I’m the Slob

When I began working a part-time job a few weeks ago, I expected the house to fall apart, the laundry to become mountainous, dinner to be dry cereal.  Instead, the house is cleaner than it’s been in months and we’re eating better than ever.

I have less time to do the same work, so what’s going on here?  Was I the one making the mess?  Am I the slob?

At first I thought it was another strange case of busy people getting more done, and that does play a part – not wasting time, keeping on the move makes a difference, but going to work also created MORE time for me because my people are picking up the slack in various ways that more than make up for the 20+ hours I’m out of the house.

The house has been fairly tidy which means they’ve been doing some kind of daily maintenance, they went and got their library cards, the dogs and chickens have been well-behaved and well-cared-for, and yesterday I walked in to find my oldest cheerfully folding laundry at the kitchen table.   But wait, it gets better.

I make a menu and do grocery shopping every two weeks and, in the past, my husband and I have shared the cooking.  But NOW I come home to cooked, or at least, prepped dinners, all the work having been done by hubby AND the children.  He’s been teaching them to cook!  Real food!  And the kitchen is still clean!

You have no idea how much mental energy this frees up for me.  I’d rather clean toilets, paint baseboards, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub the oven, even wash dishes, rather than cook.  If I’d known that I wouldn’t have to cook anymore, I’d have gotten a job long ago.

It’s so nice to be part of a good team, to know they have my back.




a reason

Her eyes were red-rimmed but her chin jutted defiantly.


“Everything happens for a reason,” she comforted herself with a wise and knowing nod.


She didn’t wonder if the reason was a good one.


She didn’t ask if the reason was that someone screwed up: a bad decision, a selfish choice, a careless move.


She didn’t wonder at a broken world with broken people with broken spirits and broken minds, broken bodies that don’t always, don’t ever work the way they’re supposed to.




Everything happens for a reason.

An Experiment in Character Study

I’m not sure if I’m doing this right.  Is this how you do a character study?

And how do I make something happen to my character?  That’s the scary part, am I right?

Where do I go from here?

Anyway, here it is.

Martin props his feet up on his porch rail and thumbs around on his phone.  He is wearing blue jeans cut off and frayed at the knees and steel-toed work boots.  He is shirtless but wears a baseball cap even in the shade.  His camper trailer sits in front of his garage, waiting for the weekend.  He is content.  Untroubled.

He’s about 35 or 40.  He likes watching cars drive around in circles on t.v.  He likes Coors Light.  He smokes Marlboro or, sometimes, the off-brand.  He is self-conscious about his missing teeth, but not enough to do anything about it.  His work is seasonal and sporadic and he is often at home.

He has a woman with a steady job in a government office.  He doesn’t fool around on her; he knows how to keep it in his pants, but he still looks because he “ain’t dead yet.”  And he’d leave her as easy as walking out the door if she stirred up shit.

He has one child and that’s enough.







An Imagined Job Interview

You know I’ve been looking for some part-time work to supplement our family income.  You know I’ve been out of the job market for some time.  Well, imagine my surprise to find that interviewers still ask the same questions they did twenty years ago.  And I STILL can’t answer them without stammering.

What would you say is your greatest strength?

I’m smarter than the average bear.

And your greatest weakness?

I suck at interviews.  Stop looking at me.

Why do you want to work for XYZ company?

I’m applying for a minimum wage customer service position at XYZ because I’ve been out of the workforce for 13 years while I raised and educated my children, and while that is rewarding in its own way, it doesn’t pay and doesn’t give me much to put on my resume.   And because I never finished my degree and no one gives a shit that I. am. sooooo. close.  And because my schedule has to fit around my husband’s unusual work hours since he is our family’s primary financial provider.  And because my dog needs another knee surgery, and we’re down to one car that needs a muffler, and there’s a hole in the barn roof.

What special skills would you bring to the this position?

The stock clerk position?  I type 60 words per minute, I can tactfully correspond with school officials whose ideologies differ from mine, I can sew a dress from a paper pattern if it’s not too complicated, I make a mean pot roast, I can curse in five different languages and my accents are excellent, I can feed a family of five three nutritious meals a day for less than you can imagine, I can squeeze a nickel till it squeals, I can do a pretty good cat’s eye if I haven’t had too much caffeine, I can crochet a doily and knit a sock, I can patch a pair of jeans so that the repair looks like a gaping monster mouth, I can run for 30 minutes without dying, I can learn almost anything.  And I really need this job.

If an interviewer wants to get a feel for how a person communicates, why not pose hypothetical job scenarios, or ask about a favorite t.v. show or book?  But what do I know.

So Internet, how should I answer these very serious questions when interviewing for menial jobs?


School Planning

I’m sure if I just smack myself upside the head a couple of times something will fall out onto the screen.  I’m having one of those why do I blog moments.  It’s not like anyone outside a handful of friends reads here.  Oh well, I amuse me anyway.

School planning is going on a little late because I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to continue homeschooling this year.  We’re in a bit of a financial crisis and it looked as though I might need a government sponsored babysitter in order for me to try to make ends meet.  I have nothing against public school, and I do think we’ll transition that way eventually, but it’s nice to have it be a choice instead of something one must do in order to eat.

Because our schedule is so restricted, one day last week I drove all over town looking for early morning  work in a bunch of chains/franchises.  Of course they all told me to apply online and of course I got nary a call or email back.  Let that be a lesson to you.  Be cool, stay in school.  I can’t even get a job at McDonald’s.

Anyhoo, we’re holding it together for one more year.  Let’s see what happens.

So, I sent off our letters of intent to homeschool this morning and now I’m going through the NYS educational requirements for each grade and making sure I have everything covered.  Then I’ll fill in with some cool literature.  And then I’ll spend the money.

Just Nod if You Can Hear Me

I love dappled green sunlight through the trees and the white picket fence that needs repair or replacing.

July is more than half over.  Summer is fleeting.  The days are getting shorter.  I want to hold on with two arms.  I want to do everything.  And the more we do, the faster it goes.

We had a fire two nights ago, with roasted hot dogs and s’mores and fruit punch and the white plastic table cloth bought from a roll at Walmart.

I don’t know why I have such a hard time doing more than one thing at a time.  Concentrating on more than one project at a time.  Deciding which is most important, portioning out the hours.

My 12-year-old is impatient with me for being slow about finishing the painting in his room, so that’s what I’ll be doing today.  It’s to be a Treasure Island theme with a map and peg leg and who knows what else.  Maybe some artificial scrimshaw or baleen?

It isn’t done yet because I got distracted by sewing.  I made a muslin of a dress whose pattern has been in my drawer for ten years or so.  I can finally fit the size.  I did it in a cheap print so I can technically wear it (and I have) but it’s a little crazy-looking.  I’ll post a photo soon.

Well, I guess I’d better get out of these pajamas and into something painterly.

I saw on a church sign recently

Life is short,

Death is sure,

Sin the curse,

Christ the cure.

It’s catchy.  I don’t know if there is a known author.


A Homemaking Schedule

Is there a job that compares with homemaking in flexibility and creative control?  It mightn’t pay much, but at least I get to make my own schedule.

I have tried a few systems  of  scheduling tasks over the years.  Flylady, Motivated Moms, Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done, Organize Tomorrow Today.  I like them all.  When I’m having trouble getting my shit together and find myself half-assing the work set before me, I know it’s time to switch things up.  (Just like when I get bored with my workout routine.)

Recently, I think I was inspired by The Hidden Art of Homemaking.  There’s no reason why mundane lists have to be merely utilitarian, right?


The benefit of this scattered list, with or without colored pencils, is that it isn’t in a straight line.  Straight lines frustrate me because I feel as though I must cross off one item before moving on to the next – and sometimes that is not realistic.  Laundry takes all day but I can do other things while it’s going on.  Dinner is often a multi-step, multi-interrupted process.  It would be nice to be comfortable skipping around a list willy nilly, not caring if I went in order, but I have to work with what I’ve got and what I’ve got is a little bit nutty.

In the above list, I thought about what HAD to get done.

  • Eating and schooling are things we have to do everyday, and some would argue that those routine items shouldn’t even warrant a writing down.  But these things take actual time, and for me that means they must be counted.  They are also the highest priority so they went on the list first.
  • Then setting up school so the next day wouldn’t be chaotic
  • Then exercise because you can’t do today’s workout tomorrow
  • Then I filled in the rest with various cleaning jobs.

Comparing this list to the detailed craziness of something like Motivated Moms, I feel like a slacker, but trust me friends, when taken together with the million interruptions and little things that come across my path that must be done RIGHT NOW, this is a full day.

So, what do you do to make your work more interesting?  Got any new organizational systems for me to try out?




The Toads Must Be Crazy

I’ve been invited to visit a snakery today.  Apparently my children have been collecting harmless small snakes and putting them inside the old roofless silo.  When I objected to this practice on the grounds of cruelty they said, “But we feed them!  Worms and bugs and things!”  I pointed out that the snakes would grow and would need more substantial fare and should probably be hunting their own dinners.  There was a lot of backtalk.  I’m going out today to make sure the snakes are freed from their prison.

The best place to see animals is often from the car.  And while it’s easy to get complacent driving on these country roads, enjoying the ride and the giant sky with enormous clouds, it’s when you get comfortable that things jump out at you.  Deer mostly.  But also skunks and ground hogs, raccoons and cats and foxes and rabbits.  Opossums don’t jump they just suddenly appear lying in the middle of the road playing opossum.

Looking out for animals is a welcome distraction from the noise of my children fighting in the back seats and usually they’d much rather shout at me, “Didn’t you see him?” when I didn’t notice tapetum lucidum glowing in the grass beside the road.  When there is an especially large herd, or there is some seasonal change, or oh-my-gosh-a-fawn! we stop and goggle a minute or two.

Traveling down the road to home last night, just after sundown around 9 p.m., the asphalt was littered with toads.  Some had already been squished, but most of them were alive and sitting there like little lords.  Only one of them made any attempt to move.  It seems late in the year for mating season, but I don’t know a lot about toads – maybe they do this all the time?  Were they just soaking up the radiating heat from the blacktop or were they trying to cross?

What I’m saying is:  my kids and I like the animals.  I especially like the animals I don’t have to feed and whose poop I don’t have to clean up.  I’m going to make an excellent grandmother one day.

I also love that my kids are growing up with this closeness, this interacting with the natural world.  It’s not like we’re out in the wild, wild woods, but it’s just enough that they are curious and not icked out, just scared enough to be wise and they really care about habitats and the creatures who live in them.  My oldest child picks up litter in the state park of his own accord when we hike together.  It makes me all misty-eyed.

When they were tiny I had a goal of not passing on my own fear of slimy things (because I need someone to remove the slugs and snails from my garden) but I had little idea of how, with my limited city-girl knowledge and experience, they would ever become comfortable with nature.

But exposure and opportunity and eschewing overprotectiveness and sharing their excitement and hiding my squeamishness has made these things happen.  It’s limiting t.v. and video games.  It’s giving them time.  It’s allowing them to wander in a relatively safe environment.  It’s turning a deaf ear to cries of, “I’m bored.”   It’s giving them opportunity and not intervening at every turn.  It’s letting them figure things out.

If it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, it’s because I am.  I make a lot of mistakes, but I think I’m getting this right.




I was out in the yard when I saw my 12-year-old returning from an adventure earlier than expected.  The leaves in his hands gave away what else he must be bringing home.

On our hikes and walks we are always looking under milkweed leaves for monarch eggs or caterpillars and this time he struck gold.

Jack placed the caterpillar in my terrarium with some milkweed leaves until we could get it a better home.  We bought a critter cage and the boy made it his mission to bring home and wash fresh leaves a couple of times a day.  Caterpillars eat a lot and their poop is bigger than mouse poop.


In a few days our caterpillar was hanging from the top of the cage.  A few days after that (we need to keep better records, eh?) we discovered it had turned into a chrysalis.


A week or so later I noticed that there was a line or zipper looking thing near the top of the chrysalis running at a right angle to the length.  About a week later the chrysalis turned black.  It was not dead.  A few hours later a butterfly was hanging there.  We let it hang for an hour or so and then brought the cage outside and loosened and propped open the top, with the butterfly still hanging upside down.


When we checked a few hours later, the butterfly’s wings were dry, but it was fluttering around inside the clear plastic box and seemed to be having a hard time getting out of it. I offered it a twig and it obligingly stepped onto it.  I lifted the stick out of the box and the flutterbye fluttered fluttered fluttered up up up and into a tree.

Move More

What is the most effective exercise?  That’s a little like asking what’s the best toothbrush:  it’s the one you use regularly.

A coach recently told me that consistency beats intensity almost every time.  Screwing up all your willpower and going hard for a couple of days or weeks or months is not going to carry you as far as doing something at a more moderate level that you can and are willing to sustain long term.

Some people think that means you should love love love the exercise you do, so that you’ll want to do more of it.  And sure, exercise can take so many forms that most people can find SOMETHING they like:  indoors or outdoors, fast or slow, competitive or not.  But when you are out of condition, it can all feel too hard and it’s difficult to imagine ever WANTING to make exercise a regular part of your life.


I don’t hate running, hiking, and walking on trails.

So here are the insights I’ve gained over the past year and a half that are helping me to make exercise a regular part of my life.

  • Go easy, but go regular and you’ll be able to do more very soon.  Make it a habit.
  • You don’t have to love it the first time, but you shouldn’t hate it.
  • Be willing to give new things a fair try.  A fair try means you give yourself time to get past the initial adjustment period – be that three times or a month.
  • Be honest about why you dislike something before you give it up.  Boring dance class?  Drop it.  Challenging dance class?  Take it down a notch, but don’t give up.
  • There is some debate in fitness circles about activity vs. intentional exercise.  What counts as exercise depends on what you’re already doing and your current fitness level.  If taking out the trash, or going to the mailbox, or walking the dog,  are not things you regularly do and they’re a challenge, then yes, that counts.  If you’re trying to estimate a calorie burn for that in order to adjust how much you eat for weight loss, don’t do it; it’s likely too small a number to be accurate and you’ll frustrate your efforts.  But for exercise?  For general health purposes?  Yes, in my opinion, it counts.  Increasing general activity is a great place to start because it’s easy to work into your life and it doesn’t have to be too physically difficult.  Plus, you’ll be more productive.
  • Even if exercise never becomes something you are passionate about, you should still do it because it’s part of general care and maintenance of the only body you’ve got.  And it beats the alternative, which is disability and early, uncomfortable death.  (Yes, yes, I’m aware death comes to us all.)  After all, I’m not particularly passionate about my toothbrush, but I still make regular use of it because I’d like to keep my teeth as long as possible.