Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day 365

Seven years ago, I left my career in newspapers and became co-chief executive of a growing company. I would later call that company FiDO, a title crafted using parts of my children's names, and describe my title as co-chief executive, kid wrangler and poop inspector.

While the decision to leave my job was made for me, it turned out to be exactly what I'd always wanted: to be home full time with my kids while they were young. Seven years ago, I asked the question: Will I work outside the home again? 

The answer back then: Probably. If it's sooner rather than later, it will be out of sheer financial necessity. If later, it will likely be a more well-thought out reentry that fits a job around my family; not the other way around. 

Both scenarios played out but, thankfully, sheer financial necessity was met with a minimum of disruption to our family life. Thanks to prayer, severance pay, unemployment checks early on, freelance work that appeared as needed and a handy husband with a sense of thrift and self-reliance, we made it to the youngest child's first day of kindergarten in good financial condition. That was one year ago today.

My youngest is now in first grade. He's thriving and is a sweet, friendly, easy going kid at school. His kindergarten teacher wanted a whole classroom full of Owens. At home, he's still the Incredible Hulk. The other two are in second and fourth grades.

A lot has happened for me, too, this year. I began freelance editing and got some interesting gigs early on. While editing and communication are marketable skills for me, the work is only marginally exciting. It's a do-it-when-the-work-appears job that I can take only in small doses. I can't imagine doing it long term as a freelancer or a behind a desk. It's hard to let go of that job description, though. After all, I invested in a college degree.

But a college degree does not define me and my loans are paid off. I owe no allegiance to that degree. I thought about what does define who I am. What do I like to do? When do I feel best about myself? Where do I spend most of my free time? What do I read about when given a choice?

The answer to all of these was swimming and working out. The committee in my head said, "You cannot get a job where you basically work out or swim all the time. You'd never make enough money. Be practical, woman."

I took that advice, the "be practical" part, anyway, and headed over my local gym where I am a member. I applied for a job as a swim instructor. The job fuses communication and parenting skills with swimming expertise. The best part of the job is that I'm getting paid to be in the water instead of behind a desk. I get to wear a swim suit instead of uncomfortable clothes. I don't even have to wear shoes or pants. It's totally acceptable to take a hot shower at work. And, sometimes, between lessons, I go into the sauna to warm up. I also took a Lifeguard Certification Course. I'd always wanted to lifeguard, but did not have the self-confidence as a teenager or young adult to go for it.

I now attend all my staff meetings in a swim suit. I swim a couple hundred yards and spend most of the meeting in the water. I get paid to swim laps and practice strokes and rescue scenarios.

When I asked my boss what kind of schedule to expect, he said that I'd get a blank calendar each month to fill in my availability. That's about as family friendly as a job can get. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


"It's been a long December and there's reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last." - "Long December" by the Counting Crows (Yeah, I know it's January.)

I love that song, despite it's depressing elements. It fits my annual December mood. The weight of the past year mixed with hopefulness, seeing the changes and realizing the possibilities going forward. This year was the first Christmas with kids where no one was sick, no one had a meltdown about gifts not received, no one was stressed about what to get whom and how much to spend. For now, I feel as though I've got Christmas figured out for us.

The kids' break, however, has been rather rough. After the initial Christmas week activities of cookie baking, shopping, wrapping and unwrapping, it just became a game of trying to keep them from destroying the house and injuring each other. Even going to the bathroom is risky.

I'm going to the bathroom. Please try to hold it together till I return, I tell the kids. I can't believe I still have to say this. 

The weather has been a mix of warm and rainy and cold and sunny. Seriously, weather, get it together. So there's been a lot more television and screen time than I'd like, mostly to keep my youngest from attacking the other kids. It's like Owen has gone feral, attacking siblings and eating like an animal. One day I caught him squatting on a kitchen chair stuffing food in his mouth two-handed. Another time I saw him walk by his brother and swat him with a shirt he'd just removed. He's filthy all the time and only wants to wear his bathing suit and a comforter around the house while complaining that he's cold.

Why were you attacking your sister?
Because she wouldn't let me spank her, Owen cries. 

Danny, commenting on a show he's watching: The girl was right, but the boy kept saying the wrong answer. 
Yep, that's how it works, sweetheart, I told him.

I'm done talking now, so you can talk, Fiona says after a long winded dissertation about something.
Honey, I don't want to talk. I just want to stop listening.

Can I go outside? I won't play in the mud, Fiona assures me. 
What are you going to do outside?
Go look for nature to bring inside.
Please don't bring nature inside.
But, moooom, I'm going to bring it inside in a bucket. Oh, well then, carry on.

Mom, the boys won't dance with me and I'm being nice, Fiona says in hysterics. Oh, honey. She spent much of her school break choreographing dance shows and trying to get the boys to dance or watch.

They just forgot to give me a bag of candy so that I could cry all the way home, Fiona wailed. Oh, the drama. Good thing we weren't far from home.

I forgot where I put my shoes, but I found them because they were in the right place, Danny says. Okay, we have half the equation here: shoes in right place. Next step: remembering that they are in the right place.

Please don't wrap the cat. I can see how he'd be confused, though, since the cat was sitting on the wrapping paper.

Don't sweep the Christmas tree, child!

Owen has been rather lethargic lately so I offered him this solution.
You need to move your body more, Owen.
I know how to get him to move! Fiona pipes up. I'll stick my tongue out at him and he'll chase me.

But he has my stone and he might wish that I DIE! Owen had Fiona's wishing stone and it was so distressing. And somewhat likely given his feral nature of late.

Mom, is this a washing bath? Fiona asked. Um, are there other kinds?

Can I have broccoli for dessert? Owen asks. Sure, kid, whatever you want.

Why am I in this room? I mused after wandering into the kitchen. A small voice behind me said Because I am hungry.
Oh, hi Owen. Do you want a banana?
No, I don't eat bananas in winter. They taste funny. I've also been informed that cheese tastes bad in winter, too.

Till next time!