Sunday, February 22, 2009

return of the Mike

Oh, said the Mike as the door swung open. Wasn't I just here?

Yep, I nodded. This time, you're here for the washing machine.

It's with a sense of deja vu and a strong urge to buy some sage to smudge the place - or possibly hold an exorcism - that I must report that our washing machine has chosen to follow its sister into oblivion. Oh, dear.

It is mere coincidence that I am a full. two. freakaaarghing. months. behind. in my commitments, but it's an unhappy one: I am hauling loads to friends' homes, spending time at the laundromat, and watching impossibly precious time slip farther through my fingertips as I drop writing and editing in favor of enough underwear to go around. Got to have priorities. And, apparently, friends with laundry facilities.

And so we trudge along, using a verb that's pretty accurate right now. It's hard to stride boldly, calmly or otherwise with a ginormous sack of laundry on my back, let alone a value-sized bottle of Not Gonna Give You Grief dye-free, stink-free laundry detergent. But you can imagine the trudge as determined and strong, if you like.

Somehow, it had not occurred to me that we might be hauling our karma along with our fershtunken socks. Or perhaps I've been too wise to be that self-centered. The world doesn't revolve around us, right? Events do not spiral outwards from us, right? Right. But today's laundry locale of choice (yes, but if we have the playdate at your place, I could - perhaps, if it's not an imposition - do some laundry?) was unexpectedly zapped, mid-Imperfect load. The clever eco-friendly washer failed to spin, the clothes needed to be bailed out with measuring cups and saucepans and buckets, and we trudged off with damp (but clean) clothes, wondering if maybe we should get extra bundles of sage?

Just in case it's catching? (Still not the Center of All Things. Nope. No way. Just oddly close to it, maybe?)

One friend's home had been pre-zapped, and I folded laundry while he disassembled his dishwasher. (been there, I murmured. But not really - we had had a Mike disassemble and haul ours away.) And another had been preemptively zinged: sitting in my now dusty inbox is an email from another friend, surprised to find that her washing machine is broken. And we hadn't even called them yet, laundry bag in hand. Damn, but that karma thing is zipping right along there, isn't it?

Because it's definitely not trudging...
This is the week of fix, QG announced two weeks ago, and I'm sorry to say that she might have understated the case. This is the month of fix, and this is the week of cancel. And the weeks of facing up to reality, nostril to nostril. Toenail to uncut toenail. After months of watching the treadmill speed up, I realize now that in fact, the damn thing has been moving at the same speed, all along. It's not me, it's you, hissed the machine, and yep. Okay.

I've been whizzing through the house for a while now, pausing to shriek about not being able to keep up, to explode about whatever effort du jour isn't sustainable, and finally settling down long enough to really inject the delight into a rare dinner with the Man, by steering us to a discussion about our choices. Our priorities. Our relationship. Our habits of getting roughly 4-5 hrs of sleep a night.

And then looking astonished, when we realize that we're tired.

I'd love to say that stances were taken, and dramatic changes are underway. Remember the bedtime pledge? We both failed absurdly: I managed two nights of bed-by-midnight, mostly because I was smacked down with a stomach nasty on those nights. The Man ducked the virus, and managed none.

Let me be clear: this is not a whine. I'm too tired to offer up a good whine, anyway. It's also not a rant, for the same reason. Instead, this is a standing in my tracks, swiping aside cobwebs to have a clearer look at our realities. Time to look a few in the hairy eyeball. See if they blink.

(damn. They didn't.)

reality: our family is not low-maintenance, between the food and the variable approaches to clotting.
reality: the Man's workload is not likely to lighten up in any forseeable future (nor is anyone hiring). He earns a paycheck and is our source for health insurance - his work is a priority. This is inarguable, however irritating it might be for those of us doing the relationship thing.
reality: the writing I do is fundamentally important to me. It's therapy and a stepping stone to? well, something. It is necessary.
reality: my writing time is extracted from household/family/mothering time. It is a privilege.
reality: a preschooler without a preschool, is a child being homeschooled. They are also a child without a school for next year. Finding such a school takes a surprising amount of time, now that we've missed any number of autumn registration/application dates.
reality: staying up late at night to work will not let us scrape up extra time. Nor will it allow us to produce stellar results. It will just make us tired, and our work slightly cracked. As we go on, the cracking becomes positively baroque. Oh, dear. Is this why I just lost a feature article to another staff writer? aaaaargh.
reality: the kids do not give a flying crap about any of this. Their needs will not change according to their parents' convenience, and I watch the Man soak the boys in nightly, finding love and comfort and a quiet grounding in the small, flying bodies. Oh - perhaps that's necessary, too?
reality: we are blessed with friendships, with people who would probably (and have poked me, to remind me so) be happy to pitch in from time to time, offering their own precious time and resources and caring. So stubbornly in the habit of self-sufficiency, we've got out of the habit of leaning on others.
(unfortunate) reality: tired people are not patient. Tired people are not as gentle, or loving, or even just plain happy as people with a basic allotment of sleep. And tired people who are stressed with drop their bi-annual dates down the toilet of oh, shit, how did we end up here?

Caught between these realities, we're hunting around. We can't throw money at this problem, as much as we wish we could. Even before the Mikes turned up, one of my challenges has been to try and reduce our monthly costs. It's still, alas, one of my challenges. So, there's no money trapdoor here. But somewhere, there must be possibilities to soften these realities, right?

possibility: food could be canned. (but not frozen - the freezer is tiny and full) Meals could be simplified, time could be saved.
possibility: we could - we should - well, now, and here I'm a little stumped.

I'm not asking for sympathy here, because there's nothing tragic here. Nor is there anything sad. Ours is a wonderful and extraordinarily complicated life, and hey, a good one. Not simple, not easy, always made from scratch and ultimately yummy. And for however many months going back, and however many months going forwards, it's going to be a little tough.

Nor am I hoping for suggestions or solutions here, because how could I? There's a thousand pieces of this puzzle, like the lack of jobs in our area (the Man must keep his), my sense of urgency about going to grad school....someday (and the need to feel like I'm preparing for that, somehow), some medical whatnot (private and otherwise - but no, none of them involving my ovaries), the budgetary and practical and psychological specifics of seventeen hundred and three things that serve to shape this cumulative reality, right down to the freakin' tiny freezer. So. Delicate moving parts, stubborn people, good love, lots of dents, and maybe the odd straw on the back already.

Oh yes, and did I mention the Mikes? (hi, guys)

As we wrestle, cancel meetings, visits and yes, I call to do some painful resigning from writing/editing, there must be a bright spot. And indeed there is.

(You didn't think I would leave you hanging, did you?)

Last Friday, I took my third shot at jam. The first try, a marmelade, was sunshiny-sweet. Too sweet, judged a friend, and suggested minced crystallized ginger. The second batch followed her advice, while the third batch changed gears and went raspberry.

Raspberry jam glows in the sunlight, did you know? It warms the hand and the eye, and it mattered remarkably little that novice that I am, I had boiled the jam until it cooled into a raspberry toffee. It's still deep and warm and lovely, and the Man and the boys and I spooned it onto homemade scones with pleasure.

hmmm. There's a metaphor up there somewhere. Nah, there's just another -yawn- instance in the Imperfect trend. Effort, challenge, food, pleasure. So what else is new?

*the scone recipe is here. Of course, we tweaked it: I added a half tsp of nutmeg, and possibly a dash of vanilla. And nope, I don't cut mine up - can't be bothered. I smoosh them into a cooking-sprayed pie plate, and try to artistically scatter demerara sugar on top. Takes perhaps 25+ minutes to bake.


Rachel L. said...

wow, you summed it up all in a very large nutshell. so many of your realities resonated. also the whole self-sufficiency problem. not to mention the living away from family problem (e.g. more free help often easier to ask than of friends). but i'm rambling, in a comment no less. hoping that this week brings you more time, more sleep, more patience (impossible w/o the other two) and no mike.

Anonymous said...

The jam sounds lovely, and I like the way you described it.

Thank you, by the way, for the pickle information a few posts ago.

One good thing: You are quite aware of what it all is that is overwhelming you. It's very smart of you, this clear look at your realities.

Another good thing: You can see that your life is ultimately yummy, as you so nicely put it.

If I had my own laundry facilities, I'd come get your dirty laundry and do it all for you.

I also wish I could volunteer to hang out with the Toddles for a few hours one day a week and do some schooling and other fun activities with him.

Here is an advertisement for a free freezer available in Medford:

Perhaps you could barter with a friend who is a decent cook but low on food money or just lacking a set-up kitchen to come over periodically and cook for you in your kitchen with your groceries and as payment take home a share of what is made.

Even though the Toddles isn't old enough for the Eldest's fantastic school yet, maybe one of the people in charge there could help you come up with some ideas for him for next school year.

If there is something the Toddles is especially interested in learning, perhaps you have a friend who is qualified to teach that subject or skill or craft and would be interested in doing so with the idea of teaching a bright and charming young boy being its own reward.

I hope the months during which your life continues to be a little tough are few and that they are followed by many, many years that are relatively much easier.

Auntie A said...

Exorcism, definitely!

I hope the various Mikes have been able to render your various appliances workable by now. You can use my washer/dryer anytime, you know...although the trip wouldn't help your budgetary concerns any. Everything's a tradeoff, eh?

Wishing you gremlin-free and sleep-rich days to come.