about sex. That’s how you get children. If reading about sex makes you squeamish, stop here and go read… how about It’s not about balance: creating your family’s harmony or 10 habits for a happy home from the house of permissiveness and chaos. Or that fabulous, famous They tell you, “It gets easier.” They lie post.

Also, mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother—um. Yeah. You’re excused. Go read how Cinder and Flora became Greco-Roman Pagans. And never, ever mention this post to me. OK.

The rest of you, come with me.

English: 3 of hearts.

OK. Here are the three assumption I’m making:

1. You have kids. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, sentient school age kids. The babies need to be breastfed and rocked to sleep at all hours of day and night, the toddlers and preschoolers exhaust you, and them older kids stay up later and later and open doors and need help with homework and need you to feed them and take them places and…

2. You don’t have enough sex. Define enough as you will. You’d like to have more.

3. You’ve got a partner to have this sex with (if you don’t, I canna’ help you with that, but I hear there’s these dating sites…). The partner would also like to have more sex. The will is there. What’s lacking is time and opportunity AND STRATEGY. (If the will’s not there… well, I can help you with that a bit. There will be an addendum about that at the end.)

With me so far? Want to. Don’t have (enough) (at all these days). Don’t worry. There’s hope. Really. You’ve just got to rethink a few things.

Two Hearts Beat As One

First, there are three principles you have to internalize.

1. Sex is more important than sleep.

2. Sex is more important than cleaning.

3. Sex is more important than work.

Somewhere between child one and two—or maybe it was two and three?—my partner and I made the following pact: either one of us was free to wake up the other at any other time for some quick love making (stress on quick: I’ll come back to this point shortly)… unless the sleeper had a 6 a.m. appointment with the client from hell or some other such situation. We made this pact after the following conversation:

Jane: Dear God, do you realize this is the first time we’ve had sex in… oh my god, has it been three weeks? Four?

Sean: Well, by the time I come to bed, you’re always asleep. And I know you’re going to be up half the night with the baby, and then up super early with the toddler, and…

(This is why I love him so, by the way. What a guy.)

Jane: You can wake me up.

Sean: Really?

Jane: Yes.

Sean: You can wake me up anytime, too. I mean, if you’re ever awake after me. Well, unless I have a 6 a.m. shoot. Don’t wake me up then.

Jane: Deal.

Sean: Deal.

(And we draw the curtain so we can have some privacy.)

two hearts

So. Make this pact with your partner. Sex is more important than sleep. (Or watching that 10 p.m. show on HBO. Turn on your PVR, and romp. If you’re not drowsy after, then watch your show.) Agree to wake each other up when you’re horny. Agree to say yes—at least 4 out of 5 times. (I’m assuming you’re going to show appropriate discretion in when you’re doing the waking up. If partner’s got strep throat, you know, let the guy sleep. If the baby’s been going through a particularly tough phase—let the mama sleep. Find a different time for sex. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Next: what do you do when that most miraculous thing of all happens and all your children are either simultaneously asleep, totally mesmerized by a movie or activity that doesn’t require your presence, or (gasp!) out of the house?

If you’re a mama, I bet in 9 out of 10 cases you clean. We can’t help it: the little monsters are messy, and if we clean when they’re out of the house, then at least we have the satisfaction of a clean house for a few minutes… an hour.

I’m not going to tell you to stop cleaning. But have sex first. The children are asleep—quiet—gone. Put down the vacuum cleaner, turn your back on the kitchen floor, and go fuck.

You can scrub the bath tub afterwards.

This is really easy for me, because I hate cleaning. However, if you derive some pleasure from the cleaning process, this may be harder for you. Do this: tell the messier partner to grab the initiative. When the children are asleep—quiet—gone, it’s his or her job to drag you to the bedroom, bathroom or living room rug. All you have to do is say yes.

Say yes.

Happy Valentine's day!

Sex is more important than work. In our case, we both work from home, so this is how it goes—one or the other or both of us is always on deadline. There’s always one more thing to write, edit, produce, revise, research.

There will always be one more thing to write, edit, produce, revise, research.

Have sex first.

Then go back to the computer. Have a project you took home, memos to revise, report cards to mark? Fine. They’ll still be there in fifteen minutes. Five, if you’re both properly motivated. Two, if it’s been as long as I think it’s been… Have sex first. Then work.

Now before you quote Dan Ackroyd at me,* it really is that easy. If you believe that…

1. Sex is more important than sleep

2. Sex is more important than cleaning

3. Sex is more important than work

…you will have more of it. Maybe not as much as you’d like to… but more.

To have even more, embrace the next three principles:

4. Foreplay is icing.

5. Beds are optional.

6. Matinees rule.

Valentine

Remember those hours and hours and hours of sensuous, languorous foreplay that went on and on and on and on…

Yeah, I don’t really remember either. It’s been 10 years… eleven. Well, there was that one night we sold the kids to the grandparents for the entire night exclusively for those purposes… but that might have been four years ago. Anyway. You now have kids.

That means foreplay is being alone in a room together.

Agree with your partner that foreplay is icing. Frankly, when you’ve got toddlers, it wastes precious time. You can after-play if the kids don’t barrel into the room. When you’re in one of those “OMG we never have time for sex” phases, this is your modus operandi:

A. Hey, we’re alone!

B. Clothes (but only the essential ones) off!

C. Coitus.

Everything else is icing.

Bed

Note how nowhere in the above did it say we’re alone in bed. Beds? Who needs beds to have sex? We’re alone in the bathroom. We’re alone in the kitchen. We’re alone on the landing. In the living room while the kids are in the bedroom… If you’ve got a family bed, the kids are always in the bed. Have sex somewhere else. Anywhere else. Just draw the curtains first.

Finally—especially when you’ve got teeny ones around—break the sex/night association. No law. Not mandatory. Repeat after me: you can have sex in the morning. In the afternoon. When the baby’s napping. If one or both of you has a regular Monday-to-Friday job, you’ve got less flexibility—but you’ve still got weekends. The hour before supper. You got the baby and toddler down for a nap on Saturday afternoon? Cancel the visit to Joe and Marla, and screw.

Be late for dinner at Mom and Dad’s. Don’t clean, don’t nap, don’t work until after.

“But Jane… you know… the truth is… I don’t really want to. I feel blah. Unattractive. Unsexy. Touched out.”

I know. I think every mother—and many a hyper-involved father, frankly—has been there post-partum. Babies and toddlers take a toll on you. (This part’s mostly for the mamas, boys, but read along to get educated.) Your hormones might be out of whack, and you might simply be exhausted. I’m going to send you to kellymom.com or Dr. Jack Newman’s breastfeedinginc.ca to look for some evidence-based research on how pregnancy and lactation might affect your libido, because I’m no doctor. From personal experience I can absolutely tell you this: I love my partner dearly and I love making love with him—and with each child I’ve gone through stretches where it’s just not been a priority and desire’s been hard to scrape up.

Here’s what’s helped me:

1. Exercise and sunshine. Bonus: if you do the Pavlovian “I have an orgasm after exercise” association, the motivation to exercise spikes.

2. Going to Mom’s Nights Out. Really. How does hanging out with a bunch of women help your sex life? Simple. You dress up and spend an evening with adults talking adult stuff and enjoying a meal without anyone throwing up on you. You go home—and if your partner played things right, the children are asleep. S/he’s not. Woo-hoo.

3. Put it on the schedule. OK. Least romantic thing ever, right? It sounds awful. Sex Saturday. You know what’s worse and less romantic? Not having sex at all.

4. Make it a habit. Here’s the weird thing about thinking you don’t want sex when you’re not having sex–as soon as you start having sex, your priorities shift. You think, “Sweet Jesus, this is great! Why don’t we do this more often?” Hold on to that thought… and do it more often. In the afternoon. Instead of cleaning. Before working on that work project. Quickly if you’ve only got five minutes. Hey, if it turns out you’ve got more time, you can always do it again…

Heart

Photo (Heart) by mozzercork

All right then. That’s it. To recap:

1. Sex is more important than sleep

2. Sex is more important than cleaning

3. Sex is more important than work

4. Foreplay is icing

5. Beds are optional

6. Matinees rule

Get off the computer, and go wake up your partner. And if you’ve got other tips for reigniting your sex life post-children, share them.

xoxoxo,

Jane

PS Veteran mamas, can you tell I just weaned the third? I bet you can…

PPS Play carefully, eh? Seems every time we have a frank sex post-children discussion on one of my groups or lists, someone gets pregnant. Once it was me…

English: Pregnant Elf

*(That’s Jane, you ignorant slut, the best SNL quote of all time, read about it here if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and no, it doesn’t show you how old I am, I saw it in re-runs.)

PPPS For a different point of view, visit my brilliant friend Dani at Cloudy, With A Chance of Wine and read Having kids kills your sex life, but then, pop over to when she changes her mind and tells you the 5 ways sex gets easier once you have kids. And then pop over to read Julie De Neen spew coffee all over her friend in Lying to your kids about sex toys.

PPPPS “Woman, I need an antidote to all the sex talk, cause I ain’t getting any.” I’m so sorry, babe. (But you know there are toys, right?) Go visit Wonderland by Tatu and read Hi, my name is T. & I am a screamer. Get your mind out of the gutter! Not everything’s about sex–she’s talking about something else. And, do pop on by The Sadder and Wiser Girl as she celebrates the one year anniversary of her blog–good on you, Sarah, and write on!

PPPPPS One more. The funniest thing from my over-crowded in-box this week so far comes from The Book of Alice: Wrongly Accused. It’s about boogers. And children. So you know it’s worth clicking on.

Jane out.

They tell you “It gets easier.” They lie

So there she is, stumbling down the block—walking circles around the playground—sleepwalking through the mall. The mewling baby inside a sling—a car seat—stroller. Glassy eyes, cause she hasn’t slept more than 45 minutes—no wait, two days ago, she got three hours in a row, score!—in four months. Wearing ratty pants—because they fit. And her husband’s sweater—because all her tops have been puked on and laundry, she was going to do laundry yesterday, but then the baby had a fever and…

So there she is. The new mom, the first-time mom, and she’s so exhausted and she so clearly needs—what? A hug, help, empathy, reassurance. And you—you’re a good person, and so you want to give it to her. So there you go. Run up to her. Smile. And you want to say, you’re going to say:

“It gets easier.”

Don’t. Just fucking don’t. Because, fast-forward two years, three, and there she is. Running down the block. Maybe another baby in sling. Toddler in stroller or running away. And maybe she’s getting more sleep—but maybe not. Maybe the toddler has night terrors, and wakes up screaming for hours on end in the night. Or maybe, even if Morpheus has been kind to her and the children sleep—she doesn’t sleep nearly was much as she should, because when they sleep, that’s the only time she can be free. To… think. To read. To be… alone.

The toddler makes a break for it and tries to run into the street, and she nabs him, just in time, and pulls him back, and starts explaining how streets are dangerous and he must hold Mommy’s hand, but he really, really, really wants to be on the other side, and he’s two, so self-will is emerging with a vengeance and soon he’s screaming and tantruming, and you, you can see she’s on the edge, about to lose it, because maybe this is the seventh time today—this hour—she’s had to deal with this, and you want to help. You want to give her a hug, help, empathy, reassurance. And you want, you’re going to run over to her and you’re going to say:

“It gets easier.”

Don’t. Don’t. Because a year later, there she is, with her three-and-a-half year-old. Before they left the house this morning, he put her iPhone in the toilet, cut his dad’s headphone cord into shreds, and threw $30 worth of grass-fed beef off the balcony in the compost pile. And now, his pants around his ankles, he’s chasing a flock of pigeons, penis in hand, yelling, “I’m going to pee on you, pigeons!” at the top of his lungs. And she’s trying to decide—should she catch him? Or should she take advantage of the fact that he’s distracted for five minutes, so she can change the new baby’s diaper? Because she hasn’t had a chance to even check it for the last five hours… And I swear on any of the gods that you may or may not believe in, if, at that moment, you come up to her, and you say—because you’re an empathetic, loving person who wants to help—if you come to her at that moment and say,

“It gets easier.”

she’s going to rip that diaper off the baby and throw it in your face. Followed by the tepid remains of her coffee (you’re lucky that she hasn’t had a hot, scalding hot, deliciously hot cup of coffee in three and a half years). And then she’s going to sob. And she’s going to say…

“When? When the fuck does it get easier? Because I’ve been waiting for it to get easier for two three five six years.”

I’m sitting in the middle of my living room—11 years into motherhood—and I’m in a brief picture-perfect postcard (Instagram for those of you born post-1995) moment. I’m stretched out on the couch, coffee cup beside me, laptop on my lap—and, for a few minutes at least, I’m chilling. Three feet away from me, my 11 year-old is building worlds in Minecraft, and Skyping with a friend. My eight-year-old is running with a pack of her friends just outside—I hear their voices, hers most distinct among them to my ears, through the balcony. Tucked under my arm is the three-and-a-half year old, taking a break from wrecking havoc and destruction on the world to play a game on the iPad.

I’m messaging with a friend a few years behind me on the parenting path. And she asks me, and I can hear the tears in her words even though she’s typing them (people who think texting lacks nuance do not text enough; she is weeping through the keyboard),

“When does it get easier? People keep on saying, ‘It gets easier.’ When? When?”

So, I wonder, is she ready to hear this? Is she ready to hear: It doesn’t get easier. All the people who say this? They’re all liars, every last one.

But I won’t say that. First, because I do not wish to make her despair. Second, because it’s not true. It does get easier. It really does. But when people say it, what you, first-time mother, hear it is not ‘It gets easier,” but this:

“Things will get back to the way they were before, soon.”

And that, my lovely friend, will never happen. Things will never be the way they were before. Never. Things have changed forever. Things will never get back to “normal”—as you defined normal when you were single—when you were childless. Never.

And so I tell her this, and again I hear tears in-between the words she types to me.

And now I have to deconstruct the lie to her. I have to explain. That they don’t mean to lie. It really does get easier—sort of. The stuff that’s killing you now—be it the lack of sleep, the aching nipples, the endless diapers-laundry-is-she-sick-is-he-teething or be it the toddler tantrums, potty training regressions, “She won’t leave the house!” “Getting him in and out of the car seat is hell”–all of that, it will get easier—and, in fact, end. They all wean. Toilet train. Stop drawing on walls (unless they in this house). But see, then, other stuff happens that’s really hard too. Ferocious Five. Sensitive Seven. Bullies on the playground—social issues with friends and ‘frenemies.’ Broken hearts. Explosive anger at things and issues much, much bigger than all those daily rubs that cause toddlers angst.

“It gets easier”: yeah, I suppose it does, because you figure it out, and adapt, and get coping strategies. But every time you “master” a phase—they change. Grow. Face new challenges. And you’ve got to change, grow and adapt with them. If only you could do so ahead of them…

But you can’t. And so, you see, “it gets easier” … it’s a lie.

And it’s the most destructive lie, the most life-damaging myth you can buy into. See, because if you keep on waiting for things to get easier—if you put living, changing, adapting, figuring out how to dance this dance, walk this path as it is now, with all of its bumps and rubs—if you put all that on hold until it gets easier…

Well. You’ll be fucked. Totally. And completely.

So. My dearest. It doesn’t get easier. It changes. You get better. You grow. Learn. And that little squealer—that awesome toddler—that slightly evil three-year-old—he grows. Learns. Changes. It gets better. When you learn and change and grow and all that—it all gets better.

But. Easier? No.

So. There she is. Frazzled. Exhausted. So fucking tired. And she sees you coming, and you have empathy poring out of your pores. And you want to help her. Offer her empathy. Support.

What are you going to tell her?

Hey, all, wow, thanks for all the sharing and massive Internet love. Bad day for my RSS feed link to break — this is it: RSS Feed https://nothingbythebook.com/feed/ — and even though there are a bazillion comments, I am reading and responding to every single one. Thank you so much, beautiful people. You can also email me privately at nothingbythebook@gmail.com. Or find me on Twitter @nothingbtbook. You know the drill.  xoxo “Jane”

Two great things from my weekend in-box, from the #FTSF blog hop, that fit in beautifully with the theme of today’s post:

Kristi Campbell’s post on FindingNinee.com:  I blog because of you, I blog because of us, and

Katia’s post on I Am The Milk: Closest to Me

Flora Space Art

“I Give The World To You,” by Flora (May 2013)

unLessons from the Posse

Biking in Waterton Lakes National Park

Photo from the newspaper "Nogales Herald&...

As we come around the corner, the crowds scatter, jump, recoil. First one–two–three–flying like the wind, silver scooters carrying them along like lightening, legs pumping–and then four–five–bent lower over the handle bars, legs pumping even faster to keep up with the vanguard–and you think they’re all through, but no, here comes six, working harder than everyone else because he has to keep up. And me, at the end, with number seven in the bike. Calling out, “High traffic area! Everyone keep to the right!” But they don’t hear me, of course; of course, they don’t, because there is only speed, wind, the path, and the posse.

I love the posse. Three are mine, four are borrowed for the day. Four people have the temerity to ask, as we zoom by, “Oh-my-god-are-they-all-yours?” and sometimes, I would punish them with The Look, but today I am happy, so I just smile. One-half of one couple is so appalled by the procession that is us that the beautiful young woman turns to her husband-boyfriend and says, loudly, fully intending me to hear, “And this, honey, is why we always use condoms.” I’d give her The Look, but then I catch the husband-boyfriend’s look, and it is one of such joy-envy-lust that instead of giving her The Look, I give him The Grin, and we have a very quick, secret psychic conversation:

Him: Seven, eh? Six boys? Man. My own fucking hockey team.

Me: Imagine the soccer games you would have.

Him: Basketball. Camping!

Me: You’d just sit in the chair, and they’d set up the tent.

Him: The littlest one would bring me beer.

Me: You’d build them the best treehouse ever, right?

Him: Oh, fuck, yeah. Would I ever. So… um… you wanna have more kids?

Me: No, I’m done. Sorry.

Him: Okay then. Well, have a good day

Me: Good luck with her, eh?

Him: Yeah… not sure this is going to work out.

We move on. Along the river. Over this bridge. That one. I don’t even attempt to tell them to stick with me–they are a posse, The Posse, and The Posse don’t wait for no Mom. But I am wise in the ways of The Posse, so I don’t ask. I command. “Meet me at the Dragonfly!” I yell to their backs. “Go ahead–and wait for me at the crossing! We all cross together!” It doesn’t matter how fast I go–they go faster. It’s all about being alone, really. I can read the fantasy, in the three eldest anyway. As far as they are concerned, they are alone.

We stop. Regroup. Do a headcount.

Me: Fuck. Five. Who’s missing?

They: The twins.

Me: Your mom’s going to kill me. Where are they?

They: Who knows?

Me: Dudes! No man left behind! Find them!

Phew. Just fixing their helmets by some bushes. Onward. But now I have given them a new war cry. They push off:

No man left behind!

Flora scoots beside me. “Did they leave me behind because I’m not a man?” she whines. “They didn’t leave you behind,” I point out. “You came to visit with me.”

Up ahead on the path: wipeout!

Me: Blood?

Him: I’m okay.

You don’t show weakness in The Posse.

The Posse fractures. Its members fight. When we stop at a playground and they play a mad game of tag with rules so complicated it makes my head spin, my eldest gets his nose out of joint. The twins think they’re picked on. Flora feels left out. Mostly, I stay out of it. Sometimes, I nudge towards a solution. But mostly–I let them be The Posse. I’m there to make sure there is no real injustice … but they know most of the rules of engagement. They are learning how to work things out. This is not Lord of the Flies.

My final test as Mom-wise-in-the-ways-of-The-Posse comes when we hit an ice rink. The ice is melting, sloppy. But still slippery. I see the desire in their eyes. The two eldest look and do a risk analysis. Then decide to try to break their bones on the nearby playground instead. The littles dump the scooters and go to slip and slide on their feet. But he-who-will-test-me comes up to me and says,

“Can we scooter on that?”

It’s a test. Any mother in her right mind would say no, and he knows this. And I know that he knows this. We look at each other, take each other’s measure. And I say,

“I can’t fit seven kids in my car if we have to go to the Children’s Hospital… Look, keep your helmet on, and no whining or crying at all unless there’s massive amounts of blood, and you’ve lost more than two teeth.”

He looks at me. Mildly appalled. His mom would have said no, outright, his eyes tell me, and I’m clearly irresponsible. Criminally so. But I’ve just given him permission. Really. If he doesn’t go on the ice, I’ll know it’s because he’s afraid. Of blood. Losing teeth. He’ll lose face.

He puts the scooter on the ice. Scoots.

“It’s not slippery enough to be fun,” he tells me. Drops it. And goes off to join The Posse.

We pass another couple on the last block home. This time, I have a quick, secret psychic conversation with the girl:

Her: Is it hard?

Me: Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

When The Possee’s split up, and four-sevenths goes home with Fishtank Mom, they are all exhausted. And not-a-little tired of each other. But next time–next time, they’ll gel together again. Feel the wind, the speed. Be the pack. Fight, fracture, learn. Is it hard? Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

Photo from the newspaper “Nogales Herald” dated July 20, 1922 showing an American posse after capturing the Mexican bandits Manuel Martinez and Placidio Silvas (middle of back row) who killed or wounded five people at or around Ruby, Arizona in 1921 and 1922. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And a thank you to the fabulous Tatu from Wonderland By Tatu for including Nothing By The Book in the shininess of the Sunshine Award. As you may have noticed, I truly suck at passing these on adequately. Not out of any better-than-thouness, truly, just out of… what shall we call it… laziness.Pure laziness. But thank you muchly, Tatu, you made me all smiley and sunny on a hard day. Here’s the link to the last one of these that I’ve paid back “properly,” which includes some irrelevant facts about myself and some of my favourite bloggers.

The not-so-mysterious incident of the carrots in the milk carton

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I.

I sleepwalk into the kitchen in search of the first cup of coffee. Boil water. Fight with the grinder. Dump old coffee grounds all over the floor. Clean them up. Make the coffee. Inhale the smell of… sheer bliss, really. If you’re a coffee lover, you know what I mean–there is nothing like it, it is the smell of perfection, the birth and end of the universe in one olfactory sensation, the promise of everything. Ah. Pour the first cup. No cream in the fridge–reach for the milk carton.

Pour.

Discover there are two giant carrots in the milk carton.

Look at them uncomprehendingly, because, you know, I have just smelled and not yet drunk the coffee.

Pour the milk into the coffee carefully. Replace the milk carton in the fridge.

Go sit on the couch beside the 3.5 year old. Drink my coffee.

II.

Sean stumbles into the kitchen in search of his cup of coffee. Lucky man, the lag between his wake up time and mine insufficient today for the first pot to be empty. Pours himself a cup of coffee. Savours the smell. And, responsible father that he is, asks the 2/3 of the awake progeny if they want to eat something. (Their mother does not speak, or serve, until she has finished her second cup of coffee. She is still on the couch drinking the first…) The progeny want cereal.

He grabs bowls. Cereal. Milk. Pours.

“Why the fuck are there two carrots in the milk carton?”

Neither the milk nor the carrots answer. I look at the 3.5 year old. He grins a wicked grin.

“I put them there, Dadda!” he calls out happily.

“Why… why did you put carrots in the milk?” Sean says. His voice full of angst and despair–and see, this is why I do not talk until after the second cup. Why suffer? And make others suffer? Let the caffeine do its work first…

“Flora was peeing,” Ender replies promptly.

I am almost done my first cup of coffee, so I understand perfectly. What he wanted to do was to flush the carrots down the toilet. However, the toilet was occupied. What else could he do with them? Aha! Milk carton!

Sean is still just smelling the coffee. And trying to understand all this. And perhaps on the verge of tears.

And here is proof that I am an excellent, excellent wife and helpmeet: although the effort involved in this is Herculean, I lift myself off the couch, stagger into the kitchen, grab his coffee cup, and put it into his hands. He tries to speak–I shut his mouth with a kiss.

I’d say drink–but I do not speak until I’ve downed the second cup of coffee.

He takes a sip. Then another. The world is slowly becoming a better place, and the case of the carrots in the milk losing its power to ruin his day.

I pour my second cup of coffee. Pour the rest of the milk into it. Shake the carrots out into the sink. Rinse them.

“They don’t look like they’ve been in there very long,” Sean says. He picks up the empty milk carton and peers into it. To determine–by what evidence?–the length of the carrot milk immersion?

Cinder, our 10 year old, stumbles down the stairs. Stops, and stares at the tableau, dominated by his father, evidently distraught, peering into the milk carton. And says…

“Did Ender pee in the milk again?”

I draw the curtain on the resulting scene. Suffice it to say, Sean was never happier that he was lactose intolerant… and Flora may never eat cereal again.

More like this: The obvious correlation between crying over spilt coffee and potty training

And some blogger love. Last week, Tirzah Duncan, the talented writer-poet-entrepreneur-cynical optimist-coiner-of-phrases-extraordinaire at The Ink Caster, passed The Versatile Blogger award on to me (which of course means someone gave it to her, congratulations, Tirzah). In addition to being a talented writer, Tirzah would be a great person to watch your back come the Zombie Apocalypse. If you don’t believe me, check out this post.

My head wasn’t quite done swelling when TJ, Sara and Jen from Chi-Town Mommy Mayhem — well, possibly just one of them, but I prefer to take the compliment from all three — handed off the Liebster Award to Nothing By The Book. Their blog is “dedicated to the uncensored mommies of Chicago” and their motto is “We don’t sugar coat anything here.” And they have kick ass tweets ( @MayhemMommyTJ).

I’m eight awards or possibly more behind doing the proper reciprocity thing, and with each passing day… Well. If you really want to know seven random things about me, read this my last Blogosphere Group Hug and find out how I once interviewed the prime minister of Canada sans underwear. For blogs that deserve to have the awards passed on to them–check out the blogs I follow, bottom of each page of the blog. Cause, you know, I only follow good ones.

The naked truth about working from home, the real post

Showerhead

I’m in the shower when the phone rings, and I hear it through the water and the door, and I know who it is even before Cinder hollers, “Mom! It’s for you!” Shampoo in my hair and my eyes, I’m leaping out of the shower and out of the bathroom without turning off the water—where the fuck is the towel?–and skidding into the combination Lego room/Sean’s office that holds the only upstairs telephone.

“Hello, “Jane” speaking,” I say crisply, sharply. Out of breath? No way, not me–the phone voice kicks in ASAP. My well-trained eldest son—the ire of the mother for misbehaving on the telephone is legendary—hangs off the receiver. On the other end of the line is a VP of a blue chip Bay Street company (like a Canadian Wall Street, but less sexy and exciting) I’ve been stalking for a few days, and I need to talk to him today. He’s in an airport—“Houston? And how’s the weather?—he’s got five minutes, what do I need? I speak quickly and cut to the chase: this, that, and, above all, a comment on that mess. The door of the room creaks open, and my daughter comes in. She sees the phone at my ear and mouths, “Mom? Why are you naked?” I mouth back, “Towel! Paper! Pen!” I cast a desperate look around the room—full of Lego and an assortment of my husband’s crap, including a printer, why the fuck is there no paper here? Or pencils? How can there be no writing implements in the bloody office?

The VP’s already talking and I see, gloriously, buried under all the Lego, a purple marker. This is how the professionals do it, boys and girls—I grab that marker and… I move to start writing on the wall, but the two-year-old comes in, and I have a brief second thought. I make desperate hand motions at my seven-year-old, and—she’s well-trained in this this too—she immediately says, “Ender? Want to watch a show on the i-Pad?”

But their exit is too slow–they’re still in the room and I start to scribble. With the purple market. Not on the wall. On my leg. I start at the thigh and work my way down, to the ankle and instep, contort myself, and write on the inner leg. Then the other one… The VP’s a gold mine. He gives me exactly what I need, and I’m transcribing every word.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I sing as I hang off. And become aware that

a. I’m naked in my kids play room

b. my legs totally covered with purple marker

c. the purple marker is a horrible, kid-friendly, washable piece of shit

d. the water from my hair is dripping onto my legs and smearing! Smearing my interview transcript!

“My laptop!” I scream, and Cinder bounds up the stairs with the lap top. “Um, and a towel!” I add. I’ve been anticipated: Flora’s in with the towel. I grab the towel, the laptop. Scrunch my hair with the towel before tossing it over my shoulders and torso. And I start to transcribe. From the top of the leg—never before am I so grateful for the remnants of the baby weight that give some heft to the thigh—down, up the inside. Down the other one.

And yeah. I got this, that, and the comment on that mess in particular. Fucking score. My heart beat slows down. I’m going to meet deadline, and the story’s going to kick ass.

What you need to know:

 a. It’s not supposed to be like that.

b. It’s like that much too often.

c. If you can’t handle life throwing that at you with regular irregularity, you shouldn’t even think about working from home with children underfoot.

I’ve worked as a freelance writer since 2000, and I’ve popped out babies in 2002, 2005 and 2009. They’ve all grown up in this: I managed three weeks off after Cinder, four days after Flora (I went into labour actually in the middle of an interview, and had to cancel another ), and with Ender, I blocked off a luxurious two-and-a-half months off… sabotaged about four weeks in by a favourite client.

What I mean when I say I’m a freelance writer: I churn out five-to-ten-thousand+ words a month for a variety on business publications and clients (my real life business portfolio here for the serious-minded in the crowd).

What you really want to know: what this means time-wise and brain-wise and child-wise. The time commitment is erratic: I’d say at least two hours a day spent in just keeping on top of having the work—that is, emailing back and forth with editors and key contacts, keeping on top of what’s happening, clearing up questions and details on what I’ve filed etc.—and anywhere from 12-40 hours a week in research-interview-writing mode. My target weekly work rate is 20-25 hours (12-low-effort-maintance, 8-12 high-effort research-interview-writing hours). Less than that, and I’m setting myself up for a hellish 40+ week down the line. (My target earn rate, by the way, is the equivalent of a full-time job within that 20-25 hours. But that’s a topic for another post…). Once or twice a year, I actively invite a hellish week or two because of a particular project, client, or painful state of the bank account.

I used to get the “How on earth do you do that with a toddler and a baby?” comment all the time; now I get the, “How the heck do you manage that with homeschooling?” And everyone who asks it is looking, if they’re honest with themselves, for a magic bullet. They’re looking for that instruction sheet, that secret, that has them visualizing me sitting at a desk typing away—or on the telephone conducting an interview—while my children quietly and peacefully play at my feet.

No such thing. How do I work from home with children underfoot?

The short, and really honest, answer is—in ideal circumstances, I don’t. My most productive and efficient output happens when another adult is in charge of them. My husband—my mother—a neighbour—a friend—a paid babysitter. That childcare and that focused time don’t happen spontaneously. I plan the hell out of my work weeks and work days. I schedule interviews for the days when the kids are planning to spend a day with Grandma. I swap child-care with my film-maker husband. I pay for it when I must. In a four-hour block of child-free time, I get two-days worth of work done. Perhaps more. On the days my mother takes the kids for a long 8-10+ hour day, I am so uber-productive my brain and fingers (and sometimes throat) hurt at the end of it.

That low-maintenance work—checking email, social media, initial research, screwing around on the Internet and calling it research—these are things I can do with kids underfoot, during the littlest one’s naps, while the older two are really engaged with something. These are things I can do in spurts, things that don’t require me to enter the flow or to fully focus. Telephone interviews? I never plan to do these without another adult in the house or the kids (under sevens anyway) out of the house. Writing? There are things I can write in spits and spurts, off-the-top-of-my head, and in 45 minutes after I put the kids to bed. A 5,000 word feature on the history of the Canada-US Softwood Lumber Trade Dispute? Or an analysis of what’s really at stake when it comes to the proposed oil sands pipelines? I need focused time and space to produce that, and I prefer not to sacrifice sleep for that.

Sleep-deprived writers produce second-rate drivel. (Unless they’re in the flow on the novel. That’s different. Right?)

So. In my ideal world, working from home still requires an investment—financial, or otherwise, in child care. But life is rarely ideal. No matter how well I plan, every story and every project has its share of surprises. A cancelled interview—spontaneously rescheduled just as the toddler needs to go down for a nap or the baby needs to nurse. An editor’s demand for a last-minute rewrite, due yesterday. A client’s panic attack requiring me to pull an all-nighter—or to rely on the house’s assortment of electronic devices to babysit the children while I pound away at the keyboard. A last minute “I shouldn’t take this story, but oh-my-god-I-get-to-fly-to-Montreal-to-interview-the-prime-minister!” assignment. And havoc reigns.

Planning allows me to ride out the havoc. The irregular regularity of the havoc trains the children. They know a deadline must be met. They learn by age four how to behave when Mommy’s on the phone (she doesn’t push it too much: tries to keep those unplanned interviews to under 15 minutes).

(Sorry, until age four—no guarantees. A DVD might buy you 15 minutes. Or it might not. The good news: with my almost-8 year-old and 10 year-old, I can handle whatever havoc hits with them taking it in stride. I now only have to outsource the three-year-old on the days when I have to write, write, write—or spend the day glued to the telephone. And increasingly, I can outsource the three-year-old to his siblings. Not for an entire workday—but for a decent stretch of time. So yes, it gets much, much easier as the kids get older. But when they’re little? It’s tough.)

And that, friends, is the naked truth about working from home with children in your life. Possible, rewarding, the only way I want to work.

But it’s work. It requires planning. It throws you curveballs. It don’t look like that sepia-postcard dream you’ve got rolling in the back of your mind in which you write an award-winning article effortlessly while a perfectly balanced and delicious meal is already simmering on the stove and the toddler is at your feet playing with dinky cars for two hours. It’ll have to racing out of the shower naked with shampoo in your hair at least once in your life, and teaching your children swear words nobody at the playground knows yet.

Think you can do it? Of course you can. Right?

More like this: The naked truth about working from home, the teaser

This post is being recycled as part of A Mother Life Hum Day Hook Up #33: 

A Mother Life

The most recent Nothing By The Book post is How we teach children to lie, without realizing it.

If it’s your first time here, I’d love to connect, in all the usual ways:

Follow me on Twitter: 

Add me to your circles on GOOGLE+: Jane Marshon

Send me a personal email to nothingbythebook@gmail.com

Like Nothing by the Book on Facebook.

(Split personality alert: If you are interested in my business writer alter-ego, you can find her portfolio at Calgary Business Writer and on Twitter .)

Thanks for visiting!

xoxo

“Jane”

Embracing Chaos

A61

or, unParenting unResolutions

“Mama? Big mama? Wake up, big mama. I love you so very very very much.”

This is how Ender sets up the mood for the day—ensuring that no matter what he flushes down the toilet or smashes into pieces with the meat mallet (“How the hell did he find it again? I hid it on top of the fridge!” “Judging by barstool beside the counter, and the stack of boxes on the counter, you don’t want to know.” “Oh, Kee-rist. How has this child not broken any bones yet?”), my first and most brilliant memory of the day is tickling butterfly kisses and expressions of love ultimate from the beloved beast who will spend the day terrorizing the house, the family, and if we let him outside, the neighbourhood.

He is who he is; he is three. He’s careening towards three-and-a-half (see Surviving 3.5 and 5.5: A cheat sheet for an exposition and some almost practical tips and tricks), and three-and-a-half for the boys I birth is the age of chaos. So as I prepare to say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013, I know that chaos and the Ender crazy will dominate much of the year.

And I make no resolutions to yell less. Or discipline more. I will lose my temper, and I will yell, and there will be days when, as I survey the destruction wrought by the whirlwind in the kitchen while I absented myself from his side for five minutes, I seriously ponder just how wrong it would be to put him in the dog’s kennel. Just, you know, for a little while. And there will be days—and weeks—when I’ll be counting the hours until bedtime from 11:15 a.m. And days when, as soon as Sean comes home, I will hand over the entire parenting business to him, and lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle—um, glass, I meant to type glass—of wine.

That’s part of the ride; part of the package. I’ve written elsewhere on that the ultimate secret behind parenting is; its close twin is this: every age and stage, every journey has tough stretches, challenging stretches. And they’re all necessary, and most of them are unavoidable, and happiness and peace lie in knowing that they just are. And not seeking perfection, from myself as mother, or from the child.

He’s so lucky, my Ender, my third. His eldest brother broke me in, thoroughly, and no sooner did I start to boast that I had “cracked the Cinder code,” Flora arrived, teaching me that I had learned absolutely nothing about the uniqueness that is her (bar that nursing every hour, every 15 minutes, or, what’s that word, constantly, is kind of normal) from my first years with the Cinder. By the time Ender arrived, all I knew, for sure, was this:

I love him, madly, fully, unconditionally, in all his guises.

He will exhaust me, challenge me, frustrate me, make me scream.

And I will love him still, and love him more.

As far as everything else goes? As he grows, I will learn him slowly, piece by piece, unique need by unique need. Sometimes well, sometimes badly. Sometimes I’ll fail him—and sometimes, I will do right by him even though in the moment he thinks I’m failing him completely. And maybe, at the end of it all, when he’s 30, 40, with his own children—in therapy—maybe he’ll despise me, blame me, reject me. I don’t know. All I know for sure, is this:

I love him, madly, fully, unconditionally, in all his guises.

He will exhaust me, challenge me, frustrate me, make me scream.

And I will love him still, and love him more.

More like this: Sunshine of Our Lives, or, How Toddlers Survive.

Blog Hop Report: I spent some of the weekend blog hopping at the TGIF Blog Hop hosted by You Know it Happens At Your House Too. What a fascinating variety of blogs, people and approaches to life, the universe and blogging.

I’d like to introduce you, if you do not know them already, to three mama-bloggers (but so much more) with attitude:

Jenn at Something Clever 2.0  (Twitter: @JennSmthngClvr)

Teri Biebel at Snarkfest (Twitter: @snarkfestblog)

Mollie Mills at A Mother Life (Twitter: @amotherlife)

And something completely different, a woman who took my breath away with her authenticity and boldness of voice from the first line of the first post I read of hers: Jupiter, “Eco-Redneck,Breeder,Stitch-Witch,Knittiot Savant & Whoreticulturist Extraordinaire” at crazy dumbsaint of the mind. I’m not going to attempt to explain her. If whoreticulturist is not a word that turns you off, the word sapiosexual turns you on, have a visit and get to know her. Otherwise, maybe not. Safe she is not.

Happy reading, happy blogging, happy living, and I will see in 2013. My year of chaos. Your year of… what?

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. And if you’re having a slow New Year’s Eve at home with your kids and computer, check out Dani Ryan’s The Best of 2012 Blog Hop at Cloudy With a Chance of Wine.

How I got deprogrammed and learned to love video games

Cinder’s just shy of 10, and the big passion of his life is Minecraft. Or Terraria. Or both, but usually just one or the other. He loves them so much, he’s convinced his Mac-using parents to get him a PC laptop so he can play them more effectively. He loves them so much that his show of choice is watching Minecraft or Terraria videos on Youtube. (A digression for a Cinder recommendation: for Terraria, nothing beats Total Biscuit and Jesse Cox; for Minecraft, Antvenom is King, and Cavemanfilms is pretty good too. Now you know where to go.)

My boy loves video games. And this is a wonderful thing.

I never thought I’d find myself saying this. Video games were never a part of my childhood, and my experience of them as an on-looker—sister, girlfriend, wife—was, well, blah. Wasn’t interested. Didn’t understand the appeal. Could tell you one thing for sure: no kid of mine was going to waste his childhood playing video games. Could rattle of spades of research about how detrimental to the proper development of a child excessive (any) video game playing could be.

Well. What changed?

Simply this: My boy loves video games, and I love my boy. He started getting drawn to them about age eight, I suppose, meeting them at this friend’s house or that, telling us about them with excitement, in vivid detail. His game-playing father entered into his interest; his game-ignorant mother started to agonize. What to do? For what reason? With what consequences?

I spare you my internal angst, as first one online game and then another (“It’s educational, Mom!” Supported by Dad’s: “Really, Jane, it’s educational.”) got introduced. Then the X-box (“It’s Kinect, Jane—they’ll be exercising and moving while they play—isn’t that good?”). Then an iPad and all the apps and games that enabled. Here’s what steered me through it, though: I love my boy. He loves these things; he’s drawn to them. What’s he getting out of it? Why? How?

I love my boy, and if I love my boy, I can’t be dismissive and contemptuous of something he loves.

So, I’d sit beside him and watch him play. Listen to him talk about the games afterwards. In-between. Eavesdrop while he talked about with his friends. Watch while they acted out game scenes on the trampoline or on the Common.

I might tell you about all the things I’ve seen him learn from gaming another time (for one example, check out this salon.com piece about Minecraft ). Rattle of spades of research about how playing video games actually makes kids smarter (Here’s Gabe Zichermann talking about this on Ted Talks). But it really comes down to this:

I love my boy. My boy loves video games. His reasons for loving them are complex—but no less valid than my love for Jane Austen novels, or John Fluevog shoes. I do not have to love them just because he loves them—I do not have to make myself play them or enjoy them as he does, just because I love him. But because I love him, I can’t say—or think and believe—that what he loves and enjoys is a waste of time. Of no value. Stupid.

Flip it. Think of something you love. Knitting? Film noir? Shiny cars? Collecting porcelain miniatures? Whatever. Doesn’t matter what. I’m thinking of my Jane Austen novels, which I reread probably half-a-dozen times a year. Now think of how you feel when someone who’s supposed to love you and care about you—your partner, your best friend, your mother—thinks that hobby or activity is of no value. And takes every opportunity to tell you so. Do those interactions build your relationship? Inspire you with love and trust for the person showing such open contempt for something that brings you joy?

I love my boy. My boy loves video games. And I love that he loves them. I love that they bring him joy.

As I finish writing this up, Ender’s having the tail-end of his nap in my arms, and Flora’s listening to The Titan’s Curse. Cinder grabs his lap top, and sits down beside me on the couch. He pulls up an Antvenom video on Youtube. “I need to get this mod,” he says. “Cool one?” I ask. “Too cool,” he says. I watch him watching for a while.

I love my boy.

“Love you, Mom,” he says. “What do you want to do when my video’s over?”

Minecraft Castle

Minecraft Castle (Photo credit: Mike_Cooke)

Five is hard: can you attachment parent the older child?

It happens to the most attached parents among us. We’ve breastfed, co-slept, and slung our babes happily. It was easy—or, it became easy, once we got into the groove and shook off Aunt Maud’s disapproving glare. We saw our children grown and flourish, loved, connected, happy. But then, at some point, the demons of self-doubt return. Our child goes through a phase we see as difficult and challenging. Almost inevitably, this happens when we’re not at our best—pregnant, tired, stressed. And we wonder—is it possible to AP the older child?

Five seems to be the milestone when these demons attack most ferociously. Makes sense: it’s such a milestone age in our culture. The preschooler becomes a kindergartener. The stroller’s abandoned; first loose teeth come. The search for self becomes super-pronounced, and our five-year-old is frighteningly selfish. (I write about that aspect of five in Ferocious Five.)

It hit one of my friends very hard when her eldest daughter turned five. She asked our playgroup community for help, and she framed her struggles under this big question: “Is it possible the attachment parent the older child? This five year-old who’s driving me utterly, completely crazy every moment of every single day? Is it time to bring out the conventional discipline–punishment–toolbox?”

This was my response. I had seen Cinder through five pretty successfully. Not yet Flora. Bear that in mind as you read. Check out Ferocious Five for the lessons Flora taught me.

Five is hard. But so is two, three, four, six, sixteen–all in their different ways. Part of the trouble is that our children move onward and forward through the different ages and stages, while we, their imperfect parents, have just figured out how to cope with the preceding one.

Is it possible to attachment parent the older child? Possible, necessary, critical. And here is where the difference between AP “things we do”–co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing–and the AP “things we are” plays large. We don’t carry our five year olds, the majority of us don’t breastfeed them any more, we’re not necessarily co-sleeping with them. The “do” stuff is gone. The “be” stuff is all that remains.

And how do we “be” with the older children? I think this is one of the points at which our paths can diverge quite dramatically. And I don’t know that there is one *right* answer. For what it is worth, based on my sample of one five-year-old shepherded through some challenging stuff to date, these are the principles that helped us:

1. Make their world larger.

At five, Cinder’s world got larger. We’re homeschooling, so the massive change that is five day a week kindergarten wasn’t part of it–but think of what a huge change that is for the average five-year-old, and how hard it must be sort out, everything so new. Still, even minus kindergarten, it was so clear to us that a five-year-old was very different from a four-year-old. And absolutely, we butted heads because while he had moved on, I was still mothering a four-year-old.

A huge breakthrough for me was to make his world larger–ride his bike on (safe!) streets, cross the street on his own, go into stores on his own, play a bigger role in everything. I can’t quite remember all the different changes we did, but they’re pretty much irrelevant–they wouldn’t necessarily work for your child. Talk with her. What would she like to do now that she couldn’t (or wasn’t interested) in doing a year or six months ago?

2. The only person whose behaviour I can control is myself.

The other thing I always come back when we run into “downs”: the only person whose behaviour I can control is myself. And if I am unhappy with how my child is acting, the first step is not to look for a way to change my child, but to look at myself, within myself, and ask myself what can I do to change how I am reacting and communicating with my children? What am I doing–reflexively, thoughtlessly–that I can change. Start with me. When I’m okay, when I’m balanced, when I’m grounded–well, very often, the problem goes away, because it was in me in the first place. My children mirror me.

And, if the problem really is in the other–if it is all my Cinder being crazy or my Flora being whiney–when I’m taking care of myself, reflecting on my behaviour, and acting from a place within me that’s grounded, well, then I can cope and talk and help them sort through whatever craziness they are going through at the time without losing it.

3. Re-connect, re-attach.

I strongly, strongly believe that any punishment–be it a time out, a withdrawal of privileges, or the most innocuous manufactured consequence–does not help these situations but serves to drive a tiny, but ever growing, wedge between the attached parent and child. The absolutely best thing I’ve ever read about discipline was in Gordon Neufeld’s *Hold On To Your Kids*–absolutely aimed at parents of older children, through to teens. We’ve talked about this before, but this is the essence of what I take away from Neufeld’s chapter on “Discipline that Does Not Divide”: “Is [whatever action you were going to take] going to further your connection to your child? Or is it going to estrange you?”

So what do I do when I kind of want to throttle Cinder? I work at re-connecting. I call them re-attachment days. Have a bath together. Wrestle (I’m not advising it for pregnant mamas 🙂 ). Go for coffee (for me) and cookie (for him) at Heartland Cafe, just the two of us. Really focus on him and try to enjoy him. So often, that’s what he’s asking for by being obnoxious–really focused attention from me.

Now if I could only ensure I always give it to him so that we wouldn’t go through the head-butting phase in the first place!

4. Remind myself of what I want to say and how I want to act.

What do I do in the moment? That’s way harder in practice, no question. When I’m really frazzled, I leave notes to myself in conspicuous places with “when Cinder does x–do not say/do this–say/do this instead.” (Fridge and front door best places. Also, bathroom door.) And I tell my children what they are–“Those are reminders to me of how I want to treat you and talk to you, even when what you are doing makes me very, very angry.”

5. Sing.

Sometimes, I sing, “I want to holler really loud, but I’m trying really hard not to, someone help me figure something else to do, I think I’m going to stand on my head to distract myself…” (This works really, really well with two and three year olds too, by the way.)

6. Forgive. Move on.

Sometimes, I don’t catch myself in time and do all the things I don’t want to do: yell, threaten (if there is an “if” and a “then” in a sentence, it’s almost always a threat)… and then I apologize, try to rewind, move forward.

7. Put it all in perspective.

And always, always, I remind myself that 1) the worst behaviours usually occur just before huge developmental/emotional milestones, changes and breakthroughs, 2) my child is acting in the best way he knows at this moment, and if that way is not acceptable to me, I need to help him find another one, and 3) I love the little bugger more than life or the universe, no matter how obnoxious he is. (This is a good exercise too: after a hard, hard day, sit down and make a list of all the things you love about your little one. From the shadow her eyelash make on her cheeks when she sleeps to the way she kisses you goodnight… everything you can think of.)

And, finally, if I want my children to treat me–and others–with respect, I must treat them with respect. No matter how angry or tired I am.

Lots of love and support, 

“Jane”

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Pandemic Diary: Happy Pandemic Birthday to Me… and all 20 million of you…

Pandemic birthday, and perhaps that’s reason enough to feel mopey, the pandemic birthday coming on the heels of a pandemic Mother’s Day, pandemic Anniversary—what a mindfuck—pandemic Name Day, Easter. Nothing is normal, nothing is right, so why should this birthday be any different?

I feel beaten up and old—and also, fat and doughy—and unhappy, worse, meaningless and purposeless, a story without a plot, an editorial without a call to action. I’m lost in the saggy middle of my novel, and I have no faith that the editor will fix this mess, because, after all, I am her.

Happy Pandemic Birthday. 😦

Things to remember on a mopey pandemic birthday:

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

In fact, more than 20 million people share this specific birthday with me, and so, over the last 2.5 months, some 1.5 billion people have celebrated a pandemic birthday—and before all this is truly over, everyone will have had one—you ready to surf the second wave?—and… You know what? As a cheer-up strategy? That does not work at all. “I’m unhappy but so is everyone else in the world.” “Well, I’m dying of the Spanish flu but so will 50 million others.” “The Holocaust is a bitch, but at least 6 million other Jews are dying with me…” Yeah. No. Also, now I’ve brought up the Holocaust, which, let’s face it, should put everything into perspective, because, fucking seriously, I’m mopey about what? Physical distancing guidelines meant to keep me and my fellow citizens alive? Snap out of it, bitch. Let’s reframe…

  • I am not alone.

My family made a birthday door for me, and got me two chocolate croissants and a tangerine slice peel clematis, also, lots of chocolate wrapped in a beautiful blue and gold pashmina. There are happy birthday emails and texts and phone calls and even though it’s raining, I know my parents will come and visit me on the porch and maybe you will come and we will go for a walk and know what? If we go for a walk, fuck it, let’s have a $1200 hug, because it’s my birthday and I’m not sure I can do this anymore.

How was that “things to remember on a mopey pandemic birthday” list coming along?

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

When all this started (pandemic, not my life) (I don’t really remember when my life started, do you?), I actually welcomed the opportunity to be mostly alone. It had been very hard to make social small talk or engage in casual interactions given the shit we were carrying in 2019.

Conversations like this:

Them: How are things?

Me: Child sick, not so good.

Them: What about other things?

Me: What other things? Did you hear what I just said? Child sick.

Her: Hey, what are you up to? Wanna hang?

Me: Shuttling between home, hospital, and when I remember, work. I have no time to breathe.

Her: Come on, you could use a break.

Me: Fuck off you deaf bitch.

Him: What’s new?

Me: Nothing. Everything’s fine. Nice bean dip. Please, tell me more about how your kitchen renovations are ruining your life and how hard three days without a working dishwasher are.

aren’t, you know… fun. So, enforced solitude really wasn’t a bad thing—especially when that enforced solitude was solitude as a family of five. I retreated into it with relief—frankly, craved more of it. (Maybe I’d get infected, sick, or at least compromised and I’d have to quarantine alone, without my beloved family? Yesssss… Don’t you dare fucking judge me, Aunt Augusta. I love them to pieces, but this is a very small house.)

Craving, seeking deeper solitude, I killed my social media connections for more than a month—I should probably do that again. When I read your Facebook posts, I hate you, think all of your friends are pathetic losers, and have no hope for the future of humanity. Somehow, when we hang out in person, your loveable qualities are enhanced and your lack of critical thinking, poor judgement, and overall stupidity somehow muted. Fuck. Sorry. See? Even thinking about social media—Facebook, especially, Twitter a close second—makes me a bad person.

Where was I?

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

Right. When I look at the physical distancing and other safety guidelines proposed for the summer of 2020—and god knows how much beyond—I want to weep. I don’t need festivals, bar services, or even restaurants, although I do miss my coffee shops and sheesha lounges. I’m ok never going to a mall again as long as I live. Even museums, art galleries, my beloved bookshops—fine. I don’t need them.

But. I need dinner parties and pot lucks. And house parties with overcrowded kitchens. Sleepovers. Work bees. Taco Tuesdays at Yvonne’s and Whatever Charlotte is Learning to Cook Mondays at Valerie’s, I’m Feeding People Soup and Crackers Wednesdays at my house. I need my people—even the ones I haven’t been able to talk to much over the past year—back in my house.

In my arms.

A pandemic birthday with no hugs?

Fuck it, no, no, no, what’s the point?

So. Mopey.

Very, very mopey.

I’ve been offended by the right-wing and libertarian anti-lockdown protests. Not because they want to kill your grandma. But… look at it. Assholes agitating for haircuts and retail therapy. The right to leave their spittle around stores and public places.

Nice priorities, people.

Except, of course, those aren’t really their true priorities. They’re just the things that are easiest to express, protest, point to. From the conspiracy theorists on both the left and right to the sanctimonious pricks running around city parks with a metre ruler and shaming members of a large extended family for not maintaining physical distance, we’re all missing the same thing.

So, what those gun-toting, flag-waving, misinformed, uneducated and unenlightened (“What do you really think of them, Jane?”) freedom-to-be-selfish-as-fuck warriors are really agitating for when they want to hold a 1000-person Go Topless Jeep Driving Beach Party (you think I’m kidding, this is a real thing) in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed more than 330,000 people worldwide, 95,000 of them in the United States?

Their need to have a beer with their buddies in their backyard. Their need to belly bump, high-five, and drunk-wrestle in a manner that’s in no way homo-erotic, why would I even suggest that?

The need to connect, physically, with other human beings.

This is a big thing to take away from people.

Things to remember on my crappy pandemic birthday:

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.
  • I have people in my house and my covid cohort to hug and hold.
  • I am eating a delicious chocolate pain from Sidewalk Citizen for breakfast. I have a second one to eat for lunch.
  • My little son has been Skyping with his cousins since 7 am. He’s spent more time “playing” with them online in the past 2.5 months than he has “live” in the first 2.5 months of 2020, or perhaps even all of 2019. And this is good.
  • My daughter is still sleeping and this quarantine is giving her the space in which to rest, sleep, heal.
  • My eldest is enjoying is first day off this week from his first real job, and he’s going to turn 18 in a few days as a working man, how awesome is that?
  • A skinny, mostly hairless Goblin dog is curled up beside me in my writing chair, wrapped up in my bathrobe, purring. Well, snorting. Exuding peace and contentment, anyway.
  • A furry, still-damp from her morning walk beast of a puppy is snoring quietly on the floor by my feet.
  • Sean just made a second pot of coffee and, because he’s working from home, when he comes upstairs, I’ll get a coffee refill without having to get up off my lazy, mopey ass.
  • FedEx just called and my birthday Doc Martens are getting delivered today.

  • That chocolate croissant was really good.
  • Even though it’s raining, I can still have a cigarillo on my balcony this afternoon. And, maybe, Turkish coffee.
  • I don’t have to make dinner today, because, take out.
  • I am not alone.
  • I am loved.

And… with all of that? Still mopey. Still not happy. And that’s ok. Because nothing is normal, nothing is right.

But we trudge on. Do the best we can.

I am loved.

So are you.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

 

 

On this Mother’s Day: Imagine a world in which mothers stopped doing all the things

Mother’s Day has been a rough celebration for me—definitely in 2019, but really, increasingly so over the past five years, maybe even decade, more. I don’t do well with unacknowledged hypocrisy, you know, and this what Mother’s Day is to me: social hypocrisy run amok. Mothers celebrated in memes, photos, videos, song, through gifts, cards, brunches… and then left to clean up the mess made by the party.

Flora hates is—hates it—when I acknowledge that parenthood, motherhood is hard. I get her. When I first became a mother, and my  mother offered me support and respite care for my littles, saying, “I know how hard it is,” I hated and resented it—her—too. She’d say, “I know it’s hard, you need a break,” and I’d hear, “It was hard to have you, it was hard to your mother.” And then, I’d think, “She wishes she hadn’t had me, what the fuck.”

I do not regret having my babies. I would—hard as it has been—do it all over again, only maybe… sooner. Even closer together. I do not regret the sleepless nights, sore nipples, temper tantrums—and while I wish I could have just the happy, proud moments without the weeks in  hospital for Flora, the holes in the wall from Cinder, the three years of not being able to walk after Ender, the almost daily, paralyzing “Am I enough? Am I doing the right thing?” anxiety I have for all three of them—those dark moments are the price of the good ones, the cost of admission to this not-so-secret club.

I don’t regret motherhood, I don’t regret my babies—one of whom is now twice my size, two of whom now have bigger feet than I do, and one of whom is already smarter and more insightful than I ever was.

(Yes, I’m talking about you and your scary big brain, Flora. No, I’m not saying your brothers are dumb, why would you go there? I’m saying that I can still outthink them. I haven’t been able to outthink you since you’ve been seven.)

I don’t regret, not any of it. I’d do it all, all over again—yes, my darling girl, even if I knew ahead of time what 2018, 2019… and the first weeks of 2020 would bring. Without a moment’s hesitation.

But I wish someone had told me how hard it was really going to be. And that it wasn’t going to be hard for a year or three or ten—but forever.

Wait.

My mother tried to tell me. But I didn’t believe her, I wouldn’t listen…

Maternal love changes, everything. It must, of course: basic biology. It is pure evolution, the selfishness of genes in action.

And because it’s so basic, so big, so powerful, in a society that does not value the labours of motherhood and mothers themselves, but is happy to take advantage of them, maternal love fucks mothers over.

This is the part where Flora says, “See? You wish you didn’t have us!” And I scream, “No! I wish this goddamn culture, our schools, our workplaces, our medical system, every single one of our institutions didn’t simply assume that mothers would fill in all of their inadequacies. That mothers would pick up the slack wherever it exists, that mothers would make flawed systems and structures work—because that’s what they had to do to get their children through them.

This is what mothers do: whatever needs to be done.

(Look at this pandemic.)

Every single one of our modern social structures counts on—assumes—that it will be propped up by the unpaid labour of mothers.

(If you say, “But what about fathers?” or “But men also…” just stop, no. Today is not the day to discuss the glacial improvement in the de-gendering of childcare.)

Schools underfunded? It’s ok. Mothers will come in as classroom reading volunteers, lunch ladies, recess supervisors, organize bake sales and fundraisers for field trips and school computers.

Health care system overstrained? A nine-month wait list to get child to see the specialist, get a diagnosis, care, support? No problem. Mom will do all the things until then, quit her job, function as a 24/7 nurse, support worker, therapist.

No official day care supports by the governments or employers? Why bother? Mothers will find a solution, individually. They always do.

Suppose… just suppose, we didn’t?

Seriously, think about it, just for 30 seconds.

Suppose mothers stopped doing all the things. Getting shit done, problems solved.

Not for a day, the way most women, their tanks empty, sometimes do—individually, or, occasionally, in a 24-hour daily mass protest.

But for the long haul. Perhaps, forever.

Imagine. What would happen?

The world would come to an utter standstill—or descend into utter chaos.

But, don’t worry.

It’s not an experiment or social action that you will see. Because it would make our children suffer—and we will do anything, everything for our children.

The worst thing about this on-ground frontline work is that it leaves most mothers too exhausted to fight the macro battles. I am not much of an activist, and that’s in large part because after I do all the things that need to be done—and then do my work for money, and then carve out slivers of time to do my work for love—then there are more things that need to be done, and cooking and housework and a crying child, a sick child, a frustrated child—I don’t have the energy to change systems, affect policies.

I am, very, very grateful to the people who do. But, too often, the fights they fight and the priorities they agitate for—they don’t reflect the reality of what I live. And me? I don’t have the bandwidth left to fill out the five minute online survey through which they try to find out what I really need.

So I’ll tell you today, ok?

I need a school system that isn’t driven by my unpaid labour. (I speak here as a homeschooling parent responsible for 100 per cent of her children’s education until high school—and appalled by the increase in my “schooling’ workload when my teenagers when to “real” school. Without parents’ labour, schools would not function. Is this fair to working parents, working mothers?)

I need a health care system that isn’t propped up by my unpaid labour. I won’t go into the details; I can’t right now. But if you’ve had a sick child—you know.

I need workplace cultures—and employment laws—that don’t penalize me for having family responsibilities. And that don’t assume my unpaid emotional labour and my integrity/ambition/determination will get the job done, no matter what obstacles are placed in my way.

I need reliable safe, and affordable childcare options that take the reality of workplace demands into account.

Most of all, I need a culture that doesn’t actively penalize me, judge me, despise me for not sacrificing all of me on the altar of motherhood.

Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed, and unaggressive.

Leslie McIntyre

I realize… I’m not going to get any of that, not in my motherhood journey anyway—Cinder is 18 this year, Flora 15, and my baby 10.5.

Sadly, though, I don’t think Flora’s going to get it either.

Flora: And that’s one of the reasons I just want to cut out my uterus now.

I remember my first Mother’s Day as a mother and what an amazing, amazing, incredibly joyous feeling that was.

These days, the feelings around Mother’s Day—and motherhood—are much more… complex.

I am very grateful for the tokens of love and appreciation from my children and their dad—who, in this fucked up patriarchal culture, does his best to lighten my load (but the solutions, people aren’t individual—they must be systemic!).

But I also think about all the challenges and frustrations of this path, and I also think about how I’ve experienced these challenges from a place of utter privilege. I’m overeducated (and white), and even when I think I’m poor, my line of credit (which is the result of my economic, educational, and social privilege) ensures my house security and food security are never threatened). I have an extended family to support me (thank you, Mom and Dad). I have a feminist partner and co-parent (I appreciate you a lot, Sean). I have friends who will pitch in with free childcare and meal deliveries when the world goes black (I love you very much, Paola, Dorrie, Valerie, Cathy, Lisa).

And with all of that… it’s rarely been easy.

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mamas. To my mama.

To me.

It’s too late for us, really, but do you think we can make the path easier for Flora’s hypothetical grandchildren?

Flora: I keep on telling you…

Jane: I said hypothetical!

Can we?

😦

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary: Alberta reopens for petrosexuals’ golfing pleasure

I don’t golf, so nothing in my life changed this weekend—you did hear that Alberta re-opened golf-courses on Saturday as part of its economic restart? That’s Alberta to me, in one action: who are we going to pander to? The rich! When are we going to do it? Now, now, now—they’re not so good at delayed gratification, and they need their golf courses open now.

I’m being unfair. Of all the social activities that can be done together and yet six feet apart—so long as you don’t share a golf cart, cause I’m yet to meet a golfer who shares golf clubs—golf is atop of the list.

Still. The optics fit in well with the priorities of the Alberta government.

My precious coffee shops, sheesha lounges and bookstores—also, my hairstylist, dear god, do y’all need a haircut as badly as I do?—may re-open as early as mid-May as part of a “safely staged” recovery plan through which, the politicians and pundits inform me, the world will slowly but surely go back to the way it was. Except, of course, it won’t, because, actually, we don’t really know what we’re doing and we don’t really know what’s next, and it’s all guess work, and uncertainty is hard—could we, at least, golf while the rest of you are sorting it out?

When I say “we” don’t know what’s going on and what’s coming, I mean, all of us. Everyone. From the people in charge all the way down to you and me. We’re all trying to sort fact from fantasy, best practices from delusions, whether we’re doing the sorting in our newsfeeds or during high-level briefings with epidemiologists and economists.

Do the epidemiologists and economists know what’s coming? I don’t know. I am, as you know, a borderline pandemic denier—or, to put it more fairly, I totally think there’s a pandemic happening but, frankly, it’s not deadly enough. There are too many of us and if 10 per cent of us disappear tomorrow, Mother Earth will throw a little party and then turn her attention to designing another plague that will clean house even more effectively.

Still, the part of me that recognizes the binding force of my social contract with you is staying home, wearing a mask to the grocery store, and limiting my mammalian social contact interactions to my small, safe covid cohort, and to walks—six feet apart—along with river with a handful of friends.

Having done that for—I’ve lost count, more than 40, fewer than 60—days, I’d rather do it for two, four more weeks than rush out to golf, shop, dance… and have to do it all over again, for another 60 days or more, through July and August.

I am, of course, neither an economist nor an epidemiologist, and most of the numbers about the pandemic’s infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates as well as its impact on the local and global economy make about as much sense to me as Donald Trump’s press conferences. But, from my layperson’s, mathematically impaired point of view, the world economy got such a profound kick in the gonads that two weeks more, two weeks less is not going to make much of a difference to its recovery. And Alberta’s economy, given the petrosexual fixations of its premier and ruling class, is going to recover never. So, really—wait! I figured it out!

Alberta’s economy is going to recover never—so we might as well golf now. Right? Suddenly, it all makes sense.

I don’t golf, so I didn’t golf yesterday and I won’t be golfing on Monday, but I don’t begrudge those who will be. Enjoy. Caress those golf clubs, breathe that fresh air, club those balls hard—soothe your aching petrosexual heart on the manicured, human-made unnatural landscape of the province that you so dearly love. I’ll be outdoors too, soothing my unpetrosexual heart in my own way, and not thinking about how you’ve fucked over the economy of the province I try to so hard to love.

I won’t be rushing out to do all the things on May 14th either though. I’d rather give up two, or four, more weeks of coffee shops and sheesha, art galleries and hairdressers—First World Whines, people, from us the so-very over-privileged, would the people with real problems please make us shut up?—and let others conduct the community transmission experiment.

You, however, should go out and do all the things, and maybe lick some door handles while you’re at it.

My experiment requires it.

Pandemic Diary: You’re losing time, but don’t worry, I’m on it

Today is my name day—it’s a Slavic-Catholic celebration, like a birthday but you share it with everyone in the world who shares your name. In three days, Sean and I are to mark our 20th wedding anniversary. Then Mother’s Day. My 46th birthday. Cinder’s 18th. All in Quarantine?

I don’t suppose it really matters that much….

When Flora got sick and life stopped, my biggest, most selfish fight and frustration was with time. I had so little time already, you see, I had already given up so much time to children, to motherhood. I was, just, finally, reclaiming some—I did not want to lose another minute, never mind another year, five, ten to this monster disease, I could not afford to, I was running out of time…

So when you tell me, cranky and pouty, that you will never that this time—this spring, this summer—back, I understand. I have lost summers, lost years. I don’t remember much from 2009 and 2010, and the second half of 2013 and all of 2014 are just a soggy blurr.

I understand your frustration, truly. But this time, I don’t share it, and I’m not sure if it’s because I finally have perspective—or I’m mourned out. What is a summer when you’ve been struggling to accept the loss of…

But. I understand it will be hard, and harder for you than for me.

Let me reiterate, again: I am not celebrating this period and all of its “silverlinings” (bar one) can take themselves where the sun don’t shine. I want “normal” back too. I miss my coffee shops, sheesha lounges, the library. And dancing.

But time, time, time… I don’t feel I’m losing time.

And I think it’s because I’m still working. I’m teaching and I’m writing, I’m putting words down on paper, transcribing them into Word and Scrivener, crossing out, deleting, revising. I’m publishing pandemic blog posts and sticking to my modified release/publication schedule, more or less… I’m working, I’ writing, my anchor is intact, and so, time… I am still mistress of this time.

It’s not getting away from me: I’m capturing it on paper.

You are working too. But your work is the things you do to earn money so that you cn do the things that you love, and it is these things that anchor you to life. And you cannot do those things now; your anchors are gone. And so, time is slipping away, lost.

I often envy you your relationship with your work. You are good at it, you enjoy it—or at least, don’t dislike it. But it does not define you. Take it away, and you would still be you—and you’d find some other way to finance your life, your passions, your desires.

I am my work in a way several therapists now have insisted is unhealthy (I’ve fired them all, passionless assholes who don’t understand vocation and artists) and so long as I can work, all is ok, and when I can’t, the world ends.

I am working this spring and summer. I am making words tell stories. I’ll record this quarantine Name Day and the quarantine birthdays. I will tell your story too, so you’ll have some record of your lost summer, so it won’t be a lost summer, a lost year.

Deal?

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Evil thoughts on Day 40+ of the Cuarentana

i.

It’s been more than 40 days in cuarentana—which means, by the way, 40 days, remember your high school French, Spanish, Latin? And I’m lying in the sun on my balcony listening to the cacophony of birds singing, dogs fighting, kids gaming and I’m thinking I’ll probably skip the Zoom seminar on Instagram Ads for authors I’ have scheduled for today and just sit in the sun and drink coffee and then smoke a cigar and maybe write in the afternoon but maybe not and maybe go for a walk in the sun, with or without dogs, with or without children, and maybe stand on a bridge over our swelling river and play Pooh sticks with Ender or maybe, not leave the balcony at all today—tell the kids to walk the dogs and just chill in the stillness.

Today, I exist and the stillness is welcome.

ii.

My back has throbbed with the pain of a decade ago for about a week now. Why? Well, plague and locusts, really—I’m not seeing the motherfucking sadist who saved my life back then and who keeps me walking now, and also, I’m drinking too much and the sugars in the alcohol feed the inflammation of the root disease, also, first bike ride of the season with Ender on a bike too big for me, and also, frankly, stress, low-grade level buzzing anxiety, everything is inter-related.

The pain, while not awesome in and of itself, is worst because of the memories it brings, feelings forgotten but not expunged.

I suffer, I medicate, I push through—I get help.

And I think about all the different definitions of essential.

My daughter’s medical and psychiatric care is not considered essential. Neither is alleviating the pain that prevents me from being able to stand in the kitchen long enough to prepare supper: I peel potatoes supine on the floor.

But I suppose if one of us broke a leg…

Quarantine thoughts, first world whines.

iii.

Alberta’s rural un-elite decide to join their American half-wit brethren in protesting “lockdowns” as an infringement of their civil liberties Never mind that we’re not in lockdown here, never mind that they live in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere, where physical distancing is just the way life is anyway.

It would be funny it if weren’t so sad, and I’d mock them if I didn’t actually understand their frustrations. There wasn’t that much going in Little Town on the Prairie anyway, and now the government has ordered the closure of their one bar and playground and told people not to visit their neighbours? And why? Because a thousand people in Calgary have a cold?

I get the thinking. Totally. Still. An evil part of me wants to expose myself to the coronavrius and, coughing and snotty, attend their lockdown protests and sneeze and cough on everyone. Then, I think we should up the ante—proactively organize, say, some white supremacist rallies, and then release the infected among them….

Quarantine thoughts. Shut up. I won’t do it. The virus ain’t lethal enough, for one, for two, I just think evil things a lot. I do them only rarely.

iv.

I don’t think I will do much today. Walk the dogs, feed the kids, read a book. Coffee, cigar. Bath? Right now, in the sun, on the balcony, that seems like too much effort, involves climbing of stairs, running of water. Today is a don’t do very much day, move slowly—or not at all—day. Listen to the pain day. Think the thoughts—but don’t act on them—day.

Sit in the sun day.

Be still in the Quarantine day.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: You can take your silverlining and shove it where the sun don’t shine

i

On Saturday, Sean and I decide to head to Costco, because—fuck, I don’t know. Because, I have a ton of marking to do and I need a break, because he needs to study for a test and doesn’t want to, because we are out of dog food, because the seal on the toilet is broken and one of us needs to go to Home Depot, because we need to pick up a new headset at Memory Express (fuck yes, that’s an essential when you’re two working from home and three learning from home, and everyone socializing in Skype, and why are you such a judgement fuck anyway?), because it’s rainy and dreary and we want to get out of the house, and so, Costco?

Costco is my personal hell. At the very least, purgatory. But the card is mine—well, actually—nevermind, I’m not gonna go into that—and I have to go and Sean needs to get out of the house. So.

Costco.

In the car, I do the thing. Half-a-dozen texts:

“We’re going to Costco. Do you need anything?”

The orders roll in.

“A large dog bed? If it fits in your car?”

“Parmagianno regianno, it’s $27.”

“Not sure if they have it, but elderflower tonic water.”

“maybe a bag of lemons”

My dad:

“Call Mom and ask her.”

(She’s sleeping after watching people die all night; I don’t.)

I report our neighbours’ requests to Sean. Then,

Jane: Lamest apocalypse ever. I mean. Parmagianno regioanno, lemons, a dog bed, and elderflower tonic water? Look at us all suffer.

Sean: Don’t forget the wax seal for our toilet. We genuinely need that.

We do. Our bathroom smells like the men’s washroom in a London tube station or a Warsaw nightclub.

Costco.

Jane: There’s a line. Let’s not go.

Sean: It might not be that big, and it’s probably moving pretty fast.

Jane: I’m not standing in line to go to Costco.

We park—the parking lot is half empty, which is a sight I have never, ever seen in my entire life. Go near the doors.

The physical-distance respecting line goes on forever.

The people leaving the store have hardly anything in their carts.

Sean: It doesn’t look that bad.

Jane: No fucking way.

I’m framing it as a fight. It wasn’t. He wasn’t going to make me stand in the line. But. If he had been alone, he probably would have.

What else is there to do?

Study. Mark. Clean.

I text all the people:

“Mission Costco aborted. Line up.”

We do stand in line to get into Home Depot. Because, disgusting toilet.

Sean makes us wear masks.

Ok, not makes. Just. You know. Gently insists that this is a recommendation we should follow.

I take a selfie of us in them, at least in part to irritate him. Because line, face mask, all of this non-normality.

Home Depot. Don’t touch anything you don’t need to. Wax seal. While we’re here—curtain rod and light fixture for my “new” studio space, which I buy resentfully, because it’s an acceptance of the new normal lasting into next semester.

Bag of potting soil for Sean’s mom, because, life goes on.

Dog food.

Not at Home Depot. Another stop. I stay in the car.

Sean: Safeway?

Jane: Sushi?

Home, he fixes the toilet. I mark. Order sushi.

Think about never, ever going to Costco again.

That would not be so bad, that would actually be perfectly, incredibly marvellous.

Silverlining?

ii

Sunday, you offer, as a reward for my finished marking, a not-physically distanced walk by the river. It’s a glorious sunny day, and half of Memorial and the lower part of Centre Street Bridge is closed to cars and open to pedestrians to encourage sanity, exercise, and physical distancing. I want to walk under Centre Street Bridge—when else will we get a chance to do that?

“Silverlining,” you say, voice a little bitter.

You’re not ok.

There is, of course, nothing strange about that. Nobody is ok, nobody’s in a good mood—except, maybe, for the occasional kid whose parents have failed to imbue with their own anxiety (Good on you, those parents). But on this glorious sunny Sunday, you really are not ok. You rant and rave and use words like hoax and conspiracy. I hear the frustration. I have no desire to argue or convince, nor the ability to reassure. I’ve had the same thoughts, spoken the same words to you. It’s part of our processing.

But on this Sunday, to be perfectly honest, in this sunny moment, I don’t even want to listen.

I change the subject. You let me. We talk about other things.

This walk is a happy moment. The time we spend sitting in the sun overlooking the water under the arches of the Centre Street bridge—the happiest part of a long, long happy moment.

But the shadow is always present.

My grandparents all lived through six years of war—crisis, stress, fear, death, destruction. I know they had happy moments in the midst of all that too.

But always, the shadow.

And it stayed for years, decades after.

iii.

It’s Monday. I am heavy-headed and heavy-bodied. Soon, I will start moving, tend to my tasks. Or have a nap on the balcony—the sun is out today again and it seems to me it should be a laze-about sort of day, I worked so hard on the weekend, except, still, so much to do…

Ok. One or two critical things to do, maybe four. I don’t want to do any of them.

Dog needs a walk, Ender wants to play in puddles, everyone needs to eat, those proofs still scowl at me from the corner of my desk, and the clock is ticking.

This is not a happy moment but it does not have to be an unhappy one.

Still.

It’s a moment of not right, not ok, not normal.

I get moving; do all the things in the shadow.

Don’t go to Costco.

Silverlining?

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Even if we don’t exist, let’s pretend that we do

i

Week 4—or do I mean 5?—of the Quarantine and time has lost all meaning.

I joke, kinda, sorta. Time still is, an there are still many of the usual anchors to each day and week. Walk the dogs, feed the kids, Write, rest, read, write. Taco Tuesday on Wednesdays, and, of course, Laundry Monday. Do laundry, put away laundry, wish laundry wasn’t a thing—why did humans ever leave the climates and landscapes where we could just roam naked?

The kids are fine. Maybe a bit bored, but this kind of boredom is no bad thing for kids—or teenagers.

Or, for that matter, adults, I suppose. Intermittently, I wish I were bored.

Sean is probably not fine. He’s being reminded that working alone in our basement is not particularly good for his mental health. But working upstairs amongst the noise and comings and goings of dogs, children, and meals is not good for his focus. But c’est la vie, what are the options?

Me, I’m wishing I were bored, but when I stop doing things, I find myself pondering whether I exist. At the moment, I’m fairly certain I’m a figment of a virus’s imagination.

Ok, I exist. But why? To feed the kids, walk the dogs, do laundry?

I get on Zoom and teach my final class of the semester, training a new generation of bodies for an industry about whose future I am, at best, ambivalent.

I look at the stack of proofs on my desk—the clock is ticking, I must get to these. OMG, I don’t want to, I don’t exist, and even if I do, what’s the point?

ii

People die last week. A friend’s elderly father, also, a friend about my age, whom I haven’t seen or heard from in more than a decade. Neither from COVID-19 related respiratory complications. This plague that’s shrinking our physical world is not the only—not the most effective—tool of the Grim Reaper. True thing: 100 per cent of the all people alive today will die. The end result of all life is death, so what’s the point?

Ender: Mom? Are you making me that cheese tortilla?

iii

I’m not really unhappy. Still unplugged from Facebook and Twitter, happily too old for Tick Tok and SnapChat. (In my email: a free on-line webinar, “Tik Tok for Authors.” No thanks. Unsubscribe, delete.) I turn down invitations to virtual house parties, Zoom chats with people I didn’t bother to meet with for drinks or coffee over the past year, and shared movie nights. I am in Cuba, in a remote cottage by a lake on the Canadian Shield, and I want to have silence, stillness, not this frenetic rush to replace the real with the virtual.

Stillness.

I am very still and I look at the fact and purpose of my existence, and I wonder if I exist.

iv

Ok, I exist. And the purpose of my life is, simply, to live it, and maybe make this messy world around me a little more interesting, more beautiful… less bewildering? (I don’t say “better,” because, well, insipid, and who determines that, anyway?).

And these children.

Jane: Seriously? Another tortilla?

Ender: Or pickle sandwich?

Last weekend, I teach a workshop about journaling into fiction and I reassure frustrated writers that angst, non-productivity, frustration right now are all normal. You don’t have to write the Decameron or King Lear right now, I tell them. Just live your days. Document the moments. Play with words. Read and watch brain candy. Try to be or with being still with  non-action.

You still exist.

I still exist.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Easter has been cancelled; apologies

It’s Good Friday, and Easter has been cancelled.

That’s right, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, enbies of all ages—2020 is so shitty, Jesus is staying dead this year. The Resurrection has been cancelled. I repeat, the Resurrection…

Flora: It’s like you want to go to all the hells.

No, no. I want to live, mostly, I promise, on this messed up Earth. A part of me, by the way, is utterly enjoying this unexpected Rapture. The people in my city, unable to distinguish between safety directives issued for New York City, Rome and London from those issued for our piece of spacious Viking Hell, are locked down in their houses, and the rest of us get to roam the empty streets—six feet apart from strangers. At least when the sun comes out in Viking Hell, which happened yesterday. Bliss.

Yes, I’m rambling, and trying to distract you from my blasphemy. The Resurrection is cancelled, we’re living in the time of the Rapture—and we’ve all been left behind and here comes the first major Christian holiday during the time of corona—I’m not counting the infectious Florida Spring Break—how’s that going to go?

Passover began a couple of days ago, and my Persian friends celebrated Nowruz—the Persian New Year and celebration of spring, rebirth, renewal—at Equinox—at the height of the outbreak of the pandemic in Iran—and Ramadan this year starts, I think, on April 24—but North America still cycles around the Christian calendar holy days, and so, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, long weekend, and, my kids are about to have their first-ever Easter without an Easter Egg Hunt at Grandma’s.

First world whine, rich people “suffering” in the time of the pandemic. You don’t have to say it—the unspeakable privilege of every single one of our complaints smacks me upside the face before I even say it. I will never complain about my comparative poverty again. The global economy is disintegrating around me, and I have food security, house security, and a job.

Privileged.

And my kids aren’t going to get their Easter Egg Hunt with Grandma and boo-hoo—you know what? That still fucking sucks.

It sucks.

And it’s ok to be upset about it.

Holy days are peculiar times for atheists, recovering (insert the religion of our childhood here), and secular cynical types. They have no intrinsic meaning—while I’m fairly sure the Crucifixion is fact, the Resurrection and the edifice built on it, not so much—but. Family, food, ritual, tradition.

The Easter Egg Hunt.

I don’t remember the Easter Egg Hunt being a part of my childhood, but then, I grew up in a time and places where neither eggs nor chocolate were often available never mind plentiful and I’m pretty sure chocolate eggs weren’t even a thing. I do remember sugar lambs of God, though, and, as I write, I wonder if I should get them for my kids this year but no, it’s too late, the Polish butcher, even if still allowed to operate, will not be open today because, Good Friday, a holy day.

But my mom organized Cinder’s first Easter Egg Hunt when he was 10 months old and—he’ll be 18 this May—and he hasn’t missed one yet. Now, six grandchildren—two of them giant teenagers—scatter around her house and garden, looking for the dozens and dozens of chocolate eggs she spends the morning secreting away. There’s always a handful of highly prized Kinder eggs among them, and Grandma goes all Communist with these, telling the grandkids that there are three—or six—Kinder eggs each, and to make sure the littlest grandkids get their fair share.

Most prized of all—especially by the teenagers—are the plastic eggs filled with loonies…

No Easter Egg Hunt in Grandma’s garden this year. No Easter Egg Hunt with their neighbours in the Common.

Tomorrow, I will boil a dozen eggs and, after they cool, we will paint them. And I will teach them, as I do each year, how to say, “Wesołego Jajka,” and they will laugh and laugh at the “Happy Egg” holiday greeting. And on Sunday morning, Sean will hide all the chocolate eggs he bought for them around our small townhouse, and Ender will look for them all asking half a dozen times if not more why we’re not going Easter at Grandma’s house this year, and Cinder and Flora will forget that they are teenagers and look for eggs too. And we will eat a decadent breakfast, and then maybe go for a walk on the car-free street now converted for ped-use.

Play a board game.

It will be a good day, a pleasant family day.

But there will be no Easter Egg Hunt at Grandma’s and so, Resurrection is cancelled.

Sorry, Jesus.

;P

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: On Day 23, like cabin fever but not

i.

As we finish week three and start week four of staying at home, I desperately need the sun to come out so that I can have my balcony available and so that my walks with the dogs are a pleasure and not a slog through a Viking Hell deepfreeze.

And then, I need a plan and routine for the next four weeks. That’s today’s task—to draw up routines, rhythms, and schedules.

I probably won’t follow them. But I like knowing that they’re there, and the very act of preparing them soothes me.

My to-do-list right now is substantial. I have outstanding marking and learning. Also, so much copy-editing, I can’t even. A set of galleys that should have been proofed yesterday. Also, taxes—thank you for the extension, Revenue Canada, but now I’m worried I’m going to do my taxes never—don’t you understand? I’m a freelance writer, I need deadlines!

And I also need the sun. I already said that.

And my alone time on the balcony.

ii.

I the evening, when the children are fed and I feel my tasks are in some kind of state of adequately pushed forward (or, I’ve accepted I will not get to them not today, I don’t want to), I begin the Covid19 Quarantine check-in on friends. I send some texts; as I do this, texts from others come in.

Some of my friends and loves don’t participate in this dance of connection and reassurance. They neither reinitiate nor respond. I check the news to make sure a 36-year-old mother of two is not among the dead. Nope, not this week. Good. I let them be.

You think I’m joking and I am, a little. But, after all, that is the purpose of our boring as all fuck texts. “I’m still here and me and mine are fine. You and yours?” “We’re here too.” We don’t use those precise words. “How are you holding up?” is probably my phrase of choice, although sometimes, I’ll just send, “Checking in…” or “Oooof.”

Sometimes, worded out, I send a link to a Youtube video, get a meme in return.

One of my loves has chosen to interpret self-isolation as a totally inward time—even by my standards—and there are no texts at all. Coping strategy, depression, or a self-created retreat in the middle of global chaos? Hard to know. Uncertainty makes all of us a little irrational. I try not to feel rejected—but, I do.

iii.

Another friend feels rejected because I’m unplugged from Facebook. “I miss your posts! I miss chatting!” she writes. I point out we still can. Privately. But we never have before—and, she doesn’t miss me enough to do that. Yet. She also feels rejected.

It’s all right. Weird times.

We are none of us rational.

iv.

Irrational, I extend my stay in bed  mostly because there is no one in the room with me.

Ponder silence. Isolation. Loneliness. Neither alone nor lonely, I am starting to feel disconnected. I need to hold your hand and hear her voice and see their face—and not as an image on my laptop screen.

I think—if I had spent three, four weeks—months—away from you in Cuba—I wouldn’t miss you. Not like this.

Irrational.

I yawn. Stretch.

Begin Week 4 by dragging myself out of bed.

Um. In another 15 minutes or so…

God, I need the sun to come out…

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: From one sanctimonious prick on a self-righteous soapbox to another

(not in any way an April’s Fool Day joke)
(not that it’s in the least bit funny)
(except for the video at the end)

i.

When all this started, one of my people called me a coronavirus denier. And perhaps I still am—not in the sense that I don’t think it’s real, but in the sense that I don’t understand numbers. I don’t understand the math, and at the moment, the cost of the solution—not just personally to me but, you know, globally, economically—is a bit… um… well. It’s a fucking high cost. Is it worth it?

Still. I do what I’m told. Stay home. Don’t touch things, don’t touch my face, don’t see my loves.

Talking to people who love people in Spain and Italy helps make it real.

Hearing the fear in my mother’s voice—she’s on the frontlines after all—makes it real too.

And my own inability to really comprehend what’s going on is keeping me humble… making me humble.

And that’s good.

The last thing the world needs right now is another sanctimonious prick pontificating from a self-righteous soapbox.

ii.

Child abuse and domestic violence rates are soaring, in Alberta, Canada, around the world—a fact that doesn’t need any explaining. For my children—even the two teenagers—this quarantine has been, so far, paradise.

(I know we’re not in quarantine, you sanctimonious prick pontificating from your self-righteous soapbox. The infected nursing homes are under quarantine. The uninfected ones are in lockdown. Returning travellers and people with even sniffles are in self-isolation. The rest of us are in an undefined limbo; might as well call it quarantine—don’t be a fucking pendant—I know it’s your way of dealing with the stress just as me yelling at you is mine, but come on. Polish some silverware or organize your stamp collection instead, please and thank you, fuck the fuck off.)

(You should actually all be very glad I’m in quarantine, by the way, and you can’t see me, cause I am hugely pissy this week. Also, trapped in paradise with my children…)

Ok, maybe paradise is too strong a word. I imagine Flora looking at me and rolling her eyes and giving me a list of all the things that suck in her life right now: no friends, no martial arts, no D&D games at the ‘Box. Nowhere to go, no one to see. But, from my unreliable point of view, her mental health is better than it has been in months, physical health ditto. She loves having her Dad at home—does her school work curled up in an armchair beside his makeshift home office. She’s finally getting enough rest—no guilt now about the mid-day two-hour naps her illness and med cocktail demand. The forced confinement has eliminated a lot of stressors—including, frankly, all the medical appointments. Necessary, but stressful and now—apparently, not that necessary, Mom and Dad can do all the things, cause, really, weren’t they doing 90 per cent of them before anyway?

(Not bitter, at all, but kind of wondering… at the end of this crisis, are we going to recognize what it is that parents, mothers actually do? As in, make the fucking world the go round? It’s ok, chill, I’m not getting on a soapbox—don’t want to be that sanctimonious prick.)

Anyway. A lot of the stressors are eliminated, and while so is her IRL social life—there are friends of Skype and group chats galore and a worldwide D&D community.

(If I were that sanctimonious prick who gets on that self-righteous soapbox—and, by the way, I know I was in the past, I am truly sorry—I’d tell today’s accidental homeschooling parents that now is not the time to limit your kids social media, for any reason. Stress on social. And before you do—whether as a punishment or in an attempt to get them to go outside—fuck, bitch, did you look outside and see the weather, why do you hate us, Mother Earth? never mind, don’t answer that, I know, sorry, sorry, sorry, really, you should just wipe us out and be done with it—look at how much texting, Facebooking, Zooming, Skyping and what-not you’re doing.)

In the kids’ paradise, we have been playing board games or card games almost every night—not all night, but for an hour or two. And it’s been a while since I’ve been able to make the five of us do something, anything together for a prolonged period of time. (That seven-year spread between kid one and kid three matters a lot in the teen years.) A while since I’ve particularly wanted to or had the energy to contrive anything difficult, fight the teenagers on anything non-life essential. Now, I put dinner on the table two or three times a week (come on, you didn’t think even a quarantine would make me do sit-down family dinners every night?) and, despite the fact that we’ve been cooped up in the house together all day, everyone sits down. Talks. Fights.

Plays games after.

Sean and the redheads watch movies together. Cinder comes out of his room to bother everyone… show us COVID19 memes and terrible, terrible jokes.

We walk the dogs, I make banana bread, Cinder makes cookies, Flora learns how to make cocktails (don’t tell Child Services).

Boring as all fuck, yes. It’s really all the kids need.

iii.

What do I need? At the moment, I still need more space and time. There is still too much to do. The second half of April will bring respite; what May will bring, nobody dares think.

What all of us need, though—the global we, not just my familial we—is the… ability? Permission? to see the current situation as fucking weird, not normal, unwelcome, frustrating—even as we do the best we can, and discover the occasional silver lining in this most unheroic, underwhelming suffering.

As I ponder the not-formal and fucking frustrating aspects of our current situation, I have a brief texting exchange with an acquaintance who is determined to look on the bright side of everything, including the corona quarantine. If I am—was—a coronavirus denier, she is a negativity denier. You’ve got a friend (or six) like that too, I’m sure. “Positive vibes only,” “When life hands you a lemon ask for another one, and make lemonade” types.

She is still living her best life, enjoying the ability to slow down and reflect on what’s really important to her, incredible period of self-growth bla bla bla bla bla—I terminate our exchange quickly.

“I’m glad that you are finding this such a wonderful time of personal growth. I’m gonna stay with the fear I have for my mother and my longing for more privacy and my wish for real time with my students and my painful desire for my loves. I prefer to feel all the things, you know?”

(This, by the way, is a lie—at many times over the past 15 months, I’ve wished to feel none of the things, and oh-god, no more pain, please but the “positive vibes only” people bring out my inner bitch with almost as much force as the sanctimonious pricks on soapboxes do.)

She doesn’t write back; she won’t write me back for months, years, maybe ever. I’m not “positive vibes only,” so she can’t have me in her life.

I don’t mind.

She too is not what I need.

iv.

So what does this coronavirus denier need? I don’t know yet. I know I want you—do I need you? It turns out, probably not. Interesting, no?

Bu the other, that—the pain rises, acute. That, I think I need.

We will see.

Now. Excuse me. The children need… me.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS For all my cabin fever people:

Pandemic Diary: A pissy note to my friends who aren’t working

So this global pandemic sucks and nothing is normal and we’ve all got to be patient with each other and I apologize in advance that I’m about to totally lose my shit on you… but, like… I’m working.

A lot.

Online.

Learning new programs and things in real time.

Changing all my course specs.

Cancelling this and rescheduling that, and revising all the things.

With three children at home, one of whom is trying to finish high school, one of whom has health issues that are now 100 per cent on me and her dad, and one of whom, the most extroverted of the lot, is bouncing off the walls.

I do not suddenly have more time to self-actualize, attend your online yoga class, or go to your virtual house party.

I realize that in week four, five or six or this—I might want to.

But right now? While you’re trying to “fill” time?

I’m barely staying on top of the things I have to do.

So fuck the fuck off, stop sending me “Here’s something we can do with all this time off!” invites, stop sending me “Did you get my email?” texts, and let me do my work.

Um.

I’m on edge, just a little.

Day 17 here. x

Not all of us are experiencing the constraints of the pandemic the same way. Nothing is normal and we’ve all got to be patient with each other and I apologize again for yelling at you … but, like… I’m working.

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary, or Suffering for the sake of covidiots; selfish like all the rest of them

I feel selfish because I want to see one of my loves and I want them to argue with me that this state-encouraged self-isolation and social distancing is not a  full-on lockdown and quarantine, and surely, we could go for a walk? Six feet apart, exquisite torture but better, better than insipid text exchanges of COVID-19 memes, news stories, and porn.

I feel selfish because their interpretation of what the health authorities want us to do is perfectly reasonable and is, in fact, what I’m doing with everyone else in my life, my mother—the ER nurse in direct touch with the pestilence daily—included.

But I want to make an exception here, and I want them to make an exception here, and they don’t and I feel selfish, unloved, unreasonable.

I feel particularly selfish—and unreasonable—when I see packs of covidiots breathing on each other in crowded public spaces. What’s the point I demand of myself, of this sacrifice of mine when those fucking idiots… because my sacrifices are not for me and mine. We are low risk, strong as bulls—when we get sick, we will survive this, perhaps not even notice that we are ill. The thing that will kill my most vulnerable child is not COVID-19, of this I am fairly certain.

I am not doing this for me and mine.

I am doing it for the vulnerable in the human herd, and for the health care workers like my mom.

When the herd shows me it doesn’t deserve to live, it’s hard to deprive myself of the people I love.

And what should be a very easy, no-brainer act of staying at home—and deriving pleasure and satisfaction from a phone conversation, a Skype date—becomes a chore, a grind.

A resentment.

The resentment festers, the desire festers.

And I feel selfish.

We all have things, habits, people that are easy to give up right now, and others the loss of which wounds. Me, I thought I’d miss coffee shops and sheesha lounges more. And I do miss them, a little. But not so much that I’ve gone to one since things started going weird here in early March.

But I miss my love and our time together and if they were willing, I’d break all the rules to see them, and not just six feet apart.

And that, ultimately, makes me no different from the covidiot wandering the aisles of the Home Depot where my dad still works (plumbing repairs are an essential service in the time of toilet paper hoarding), touching every single fucking pack of screws, and then rubbing his cheek, touching his nose.

I hate him.

I feel selfish.

I yearn.

I am grateful, I suppose, my love’s will is stronger than mine—no, I am not—why do they not miss me as I miss them?

I feel selfish.

I stay home anyway.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary: We’re all interconnected and I wish you’d all screw off and give me some privacy!

Day 12, 13 of the Apocalypse–sorry, I mean Quarantine–no, not that, because I don’t think we were actually sick with the ‘rona and now we will never know—Day 12… Day 13, actually of semi Self-Isolation—because can you really call it self-isolation if there are five of you isolating together?-Day 13 of semi-self-isolation, and OMFG, am I ever sick of people…

I like to argue that Jung and Freud were wrong about everything, and when I argue this with people, they usually throw Freud under the bus but defend Jung. The blond Nazi sympathizer from Bern—granted, they don’t usually use those precise words—had some penetrating insights. Synchronicity, for example. I demolish that one in two sentences.

Introverts and extroverts! they rally, certain they will be triumphant.

Sometimes, I argue that this division too is artificial—if not precisely a figment of Jung’s fecund mind, at the very least a gross oversimplification of what is a continuum not a Box A or Box B, 1 or 0 kinda switch.

But at Day 13 of the Apocalypse—er, Self-Isolation—I can tell you this: my love of parties, coffee shops, and sheesha lounges notwithstanding, I am so an introvert and I am sick to death of all you people.

(One probably should not use the “sick to death” metaphor during a global pandemic, hey? Note to self made for future posts.)

I’m not talking about my family—yet. (Although at Day 30, I plan to self-isolated myself in a hotel for a day, if hotels are still open… oh god, they won’t be, will they? I will pitch a tent in the backyard. Note to self, order a tent online while non-essential delivery services are still a thing. To all the mothers, active parents isolated with their fams: imagine, a day without having to talk to anyone or to tend to their moods or needs, OMFG, yes, yes, yes, bring it on…)

(There was a moment, a couple of days ago, when, as I neurotically pondered whether the tickle in my throat was a psychosomatic sore throat again or a genuine manifestation of covid19, I did have the thought that if the worst happened and I ended up in a hospital on a ventilator at least nobody would talk to me or ask me to feed them or explain shit to them, and if the price of that would eventually be death, fine, I’d take it.)

(But I digress. That really is another post.)

I’m not sick of my family yet (most of the time). What I mean is—I’m having more interactions with my various professional colleagues via Zoom and Microsoft Teams and the other wonders to technology and the internet than I did before the crisis. My students, whom I loved to see once or twice a week, are now constantly in my inbox or on my phone. People I haven’t heard from in months or years–everyone wants to reconnect and set up a Google Hangout, a Discord Channel, stream this that or the other, hold a Netflix party.

Enough already.

My Apocalypse requires more silence.

I unplug from Facebook and Twitter earlier in the week. My friends freak out. “Everything ok?” Well, no. Global pandemic, accompanied by a world economic crisis, my 68 year-old mother a fucking frontline worker in all this, much stress and anxiety, sick kid at home and all doctors’ appointments by phone for the foreseeable future—I need to process all of this in silence, away from your noise and memes.

Typical introvert response?

I don’ t know.

My response.

Online interactions with people have always exhausted me. I might even enjoy them in the moment—afterwards, my mind and heart feel the way my body might feel after scarfing down a bag of Doritos. They don’t sate my need for real people. And I’d like to make explicit here: I do, really, like in the flesh people. My friends, my lovers, my students.

My colleagues.

In small, digestible doses.

Face to face.

Six feet away is doable.

On screen, on phone 24/7?

I’ve never liked it; I fucking hate it now.

Day 13 of the Apo—um Isolation. My first “team” meeting starts at 11. Another at 5. Another at 7. In-between, phone calls and texts with students. And children, dogs, partner, supper, chores, an attempt to carve out silence, space for my work.

I hope it’s a warm, sunny day, so I can sit on the balcony for a while.

Alone.

I have a few introvert friends who are currently in solo self-isolation. They are not happy, they are getting lonely.

I have one uber-extroverted love who, after four days, was screaming into a cup.

I do realize that this weird-ass, so not-normal situation is different for the people who are physically totally alone than it is for those of us who are with our families.

I would, on the balance, much rather have this problem I’m living than that one. I may be an introvert—but I am also a social mammal.

Falling asleep to the sound and smell other beings is soothing, biologically necessary.

Still.

I do hope it’s a sunny day today and that I can sit on my balcony, alone.

For a while.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: What is my mission? What’s yours?

Before I unplugged from the world (Hi, World), a friend shared this video from Chris Hadfield with me.

Mr. Hadfield’s four pointers:

  1. Understand the actual risk.
  2. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your objectives? What is your mission for right now?
  3. What are your constraints?
  4. Take action: start doing things.

My childless friends plunge into debates about what their mission is. And, for me… It is such a ridiculous question, as a parent, is it not? My primary mission, for the next x weeks or months, is, as always, to keep my children safe, sane. Alive.

My bar on what that means has dropped a lot over the past 18 years–18 months. In isolation, my children will not be eating–because I will not be making–nutritionally optimized, free range organic beautifully presented meals, for one. For two, they will be spending a lot of time playing video games, watching YouTube and Skyping with friends–no screen time (or social media) restrictions for them. (Despite the rather strict screen time and social media restrictions I myself am following.)

And with all of that slackness, laxness, low bar–ensuring their well-being will take up a lot of my time. Most of my time. Ender’s 10 and acting, in most moments, as though he is four. Cinder’s about to turn 18–and what a time to enter adulthood, no?)–Flora’s still really sick (doctor’s appointments by phone for the  next few weeks, and how effective will that be? who will the actual medical support team be? Me, Sean.)

(Parenthetically, one of the reasons I had to unplug: listening to people whine about how they’re struggling to fill time was filling me with rage, and who needs more impotent rage now? I need to shepherd, focus, my energy.)

My secondary mission is, of course, my work. (And how it kills me that we all agree it’s my secondary mission and that, if I named it ahead of my family obligations, the world would end.) I am one of the lucky ones. I still have work–in some cases, more work, in all cases, more difficult work. The organizations that couldn’t afford to fly me for a workshop and were not interested in an online webinar all, suddenly, are experts in online class delivery.

Online teaching–and learning–is much harder than in-person teaching, by the way. There’s a reason we fork out large sums of money to be in a room with Julia Cameron, Michelle Obama, Cheryl Strayed. (Kevin McDonald.) So figuring out how to do it well is a key goal of this secondary mission for this accidental teacher.

My real work–the writing–is both unaffected and utterly hammered. There’s no real reason I can’t continue with the timelines I’ve set myself. And I expect I will… although my motivation to do that work is, to be frank, in the toilet.

Why does it matter, what is the point?

As I write, I realize the message I’m sending myself here is that my mission has not changed. And so, reflecting on this, I need to pause and reconsider. Is that fair and reasonable? Because, actually, everything has changed. For the first time in my kids’ lifetime, there is a global pandemic–and one that is affecting lives in every country around the world in a time of unprecedented global connectivity and communication. The attempt to control/respond to this global pandemic has altered many key aspects of our lives. It has shrunk our worlds to our houses–and the outdoors, for some of s still, so long as we keep away from other people venturing into the outdoors. And don’t touch anything.

This is not normal.

And doing normal, everyday things in a so-very-not normal environment–this is both necessary… and very hard.

Very, very hard.

So, the first thing that has to be done, I think–is to recognize that doing normal things right now–eating, shopping, working, sleeping–is hard.

Second thing: My primary mission is to shepherd my kids through this crisis, and its aftermath–with the awareness that nothing is normal. What is normal is the exacerbation of Ender’s clinginess, Cinder’s anger, Flora’s illness.

And for my secondary mission? Missions, really, because the teaching and the writing are two separate things, and while one makes the investment in the other possible, it doesn’t really fit into it seamlessly. Secondary missions… I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll let you know when March and April wrap up, and I deliver a cohort of students safely to the other side of the semester.

Right now, I’m just grateful there is still money flowing into my household independent of the government’s bailout package.

Not everyone is that lucky.

And that, I think, will be my tertiary mission–and perhaps yours, if you are lucky like me. Make sure that those who aren’t so lucky are getting help.

How are we going to do that?

Jane

 

Pandemic Diary: On the gentle art of inconveniencing yourself for the good of the herd…

draft one

I guess this is Day Nine in self-isolation, nine days since the five of us have really seen other people.

My mom came by to drop of soup yesterday, and we waved to each other from about 12 feet away. I saw neighbours while walking the dog, and we chatted for a while, standing in a triangle, six feet between us all.

Surreal.

Yesterday, today, my motivation to do much is pretty low. I mostly want to lie in bed and do nothing. Of course, I am sick. It’s probably not COVID19, just a sore throat, mild sniffles. But in this time, the least sniffle makes one—and the people around one—paranoid.

draft two

Morning of Day Nine in self-isolation. One of my loves got home last night and will not be spending the apocalypse away from her husband (and all of us!) in Colombia. Of course, we cannot see her for the next 14 days, and in 14 days, god knows what all this will look like. But I feel better knowing that she’s closer.

This is why this social distancing and self-isolating for the good of the herd is so fucking hard…

I put my Facebook and Twitter accounts on prolonged pause today. Not, actually, because of too much news. There’s been plenty of both necessary and good news in my feed: grants for artists, tools for online learning, free streaming concerts and conferences. I’m unplugging because the level of judgement people are throwing at each other in the face of this [adjective deleted] pandemic is sapping my will to do my part of flatten the curve.

I know why they’re doing it. They’re scared. They feel out of control. The things that most of them need to do to keep themselves safe(r) and to keep others safe(r)—and it’s this last thing that we’re doing, people—are so very… unheroic.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Don’t touch anything, actually.

Stay home.

Not hard, right?

Just… unheroic. An action that is an inaction, and we are so very bad at that. So, Inactive at home, we look at the people who aren’t at home (yet) and get self-righteous and indignant.

And vice-versa.

Frustrating.

On Day Nine of self-isolation, thanks to social media, I don’t miss people.

I can’t fucking stand them.

So.

Unplug.

Instead of opening Facebook or Twitter for my news, go straight to the CBC, Washington Post, and Guardian websites—but only later in the day, after I’ve done the day’s most essential tasks, and only for a little while.

Take the dogs for a walk. Feel the sunshine on my face.

Try to think life is worth living and protecting your life—you, stranger over there—is worth some inconvenience on my part.

(This is easier to do when you don’t act like a total ass. Hence—I’m unplugging.)

Text and call my friends, family. Interact with real people, not internet strangers.

Hello, Day 10. We can do this.

Jane

PS Can you still call it self-isolation when it’s five of your self-isolating together? Asking for a friend…

Pandemic Diary: A love letter to this tiny, messy, imperfect house

Pen. Paper. Coffee.

Dogs going crazy.

My little son on the computer. Living room turned into gym.

I love my house.

I really love my house.

It is a very imperfect house. It is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The windows have no 90 degree angles and rattle in the wind. The doors stop shutting—or refuse to open—at random times. The furnace overheats half the house and ignores the other half. The kitchen floor slopes, and the kitchen sink plumbing does not–we keep a special plunger under the sink and use it much, much too often. The toilet plugs up all the time too, and the wall between our bathroom and the neighbours bathroom might as well not be there.

There’s only one bathroom, too, and it’s on the third floor. Also, it’s, for Canada and North America in 2020, a very small house. One thousand square feet spread out over three poorly designed levels.

Also, it’s built on a flood plain.

Also, I love it.

 

I love the couch in the kitchen and the two punching bags (And no couch) in the living room. I love the word-search shower curtain in the bathroom (although I loved the Periodic Table one more) and the bookshelves filled with all the things, in all the rooms I love the overflowing Lego bin.

The messy spice drawer.

I love being in my house. I see so much of it as an extension of myself. It reflects me. My values. My life.

I don’t love cleaning it, and I do wish, much of the time, that it was cleaner. Also, emptier. More minimalist. But, really. Even when the kitchen’s a disaster and new life is sprouting in the bathroom—it has happened—I love it.

I change it up all the time too. Repurpose spices, move furniture around. Paint of decorate this wall, that door.

The house is an ongoing, eternal work in progress.

I remember when Sean and I bought our first house, just as Cinder was born—we expanded so much time, energy and money to get it “just right.” Two years later, there was a toddler who destroyed everything in sight and a new baby and a new work reality.

Three years later, we moved. To this very imperfect house.

Which we’ve never tried to get perfect.

But which we love, very much.

Right now, many people are spending more time at home than they usually do. If I dared give them advice, I’d say, reflect on how your house fits you. Now that you’re living in it 24 hours a day—is it your second skill? Or is it a hotel room you can’t wait to leave?

But I don’t dare give advice anymore, so I won’t.

Just this: #staythefuckhome.

Jane

Pandemic Diary: Navel-gazing in the time of corona

Flora says today is Day Six. I say, it’s still Day Zero. Day One will come when it’s official. When they say, “Lockdown.” What’s happening now, it’s like practice, a trial run. And, for a family that has homeschooled and worked from home most of their lives, the change is not so great.

The low-grade anxiety kind of sucks.

My incredible selfishness and existential despair suck. Try as I might, I cannot stop thinking that the loss of 15 per cent of the population, over 65 or otherwise, is no bad thing. If I made the rules? I’d let it burn. I’d let them die.

(My love says I’m being a hypocrite; I say this, but I would never act like this. That is why I love them. They think I am a much better person than I really am.)

At the same time. I’m really quite relieved that the people in charge of the world at the moment feel otherwise.

I think.

I think.

Tomorrow, I will deliver my first online lecture. I’m not really stressed about it. I’m pretty sure nothing will work as it ought to. And also, that my students won’t actually be able to focus or learn anything. To be frank, I see the purpose of the lecture to be purely psychosocial:

Hey I’m here. How are you doing?

Today, I will try to finish my marking. I will make meals and clean up puddles of dog pee. Ask Cinder if he’s done any school work (he won’t have). Wish Ender wasn’t so fucking clingy all of a sudden—why? why? why? Smile with relief when Flora connects with a worldwide online D&D gaming community.

Nothing has changed, not really.

This has changed:

I will find inexpressible relief in the fact that this new crisis is communal. Everyone is going through it. It is not my own personal hell.

#staythefuckhome

Jane

Pandemic Diary: Paradigm shift: choices, agency, uncertainty

I’m supposed to be marking, an assortment of business profiles and a couple of overdue entertainment reviews; also, re-grading some advertorials.

I’m also supposed to be incorporating beta-reader and development editor comments into novellas that are supposed to launch… like, way too soon.

And I’m supposed to… well, it’s a pretty long list. It usually is.

Instead, I’ve spent the last few days figuring out how to move the rest of my outstanding course on-line, and in-between, re-organizing spaces in my house.

It’s a very soothing task, reorganizing spaces.

Cinder joined me in this exercise today. The closure of his martial arts class and the Y affected him much more than the uncertainty over what’s happening with school. He examined the living room—crowded with Lego—and asked if it could be reorganized so that there’d be a clear work-out space for him.

Done.

In the process, we found a new storage solution for Ender’s nerf guns.

That child of an anti-gun mother, by the way, has way too many weapons. It’s ridiculous.

Flora’s been chilling and napping.

It’s kind of funny how the past four days seem… well, none of them seemed long individually.

We have been a work-at-home, homeschooling family all of our lives, really. The current two in high school, Sean with a full-time job, and me with out of house classes to teach two or three times a week thing is new.

So it’s not really like we’re home significantly more than we usually are.

And we’re not really stressed or anxious. Not really.

Ok, a little.

Because—media, and press conferences, and closures, and wah.

And also, uncertainty—how long will all of this last?

So. As we’ve been hearing—schools closed, campuses closed, libraries closed—I think we’ve all been struggling with the uncertainty of… for how long.

Funny thing about stress—if you know how long something awful will last, and you know that it will definitely end by a pre-determined time… it’s so much easier to endure, and plan for.

Anyway. Our home arrest, if that’s what it will come to, will not be significantly different than our regular life. For me, Cinder, and Ender anyway.

But there is a big psychological difference between spending a lot of time at home because you want to… and spending all your time at home because you have to.

Choice, and even the perception of choice, is a huge thing.

I choose to stay at home to do my part in containing the speed of the spread of the pandemic.

There. That wasn’t that hard, was it?

xoxo

Jane