Back on track

Remember a couple weeks ago, when I accidentally created a new project for myself? Well it’s done, and it’s AWESOME, and best of all, it’s WORKING.

My brain, you see, swings dramatically between complete inability to find two neurons to knock together, or firing like the Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Eve. Some days I have so many ideas, I’m almost paralysed; other days I’m paralysed by having no idea.

While writing that other post, I realised I have two problems with lists: one is overwhelm – all those tasks with their little expectant faces, and a limited window of time/energy/weather – how do you choose? The other problem was keeping track of the lists themselves. Ruined, lost, buried, left behind, scribbled-over, forgotten. And that was just yesterday.

Then there’s the issue of detail. Say the dishwasher needs fixing. Put that on your list. Now find an appliance repair company, preferably this side of town, without a $150 callout fee. Three calls. Two don’t do dishwashers, one’s busy so you leave a message. He calls back while you’re cooking. Eventually you connect, make the appointment. That must go in the calendar – but your phone’s died, so write it down and hope you remember to transcribe it later. At 8:30pm you’ve made five calls, the job’s still staring at you, and you can’t do squat about it, now. But wait, there’s more! When Dishwasher Repair Dude finally arrives, the machine won’t make the grindy noise. But, two visits later (all the foregoing, again, twice over) DWR Dude has identified the problem and leaves, promising to send a quote. When you get that (and hallelujah we can afford it) he has to order the part …

For me, a process like that constitutes approximately 12,496 opportunities to forget where we’re at, to lose the list or the phone number, or to forget to put it in the calendar. As it happened, this time, although I didn’t actually forget, I still managed to let 24 days slide by while waiting for DWR dude to call to say the ordered part had arrived. And that’s just the immediate, today stuff – imagine amorphous long-term projects like trying to write, edit, and sell a novel, or figure out keeping the chooks off the grass. Where and how do you put those on the list? And where is the list, anyway? Someone’s yelling at me because apparently we’re out of ketchup.

My friend Jen calls it, “Adult-Onset Child-Induced ADHD”. I developed it in my 40s and I’m at the point where there is literally not one single habit I can rely on. Let that sink in for a second. Not. One. Habit. (We can talk about the grief of losing one of a central pillar of my identity, another time.)

Yes, I know there are literally millions of memory aids, tips and tricks, but the catch is – after you research and find what works for you, you have to be able to remember where you put them *and*, to use them. And even then, sometimes you’re just so frelling tired, so overwhelmed and fed up, so up to your eyeballs in mini house-fires and tornadoes, that you just don’t give a rat’s, even if you could find the damn bit of paper.

Enter, my new, beautiful, to-do book.

It’s an old gift from my sister, an A5(ish) notebook from what used to be Wyly Art Center (in Colorado, USA). It was hand-made by stitching little booklets into a rubber-flooring cover (cooooool! durable!), so it naturally divided into ‘subjects’. The pages are completely blank – no times or dates, which is fine since I never know what day it is, anyway. All I had to do, was divide my life into domains.

I gave myself a couple of weeks to play around with that – and to create the art. I don’t do a lot of art, but I should because it’s profoundly therapeutic. Besides the flow of creativity (and the freedom of allowing myself off-leash), the visual tickle of colour and texture produces a deep, cortical ecstasy that is better than meditation. Looking at it brings joy, every single time. That’s gotta help, when you’re trying to remember to send the audiologist’s report to the insurer, right?

Now I can flick through and find a job that fits. Sun shining? Look in Out, find something to do in the garden. Raining? Look In, or do some Admin. Got an arthritis care plan from the GP? Put the recommended rheumatologist, hand clinic, and anti-inflammatory in Vita – and make a note to check emails for the scan and X-ray referrals. Got some time online? CareerusInterruptus isn’t just about writing, you know – there are things to read, menus to tweak, connections to make. Word reminds me of each step. But if it’s 8:30pm and the kids are happy, maybe go Create, because there are places I want to go with that, too – and I don’t have to be distracted by a reminder that I still have to call DWR Dude. Making stuff is just as important.

It’s big enough that it’s hard to lose; it’s durable enough to survive living in my bag. I’ve been writing in it using glitter gel pens because why not? But it doesn’t matter; I can write (or draw) in it with any old thing, any old time, and the info’s there whether my phone is dead, pressed against my ear, or it’s post-screen o’clock. I love it.

And now I’m going Out into the garden, so I can cross some things off after yesterday’s rain.

Oops.

©careerusinterruptus.com

Reasons why my post is late #1:

On Designated Post-Writing Day I wrote a long, rambling post about – well. Not to fall into that trap again, I shall just say, ‘projects’.

As I wandered through my thoughts on this vast matter, it occurred to me that I needed a high-school style ‘subject notebook’, so I could organise my to-do lists by domain.

Damn! That’s actually a REALLY GREAT IDEA!

So I went looking to buy online, but (ahem, here I am, reining myself in again) not liking anything much, I went rummaging through the big box of notebooks we’ve collected over the decades, and there was one that was okay, I guess, if only …

… long story short, I’ve, erm, started a new project. But only a teeny-weeny little one. Honest.

The art post

© careerusinterruptus

I had a plan about what I was going to do with that board, but when I got the paints out, this is what happened instead. Art is like that; it demands a life of its own, I think. White history and culture is thoroughly imbued with myths of control, which I think leads so many of us to despair. Nothing is in control. The only thing that is, is how you respond. The challenge is to listen, to hone the skills that will allow you to see and honour what is, to let it bloom rather than bolt, without losing yourself. This applies whether it’s a painting, a story, or the child you’re raising. Art reminds me of this hard-learned truth. As a recovering high achiever, I need frequent reminding.

© careerusinterrutptus

I made a couple of these boards in the lead-up to the party, partly because the space needed some art and partly because I needed to make some myself. That need, for me, is quite visceral, shouting much louder than the need for exercise, for instance. That need comes from my brain, telling me ‘I should’; art comes from a profound craving for colour and line, for play, for something that, however imperfect (and like every one of us, all art is imperfect) pleases my eye and lifts my heart.

©careerusinterruptus

I mostly make art in parks and on beaches. Partly just because that’s where I frequently find myself with time on my hands; partly because the materials are there, their curves and colours singing; partly because I love love love the idea of someone else finding it, that moment they realise ‘oh, someone made this’, and smiling; wondering. Maybe looking around. Maybe snapping it. Maybe feeling like they discovered a secret. Maybe not.

I know, there are bound to be kids or dogs who run over them all unseeing, and likely others who wreck just because, while gravity and weather wreak their own damage. It doesn’t matter. Nothing I make is about permanence – that’s a control thing. Rather their time here, like ours, is both beautiful and fleeting – indeed the latter lends meaning to the former.

I don’t expect anyone to see that in anything I create, except perhaps dimly; that’s okay. It’s enough to put it out there, into the world. It is, I’d argue, all we can do with our time here: Listen. Honour. Create. Share.

Patio reveal

Drab, ugly, or mismatched colours hurt me. Physically. Whenever my eye falls on them I flinch inside. And in our brutal sunshine, the brash orange of 70s brick is one of the rudest kicks Brisbane regularly delivers to my poor retinas.

Irritatingly, until last week I had to put up with this around our home. Every time I looked out the kitchen window to the back patio, ow. Rude, it was. An offence to not just the eyes but to my whole sensibility: the need for shelter, shade, cool, for hidden secrets to explore, for subtlety and shadow, were all affronted by the harsh plain of glary, baked terracotta. Ugh.

So if I say, ‘the back patio used to be just plain brick, and I hated it with an unholy passion’, please read into that statement ten years of retinal abuse every time I poured a glass of water, hung the laundry out, or watched the kids in the pool.

That’s probably why I failed to take ‘before’ shots. It was just so feckin’ ugly.

I’m quite happy with it now. Now it’s a place where the Skeptic and I sit of an afternoon to catch up on the day and eat chocolate digestives. It’s still going to get unbearably stinking hot, but at least it won’t look like we’re on Mars.

Finally, after ten years, it’s got enough of our artworks to feel like we’ve made a mark, but it’s not finished yet. Not by a long shot. Watch this space…

14 days

Him: Okay, so, just don’t paint the patio.

Me: <blink>

Him: Or, just don’t make yourself a dress!

Me: <blink, blink>

Him: It’s that simple!

Me: <squints> Dude. You’ve known me how long?*

Him: <throws up hands in despair>

Heh. He doesn’t even know about the mirror. Or the artworks.

*answer: 26 years. 26 years! Seriously. You’d think he’d have learned by now.

Placemarker

A listy post today, I think, because I’m in danger of overwhelming myself with everything I want to think and say and do.

1. The road trip was awesome. So awesome, I can’t even think of distilling it down to a single post, or even several. It’s still just a kaleidescope of images and feels. Ideally of course I would have posted as we went, but I decided to give myself a break – as much as that’s possible when you’re covering 3000kms in 17 days with the fam. I did a lot of art and read crappy novels, and bought clever books, and took hundreds of photos, from sweeping landscape vistas to the minute art of nature to my kids doing and seeing stuff they haven’t seen or done and it was thoroughly thrilling and thoroughly exhausting. So, basically perfect. Pictures will trickle onto the instagram page eventually.

2. Some writing opportunities have come my way!

First, I’ve found a blog-hop to join. I’m slightly terrified – I’m going to have to out myself as a writer – but only slightly; it feels like the right time and I’m ready to jump. Watch this space.

Second, the amazing woman who teaches my kids literacy has set up a little writing club. I went, I pestered her for reminders about plot, I remembered just how much of a pantser I am, I solved some problems, and I can see the next novel bubbling up. Huh. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether I want to start working on it – I think I’d rather have a go flogging the finished MS first, but … occasional Thursdays, writing, in addition to Sunday’s time off for good behaviour; yes, I think I’m ready for that.

3. Ohhh the garden! It’s coming along in stops and giant bursts. A huge back step while we were away – 17 days, no water, oops – but we are back now and it’s full-speed ahead.

4. Except, of course, when we are homeschooling. CraftyFish had a wobble where she thought she wanted to go back to school. I was okay with that; our school was lovely, it worked well for her at first, the troubling elements are resolved; I’m confident we could make it work well for her again. Then she considered what she’d be missing and wobbled back towards home, which led to a discussion about how we might make home learning better for her. I think we can do that – she’s already written a couple of stories and done some math, in direct response to that. Then she woke up with a sore throat, poor kid, so it’s all up in the air again.

5. I’ve officially given up my plans to run the Bridge to Brisbane this year. I have gotten a bit better – and backslid – and better still – and backslid – and got to where I could run about 1.5kms – and then went away, which really was an epic backslide. It was always going to be a huge ask, that goal, and while part of me is sorry to miss it, I’m glad I set a goal ambitious enough to make me keep working towards it throughout the year. I shall keep going, until summer hits, and I backslide again, because every time you restart it gets a little easier.

Oh and that’s it – time’s up. One of those mornings where it doesn’t look or feel like much, but setting up for next time is always a good thing. Now I’m going home to make chicken soup and chocolate chip cookies for people who don’t feel well, and do some art, and some housework, and dream, and plan.

Progress

Oh, lord, it’s SO SLOW. When I’m lying awake at night (far more often than not) I sometimes feel like the changes occurring in my house could teach glaciers a thing or two about slowing down. The universe unfolds faster than the projects in my house.

This does not, of course, accurately reflect reality. It is just the horrible yawning mismatch between where I want to be and where I am; between what I want to do and what, realistically, I can do in any given 24-hour period. I feed the kids, I drive them around; I talk to Mum and get her, sometimes, to appointments; I feed the kids some more; I support their projects and their meltdowns and their social lives; I research and try to solve problems; I clean the cat litter and feed the chooks and oh, look – it’s time to feed the kids again and then begin the 47-hour circus that is bedtime so that I can lie awake chewing it all over. I get distracted, too, and spend an inordinate amount of time looking for my own stuff that I’ve put down and wandered away from sixty times a day.

So what tortures me in the small hours is the Great Undone. If you ask, I’ll tell you: I’ve dropped all my balls and then some. It’s not the stuff I didn’t cross off the list today, it’s the stuff that didn’t even make it on to the list. And then there are the dreams… Aw, hell. All of that, and more.

So this is a reality-check post. Evidence, to me, that progress is, in fact, being made, however infinitesimally.

Exhibit A: Mr Pixel’s room. Not yet liveable; right now, though, let’s focus on what’s different from the last snap. The walls have been painted, the tall bookshelf bought and assembled, the small shelves painted. The bed, oh the bed! Or as I’m trying to remember to call it, the Lego Station. Completely sanded, painted (two different colours). Shelves built on the left-hand side (barely visible in this picture). Right-hand shelves trimmed and new legs built to accommodate feet on the ladder end. Backboard shelves built and attached, corkboard bought and attached. Quite a bit of paint spatter has been scraped off the floor, an ENORMOUS amount of outgrown-treasures have been redistributed, more than a few childish artworks have been recycled. (For us, with all the emotions, this is probably the biggest step; it represents not just project progress but personal growth as well). Options for lights over the workspace have been researched. Most of his Important Treasures have been found homes on the shelves or in the cupboard. Still quite a bit to do, but progress. Yes, definitely progress.

Exhibit B: back yard

In the back yard, these two veggie beds have been built and painted. The pond (white blob in the back corner) has been filled and fish introduced; they haven’t died yet. Progress here is slower, less visible, as the vandals chooks still have the run of the place. Optimistically I bought plants to go around the pond, but they’ve all been dug up. Repeatedly.

In the front yard, the fence has been mostly constructed and painted; I still have to get someone in to build the front gate; there is still fence-levelling to do and a few pieces that need to be added on the side yard.

We have a plan for the road trip; most of the accommodation has been identified, so as soon as I find some sit-down energy I will start booking. I guess it doesn’t sound like a lot; for me, balancing destinations (far apart) against driving tolerances (short) and budget against comfort (specifically, not putting us all in one room too often, as it just makes the introverts cranky) – that took a lot of brain power and a lot of time.

In this period, too, we’ve got through both kids’ birthdays and both their parties; we bought a wood-burning kit that the three of us are learning to use; we set up CraftyFish’s fish tank (so easy to say! so hard to get right!); we have been letter-boxing for the local candidate in the upcoming federal election. It is not like I’ve been sitting on my arse, no matter how it feels at three in the morning. I just needed to remind myself of that.

Ugh

Well, we’re deep in the “getting worse” phase, before all my crazy planning starts to make things better. So deep.

We got veggie boxes built and I filled them; while I was doing that the chooks got in and tore up both the gardens were already producing veg. Man, those girls can throw dirt a long way. They literally excavated 20cms of soil into an area twice the size of the original beds. On top of the hoeing we’ve been doing to prepare the side yard for turfing. Then Mother Nature got in on the act and dumped something like 15cms of rain on us in one weekend – and kept going. So, the yard looks a bit like Flanders Fields, before the poppies.

The patio, cleaned and cleared for the IWD event last week, is now lavishly strewn with the new parts from Mr Pixel’s bed that we’re painting. Twelve large shelves and 20 bed slats, plus brackets for the new shelves… and a liberal coating of chicken poop, because the girls are still on the loose, rain having prevented me from finishing fencing the side yard.

Mr Pixel’s worksite

Meanwhile, indoors, we got busy sanding. We’re converting his loft bed into a fully functioning Lego work-station and repainting it from bright little-kid colours to something more mature. It’s going to be magnificent. But it’s a lot of fiddly sanding. Heat gun shavings just fall to the floor, but neither sander’s bag works particularly well so thick, pale greenish dust coats the entire room, tracked out into the playroom. Where his stuff is.

CraftyFish’s worksite

Well, his stuff, and CraftyFish’s stuff, because she couldn’t bear that I’m putting in so much time next door while her room looks like someone put Big W’s entire inventory through a shredder and then dumped it on the floor. So she got in on the act. She excavated four loads of laundry from the floor (FOUR!); she’s thrown out more stuff this week than previously in her entire life; she’s moved stuff to the playroom, donated to charity, piled outgrown treasures into a box for storing. She’s sorted some stuff, too, labelled boxes, dragged all four sets of shelves out into the hallway for cleaning. And then she had a costume birthday party to go to (anxiety! costume! anxiety! gift! anxiety!) so it’s all just been left. She can’t even sleep in there right now, there’s so much stuff piled on the bed and floor.

And none of that is as simple as it sounds on the page, is it? ‘Sanding’ required an emergency dash to buy more sheets, jerry-rigging an old-sock bag for the one that broke, and finding protection for hyper-sensitive ears; I worked until past dark yesterday reconstructing one of the excavated garden beds; we’ve driven all over town collecting manure, paint, plant pots, costume, mulch, Mr Pixel’s new bed, donating to charity; I keep having to stop what I’m doing to feed people, sort playdates, and field meltdowns.

I’ve dropped the exercise ball, I’ll be honest. I’m not sleeping well, either. In the face of that much mess, it can be hard to see any progress at all, and I’m pretty sure the Sceptic is considering moving out until I’ve finished everything and put away the broom. I know it’s just stress and that if I breathe deep, hold tight to that vision, reassure everyone that we’re making progress, and keep chipping away, it will eventually get better.

So that’s what I’m going home to do, in yet another day of <30C heat and <70% humidity and not being able to take two steps without standing on or tripping over something. Because in our house, this is what gifted looks like.

Crazy busy planning

Oh, my goodness, my brain is so busy these days!

On Friday I hosted an IWD event at home, just 14 women, to connect my strong awesome friends with each other. That in itself was a big deal for us; I can’t remember the last time we had more than one family over for dinner, and it required a heap of cleaning and tidying.

But when, on Friday afternoon, I had an hour to sit quietly while CraftyFish did her piano lesson, I took a notebook and spilled out all the other ideas that are crowding my brain these days:

I want a big bash for my 50th in September. LOTS of people. Started working on the guest list and, god help me, food ideas.

There’s no room in the house for that, but that’s okay, I’ve started a major garden makeover. It’ll be in three four five parts: the front patio, the side yard where the chooks live, the back yard, the back walkway connecting the side and back yards, and the back patio. I’ll do most of the work myself and it’s going to be absolutely freaking ENORMOUS. That’s okay; I’ve got enormous energy for it because I’m so excited by the lush vision I have in my head. So my 50th will be a garden party.

Two weeks before the party, I’m going to run the 10k Bridge2Brisbane. Right now, I can walk barely 2kms – and that’s after a couple of months of physio and exercise physiology unfucking my back and hips. I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve got my war-face on: a little bit, almost every day, working through the stiffness and the pain. Plus, you know, I bloody hate exercise. I’m just starting to hate being unfit more. I want a good old age and exercise is key.

My reward for that is going to be a tattoo, because I’m 49 going on 18.

And I spent yesterday planning a two-week road-trip the Sceptic and I will take with the kids in July. The only thing locked in so far is to be in Parkes for the 50th Moon Landing anniversary celebrations at the CSIRO radio telescope (The Dish). On our way through we’ll visit the Siding Springs Observatory (visitor centre only, alas) and another observatory there in Coonabarabran where you can actually do some observing (squeee!). Oh, and I suppose we’ll do some things for the kids.

And before that, I’ve set myself the task of completely revamping Mr Pixel’s room in time for his twelfth birthday, in mid-April. Painting, new furniture, sorting out a basquillion Lego pieces. With his blessing, if not cooperation.

You might be thinking, whoa, that’s a lot to cram into six months.

You might be thinking, hang on, isn’t she also writing a book?

You might be thinking, isn’t she also also home-schooling those supposedly gifted kids of hers?

I know. I know, I know, I know.

I know I’ve probably bitten off more than I can likely chew. I don’t approach these things remotely pragmatically; it has certainly never occurred to me to start with, say, a budget and work out what can be done within that. I’ve never set a ‘SMART’ goal that worked out. I am no judge of what is realistic or achievable. I really don’t think like that. I’ve tried; I suck at it.

In fact it’s probably fair to say, I don’t think much at all. I just dream – huge, starry, vivid dreams – and then make it up as I go along. Believe it or not, that usually works. There’s a huge energy that comes from following that vision. And more importantly, working like that – 97 different projects simultaneously on the go, a budget of ‘as little as possible’, no real plan, just a picture in my head – that makes for a very happy Rebecca. A very, very happy Rebecca.

Because in our house, #thisiswhatgiftedlookslike.


Happy crappy

It’s a mighty fine day when I get into the garden.

It was even finer, this time, because last week I spent tossing stuff – you know, the endless crap you accumulate when you hoard things for ‘one day’ or because you’re a sentimental schmuck, or because they are *just* *so* *beyootiful*, you think you can’t possibly bear to throw them out, and your kids are the same only more so (so much more so!), and anyway we’ll get to it, until you can’t move (or see, or think) for the stuff you’ve got packed into boxes in closets and the garage? That stuff. Out. It. Went.

Which meant empty boxes, which in our house means, empty boxes from Who Gives a Crap, because they make toilet paper that’ll put a smile on your face and no they’re not sponsoring me and yes you should totally start ordering from them. It’ll give you a glow.

So there I was, five of big WGaC boxes now emptied, and then it started to rain, and for once the right neurons bumped together and lit up the “GARDEN” sign, because obviously the best thing to do with your 100% recycled, recyclable cardboard is NOT to send it off to be recycled, but to soak it, shred it, and layer it into the garden bed with lots of lovely horsey poos and the hay from the guinea pigs’ hutch, water it all down and cover it with organic sugarcane mulch, and come back in a week’s time, to start planting.

So satisfying, shredding wet cardboard! So fun, mending the leaky irrigation hose! So fragrant, the horse crap, steaming in the sun! So delightful, the shower afterwards, when for once, nobody tries to delay, divert or disturb me. Miraculous.

And if all that distracts you from the fact that you completely FORGOT you were taking the kids camping with the school until the teacher texted you a reminder a mere 60 HOURS before you’re supposed to get on the ferry and OH MY GOD WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT CAMPING?! and by the way we’re down to 44 HOURS AND COUNTING HAVE YOU EVEN STARTED PACKING YET? then so much the better. Right?