Work, kids, sleep, repeat—but also, revel: Stripping life to essentials, again

i

I am waking up early these days. The new gig is like a new baby—threatening to take up all of my time with its demands. So I wake up before it does, and, wrapped in the pre-dawn darkness and my bath robe, do my morning pages, drink my coffee—very, very slowly—and give my time to my labours of love.

Then, work.

It’s still more of an intellectual, learning exercise—background knowledge, research, thoughts in my head rather than words on paper (or, to be more precise, the screen?). But thinking is physically exhausting—we don’t often appreciate that adequately.

By the time I log off for the day, I’m mentally and physically exhausted. Happy—but exhausted. Intellectually blunted—thinking is hard, decisions, even small ones, impossible.

On the days that I don’t have Ender or the kids coming over for supper, I have a bath as soon as I log off, then eat—force myself to take a walk, thank goodness for the dog—and crawl into bed with BritBox (currently binging Jonathan Creek and really loving how in British TV people are… people-like, both in appearance and character. Not caricatures, not photoshopped, botoxed stereotypes. The villains aren’t all evil and the victims and heroes aren’t flawless. Youth is as complex and painful as adulthood—children aren’t cherubs and the elderly aren’t necessarily wise. And old, wrinkly people fall in love, and nobody thinks it’s weird).

Up early, I crash early. And so, finally, here is a silver lining to the third wave of the pandemic—no FOMO, right? Nothing’s happening, nothing to do. You and I can go for a walk or sit on a patio sipping bear, but, you know, I have a patio of my own and I’m so sick of walking as a social activity—I might as well just go to bed.

I sleep deeply, nine to ten hours a night. I still don’t know if this is a sleep deficit from more than a decade ago when I had three kids under seven—or from 2019, when I just did not sleep—that my body is trying to make-up, or a response to the stress of the pandemic.

You complain of insomnia—I, as soon as I lie down in bed, fall into unconsciousness. It’s blissful. When dreams come, they’re weird as all fuck—so weird and surreal, they neither disturb me nor tempt me to hunt for hidden meaning, omens.

There are no nightmares.

I sleep deeply.

ii

I am not sure how to explain to friends what it is I’m doing for work at the moment. “I write” covers a multitude of sins, so I stick to that. Mostly, right now, I’m learning, and I’m reminded of the seductive power of a mid-life, late-life Master’s or PhD.

Learning a new discipline, a new language—and each discipline, industry, organization has its own language—is intoxicating.

This happens, in one of my classes at the Polytechnique last year:

Student: I can’t wait until I get my diploma and I can stop learning.

Jane: Oh, honey. You’ve just explained why I can’t seem to teach you anything. Can we do anything about that mindset, or should I just give you an F now and explain why you can’t ever ask me for a letter of recommendation?

At the moment, I’m working on teaching myself everything, about a new industry, new organization. New culture, new people.

It’s taking all of my juice.

I sleep deeply.

iii

As Ender comes to the end of what is either grade six or grade five—surely not yet grade seven—I can never remember rightly, and, really, what does it matter—we’re entering year three of what has essentially been the Minecraft and Youtube curriculum. Between Flora’s illness, COVID, the divorce—now my new job—what else could it have been?

I’m researching resources, books, games—Youtube channels—wanting to give him some more scope to explore this summer, and in the fall.

Ender: Why?

Jane: I just… I just want you to be learning more.

Ender: I’m learning all the time. And having fun.

Even seasoned unschoolers need this reminder once in a while.

I kiss him. Hold him close.

I sleep deeply.

xoxo

“Jane”

Study in yellows

nbtb-study in yellows

I.

Jane: When I have my next mid-life crisis, I’m totally getting a Vespa scooter.

Flora: What did you do the last time you had a mid-life crisis?

Cinder: The less said about that the better.

I kind of agree, but I whack him on the head with my purse (not full of rocks) anyway.

Cinder: But you know, you won’t. You’ll do the math, and you’ll go on a trip instead.

Yeah. Probably. But on my trip—I’m gonna ride a Vespa scooter…

(In a garish, girly colour. Lime green. Hot pink. Sunshine yellow. Oh yeah.)

You: Not a Harley?

Me: Been her, over that.

II.

I’m working in a café, and there is a table of three women near me mapping out a strategy for their business. It will be immensely successful. Because of the youngest chica in the group, the most intense, most passionate, most dominant one.

Except… that youngest chica? The most intense, most talented one? I’m pretty sure she’s going to drop dead of a heart attack by 35. I want to prescribe meditation. Medication. Or a torrid love affair.

Maybe a Vespa. She looks like she’s due for an early mid-life crisis…

III.

Why, yes, I have decided that writing blog posts in very short Roman-numeral numbered verses is my new thing. I’m doing it for your ADD.

And perhaps, mine.

IV.

Ender: Mama-my-mama-mia-mama, FEED ME NOW!

Jane: Will! You! Stop! Yelling! At! Me!

Ender: I! Can’t! Help! It! When! I’m! Quiet! You! Don’t! Listen!

Fuck.

Busted.

V.

Sean: Does it count as date night if we’re both sitting next to each other at the kitchen table working on the same project on our two different laptops?

Jane: Yes. So long as we’re drinking wine, yes.

VI.

Have you ever noticed how, when you have so much work to do it’s overwhelming, paralyzing, and you’re pretty sure there is no way in hell you will ever get it done, instead of attacking it in small, manageable chunks, you kind of ignore the whole thing and decide THIS is the weekend to paint the kitchen?

No? Never mind then.

xoxo

“Jane”

Involving children in our odd 21st century work lives

Hmm, I wonder who's face that is?

One of the goals I have for my little bums is for them to grow up connected to the world of “adult” work: to be witness to the work, to participate in it, to understand it. You know. All that stuff that as paleolithic and neolithic kids they’d just absorb as a matter of course. But in the twenty-first century, if you’re engaged in intellectual, creative or professional work… well, it’s tough. You’re just at the computer. (Occasionally, somewhere else, naked, writing with marker on your leg…)

Every once in a while, though, an opportunity presents itself. We’re both more actively seeking them out for our Cinder now. Here’s one of the first ones, from February 19, 2008, with a questionable moral. Enjoy.

2008. There is currently a plate of doggie doo drying in my kitchen. Not REAL–thank the gods! But Sean is shooting a commercial for a new type of pooper scooper on Saturday. One of the challenges we’ve both seen in the recent while is letting Cinder into our work world—Flora’s still not really interested, “housework” and neglecting our garden is more than enough. My work, unfortunately–hunched over the computer or glued to the telephone, not an awful lot of room for help from a six year old (although he answers the phone very professionally now and doesn’t always manage to hang up on the people before passing them on to me 🙂 ) Sean’s work–the same, although Cinder loves to and does help load and unload the car when they’re off to a shoot, etc.

Anyway—the pooper scooper commercial requires fake doggie doo, and so yesterday afternoon, Sean, Cinder and Flora set up a poop factory. Ingredients: instant coffee, corn syrup, and wetted cardboard. Damn realistic stuff.

At the end of the production, Cinder looked at Sean with big eyes and said, “I didn’t realize being a filmmaker was so gross, Daddy.”

Back to 2013: So what does a 21st century boy who’s got a filmmaker for a father choose to pursue as his first career? Making Youtube videos, of course. I’m pretty much equal parts proud and appalled.

How do you include/inform your kids about the adult workworld?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

English: Paleontologist Matt Smith at work, Jo...

Flora turned 8 last week, and she’s seriously rethinking her career plans. It’s adorable. I am celebrating her life angst (Flora: “But can one be a veterinarian AND a paleontologist AND a museum curator AND an artist? AND maybe a horse-trainer?” Jane: “Yes. Possibly not all at the same time, but you know, life is long.”) by revisiting a conversation from the summer of 2008. Flora was 3.5 and Cinder just over 6, and they already had career plans they were happy to discuss with one of their aunties.

Auntie: So, Flora, what are you doing to be when you grow up?
Flora: I’m going to be a paleontologist, and dig up dinosaur bones.
A: Wow… well, you certainly live in the right area for that.
(We’re in Calgary, a stone’s throw away from Drumheller and the fossil rich badlands)
Flora: Yes, but I’m going to be a paleontologist in Patagonia.
A: Patagonia?

Patagonia. It’s where all the dino-digging action was in 2008.

Cinder enters the conversation: I already have a job. I do it every day, whenever I feel like it, for as long as I like.
A: Cool. What is it?
(Me–really curious. And really no idea as to what the answer would be?)
Cinder: Blowing up things.
A: Blowing up things? Cinder, you’re scaring me.
Cinder: Oh, nothing too dangerous. Mostly just baking soda and vinegar, you know. It’s so much fun, and I can do it over and over again, and try to make different kinds of explosions. And sometimes I add other stuff to it.
A: Maybe you’ll be a demolition man when you grow up.
Cinder: What’s a demolition man?
A: Someone who blows up stuff–like old buildings.
Cinder: Or blasts tunnels through mountains, or to make highways?
A: Yeah…

— conversation steers back to pinecones and what-not for a while, takes a side-detour to helicopter-flying–he has helicopters on his pajamas and she suggests perhaps that could be his job, but he’s not interested, although Flora pipes in that being an airplane pilot would be a pretty good job, and flying a plane, as well as riding a horse, are good skills for a paleontologist to have “because you never know.” After a prolonged interval, Cinder returns to the topic of his job.

Cinder: I also like setting fires.
A: What?
Cinder: Pretty safely, you know. My friend and I, we use magnifying glasses sometimes to use the power of the sun to burn things and make smoke. It’s pretty cool.
A: Cinder, you’re really scaring me. Blowing up things, setting fires…
Cinder: Oh, I like to do other experiments, where things don’t blow up, too. But sometimes I accidentally make noxious fumes.
A: So what are you going to be when you grow up?
Cinder: Oh, just me. And keep on doing stuff. [pause] But I’ll probably be taller.

And can I possibly add anything to that?

Photo: Paleontologist Matt Smith at work, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (NPS Photo;  Wikipedia)

More like this: Be the Fossil on UndogmaticUnschoolers.wordpress.com

And  big thank you to MomTimes4 for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on her blog yesterday. I will pass on the love properly later in the week, but xoxoxo to a lovely lady in the meantime.