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.


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