Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lessons in Persevering

I'm beginning to realize, now that I'm 40, that I have some edges of ADHD. Not the "H" part, it's not hyperactivity, but there's definitely the attention deficit piece. I'm not using this as an excuse for why I'm late, why I change everything on a whim, why my house is a mess, but it is definitely a part of the puzzle. I can work on it now that I know it's part of my brain.

I look around my life and see the unfinished projects and many many interests and fun and talents and a lot of talking and extroversion and coffee drinking and laughing and I like me. I like who I am and what I do and how I try and keep trying.

But I would like to finish something sometime somewhere soon. You know? And I'm exhausted and panic sometimes about it all.

And then I started working on this running thing with Brooklyn. It's a slow program, a "couch to 5K" thing that baby steps you from "I haven't run in 12 years" to actually perhaps making it 3 miles. Maybe. Not sure if it will or not. But I'm obeying my phone as the dramatic female voice tells me to start running, how many intervals I have left, when to start walking.

And it's working. Baby steps are actually working. And I'm looking forward to getting the shoes on and going across to the park.

It's giving me an insight into how I work best right now.

So now I'm spending 10 minutes twice a day in the garden and yard. And that's working. I knit two squares for the blanket I'm making, just about each day. I volunteered to make table runners for Bixby's cousin's baby shower, and instead of staying up all night the night before, I'm doing one at a time each day. I am looking at the details for like the first time and not getting lost in the big picture.

It's showing me how to be a better worker, a better parent, a better housekeeper. It is summer...and that makes things easier in general, but even so, the change is dramatic.

It's like...for the first time in years, since probably my diagnosis with Hashimoto's in 2006, life doesn't feel like it's drowning me.

Life. Isn't. Drowning. Me.

I'm starting to learn how to swim again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porch Sitting

We moved to our little place in 1998. There was no porch sitting then. No stoop sitting either. We knew a total of 4 neighbors until the Crime Wave brought us all together.

Then the stoop sitting began. Kids running up and down the block and playing and it's too hard to just stand around the whole time. So Zelda's steps or Gretchen's steps became the go-to stoop, in the center of the population of young children although not precisely in the center of the block. The top of our block is mostly 2-family flat buildings on the north side, and frankly, across the street from them are one-family buildings but not super-interactive dwellers in those structures. We are west-heavy.

Porch sitting became a more structured event as time went on. Evenings, Zelda and Travis would be on their porch and I was inevitably coming home from a meeting at church while they were out there. The summer Troy lived with us and they had their own houseguests, porch sitting took on a form of therapy. What I did at my kitchen table with other people, the porch-sitting friends did for me. Let me tease out truth and laugh at my own weakness and foibles and get to know this adult version of me.

Porch sitting also was an escape. Out on the porch in the heat of the day, no one else was going to bother me. I could listen to my grateful dead pandora station and read novel after novel while I drank iced coffee or lime water. Wifi means I could write or work or waste time.

One of the things about city living, or, more properly, about living in a neighborhood with alleys, is that the fronts of houses are welcoming to people. All the garage and trash and wires are in the back. The stoop is the public interaction contact location, and the porch is a welcoming into my life or your life in a slightly more private, but still quite public, way. People live here. Come talk to them.

We are building a new porch this summer. The old one is a deck, really--no roof, so it's useless for porch sitting in the rain. Our house was a boarding house for a good chunk of its existence and slowly fell into neglect--sometime in the late 90s the porch started falling away from the house and the owner's brother tore it off and built what's there now. It has about 2 good months left in it before it falls down itself of its own accord. Time for new. It will be a family affair--Bix's dad is a contractor and has us loosely on his schedule.

I cannot wait; I've wanted a new porch since, oh, 1998. I almost didn't buy our house due to the current porch. Luckily I--or rather our awesome real estate agent--could see past the idiosyncracies, neglect, poor decisions, and haphazard repairs to a welcoming sturdy structure in a beautiful place.

Here's hoping the people I encounter can do the same with me.

So I'm going to do some porch sitting.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rainy Day

It is raining, still raining, always raining. Didn't send Niles to camp today because camp (at a nearby suburb, cheap as all get out and for 6 weeks) even admitted all they were doing with the kids was eating popcorn and watching Alvin and the Chipmunks. Everyone has given up and given over to the rain.

So instead Niles and London played Katamari Forever, which has screenshots that look like this:
It's a little trippy. And I love it. Plus the groovy Japanese pop soundtrack. In between rounds, complete with arguments about how well they are playing (that is my family's tradition, sitting around watching people play video games and criticizing them, usually loudly), I try to get them to get up and do a chore or two. They are expert work avoiders.

The house smells like, well, what my house smells like after 5 days of constant rain. Wet. The smells that normally reside in the house have retreated, opening up the house's history like a gaping sore of boarding house and derelict alcoholic brothers who piss in the dining room because it's not fair that his sister is dying of liver cancer and he has to move out. He'll show us. Well, he did. It's the gift that keeps on giving. So I light a candle and dream of the day when I have enough time and energy and everything tamed down long enough to sand and refinish the floors. Ah, old houses.

So I was sitting here starting to digest my day, when I get a text from my sister. She was in a car accident down at the River des Peres. Water covered the road, everyone was making a u-turn, she followed suit, and some idiot didn't follow the crowd and ran right into her.

And I got a jury summons for the beginning of August.

The rain has got to stop. It's too much. It is relentless, sometimes a ridiculous downpour, other times just a light rain and mist. No storms, really. Just rain. I went down to pick her up and I fear her car may be totaled. So frustrating. We handled the afternoon best we could and I came back through the rain to my house.

I went upstairs and changed into pajamas.

Bix had taken London to her theater camp for me, taking off the rest of the afternoon to work from home.

Because rain.

Because crazy.

Because I lost my debit card yesterday and had to cancel it.

Because jury summons within two weeks of both my sisters getting a jury summons? Not random.

And because idiots. Everywhere.

My head hurts. And still it rains.

Thoughts on Boundaries on a Rainy Friday Morning with a Desparate Man

Two years ago I started working on boundaries, well, no, two years ago I started realizing that my life didn't have any boundaries, and it took me another year to start trying to fix that. I backslide sometimes, I catch myself soaking up emotion in a room, and I put the net back up--I can't do the cone of silence style of boundaries. I have to breathe. But all your junk can stay on the other side of the net and still let the good stuff through.

Having a semi-permeable membrane separating myself from other people makes me an exceptionally connected teacher in a classroom where I make all the rules and set up the space, but sometimes in the rest of my life, oy vey.

So I actively practice boundaries like other people practice yoga. You don't have to go through life unarmed. Seriously.

It all kind of culminated this morning in a small, gentle "No" that I was able to say today.

I said it for real and someone went to jail. Whoops. No. It's good. It was time to grow up and own up and fess up and all those ups.

I know you got the ultimate raw deal when the Fates dealt our our hands. 

I know you have soulful brown eyes and more courage than the next ten people and cigarette burns on your hands and every other person you know has open warrants and can't help you, or won't answer the phone. 

But I can't. 

More than that: I won't.

So he came by to tell me he was turning himself in.

I hugged him goodbye and wished him good luck.

The rain kept coming down, relentless rain.

I went back inside and ate waffles Brooklyn made. And I wasn't even worried or sad. Because there is plenty to worry about and be sad about. I don't have to own the whole world's suffering.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ten On Tuesday: My Ten Realistic Expectations for Summer

So that was my "bucket list" for summer. Here's my realistic expectations list:

1. I will sit on my porch. Old or new, I will sit on my porch and drink iced coffee and work on my writing or reading or mathing.

2. I will actually probably get the calculus thing done.

3. I will run. I'm reaching the point where I don't feel like I'm going to die 30 seconds after I start running. And funny thing--considering I carry 40 pounds too many, give or take--I don't hurt. I am really taking it slow. Slooooow.

4. I will sit in the air conditioning and complain about the heat. This will be often enough to qualify as its own activity.

5. I will plan, and replan, and replan, a vacation for next summer to the Grand Canyon--And Beyond! (I just wanted to write that).

6. I will gripe at children to put their things away/clean up their food/get off the screens/go to bed. Again, often enough to be its own line-item.

7. I will binge-watch several shows on Netflix. My binge-watching is more like obsessive watching--I don't watch all of a season in one day or something like that, but I will watch one thing to the exclusion of all others. No matter what it is--MASH, Voyager, Luther, 3rd Rock from the Sun, etc. Only that and nothing else until it's done. I'm also weird about "done." I tend to never watch final episodes. I just can't.

8. I will knit with my typical ADHD.

9. I will half-heartedly plan for the school year and then have a huge burst of energy in that department around August 5.

10. I will take naps.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Things on my bucket list for summer

Summer is underway here; kids are out of school and I just finished up my last tasks at my job for the year. I sit here and write while Niles and his friend Jay play Lego Starwars and hop around my living room. Anyone who says video games are sedentary activities has never watched Niles play.

So ten things I want to get done this summer? Hmm. The last two summers have belonged to other people; this one belongs to me.

1. I want a new porch. My father-in-law is the contractor and we've been planning this for years. It should happen this summer. He's had some health setbacks but while he was at home recuperating, he produced some drawings. So I'm hopeful still.

2. Garden. God Bless America my yard is a mess. I worked on it this weekend a bit and one of my students gave me an astonishingly large gift card to home depot so I picked up some plants and it came to...nothing out of pocket. It's supposed to thunderstorm the rest of the week so we'll see what I get done. The pool is up, though, and most of the yard has been weeded. So that's a good start.

3. Basement. See a theme? Our basement is suffering from serious neglect. I got rid of the loom, finally, giving it back to Lynn. Bix has been working on the gutters, which contribute to the moist floor in the front corner. And then it's time to be ruthless. No hoarding allowed.

4. Now for fun stuff perhaps. I want to take my parents' pop-up somewhere away from the city for a long weekend. Don't know where yet. But need to get away.

5. The guy in charge of my writers group wants to read/critique a big chunk of the novel I'm revising. So that's something.

6. I'm knitting a bunch of squares on giant needles in order to stitch them together into a large, heavy, scratchy wool blanket. I have a large stash of yarn that I need to eat up. And I've been wanting to do this for some time.

7. I am teaching myself calculus. It makes so much more sense to a 40 year old brain than to a 19 year old brain. Wow.

8. I want to, in the same category,  create a guided notes/interactive notebook for calculus so I can stick it in my portfolio. And take a long serious look at interactive notebook activities for middle school math so I can rock this year out.

9. I'm going to run a 5K with Brooklyn. We are training right now. I haven't run since 2003. Seriously.

10. I'd like to bike a summer. The longest I've done is a 45 mile, and that was a couple of years ago. So this summer, my goal is another 45 mile ride.

I'm tired now. Just writing that makes me tired.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Euler, Not Venn

There are Venn Diagrams and there are Euler Diagrams.

Here's a Venn Diagram:
Fruits, Red Things, and Hats.  You can see where Red Things and Hats cross, there are Cardinals caps and Santa hats. Where Red Things and Fruits cross, there are plums (red ones), apples (red ones) and berries (I had to write small; assume strawberries and other red berries). Lastly, where Fruit and Hats cross, there's obviously Carmen Miranda.

Note, however, that there are no Red Things that are also Fruits AND Hats. But the diagram shows the possible location of red fruit hats. It is possible. But, as far as this Venn Diagram goes, no red fruit hats are known. I didn't do a lot of research, frankly.

But they could exist. It could happen. The Venn Diagram says so.

Here's an Euler Diagram.
Note the differences. There are no Red Things that are Fruits and Hats, and so there is no place where they overlap. There are subsets of Red Things, like things with wheels (firetrucks and my 1974 Triumph Spitfire), and things you can eat (beets and red, red wine). Also, there is a set of Maple Trees that are sometimes Red and sometimes not, but are never Hats or Fruits. And of course, the important set of Artists from Bulgaria, who are not Maple Trees, Fruits, Hats, or Red things (except possibly Christo...).

A Venn Diagram of this mess would be, well, a mess. Lots of empty sets where, for instance, Hats and Maple Trees cross. No subsets. Nothing that stands alone and apart. Even though there are no Bulgarian Artists that are also Maple Trees, a Venn Diagram would contain the possibility that they could exist in some ridiculously strained ovoid container.

It would be nearly impossible for me to draw using MS Paint. I'm not even going to try.

Euler Diagrams (named for Leonhard Euler, who happens to be my favorite mathematician) contain only the relationships that actually exist. The way things are is the way things are. All the what-ifs and impossibilities are burned away and what you have is reality. Reality with rounded crayon edges and amusing anecdotes and plenty of strange people.

Hence, this is blog is Euler, not Venn.