I’m furloughed, which at least coincides with the semester break at NDU. I spent the first week of Lapse-mas eating and sleeping, making merry with my kin, and replacing all the contents of my wallet, which was stolen on Christmas Eve during my final grocery outing. Mouse and I went to visit my parents in West Virginia for a couple of days. I latch-hooked half of a Christmas wreath while watching “Serenity” and “Solo” with my dad. Then we came home. I read novels with vampires and witches in them and spent three days in the house in my jammies. I subsequently worked my way into Russian New Year’s cooking, Regency romances, and even getting dressed to go outside. Ideally, I will be totally recharged by the time Congress sees fit to reopen my agency; hopefully that will coincide with the beginning of my next semester of school.
My challenge for the rest of the academic year is learning how to plan and write academic papers in an organized manner. Fall semester went pretty well, only my writing was almost entirely done in desperate overnight bursts. That wasn’t a problem when I was 18, but I found it painful as a 48 year-old. There will be more writing this semester, and I would like to suffer less. I also suspect that I might be more professionally effective in general if I could unlock the secrets of time management. Suggestions welcome.
Unexpectedly TeenBot is home from Marine boot camp. He had an unexpected health issue pop up and was discharged to come home and deal with it. It’s treatable – he should even be eligible to enlist in the military again after six months with a medical waiver, if that’s what he wants to do. But it’s rough on him, coming home without a clear path forward just when most of his friends are heading off to college. I will say no more, since it’s not my tale to tell – but there it is.
We launched TeenBot off to his senior prom tonight. That was one of the day’s three main events and definitely the most photogenic. The other two highlights were bleaching the bejeezus out of the shower and drafting my first post as a Featured Contributor on GovLoop.
On the latter point, it has been six years or so since the last time I wrote anything for an actual publication. I hope that I will get the hang of it again quickly, seeing as how I’m supposed to produce one post each week for the next couple of months. I also hope I’ll figure out how “focus keywords” and “SEO titles” work (unless, of course, the nice editors at GovLoop wind up taking care of all that).
On the former, I will spare you the before and after pictures. My landlord’s interior maintenance is maybe not the best thing about where we live.
It’s Easter for us Papists (and the Western-rite Orthodox, and Protestants). This year my sister and I and our families met up for a holiday lunch at Fogo de Chao downtown to celebrate. As the night deepens and the time for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” approaches, I feel confident in declaring victory. The conditions for a successful holiday have been met. To wit:
- No one gambles away the grocery money.
- No foodstuffs are thrown.
- No one storms out of the house in a passion.
- No one visits the ER.
- No one makes me cry.
- No one calls the police to my home.
(OK, actually I can’t claim victory if I haven’t fulfilled the religious obligation of the holiday. I am really pleased about the other stuff not going wrong and with the way the rest of the weekend went – I mean, I didn’t eat any Easter candy! I exercised! I took a machine-sewing primer at Stitch Sew Shop! We had a really pleasant afternoon with extended family! But nope.)
At the start of the week, I read an Inc column by Suzanne Lucas listing 10 things every working mom needs. It made me want to write a post in response. Only now that I am writing it do I realize that she actually published the column in May 2016. So I will have to amend my first item on my list of 10 Things Every Salary Mom Needs.
- Time to write own posts (and check the publication dates on other people’s before deciding to pen responses to them). I wish that time were something one could purchase as a Mother’s Day gift. If only I could put the rest of the world in suspended animation for a couple of hours at a time, just so as to get caught up or a little ahead of the game! It is just as well that I lack this power. I can see it degenerating quickly into me stopping the world to melt with, I don’t know, instructions for preparing digestive bitters or orthopedic shoe catalogs online. Pretty soon I would be pining for more time.
- Learn how to build Twitter threads. This thought first occurred to me from the point of view of time management – it’s probably more efficient to pop out ideas in a series of Tweets than to craft a narrative, even a listicle. In a broader view, I don’t want to forget how to chew my own food. New gadgets aren’t going to do me much good if I don’t know how to use them. It’s a short slide from not knowing how to take screenshots on my iPhone or thread tweets to forgetting how the cable remote works, then you’re the person at work who can’t remember how to use the digital sender and other people are silently fuming as they feed your 30 pages of stuff into the machine for you because it’s faster than explaining to you again how office machines work. On the day that I’m hollering down the hall asking some helpless subordinate how to get my e-mail to work again, I beg OPM to grant me immediate Discontinued Usefulness Retirement.
- Prepare for the zombie apocalypse – or retirement. For some reason I conflate these events when I imagine a future that doesn’t involve pivoting tables in Excel or crafting bureaucratic treatises. No, I’m not at all worried about the economy collapsing, why do you ask? Add retooling for a next career or taking off with the family for a week of survivalist camp to my Salary Mom wish list. I’ll pass on the electric wine bottle opener. (That Tile thing sounds like a good idea, though.)
- More labor-sharing from the other members of the household. Nothing against some of the labor-saving gadgets that Lucas lists. After almost two years with our dog, that Roomba is starting to look like a good idea. But what I really, really want is not to be the one thinking about what’s for dinner or whether the kids are doing their homework. Just because I said I could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan does not mean that I agreed to be responsible for bacon-frying in perpetuity. (The title of this post comes from these funky poems I found when searching for a still version of the famous Enjoli ads of the 70’s and 80’s. Thanks, Jenn McCreary.) The more I have introduced labor-saving doodads into the domestic equation over the years, the more I have cemented my role as the family’s all-purpose Labor-Saving Device In Chief. I am told that there are marriages where the parties consciously decide how best to share domestic responsibilities – how nice! My best results in getting better labor-sharing have come from occasional acts of sabotage (like hiding game controllers and taking the cable modem to work in my purse, or changing account passwords) and feigned obliviousness to mounting piles of laundry.
- Wash and Fold Service. The year we lived in an apartment without our own washer and dryer, I dropped our laundry off at Duke’s Lavanderia three times a week and got it back the next day washed and folded. I felt good about using a family-owned business in my area and also about having neatly folded laundry.
- More Communal Services in General. What I love about laundromats, other than the aforementioned wash-and-fold, is that you can walk in and pay to use machines that work way faster and better than the ones in most homes. Using the laundromat en famille kind of sucks, though, so I’m waiting for someone to open a combination laundromat/fitness center/sauna or laundromat/coffee shop/indoor playground. (I once saw a laundromat/bowling alley in a dream, which would be a great business for a college town.) On the food front, my sister’s family found a place where they could pay to do all their meal prep for the week in a professional kitchen. Me, I would happily subscribe to a cafeteria meal plan for my family if I could. We’d probably waste a lot less and do a better job of accommodating our divergent tastes and nutrition needs. This is one for the Salary Mom Cosmic Wish List.
- Store pick-up and delivery options. I am personally sick of Amazon trying to shove Prime down my throat. Also – not that other delivery services are necessarily better – Amazon’s labor practices have a bad reputation. Plus there’s that whole “at home” part of getting things delivered. Peapod has good physical packaging for delivering perishable groceries when no one is home, but it seems like you have to order your stuff days in advance. So far my favorite is the online order and drive-through grocery pick-up at Harris Teeter. If they would combine that with dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up, it would be grand.
- More Walking. When I lived overseas 25 years ago, my local grocery store had a set-up where you could buy what you needed and then have your purchases delivered to your home later that day. The option of walking to the store gets a lot more practical and attractive when you don’t have to reckon with carrying all your groceries home. I could really use more options for integrating basic physical motion into my day.
- More Social Interaction Offline. Make me go see my friends and extended family or invite them over instead of forever screwing around online or stewing in my own despair. It’s good to have some human contact that doesn’t involve work or domestic logistics. I will complain that I am tired or burned out, but it’s for my own good.
- Flowing Jedi Robes. Could we please agree on this as a unisex professional wardrobe option? Alternately, I would accept professional clothing constructed and marketed like men’s business wear, especially if there were some improvements like adjustable waists and darts to accommodate size fluctuation. And pockets.
One of my cousins got me hooked on Words With Friends on Thanksgiving 2016. It is not a coincidence that my blog went on life support at about the same time. Most of my blogging impulse was already being spent on Facebook and Twitter, which served a role somewhere between creative micro-outlet and slot machine yielding occasional jackpots of external validation. Playing internet scrabble with my cousin took writer’s bloc and the idea of Personal Branding completely out of the equation and left me with a perfect and almost mindless occupation to fill my evenings and weekends, one unlikely to launch family feuds or violate the Hatch Act. I have 18 matches running right this moment with five people, and it’s fun – as long as I don’t pour hours into it at a time. It’s certainly been a great time-killer while I recover from foot surgery! But when I look back at how much I wrote 10-12 years ago, I realize that the game and social media in general have sucked away a lot of time that would have been better spent almost anywhere. I don’t socialize in real life anywhere near as much as I did before I got a smart phone. Heck, I don’t even do as many side-hustle writing gigs as I did when I was blogging regularly.
I’ve been telling myself that I’m burnt out from work, but in reality I’ve short circuited myself by cycling between Hootsuite, Facebook, and Words With Friends as though coins might pour out of the USB slot on my iPhone any minute.
(I am back in the office now and back in an orthopedic boot now, two weeks after having the cast removed. I just graduated from using two crutches at all times to only needing one, and I go to physical therapy twice a week. Maybe the uptick in activity is what’s making me realize how stuck I’ve been mentally. Now if it would only help me realize that I should go to bed before midnight to have more energy by day …)
My cast comes off the day after tomorrow. It started to itch like crazy a couple of days ago. This coincides roughly with the beginning of the power outage we experienced as a consequence of the Bomb Cyclone, aka Windpocalypse. I guess the absence of distractions will do that. Happily, the power was restored this morning, shortly after midnight.
The great plus of Windpocalpyse for me was the incentive to try again with a book I’d previously abandoned as too stilted. I finally got into The Turn of the Screw. I wouldn’t have sought it out, but it was what got delivered from the basement when I asked Dino Spouse for “a thick old Russian novel” after running out of Kindle battery and downloads.