Monday, July 4, 2016

Getting on with things

What I wrote to some friends, earlier this week:
"For the second or third night in a row I've had this strange, hard-to-put-my-finger-on feeling. Sometimes it's a quiet, subtle lightness, sometimes it's almost a giddiness. I don't know if it's contentment, happiness, freedom, self-sufficiency... What a sweet, intoxicating feeling it is, whatever it is. It feels like cool summer rain."

I am happy. I still cry most days. I miss Grandma, and missing her so acutely reminds me of how much I still miss Grandpa. One of the reasons I decided to leave the school was so I could spend more time with her (among others). I wish we'd been given that chance.

But I get up in the morning and ease into my day. I appreciate my cup of tea, and the sunlight coming in my window, and the cozy blanket on my futon, and the possibilities of the day before me. I spend some time on paperwork and other home-administrative tasks, and some time on decluttering (I've checked the first three decluttering projects off my list already, within a week of wrapping up my time with SMC), and a couple times a week we see friends, both mine and Sarah's. I restarted a batch of sourdough. Tonight we devoured my first experiment with excess-starter-baking (whenever you feed sourdough you have to discard a bunch of it. There are recipes especially for using up the excess starter, so you don't have to just toss it).  It turned out nicely. A subtle sourdough flavor, that we could easily tweak in a savory or sweet direction.

Sarah and I have started up our weekly homeschool check-ins again. How different they are from when we were last doing them regularly, 3 or so years ago. Back then her learning was self-directed but I was very much her education consultant -- she would tell me what her intentions/goals/priorities were, I would collect resources and suggest a plan, she would give feedback on the plan, and we'd tweak it until it seemed like something that would work for both of us (with the emphasis on whether it worked for her, but my thoughts still a big part of the conversation and decision). At this point she's transitioning to managing her own high school experience entirely. I asked for the weekly check-in, and I suggested the form of it (reflect on last week, review our self-selected priorities and projects, set intentions for the week). We're coming to the meeting as peers -- she has her priorities and projects, and I have mine. I'm continuing to actively model the skills I want her to develop and the questions I think she should be asking, but the actual prioritizing, choosing resources, and setting pace and direction... That's all up to her. For the summer, her priorities are relaxing, seeing friends, working on her comic-creation, and catching up on Duolingo (because they've started sending her sad owls when she doesn't keep up with her Norwegian lessons). My priorities are settling in to our new/old routines, self-care, making music, and starting my self-ed habit up again.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sumer Is Icumen In

I woke up this morning feeling as if summer had started.

Not that far off -- my personal summer season begins immediately after kiddo's birthday, which will be in less than a week.  And we'll be getting a taste of summer today, bringing a picnic in to Queens to visit with a few dear relatives and enjoy the extended sunlight of these late-Spring days.

Today would have been my grandparents' 70th anniversary.  I've been thinking a lot about their 50th, which happened just a year or so after Joe and I got married.   We loaned them our cake topper as part of the decorations.  The granddaughters all dressed up in Andrews Sisters-inspired outfits and sang a handful of our grandparents' favorite songs, then led the family in a singalong.  For Grandpa's 100th we skipped the performance but did lead a singalong in the backyard.  I think, often, of that day, and how much joy was in that yard, and how many folks there hadn't seen each other in years.

I think about finding more opportunities for joyful gatherings.

I'm thinking, also, of how I spent the summer the last time I had recently separated from a school.  The intensity of my solo roadtrip to Montana.  The rawness and fragility of my body and spirit, from how hard I'd pushed myself, trying to keep that school open, and feeling such a sense of deep personal failure at not having been able to.

How much better and more satisfying this experience has been.  How much healthier my boundaries and self-care have been, this time around.  What a strong team we built.  How proud I am of my work at SMC, even as I'm conscious of things I could have done better, wish I'd done differently.

It's two weeks to the end of the school year.  Bittersweet, bittersweet.  I've been working on letting go in bits and pieces -- supporting the staff and the students, but letting my own opinions about things drift into the background a bit.  It doesn't matter what I think about the calendar, I'm not the one who's going to need to deal with it.  I'm glad I'm the one designing the closing ceremony for the school year -- the ceremony itself will offer an opportunity for reflection and closure, but the act of *designing* that ceremony is deeply meaningful to me.

I haven't been writing as much here as I'd expected to, about all the prep I'm doing for my post-school life.  The preparations are continuing apace, but things got busy, and then got sad, and I haven't felt much like writing.

But I've been working away -- helping kiddo make progress on her room, getting a bunch of totally unglamorous but absolutely necessary paperwork done, starting to find new way to connect with people (including slowly starting up a letter-writing practice), beginning to organize our home lives the way I have organized my work life, overhauling the budget (which allowed us to pay off the car loan early, and we're now deciding which other loan to start paying off faster, using the money that freed up).

For the next month we're mostly just planning to maintain the progress we've made, while we wrap up the school year and celebrate kiddo's 15th birthday.  And then, to sink into the work of the summer.  I'm so ready to sink my teeth into the domestic sphere again and just conquer the hell out of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I like making plans.  Planning my new routines, planning my garden, planning holiday meals, planning all the things I want to learn next year.

The people in my life can sometimes find this...  overwhelming.

When we realized that we were going to be shifting back to full-time homeschooling next year, I started bubbling over with extremely enthusiastic questions about what books/activities/field trips/videos she might be interested in exploring next year.   I very quickly realized I was going to have to keep a very tight rein on myself or I'd wind up seriously stressing Kiddo out.  Every time I wanted to make a new suggestion or ask a new question about next year, I'd write it down in my notebook, or email it to myself, or search for info online and bookmark it.   I asked the occasional question when possibilities popped up that she'd need to register for now, but after a few of those I let her know that I was doing my best not to overwhelm her with questions and asked her to let me know when she was ready to talk about next year.

It has been so hard.  I have been *so* good.   And today I was rewarded!

She bounded into the room, this afternoon, to tell me that she'd been reading one of her books on comic-creation and is feeling really excited about next year and is full of ideas about wanting to immerse herself in comic-creation, US politics, economics, Norwegian, and math (later on she added mythology and literature to the list).   I asked how I can best support her and she said she'll be looking for suggestions for great books on those subjects, and help not overscheduling herself.  Which means...  we get to start making plans!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Odds and Ends

Even while aspects of perimenopause are extremely challenging, there are also so many things going well.

My new yoga routine is awesome. The new evening routines are *phenomenal*. We're making such great progress with our home repair projects. Our RPG this weekend kicked ass (I killed something like 5 magic spiders and got a chance to explore who my character is during her off-hours. It was such fun!). I'm sticking to my healthy breakfast and dinner plans easily (lunch is hit or miss, depending on how well I stocked the fridge over the weekend). My usual "Learning in a Student-Led Setting" spiel at this week's Open House went really well. I'm behind on email a ridiculous amount, oh my God, but I should be able to catch up in the next few days, now that school's over for the week.

I'm also really appreciating certain aspects of my current stage of life. I'm halfway through a root canal and haven't been thrilled with this dentist's manner and judgement (my usual guy doesn't do root canals and this is the first time I've tried this new person) but thought I could deal with it to at least get finished with this one process. Nope. I went back today for the second half, and she was patronizing, defensive, dismissive of my concerns and was doing her best to run roughshod over my clearly stated treatment decisions. So I walked out. That is something I would never have been able to do in my 20s. Go, 44 year old me! Of course, now I need to spend some time tomorrow finding a new root canal person so I can finish this damn procedure.

Next week is Spring Break, and I have very few plans so I'm making plans with myself to sink deeply into relaxation and not to add anything else to my schedule (except possibly a root canal appointment). I took a week or so off FB (except for doing work publicity stuff there) and then found that if I made some careful choices about how and when I use it, I can visit occasionally in a way that doesn't make me nuts. But I think limiting my online time as much as possible during Spring Break is feeling like the right choice.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Stick a sock in it

Is it possible to take a retreat from other people's opinions entirely?  I find myself responding, recently, to any opinions expressed in absolutes or generalizations or in any way expressed as if they were objectively True (as opposed to "What I liked about X was..." or "I find myself drawn to the candidate because of their position on Y")  with an immediate, visceral "Who the hell asked you?  Keep it to yourself, you old gasbag!"   I've never been a fan of the conversational style in which people make grand, sweeping statements or smirking, overconfident pronouncements or folks who express unsolicited opinions instead of asking illuminating questions, but this is a whole new level of complete and utter lack of patience with it.   I wish I could lure everyone I know (back) over to the slower-paced world of blogging (not that the world of blogging is free of gasbaggery, but it seems to have a lower percentage of it).  [note: this is not a reference to any individual -- it's the internet as a whole, right now]

In other news, my life overhaul is proceeding apace.  I've been tracking it with various paper journals and photos. Perhaps this weekend I'll put them together into a post here.

Short form:  Got the house back to baseline; morning routines are going well, evening routines have been overhauled and the new ones are *excellent*; got in 2 of the needed medical visits (they're all general checkup things, other than 2 root canals); anxiety and other perimenopausal stuff continue to be a struggle to deal with; seedlings are thriving and it's time to get them in the ground; stumbled on my plan not to volunteer for any more tasks at work (volunteered to work on the hiring committee because it felt like an important part of responsibly wrapping up my time at the school) but I think I can limit that job to about 15 hours of work, which is acceptable; this weekend I expect to wrap up processing the pile of paperwork so I can flip it from "in progress" to "maintenance".   I want to make more time to see friends and finish up the kitchen and paperwork stuff so that I can get to the next layer of tasks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I can almost see Spring from here

What I'm up to:

Reading: Neuroscience articles. It's obnoxiously difficult to find articles on our best guesses about consciousness or cognition that are at an appropriate reading level for the kids in my class and that also make their case at all persuasively. 

Listening to:
Two of the songs we've been singing in Glee Club:

Loads and loads of Top Chef. It's been the background noise to our evening reading and gaming, recently. Hail, Caesar, which was a whole lot of fun.

Planning for next year -- both at school and at home. Visiting my parents in the North Country, going to the Schenectady Science Museum and playing Scrabble. Starting nearly from scratch with getting back into all my good habits.

Geez. Absolutely nothing interesting. We went to a pretty nice Thai restaurant in Schenectady. At home we've been eating whatever was easiest to make -- lots of pasta and salad.

Something that went particularly well, recently:
Last week we had a visit from an elder in the free school community. My classes have been going well. We had friends over to make music. I had a lovely visit with A. And a wonderful visit with Grandma.

Something that went less well:
The house is a wreck. I can't seem to get myself back on track with stocking the fridge. Some symptoms of depression and anxiety that I'm tracking, to see if they're an anomaly or the start of a trend I need to reverse. A bit of a stomach bug, this week.

Something I'm grateful for:
Confirmation of my continued good health (went for a stress test onaccounta some annoying symptoms -- everything looks good).

Something I'm thinking about:
A variety of ways to simplify my life.

Something I'm looking forward to:
Feeling better. I'm tired of feeling queasy.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Planting seeds

A few weeks ago I let my colleagues know that I won't be returning to the school next year as a staff member.  I've known since August that this was the right choice for me and my family, but it's...   To call it bittersweet doesn't do it justice.  The last three years have been among the most intense and most meaningful experiences of my life. I love my colleagues like family, love the school, love the kids, love the entire community.  But after devoting the majority of my time and energy, these last few years, to the work of building and sustaining the school, I'm feeling the need to spend some time focusing those same resources on my family.

One of the sweetest bits of the bittersweetness is the anticipation of finally getting to all the projects that've been shunted to my Someday/Eventually list, over the course of these last years.  I've been whiling away some of these dreary winter afternoons by dreaming of what the warmer weather will bring.

I use a combination of GTD organizational approaches and Flylady's habit-building when it comes to my work life.  I've been enjoying -- to a truly ridiculous extent -- turning that approach to the rest of my life (I've done it to some extent for years, but this is a more focused effort).

Here you can see my GTD-inspired collection of priorities and associated projects:

And here you can see the space where, over the next months, I'm going to be spiraling out into a really solid foundation for our home life and my own life out in the world.  Starting tonight, of course, with a Shiny Sink!

And here, of course, are all the literal seeds I'll be planting this Spring:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Antisocial Friday Five

I haven't done the Friday Five in years, but I never did take it off my feed, and this week's questions spoke to me, so here we are. :)

1. What makes it easy to talk to someone?
Someone who asks questions, listens without interrupting, and speaks... I don't know if there's a term for this, but I enjoy talking with people who say things like "I've noticed, among my friends" or "I tend toward thinking that X, although of course that could be because Y" instead of speaking in absolutes, generalizations, or as if their opinions are objectively true. I like speaking with people who are receptive to new ideas, new experiences, and who are curious about the experiences of the people around them. People who are more interested in a mutual exploration of ideas than a debate.

2. What percent of the day do you spend talking?
On work days, I talk a lot. On home days, while we enjoy talking to each other, we enjoy being quiet together just as much, and without the need to answer lots of questions or lead any classes I find myself talking quite a bit less than on work days.

3. Who, in your opinion communicates better: men or women?
When I was a teen I thought that men communicated better because my experience was that boys said exactly what they were thinking and were very laidback about etiquette while girls had all sorts of unspoken social expectations and were more demanding about etiquette (etiquette I was often unaware of until I'd run afoul of it). As an adult I find that I mostly prefer talking with women, because my experience is that they listen better, ask more insightful questions, and are less likely to jump in with their unsolicited opinions and less likely to assume that they're right or that they're more informed than the people around them. But both of those things are really about how people have been socialized, and are generalizations. One of my few conservative friends, someone I like and respect, is a guy who genuinely listens to the other side and who disagrees by asking questions more than by making broad, inflammatory statements. Some of my female friends are very good at saying exactly what they mean and letting me know upfront what their expectations are. So it really depends.

4. What topics do you avoid when talking to a stranger?
For the most part I only talk to strangers about light stuff -- how long the line is taking, how the hors d'oevres are, how they know the bride and groom. I'm not interested in other people's opinions on my life or decisions and in my experience way too many people think that being vegetarian or a homeschooler or any number of other things about me give them the right to poke their noses into my business. I can tell them to mind their own business if I need to, but I'd rather just keep them at arm's length and limit our conversation to inconsequentials. That said, if the stranger in question turns out to be a conversationalist along the lines of what I described in question 1, I'm happy to discuss anything and everything with them, regardless of how short a time we've known each other.

5. Do you like to eavesdrop on other people's conversations?
Not especially. There's a guy at the library who has a deep, resonant voice and who obviously loves being the center of attention. He likes to sit and talk with his friends, very loudly, in the cafe area, about various musicians and artists and historical figures. It's really unpleasant. I want to say to him, hasn't anyone ever told you that it's unforgivably rude to dominate the space like that? I started carrying headphones to the library because of him -- so that I have the option of tuning him out at least a little. I don't want to know about his opinions on anything, I don't want to know about those two old ladies' health problems and their friends' health problems, I don't want to know about the teenagers' dating woes, I don't want to know about that other old guy's political opinions. I want to sit and drink my tea, read my book, and maybe talk quietly with a companion.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Settling in to the year

What I'm up to:

Reading: _What You Should Know About Politics... But Don't_. I started looking into it for class (I'm teaching a polisci class this session) and while it's not what I needed for class, it seems like it's a good general intro for someone like me -- I tend to know quite a bit about a couple pet causes, and very little about the rest of what's going on. I've really just started it, so I don't have much of a review yet, but so far I'm pleased. For the info I'm already familiar with it seems painfully basic and simplified, but that's apparently just what I need for the topics I'm not already familiar with. 

Listening to:

We've been renting from Amazon, recently. The Man from UNCLE movie, which was a lot of fun, although it would have been disappointing, I think, if I'd been invested in it faithfully recreating the TV series. The Librarians second season, which was also a lot of fun, although not as good as the first season (in my opinion it's because Noah Wyle's Librarian is a delightfully annoying character when he shows up for 15 minutes twice a season. The moment the actor lost his old show and started showing up more often, I was done with him. He's the executive producer, unfortunately, so I doubt they're going to send him off into the abyss any time soon. More's the pity.). And... Oh, the most recent Mission Impossible movie, which was not much fun at all. We watch Ghost Protocol pretty often because it's silly and fun to watch. I really wasn't looking for great cinema, here. But the most recent one isn't silly, isn't fun to watch, hardly uses the team members who made the other ones (I've only seen the 1st and 4th) entertaining, and wasn't worth the money or the time we spent on it.

We finally managed to have folks over for the monthly singalong, after waving them off the last two months because of health stuff. The RPG was really good, this month (there's something for everyone in this adventure, which isn't always the case -- in some of our adventures we've had one session in which a character has loads to do, and then the next month there's just nothing for them because of the way the scenes flow (whether they take longer than expected or other characters do unexpected things or just because of how the dice roll), and there are so many interesting little fiddly bits for us to explore and investigate). I managed to get together with a group of old friends I see *way* too rarely these days.

Also started seeing my TCM dude again, and making some much-needed changes to my routine, to better support my health.

I started eating steel cut oats and stewed apples in the morning again, and I'm really enjoying it (I'd stopped because I was bored out of my mind with it, but apparently taking a break for a couple years was just what I needed). Tonight I'm experimenting with a noodle-and-canellini-bean dish we made a couple days ago, turning the leftovers into a garlicky soup.

Something that went particularly well, this week:
Seeing friends. Taking control of my health. Doing a really good job of maintaining work boundaries.

Something that went less well:
Anxiety through the roof. Hence the visit to TCM dude, and the changes in routines.

Something I'm grateful for:
The stubbornness I inherited from a variety of family members and further cultivated on my own.

Something I'm thinking about:
The next 20 years. I know I'd said a few times in the last year or two that I feel as if I'm shifting from the rhythms of the last 20 years to the rhythms for the next 20 years, but I actually think I've been in more of a bardo, knowing that new rhythms were needed but not yet knowing what they would be, and maybe not yet being ready to step into them. I'm ready now.

Something I'm looking forward to:
Various upcoming chances to see friends. How I'll be feeling a month from now, once I've stuck to these new routines for a month.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

What I'm up to:

Reading: The Wood Wife, book two in my Christmas readathon.  Another old favorite, to reconnect with my love of reading.

Listening to:
After a reference to Josquin in Ex Libris, I looked him up, and am enchanted.

The Kim Possible DVDs one of us got for Christmas.  Winter Soldier.

Earlier this week we drove into Queens for our Christmas visit with my Grandma.  In a lovely bit of synchronicity, the rest of my family also chose that day for their Christmas visit, so I got the chance to really relax and visit with everyone in a way I couldn't when I was busy hosting on Christmas Eve.  It was so indescribably good to see them all.  Other than that we're mostly reading, decluttering, and watching movies.  No board games so far this week.  We must fix that.

For Christmas we did mostly finger foods -- we made a very lemony hummus and herby focaccia -- and scones and apple spice cake.

Something that went particularly well, this week:
Our routines were cozy and we stuck to them at least moderately well.  Sitting together and reading in the morning was...  really good.

Something that went less well:
A bit of a stomach bug.  A bit of anxiety.  A bit of grief.

Something I'm grateful for:
My family.  Having the freedom and the luxury to make the choices I'm making about shifting my focus to home and family.

Something I'm thinking about:
What kind of magic phone I should get.

Something I'm looking forward to:
June. Sunday, to have one more relaxing day at home before shifting into the school/work week.  Monday, to start getting more deeply into my new work practices.