I need a project. Or a job. Or a hobby. Or SOMETHING ... at home
July 13, 2015 5:23 AM   Subscribe

One of my children received a complex developmental diagnosis this year, which unfortunately means I won't be going back to work as planned. Now that we're out of the "total panic" phase and into the "settling into a routine" phase, I don't have a lot to do, and I am BORED OUT OF MY MIND. I'm flailing between the universe of "pick anything you want!" and "meet these constraints where you have to do it from home." I need some kind of intellectual work -- paid or unpaid -- to give me focus, a goal, and something to do. You guys know me pretty well; I thought you could help me narrow it down. Details within.

For the first time in my life, I'm not doing any intellectual work of any kind. After college came grad school, then I worked as a lawyer, taught philosophy to college students, and served on the school board. After I lost my re-election campaign for school board I was going to take about six months off to loaf around and recover from electoral politics, and then go back to work full-time, which was always our plan after having kids (I'd stay home until they were about this age, then return to work). Well, in the meantime, one of our children was diagnosed with a complicated developmental issue (that I'd rather not get into), but what it means is that in the near future, it isn't realistic for me to be back at work full-time. We would have to get an essentially full-time nanny with experience with special needs, which would mean, more or less, I'd have to go work at a law firm to pay for it, which would require even longer hours for the nanny, and probably at this point would not be great for our kid, which starts to seem like a ridiculous set of decisions that ends with everyone unhappy and paying for the privilege. My largest constraint, right now, is that my kid with needs isn't eligible for before- or after-care because of those needs, and we have basically weekly doctors' appointments, therapy visits, or meetings with school personnel, which I manage, and I have to be relatively "on call" during the school day for when problems inevitably arise. So there's not really a part-time job (that I know of) where you can say, "I'll work slightly less than six hours a day, boss, and disappear at regular but variable times for excessively long appointments and meetings, and sometimes unscheduled emergencies."

(My spouse is 100% supportive on all of this and his work has been great about him taking half-days for meetings and appointments, and we are looking at changes in his work too in the slightly longer term so he has more availability, but logistically, right now, it makes a lot more sense for me to be parent-on-the-spot.)

So after six months of loafing around and catching up on my list of "all the shit that needs to be done around the house," and six months of frantic "OMG what is wrong with our child" doctor's appointmenty stuff getting to a diagnosis, it's been almost a year since I last "worked" (on the school board), and my brain has officially reached its super-boredom point. I have read over 100 books since January 1. I have KonMari'd the house until everyone's ticked at me. I have optimized my bill paying and experimented with inventory management systems in the kitchen cabinets. I need something to DO, something goal-oriented in some fashion. It doesn't have to earn money (although that would be nice -- these therapies can get expensive, and I was looking forward to a slightly less tight budget when I went back to work!), but it has to be a little more directed than "submit random freelance writing." (Which I have been doing.)

Skills: Lawyer. Taught philosophy. Served in elected office. Like to public speak. Lots of experience as a newswriter (a decade ago now), some as a freelance writer. Lots of experience as a newspaper editor (decade ago); more recently I've edited a couple of book-length manuscripts for pay, which I really enjoyed, but I don't know how you score those gigs other than as one-offs. Like to research, love to read.

I just have all this spare mental energy crawling the walls of my skull and I have no idea what to direct it towards. I worked on same-sex marriage advocacy in my state for 10 years and, well, that's over. (yay!) I'm a little bit burned out on educational advocacy right now. All of the things I was burning that energy on sort-of ran out at once, and then at almost the same moment I was constrained from doing what I'd normally do in that case, which is get a job. So between the "entire universe of possible things to do" and "limits of how I could do them," I'm just kind-of flailing. I think if I could pick either a thing to do or a cause to work on, I could probably work out the rest of it, but apparently I can't figure out that first step.

So, suggestions/ideas/next steps, metafilter? Because otherwise I'm going to have to start believing in chemtrail conspiracies or something just go give my brain a hobby, and that's going to be sad. (Actually I caught myself researching nearby PhD programs the other day not because I want to get a PhD but just because IT WOULD GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO, and that is a terrible idea. You see how badly I need a project!)

I know this is a bit diffuse and scattered; I'm really casting around and lost without some kind of goal-directed intellectual work to do. (This has seriously never happened to me before. Don't know what to dooooooo!) I'll happily answer questions to help clarify/narrow/be picky about otherwise excellent ideas.
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Work & Money (70 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I guess the one detail I left out: With all the harassment at the end of my last political campaign, any work I do out in the community (including volunteer work) has to be done in a way that I can avoid my harassers, which is in some cases a significant constraint. Local educational advocacy is right out. Volunteering for groups that advocate for my kid's situation is also right out, as my #1 harasser, whom I have reported to the police, is highly-active in that small community and she might actually set me ON FIRE, she's a loon, and pretty pissed about the police report still.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:27 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Depending on your kid's diagnosis this might be a little too close to your day-to-day, but what about learning ASL? I've been making decent progress with ASLU online, which has good bite-sized lessons and sensible early vocabulary. And self-administered quizzes, which give me that little zing of "I learned something!" in addition to being, y'know, useful basic competency checks.
posted by dorque at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2015

Start a blog! It sounds very 2011, but I've been reading your replies on AskMe for years now and can tell you would be a fantastic blogger. It can be very goal-oriented and focused work, if you want it to be, can open you up to a community of like-minded people if you choose, can be done anonymously or semi-anonymously, and is completely self-directed, flexible work.

If you feel like you need concrete goals to achieve, feel free to message me; I work in web publishing and am fairly obsessed with web metrics :) And if you do start writing online, please send me the address, I would be your first subscriber.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:35 AM on July 13, 2015 [45 favorites]

There is always blogging (or video blogging, or podcasting). Presumably you have lots of info in your head you can organize and and break into bite size pieces.

Editing seems like something to pursue as well. I seem to recall seeing ads for freelance editors on /r/forhire.

Then there is always writing a book. Non fiction is a growing field (as far as I can tell).

Good luck.
posted by pyro979 at 5:38 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

How old are your kids? I'm wondering if you would be interested in any of the traditional stay-at-home-mom volunteering routes. Like PTA, room mom, Den Mother (or the equivalent for some organization that your kids do). I know they don't SOUND terribly intellectual, but there's a lot to be done, a lot of kids can benefit from it, and those types of organizations could always use someone engaged and organized.

In a totally different direction, how about volunteering as a peer reviewer for a journal or conference in your field? (or as it sounds, fields?) I gather that this varies a good deal, but in my field, you just show up for a single committee meeting, you get added to the email list, and then they beg you to peer review stuff.
posted by chocotaco at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gah! I am sorry about your harasser.

I've enjoyed your Metafilter posts over the years and if you started a blog I would definitely read it.

Other thoughts off the top of my head: learning a new language, learning how to write a computer program, picking up knitting or cross stitch (I just started the latter and it is really fun and a great way to reduce stress - plus very transportable so you could work on it while at a doctor's appointment), a significant DIY project for your house, woodworking. Baking?

Could you reliably pick up a job where you'd work evenings or weekends? I don't know what your household schedule is like but even 1-2 shifts a week of working in a bookstore or something might help a bit. Or could you take an evening class?

How are your copy editing skills? Do you live near a school where you could proofread papers? Or if you had good SATs you could probably read and grade essays.
posted by sutel at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2015

There are websites in my town for volunteer postings (volunteer ottawa and charity village) that post long term and short term opportunities. As a board member of a non-profit we would LOVE to have a lawyer informally connected to us that we could contact whenever a question comes up.

Not sure what resources are in your area but if I were to call up volunteer ottawa and tell them the situation, I know they'd be able to put me in touch with a couple of orgs looking for some below-the-radar short term help.

If you like to write, it could be really fun to find an org with an anniversary coming up and write a history. You could even turn that into a business eventually.
posted by betsybetsy at 5:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are there any other websites/online communities (besides MetaFilter) that you're already involved in? 'Cause I think you could be a really good moderator.

Seconding the idea of offering your law expertise to non-profits.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

Foster parenting a baby, toddler, or preschool aged child (at least 3 years younger than my youngest child) is what I would do in a heartbeat if I were a SAHP.

I, too, have admired your voice on this site, and would absolutely love to read a novel or a nonfiction book based on your experiences of surviving long-term harassment in a small town.
posted by hush at 5:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes! Write a book!
posted by Sassyfras at 5:52 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

My favorite volunteer activity is judging high school debate. If you're a community judge, you can pick and choose tournaments and rounds. They tend to be on Friday afternoon/evening and all day Saturday, but if you're only available for the 8am Saturday round, they'll take it.

It is, without a doubt, the most fun thing I do. Now that it's summer, I'm missing that intellectual part of my brain.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

Seconding the idea of offering your law expertise to non-profits.

Do you have any particular feeling about end-of-life planning and care? Lots of people could use a nudge to get those arrangements made; maybe there are non-profits near you that could use a speaker on the topic?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:55 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Grant-writing and or/pro-bono paralegal-type help for non-profits/NGOs in the area?
posted by jquinby at 5:56 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Apply to be the town lawyer in neighboring towns. You just have to show up for the evening meetings and tell them if what they are doing is legal or not.

Become a women's advocate. I did the right thing and got myself and my children out of an abusive marriage 8 years ago. I did not realize, though, that he can (and does) use the court system to legally harass me. I am poor and could not afford a lawyer for this last one and my pro-bono lawyer bowed out a week before my court date, leaving me with no lawyer. I was there, confused, scared, and fighting ptsd. They had me cross examine the monster that still causes me nightmares. He won and now I have a $5000 bond that says that if I don't obey his next demand, I lose even more. There should be laws in every state that, in cases of domestic violence, the aggressor must go to mediation before court and bonds should never be set on victims of domestic violence. You have time, you have the skills, please fight for the women who are too frightened to ask for help.
posted by myselfasme at 5:57 AM on July 13, 2015 [27 favorites]

Could you go to remote or low-residence graduate school for writing? I studied for a couple of years with a wonderful teacher, who had undergraduate, graduate and nontraditional students. She's sadly retired now, or I would still be doing it.
posted by BibiRose at 5:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Write a book! I'm a publisher and I've also started doing more consulting for people who want to write books in general. I have some ideas for you, feel free to MeMail me! I particularly think a guide or guides for people who want to be more effective on their local school board is much needed and you could use your journalistic experience to interview and research more examples for your book while of course also speaking from experience. Ditto local politics in general, I wish there were more hands on primers for people who want to get involved but don't know where to start!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:04 AM on July 13, 2015 [13 favorites]

I work in health behavior/health services research at a for-profit company. I have 2 research assistants who work for me part time who work variable hours due to family demands. They work 6 hours a day on various assignments, such as doing literature reviews, reviewing questionnaires, writing reports, etc. I have one standing meeting a week with each of them (one-on-one) at a set time that I let them pick -- I would be very annoyed if they missed or rescheduled, since that is the only set schedule I require of them. Otherwise, they do all of their work at various times throughout the day, sometimes late at night when their kids are in bed or even on weekends. I don't care when they work, as long as they do.

This sounds almost exactly like the kind of job you would excel at, and the kind of schedule you want. Maybe you aren't interested in this exact type of research -- my point is, don't assume that part time work has to be done during standard business hours. If the work can be done independently enough, office hours don't matter.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Check your MeMail—I sent you a couple leads along the editorial line.
posted by timestep at 6:17 AM on July 13, 2015

Write a column in your local newspaper!
posted by oceanjesse at 6:20 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could you become something like a senior advocate? Your work in your local school system is very commendable! The next age group who could probably use your help are the senior citizens in your community. (I also like the women's advocate and the grant writing suggestions up above.)

Senior citizens need help navigating through our digital world, especially with regards to legal and financial stuff that might only be available online. Or maybe they need buses to run on Sundays (a recent change in our local bus route) or a senior center.

Good luck! I know whatever you end up putting your energies into will succeed. I understand the hardest part is know which direction to send them!
posted by jillithd at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2015

Write/copyedit Wikipedia articles

transcribe audio (This is a legitimate, paid job.)

Internet Ad Assessor for Lionsbridge (legit, paid)
posted by belladonna at 6:23 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Given your teaching background, have you considered adjuncting some online courses? It's very flexible work, intellectually stimulating, pays a bit, and lots of schools are expanding their online offerings right now-- you wouldn't necessarily need to work for an institution that's geographically proximate to you. With J.D.-level qualifications, I'd think you should be a competitive candidate for a variety of gigs across the social sciences, philosophy, criminal justice, etc.
posted by Bardolph at 6:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

Given your teaching background, have you considered adjuncting some online courses?

I was going to suggest this as well. I did it for 2 semesters last year for a single online course for a local community college, and since most communication for the course is asynchronous, the schedule was very flexible. I really enjoyed the work.
posted by bluefly at 6:36 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Open a program evaluation consultancy? The federal grants I work on always have an evaluation component which ends up being a drag to do and I think we'd love it if we knew of a competent person to contract it out to.
posted by lakeroon at 6:47 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have recently been in a similar boat - worked at an intense job, then moved somewhere new and am having trouble finding work. I've gotten back into online tutoring, which I used to do in grad school, at Tutor.com. The place has its faults like any other, but they always need essay writing tutors, the hours are scheduled by you only slightly in advance and you can cancel within 24 hours notice. It pays $10-16.50 per hour depending on the subject, which is pretty close to minimum wage, but better than nothing. You interact with students from all over the country via a text / online whiteboard program, and I find it pretty engaging.

Another way it's keeping me busy is that if you can pass a 50 question exam, you can tutor more topics. I'm studying statistics right now to try to start tutoring in that. It's really nice for me to have a non artificial goal.
posted by permiechickie at 6:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Editing work would be a great fit for you and you can get work most easily from other editors who will be able to pass work to you - drop me a memail if you'd like to discuss further, and I can tell you people to join up with and groups to join, etc. My editing / transcription / localising work keeps me busy and well-paid but flexible, so sounds ideal for you.
posted by LyzzyBee at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2015

Good God, I can't believe this is even a question. You are the easily the smartest and most insightful commenter in the smartest and most insightful community on the web. You are so smart it's ridiculous. You are so smart that every time I read one of your in-depth comments on politics or religion or the history of schooling in America I feel both overjoyed and kind of guilty because I'm like why is this ridiculously smart person doing all this amazing writing for free? I mean, I'm grateful, but c'mon.


You need to write a big, meaty, genius-y nonfiction book of the kind that requires both a shit-ton of detailed research and an overarching synthesizing understanding of a massive amount of material. The kind of book I'd imagine you writing would be Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, which I see now is subtitled: "A Story of Ideas in America." Yes. Please write me a story of ideas in America, preferably one that touches on the history of education, because I would like to know more about it. Personally, I would like a book that explains to me why we have the extraordinarily fucked-up school system that we do, where funding is linked to property values, and how school boards come to be and function on a day-to-day basis, and what you think your really messed up experience on the school board says about this broader political system we're enmeshed in, and what we should do about it. But you know, that's just one idea. I'm sure you have lots.

posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2015 [109 favorites]

In addition to bricks and mortar schools, you could teach online for one of the online-only education sites, like Udemy, Lynda, Udacity, etc.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:09 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fourthing teaching online. Find a reputable brick and mortar school (though I've taught for a sketchy for-profit, and really, it wasn't that bad, but go reputable brick and mortar) and make sure the expectations are asynchronous (my school is now offering their entire philosophy degree online, for example; there are opportunities out there). It's interesting, it's engaging, and you can do it anywhere (even from waiting rooms!) I teach a mixture of online and face to face classes, and both have their quirks (my big complaint is online students who forget I'm not a robot), but it's a great gig for your situation. If you'd like to talk in more detail about how it goes, feel free to memail me.

(Though I'd read that book, too. :) )
posted by joycehealy at 7:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also think writing would be something to consider in a more systematic fashion than just the random freelance article. Personally, I'd suggest starting on a project that is NOT advocacy oriented but that can engage your desire to research. For example, I've got a friend who retired from FT journalism and now researches and writes "popular history" focusing on local historical "true crime" stories, scandals, that kind of thing. It's a good tie-in for the occasional speaking engagement.
posted by drlith at 7:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Memailed you a volunteer opportunity that might suit.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:20 AM on July 13, 2015

You might try some voluntary time on the Smithsonian Transcription Center. You can do as much or as little as you want, any time day or night. You can transcribe, or you can review and correct transcriptions.
posted by gudrun at 7:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

CASA? Not all states use or have them and it's entirely volunteer but could be a way to do meaningful things.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fellow lawyer and frequent favoriter of your comments here. Some thoughts: freelance copyediting (friends who have done this started by reaching out to/connecting with literary agents); teach online CLE courses; prospect research for a nonprofit; start a book review blog (parlay that into professional book review gigs); tutor the LSAT remotely or from your home; travel agent-y stuff for a big company (e.g., Amex); learn another language; work on a 2016 presidential campaign. Not sure if you have time for full-time work, but a number of legal publishing companies have writers/editors that telecommute full time. Memail me if you want more info on that.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Basically, what pretentious illiterate said, verbatim.

I've seen so many smart, entertaining, insightful comments from you on the blue. I feel like, just pulling from those comments, I could think of half a dozen topics that would make an amazing book, a book that only you could write.

Writing a nonfiction book has several very goal-oriented steps.

1) Come up with an idea. (So much reading! So much research!)

2) Put together a proposal, which is usually like 30-50 pages, and can include sample chapters. (So much more reading! So much more research! So much writing too!)

3) Query agents. Send out your proposal. Get an agent.

4) Sell the book!

5) Write the book!

All of this can be done on your own time, on your own schedule, at your own pace.

The process would use so many of your skills: reading, writing and research of course, but also the communications/marketing/promotion skills you must have utilized in your campaigns for office. If the book sells and does well (and Mefi knows it will), you'll also have opportunities to do public speaking at promotional events -- hopefully far away from your current town, so you don't have to worry about running into your harassers.

Plus, nonfiction pays pretty well; there's a chance you could get a good chunk of change, and some of it would be upfront when you sell the book, which I'm sure would be welcome right now.

Write. A. Book. Please!!!
posted by the turtle's teeth at 7:44 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

How are your legal industry relationships? I've worked with a couple of attorneys who are freelance researchers and writers for boutique law firms. Definitely a make your own hours kind of gig, and nothing like going back to the demands of a regular law firm job.
posted by stowaway at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh! Thinking back on some of your comments here - guardian ad litem! Some of those people are straight up incompetent; kids in our communities need better advocates.
posted by stowaway at 8:19 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Nthing "please write, Eyebrows". (A book. Or a novella. Or a play. Or a book of criticism of Lucy Maud Montgomery's work [or another thing like that]. Maybe some articles or what have you, but one of the other things, too.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Based on your obvious talent for writing, I've figured it is only a matter of time before you become one of MeFi's own breakout stars, a lá The Whelk. Maybe contact him for thoughts and ideas about what to do?

One way to think about developing writing projects is to check your AskMe Interest Areas - mine were not a surprise, due my teaching experience and past practice as a legal aid attorney, but it's helped motivate me to work on parts of the MeFi Wiki that also track those interests.

Your bar hotline can verify this, but volunteering as an attorney doesn't sound like a feasible thing to do with your schedule constraints. For example, if you bowed out of a high-conflict court case a week before trial, this might be considered malpractice if anyone reported it to the bar grievance commission, and another attorney might be happy to sue you for damages. It seems risky to try to fit high-conflict law (as a GAL, CASA or otherwise) into a limited schedule with other priorities, so please be very careful about making commitments that you may not be able to keep.

You might want to consider styling yourself as a research attorney, and contacting local or national nonprofit organizations that engage in appellate advocacy to see if they need assistance with brief writing and research, because that might be a much easier fit with your current schedule. There are also a variety of nonprofits that lobby for legislation that might welcome your assistance with research and writing.

However, +1 for writing a book, or a blog, or articles, or podcasts, or whatever gives you a platform for doing what you enjoy.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well I would put in a plug for a PhD. My mom went back to school at age 40 and worked on her phd from 8 AM to 3 PM every day and then came home to take care of us.

A phd (I have one and have supervised several) can be super-flexible time wise if your advisor is understanding. Also it requires you to be super self-motivated (which you are) and detail-oriented (if you are a lawyer you are).

So take the GRE and start contacting potential advisors! :)
posted by amy27 at 9:22 AM on July 13, 2015

You could look into freelance copy-editing. There are sites like Upwork.com that help connect freelancers with people who jobs, so all the work can be done from home. Also, if you've got a university near you, I've also got friends who got permission from the relevant graduate departments and put up fliers offering help copy-editing grant proposals, etc.

I also agree with everyone that a non-fiction book would be a great project for you. You always have really interesting things to say about American society and you have a really engaging writing style. And you have a knack for explaining complicated things in a way that is both clear and not condescending.
posted by colfax at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was in your situation when my son was little and received a terrible diagnosis (which, after years of therapy and much luck was rescinded). So I believe that your being there to advocate for your child and to interact with all the therapists, doctors, teachers, aides, etc., will help more than you will ever know. I had been trying to run my own business up until that point in an area that required so much people interaction, appointments, etc., that I had to acknowledge I couldn't do that and the special-needs-parent thing well at the same time. I switched to doing programming and coding (which I had done at times before in my life, but never while working for myself before). It gave me the intellectual pursuit and meaningful work I needed while allowing me the scheduling flexibility I never would have found at a company job. I still work for myself this way even though my son is older now, doing really well in all areas, etc. So my recommendation is to work for yourself, finding something that appeals to you that you can set your own hours for, do on your own computer, etc. GOOD LUCK!!!
posted by lgandme0717 at 9:39 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Blogging about life as the parent of a special needs child/special needs issues; blogging about legal current events.

Volunteering at a legal aid clinic.

Could you set up shop as a lawyer in private/independent practice and basically just be a legal consultant? People have legal questions or need very simple legal help and you bill out at an hourly rate, only taking on clients as you have free time? You could even just do it through upwork.com or guru.com so you don't have to make your own site.

You could volunteer coach speech & debate, or mock trial, at a local high school! Just find the coach on the website and email them offering to volunteer. You could probably go during the school day when they are in class. All our volunteer mentors were lawyers when I did debate and mock trial and I really loved them and looked up to them.
posted by amaire at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, spread the word among friends of yours who work at non-profits that you are open to doing pro-bono or low-cost legal work.
posted by amaire at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2015

Welcome to my world.

Some things I have done over the years:

Director of Community Life for an online voluntary health and welfare organization trying to make the transition to tax deductible charity status.

Pursued an online degree.

Attended conferences related to the above things.

Started various email lists, some of which went nowhere and some of which were very successful in their niche. Founded and moderated a subforum on someone else's forum.

Did my own research and came up with my own ideas about how to deal with the special needs of my sons. Implemented those ideas.

Became the highest ranking female member of a very serious "boy zone" online community, which entailed considerable research and behind-the-scenes problem solving. This project has been ongoing for several years.

Spent a lot of time trying to figure out models for how to get things done that interest me that might also lead to money at some point.



Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:09 AM on July 13, 2015

The other other option that nobody's mentioned yet is to do some work on legal research - publications for law reviews and all that jazz. Depends on the particular journals, but they often solicit for particular legal issues and from practitioners. Might give you the lee-way to work on papers at your leisure, then shop them around to whomever's publishing on that particular issue.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:10 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Researching your family history? You can do huge amounts of it online, and I find it really satisfying to hunt long-dead relatives down from a couple of vague clues and a grainy census record.
posted by Catseye at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could volunteer through Nepris, a fairly new site that connects professionals to classrooms. This would be a periodic engagement as its based on when classrooms request your particular expertise. But all the work would be online and you would get to explain what you know to young people.

You could also take up the next part of the work now that marriage equality is won -- which I think is a push for anti-discrimination legislation that covers LGBTQ people in all states. That will be a big fight, especially now that we have made a large win, which creates strong backlash and has many people ready to proclaim victory.
posted by cubby at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2015

Chiming back into say pretentious illiterate's comment for the win. Fangirls in the house!!

"I have read over 100 books since January 1. I have KonMari'd the house until everyone's ticked at me. I have optimized my bill paying and experimented with inventory management systems in the kitchen cabinets. I need something to DO, something goal-oriented in some fashion."

This is hella impressive, and I say that as someone who struggles to complete tangible goals such as these in my home. In addition to your many other talents, you must be amazing at time management. In your future BOOK, please include your how-to's for accomplishing all of this awesomeness.
posted by hush at 11:09 AM on July 13, 2015

Nthing the suggestion to write. My dream book from you would be either nonfiction (as others have said) or a fabulous historical (or secondary world) novel with a woman protagonist that takes advantage of your extensive knowledge of church history.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Along a different line: design and make a really complicated quilt.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:23 AM on July 13, 2015

You are so skilled, experienced, insightful, etc, I agree that you should write a book. I think tutoring or teaching could kind of burn you out at this point, for little reward. Book!

Also, learn a language!

And start a vegetable garden or get into baking bread, but that isn't intellectually stimulating.
posted by latkes at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds dorky, but there's something very meditative about knitting. There's a sense of pride in creating items that will be used for years, and complicated patterns can be a significant mental challenge! (It sounds dumb, but MAN old ladies who can make up stuff on the spot, knit 100 miles an hour, and chat at the same time are way more intimidating now that I have some rudimentary skill). It's also totally transportable and interruptible.
posted by aggyface at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2015

Okay, I don't need to tell you to write a damn book already, because everyone else already has, but you could probably turn out something pretty good and interesting and totally should try it unless you'd get bored.

Do you have any constraints on your schedule - would you be able to do regular hours or do you need to be able to drop everything? I may MeMail you a different suggestion.
posted by dilettante at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2015

I agree you should write a book. I especially love your writings on religion, and the world is currently lacking popular religion writing that's intelligent, in-depth, and non-wackadoo. You can fill that niche perfectly.

If you are looking for a crafty pastime that is intellectually challenging, I can offer garment sewing. There is so very much to know and so many skills required. Like you, I'm a lawyer with a background in publishing, and what I like about garment sewing is it uses the parts of my brain that are completely atrophied from all that readin' and writin'. Plus, if you have any issues at all fitting into ready-to-wear, it is THRILLING to suddenly be able to wear any damn thing you want.
posted by HotToddy at 1:29 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think you could write very well about your experiences with your child's diagnosis and what you wish you had known beforehand and such. But I completely understand if you don't want to go that route. I read your post and thought, I am a young woman who would love to be more involved in her community and would enjoy reading stories about a person who did that and how they first got involved, what challenges they faced, how they overcame them, etc. So I think that would be a good topic for a book or blog.
posted by kat518 at 2:13 PM on July 13, 2015

If your area has a Time Bank, participate. If not, start one. Transition Towns? Support local businesses, support your friends and their creative projects, start a local currency. Get to know your neighbors better. Slow Food. Slow Money.
posted by hannahelastic at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2015

My SIL wrote a book to act as a support group (in book form) for other parents of children with special needs. True, it was also her education and part-time work as well as her life experience. But just floating the idea that if you have thoughts about a book that might help other people / families / moms / public servants / what-have-you, it might help you to focus on that. Agreed with others that you write tremendously well and have great stories to tell.
posted by ldthomps at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2015

KonMari'd the house
Lots of great ideas already, but in case you want another one - lots of people are interested in organizing their homes, but feel overwhelmed on where to get started, and there is a fair amount of interest in Kon Mari right now. Decluttering and organization help is totally something you could do on an ad hoc basis, you know when you're not busy writing your book!
posted by dawg-proud at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2015

Ok, forget I suggested being a columnist- go write a book!
posted by oceanjesse at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2015

It was suggested above, but I'd like to add another vote for becoming a writer (be it of books, articles, or whatever). I've read enough of your comments here to know that you write well, you are smart, and you have an interesting and informed perspective on the world. It's not an easy path and probably won't pay out in a big way, but it seems like it would meet a lot of the other criteria you have set forth.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2015

I'm in a similar situation (but much less well-educated). I don't mean to presume about your kid's diagnosis, but the disability-advocacy and self-advocacy community has been really helpful for me. I think there is a glut of special-needs-parents blogs, books, t-shirts etc., but the various perspectives of people who actually have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities feel more like "primary sources" and were less visible to me beforehand. Meeting and talking with self-advocates has changed both how I interact with my kid now (he's 8) and how I think about his future, as well as my views on social policies more generally. There are very practical questions about transportation, employment, assistive technology, sexuality and relationships, benefits, and so on and there are more theoretical ones about what inclusivity and universal design really mean or what independence and autonomy might look like for different people. You might consider the Partners in Policymaking program in your state--it's free advocacy training for people with disabilities or their family members--or volunteering with a disability- and civil rights-related organization. Or, such organizations would probably be delighted to have an applicant for a paid job who has a law degree and political experience, and would be understanding when you need flexible scheduling or telecommuting options.

I am personally interested in health and disabilities, so I worked on online graduate public health courses and joined two local boards. We had recently moved from another state when I went through Partners and didn't know anyone here, and the folks in my class have also turned out to be a source of job and volunteering leads.

One other suggestion: a master gardener university extension-type program, if you're interested and not already a gardening expert.
posted by homelystar at 9:44 PM on July 13, 2015

Wow, this has been a very cheering thread, I feel much less bored and much more energized already! I wish I'd asked weeks ago! I'll obviously have to think about what direction(s) to go, but at least I feel like I have options now!

In response to a few other questions, I do cross-stitch and sew; I'm a terrible knitter; I can keep a reasonable schedule if it has some flexibility and I can schedule days off for meetings/appointments; if I had a thing I actually wanted to study I'd go to more graduate school but I recognize I just want to desperation-return to something I know I'm good at and that is a good way to end up with more student loans; I'm not totally sure I'm comfortable writing about my kid's stuff because of issues around consent/publicity/stigma/etc but I'd have to think about it; I've just e-mailed a friend at the county about the Guardian ad Litem process here; and I just get through so many books because I read fast and it's so portable, and it is straight-up my laziness of choice. (It's like my ANTI-time management.)

The thing about MetaFilter is that it's EASY to make comments because I'm just responding to interesting things other people say and that makes me think of something interesting I read or remember random trivia lodged in my deep brain, but when you have to sit down and start from scratch and formulate a whole discussion yourself, that's HARD (and also imposter syndrome happens)! But okay, I'm encouraged, I'm going to try to think of SOMETHING to write about.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:01 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

(Also, I don't mean to be all vaguebook-y about my kid's stuff, we're just still kind-of in the middle of figuring it all out and what it means for our family and we have to get a second opinion and I'm not real sure how to talk about much of it yet. I don't mean to be weird about it, beyond the amount where I actually am currently weird about it; just still kind-of working it through.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:13 PM on July 13, 2015

What kind of law did you practice? If you have done some criminal (either side,) some states have contract work to be done representing indigent defendants in appellate cases. I knew a gal who did this a while ago, too long now to be a useful reference, but like 10 years ago she was doing, I think, all death penalty work; it paid $75/hr and was completely flexible (no time constraints because appellate work is all written, no appearances.) Interesting work, though not for everyone.

Good luck!
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:04 PM on July 13, 2015

>>I don't have a lot to do, and I am BORED OUT OF MY MIND
>>but when you have to sit down and start from scratch and formulate a whole discussion yourself, that's HARD

I know you know it's the imposter syndrome happening. But just to reiterate, HARD is what you need. You already DO hard things. You LIKE tasks that offer challenge. So the folks in this thread know that you will rise to the challenge. The challenge is the reward.
posted by aniola at 12:08 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I cannot wait to see what you do next.
posted by brainwane at 11:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good God, I can't believe this is even a question. You are the easily the smartest and most insightful commenter in the smartest and most insightful community on the web. You are so smart it's ridiculous. You are so smart that every time I read one of your in-depth comments on politics or religion or the history of schooling in America I feel both overjoyed and kind of guilty because I'm like why is this ridiculously smart person doing all this amazing writing for free? I mean, I'm grateful, but c'mon.


I just want to say that I came across this post in a rss feed that just shows top comments and doesn't give the post details and I guessed who asked the question just from this comment. And I agree. A book or a even better a blog that I can add to my RSS feed reader.
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I want to pre-order your book right now! (Will you use 'Eyebrows McGee' as your nom de plume? That would be awesome.)

You don't have to start from scratch--you can mine the 3,521 comments you've made on Metafilter (at the time that I write this comment) for ideas. Go back and look for connecting threads among the things you've written, especially times when you've been able to add a unique perspective or new information to a discussion, and use those as a starting point. Those comments will dislodge more of that interesting trivia that's locked-away in long-term memory, as well as giving you ideas about what sort of things people find really interesting and surprising. And seeing the favorite counts will help with the impostor syndrome.
posted by fermion at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by aniola at 8:48 PM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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