There’s No Place Like Work

Some problems are so complex and frustrating that one feels like scrapping the whole thing and starting over anew.  Untangling those stupid “fun fur” yarns from the craft store is like that.  Right now, my whole life is like that.

Let me illustrate.  I have a degree; I double majored in art and religion.  Yeah, I know, but a degree is a degree, and I’ve at least proven that I can learn.  I managed a bookstore; I worked for a museum managing volunteers and the front desk.  But five years ago I chose to stay home with our children.  I thought it would be great; just me and the kids all day?  We’ll have so much fun!  Yeah right.  There were so many things I didn’t understand back then.  I didn’t realize how isolating it can be to stay home with children, how demoralizing to clean and clean and clean and see no difference at all, because the little hellions are manic about creating more mess.  It is their purpose in life, their calling, their destiny.  And to be in the messy house alone all day?  Is not exactly the domestic bliss I’d envisioned.

I’ve heard some people say “oh but you get paid in hugs and kisses and love!”  Well, how about getting paid in nasty looks, screams and venomous remarks?  No one, but no one, can hurt you like your child.  And Cameron is especially good at giving voice to his disapproval.  “This food tastes like slugs.”  “YOU should have done something!” (whenever anything goes wrong.)  And my favorite, saying that Daddy could do something I can’t, because he’s smarter … because he works.  (Which is totally not true, by the way, I’m plenty smart.  “I am so smart, I am so smart,  S-M-R-T … “)  It’s his talent.  Really, at this point, I would rather get paid in actual money.  At least I could spend that on therapy or vodka.

Others say that it’s the most rewarding, important thing I can do.  And yes, I agree, it is the most important thing I will do, raising my children.  But does it have to be the ONLY thing I do?  To say that is to say that any working mother is a bad mother.  And sorry, I’ve known plenty of moms who work, and they are great moms.  I know I’m glad my mom worked; I can be proud of her, and know that she did something extraordinary with her life.  Why shouldn’t I do something extraordinary with mine that does not involve my kids?  (She thinks so too.  When I first told her I was going to stay home, she said, “Why did we spend so much sending you to college if you’re just going to be a housewife?”)  And if raising kids is so important, so grand and noble, why is it that when I say I stay home with the kids, the light of interest goes off in so many eyes?  There is no value placed upon what I do, and no matter how many times I reassure myself, eventually the judgment of society weighs upon me.

I have wished over and over that I had a disposition that let me be happy at home.  I am so envious of Kim and Andrea, who are not only happy being home, but are really good at it.  I’ve wondered ever since Cameron was born, “What’s wrong with me?”  Let me tell you, that is not a happy mental place to be for five years.  I still don’t know what the difference is between me and them, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and change myself.  God knows I’ve tried.  It would sure be a lot better for everyone.

I’ve tried to make it better, more interesting.  I’ve acquired chickens, I’ve begun spinning my own yarn, I got a pair of rabbits to spin yarn from.  I’ve written a lot of stories, and published most of them.  But none of those make a significant amount of money, not anywhere near enough to cover the costs of child care, so they must remain hobbies.  And that’s such a condescending, patronizing term, hobby, when referring to something I’m trying to do to make money, to carve out a niche for myself.  There’s a desperation somewhere under all that, a scrambling feeling of a last-ditch effort to save my dignity and self-respect, that is wiped out when someone says “You don’t have to make money writing/spinning/etc.  You’re lucky that your husband makes enough for you to stay home.  But if you feel that way, I suppose it’s good for you to make a little money with your hobby(ies).”  Or even worse, “Oh that’s nice that you’ve got a little job!”  Gag me with a spork, can my significance be any more diminished?

But there are problems with going back to work, too.  The most I’ve ever made was $14 an hour, and that was for a few months at the library; those jobs are almost exclusively part time.  Hiring babysitters proved to just not work out; I needed the flexibility and assured availability of a professional drop-in daycare.  My one main babysitter was wonderful, but it was still difficult at times with syncing up our schedules, plus if her kids were sick she couldn’t very well take mine too.  She has now gone back to work, and I am so pleased for her; she seems very happy.  I can’t help but be envious, because I can’t find a full-time job that pays what I would need to make to pay for child care.  And I’m in Texas, which has a relatively stable and active economy.

Then there’s the issue of a third child.  It feels like there’s still someone missing.  Perhaps it’s because Curtiss and I both came from families with three children.  We would both like a third child, but is that for the best for our family?  Is it in my best interests, and the best interests of our current children?  Will I be able to give them the best of me, with a third little one?  Could I ever afford to work again?  Even when they’re all in school, there’s summer, breaks and illnesses to contend with.

So there’s my as-yet-unsolvable problem.  I need a sword for this Gordian knot.

Birds to Blooms

Last Saturday was the GardenWeb Texas Forum swap in Fort Worth. I happened to bring 25 chicks to sell to one of the members there who had asked me for some. Therefore, I had money when I realized that day was the plant sale at the Botanic Garden. Bye bye chick money! I left the house with birds and I returned with blooms.

At the plant swap, I was kind of scarce on stock, but I did have pots. I ended up taking home many “orphans,” plants that people had brought and did not want to take home. So I was already loaded down with garlic, spirea, mints of all sorts and various perennials when I arrived at the Botanic Garden. I got pepper plants and a toothache tree for my brother (he has started a butterfly garden). Then, I saw the daylily table. Named daylilies for $5.00?! Yes please! I brought home 4.

I have always wanted a daylily garden, but they are expensive plants. Beautiful, though, just beautiful. The four I got were Grey Witch, Delightful Treasures, Copperhead and one named “peachy ginger thing.” Sounded pretty, and in retrospect, I was probably hungry. They are living in my front rock garden, heavily mulched, until I can decide where I would like to have a proper bed. Here are some pictures – not of mine, obviously, since I just got them. Credited below.

Delightful Treasure

Copperhead

Grey Witch

First: Delightful Treasure, photo by mystic Meadows
Second: Copperhead, photo by E and B Farm
Third: Grey Witch, photo by A Tide Water Gardener

Possumly the Cutest Vermin Ever

We have a possum. It comes into the yard near dawn a few days a week, looks around the yard for things to eat, climbs the tree near the fence, then walks along the back fence to return to the woods. I don’t leave food out for it, and I am very wary of it. After all, possums are mean, and this one is unafraid of people, as proven by the time I encountered it outside, and it sauntered away, unconcerned. It’s as big as a cat, the biggest possum I’ve ever seen. Part of me disliked it, but it’s also an impressive bit of wildlife simply due to its size, and the kids are always pleased to be able to watch it from the windows.

A couple of weeks ago the possum seemed abnormally fat and clumsy. Today, my husband woke me up to see why: she had babies! And baby possums are, like every other baby in the world, adorable. They clung wide-eyed to mama’s back, hanging on for dear life as she lumbered along the top of the fence. The chickens were not pleased, and raised the alarm with a cacophony of bawk-bawk-bawk-bawk-baGOCK! Miraculously, this did not wake the children.

So that goes to show that even when I don’t particularly like an animal, I can appreciate its place in our lives and smile when I see it doing well. I ought to give the possum a name … Any ideas?

Survived Another Year

It’s my birthday today. I always feel strange on my birthday, like something significant is supposed to happen and doesn’t. Like waking up from a wild dream that you can’t remember, but the feeling of it clings to the underside of your consciousness. I’m always a little afraid of birthdays, afraid something hurtful is going to happen and I’d rather it was just a normal day that I could shrug off and forget. Also I hate having Happy Birthday sung to me. My face turns red and I feel like I should be giving a speech, only I didn’t prepare one, so the best I can hope for is that when the song is over something else will happen to draw attention away from the expectant, uncomfortable silence.

Fortunately today the biggest disappointment was that I went to Home Depot exceptionally frumpy. This should be a safe thing to do. Unfortunately, the guy who helped me cut down a piece of plywood was a total hottie. Not that I have any inclination to do anything other than check said hottie out, smile to myself and carry on, but it would be nice to get checked out in return. But no, I was frumpy, and hadn’t showered, and was driving a dirty minivan with too much crap in it. Ah well. I’ll watch something with Wil Wheaton in it and eat some chocolate.

All but 6 of this last batch of chicks has been sold. I kept 6 of them back, one because it is ugly and needs to feather out (not its fault – it got stuck in its shell and pulled out the feathers on its back), another because it was pretty and I wanted to see how it looked with adult feathers. I found one chick had gotten stuck behind the feeder; by the time I noticed it and rescued it, it looked pretty well gone. I mixed scrambled egg and water and fed it drop by drop from a medicine dropper every couple of hours. Now it is spry, clean, eating and drinking on its own. >.> And its name is Olivia. I am doomed.

I’ve been writing some. When the laptop died I mourned its death greatly, because that meant the only way I could write was to go to the library and wait half an hour to use a public computer for an hour. Not fun. I did still get most of “Stockholm” done, the fourth in the “Chasing Tail” continuum. The short story collection is due June 1st. I am optimistic that I will have time to finish.

My friend Jen McCown and her family have bought a new house! I am very excited to go see it. I must get them many boxes. We had coffee today, and it was really nice. I was so happy to hear about all the fantastic things she’s getting to do these days with her career. Part of me wishes I could be a SQL database … person too, because she and Sean make it sound extremely cool. The rest of me says “You can’t even set up iTunes. You really, really really are not a programmer. Go spin some yarn, write a short story and feed your chickens.” Besides, can’t pick the same as me.

We got the boys bunkbeds, so that’s exciting. Can’t wait to see Cameron’s face when he sees them! It’s going to be awesome.

Happy Crafting!

The Newest, Fuzziest Addition

I was at war with myself for some time over whether to get an Angora rabbit. First, I decided yes, and went on a quest for one. What I came home with, ultimately, was not an angora but a lionhead cross that suckered me at the humane society. Who can look at a fuzzy, dirty rabbit with matts, who hops into laps and snuggles, and say no? I love Lavender, and she does give a little wool, but my heart still longed for a proper wooler.

I hemmed and hawed. I talked to breeders about breed, temperament, whether to pluck or shear. I was reminded that we wanted to have a baby next year, and would I have time for an Angora then? I tossed the idea of English angoras right out the window. Adorable as they were, I needed something lower maintenance if an Angora was in my future. A fawn French came my way, and still I resisted – I wanted something white, so I could dye the wool if I wanted. But I disliked red eyes, which the vast majority of white rabbits have.

Then Mary Steel announced her German/Satin woolers had a litter, all black – and one little white bunny. German and Satin?! What a combo! And from a group of bunnies kept primarily for their wool! And white! And within driving distance! I steeled my nerves, and told her I wanted him. Her. Whatever.

And in a little over a week, just before my birthday, ze bunny will get to come home! I’m very excited. He/she is looking like a pointed or shaded white, which means a possibility of no red eyes. Even better! It will be interesting to see what shade of white his/her wool ends up being. Right now it appears to be a shade of ermine, but there’s no telling. We will see! I am sure the wool will be awesome to spin with. And, new bunny to snuggle and obsess over and feed treats! Best of all, Germans are big and easy to care for, so I feel confident that the new baby will not be a serious detriment to bunny care. Whenever this baby appears. Sometime next year. No I’m not pregnant. Trust me you will know when I am. Because pregnant women are smug and talk about being pregnant ALL THE TIME. Having been a pregnant woman twice before I feel I am a minor expert on this.

So! Bunny picture, courtesy of Mary!

Baby Bunny

The Tiny Tyrant

I have an alternative to ZOMG. It is XOMG. It is when Xander is involved.

My beloved little two-year-old, Xander, is tiny and pale, with hay-colored hair, sky blue eyes and a perfect, luminous complexion. He is loving and endlessly smiling. He is also the living embodiment of destruction. This week alone is a perfect example of his rare, continuously practiced art. In the time it took for me to run downstairs for a towel and return, he got out of the bath, found my Nintendo DS and dropped it in the bath water. A few days later he walked up, picked up my phone, babbled at it for a minute as he likes to do, then dropped it neatly into my coffee. He figured out the cabinet latches in the kitchen, grabbed the soda ash (a dye fixative), shook it wildly and got it into his eye, requiring a 7:30 PM dash to my brother’s for help holding the boy down to irrigate his eye for ten minutes.

Ever try to pour water in a two-year-old’s forced-open eye for ten minutes? It is the stuff of nightmares.

I love my son, but he is Trouble. He is sneaky, highly intelligent, curious and creative. These are traits that will serve him well as he grows up. They do not, however, serve ME well. Is it really any wonder I retreat into fiber when he’s worn me out? But these days, even fiber-world has a host of things that are as yet undone. I need to get Phat Fiber samples ready to go – and that is a greater undertaking than I really comprehended. I am learning. I think it will be good, just … so many details to think about! I need business cards. I need to reach beyond the crippling self-doubt that tries to creep up and tap me on the shoulder. I need to stop comparing myself to people who have been at this for years. And of course, I need wool, oh so luscious wool to sink my hands into and sigh happily. When I went to meet my knitting group last night, I took a handful of especially nice merino in my pocket to fiddle with on the way there. Just the feel of it is comforting when I am nervous, while my stomach turns and my shoulders hunch up into boulders.

So the list of things that need to happen within the next couple of weeks …

– Finish Phat Fiber samples
– Make business cards and attach to samples and yarns
– Take pictures of samples and yarns
– Mail samples
– List samples (and full sized versions thereof) on Etsy
– List any missing yarns on Etsy (I think there are one or two)
– Finish Circlet story “The Eagle and the Austringer,” begin “Stockholm”
– Oh shit someone asked me for a leather bookmark and I completely forgot!
– Set up cage for BUNNY
– Make a blog post about the bunny, because he deserves his own
– Grapple with my inner demons
– Laundry

Yup, that about does it. Let’s see how that goes …

What Dreams May Come When You Forget Your Medication

I would like to tell you about an interesting phenomenon. I take Cymbalta daily to combat the effects of fibromyalgia. When I forget my medication for a couple of days (which I really, really try not to do) my back and arms ache like I ran a marathon; my brain becomes fuzzy; I go through the day in a fog; and I suffer an acute bout of crippling, chest-aching depression. So yeah, I do my best to stay steadily on my medication. I am a good girl in that respect.

But there is one magnificent side effect to not taking my medicine that almost makes it worth it to skip now and then. The night after I forget to take it, I have amazing dreams. Semi-lucid, photorealistic, epic, story-shaped, totally recalled dreams. I wake up in a state of wonder, itching to write. And sometimes, they’re just what I need.

Take last night. I dreamed last night of traveling in a foreign country and meeting the most magnificent people – artists and writers, dancers, lunatics. Middle aged men with whiskey and stale cigarettes talking about Alice Hoffman and Brian Froud. Beautiful old women making watercolor butterflies to give to passers-by. Delightful libertines and mystics, and one who I can only describe as the embodiment of storytelling, kind of a metaphysical representation of Joseph Campbell. And he was kind and gentle and lovely, and he liked me and wanted to stay in touch with me after we all parted. I had this sense of the beginning of an intimate friendship that would span the rest of our lives, and I loved him in a way you can’t ever really love a true human being. There was a physical aspect to it, but I’d call it more sensual than sexual, a comfort and joyfulness with touch that had nothing to do with sex. When I woke up, I missed him fiercely.

So perhaps now you see why I am not always as good with my medication as I ought to be.

Now, there can be pitfalls. I must never, ever, EVER do this after watching a zombie movie, because I WILL have zombie dreams. Nor must I watch “Ringu,” or anything will small evil things. Or spiders. Or demons. Ok, no horror movies at all. See, people who write horrific things, as I sometimes do, are usually big fat wusses. Stephen King? Wuss. Neil Gaiman? Self-proclaimed wuss. Me? Big fat wuss. It’s because we’re affected by stuff like that; it sticks in our weird, sticky, jam-covered brains.

Alright. Off to write fiction …

Phantastic

Recently my husband took me to see “The Phantom of the Opera” at Dallas’ Fair Park Music Hall. I’ve spent a lifetime listening to the soundtrack but had never actually seen it. It … was … magnificent. It surpassed all my expectations, and my expectations were pretty damn high. I was pleased, to say the least. I even went online and found Phantom earrings on Etsy, from a lovely seller named OperaPhanatic. Lot 667, showing here.

Phantom Earrings

Since then I keep coming back to the story. It is a magnificent story, so pleasingly story-shaped, as life never seems to be. It was almost mythic. The figure of a girl growing into herself, changing and becoming more than she was when she started, discovering aspects of herself through relationships, music and personal strength. Beauty, heroics and courage in Raoul, and an entirely different sort of beauty – and madness – in the Phantom. This tortured figure, this murderer and composer and lover, keeps drawing me back into his disfigured head. I keep telling him he is too recognizable to be a muse. I can’t make him into a character to write. He smiles and says “Oh yes you can. I will tell you how. SING FOR ME … ” Though when I try, my toddler says “MAMA NO!” Apparently my singing horrifies small children.

I have found that online, people will argue about anything, and the debate between Team Raoul and Team Phantom rages on. Team Phantom has some good points as to why Christine should be with him. He’s a genius, they respond to each other on a nearly cellular level of passion, he’s intriguing and mysterious and kind of paternal. He can help her art. He’s hot in his own bizarre way – at least in the latest movie version. Team Raoul has some equally good points, among them the fact that Raoul puts value on Christine’s freedom and personal choice, he knows her as a whole person and not as a twisted musical obsession, he’s hot in a classical way, he has money and position and can give her a non-sewer-oriented life. But perhaps the most poignant of Team Raoul’s points, and the only one that really matters, is that unlike the Phantom, Raoul is not a FUCKING PSYCHO. As intriguing as I find the Phantom, let’s not forget that he kills people, yo. And not even for terribly good reasons.

So I’m going to do something with my Phantom obsession. I’m not going to write fan fiction (shudder) or a pastiche of PotO. In fact, if I do it right, no one will even recognize it for the Phantom-inspired stuff it is. But I love the idea of the disfigured genius, and if I can have some other character fall as hopelessly for him as I have, then all the better.

Ummm … if my characters are part of myself, and I love my characters, does that mean I’m in love with myself?

Robbed

Yup, our garaged got robbed. People suck.

Jaws, The Yarn

I just had an oddly Jaws-like moment of looking at the little sample of tailspun Lincoln longwool yarn I spun, looking at the crochet hook in my hand and thinking to myself in a doomsday voice, “I’m going to need a bigger hook.”

Tailspun yarn is HARD. It involved spinning a core of yarn and laying individual, intact locks of wool against the yarn with the tip hanging out, and letting the “tail” of the lock spin into the yarn, thus making a yarn with lots of long strands hanging out of it. My “tails” are several inches long, and that’s making for an extremely thick and furry yarn. Which is hard to spin anyway, because it’s slow, and keeps getting caught in the flyer of my wheel. But the effect is very cool. I’m going to spend part of today determining if I in fact need a bigger hook, or if I simply ought to go after a smaller yarn-shark.

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