Monday, September 9, 2019

Now With More Cats Than Ever Before!


I am spent. I mean, whoa. We had our first day of structured homeschool work today and started up extracurriculars as well, but that's not it. I had twenty-three days in a row of cat work (I said twenty-two in the last post, but I'd miscounted), but that's not it either.

It was the three extra cats in the garden that did me in.

Normally I love all cats, as many cats as possible. Professional cat lady-ing remains an excellent fit for me, and having six different cats that I looked after during this long run of work was fabulous. I also adore kittens. KITTENS FOREVERRRRRR, am I right? But it turns out that having the responsibility of feeding a stray who is nursing kittens, figuring out where the kittens might be, then socialising the kittens and finding homes for all three once all were in our garden is, how shall I put this? A bit much. At least, it is while I am working most mornings and every evening and trying to get some other time sensitive tasks done.

I am not sorry we did it (and are still doing it, in some ways, more on that in a sec). I wouldn't have left the mama to keep stealing food from the neighbours' kitchens. She is such a sweet, personable cat, and it is a treat to have her sweet face show up at the back door every day (multiple times a day). And I wouldn't have left the two kittens to become feral in the garden either. I wanted them to have a good, permanent, indoor home before autumn arrived, and with hard work (crawling slowly across the garden, food in outstretched hands), we made that happen. They went to their new family on Saturday, and I felt happy and sad all at once.

Regardless of the hard work, kittens are cute and fun and impossible to avoid falling in love with. If you've ever had an animal that is terrified of you, the giant human, learn to trust you enough to lick the last of their dinner off your fingers, you know what I mean. Loving those little furballs is simply unavoidable. So we loved them, and now we've let them go. They are settling in beautifully at their new home, and I honestly could not be more pleased with how it all turned out for them. All that hard work? So worth it for our roly poly little loves.

As for the mama, she is due to be spayed on Wednesday, recuperate at our house before a further vet check, then go to her new home on Sunday. She will live with good friends of ours, and we will get to see her often. I have become incredibly fond of her, and I don't think I could've let her go to just anyone. This is all getting wrapped up so nicely, we may as well put an imaginary bow on it.

And I won't lie that I will be glad to have the responsibility fully off my shoulders next Sunday. As much as I adore all three of these cats, I felt like we went beyond peak cat and straight to what have we done? I am ready to get back to normal life, or at least as close to normal as we ever get.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Working and Working Ahead


This is where I've been. And everywhere else. Palaces, smaller cities, the seaside, lots of places we can get by train. But sometimes just stuck under a kid or a cat or both. Managing some needs, trying not to get kicked in the face when the snuggles turn to acrobatics. Being accused of being really mean when I am not up for cleaning up everyone else's stuff. Standard mom stuff, really. We go through these days sometimes, when we're all checking to see what's ok with everyone else.

Today I begin a twenty-two day stretch of cat jobs. I've never done such a long stretch before, but I think it will be ok. I'm keeping my eye on the prize, and the prize is paying for all my kids' classes and my husband's new iPhone. Also we've got a holiday in France coming up at the end of September, and it would be nice to have some extra in the family coffers for that. We've always done budget holidays before, looking after every penny spent. People say that it's not money that matters, and while I'll agree with that overall, it's also true that being on a strict budget is stressful. I don't want to be stressed out on holiday; I'd rather get that stress out of the way ahead of time. By snuggling cats.

In preparation for these twenty-two work days - and the fact that our term time activities start up the day after I'm done - I've tried to do as many things in advance as possible. I don't want anything lingering on my to do list that might be difficult to manage when my brain is a bit foggy from early mornings and more to juggle in the evenings. I wrote our annual home education reports for the local authority to peruse, I've prepared everything I need for some meetings that will occur, I've started my Christmas shopping.

Wait.

What did I just say?

Ah, yes. I said I've started my Christmas shopping. That's true. Obviously I don't need to have that done within the next three weeks, but I figured why not? I've never liked leaving it to the last minute, and I've got a good idea of what everyone on my list wants. My usual goal is to be done by my birthday at the end of November, but this year I'm hoping to have the bulk of it done before we go on holiday at the end of September. I understand this might sound a little bit silly, but I know how quickly the autumn goes by, and this year we've added some activities to our schedule, which will make it go lickety split. For me, having those gifts bought and stowed away before we go on holiday will be an early Christmas gift to myself. So I'm going to make it happen.

But right now? I'm off to cat job number one. I'm ready. Let the (snuggly) work begin.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Break and Some Work


We are halfway through Z's stay at camp. This is the last year that Z will go and E will stay home, so I am trying to make the most of these days that we can do all the things that E likes and Z only barely tolerates. Thus we went to a trampoline park last week. I am like Z in that I find the trampoline park to be unbearable, but sometimes we do unreasonable things for those we love.

On Friday we took the high speed train to the coast for a beach day. This was not unreasonable, nor was it something that Z particularly hates, but it's something that is very much E's thing. She is happiest in the water, preferable with an inflatable contraption of some sort and a variety of sand toys. So J took a day off work, and we went, and it was good. Exhausting also, in the way that hauling all the beach stuff there and back and spending the day in the sun in exhausting. I was glad to go, but also glad to come home.

Last night found us hosting children's vespers, which is what I consider the last of the summer obligations before getting a proper summer break. And by proper summer break I really just mean not having to keep up wtih schoolwork or housework in any meaningful way, and not having anything of note on our agenda. The rest of the month of August stretches out before us, mostly empty. I think we need this badly, for a mental break as much as anything. J will go to work, and I will run my cat care business, but that's about it. It feels good to look ahead and see very little on our immediate horizons.

But of course I am mindful of what goes on the rest of the world. It continues to feel strange to have so much going well for me/us personally while there are so many truly awful things happening. I'm not typing this up while blissfully ignoring the fact that there were two mass shootings in the USA within 24 hours over the weekend, and that both of them were committed by white men, while the President of the United States continues to villify people who are not white. Meanwhile here in the UK, someone who makes racist jokes and statements on the regular is now Prime Minister.

Is racism alive and well, and growing within a new generation of young adults? Yes. If you look at the age of those who have committed acts of white supremacist terrorism, they are mostly young adults. I'll admit I feel powerless to stop it sometimes, but as someone who benefits from white supremacist power structures, I consider it my duty to dismantle those structures. It shouldn't be down to the victims to fight the oppressors. It should be down to those of us whose lives are not on the line, who have more time, more energy, more unearned privilege. I also recognize the great privilege of having been able to move my children away from the particular intersection of racism and gun violence that exists in the USA. My worries are not overwhelming in this regard, and it does give me more mental space to figure out what to do next, how to help best.

I think some of it comes in the form of conversations with those who are open to dialogue and changing their minds. Those who want to defend their choice to vote for Trump are not on my list; that's pearls before swine territory. If you come in only wanting me to understand why you voted for him, and for me to agree that it was fine for you (or your friend, cousin, parent, etc.) to vote for him, well, it's not going to happen. I do understand why some people who are otherwise kind people voted for him*; it doesn't mean I will agree that it was ok to do that. But some people are beginning to realize the great evil of voting in a man who encourages violence against those who are not white, and I think that we could figure out a way forward together.




*Full disclosure: I think lots of people were deceived. As someone who is often deceived myself, I am not judging or saying you are a bad person. But I am saying you must recognize the great harm this has caused and do your best to clean up the mess that you helped make.

Monday, July 29, 2019

No and No and No and I Cannot


I didn't mean to go a full month without typing anything into this little box on the internet. I have written a lot of things in my mind, but the month got away from me in a flurry of houseguests (seven at once!), group travel arrangements, homeschool group facilitation, hosting our landlord and his partner for dinner, and all sorts of other little things that got done only because I made a lot of lists. I am quite certain that I forgot to do a few things which may or may not be important. I suppose I'll find out what those are when someone lets me know. But for now, I think things are quieting down a little. I sent Z off to camp yesterday, and that marked the end of some big tasks I've been working on. Now I am going to direct my efforts toward a new endeavor.

In short, I am working on being better at saying no.  Also at saying I quit, but in a kinder way than that. These years with my children are fleeting, and now more than ever I see the value in reserving the best of myself and my efforts for the benefit of my little family. I don't want to come to them exhausted and out of sorts; I don't want them to remember me primarily as a frustrated person who was always too busy to enjoy them and to nurture them. Of course I sometimes need to be busy, and sometimes there will be people who need me more than they do. But overall, these are the years that are meant to belong to nurturing their hearts and spirits, and helping them grow into adults who are at peace with themselves and ready to make their own way in the world. If that is my focus, then I need to jettison some things which are preventing me from doing this job well.

I envy people who say no with ease. They opt out of things which I feel obligated to do, moving on with their lives as if the world will still spin and things will still get done if they do not do them. When I say no, I feel I must explain why and apologize a lot, then possibly offer to do an alternate task to make up for it. I think this is due in part to knowing how hard it is to find people who are willing to help out with tedious tasks, and also due to a misguided sense of what it means to serve. It occurred to me lately that sometimes I am serving those who really don't need my service. They want it, sure, but the question of need is a firm nope.

I do want to serve those who are in need of what I have to offer. As it is unhealthy for me to spend too much of myself on those outside my family who are vying for my attention, so it would also be unhealthy for my children to think they are the only people who matter. So now I ask myself a few questions. First, is this something that is necessary, or is it just for the fun and convenience of those who have plenty of fun and convenience as it is? If it is necessary, am I the best person for the job? If I do not do it, and no one else steps forward, will that leave a gap which will cause harm or distress? If the task is unnecessary, or if there is someone else better suited to do it, then I can say no with confidence. I can quit doing things which really do not require my efforts. And I'm in the process of doing that with a number of tasks. It is uncomfortable for me. I don't like having to do it. But on the other side, I see an opportunity to serve better. I can't give more in ways that matter if I don't give less in ways that don't.

There are things I know I will continue to do, to say a confident yes to. That's part of this process as well, recognizing those things which are working really well for me, for my family, and for others. I will continue to facilitate the homeschool group and be the parish council secretary. I arranged the group travel for the camp Z is attending, and I'll likely do that again if the people in charge of such things were happy with my work this year. I am 100% on board to continue my cat job. But beyond that, well, I make no guarantees.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

This Here, This Now


I'm sitting here in my quiet house, on the last Saturday I know I'll be alone here for the summer. I hurried through my morning errands partly because it is going to be hot today, and I wanted to be done before the heat really set it, but mostly because these hours are part of what helps me restore my equilibrium when life gets hectic.

Which is not to say that restoring my equilibrium is the be all end all. It's not. I know that. There are so many serious things going on in the world, so many people only wanting their basic needs to be met, for their humanity to be recognized and respected. So I am doing what I can for them, but I know it's not a lot. It's not enough. Some coins in cups, a meal from Tesco, a chat on the weekend, an online donation to bail someone out. We all need to work together for it to be enough, pressure those in power to do better. I think it's important, too, to recognize our own privileges and work to extend those privileges to others. Maybe we can sacrifice a bit of our own comfort for others; I know I could do this. I think about it a lot.

In our family life, we have been quite fortunate. None of us have stories that are without pain, but right now we all seem to have reached a place of contentment. I know this comes and goes, but honestly, this is the best it's ever been. It feels easy in a way it hasn't before. I see my kids growing, learning, making their peace with things on their own terms. They are so good to and for each other - they fight, and they'll tell you that themselves, but overall they support and care for one another in a way that I have hoped that they would. They are both growing into such wonderful people, and I am so proud of who they are.

And in other ways, too, life is easy. Nearly everything that we want materially, we have. Oh, sure, we need to wait to buy some bigger ticket items. We still need to stick to our budget, and I still shop the sales. But we get the groceries we want and have extra leftover for treats. If there's something we need to replace, it's no big deal to just do it. We have a holiday booked for the autumn, paid for in full, without a lot of stress. It's not always been that way, and I am not taking this for granted. If anything, there is an undercurrent of wondering if it's all too good to be true. This life, this family, this home in this city. Every night I think of all the things I am grateful for, and I say thanks. There are a lot of things to be grateful for; I fall asleep before I am done.

So now the question is, what do I do when I wake in the morning, having fallen asleep knowing I have been blessed beyond what I deserve? Honestly, sometimes I wake up and I do all the things I know are right and good, and some days I do not. But the work ahead of me is to tip the scales always toward using what I have - not just materially, but my own sense of peace and comfort - to make things better for others. I don't know what that will look like beyond what I already do. But I know that there is a purpose to having all this goodness in my life, and the purpose is not to hoard it. I am lucky, maybe I can make others luckier still.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Reframe as a Means of Stress Relief


I worked eleven days straight doing cat jobs, finished on Saturday, then had a full Sunday. We've had slow mornings the four days since, and I am grateful for this. Our afternoons speed things up, and I feel like getting dinner on the table is at somewhat of an internal fever pitch for me. I'm trying to reframe things so I don't feel so much stress about it - I mean, no one in the family seems to care how quickly I get dinner on the table but me, so it's not anyone else's issue.

As my business grows, I am trying to figure out many small sources of stress that I can eliminate or at least reframe, in order to keep most of my energy free for my paying job and my parenting job. And let's face it - when one is a parent, a lot of sources of stress just need to be reframed. For instance, I am not going to reject all invitations to outdoor parties because they're too stressful for me. We'd be declining a lot of invitations to parties if we did so, because it seems that I am one of the few people who is not keen on a party in the park.

But seriously: I am not keen on parties in the park. Is that weird? I don't know. I think it's either weird of me, or other people are lying about how much they like these types of parties. I do like the part where E runs wild with a bunch of other kids, because it makes her extremely happy and also helps her fall asleep quickly that night. I like the part where our friends are happy we've come to celebrate with them. But other than that? Meh. No thanks. If I attend a party, what I really want is a comfortable seat, a plate of food, possibly a beverage, and not to have to awkwardly hover nearby and decide whether or not to introduce myself to someone who is also awkwardly hovering. In parks, there is a lot more space to awkwardly hover. It pains me.

But I've got a plan for reframing this and for making it more comfortable for myself in the future. First of all, I need to plan ahead. I ended up taking E to a party in a park on Sunday, and it was all very last minute. I had originally left the decision up to J, who is not as much of a planner as I am, and he was being his usual laid back self and hadn't let me know he'd decided when suddenly, friends were offering to take E with them in their car, and they needed to leave ASAP. Because J was sorting the bookstall after liturgy, I was the one who ended up in the room where it happened, and I ended up making the final decision without a lot of time to think it over or discuss with J. Thus felt that I should be the one to commit to go to the party with E, since J didn't end up having the final say.

At that point, any or all of us could've shown up later, but J and Z decided not to go. On the way home (home! my favorite!) they also stopped at Starbucks (alas, for a peppermint mocha to ease my party struggles!), and it felt like a giant insult. I'm not keen on feeling resentment toward my husband or kid(s), so I know that in the future, I can't leave things to the last minute.

Second, I am adjusting my view to embracing these types of activities as taking one for the team. Or for multiple teams. Family team, friend team, kid team. I do not need to like everything I do, and sometimes it is really nice to do something for someone else. I have had lovely conversations with others at outdoor parties, and sometimes the food has been amazing. Also, there is the aforementioned joy and delight experienced by my youngest child in particular. So it is certainly not all bad, and again, I can take one for the team(s).

Third, I am planning ahead for my comfort. On Sunday, I had absolutely nothing with me. No food, no coffee, no picnic blanket, nothing. I had at least dressed comfortably, knowing that it was a possibility I'd end up at the party. But in the future, I need to put my own snacks in my bag and maybe a bottle of iced coffee. Even if I don't know for sure if we are going, I can put these things in my bag as insurance.

I realize this may seem strange to a lot of you. But I am guessing that a lot of you are also nodding along. (High fives to my fellow planners!) It's ok to be someone who does not go with the flow very easily, and it's also ok to be someone who doesn't like something that a lot of people are really into, like parties in parks. We can learn and grow and adjust. And sometimes? We can just stay home and let others have their fun.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Cats! Cats! Cats!


I am in the middle of day three of eleven of cat work. Or, as I like to call it, professional cat lady-ing. The jobs seem to come in spurts, and this suits me. For this run I've got three different clients, and there is a bit of overlap, but nothing unmanageable. Tomorrow will be the busiest, with two clients both morning and evening. And then it tapers off for a few days, picks up for a few days, and then I'll be done. For morning jobs, I've got to get the work done before Jarod needs to leave for work, and as a non-morning person, this is a challenge. However, I am a professional cat lady, so I do what I have to do.

I have been surprised at the amount of business I have been getting - I am one of the higher priced cat sitters in my area, so I assumed I'd get a couple of people who were really into their cats and wanted a proper cat lady to come look after their cats, but mostly people would choose someone more affordable. Well! I am happy to find that I was wrong. In fact, if business continues to pick up, I'll start having to make actual business decisions, like about how many days I am willing to work in a row, and then how much of a break I want in between. As it stands now, I will likely need to file taxes next year, which I honestly did not think would happen. It's good to be surprised! And I do like that people trust me with their cats and in their homes, and choose me above a bargain.

This work is a gift to me, and I won't pretend that it's not. It's been a gift to our family as a whole, really, because it allows us a little more financial breathing room, and we have been able to purchase some things that we've wanted and/or needed but have not been able to afford. That said, it's still just a side hustle. My main occupation remains home education and facilitating various things that allow us to have a good family life and for the kids to develop the skills they need to flourish as adults. This work will always take a backseat to that, and this is what I am keeping in mind as I make my professional cat lady business decisions for the future.