Category: Money

Obscure CanLit anxiety dreams

DSC_1484.jpg
I have a theory about anxiety dreams: I think they don’t count for restful sleep. I woke this morning feeling utterly exhausted by the dreams I’d just been through. I’d lost my phone. I’d appeared late for an event at a festival due to taking a shortcut and sliding down a steep hill of mud and having to climb back up again. I realized we’d scheduled that over-achieving daughter of ours to take ballet at the same time that she had soccer and swimming. Worst of all I went on an angry rant at a stranger, which proved completely unjustified: I accused him of stealing some cards from me, and it turned out that he’d found the cards and kindly mailed them on my behalf.

Dream rage is very disturbing. Does anyone else do that? Rant and rave in their dreams? Maybe I’m repressing something.

In any case, I awoke with residual dream-emotions of guilt, worry, stress, and whatever one wrestles with while trying to scrabble up a steep muddy incline.

A hurricane is coming, apparently, or at least its outer skirts are expected to brush our part of the world. On the bright side, soccer tryouts are cancelled tonight, so we can look forward to a leisurely family supper. I’m making fish and potatoes. A grainy mustard sauce for the fish, and potatoes fried in leftover bacon fat with onions. Yum.

DSC_1486.jpg

I realize that this blog has recently come to be dominated by the writer part of me. And the writer part of me is admittedly anxious. I don’t feel that close to the industry, here in the wilds of Waterloo, but there is much in the news about publishing to be anxious about. But how anxious to be? In the print media, newspapers are putting up paywalls online in an effort to earn back dollars lost in advertising revenue, which has collapsed. A midsized independent Canadian publisher declared bankruptcy last week. And two huge multinationals, Random House and Penguin, just announced a merger agreement this morning. I’ve been reading the news, and the commentary, and some excellent blogs on the subjects, but I can’t wrap my head around what it means. Are people willing to pay for well-written words? Is traditional book publishing dying out? Does it mean no one can make money publishing books, or print? Does it mean we’ll all be turning virtual pages very soon? Or writing “books” in new formats: serially, like blogs, or quippily, like tweets? I don’t even know why I’m speculating on the subject because I have no good ideas or insights. None.

DSC_1491.jpg

At our house, we still like books. The old-fashioned kind that carry evidence of their history around with them in physical clue-like ways.

At our house, we still get the daily newspaper delivered; I read it at breakfast and lunch and in the evening, usually while eating.

But then, once upon a time, not so long ago, I loved writing letters. I’ve converted happily to a mixture of email, texts, and social media, none of which I can store in my hope chest in shoeboxes up in the attic.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I wrote regularly in a journal. Now I write here, unless I’m having a day too dark for here.

I don’t seem to miss the letters or the journals, except abstractly. Maybe I won’t miss books. I almost can’t type that sentence, because I just can’t believe it could ever be true.

Look how we’ve grown

DSC_1083.jpg
DSC_1061.jpg
DSC_1063.jpg
DSC_1078.jpg
Every September we measure the kids on a wall in the basement. We started the annual ritual not long after moving into this house, which was nine years ago this summer. It’s entertaining to compare, say, AppleApple, who has always been my biggest child, from birth onwards, to Fooey, who has always been my smallest. We discovered this year that Fooey measures almost a year and a half behind AppleApple in height! AppleApple, meantime, would be taller than Albus, if they were exactly the same age. And so far, Albus and CJ measure identically at the same ages.

Trivia. The stuff of life.

This year we measured Kevin and me too. It was the kids’ idea. I’d rather not repeat it every year, because really, all we can hope for is that we haven’t shrunk: that’s our only direction at this stage. Amusingly (for me), I proved taller than expected, and Kevin proved shorter. We’re only separated by about 2.5 inches. So we gave everyone a low five: guess what kids, you’ve been gifted with short genes.

Reflecting on measuring changes, here’s another one. I’m realizing that there may not be quite as much blog-time this fall as I’ve been accustomed to. Please accept in advance my apologies for the absences that may occur.

So much I want to tell you about: work, play, exercise, new activites, a family meeting, canning, running, writing, suppers. So much I want to record and preserve.

But the truth is that I’m not keeping up. I’m not used to not keeping up. Professionally, I’m swamped through October, and on the domestic front, well, it’s back-to-school time, and you all know what that means. So I’m hoping to tread water. That’s all.

Actually, come to think of it, I’m hoping not to shrink …

Gone writing …

June12 221

Gone writing. Yes, again. I’ve spent the morning working on a writing-for-pay job, and now I’ve got the afternoon (an hour or two, anyway) to work on hopeful-writing, ie. the new book. I’d love to tell you more, but I’m way too superstitious. If this makes it to a full manuscript, in months or years or whenever, I will run around shouting the news from any available top: hilltop, rooftop, mountaintop. You get the picture.

Meantime, imagine me quietly plugging away.

(Total aside: I keep hearing about these crowd-funded novel-writing enterprises — it seems the latest thing to do. Forget about applying for a professional grant, and sign up instead to ask many online strangers to donate a few dollars each toward a specific project. I’m kind of shaking my head, but also curious; under what circumstances could that possibly work?)

On the work of the cricket (file under: morning-nap thoughts)

[Your eyes do not deceive you. This is not a photo of a cricket.]

**Morning-nap thoughts (yes, I take a 20-minute nap on the mornings I get up early to exercise; if perfectly timed, I lie down as soon as the kids have left for school, and I’m up before 9am) …

My poetry book club meets tonight. Spoiler alert, book club friends: I’m going to write about Mary Oliver in today’s post. Specifically, the poem that lay gently in my mind this morning while I drifted toward rest, which is titled “Song of the Builders,” and comes from her collection (fittingly, I see): Why I Wake Early. It is a poem, like most of her poems, set outdoors. In it, the poet sits in the grass and thinks about God while nearby a cricket moves grains of earth: “How great was its energy, / how humble its effort.” Of course, she is talking about herself, too. They are both at work, “building the universe.”

This poem came gentle to me this morning as I thought about work. Which you know I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In my conversations with Kevin, we’ve come to some pretty comfortable conclusions, by which I mean we’ve settled, together, on things we can live with, happily. One is that there is work, and then there is a paycheque, and the two are easily confused but largely unrelated (but you wise people already knew that, didn’t you!) Kevin loves his work. He doesn’t feel burdened by it, and would do it, in one form or another, whether or not our family depended on the paycheque that comes with it. And that makes a difference. I have the desire to work; but it’s gotten muddled with a desire for a paycheque.

Money is such a complicated and powerful concept. I don’t have the time or brain power to address its many uses and seductions here. But suffice it to say, I am setting it aside in my considerations.

What is clear to me is that the work I long to do is available in many forms. It already exists, and I am already doing it. If a new opportunity calls me, and calls to my interests and abilities, I would leap to do it. But I respect and cherish the work I’m already doing.

What I love about Mary Oliver is her utter lack of interest in hierarchy. The work of the natural world is as fascinating, as valuable, as universe-building as any work that you or I could do. It’s really quite an anti-capitalist view, if you get right down to it. She has no interest in capital. I admire the poets who do not apologize for being poets. Who is to say that sitting quietly on the grass and thinking about God is not work? Such humility. Such stillness. Such grace and goodness. She’s not saying everyone should be a poet. She’s saying be who you are. If you are a cricket, you work like a cricket without worrying whether your work is valuable or necessary or useful.

I would like to work like a cricket. Or a poet. Or, more precisely, like myself.

And that is my drifting nap-time thought for the day.

Climbing hills and trees: more thoughts on motherhood and work

How to pare down today’s thoughts into a blog-worthy parcel? First, I want to say thank you to the many who added their comments and experiences to the working-mom meets stay-at-home-mom post. So much food for thought. And I’ve been hungry. Here’s where your thoughts led me:

1. Six-and-a-half years ago, I read an essay by Carol Shields that both comforted me and rung true. In it, she offered the idea that there is enough time. She was writing the essay while dying of breast cancer, but even for dying, she wrote, there is enough time. When she was younger, she worried about fitting everything in, but in each stage of life, she discovered time enough. It wasn’t that she could do everything all at once, it was that she honoured and lived out each stage.

I loved that idea (still do). That I could enter fully into intense hands-on motherhood and take my time. And when the stage passed, I could enter fully into whatever came next. And in my untested theory, somehow those years of intense motherhood would be an asset to whatever came next: all the juggling of multiple demands and scheduling and coping with crises and being nurse / healer / calm-amidst-the-storm / psychiatrist / chef / chauffeur / event planner / and on and on as the moment required would be valued, and would add value to whatever I chose to do next.

A couple of big assumptions in my theory. a) That employers would value experience that couldn’t be validated or quantified. b) That careers could be built overnight or slipped into like a pair of shoes. c) That I would get to choose my career like an item picked off a menu. d) That I would have a clear idea of whatever came next. e) That the intense hands-on motherhood stage would pass.

Reading your thoughts, it struck me: my theory is entirely unproven. I’ve spent six years quietly and confidently assuming everything would fall into place at the right time. (And who knows, stranger things have happened.) But let’s just say things don’t. Let’s observe that intense motherhood doesn’t pass, exactly, things just calm down somewhat. Even a decade on, it’s still pretty intense (with children ages 10, 8, 6 and 3). Meeting their needs continues to occupy a large portion of my mind and my time. The stages of life, therefore, aren’t so clear-cut and tidy.

2. Beyond that, I’m feeling a deeper appreciation for the work that career-building takes. Success in a chosen field isn’t something you can step into. It’s a slow build, a steady climb; you have to be there in order to make connections and to stumble into the right place at the right moment. It takes hard work and commitment. And time. Time and commitment that I’ve chosen to put into my home life and my children. Not into a career.

3. But: At the expense of a career? I still refuse to believe that. Especially because I have been (slowly) building a career as a fiction writer, and, yes, it’s taken time and commitment. But as most writers of fiction will tell you, this ain’t a career known for wild profiting; or even, in all honesty, breaking even. Which brings me to …

4. How much do I prioritize financial independence? I am in a marriage with a supportive partner who has shouldered the burden of our expenses ever since we started having children (you could say, conversely, that I’ve shouldered the burden of caring for our children during that time; and that perhaps we both have made sacrifices–and gains–in this arrangement.) I realize that I’m fortunate even to be able to ask this question, but, if I had to choose between nurturing my creative life and becoming financially independent, which would it would be? Because, let’s be realistic, it may be that there isn’t time to be a mother, and a writer, AND a [fill in the blank] money-earner. At least not all at once.

5. Feminism. One reader commented that her mother strongly prioritized financial independence, for herself and by extension for her daughters; and I know my own mom was troubled by her lack of financial independence, and hoped for better for her daughters. I haven’t done much better, not yet. Why does this weigh on me? (Because it does.)

And, finally …

6. Experimenting freely. Does all of this worry and analysis leave out the most important part, the most exciting part, about where I stand, right this second? (Okay, I’m actually sitting.) Because there is so much possibility in the unknown. My imagination runs wild. Sometimes I’m afraid; but mostly, here’s how I want to frame this nebulous whatever comes next stage that no longer seems so well-defined and particular …

**Like I’m marching joyfully up a giant rock in my rubber boots to survey the fields all around.

**Like I’m climbing an old apple tree, not necessarily expecting to find edible fruit, but for the heart-pounding excitement of being up so high; and to test the branches, and my own bravery.

(Now, if you please … tell me what you think.)

Yard sale bargains

Signs, balloons, excited preparation.

A Friday-afternoon notion turned into a Saturday morning project. We’ve been talking about doing this for years.

The kids did the pricing. And chose the toys from the cornucopia in the attic. Household items were added from basement and garage. There is always, but always, too much stuff. How did we accumulate all of this?

No one bought the office chairs for $1.00. No students came by, which surprised us. (We also had two working TVs for sale, neither of which sold).

But the lemonade and popcorn were a hit. We used last year’s sign, but we didn’t have any “chocolate treats” to sell this year, so we marked them as “sold out.”

We met lots of neighbours. Nothing says, “hey, drop by for a chat” like arranging the contents of your basement and attic on your front lawn.

What didn’t sell was loaded up in the truck and donated to the local MCC store. Everyone chose something to keep (like this pink flashing butterfly wing musical device we’d forgotten existed).

It was fun. But these photos look a little melancholy to me, as I put them together in Blogland. Maybe it’s the concept of arranging your belongings on the lawn and waiting, wondering, who will show up? What will happen? Will anyone want these things that we once wanted and needed and used?

Page 3 of 41234