Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And I Have No Privacy

"Quinn, where are you?"

I'm right here.

But so is everyone else.

I don't want to brag, but I can write with a certain amount of chaos going on around me, which is good, because this house is never actually quiet, or restful, or spalike, unless there is a spa I am unaware of staffed by flatulating pets. But ever since we've gotten back from New York, the house has upped its game. There is no rest for the wicked and there is no quiet for the writer.

First, there is Consort, who I am thrilled to say is working on something large and complicated. It's better in any measurable way when he's working on something large and complicated. I'm less excited to note that he's working on something large and complicated at home. Most days, he's got at least two online meetings to attend, which require quiet, so he takes over the bedroom, pushes out the pets and persists in speaking of "Net Present Value" like that's actually English. When he's not doing that, he's taking a class at Coursera, which he swears is interesting but I assure you is not. It is, however, is difficult, so he needs quiet to watch his lectures and study.

Speaking of studying, there is the kid. We're still home-schooling, but I'm not the main teacher this year, which bodes well for her future earning potential. Instead, she's in online classes, which is working fine but since she's live and intermittently on-camera in these classrooms, I have to remain a) out of sight and b) quiet. Right now she's in Chinese class which, being a tonal language, sounds like this to me:

"Shang-DO. Shang-DO.  Shang-DO. Shang-DO. Shang-DO."

Later, I will be told by Daughter that those are completely different words, words which sound totally different, and that my ear is made of mud. I'll grant her that if she allows that I show a certain graciousness in giving up my kitchen for hours at a time five days a week. Sometimes I bask in this world we live in, where my daughter can have classmates all over the world without taking off her fuzzy-socks, but mostly I just look bleakly down at my empty cup of tea and wish I had installed a hot-plate in the bathroom.

So someone is has annexed the bedroom and is talking in there, and someone else has annexed the kitchen and is talking in there; where can I work? Can I work in the office? Well, I can try, but one of the aural house-quirks is that people murmuring in the kitchen are bellowing in the office:

"SHANG-DO, SHANG-DO, SHANG-DO, SHANG-DO."

(Silence. I put my fingers on the keyboard to write about the cats.)

"NEXT PAGE! SHANG-DU, SHANG-DU, SHANG-DU..."

Which is when I hide in the kid's room, a place which is technically quieter, but not if you count the shouting in my head. Imagine that the night before, you had told your daughter to clean up her room because the clothing free-ranging across every single horizontal space was provocative, but in the annoying way. Imagine you came in a half-hour later and the clothing was off the floor, the bed, the dresser, the hamper and the blinds. The drawers were closed, leading you to assume they were filled with clothing.

(Because you also believe passionate clapping brings Tinkerbell back to life.)

 But now, having sat down on the bed with your laptop to write, your ankle touches something under the bed; you lean over and discover all of your daughter's clothing under there, scrunched up and melding with cat fur. You are now left with what to do with this information. Do you grab the child from class to have her clean this up? No, you do not, because while taking care of her clothing is important, you're still convinced the reason you loathe and fear math is because you missed that one week in second grade when you had pneumonia. What profiteth Daughter to gain folded clothing if she loses the quadratic equation? What you should really do with this clothing is just put it all in a bag and tell Daughter that if she's that careless with her clothing, it obviously doesn't matter that much to her and take it to children who will care for their clothing. THAT would be a bracing experience, only a quick glance in the drawers indicates she'd be left with rainbow toe-socks and a Christmas sweater from two years ago. Even if she worked back her clothing one item at a time she'd never be dressed in time for practice this afternoon and you all desperately need to be away from each other for at least an hour today. No, best to just make this a learning experience, and by that of course I mean a droning lecture. But it's virtually impossible to sit in a room which is filled with an incipient lecture and write about anything but thankless children who apparently need to be sent to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa for a year or so.

Which is when the laptop and I head to my bathroom, which should be quiet. Cool, too, which isn't nothing here in Los Angeles these days. I could sit on the toilet and bask in the cool, echoey silen...

Oh. Hi, Diana.



This is Dumb Cat. There was controversy in our house for a while as to whether she is fat or not. I stand squarely on the side of "Big-boned, just with a freakishly small head" camp; God knows there isn't much brain there. She frequently walks behind the open door in the hallway, gets stuck between the door and the wall and wails until someone picks her up and turns her around, towards the light. Diana likes to spend about half an hour a day walking around the bathtub, meowing. I may remove her from the tub, but as inexorable and mystifying as the eels returning to the Sargasso Sea, she will go back there. Kick her out of the bathroom and she stands at the door and screams. Best to just let her finish her religious ritual and then spend the afternoon being frightened of an extension cord. Not exactly conducive to writing in there, though.

The dining room has no chairs, but I could bring in a chair were it not for how much of the sound bleeds through from the kitchen ("SHANG-DI, SHANG-DI, SHANG-DI. New page. SHENG-DO, SHENG-DO, SHENG-DO.")

The living room is a possibility, but the dog is in there, making noise. Oh, my poor old man. First, we thought the scratching was just the allergies and then it turned out his thyroid has gone into the Witness Protection Program, so he began thyroid meds. One of the side-effects of this medication, I have come to find out, is that he pants constantly, noisily. He also stinks, partially because he is old, partially because the AWOL thyroid dries out his skin and partially because he's on fish-oil and salmon-based food to help his skin. The combined effect kind of makes him smell like a dumpster at the cannery. Also, he still itches because of his allergies, so there's a lot of scratching going on. Between the panting, the scratching-leg thumping, and the general canine miasma, he's a lot more of a presence than I need when I write, not the least of which because I'm doing the math of "Can he have his next Benadryl? Did he spit out this mornings's thyroid pill? Didn't we just wash him, like, two days ago? How does he already smell like Thai food left in a hot car?"

So please know that while sometimes when I am not writing blogs I'm off cavorting and frolicking and enjoying the pleasures of my estate near Lake Como, mostly I'm just drifting about my house, desperately in pursuit of a room of my own.

11 Comments:

Blogger Debbie St.Amand said...

Oh my gosh, I think you just led me to an epiphany. My dog's been panting way more than I thought he should. The vet keeps saying, "There, there, it'll be fine. Don't worry about it." But he's on thyroid medication, too! I wonder if that's what's making him do that!

1:10 PM  
Blogger lisa i said...

My mother bagged up my clothes and I had to earn them back one piece at a time, she decided the value of each item. I had to pay her cash.

I on the other hand taught my children how to do their own laundry as soon as they could reach the knobs on the machine, amazing how quickly they learned to at least keep some of the crap off the floor. Not fool proof and sometimes they were kind of stinky but I was done being the laundry queen.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

I just learned about Net Present Value! From a class on finance that I'm taking through ... Coursera. That one ends soon and the new one (World History) began this week.

My cat tries to be a study aid by sitting on my lap as I watch the videos on the computer which actually *is* helpful because I'm less likely to start doing random chores if there's a cat looking all comfy on my lap.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Eris said...

Well, crap. I think (thought?) my cat is brilliant but she looks strikingly similar to your dumb cat and my cat does the same things your dumb cat does. mmmmmm....

4:13 PM  
Blogger Rosalita said...

My cat does the same thing. (I love the way you write about it.) The difference is she spends half the day in the tub, and the other half peering intently at the faucet in the bathroom sink. Hysterical. She's pretty old, so I figured this is one of those quirks of age--except that her previous owner assured me she has done this her whole life.

8:45 AM  
Blogger rockygrace said...

The cat-in-the-tub thing? She's waiting for you to turn on the faucet so she can get a drink.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Single Parent Homeschooler said...

I just got done reading The Year of Learning Dangerously. It was comforting to find, literally from the first page, that you are very much just like me. One might actually wonder if that is truly comforting to know there are two crazy spastic mothers trying to not f-up their children's education and life, but it is comforting to me. I've been homeschooling from the beginning, we're in year three now. Why? Because I was homeschooled most of my life, but transferred to public high school (not by choice) where I graduated, and I believe that homeschooling is the best. If not for my kids then definitely for me...but I have firmly convinced myself that it's best for them. Anyway, my rambling aside, I truly enjoyed your book and enlightening misadventures and will be passing it on to every homeschooler I know!

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I am so glad you blogged. It was just the giggling I needed. What a fun read.

I hope you have time to write a new book soon, too. I've convinced like ten friends to get your latest book so far. It's just a great read!

Also, I just have to say that I love Diana. I find her absolutely precious from her pics to your stories of her. Such a cutie. Rescue kitties are the best. :)

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Nancy Songbird said...

ROFL I don't even know where to start commenting on that, except to thank you for another post that I stumbled on just exactly when I needed it. I know I have told you this before, but I will say it again: aside from the immense and appreciated humor value of your story, remember that someday the house will be silent and the ALL rooms will be available to you (at least, for me, in the daytime hours - welcome to to post-homeschool-graduation world!) Enjoy the insanity. I promise, you will miss it! :-)

8:50 AM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? (Matt 16:26) This is a net present value problem big time. Even for Tinkerbell applause is a postscript—a de facto jeering if you will—if she doesn’t consider the cost. She was dead even before she was dead and no clapping on of the crash cart paddles was going to do it. I think I sensed this as a child sitting in the dark of the theater and would have appreciated something for a tension headache at that time.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your blog for the first time & enjoyed it much. For whatever reason, I am relieved to know I'm not the only one who views the fashion magazine photos as odd, outrageous, peculiar, what were they thinking, etc. Great opportunity to stretch the imagination and create captions.

For your old dog, please try Nature's Variety, Instinct, frozen raw dog food. The lamb has worked the best for my dog. No need to make a gradual change - just do it.

11:19 AM  

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