Thursday, January 11, 2018

Turning down the dream

A couple of months ago, I had a dream that I was approached by a top-secret spy agency who were recruiting. They thought I might be amazing as a spy, and they gave me some very cursory training and then I took an aptitude test. By doing what was right, being honest, answering with my gut instead of second-guessing myself, I aced their test and was immediately offered a job. Promptly the office was attacked by bad guys and the boss was killed, and I escaped with some of the staff. They were so impressed with my skills that they offered me an undercover position in England for a two-week mission. High pay. Only two weeks. Tim was facing immense stress at the time in his life, and if I left I would be abandoning him to face that stress alone, not to mention raising all 8 kids alone and working more than full time. I looked at the pay and the excitement and the fact that they loved me and thought I was amazing for talents that I valued (and that my kids do not), and I abandoned my family and took the job. Just for two weeks, and then I'd be home, I told myself, and it would make a lot of money for my family and take the pressure off Tim. So I set off and the training included doing things that I am morally opposed to, but it was part of the job....

I woke up with the distinct feeling that I had chosen WRONG. That my family is my mission right now, and leaving them for glory, excitement, praise, and to use neglected talents that I value would be a terribly bad mistake that could cost me my soul.

So a few days later, my dream job came up (a real-life kind of dream job--nobody would ever really hire me to work in a spy agency, even though intelligence analysis really is one of my dream jobs) in a museum working with artifacts and writing up info about them for displays and newsletters. The job was down in Denver area, doing local history work at a history museum. It's the job I've wanted since I was in high school. Writing. Physical history. Artifact preservation. Teaching. It's like all my talents rolled into one lovely position that someone would actually pay me real money to do--a good wage, too.

But I remembered the dream and its warning, and I didn't apply.

And then I forgot about that dream.

But I remembered today, after a week of being invited to head up or join the leadership teams for various committees, online groups, real-life groups--all fighting for causes I believe in and care about. All asking to use talents that I value and that often go unrecognized and unused. All accompanied by praise for things I want very much to be praised for (especially since most of the things mothers get praised for I'm a completely failure at!). It all sounds very exciting--a chance to use my brain to do cool things that sound important, to get praise from people for being smart, to analyze information and use my writing to lead people to better things and better ideas.

All this came because of opportunities I had last fall to help in a political campaign. And I suppose it would be the start of a path that could lead far and wide, to interesting ways to use my brain to do interesting things.

But my mission right now is not to save the world from political chaos or help run a myriad of interesting organizations fighting for important things, as much as I want to do those things. My mission is to restore order to my home, to put together foam puzzles that are going to last three days, and bake birthday cakes, blow bubbles, and help kids sculpt things using graham crackers and frosting. My job is to read stupid stories over and over and over. And to kiss imagined owies that don't really exist. To teach math and try in vain to keep house. And to love and love and love and love. And saying it out loud sounds like I'm choosing the stupid over the intelligent, the mundane over the exciting, the mediocre over the excellent. And by many measuring sticks, I am.

But every job has mundane and boring and stupid parts. I suspect that every job is actually mostly dumb stuff, but we do it to accomplish the goal or vision or mission the job includes. It's possible to see where these mundane steps are leading, so they're possible to tolerate. The trouble with mothering is we often forget the mission in the tidal wave of tedium, but that doesn't mean there isn't a mission or that we aren't actually doing it. A former army sniper told me once that he would sit in a tree for five days to get in one good shot at his target. Sounds exciting, except for the 4.999 days stuck in a tree just waiting and waiting and not even allowed to get down to sleep or go to the bathroom.

Really, someone else actually can do the intelligence analysis--and better than I, since politics and policy don't light a fire in my belly, although thinking and research do.

But the day before I die, I will not regret having turned all the fancy chances down, even if someone else becomes president some day because they took them instead of me. But I will regret doing the things that nobody else can do--mothering my children, being a wife to Tim, writing my novels, being a sister and daughter to my siblings and parents, making my quilts, writing curricula in the way that only I can, teaching and playing and building my home into a sanctuary from the world. I will never get famous doing those things. I will not change the world. Nobody will likely remember me who doesn't carry my blood in their veins.

This week, I choose the mundane. I choose to hold a puking toddler and a bucket and hope they connect. I choose playdough and candy houses and verbal horseplay with teenagers and failing at bedtimes (despite my best efforts) and messy floors and full bellies and music and laughter and forgetting to take the garbage out.

It's not fancy and nobody will notice me. I won't change everyone's world. Someone else is going to fight for truth and justice. Someone else is going to shut down tribalism and push for compromise. Someone else is going to work their way through the channels to an eventual political appointment or office. Someone else is going to get paid to think and write.

Not me this time. Who knows if I will get another flood of opportunities like this.

 But it feels like the right choice.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Making a paracord whip, the "recipe"

So now I want to make another paracord whip but sorting through the last "as I go" post is a pain. I accidentally used the heavier weight paracord last time, so the measurements are for that weight of cord. I don't know if that matters or not.

So here's the "recipe"

85" paracord, gutted (or whip length plus 13-16 inches)
Thin piece of metal for the handle, around 5-6" long
metal BBs
electrical tape

Short form instructions as a reminder: Gut the paracord, melt both ends, but melt one end wide like a funnel. Insert handle in narrow end and melt it in. Fill the rest with BBs down to about 12 1/2 inches from the end. Wrap in electrical tape tight and smooth to just past the BBs, making it tight enough below them that they can't move or fall out. When you weave the belly, weave to 2-4 inches past the BBs and then stop because you want the overlay to end with about 8" of paracord from the core hanging out to tie the fall knot with.

8' cord (or 1 times the length of the core plus 2 feet)
12' cord (2 times the length of the core)
two 17-18' cords (3 times the length of the core), alternately, one 18' and one 19'
Electrical tape
gut string from cord for lashing

Gut and seal cords. Weave a loop. Insert core. Weave around the core, dropping either at 1/3 or 1/2, then 2/3, then weave to end and past a little bit. Cut ends to stagger and wrap the end with electrical tape to keep it from unweaving. Or tie. Either way, leave the core strand at least 6" longer than the others for the fall tie (preferably 8-12 inches so you can weave the overlay down it some). Roll the belly against something hard (like concrete) with a book or board. Lash the transition tightly and then tape the handle three times in alternating directions (2" past the handle, 4" past the handle, and 6" past the handle) to strengthen the transition.

7' or 9' cord (gradual or steeper taper) (1.5 times core)
10' cord (1x core plus 4')
14' cord (2x core plus 2')
18' cord (3x core)
two 22'-24' cords (4x core or 3x core plus 4')
2' cord NOT gutted.
6' gut from a cord (for the cracker)

Weave around core. Drop strands every 1/5 of the whip. Weave past end but leave 6" of both core and the last four overlay strands (5 strands together, each at least 6" long). Attach fall and tie it all off with a fall tie. Make and attach cracker. Trim and melt all ends. Crack the whip.