Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This Ancient Moment

Happy Holidays to all. I thought I'd add an update before we head out to the West-side (also known as the "Wet-side" and the "Sui-side" around here) to visit family. Apparently the passes are open but the West is shut down. Huck's brother Cary was due to visit from New Orleans. He made it as far as Houston and then the plane was turned back.

My Solstice speech went very well. The whole service was awesome. It was a smaller group due to 6 inches of snow falling the night before. Only about 100 people. And everyone was in a fantastic mood. So the crowd was EASY. The kids sung wholly un-spiritual Christmas songs because those were the ones they knew the words to: Rudolf and Jigglebell Rock. I spoke for about 8-9 minutes about this event that dates back to the formation of our solar system and is unattached to any human religion, calendar, or era, or humans at all really. And I said a few other things, though it was hard to think of something new to say about such an old event. So I just tried to rehash what's been said about it since the inception of language. It went really really well. The response was wonderful, including suggestions that I teach classes on public speaking! So, I felt very pleased with it. And I was so grateful for the opportunity to speak.

My former bosses sent me my going away gift finally, well, not the gift itself. They were having red lizard skin cowgirl boots custom made for me, but something happened with the company, so they just sent the money. At this point, the boots would be a ridiculous accessory for the life I'm currently living, nothing like the glamorous party the Palouse was. And they also sent me my year end bonus! Because my voice is still on the answering machine. I guess it is a royalty? Anyway, what a lovely and kind surprise!

And our move out to Pipitone Farms is looking like a better decision. The school there is small, cozy, very friendly and laid back. We discovered we will be surrounded by Unitarians. These would be the people living in houses. Otherwise, Rock Island is a very large, dilapidated trailer park. Having grown up where I did, I feel very comfy with such environs. One UU neighbor has a horse pasture adjoining the Farm, but her horse just died. So we got talking about my dream of reliving my childhood of steers and ponies. We'll see.

Last night we headed out past Cashmere for another Solstice party. Huck was comforted to meet an experienced but out-of-work pediatrician. We met the folks with the goat cheese and yogurt farm in Twisp. We traded at Barter Faire and I've been on the hunt for their product ever since. We burnt up the old year and then sent our prayers for the new year up to the heavens as well. This was outside, of course. In 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Blue and River spent most of their evening in the barn with the goats and chickens. I fell in love with green felt mittens this lady was wearing. She makes them and she decided to give me a pair!! They are REALLY beautiful. I'll give her some cards and cider in return.

One of the great things about the party was that everyone there was in a similar state of lost under-employment. This contrasted with the UU solstice party Saturday night, which was at a mansion with mostly over-paid, highly successful people that are compassionate about our situation, but don't really understand.

I'm realizing that this part of my life is just going to be about the journey. I'm going to have to forget about destinations for a while and just focus on the ground beneath my feet and what might grow there.

Speaking of journeys and destinations, time for another whirlwind tour of the Northwest!

I've attache photos of sledding fun, Blue's school's choir's massive occupation of the Starbucks. They sang for hot coco, also pictured. And there's a photo of The Church Children's Choir.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Odyssey

Odysseus finished up that 12 year Trojan War and headed back home. His adventures were over and his Penelope awaited him in Ithaca. The journey should have been short. But a storm blows him off course. And he discovers that his adventures have just begun. Adventures: adversity, challenges, the antithesis of Disneyland, and a meandering journey in which all his men die and his return home is always uncertain. And here we are. I always feel better if I can compare my life to a great hero. Odysseus was no god, and was never meant to be. Just a man lost at sea trying to find his way home.

So, our ship of family is trying to sneak by the economic downturn we'll call Charbydis. We thought we were done with adventures in poverty at the bottom of the economic dog pile. But, alas, our adventures are just beginning. Getting the degree is starting to look like a piece of cake compared to what lays before us now. Where is the path home? How long until we get there?

And this week we are preparing for a modest Christmas, a trip over the mountains for a week of visiting family, way too much snow, record-breaking cold temperatures, moving before the end of the month, Huck's car isn't starting, Blue changing schools, and me speaking at the UU church on Sunday about solstice (I'm so nervous I could wet my pants). A dark time indeed. The deck seems stacked against us. Time is not on our side. Pick your morbid cliche and insert it in to our lives here:

I, perhaps mistakenly, spent the greater part of my life thus far pursuing adventures far and wide. Career? Shmeer. Money? Shmoney. Adventure? Gimme, gimme, gimme. And now I have an arsenal of adventure stories nobody wants to hear and nobody believes when they do. And now I want to settle down, to burrow into a little home, and make a solid community around me. But no. I'm on this path of adventure and life is going to hold me to it. Stop this train, I want to get off.

I can learn all the lessons I want to from this misadventure we're having here. I can learn learn learn all day long. I can grow humility like hair. I can learn to adapt and roll with the punches and plan for the most uncertain future I've ever seen, and honestly I've seen some seriously uncertain futures in my brief time thus far. But all of that will not change the national, nor the global, economy. No matter how much I learn, it won't change a damn thing.

And now I have to get back to packing up this house. And don't expect a Christmas card.

Hearing the plea for more photos, here's one of our Karate Kids. At this point Coyote is just bouncing around a lot. But Blue is learning to harness her powerful spirit. We bought her an archery set which she took to the UI Arboretum once. I didn't really notice her play until some college girl gasped and took out her camera. Blue was standing on a rock, bow and arrow pulled back, and she looked exactly like the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis. I get the same chills when I see her practicing Karate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My lucky day? Really? That's it?

At my old job, a disability law office in Moscow (Idaho!), a man called. His voice sounded like a man who, if he wasn't already on disability for low IQ, soon would be. He wanted to know if he won the lottery, a really really big lottery, would he get kicked off disability. Your $500 a month wouldn't really matter in that case. But this man was concerned about it. After creating and explaining a few hypotheticals, I finally asked him why he was asking. "I was just at the doctor. He said that after my accident (gory details, should have been dead), and all those surgeries and close calls, that I was the luckiest man alive. And I've never played the lottery, but I'm thinking about it now. What if I AM the luckiest man alive? Well, if that's true, then I think I should play the lottery. It only makes sense." It only makes sense. Well, I think I need to adopt this man's logic, however low-50's-IQ-ish it may be. Perhaps I am the luckiest woman alive! Perhaps that's what all this is pointing to!

Well, it's definitely all pointing in the opposite direction I was expecting. All around.

Huck's dad need accompaniment to Whistler for the weekend, so Huck allowed himself to get dragged up that way. Meanwhile, we've decided to move. And we have a list of criteria. I got on Craigslist this morning and found something that fit. I called Huck and he gave the all clear (not because I'm not feminist enough or incapable of making these decisions, although that may in fact be true, but because he's at least as affected by these decisions as I am.) So I signed a lease today and now I have to move in two weeks. What?! REALLY! Did I just do this?!

So, starting tomorrow, or later, we are moving to an apartment, even smaller than our current one, over a garage, on an organic peach orchard, 15 minutes from town. We'll save $200 a month. And we feel that this is important. We're not having an emergency, but we are trying to avoid one in six months. There's a lake, a row boat, trails, and a commercial drying shed. They make wine. It turns out I worked with him at the farmer's markets in Seattle. We know the same people and she loved the bread I sold. Rent includes full use of the orchard when in harvest (they have no idea what they've promised!). They also garden down the rows and renters get garden space and free access to all harvested vegetables. I just got such a good feeling from the lady. She did too. She said she liked me so much she wasn't even going to check my credit. I was totally frank with her about our situation. I know I should have played my cards closer to my chest, but honestly, this is a person, this is her farm, this is her income. I wanted her to know what she was getting in to. Based on the bumper stickers completely covering the back of her car, we're definitely on the same page on a lot of things. But she was also drinking heavily at 3 pm. And Blue will have to change schools. So... I may have just made a HUGE mistake.

We left our new apartment in the season's first blizzard. New Orleans actually beat us. Coyote choked on hard candy, and I spun out on the highway in front of a semi. We weren't going to get snow tires, because we thought four wheel drive was enough. But it's not apparently.

We brought sushi to Blue's and Coyote's dojo potluck. Sushi is extremely exciting to make with the four-and-up crowd. But the event was down some distant road that hadn't been plowed. I tried to drive as slowly and carefully as I could down the twisty hill, but it didn't work. I drifted off to the right, landing softly in the snow bank. And so I wanted to go home. But the thought of having all that sushi for dinner, for lunch, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, and also having to turn around on that hill, made me try to go down again. This went well for a couple of seconds. And then, in the dark, on a road we've never been on, lined with what (cliffs, lakes, rivers?) we knew not, our car began to spin in 360 degree circles and down. It was the scariest sled ride I've ever been on. I whimpered and cried. And Blue said, "Wow, we're really luck! We didn't die!" Lucky. Indeed. But then she's 7, she's supposed to have an IQ of 50.

What goes down must go up. But again, a week's worth of sushi pushed me forward. We eventually walked the rest of the way. The event was blacked out by a giant sinister cloud of FEAR that hung over me. We would simply have to live there until spring. So, doing as I do, I talked to everyone about the event. And when it was time to go, I had amassed 3 men in trucks with chains to help. One went ahead to test the road. The other drove my car. The other drove my daughter. And the fourth, the world's funniest dermatologist ever, caravanned us back out to the highway.

The men, however, did not inspire confidence. Each one said, "NO PROBLEM! I can do it!" This is not what I want. I wanted them each to carefully consider all the pitfalls and possible problems and to assure me that they had a carefully laid plan to deal with any eventuality. But no, they all said, "What's the worst that can happen?" You know, that's not a question you really want to ask me. I have a gory and over-active imagination. I can definitely think of the worst. And it will scare you.

About 10 years ago, my friend Scott told me that he thought I was afflicted with the ancient Chinese curse of "an interesting life." A definite possibility. To answer that, my current "Free-Will Astrology", advised: "the best approach to take with your knotty dilemmas is to welcome them as wild cards and X-factors that will bring you interesting experiences and valuable lessons -- and just stop worrying about them." Interesting. And Lucky, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In which Sarajoy has a good day, FINALLY!

Since last we spoke, we've decorated our wild little tree. And it looks elegant and homey.

I attended a Story Telling workshop by Rocci and Rita, two favorite people at the UU church. I adore stories. Anyone who's known me for five minutes knows that I love to tell stories and I become most engrossed in conversation when someone else is telling me a story. So whether or not I learned anything, I love listening to and telling stories, so it was an uplifting couple of hours. It was a workshop in hopes of training people to read or tell really good stories at church. However, while there, I was asked to give a Solstice talk at church in a few weeks. This is the most perfect topic for me and I already have a lot to say about it and some of you may have already heard my spiels on that! I'll have to edit down. But mostly I'm extremely honored by and scared of this exciting task.

And the kids met their new favorite babysitter today. They are already begging me for her to come again. YES!!! This girl is Punky Brewster redux who sews her own clothes and wears them: kimonos, hats with cat ears and a tail on her pants, torn tights, big puffy sleeves attached to nothing, and a million jangling accessories. Apparently she told them all about their astrological signs today. Her mom's an astrologer we know from the UU church.

So, meanwhile, Huck was up at Mission Ridge doing the Ski Instructor training. They have no snow, so they skied down a strip of imported snow in the middle of the non-snowy woods. FREAKY!! He'd work Saturdays for $35, plus ski-hill beni's. It'd be a good deal if we all had ski equipment, but we don't. So $50 season lift tickets don't do us much good. It may be more hassle than it's worth, at least for me and the kids. Huck however, may think it's the best idea since substitute teaching!

Right now, he's playing with a swing band at a private swing party. Tomorrow he'll play with the Big Band at a (semi?)Pro-Hockey game. I hope he can get us in for free! The team is called the Wenatchee Wild (a better name for a team there never was!), and it's members were all born between 1989 and 1991, which makes me feel old.

Blue sang in the choir at the Flake Festival tonight (A Worse name for a festival there never was! Wenatchee apparently had VERY inconsistent naming quality control).
She wore a little Christmas tree over her hat and performed some classics: Rudolph, Feliz Navidad, Jiggle Bell Rock, Joy to the World, et al. I wasn't sure about her choir teacher, but now I am sure: he's very cool. The other school had recorded music with kids singing on it so that you couldn't hear the real kids. But Mr. B had a guitar and the kids sang loud and clear. And then they marched in the little 15 minute parade. We all marched behind them. Coyote got to wave to a friend on the sidewalk. This town can't be all bad, if I've been here less than six months and I already got to be in a parade! As many of you know, I am a parade fanatic. My final thesis paper for my college education was a 115 page treatise on protest/march art, which was 50% comparative history of parades. I ADORE parades.

Between the stories and the parades, I can't think of a day I'd rather have had. I certainly felt entitled to it. For however bad some other days have been recently, I am going to make damn sure I enjoy the heck out of my good days.

Here's a video of Coyote eating hot chocolate this evening.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Like an iPod

Blue dredged up an old Walkman from the Goodwill bag near the door tonight. I am embarrassed to admit I still had it. She listened to a few stories on tape: I have those too! And then her friend called.
To hear her describe the Walkman, it's actually more current than an iPod. She said, "It's kind of like an iPod, only you put these things in it, these rectangular CD's. Yeah," She says real cool, "That is what I'm doing right now."

Coyote was too excited for Christmas to sleep tonight, he claimed. And he lead us all with a singing of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." He actually pointed to us when he wanted us to join in. Oh, I hear him now. I guess he IS too excited to sleep. Shit.
He wrote a letter to Santa tonight, "Dear Santa, I wonder what I want for Christmas. I love you."

Sucker Punched

I just got the breath knocked out of me.

Huck's not eligible for unemployment. After all his work for WSU. And an extended decision making process by the state.

As with most graduate students, he worked as a TA his first semester: 2-3 courses. He then, as usual, worked as a Research Assistant. But his adviser ran out of funds. So he continued with the RA which was necessary for the degree and he also took on TA work to pay for the degree: again 2-3 courses. In spite of this, he excelled to the top of his class and made time for his family. He completed the degree one semester early. But WSU's accounting is...well... "differently-abled." So despite working two 20 hr/wk jobs for them for 18 months, they never paid into unemployment. Maybe that's common. But today, it feels like extraordinarily depraved behavior.

I don't know if, or ever, his summer fruit-picking or substitute teaching will become part of the "Unemployment" Equation.

And remember, when you see those unemployment numbers, they don't apparently include unemployed recent grads, or people who've worked for Universities.

If that school ever thinks they are getting the slightest penny of a donation, if we ever get the ability to do that, they are mistaken.

I don't think I'll recommend public universities to my kids. Neither Huck nor I have received the least bit of employment help. They staff their "Career Centers" with 18 year-olds on work-study.

As you can imagine, with my over-active sense of justice, I feel RATHER ILL right now.

I caught myself recommending that a woman I know here keep working on her college degree. And then I changed course, mid-conversation. Right now education is not a sure bet, it's an extremely expensive risk, in my experience.

In brighter news, though now eclipsed: We chopped down our tree last night. Five bucks, a map, a pink puff ball sunset, and a little mountain drive = one beautiful, fragrant Douglass Fir posing by the "fire."

And also, I get to call Bingo tonight at a fundraiser for Blue's school. I get to call it in Espanol!

And this week I joined the Raven Writer's Group. My first ever such foray into that sort of thing and it felt good, good people, good times. We'll see. I'm not all that in to JOINING much of anything (except the UU church).

And we have received the compassion of our friends and family recently, though not by our almae matres. And our spirits have been lifted, subsequently smashed, but I'm sure that's not permanent.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I hope you experienced an unforgettable Thanksgiving, filled to the brim of your cornucopia with thanks and giving and food and family and all that.

We traveled to Salem, Oregon where my parents are currently located. Our journey took us through many a thick fog bank and through parts of Oregon, we know not what or where, because we were LOST for most of our journey. It was dark. Map Quest directions made no sense. So I gave up on them, though that was not a democratically made decision. Huck finally volunteered to ask for directions.

My parents are living in a rental in HARD CORE suburbia. In hopes of moving into their new house soon, they are living out of boxes. My sister was able to come up from Oakland, where she recently moved to from San Francisco. (My brother can psychologically make but one I-5 trip per year, which he has to ration, and will use it for Christmas, so we missed him.) We are all so utterly unsettled at this point, that more than a few times various family members, including myself, could be heard to say, "What city are we in, again?"

My parent's attempt to purchase a foreclosing home has turned into a crime-novel-esc plot. The seller's agent is involved in a scam with some scammy guy. And all the e-mails have been lies lies lies. Now these scammers face imminent arrests. The scammy guys were telling them that the bank needed $60k more to close the deal, however the guy was just trying to get more money out of them. CRAZY!!

We played full contact basketball. Boys against Girls. But my dad is 6'3" and it's hard to get a rebound around THAT. And my husband is a dingo-like, tricky, ball thief, so Girls only made 1 basket. That was me, of course. But only because the Boys let me. We tried playing HORSE, but that's a long game when NO ONE can make a basket.

PHOTOS: Blue on bike rack in Fog, kids and hot chocolate in cafe, wave washed over cliff, sand dune. Video of giant waves.

And then there was the beach on Saturday. This proposal won out over the idea that we should all tour Oregon's quaintest little small town, which everyone seems to have forgotten is where my EX-husband lives. Which isn't a big deal. It's just, of all the options, why that one?

The beach was WILD. 20 foot waves, at least. I've never seen the ocean so worked up. It seemed vicious and angry. Waves were actually crashing over a 100 foot tall rock! And a few times big ones snuck up on us and we got wet. I've been playing in the Pacific since I was a mere babe, just imported from Saskatchewan. Until recently I've never heard of "sneaker waves." But this year, I've heard of several people being suddenly swept out to sea. Well Saturday, that seemed incredibly likely. And it did happen. At a beach we were at, just after we left. A 22 year old woman was swept out. Of all the days I've seen that body of water, that was one where I believe it really could take a person off the shore by will.

We also found an amazing tall dune on the beach. The kids were able to climb it and run down, although it was rather steep. But in soft sand, who cares?

And we visited Huck's dad for a minute or two in Snohomish, for his 60th birthday.
And then we drove back in thick fog. And here I am, living to tell about it, although I did have my doubts this would be the result.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I turned some mental corners again this weekend! Yippee! I hope I'm changing in good directions. I feel like I'm learning what I need to out of this situation.

But first, I want to discuss some things to be Thankful for. In the past, I have sometimes had a difficult time being thankful. As in, "F.U. if you think I have to give thanks for the Food Stamps again." Conceptually, I understand that it is wonderful to live in a state with generous food stamps, in a country that can afford food stamps, where there's something to spend my food stamps on. But sometimes I resented the idea that I should be thankful for being stuck on the bottom of the economic dog pile. Ironically, it's being thankful and grateful for stupid things in dire times that gets you through those dire times.

Daily, I am thankful for running water. I am thankful that we don't live in a war zone, or a famine, or a military regime, or in a religiously controlled country, etc. etc. And when I think about the waiting purgatory we seem to be stuck in, I just remind myself that I'm not in a refuge camp, which is similar to this situation only A LOT WORSE. I have also found some other things to be thankful for. I have found that we have an abundance of towels (just not in the bathroom you are currently taking a shower in). No one will ever go needlessly wet in this home. And we had the foresight to buy a house at the right time. And the good fortune to sell it at the right time. And that's keeping this situation tolerable instead of desperate. We now have a new, working car. And the world is full of kind and loving people.

And this brings me to a recent realization. I was moping because I've been wanting my own chunk of earth for a long time. Sure, we could rent land, we could work on someone else's land, etc. But I want my OWN. I want THAT security. My own ability to grow my own food. And I think everyone deserves that security. Land should be a human right, because access to providing for yourself, your own food, is fundamental to survival. But I realized that the other thing I can count on is the goodness and love of other people. It's there. And if someone wants to share their acre with me for growing food, then that kindness is security enough. Perhaps not the most dependable thing in the world. But in general, I think we can depend on each other to survive and to meet each others basic needs, if not more.

I say I've been waiting a long time for what I want and just when we were about to reach out a grab it: DENIED! We've been working on our long term plan now for over 7 years. When Huck was laid off in 2001, the plan hatched. And we've been working towards it since. And now he's been looking for work for 13 months. He had those 8 days. And that was 5 months ago. Five months isn't that long to have waited for a dream. Recently, I had a sudden sense of immense patience. These are my dreams, and they are worth waiting for. I can wait. I will wait as long as I need to. But I will get there, maybe in a year, maybe five, maybe even 10 or 20. And it's interesting to suddenly feel that I can wait, even that long.

Lest I get to Polly-anna-ish, I am going to gripe about the weather inside our apartment again. The air that is forcing itself on us is driving us INSANE! We are constantly freezing cold. And it's gotten louder too. It's this loud whooshing and the sensation that you are standing on the beach, in winter, in Alaska. It is SO LOUD! I can't emphasize that enough. IT's LOUD. So we've got our electric fireplace on again. It's quaint reel of painted fire cranks round and round. And to simulate warmth, it has a little blow dryer stashed in a vent at the top. This is where we go to get warm. But to get your feet, you have to lay down and put your feet in the air. I may need to remind you that the picture of the fire isn't hot. It's just the blow dryer they installed in the top. What a CUTE idea!

The point of civilization is lost on me these days. Didn't humans build up the whole thing to bring us peace and security from Nature? Wasn't the economy supposed to insulate us against bad weather and bad crop years? And now we have weather AND an economy just as uncontrollable. And wasn't housing supposed to protect us from the elements? But now we find the elements have invaded our house and are just as uncontrollable as they were outside these walls.

I know we're supposed to be conserving energy to save the planet. But honestly, this electricity all comes from dams that aren't going anywhere and aren't contributing to global warming and are about 1 mile from our house. And that makes our monthly electricity bill a whopping $35. I'm not sure that conserving energy in these parts really does anything to help global warming. If someone knows something about this... and I mean, KNOWS, not pretends-to-knows, please let me know if I am supposed to be conserving electricity in these parts and exactly how that will help with global warming. And then, would you please come fix my apartment weather system!

I've about broke-even on my card business. I sold 80 cards to local businesses yesterday. I'm not sure it's worth it, monetarily. But it is something productive to do. And it is worth it to see people, even well known and respected artists, go gaga over them. I haven't turned a profit. But I did have start up costs that need to work their way through the finances. And my ego's been a little stoked by all the positive feed back. Kate's constant advocacy has given the endeavor it's forward motion. THANKS KATE!

And I spoke at church this week, during "Joys and Concerns" about the economy: big impersonal thing which is actually affecting us all deeply, dreams are shriveling, saving accounts are dieing, etc. And yet, I'm also thrilled for the opportunity to move our society in a different direction, with different values. But then, I'm not getting what I want. Many many people appreciated my comments. I was even stopped in the grocery store by someone who wanted to thank me for my words. It was a satisfying experience. Both to know that I touched people and to know how many people felt the same way I did.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Pony, the Robin, and the Jiggle-O

Question: do you stop your child from innocent songs and thereby introduce them to the adult understanding of that song? Or do you just let them sing and who cares what the words are?

I've learned enough at this point (through notes home from preschool teachers) to stop swearing in front of my kids. Although I myself can't understand why certain words are forbidden, I realize that some people get quite a shock when they hear a little blond girl use them. So I've told my kids not to use certain words because for reasons we don't actually have to understand in order to respect, they will get upset if they hear little kids saying these things. So we don't say them. It's just simpler that way.

I write that, but in the back of my mind I hear little warnings. Because, if I'm honest with myself, I realize that the appeal of these words is the very power that the taboo gives. For instance, the word "the" is not something with any power, therefore we don't yell it at idiotic drivers (I hope your imaginations are fired up and processing that!). Our culture gives these words power, and we love to wield that power, especially when we are feeling powerless.

There are also little warning sounds in my mind because there ARE words that even I find offensive, especially racial slurs. And I would freak if my kid, or any one else's, used those words. I have my own language rules too, apparently.

So, are there songs like swear words?

Here's the quandary: Blue and her friends at school are singing these little songs with motions and dances. Without the loaded meaning of these songs, these are actually cool games. The girls stand in a circle and during "Ride the Pony" one dances around the group. During "Jiggle-O" one dances in the middle of the group. It reminds me of African tribal teen dances I've seen on National Geographic.

The problem is that these songs are double entendres popular as High School cheers. And occasionally someone will recognize them and scowl at me, as if I'm doing something inappropriate by allowing this all. Am I?

I mean, if Blue were dancing to these songs in a way that indicated she knew the alternate meaning, I would probably step in. But to her, they are songs about riding ponies and jiggling.

Red Robin would still be a bird to me, hopping and a bopping in the tree tops all day long, if some adult hadn't stepped in a told me not to sing that dirty song. After years of contemplation and additional information, I finally understood why. But why introduce a child to the alternate understanding?

I visited a Belizian friend on her family's sugar cane plantation. Her little niece had a fondness for sucking on hot dogs. People chuckled under their breath, but no one yank that dog from her mouth or told her it was wrong to eat hot dogs that way. I thought that was very cool of them. Why introduce such ideas where none existed before?

And yet, it's those other people, looking at me strangely while my 7 year old sings randy cheer songs. So, I could tell her to stop with the same reasoning I tell her not to swear: some people get offended. But where does THAT stop? People get offended at a lot of things and, as I stated above, I don't understand why. So do I live under the tyranny of other people's hyperactive offend-buttons? Or sometimes, don't I just get to tell them to shove it?

I think "those OTHER people" bother me because there's a part of me that IS wondering: is this inappropriate? Am I setting her up for a future of multiple STD's? Is she creating a "reputation"? Will she be more vulnerable to predators?

But by telling her to stop, she will ponder the purpose of that edict until she discovers it. And THEN, is THAT going to introduce concepts to her at too young an age?

The poor first child, victim of over-wrought parenting. Coyote will get to this age, I'll make split second decisions and just move on without a second thought. I won't remember the whole train of thought that got me to the conclusion, but I will remember the conclusion and that's all I'll want to know. I'll be so busy over-thinking the next stage of Blue's life that I won't have time to really re-think the whole issue facing Coyote. He'll get the same conclusion as she, but without all the hemming and hawing and thinking it over and over that she had to endure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Good Old Times

A lovely visit to the Palouse last weekend. I got to see many of my close and cherished friends, though not all. And I set up booth with Kate. My cards and her soaps were a beautiful match. Kate and I got silly all over the place during the slow show: 18 hours long (with set up).

Then the Holy Moscow Food Co-op bought 40 or so of my cards to stock their store with.

Poor Kate: her family had recently fallen victim to the indestructible, ubiquitous louse. They were among many victims of the Great Palouse Lice Invasion of 08. And she'd had to go all out with laundry and bathing for a family of four for over a week! God keep us all from such a fate as THAT much laundry. Luckily the last nit was crushed the morning before we rolled in.

I also enjoyed the Vandals Volleyball game with Kate and her friendly acupuncturists. Kate's a REAL Volleyball fan. And it was thrilling to perch next to such an enthusiast. I have volleyball trauma from my childhood. I could have loved volleyball, but instead I fear it. It's a complex relationship.

I met with Fiona for longer than I intended, which is usual with such a fine lady as she. She brought me curious and enchanting gifts of 1950's cake ornaments: dainty, pink, dancing girls.

And lots of loved ones dropped by the booth to catch up and remind me that I have friends and there is love in the world.

It was difficult to visit, as I have nothing new going on in my life. And here I was, back in the place of one of the happiest times (socially, not financially) of my life. Back in my old community. But I don't have a new one yet, really. I haven't moved on to the new thing. I'm stuck in the birth canal, so to speak.

We obviously didn't visit the old house. I couldn't look at it at this point in my life. I saw pictures of Icelandic houses, and what the Real Estate Agent said was true, we had captured the bright, clean Northern European look. And I miss it, here, in this dungeon of beige.

Speaking of "this point in my life." Our friendly neighbors across the street asked me to "Nanny". They have five kids, most are in High School, but they have a third and first grader that Blue loves to play with. Both parents work A LOT. They seem like they are over the parenting thing. Frequently, their two kids are locked up in the house alone all afternoon. I think one or another of the teens drops by sometimes. So I've thought about taking them for afternoons. We like to have them over and we've taken them to school functions, etc. But the offer to "Nanny" is only $10/hr. And they'd expect 4 hours a day! To include Cleaning! And Cooking Dinner!! They just bought a dead pig, so I'm sure cooking would include PORK! Huck was barely able to suppress his laughter when the offer came out. Just the kids, two afternoons a week, I could handle. I'd be happy to do it. But cooking and cleaning?! I enjoy cooking well enough, as many of you know. But how would I cook for my own family if I was cooking dinner for theirs? And PORK, People! PORK!!! And cleaning? I can't keep up with my own. And I've have to be paid much much much more than $10/hr. Or I'd have to be near starvation. It's a funny offer, if you know me at all.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Dredded Day: Barber Fair II

Huck got light headed today.
Blue snapped photos while I snipped the dreds.
No tears so far. But Huck sure looks as dorky as when I first met him. His hair's just so dang fluffy!

He feels GREAT! Imagine, shedding 8 years in just 15 minutes. He keeps tossing his head around, light as a feather. Like he just got his braces off. He knew it would feel good, but had no idea it would feel as good as it does.

Good-bye, era!
So much was possible with the dreds. You could look at our family and understand us in an instant. It was easy to make friends on our wavelength. And it was fun to bust through stereotypes. The graduate at the top of his WSU class: with dreds. Allergic to marijuana: with dreds. Teaching high school remedial math and middle school resource room, strictly: with dreds. And especially to be a great attentive father: with dreds. There have been a few dead-beat dads that he has met along the way and he's influenced for the better. Somehow, seeing and meeting Huck gave them a new perspective on being "cool" and a good dad, simultaneously, and they changed because of it.

There's a time for everything, as they say I don't think I need to explain his decision to anyone. But I will.
He felt the need to eliminate any reason not to hire him. Employers told him that dreds wouldn't matter. This was a fantasy. There's a subconscious component to hiring decisions, which has probably been coming in to play. Also, "human resources" would be wanting to cover their butts and impress their bosses; hiring someone with dreds, they might fear rightly or wrongly, could jeopardize opinions about their own judgment.
In a different economy, it might have been different. But it's not a different economy, is it?

Mistake? Perhaps. But of the multiple choice of mistakes that life is, I think he chose the better mistake. It sounds so negative. But... it seems to be doing a good job of keeping us out of some of life's dead ends. Hopefully it'll work again.

And I apparently have a new husband without all the drama that getting one usually involves. I'm not sure he's cuter than my old husband, but time will tell. I just hope I don't mistake him as an intruder and let him have it, then he REALLY won't look as cute. Again: multiple choice mistakes to be made! Man opens apartment with key, you don't recognize him. a) you assume your husband got a haircut and you ignore him, b) you assume you've been asleep at the wheel of your life and this man is your new boyfriend, and you ignore him, c) you assume that somehow an intruder got his filthy mitts on your apartment key and is strolling in nonchelantly, so you run at him with the fingernail clippers you are holding and maim his face severely. See what I mean: pick the better mistake. It's like the engineering test, none of the answers are perfectly accurate, but its your job to pick the one the would kill the least number of people, should the bridge collapse. That's life. There's a little 101 Life for you. Free. Here on Sarajoy FRESH! For you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Good Kids?

For an entire week I was basking in the glow of positive parenting feed back. Then Halloween came and spooked away the glory.

Volunteering in Coyote's class room, I efficiently dealt with their severe problem child (the whiniest primadona EVER), much to the gawking teacher's astonished admiration. Then I got all the kids doing yoga and meditating. She was amazed and gushed about my skills and wondered about substitute teaching.

Then I had parent-teacher conferences at Blue's school. I actually like her teachers now. Not yet keen on the "make your day" program (the program's name gets the whole family singing "Pump up the Jam"), nor do I expect to be in the near or distant future. The teachers actually told me, "It is obvious that you have put a lot of time and energy into your daughter." They also told me that they stopped using "Steps" on her because she didn't need them. They just tell her to stop and she does. They also put her into the accelerated math class. I've warmed up to them, now that they "get" Blue and they flattered me so eloquently. How can you not like that?

And then Halloween came, and the candy, and the late night. Wenatchee had a kickin' Halloween with one particular neighborhood totally decked out and crowded. Huck played in Leavenworth with the SKA band that night and returned home at 2 AM. Then we left at 5:30 for a 10AM funeral.

We walked into the Columbarium and I gasped in horror. It was a labyrinth of floor to ceiling glass. Each square foot of glass full of urns. This is every mother-of-two-kids-jacked-on-last-night's-candy-and-sleep-deprived's worst nightmare. For one and a half hours I had to keep the kids entertained. We looked at the 1,000,000 boxes. We met a woman leaving flowers for her 19 year old son who drowned and her 17 year old niece who died in her sleep. We dipped our fingers in every fountain. But it wasn't enough to keep a full-on wrestling match from erupting. Feet kicking 1 millimeter from the GLASS WALLS! In the middle of the funeral. When it was time to leave, Blue was spasticly flinging on her coat in the entry. She managed to miss the glass table but punched a visitor. When I told her to calm down that great big girl actually laid down in the foyer and kicked her legs in the AIR!! In a dress! I dragged her outside and just laid into her, "What are you doing? What is this behavior! I'm embarrassed and ashamed right now!" I was yelling, then I saw the door open and a relative heading out from the Columbarium. So I suddenly switched to a sweet voice saying, "And so I expect you to behave like the wonderful and amazing girl you really are, Okay honey?" Classic private-mom/public-mom stuff. I couldn't believe I was perpetrating it myself.

The reception was way better. It was in banquet room with an entire GLASS WALL over water. GREAT! But they had balsa wood airplanes which we flung around and smacked everyone in the head at least once. Now that's kid friendly!

So, post Halloween, I have developed a diabolical parenting tactic. It works so well that I have some concerns about it. If it's THAT effective, can it be safe? Ethical?
Here's how I developed it:
Huck was at band practice. I had a fever and felt dizzy and run down. Coyote would not go to bed. I was not going to do the chase-and-giggle thing he was gunning for. So when I told him to go to his room and he giggled and said "NO". I grabbed his bucket of Halloween candy. I tipped open the kitchen garbage with the toe lever. And I held a Mars bar over the trash. "If you don't get to your room by the count of FIVE, I'm going to throw this away."
He looked at me in TOTAL HORROR. Paralyzed by shock. His mouth gaped and gasped. He couldn't believe I would do it.
Blue whipped up from her homework and shrieked, "RUN COYOTE RUN!!!"
"One, two, three." And he was his room.
"I'm so happy to see that you've decided to cooperate tonight!"
Was that a questionable tactic? It was so efficient, it seems like it should be wrong. But I can't figure out what could possibly be wrong with it, except that it fulfills several parenting fantasies at once: throwing out candy and prompt responses. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to make your dreams come true?

MOVIE REVIEW: If you are a parent and you haven't seen the 1944 classic "National Velvet," since you were a kid, you should. It stars Micky Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor. I loved this movie as a horse-obsessed child, but I recently got a grown-up take on it. The parents are hilarious as a couple. The little brother is COYOTE. Completely. Absolutely. And my kids loved it too.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Eat this in Rememberance of the Moscow Food Co-op

I miss that dosh gang Moscow Food Co-op there so stinking much, you wouldn't believe it. I could go any time of day or night and meet friends and acquaintances, usually Kate or Erin on business. So that was the best thing. But the second best thing (after the newsletter, of course), was the food. Sure the produce got a little long in the tooth some days and sometimes the prices were laughably high, but you could find food. REAL FOOD!

Here I have been in PAIN trying to find a good grocery store. Fred Meyer was okay, but their produce was sorry, stinky, limping, bruised compost pile. I'd found better even in the Co-op's dumpster. Costco was recommended. But they're unreliable. Most stores I've visited contain the following aisles, in order of accessibility: the chip aisle, the pop aisle, the cold cereal aisle, the diaper aisle, the TP aisle, the beer aisle, the frozen pizza aisle. Since moving here and trying to find a decent grocery store, I have discovered why many Americans are overweight: grocery store lay out. Now don't laugh. I'm serious. I have had one heck of a time finding actual ingredients for actual real meals containing actual food. And of course no one carries decent pasta or sauce. So my choices are to make it from scratch or eat shit.

There's a health food store here consisting mostly of vitamins and a few extremely over priced, expired foods. And then they over charged regularly. Last time I bought two items and they over charged me by $5! I won't even go in there anymore.

True, there are 4 Farmer's Markets in Wenatchee. But they are stuck in cash crop mode. At the height of tomato season I found only beefsteaks! I asked one booth why that was and she ACTUALLY SAID, "Well, the heirlooms and brandywines don't TRAVEL WELL." How far are you traveling, lady? So, I endured an entire tomato season with beefsteak tomatoes.


I can't find quality ingredients. I can't find fresh produce. I can't even find an edible baguette, for pete's sake! And I'm not spending 1-2 hours on a meal made with piles of GARBAGE. So, fine, quesadillas for every meal. Who gives a rats ass what we eat! Can you tell I've been a little miffed about the food situation here?

We recently trekked off to another funeral for Huck's family: Grandpa Palmer (more on thAT perhaps some other day). And we visited a thriving farmer's market while there.

They had 3 types of broccoli! Fresh!
Several types of beets! Fresh!
22 kinds of Potatoes! Fresh!
189 types of Eggplants! Fresh!
Holy Moses!
I spent about a $100 on fresh food.
I was giddy, goofy, and totally out of control.
Carrots! Fresh AND sweet!
Greens, several kinds and none of them mildewy!

And then I found Top Foods, which has a layout for people that cook: ingredients first and the junk is off on these separate discrete aisles. I even chatted with the manager for a while about the lay out and suggestions for better tofu. They had 3 types of organic sugar! It was a very good day for me.

So this week we are eating good food again. And I feel so much better. Relief at last. Thank GOD!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Me and just about the entire Universe is feeling GRAND right now. Obama won. And Gregoire is about to. I'd been invited to the official Wenatchee Democrat party last night, but was sidelined with a fever. I laid in bed and cried with joy as I heard the news. It all happened so quickly. McCain's speech was perfectly beautiful. And then I listened to Obama's speech.

You know, he is so amazing. Just put aside his being black, his being younger, his being Democrat in a BAD year to be Republican. Even without all that he's just an Amazing person who ran an amazing campaign. If he runs this country like he did his campaign, I can't see how we can fail.

Even if his only attribute had been "soaring rhetoric" (which it isn't), I don't see how that could be all bad. Soaring Rhetoric can and has accomplished a lot. Listening to someone speak and feeling hopeful, useful, and encouraged is not merely window dressing. A lot has been accomplished in this world by hopeful and encouraged people. Even I (yes, even the great, sickly Sarajoy herself!) want to be inspired to be my best self. And speeches can do that. I thought the criticism of soaring rhetoric was stupid and ignorant. Don't they know what an inspirational speaker can accomplish, can get others to accomplish? 100,000 pyramid schemes can't be wrong! Well they can, and they are. But the point is that inspirational speakers can get a lot of things done, even goofy things like pyramid business schemes.

None of the Republicans I spoke to thought an Obama Presidency would be bad. They were all simply born-again Republicans, and couldn't vote for the better leader because he was on the wrong side.

Huck's teaching high school literacy today. Can't wait to hear how that goes!

And I am going to Moscow, Idaho again on the 14th and 15th of November for a woman's craft show. Kate, The Soaptress Extraordinaire, and I are going to have a booth together. I will sell my cards and she her soap. This is thanks mostly to Kate's encouragement and LARGE order of cards for the CSA recipients at WSU's Organic farm. I was very proud to fill that order and even added some new drawings of a couple of garlics half embracing and a very shapely hubbard. These were departures for me, as I have only done wild weeds before. They turned out okay, but didn't hold my interest quite the way wild plants do. So for Christmas I'm doing a couple of wild poinsettias, wild Mistletoe and maybe a wild looking Holly. I'm trying out color and it's not going very well. The drawings are something I'm proud of, but when I go to scan them, I get the background paper loud and clear, but if I fade the paper to invisible, I lose the colors! AUGH!!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. The whole family is coming because Huck has business in Spokane on Thursday. I hope we can see some friends while there. The kids and Huck will be looking for ways to entertain themselves, but I'm not sure when I'll get the chance. I'll send out an e-mail to see if anyone has some time to get together.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Challenging Child

Coyote still holds the above mentioned title. His prenatal days were a medical drama of misinformed doctors. He bawled throughout his infancy. He shrieked through the first month of day care (at 2 ½!). Then there were his seizures, the hospitalization, and the life threatening allergies.

And now this: Potty Training.

Now before you whip out your favorite theory, pet method, super-nanny episode number, and best book on the topic let me tell you this: there is nothing you can say that I haven't tried over the past year and a half. If you think that there is, you are WRONG.

I waited until he was 3, because he is a boy. So I thought I'd give him a year to mature before we started with topics like aim, aiming, and aim. We started out mellow and low key: no rewards (the method that worked fairly well with Blue), just putting your garbage where it belongs. After a few unsuccessful months, the potty demands of Montessori school fast approaching, I upped the ante to treats. And this is where the games began.

We had some success with M&M's and timed potty breaks. This is the "potty-training in a day" method. After several WEEKs, Coyote quit, saying, "I don't really like candy anymore." We upped the rewards: bigger candy, movies at the theater, movies at home. And eventually they all met the same fate: "I don't really like that anymore, so I'm just going to sit here and pee."

Then we tried just leaving him in it, to marinate in the ickiness of his own choices, as suggested by many “experts”. He didn't care at all. In fact, it turned out that I'd have to tackle him and change him while he yelled, "I LIKE my poopy pants! They're GREAT!"

So then we switched to detractive methods. Time outs were first. After a few weeks he began announcing, "Thanks for the Time out! I just love time outs!" So I switched the time outs to my room, "I like time out in your room better, mom!" Then we went to NO DVD for a day with every accident. After a month, I really needed some down time to clean my house and he had forgotten all about DVD's.

One idea that sealed the deal with Blue was to let her bring her potty anywhere in the house she wanted, so she wouldn't really have to interrupt herself. Coyote has refused to even look at a training potty, much less sit on one. When we pulled it out, he just looked at us like we were nuts. No one else sits on that, why would he?

Training videos: done that. Training books: still a favorite bedtime fairy-tale. Fancy unders: got 'em.

I then brought him to the doctor to get his plumbing checked out. It's fine, apparently. The problem is in his DNA. As I understand it, the second X chromosome is missing its right leg. It's fairly common in about 50% of humans. It's not curable. It’s called XY Chromosomal Disorder, and it means he's a boy.

At this point the house went on the market, we were moving, and with all the commotion, we just decided to give up for a few months. Even if we'd accomplish anything, it would all be undone by the typical upheaval response of young children: potty reversal.

But now that we're settled a little more, we've decided to go through the methods again and hope that one of them catches this time. So, we just finished two weeks of the timer method. TWO WEEKS! This is another method that’s billed at Potty-training-in-a-day. He's got a Pavlovian response now: he hears any sort of alarm, anywhere, and he goes potty. But it's not been all that successful, when, say, no alarm goes off for an hour. And we have large items that aren't being covered here: large, brown and squishy items.

So now we're trying M&M's again. Two browns for #2 in the potty. And any color for pee.

While pressing some of our cider (41 gallons going hard right now!), Coyote claimed he'd pooped his pants and it was dribbling down his legs. No one wanted to check, least we contaminate the goods with fecal matter. We were tired from cranking and grinding and pressing. So we grumpily packed everything up, washed it all down and jetted home to deal with our errant eliminator. We get home: nothing. No poop. It was a joke! So we put him in the tub anyway, cuz he's dirty. And then he poops, in the tub.

The other day, first thing, he poops his unders. And then he says to me in utter surprise, totally incredulous, "I thought I was supposed to be potty trained!"

Is it sacrilegious to pray for divine poop intervention? Is god, if indeed there is, a god of elimination as well as consumption? To whom do I send my plea of "Uncle"?

Coyote can be cute. And I better remind myself of that right here: when doing paper crafts, he likes me to “stample” things together. And today, he and Huck made an apple pie. Coyote decided he was a “bakery” and this was his pie-slash-skateboarding school. (Marble school starts at 2:30, FYI.) And everything had an instructional play-by-play to it which was induplicatably cute. We don’t have TV, therefore no food channel, so I have no idea where this came from. Focusing on the CUTE helps me refrain from planning Nebraskaas the next family vacation destination.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Can I forgive myself? Do I need to?

I you were a cheerleader, please don't read this.

I sent Blue off to CHEER CAMP on Friday. She really wanted to go. Some of her friends from school were going. And, I thought, why not? After all, when I was in 5th grade, I cheered with my cousins and sister and screamed for the Bellingham Red Raiders to win, red and white pompoms in hand. We four made solemn pacts to some day become cheerleaders for the Raiders. We HAD to. WE WOULD. We KNEW it. And in the end, none of us came within a mile of it. None of us even considered it.

Well, maybe I did. As a sophomore, I tried out for Mat Maids, the wrestling cheerleaders. Not that I liked wrestling or understood it or found it anything less than totally retarded. But those cheerleaders were different. Not as obedient as the drill team. Not as stupid as the actual cheerleaders. I wept for days when my name was not on that list. It wasn't just not making Mat Maids, it was my chronic failure to make anything in that high school, to do anything well. And it was my habitual negative self talk too. Not making Mat Maids meant that my whole life (all 15 years) was a total failure. It meant that my future was doomed (perhaps it still is). All that thankfully changed with a new school.
That's my big cheer confession.

Anyway, we went to the football game that night to watch her in the half time show. On the way there I told her, "You know sometimes people make assumptions about cheerleaders. But when you're a cheerleader, your job is just to lead the crowd in cheers and to get them excited. You have to be excited yourself, and brave too, to stand in front of the crowd (in a very short skirt) and be happy when no one else is."
Blue zeroed in on the negative, "What assumptions do people make about cheerleaders?"
Me, awkwardly, "That they're stupid. Basically." Did I phrase that well, or what! "But you can be smart and be a cheerleader. That can happen."

The energy was electric. It's been 18 years since my last high school football game, and it was exactly the same. I was surprised by the power that the scene had to yank me back into the past. Three gigantic memories plagued me to distraction. They happened at the football games. And they profoundly shaped me. It was like I was there again. And these ghosts were there. I felt haunted and obsessed for an hour and a half!

And then there were the cheerleaders. They had all clearly spent at least 2 hours on their appearance. Curlers, make-up, tanning, blah blah blah. I mean, WHO spends that much time on their looks?! Except on Prom night or your wedding day, or whatever, I can understand. But it's an F-ing HIGH SCHOOL football game! And that old question arose in my mind again, unbidden, unexpected, but so relevant: "Don't you have anything better to do?" And then that's where the stereotype comes in, because the answer is "NO." If you're putting on make up for that long, you don't have time to read, to be informed, to develop any other part of your personality. You are a face and hair, because there's no time to be anything else.

Okay, they were nice, they were sweet, and I'm sure they were, some of them, intelligent. But intelligence just isn't the basket into which they are putting many eggs.

However some of the other campers were INSANE! Think "Little Miss Sunshine: the other girls" insane. They were needy basket-cases with make-up smeared all over. Luckily that wasn't the whole vibe. Soledad was Blue's friend there and they were normal kids, just having a good time, not trying to grow up too fast.

And then they went out to the field. And here I was video taping this, bursting with pride. Blue (on the far right) was off on everything, except she got a few pompom shakes in at the right time. She was so freaking cute out there. And she wants to do it again. Groan.

Huck explained it to some shocked friends like this, "You just want your kids to be happy, to be involved with something they love and something they feel enthusiastic about." Isn't that what life's about? the stoke? And how could you deny that to someone you love? Why would you want to? Even though it's WAY WAY FAR AWAY from what you like. There's nothing WRONG with leading cheers, is there?

There's the risk, of course, that she will only develop that part of her: the face, the hair, the cheer. But if this whole venture can be mainly about the stoke, the enthusiasm, then that's something I want her to learn how to feel, to know, and to pursue in life.

I'm probably over thinking it, right? I could probably use a little less brain and more hair and face, maybe?

Otherwise: we helped my parents move from Spokane to Salem, OR. They are attempting to buy a foreclosed house in Salem, but that's going haywire now. Several banks are involved and uncooperative. And it turns out there's a seller and real estate agent love triangle also complicating things...Oh MY! But they're in the moving van now, and they may just have to stay there for a while. It's the end of an era of excellent free babysitting. And lots of good times with my parents.

About the BLOG: OOPS! I picked a blog where no one can comment unless they have their own blog. I do not hang with chronic bloggers (no one I currently know actually has a blog), so there's no one around to make a lot of comments, which leaves me sometimes feeling like no one's reading. On the other hand, this means that ya'll have to e-mail me directly and this is working out beautifully, as I actually get to have two way relationships with people, despite and perhaps because of my blog. And I love that.

And, I can't believe I started a blog at this point in my life. Don't normal people have the impetus to blog when things are GREAT, or at least when they've got it all figured out? And here I am, in a really deep trough in my life and times, blogging. It's just a weird period of time where things have gone off in their own direction that I didn't plan, nor do I approve of.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

X-actly what I wanted!

After 6 months of deliberation I charged forward with a major purchase today: a desk mounted pencil sharpener. Have you used one recently? Whizz, zoom, snap and SHARP! We've had these tiny little plastic things populating (and repopulating) our house, but their job is apparently to break off the lead the second it's exposed. So, after months of fantasizing, I finally accomplished my dream! Within minutes, the holes in our computer desk were drilled, and then I went to TOWN! I got all 5,378 broken pencils in our house and I gleefully sharpened each to Samari-pleasing points. Our little tin box with Blue-inked dutch children ice-skating the canals is now a full arsenal of weapons-grade pencils. Even the colored ones. It was depressing, sitting around my house, glaring at all the useless pencil tips, seeking in vain for a pencil to write with, aching to provide my children with all the joys of colored pencils. And now! Success! Joy! Glee!

Easily amused? INDEED! If you aren't easily amused in this world, you're never going to be amused.

As a little addendum to this episode. I installed it backwards. On accident. But now it's great for lefties! And you just have to crank it backwards. Clearly, it's MY pencil sharpener. But I would have installed it backwards on purpose, if I'd known, because I AM a Lefty, and our brains, like our pencil sharpeners, work better backwards anyway.

Speaking of canal skating dutch children... The other day I was wondering about all the irrigation here. In the extremely unlikely event that all 11,000 area damns were to suddenly become electrically barren, how would the apple trees survive? So, I asked myself, aloud, what if you could use some other form of energy to pump that water? Maybe wind? Seems like wind should easily, mechanically, pump the water. Huck was nearby, overhearing my externalize internal dialog. I wondered then, if maybe something like windmills could pump water, so I turned to Huck and asked, "Do you think wind mills could pump the irrigation water?" And he responded, with as little laughter as he could, "Do you think it's any coincidence that a dutch girl like you suddenly had that brilliant idea?" Okay, it wasn't so original, but it's a GREAT idea! Time tested, in fact!

A Post Script about the Barter Fair: the trucks that cleaned out the outhouses every night bore this message, "Yesterday's Meals On Wheels." EEEWE!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Barber Hair, WOHOOOO!

We took the plunge! We chugged ourselves and our cider press and 650 pounds of organic apples up to Tonasket to the Okanogan Family Faire. Four days of wackiness ensued. Memories commonly described as "unforgettable" and "amazing" were made.

The line to get in launched the adventure with original characters, double decker purple buses, hot pink buses named Floyd, an intricate wooden gypsy wagon, a rasta-painted, portable wood fired pizza oven, etc, etc.

We had studied the map thoroughly. We had asked many a veteran where to set up camp. We'd avoid the main stage and the drum circle, we knew. But once we got there, everything was different in person. So we asked an official by the gate, "Where's Youthtopia?" Which is where we figured we wanted to be: by the playground, the water, the first aide teepee. He directed us. But as we drove off, we heard him yell at someone else, "What the Hell is Youthtopia?" And that was our introduction to the quirky ways of Barter Fair.

All turned around, we finally found a spot next to some people we'd met in line. They had a 7 year old that Blue had played with, so it seemed like a good idea to set up next to them.
"So, what spots are you taking?"
"These two."
"What about that spare on one the other side?"
"We're saving that for a friend. You're technically not supposed to, but we are."
The rule isn't a technicality. It's a respect for those that got up at 5 am to get there. Then Terra says, "And we'll need 5 feet of your space too. Hope that's okay!"
No. It wasn't. I didn't need all my space, but I wasn't going to let her save a space and take mine. If she needed five feet, she could get it from her lazy ass friend. So that set us off on the right foot. I was put on alert that our neighbor was a USER and we weren't going to be friends. I'll end up feeling used and angry if I don't pick friends that are at least somewhat careful to not ask too much of me. By the end of the weekend it was obvious that the second generation of that crew was catching the drift, demanding cider and extra cups all weekend. Sweet girl she had, but she was quickly learning her mother's method of interaction. Her daughter even told someone they didn't Need to buy our cider because she could just get it from us for free. So I sadly cut her off that gravy train. I love to be generous, but not used.

Huck noted that with such a free situation, so few social expectations and rules, it was interesting to watch what people did. There were those that tried to get a lot for a little, take rather than give. And then there were those who felt freed up to be extra generous.

Turned around as we'd gotten we ended up near the drum circle. Who knew that's what it was!? When we arrived it was just an empty grassy area with a fire pit in the middle. Drumming started at 6 pm and went on until 6 am. EVERY NIGHT. With fire spinning and screaming. ALL NIGHT LONG. Right outside our tent. By the third night, I was used to it, and almost slept! People yell "Barter Fair" and then everyone screams. Huck started yelling, "Barber Hair!" and I occasionally let loose with a little screaming. It's a weird tradition.

Barter fair can be divided into two parts: day and night. Day is fun, happy, kid friendly. Night is a drug induced freak show.

During the day, the place was paradise, with all the potential of human interactions at their peak. Whatever drawbacks our placement there had, one of the irrefutable benefits was being within sight and earshot of the playground. We could just look up and check on our kids. After setting up for a while, I went over to the playground to see that they were indeed as okay as they looked. And that is when I met my kids' favorite, non-related person ever to grace the planet: Life Has Meaning. Even without the impressive name, this woman is amazing. In fact, some of us have to get beyond the name to find her amazing. She is an old, white haired lady, with the most relaxed and pure face I've ever seen. She dresses in all unbleached natural fibers. So she's like an off-white angel. She asked just a few perfect questions which caused me to pretty much immediately spill the whole teary mess of our current situation to her. And then Huckleberry showed up to see how things were going and they got talking. And for the rest of the weekend Life Has Meaning was networking for us. Powerful people were coming to our booth all weekend, saying "Life Has Meaning said I need to talk to you." Who knows what will come of it all, if anything.

Our booth turned out to be the main play station for kids of all ages. We had the cider press and the kids all loved cranking that thing for a cup of cider. We had three of the world's best boys at our booth the entire time. They were 9 and 10. Ashton, Kai and Chris. They loved Coyote and I even let them take him for bartering walks all over the place (there were 15,000 or so people there!).

Blue played with three other 7 year old girls the entire weekend. And we were worried the kids would be bored! HA! Fat chance!

That first night, for some unknown reason, Blue puked all over her sleeping bag. So that was gross. Then we were down a bag. The last night there it got to the mid 20's. We just wrapped her up in all the coats we had and tossed a blanket over her. She was warmer than any of us.

Behind us was Ruby's Real Root Beer. Ruby is from Eugene, OR and has been doing this for years. He loved our quality product. And was really stoked to see us doing it "right." Lots of people just go there and lay down a blanket, cover it in junk and call that a booth. Other cider presses were there. But they had low quality apples and the presses were moldy and old. So he loved our booth and us. And he gave me several of the world's best root beer floats, made from scratch. Now, some of you may know that Root Beer Floats are my current version of Communion, the Sacrament. To partake of a Root Beer Float is to know God. In fact, that is my new name for God: RBF. "Dear RBF, please help! Thanks." So, you can imagine that Ruby was one of my favorite people there. And he had amazing food too.

The wood fired pizza guy was also a good one. With the world's BEST pizza. He'd been doing the fair for 17 years. We got along great with him too. Also, Ruth Isreal was good to do business with. She's a tiny dred-locked old lady from the Love Isreal tribe. I finally met the famous local wild edible guru: Skeeter. He was thrilled to trade the world's most beautiful and perfect Hubbard Squash for several of my wild edible cards. And I was flattered into shocked silence. He also asked if I'd be interested in doing illustrations for his wild edible books. So I was doubly flattered. He's also one of my brother's closest friends, so that was fun to introduce myself at the end as Matt's sister. Matt was also there, as an old salt veteran. We all adore him, and I felt honored to have him bless my site with his presence. I was so excited he was there! And then he finally said, "What would you be doing if I wasn't here? Okay, so just do that." And I calmed down and had some lunch. I met his new girlfriend, a dead ringer for a woman we used to know named Elsie. She was easily lovable, energetic, and compassionate.

90% of the people there had dredlocks. So that felt comfy for Huck.

The best thing about the fair was meeting people. Here, in Wenatchee, I see familiar faces and our conversations always begin, "So, do you know if you get to stay or not?" On the one hand, it's a nice question, because, I try to tell myself, they Want me to stay. They wish I was staying. It's important to them. On the other hand it's an annoying and almost offensive question that can sound like "I'm not going to talk to you unless you're staying." Which isn't very thoughtful or inviting. Staying or not, I still need friends. It's a question that can feel like it's more about them than about me and it leaves a bad taste.

But here, no one wanted to know that. No one was staying. We were all there to enjoy the moment. To have real conversations. To be kind. To love. And nearly every conversation reflected that.

Another cool thing was that I knew lots of people there! Yeah! Lots of folks from the Unitarian church and from Bruce's farm and from Pullman/Moscow area. So I actually didn't feel like a total "out-cider", not like one could feel that way for long there anyway.

Being near the first aid teepee probably provided a skewed view of the events. I'm sure it made the place seem wilder than it really was. They mostly dealt with bad acid trips, and a few slivers. The only first aid facility I've ever seen manned by a psychologist!

For the record: acid, meth, heroine, cocaine, ecstasy, etc were all VERY discouraged there. Though present, the organizers were working hard to root it out, even launching their own under-cover stings. We did find it necessary, however, to taste test all the cookies and brownies our kids bought. No problems were found, happily.

But on the second night we had two girls invade our campsite to work through their bad trip. I was almost asleep when I heard voices WAY too close. So I took out my ear plugs. And sure enough there were two girls yelling right next to my ears. So I said loudly, "Wow, sure wish I could sleep, but I can't because there are these people yelling outside my tent!" Didn't make a dent in their conversation. So I got out of bed. There they were, literally, 6 inches from our tent, absolutely in our campsite. Yelling about their bad trip. So I said, hands on hips, "Sounds like you're having a really intense conversation here. I want you to have a good trip and all, but you need to get out of my campsite." They just looked at me, no IDEA what was going on. So I inflated myself a little and yelled, "YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF MY CAMPSITE NOW!" Being a mom, I almost gave them to the count of five. But they got the point and skeedaddled.

The first night, we got tipsy on the neighbors bootleg wine (the other neighbors sold "Rasta Pasta"). But by the second night I realized that especially at night, I would need all of my mental faculties fully available on a moment's notice. So I didn't have another drop to drink. I didn't smoke anything, which doesn't mean much. Just being within a 10 mile radius of the place, one would inevitably be stoned.

We made about $500, which wasn't as much as we wanted. People said it was a very slow year for purchasing. I bartered away most of my cards. The plant people and gardeners loved them the most. Another artist bought some too.

It was an exhausting adventure. And I loved it. I didn't think I would. But I did. I'm still recovering, so I think I'll go attempt to reclaim some of those three nights of sleep I lost.

P.S.: my birthday turned out to be only slightly better than the year before (you may or may not remember my extended ER visit, where I nearly died of the flu. For those of you who don't know about that, just trust me, I'm not a wimp). At this rate, I'll have a good birthday again around the age of 64. I did get to buy some snazzy new fancy shoes and Huck and I went out for sandwiches. Also, Huck gave me the most beautiful clay leaf platter. Too bad I accidentally found it in the closet a month ago. Coyote gave me a Dollar store wine glass and a calculator. Blue gave me a card on a napkin. And the neighbor girl gave me her tiara, fresh-made, that day, at pre-school.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday. I am 33.

It's stunning to look at one whole year, especially this one. Sometimes things bump a long same as always. And sometimes you have a crazy year like this with major changes, major disappointments, and big time upheaval.

Last year at this time, I was looking a year ahead and thinking: Huck with have a great job. We'll be in a new house. In a new town. In a new income bracket. With new purchasing powers (these are apparently a form of super powers, elusive and exclusive).

I was hoping that the year ahead would be a year of (perchance, perhaps!) a return of stability and security, the fruition of all our long, hard work. But then I got a special E-Mail this morning from a horoscope thingy advertising the next five years for those born this day. And this is what it said: lost, aimless wandering, fruitless searches, loss of direction, high probability of alcoholism and drug addiction. And then it went on to say, NOT April Fools! But HAPPY BIRTHDAY! So, I will go find someone else's better horoscope and adopt that one.

My mom and I went for lunch in Leavenworth yesterday, followed by a little light shopping. It was very very fun. The waiter was extremely flirtatious, but you know, I'm used to that sort of thing so I just let him go on and on, while I played it cool, with cream sauce splattered all over my face, as I discovered in the ladies room afterwords. Of course my mom couldn't figure out why anyone would be flirting with me. She thought it was my new glasses. Mom, I wanted to yell, it's cuz I'm f-ing HOT! Obviously!! But, honestly, I think it's cuz he's waiting tables in Leavenworth, Bavarian hotbed of rocking nightlife. I was probably the only person under 50 he'd seen in years.

I bought a polkadot silk neck scarf and a card for myself that said, "I have no Idea what I want, but I won't be satisfied until I get it." Blue wants to know why the lady is smoking on the card. And so do I. Why is smoking a sensual thing? I don't find it any better than a rough cough and a hoarse throat. I decided it was a pen the girl is holding, and she's thinking about what to write next.

Huck bought me flowers and ice cream. And the kids are up to something with secrets tucked here and there around the house. I hope it's a good day. I do love good birthdays so very very much. But if I need to, I'll call for a do-over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Will miracles never cease?! An addendum

I guess when it rains, it pours. And when you've got time and thoughts, you've got a bus load, so here's my 2nd entry today.

I know what you all are wondering right now: What is Sarajoy drinking? In the interest of celebrity wine endorsement/abasements, let me tell you. Tonight I am drinking a Handyman Red by Working Girl Winery, a Washington State Wine. This fine fine state has many fine fine wines, and fine WATER, apparently. Yes, Working Girl Winery has managed to turn wine into WATER. I took a sip at dinner and thought to myself, "I meant to grab my wine glass, but must have taken my water glass instead." But the evidence was still in hand. Their "robust red" had shriveled to tap water. Or maybe the "handyman" handle was meant to conjure images of the handyman you call, but never shoes up!

Additionally, I wanted to add something more about the challenges of Parenting. The other day the kids got talking about the latest lunch fad: dinosaur shaped tater tots or chicken nuggets or whatever. They begged me for them!
"NO WAY!" I said, cool and calm, as always ;)
"Why not?" And then Blue pulled out the most sophisticated reasoning ever, "All our friends moms are giving them!"
I couldn't help it. I actually laughed. Not cruelly, but with delight, because the argument had absolutely no sway on me and I was about to explain why.
Which went like this: "I have a very good brain on my own two shoulders and I am going to be listening to that. No one, not even my kids, are going to convince me that other people should be thinking for me. I see those dino-whatevers and I can tell by their yellow breading and oily smell that they are not healthy. No One, not even the governor, could convince me otherwise. They aren't healthy and I'm not putting them in your lunches. You can try one, of course, if they are offered, but my good money will only go to healthy items in your lunch. And don't think that I will ever let other kids mom's do my thinking for me. It's just not going to happen. Unless I know exactly who is giving the advise and what their family acts like, I'm not following anything but my own good intuition and brain."

They were probably thinking, "Sheesh, mom, they're just dino-watevers." But I don't think they'll be using that line of "reasoning" on me, at least for a while yet. I had a lot of fun with my monologue. Although emphatic, I was chipper and delighted the entire time I spewed it. Seriously, this explaining the world part of parenting is one of my favorites. And I hope they not only got the idea that I won't be caving to that argument, but also how to think about themselves and their own, good and sturdy brains.

Okay, now I MUST go clean the apartment. One of these days I'm going to post a picture of how messy it gets, just in one day, just so the other moms reading this can feel good about themselves at my expense. I won't mind, I WANT you to feel good about yourself!

The Way Things Are

For those of you not in the know, life gets hectic. Add some kids and no matter how little you try to do, life remains a zooming blur and viola: you don't Blog often.

Yesterday we bought 1200 pounds of apples! ORGANIC! Honeycrisp and Jonnagolds. Huck's new friend Bruce has been an angel: he's letting us store and press at his orchard. And since he provides Stemilt with most of their organic cherries, he bought us these apples for $.225 per pound! We will repay him of course, and hook him up with the hard-cider gravy-train. We've got four carboys now and are working on some used white wine barrels. Friday, we're having a little pressing party with Bruce and his girlfriend. But Huck's so stoked about getting it all set up today that he can't wait and he's begging me to press tomorrow, just a little, just to get the feel. Huck even spent half the day plucking his SECRET INGREDIENT.

Last weekend we headed to Seattle for Huck's Baba's funeral. It was small. She died six months ago (rest assured: no open casket) after 15 years of Alzheimer's which is WAY longer than anyone should have to live with that. That last 5 years she was not present, and was unable to focus her eyes or speak. It was awesome to see Huck's only cousin (on that side) and her new baby, thereby providing the complete, majestic circle of life (in the alternative view, you could find a newborn at a funeral rather depressing: as in "this is what you're working towards, kid"). You may have heard this before, but Huck's cousin is head counsel for Google. Not only that, she and her husband are both very great people to goof around with and talk to. And their baby is pretty much as easy and wonderful as they come, not that any of them are easy. Molly Mehitabel is beautiful and calm, and tempting!

Recipe for impromptu strobe light: place newborn on 7 year-old's lap in room full of tipsy, older relatives with cameras. Flash! Flash! Flash!

We let Blue put blue gel in her hair today. It was her idea. I don't know where she got it but I assume it has to do with kids at school. I ascribe to the parenting ideal: pick your battles wisely. Not that this was shaping up into a battle, because I thought the idea was pretty cute too. Blue's also developed a vocabulary of teen-isms, only she says them all with a Mexican accent! Ohmygo-o-od!

King Louis visited the vet today, who just happened to have graduated from WSU four months ago and we knew lots of the same people. In fact he'd helped our neighbor/vet move! The response when King Louis leaped from his carrier was typical: "OH MY GOD! WHAT A HUGE CAT!" But since he spent 3 + 2 weeks missing, he'd lost 5 pounds. He's not blubbery, just really tall and poofy. It turns out King Louis has acne. ACNE! CAT ACNE! And the vet actually told me to get OXY PADS!! So I did. Who knew?

Coyote told us about his secret super powers tonight. He's got several but the house favorite is: "Crosswalk Powers!"

And also, after two weeks, a phone call and some prodding the Wenatchee World finally published my letter: http://wenatcheeworld.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081006/OP01/710069920/-1/OP. It's the bottom one which they titled "Gregoire's Management".

I crossed another of life's major milestones today: I've now cleared 32 51/52s in human years. I know. It was a big one. But I think I survived. The ego is in tact. Mostly.


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