Sep 18 2017

Homeschooling: acquisition of skills or accumulation of facts?

It’s that time of year again. That time of year when I get just a wee bit crazy (erm…crazier), and it’s not because I’m still scanning the horizon for the Disaster of the Day. It’s the start of “this is the curriculum on which we agreed, now shaddup and go do your work.” Hold me. Give me wine and chocolate and gentlemanly eye candy and a hot bubble bath and something to read that will take me far, far away from the insanity that is trying to plan the last two years of high school for a kid so far out of the box that he no longer uses the box for climbing but has actually set the box on fire and is using the energy from the flames to power the intranet he’s built in the basement for the AI he’s programming to do his bidding. Or something like that. I have no idea what’s down there, other than a couple of ancient servers he has set up and hacked into working. I just know that my electric bill is high and that he’s designing a Faraday Cage for his machines.

It’s compounded by the fact that said child is 16 and we have started the college hunt.

Back the hell up forever just a minute. Let us pause to reflect upon that statement. The boy is now 16. Six.Teen. Not just a teenager, but a full fledged teen full of delightful snark and a passion for technology and social justice. I met my husband when I was 19; our son is only a few years shy of that. I’ve been writing this blog since he was four, and a hell-raising WTF IS UP WITH THIS CHILD? four at that. My brain hurts considering those ages and dates. Second half of the statement. We have started the college search. No. No way, no how. It is not possible that the hell-raising WTF IS UP WITH THIS CHILD? four year old who made me a mother and contributed to me being a writer is starting to look at colleges. I remember college. Clearly, vividly. I loved college. I thought I was stressed in college. I wanna go back and bitch-slap college me for thinking that was stress. His college experience will be vastly different from mine, but frankly I still feel like a freewheeling coed and thus cannot possibly have a child that age (note: I was never freewheeling, I was too busy…and too boring…a cube: square on six sides). I just can’t even. All the can’t even is right here with me, you will not be allowed any.

Until last year it was pretty laid-back; I’ve gradually tightened the screws. He was learning, I know that, but there wasn’t a lot of output. We had conversations and debates and for a long time it worked. I did finally create a transcript for him, so he could do the dual enrollment program he’s in this year.

Now it’s junior year, and it’s for realz.

So as I’m planning for the next several months and helping Andy figure out the years beyond that, I keep coming back to the intent of our homeschool. I know why we’re homeschooling, but what’s the intent? What’s the outcome we expect from at-home learning? Why in hell are we doing this again?

Is homeschooling an acquisition of skills or an accumulation of facts?

After 5 1/2 years of homeschooling (which I never, ever, ever thought I would do, I am the very model of a reluctant homeschooler), I feel pretty confident in stating that for us, homeschooling is an acquisition of skills.

Facts are easy. Google and Siri were designed for facts. With the push of a button I can call up damned near any fact in a matter of seconds….and forget it about as quickly.

Skills are more complex. Brains exist for skills. Developing skills that last for a lifetime takes thoughtful and intentional practice.

Yes, my homeschooling teen will have accumulated plenty of facts by the time he is launched, but I’m more focused on him developing long-term skills that he’ll need for life. Critical thinking tops that list; dear lord there’s a dearth of critical thinking skills out there. The ability to coalesce prior knowledge and new learning. The soft skills needed for life: tact, ability to work in groups, boundaries, calling out bullshit (sexism, fascism, racism, ageism, homophobia), communication, and most of all: TIME MANAGEMENT.

Now, of course he is still in thick of fact-focused learning. If Andy were to just work on skills to the exclusion of everything else he wouldn’t be getting a complete education. But he has a pretty good memory; facts are reasonably simple for him. Putting those facts into use is a skill that he (and frankly, a lot of students) needs to improve. So as we round out the last few years of homeschooling, I’m pushing skills more and more. He’ll need them as he goes off to college and eventually, to live on his own. Because as much as I adore my sons, I want them to live on their own, and preferably not in a van down by the river.

So what do you think? Skills or facts? What’s the focus in your homeschool? Something to ponder while you’re in a hot bath with wine and chocolate.


Today’s post is part of the September GHF Blog Hop, on teaching reluctant gifted learners. This month’s participants have a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions, so I encourage you to take a look at what the others have to say!

Sep 13 2017

Sometimes it’s just hard

I woke with a headache this morning.

I hate waking with headaches, starting my day off in pain. My migraines begin as I sleep, weaving their way into increasingly disturbing dreams, until I jolt into consciousness at the bleating of my alarm clock. I slap it off, drink some water to clear out the cotton mouth, and fall back onto the mattress, praying for the headache to just go, muttering profanity under my breath. Thankfully, today’s skullcap of pain doesn’t appear to be a migraine, just your standard bad headache, and so far it’s responding to the ibuprofen I sent down there to find out just what the hell, man? But still. It put a dagger into the day before I was even awake.

It’s mid-September, a beautiful time of year. The weather is glorious, cool with a warm sun, the landscape giving us one last hurrah of color before fading into beige and grey. We’re all settling into a routine of sorts, and I think it’s going to be a good school year.

With the change in seasons comes a change in the light. The days are getting shorter and the sunlight is more golden, more poignant. It holds memories of long summer days, and then disappears far too quickly. With autumn falling on Chicago with little warning, I wasn’t ready for this. I hadn’t mentally prepared for the change in seasons and so I feel unsettled and disturbed. The weekend forecast looks to be much warmer, for which I’m thankful, but I’m fairly confident that will be the end of the summer warmth until next May. I can feel the SAD cracking its knuckles, anxious to jump into the ring with me; telling me to be positive, to not invite in the SAD is unproductive. It’s real and that’s that.

So I’m feeling “off” today. Headache, vaguely blue, a muscle in my arm has been twitching non-stop for two days now, my kid has a sudden “back to school” head cold and is downstairs snerking every eight seconds, I’m overwhelmed by the news cycle, overwhelmed by trying to set up household systems and routines for the year, overwhelmed by the food sensitivities and pickiness that makes meal planning damned near impossible. I feel guilty if I take time to rest or engage in self-care, resentful and tired if I don’t. I see projects and things that need to be done around the house everywhere I look, and I can only manage blinders for so long. The world is descending into dangerous levels of madness, and with the lack of a social safety net, the DIYness of life will soon range from difficult to impossible.

I just want to snuggle with a kitten and make the world go away for awhile. Sadly, I’m allergic to cats and I’m pretty sure my elderly dog would not appreciate feline company.

Sometimes it’s just hard, folks. There are times when your day is set for you before you’re even awake, and no amount of positive thinking or mantras or fake it till you make it is going to save it. So you tug the big girl panties over the hips that aren’t getting any smaller and do the best you can. You keep yourself calm and and live moment to moment. And then suddenly, the kids are in bed and it’s quiet and you take a deep breath and give thanks you made it through the day. You crawl into bed early, turn off the lights, and breathe.

And hopefully wake the next morning pain-free, refreshed, and ready to face the world once again.

Sep 09 2017

Fall fell

When the world around you is drowning or burning or looking up at the sky waiting for aliens, it’s mighty tough to write something with a touch of snark or any level of complaint. There are far too many others out there drowning or burning or tumbling down the boulevard like a tumbleweed or enduring an alien anal probe. So I shall attempt to make only observations.

Fall fell this week.

Usually in the Chicago metro area (in which I include myself out of habit and not necessarily geography) summer blazes on until after Labor Day. Growing up, there were so, so many Back to School outfits that I couldn’t wear until the end of the month, because to do so would be to sentence myself to several hours of fashion flop sweat. Summer would blaze on until there was that one chillier morning…and then we’d have a couple weeks of Indian Summer (no, not the apple juice, the weather pattern) before OFFICIAL AUTUMN draped itself around our psyches.

This year? Fall fell.

It fell not with a bang or a smack, but with a gentle thwump. For my vegetarian and vegan readers, it’s not unlike the thwump you’d hear if you were preparing a perfectly juicy steak and turned it over to season the other side. thwump Soft but with some firmness. Fresh. A good marbling. And now I want a steak for dinner. With the sautéed mushrooms I do so perfectly, and roasted asparagus, and a really complex bottle of red. Creme brûlée for dessert. A comedy on the telly, all with my favorite husband.

I digress.

Fall unexpectedly showed up at our doorstep, shoving summer off the stoop last weekend, as though to say, “Yo bitch, it’s Labor Day, you had your day in the sun, it’s my turn now, get outta here, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!” No Indian Summer (I don’t think I’ve ever even had that apple juice), no fashion flop sweat (but let’s face it, no fashion…I’m a mess…someone please sign me up for What Not To Wear, or whatever has taken its place), BRACE YOURSELF…AUTUMN HAS ARRIVED.

The sunlight is more golden, the leaves aren’t waiting to change, they’re just whipping off the green and slipping into something a little more copper, days are cool enough that windows are open barely a crack, and I have brought Perry the Parabolic Heater up from the basement. That’s a good couple of weeks early. The electric blanket will return to the marital bed tomorrow, after the weekly wash all the things that have touched naked skin!…aka, sheets and towels.

I really do try to love autumn, and have found joy and beauty in October. The colors, the warm sun but cool temps, the faint aroma of suburban fire pits.


My friends, as the west burns and the south drowns and the rest of us endure yet another anal probe, I have to wonder what climate change will bring to Chicago’s winter this year.

NOTE: If you think climate change is a myth, then I reserve the right to laugh, point, and think you’re a moron. If you think the Flat Earth people are spot-on, not only do I reserve the right to laugh, point, and think you’re a moron, I also reserve the right to mock you to your face. JFC it’s called science. Read some.

I digress once again.

Winter of 13-14 was the WINTER OF THE POLAR VORTEX MY GOD SAVE YOURSELVES BUT PLEASE TAKE ME WITH YOU BECAUSE I CANNOT HANDLE ANOTHER F*CKING MINUTE OF THIS WINTER. It’s also the winter I threatened my beloved husband with a shovel bodily harm if he didn’t go and purchase a snowblower right this very minute because I had HAD it with shoveling. I am concerned that winter 17-18 may be heavy on the cold and snow once again, especially since last winter was blessedly mild. If autumn decided to jump the gun and visit early…will winter show up early to the party and demand appetizers? An amuse bouche? An aperitif? I draw the line at giving winter any booze; that’s for me to survive winter’s visit, I’ll be damned if I share. Winter is bad enough; winter on one of my margaritas and I refuse to take responsibility for what it does.

So as I sit here in my unexpectedly early autumn, watching the west burn and the south drown and victims of alien probes beg for quality lube…just remember to find the silver linings at what you can, help your neighbor, laugh at climate change deniers (and then vote for candidates who believe in science), and be grateful that raking leaves burns untold number of calories. For then you can have a summer margarita whilst toasting yourself over your autumn fire pit.

Sep 01 2017

Anxiety and gifted adulting and aw hell get me off this rock

My emotional over-excitabilities are at a forest fire level lately.

Kinda like a red-flag warning, EF5 tornado of red-hot flame, tearing across the prairie to Laura and Pa level of out of control.

I am supremely proud of the fact that I have not lost my shit 1) online, 2) with my sons, 3) with random people out in the big, bad world.

It’s because of the big, bad world that I am on edge.

But I lose my shit with myself daily. Hourly. Between thoughts.

The daily news cycle is a fustercluck of epic proportions. I literally jump when my phone dings with any kind of notification.

I’m so deep into focused breathing that you’d think I was in the middle of giving birth. #GodForbid #NotStartingOver #LetUsNotEvenJokeAboutIt

We talk so much about over-excitabilities with our gifted kids. But you know? Just like our kids don’t quit being gifted when they graduate, they don’t hand over the over-excitabilities in exchange for that diploma. Giftedness is wiring, it is lifelong, and it tiptoes through the generations. The OEs they have when they are four years old and losing their shit and you’re wondering if you’re going to let them live to see age five are the same OEs they will have when they are 24 and 34 and 84. And I guarandamntee that you, as a parent of a gifted child, are drenched in your own over-excitabilities. Like bathing in cheap cologne some days, I swear.

I know that I am tightly wound, that my main squeeze is emotional OE. But you know what? It also makes me a damned fine musician, and sometimes a fairly decent writer. I’m also dipped in the imaginational OE pot, which helps me interpret music and sometimes allows me to write something good-ish. Those are the silver linings to the two craptastic OEs that plague me. Because the stormy side of that cloud is that I am easily affected by the pain of the world (and dearsweetbabyjesusonaliferaft there is a lot of that these days) and can imagine myself (or my sons) living in a van down by the river in two steps or less.

Anxiety, yo. It’s a thing. So is gifted adulting. I’m really over both.

Yes, I turn the news off, and yes, I get off social media, and yes, I engage in all manners of self-care. Helps enough to keep me functional right now.

But I keep an eye to the sky, wondering when the aliens are going to arrive, because that’s all we need to complete the absolute dystopian shitfest we find ourselves in these days.

Hope they like marshmallows. We can make s’mores over the flames of my OEs before they annihilate us.


Today’s post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page September blog hop, on philosophical and spiritual anxiety. My anxiety was so through the roof that I couldn’t expound upon it very well, so please go read the other writers’ posts.

Toast some marshmallows while you read.

Aug 24 2017

When your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner

Office of Redundancy Department Administration
File under: High Priority
Tag: DUH!

Of course your 2e kid is a non-traditional learner, that’s practically the description of 2e. That’s why they struggle in school, that’s why they struggle with life, that’s why we pulled Andy to homeschool 5 1/2 years ago. When he was a toddler, he was king of “ME DO IT!” and god help you and the neighborhood if you got in his way. He had to do it himself and had to figure it out himself. “He marches to the beat of his own drummer” was floated to us at his first preschool parent/teacher conference. Over a dozen years later and I’m still grateful that his preschool teacher truly grokked what he was about and accommodated him easily. If only all his teachers had been like that… His drummer has only gotten louder and stronger and more confident.

Non-traditional learners are the outliers now, when that used to be how people learned. You know, before education became the factory system it is today. Hands-on learning, apprenticeships, that sort of thing. Granted, that was also back before child labor laws, but go with me on this. We (as a society and culture) push kids through the school system, shaming them for their weaknesses and thinking we’ll get to their strengths if and when the weaknesses are shored up. We (as a society and culture) rush them into college, to spend another four years trying to figure out what to do, to graduate with a hefty chunk of student loan debt. We (as a society and culture) look askance at tradesmen and women, at people who work with their hands, at people who do the behind the scenes dirty work that keeps the aforementioned society and culture chugging along.

Not all students need to go to college. Not all gifted kids need to go to college. And not all 2e kids need to go to college.

At least, not traditionally.

Tom and I have been talking about college for a couple years now, figuring out how we feel about the boys and their futures, whatever they may be. And it hit me that I am the outlier in my family. On both sides of my family, going back generations, I am the only one who went the “traditional” college route of high school straight into higher education. My dad was an older college student, married and a father by the time he got his degrees; his parents barely had 8th grade educations. My brother took 20 years to get his degree, his wife traveled the most zig-zag path to becoming a physician’s assistant I’ve ever seen. My cousins, all non-traditional college students. Tom is much the same; his siblings took alternative routes to college, and they’re both highly educated and well employed. He and I are the outliers in our families, going from high school into four year (ok…music education is and was a five year program) colleges, eventually into masters degrees.

So why do we expect that our boys will do that? They surely don’t need to.

Andy has taken the next step in his homeschooling journey. He started at our county’s Tech Campus last week, a fantastic vocational school, to study computer systems for the next two years. He’ll earn college credit (I big puffy heart LOVE YOU, dual enrollment!), learn professional skills (which will help shore up his executive function weaknesses), and get a strong sense of what working in the computer industry is about. He wants to go into cybersecurity, so this knowledge will be a solid foundation on which to build. Will he then go on to a “traditional” four year college? Will he do a two year program closer to home? Will he start his own gig? Seriously, the kid has started writing viruses for fun, so he can see how to crack them. He also hacks together computer hardware to…ok, for real I have no freaking clue what he does, but he speaks with great confidence and authority and people who actually understand the words coming from his talk-hole are impressed. We don’t know his next step in life, and we’re ok with whatever he decides.  Besides, in technology, most of what he learns his first year will probably be obsolete by the time he graduates.

So as has been the case for the last dozen years, this 2e asynchronous non-traditional learner is forging his own path with pure curiosity and strength of will. But for the first time, I’m slightly more confident that he will be okay.

It’s all going to be okay.


Aug 08 2017

Down on my knees

There is a level of gratitude so rare that it is nearly impossible to describe. It is so deep and so profound that it reaches into your soul, digs in its tendrils, and squeezes until you cannot breathe or think and all you can do is fall to your knees. Fall to your knees, curl into a tight ball, and breathe gratitude into the air around you. Everyone has a different threshold for that kind of gratitude, and I’d say it changes based on the situation. If I’d been ill and had just gotten a clean bill of health, that would absolutely be this level of gratitude. But sometimes it’s an improvement on something that had been so hard for so long and now it’s not and my god the change is stunning and you just…fall to your knees.

Because that is all you can do.

This past weekend the SENG conference was in Chicago. I attended and presented, but this year, because of the close proximity to home, Andy was a volunteer. He helped out whenever and wherever the organizers needed and was happy to do so. I never saw him without a smile on his face, just doing what needed to be done. (Kid badly needed a haircut, don’t know what the hell his mother was thinking…I need to have a talk with that woman, she’s raising him weird). This complex 2e child who had me rocking under my desk sobbing more than once in the last dozen years stepped up and volunteered for the organization that was most responsible for his parents getting him to the point that he could step up and volunteer. He was courteous and helpful and prompt and responsible and polite and kind. So, SO many people knew him and knew his story from this blog, and yet he was not embarrassed by it, and in fact played along with that fact. “Yes, hi, I’m A and you all know me.” He made connections and shook hands and took business cards and has ideas and projects lined up. Of all the people who attended the SENG conference this weekend, I am convinced Andy left the most changed.

And I fall to my knees.

I curl into a ball and breathe gratitude into the air around me.

I do not rock and sob under my desk.

Instead there is a new sensation, that of curling tendrils of profound gratitude weaving their way into the deepest depths of my soul. The infant who rarely slept, the young child who would routinely lose his shit, the schoolboy misunderstood by educators, the kid struggling to make sense of his world…had coalesced into this amazing young man in front of me, strong and sure because of the struggles he overcame.

I hardly know what to do, I’ve been so accustomed to challenges with this kid, that all I can do is give thanks with every breath. These improvements have been building over the last couple of years, positive incremental changes occasionally alternating with setbacks, but this weekend provided the outside perspective I so needed to see how far he really has come.

Next year SENG is in San Diego and I have been informed, in no uncertain terms, that he will be attending even if I do not. Guess I know what our family vacation is next year; maybe we can roll a few college visits into that trip.

When the days were dark and my child was suffering and I couldn’t see how things would ever get any better, I rocked under my desk and sobbed.

Today I fall to my knees, curl into a tight ball, and breathe gratitude.

Aug 01 2017

The elder I want to be

I wasn’t originally going to write about today’s topic of gifted elders. I’m not a gifted elder, I didn’t want to write about my parents, and I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to the topic. But a long conversation with several women whose opinions I deeply respect convinced me otherwise. And so here I am today, writing about gifted elders, and my hopes and plans for making it to that stage of life myself.

I’m just shy of 44 years old, and if I’m lucky I have another 40 years ahead of me. Again, if I’m lucky. There are a great number of lifestyle changes that I need to make for me to actually make it into my 80’s, and frankly I’m not feeling many of them.

I started thinking about the kind of gifted woman I wanted to be as I ease into my later years. Wise old crone came to mind. Full of things like wisdom, and peace with oneself, and the ability to give back to the world. So I decided to put together a list of things I would like to have in my life and things I would need to do to become that wise old crone, that gifted elder.

This is my list.

Exercise. Not for a bikini body (that ship sailed so long ago it rusted and sank), but for improved health. Mental, emotional, physical health.

Learn something new every day. Try something new every day. My dad has modeled that his entire life.

Everything in moderation, including moderation. You will pry my wine from my cold, dead hands.

Laugh every day. If you’re not laughing, you’re dying inside. Dude, find the humor, you’ll thank me later.

Develop something resembling a life balance, whatever works for you for self-care.

Have friends who are different from you; this can include age, generation, backgrounds, culture, and general life outlook.

Find and develop ways to give back, whether it’s in a community, an organization, or something that just touches other people.

Determine when it’s really important to give a fuck, and when it’s really not, and be sure you follow that religiously. Respect peoples’ feelings, not necessarily their opinions. Very freeing, that.

Practice active gratitude. Several years in I’m still posting my Best Things About Today. Some days I’m really digging deep to find something positive, and last year I took several months off because I just.couldn’ But I returned and it’s one of the

Surround yourself with people and things that you love, that bring you peace and joy. Then center yourself there and live outwards.

Protect yourself from overload. And if that means that you have to cancel the cable subscription, or turn off the radio, or set boundaries around certain people, or basically become a bit of a hermit, you gotta do it. Your life is far too valuable to be sucked up into the craziness and chaos of the world. If you’re depleted you can’t give back.

So how am I doing on my list to age into that wise old woman? In some areas I’m doing really well, and in others I just really really suck. That’s pretty par for the course with anything in my life, because you know, I’m human. Of course I’m going to improve things like exercise, eating better, reducing stress in my life, and improving life balance and self-care. I’m not perfect, of course not, but if I want to make it to wise old crone status, I’m sure as hell going to have to improve some things in my life or I’m just not going to have the physical ability to be there. I want to be a woman who can lift heavy equipment if necessary, chase my grandchildren, who can do what is needed and necessary when it is needed and necessary. And the only way I can do that is by getting the practice in now. Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes better. And that’s all I can hope to do, get better at the skills that I will need to age well.

That’s all I really want.


Today’s post is part of August’s Hoagie’s Gifted Education blog hop, on the topic of gifted elders. There are other writers posting on this topic who are far more eloquent than I, and I highly encourage you to go read their thoughts on the topic.


Jul 17 2017

Never say never…but this time I mean it


The universe has laughed and smacked me upside the head every time I’ve ever said “never” about something. Don’t believe me?

Never leaving Colorado (HAHAHA! 2011)
Never homeschooling (HAHAHA 2012)
Never moving again (HAHAHA 2015)

See? You’d think I’d learn. I say “never,” the universe takes that as a challenge and cracks its knuckles, I find myself trussed to four horses headed in opposite directions. There’s a reason I don’t say “never” about returning to a classroom and just keep renewing my Illinois teaching certificate.

But I really, truly, hand to god and the founding fathers mean it this time.

I am never, ever, EVER painting a room inside my house ever again.

There are other home improvements on deck that involve paint, like a wooden tray I found at a yard sale and my front door, but a room? In which I live? I will not apply paint to another wall in any home in which I reside ever again so help me.

Tom and I just finished painting half the house. This is the fourth home we’ve painted together, and by far the most difficult. We’re blaming the high ceilings and sheer square footage, and not the fact that we’re 20 years older than the first time we cracked open a gallon of Behr. And when I say half the house, I mean we painted: two hallways, my loft office, the kitchen, the family room, the master bedroom, the master bathroom, and the master closet. Walls, ceilings, trim, doors. Six different colors, two coats (but not on the ceiling and trim/doors, because even we have limits). Crap, upon further review that’s actually more than half the house. My hands are so sore and swollen that I still can’t get my rings back on, and my hips are grousing about the amount of time spent curled up on the floor painting trim. I had a flute student stare at the bruises on my legs and ask if they were from painting. Yes, yes they are, dear child. I acknowledge that my lower limbs resemble a blotched giraffe, but that’s what happens when you’re prone to bruising and lean your body weight against ladders and step stools so you don’t fall on your ass, which would piss you off because of the paint in the carpet and not because of the hospital stay. Oh, and we cleaned the carpets after painting and before moving furniture back in, because they were filthy and I am a glutton for home improvement punishment.

In fact, I am so 100% certain that I will never paint again that while I cut in yet another wall I mentally created a list of things I would be inclined to do instead.

French braid my nose hairs.
Count to infinity using only prime numbers.
Waterski on my face.
Jump out of a perfectly functional plane.
Dress for a formal event without the assistance of Spanx.
Go on a gluten bender. Though if I were to do that, I’d start with Chinese dim sum and just eat my way around the world.
Get a full color 3D tattoo of current occupant on my ass, wearing a #MAGA hat and having a “grownup tickle fight” with Putin.

You can see I’ve really thought this through, which happens when you’re painting for nearly three weeks straight; low VOC or not, the fumes really get to you. Our living room, banister, and laundry room still need painting but we’re hiring that shit out. We don’t own scaffolding to reach the top of the room, the banister needs repair on top of paint and stain, and the laundry room floor needs replaced before anything else.

I considered burning my painting clothes (16 year old maternity shirt covered in the paint of three different homes, and a pair of cutoff sweatpants that I think were from high school and I suspect have some “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” magic shit going on because they really should NOT fit), but they’re so saturated with latex at this point that a bonfire would be a hazmat situation. Or they would just stand there in the flames like the undead, mocking me and my plans to never, ever paint another room in which I live.

I’m saying never. And this time I really, truly mean it.

Jul 01 2017

The seesaw of boredom and burnout

You will rarely hear me say that I’m bored. I don’t get bored easily, so it’s hard to remember the last time I was someplace and wanted to chew my leg off to escape. I can sit and stare out the window on long trips and get lost in my own mind (and being a parent, this is delightful). Snowed in? Bring it (there’s always wine in the house). Forced into a meeting on something 1) I don’t understand and don’t give half a golden shit about, 2) know everything about, or 3) does not involve me in the slightest…AHA! That’s close to boredom for me, though I’m more likely to call it angry frustration over boredom. A billion and one things I could and should be doing and I’m stuck, can’t even play in my own head? Yeah.

But burnout. Man, I know all about burnout, I fall into that pit far too often. Most recently towards the end of the school year, right at the end of May. It’d been a long and busy spring. Tom travels most weeks February through May (and works 14+ hour days when he’s home), I was involved in more volunteer activities, the boys had their things, my flute studio was booming, the country was setting itself on fire as it wove the basket carrying it on the greased slide to hell… By the time I hit Memorial Day I was 31 flavors of burned out. Fold, put a fork in me, no mas. I guesstimate I land in the burnout pit at least four times a year. I’m getting good at the entries, making them showier. I may try for a double tuck back roll through a pack of velociraptors during a lighting storm next time. I could sell tickets, pay for the recovery wine.

I don’t recall being like this until college, and then boom! I’d get to end of every semester and literally just sit and shake when it was over. Gradually it got to the point that I was hauling my sorry ass over the finish line, grateful to have survived. November 1998. Third of four grad school semesters. Wind ensemble concert. BIG concert. I had a jazz solo that terrified me (it did not go so well…didn’t listen to the recording for FIFTEEN years…and it was every bit as horrific as I remembered). Got through the concert and crashed hard and big and ugly. It was bad.

Now burnout doesn’t follow a school schedule as reliably as it once did. Damn. At least then I could pencil in the recovery time. Now it hits whenever my mental/physical/emotional energy hits an unexpected low, often with little to no warning. I rarely know when burnout will send me flipping into the pit. It’s taken a toll on my health, and is why I’m becoming more vocal about preventative self-care.

I wonder if those in the gifted community are more prone to this than others. We’re good at many things, and have a tendency to take on too much. I’ve always had too much going on (link to cloaks in many closets). Then, because we refuse to fail at something (especially a schedule or situation of our own making), we overwork ourselves to the point of burnout. Put our own needs last. Little sleep, even less downtime. I see this all the time with my flute students, and it kills me. I can understand why they do that to themselves, they believe that they need a packed resume to get into college. Adults? I think we just can’t say no to our brains’ desire to learn and be challenged and to try new things. Because if we said no…we might get bored.

As I wrote this post (which is long past deadline for the blog hop, because overwhelmed), I was also canning 20 quarts of strawberries, writing other posts to schedule for later this summer, teaching 18 flute lessons a week, beginning to plan my fall schedule, and prepping half the house to paint. Literally half the house, including my office and our bedroom. Sleep? Not a whole lot. Downtime? Even less. Burnout imminent? We’ll see.

There’s a fine balance between boredom and burnout, and I’m getting better at finding it. I’ve discovered that it’s a see-saw and I ride that sucker like a bucking bronco. I’m white-knuckling the handles right now; maybe one day I’ll have the courage to ride one-handed and swing my hat around as I hoot and holler at the top of my lungs.

In the meantime, it’s a helluva ride.


Today’s post is part of of the July blog hop run by Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page. There are a lot of talented people writing on this topic, and I encourage you to go check them out.


Jun 13 2017

Even grownups need blanket forts

A few weeks ago, on the cusp of final exams, one of my flute students came into her lesson, collapsed onto the chair and wearily declared:

“When I’m done with finals I’m building a blanket fort and binge-watching Netflix for 12 hours.”

It’s been that kind of spring for all of my students.

It’s been that kind of spring (and winter) for all the adults I know.

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad several months for most of the country and we’re all feeling it.

I thought the blanket fort idea was so brilliant that I literally assigned it to every single one of my students that week. I shared it with my friends on Facebook, and more than one teacher sighed with longing and said they would do it too.

Oh, the best of intentions. I really and truly intended to build my blanket fort the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, to crawl in and read and watch bad TV and color in my profanity-laced adult coloring book and growl at anyone who dared disturb me. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…my road to hell is not only paved with good intentions but has lovely landscaping as well. While I did finally snatch a Saturday from the jaws of productivity to sit on the couch and not do a damned thing, I am still sans blanket fort.

Remember building blanket forts as a kid? Gathering up the old blankets and couch cushions and card tables to create a kid-sized hidey-hole? I did that a lot as a kid; I remember listening to the original Star Wars soundtrack on a Fisher-Price record player, over and over and over, while camped out in a blanket fort. My brother and I built so many forts that my parents just gave up on ever having their card table back. They were cozy and kid-sized and private.

Why did we stop? Even grownups need blanket forts.

Man Caves and She Sheds are the adult equivalent, I guess, but they lack the coziness and certainly lack the creativity of designing and building it yourself. Plus I don’t have a few thousand dollars propping up a table leg to throw at something like that. I do have blankets and couch cushions and card tables and the deep desire to be left alone for a few hours.

So this summer I vow to build a blanket fort. Hopefully it’ll fall on a stormy day, which makes them even cozier and more fun. I’ll dig out my supplies and gather my entertainment and be a kid again for a few hours. I may even let the boys join me, which kinds defeats the privacy part but jacks up the memory points by a factor of a million. We’ll listen to music and read and color and eat snacks and watch TV and just let the outside world burn for an afternoon.

Go build. Ignore adult responsibilities and the world outside your flannel walls. Make some memories. Life kinda sucks out there right now, so I’m assigning blanket forts to everyone.

Blanket forts. Soothing the inner child since forever.

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