Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shiny Happy Facebook


I now have 14 friends. I've taken to Facebook like a pro. I was born to Facebook.

G has 600 friends. L has 300. B has 200. I have the least number of friends of anyone I know. Because I'm taking it seriously. "Friend": what does that mean? To be a friend. What are the implications? What are the obligations? If there was an "acquaintance" button, I'd use it.

But now I have 14 friends. Gone are the intimate days of slightly off-color jokes. Gone are the moments when I eagerly awaited K's ramblings. I even enjoyed hearing about J's soil sterilization and cold coffee and L's hair full of cotton candy. In fact, until I had this cornucopia of 14 friends, I was actually coming to admire Facebook's friendship maintenance program. Whereas, at first, I was annoyed by the blather, I later came to view it as the diaper changes of friendship. That is: routine maintenance is what life is made of. Many an ignorant father has ditched diaper duty thinking duty was dumb. But diaper changes are actually an opportunity for bonding and expressing love in a practical way that means something to the baby. To ditch diaper duty is to short change yourself. The Facebook blather was taking on that form. I never knew J drove tractors. I didn't know S had a new sleeve of tattoos. I love knowing this stuff!

Now instead of ramblings left and right, I've now got "friendings" announcements. This means that every five minutes I know that one of my friends has 10-20 new friends. I can't imagine how they manage the throngs! Mr. G has 600 friends. Picture, if you can, the visual cacophony on his screen! I'm pretty sure he's not reading this, so I think I can say some shit about G behind his back here. How can I be so sure? G has 600 friends AND is employed. G cannot have even 1 minute per week for each friend. G is definitely NOT reading my blog right now. 20 years ago, G kept to himself and opened his mouth every now and again to sing down the halls "What's you're reason for existing?" This existential crisis and our need to drag everyone else down into it was about the only thing we had in common. Now I am friends with G. I make up .1667% of G's social network. And he will get announcements every time me, or the other 6 billion people on the planet, friend, photo, comment, or broadcast.

Facebook can become many things, it seems. It can be a collective yearbook signing of your lifetime. It can be Class Reunion 24/7. It can be friends blathering about the nuts and bolts of life. It can be your personal slide show where you show off your good side on a sunny day. It can also be totally paralyzing. Every time I type something in, I have to realize that even though I only have 14 friends, 1000 people can see every word I write. It's like those STD equations. Maybe you've only slept with 14 people, but germ-wise, it's 1000. I'm pretty sure I'll never write anything on Facebook again. I now get performance anxiety just logging on.


The other problem with Facebook is my timing. I should have joined when I was riding my bike around India while 7 months pregnant. I should have joined when I was sashaying and working in Mexico. (okay, we can definitely be thankful that I didn't join THEN!) Or when I was at the exciting stage of parenting: giving birth (At Home!). Or the year I learned to downhill ski AND surf. Or when I was working at a dude Ranch (I can't show you pictures of that because saddles make my butt look big-ger). I should have joined even a year ago when I had an awesome house, great friends to get down with, a wonderful job and a future so bright I had to wear two sets of shades AND a sun hat. But this? This clumsy execution of a difficult transition? This is when I join Facebook?!

In answer to your question: the blog is different. It's my home turf. I get to explain myself here. And no one is reading it. Except, maybe you... some times. But the Blog has similar problems: a window into my current, unfortunate state... which is definitely on the upswing, or at least I can see the upswing coming my way. But you know me, I would feel so FAKE if I only joined Facebook and blogged when things were going well. So, first off, I figure, I should introduce the world to my down side: "Worst Foot Forward!" I always say. And then, my strategy is that when things go good, both of us are going to know I deserve it... right... strategy.

My life is so boring now. 1) it's late February and there's nothing to love about life in the North in Late February (Valentine's Day is in February because the only
thing left to love about life is sex and the person you do it with). 2) I'm sick.

I've thought up some things that would really spruce up my Facebook/blog life. I've seen other people do these things and it makes life look so EXCITING! I could leave my husband for 7 lovers of varying genders. I could leave my kids and travel the globe. I could suddenly realize I'm a lesbian! I could promote my personal imaginary projects as if they are real and I'm really landing a movie deal, right now, even as I type.

What do you think? Let's have a VOTE! Everyone vote right now on what exciting train wreck I should attempt, or at least lie about:

(Addendum: I just had a really nice experience on Facebook!)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oakland


It was a quick and painful trip. My sinuses are still unsure if they are supposed to implode or explode, what with all the pressure changes (flight and 2 mountain passes) and smegma being pushing around my cranial cavity. I can't hear a damn thing and my throat is so sore, I haven't been able to speak for 24 hours, nor eat. At least I'm not dizzy anymore and my bones no longer feel like they are being shoveled through a recycling process.

Well, it may have done some good. Loosing my voice while sick is actually okay because my conversational skills, I noticed (as if I were a bystander or worse yet, a reporter, completely unable to help the situation) had already tanked and I wasn't making much sense anyway. And also, when I travel, I usually divvy up my day into 5 distinct parts, each one able to contain an entire museum, hike, sight to see, or visit. Being sick, my pace was slowed to something my daughter and sister found more manageable. Although, I even opted to sleep in the car while we were at the beach! Usually, I see the ocean and no matter what I'm wearing or what the temperature is I generally ask myself what seems to me to be a rhetorical question, "How could anyone stand on the edge of that and NOT throw themselves into it?!" This time, I just crawled in to the car and tried to steer my imagination away from a pathetic death in the passenger seat of a parked car and towards living another day.

Another thing that made the visit exciting was my apparent power to piss off the entire Castro Valley! Who knew wielded such power?! Or perhaps their unders are too tight. Somehow, they didn't like it when I drove my sister's car to the BART station. It was only three miles, but the town was in an uproar. My driving wasn't tops. I'll admit. I mean, it's hard to get where you're going when the streets aren't labeled and you have a map spread out over the dashboard... not to mention the stick shift and unsettling screeching of her car (which she assured me was purely cosmetic). At any rate, the horns of the Castro Valley are alive and well.

Otherwise, Blue and I picnicked and daisy-chained in Golden Gate Park. We shuffled through the Academy of Science. Rachel took us to the Santa Cruz amusement park for a white knuckled, screaming ride on the ferris wheel. It's scarier than it looks! And every time I say "No WAY!" And then I get tricked into it. We went shopping in the rain in Chinatown. And I thought that MOMA would be a great idea. So we met Huck's cousin Daphne and spouse and adorable baby and mother at MOMA. Well, Blue didn't like MOMA. Aside from the Frida Kahlo painting, she thought it was pretty stupid. She did like the black poodles and the white baby, however. But the shades of black painting and the Dali shoe sculpture got her really laughing. We had to remove her from the premises before she was stabbed by several sets of stilettos. But it was good to see those folks.

And my sister's garden shed in beautiful. I wouldn't have been so disparaging of Oakland in other publications if I'd known it would be like this: a stucco cottage at the end of a long winding path through a secret garden. The house is my some famous architect (Henry? Hank? Harold? Thomas). And she lives in 200 stacked square feet. We climbed a ladder to the bed. The blooming cherry tree and plinking rain on the sky light made the hike worth it, though. Even if the bathroom was up three flights of stairs. Thank god I didn't have a stomach illness!

Here's a photo Blue took:

It was great to see my sister and to engage in a little belt-loosening fun with my beleaguered daughter before all the hard work begins again.

And now, that's as much talking as I think I should do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is this the REAL THING?

So it looks like some one other than me has finally noticed what an amazing person Huck is. And they've offered him a job. Not just any old job, no. His dream job. What he went to school for. What he envisioned from the get go. Here it is. He'll be cleaning up mine tailings and airforce drippings, on long term government contracts. So it will hopefully be stable over these next few years. Seems like he might have gotten the last job in America.

The offer stunned us: every part of it is amazing. And they actually sound as excited as we are!

The company is huge, one of the largest of its kind. Eight years ago, would we have thought that cool? Hell NO! But after what we just went through, we're very happy about it. This means hiring is standardized, pay is regular, insurance is assured (he's reading the BOOKLET on that right now!).

Whatever shit happened last time, this is the exact opposite. The contract has been signed. The pee has been pissed. The background has been checked. And he starts in 2 weeks. Today, he officially became a real employee.

They've been talking together since November. Things seemed promising. But we know all about "promising". We didn't want to count on it and have the rug pulled out from under our tootsies. So we went on with life as if it wasn't going to happen. But then the offer actually came.

When he got the offer, I cried. I've sucked it in for so long. I've been such a big girl. And I just let it all flow out and away. It still doesn't feel real.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention my least favorite part: it's in Spokane. I know Spokane fairly well. And I don't really like it. It has its perks. But it's scuzzy and sex-offender infested (the national sex offender prison is just outside of town.) But it'll definitely do.

Now the logistics begin. They are just logistics, as compared to the big fears we've just been facing. Huck will move first, to make sure it's a real job, leaving me as a weekday single mom, which is not really my forte. Then we'll start looking for a permanent place for the family. Blue will not change schools again unless we are fairly certain where we will be staying put. And then there's the moving, AGAIN! AUGHH! But it's a burden I'm happy to carry.

I still can't believe it. If this is a dream, don't wake me for a long long time.

Even though it snowed today, it's springtime in our home.

Blue

"Mom, I'm going to need a real science lab," she announced this week. We'd watched a movie about Galapagos which inspired her and Coyote to go on an expedition in the Orchard Archipelago. They set forth with magnifying glasses and notebooks. And they returned with little jars full of samples they said they needed to analyze. We looked around for a likely place to plop a science lab: under the bed? under the kitchen table? the back of the toilet? Maybe that's something that has to wait for a bigger place.

Blue has come to appreciate the school bully. "It's just a regular bully. He just beats kids up for lunch money," she recently delighted. "Delighted?" you query. In Pullman they had academic bullies. These kids teased mercilessly about things like reading levels and failed science fair experiments. That's because none of those apples fell far from their trees in that intensive university town. It was all about academic rank there. What a relief! for Blue to have a regular bully who's pretty easy to outwit and/or avoid.

Her new school is a hard adjustment, namely. In Pullman, where she met everyone at the non-judgmental age of 2, Blue was just another name. But her peers now know what names are real and what ones are "other". She also suffers teasing for her clothes. They aren't girly enough. Some are a different style than the current rage. She pronounces the teasers as ignorant and continues to wear what she wants. She amazes me.

But here's my problem, she's being teased for her name by boys named Jesus and Angel. This is because she's one of only a few Anglo kids in the school. If her name were Azul or Esmeralda, there'd be no problem. I've mentioned this to a few people and they've gasp in horror at my "obvious" lack of cultural sensitivity. Okay, people, these kids are making fun of my daughter! I get to be pissed off at them no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, names, whatever.

Pullman had quite a diversity too, but there was no really dominant culture. It was Anglo, but also Chinese, Japanese, African, Russian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, etc. with a mix of unpronounceable names. But here, it's a mono culture of Mexicans. And Mexican culture teases, a lot. Maybe the teasing is just a few bad apples. However, anthropologist have rate Mexican culture, in general, with low compassion scores. (I can explain how I came to know that. It has to do with becoming a mother while attending a university and looking for parenting books there, but only finding cross cultural ethnographic studies. I also lived in Mexico and experienced this first hand, risking what felt like my life to intervene on the teasing of two lesbian teens escalating into near violence, as just one example.)

So as an Anglo, I'm supposed to be culturally sensitive to a culture that lacks sensitivity. Doesn't seem quite right. Apparently, as a generic, hetero, white girl, I am obligated to be sensitive to any culture, no matter what. I had trouble with this while traveling as well. Does one have the right to critique one's host -or in this case, an immigrant- culture just as one would one's home culture?

I think we could use some cultural sensitivity training going to OTHER direction at this point, at least in Rock Island. Something like this: Anglos are different. It's not important to them that girls wear pink with ruffles and never wear boys clothes. Names are usually generic but some Anglos like to experiment and it tends to run in families. Some Anglos don't believe in god or eating meat. That's okay.

Yesterday we made the horrific mistake of forgetting to pack Blue a lunch. We sent her off, for the first time this year, with cash for school lunch, knowing it would be the unhealthiest thing she would eat all year, but what ya gonna do? Turns out it was HOTDOGS. And the lunch attendant MADE her eat it. We are vegetarian. I called the school to straighten it out. And at first I got the: there aren't a lot of vegetarians around here, so we don't serve a vegetarian option. I got the run around about us being the freaks and them being normal and us just having to put up with it.

So I changed my tactics: we are vegetarians with strongly held and perfectly legitimate beliefs about meat and I would like the school to be more "culturally sensitive" to our deeply held beliefs. And THEN did they LISTEN!! WOW! I also mentioned that we weren't the only vegetarians in the area but that the others all felt it necessary to keep quiet because we are frequently made to feel like we are the only vegetarians and that we are WRONG and WEIRD. Shit, if we can have Menudo Mondays, we should be able to get some cheese sandwiches!

But I can't make the other kids be culturally sensitive to our hippie sensibilities. So Blue's taken on one of her middle names: Juniper. It sounds namey enough and none of the kids know it's a tree. So I think she'll get away with just the normal amount of name-gaming now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

If you don't know me by now

I don't like to read about cats...yet I think I'm going to write about one! I don't understand it myself, either!

Our cat, King Louis, seems completely confused my us. He's lived with us 5 years now, and he still doesn't get it. Or maybe he "got" us at one point, but is getting old enough to loose it. Here are his questions, as I understand them:

1) How can they sleep all night long? What a waste! Day is for sleeping. Fools.

2) Why do they sleep past 4 am? I won't let them do that to me. No way. Not me. I will claw their pillows until they let me out! I will fight for my rights!

3) Why do they drink out of these tiny little cups when there are several gallons of perfectly drinkable water in the toilet.

4) The monster on the leash. They let it out once a week. It roars around. Then they tuck it away. I've seen pit bulls like this. Don't they understand that keeping one of those around can only result in disaster? One of these days that thing is going to suck somebody up. And won't they be sorry then!

5) Why are they always stepping on me? Everywhere they go, they find a way to trip over me or step on me. And then they blame me for it. Like it's my bright idea to have feet sticking out 9 to 10 inches from your ankles. Who can keep track of that kind of protrusion!

6) Why don't they like disemboweled and beheaded birds on their front porch? An unpredictable ball, okay. But a few feathers? Hell no.

7) Why don't they enjoy it when I pet them? They yelp and scream. What's up with that? Grow some fur already, folks!

There. I've done it now. I wrote about my cat. I promise, this will be the low point of the blog. Please direct all complaints to the service department at 1-800-IDO-N'TGIVEASHIT.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How to survive your personal economic recession

I'm sort of an expert on this topic, this being at least my second major personal economic downturn. I learned plenty on the first round and have enjoyed using that knowledge this time. Well... "enjoyed" is over-stating it, but it's been "interesting" to apply what I so painfully learned before.

In 2001, weeks before our daughter was born, Huck was laid off of his high paying though dangerous union job at the docks. He gained rank only because people above him had, actually, DIED on the job. (Amazingly, our current landlord bought this farm with money he earned working the VERY SAME JOB for the same company!) I wasn't too upset about the lay off. Timing sucked however, as the dot com bust made it impossible for either of us to find work. There was a series of unfortunate events, as they say. It was really really bad. And it fundamentally changed the way I approach the world. I can actually remember the moment it changed. In a borrowed, literally EXPLODING truck, at the zenith of the West Seattle bridge, in the middle of the night.

We all know there's much that happens to us in life over which we have little control. Economic downturns being one of them. The trick is to find what you do have control over.

The main key here is: AWARENESS. Looking back, some of the disasters that happened in the 2001 financial fiasco could have been avoided with some awareness:

1) just because you've been promised a small but significant trust fund yearly doesn't mean you can count on it. The only money you can rely on is what is in your hand. If you didn't earn it, don't budget it in.

2) look ahead. If your expenditures exceed your monthly earnings more than 25% of the time, you really need fix that. What's in the bank will only last you so long. So plan ahead and make sure your balance sheet is sustainable in the long run.

3) make changes. If your rent is too high, but you can manage it, then you need to understand that at some point, you're not going to be able to manage it. Just f-ing move already. Why wait until you fail to make the rent two months in a row? (photo is of moving box and kids)

4) if you own a house, a car, a fancy stereo, fancy furniture, etc, just sell it before it gets repo'd. This way you at least have a chance of not losing EVERYTHING. (FYI: didn't actually happen to us, but I've seen it, a lot).

5) Change your values. If you value money and flash, then when you don't have it you'll feel miserable and humiliated. But if you value, and I mean HIGHLY value, living within your means, then you'll feel very proud to say, "I can't afford that," and "I'm not going out to eat tonight, or any night in the near future," and "I'm going to continue driving this running, but humiliatingly hideous granny-meth-mobile, because it's paid for." Instead of feeling like shame, it will feel wonderful. This trick requires ignoring the entire culture around you. But I'm not very amazing and I can do it. So can you.

6) If you are in denial about your finances, then there is a part of you that knows you're in trouble. Do not remain in denial. Denial is the final nail in your financial coffin. Do not be like those bourgeoisie who maintained servants and maids until the very second they got evicted on to the street. Just wash you're own damn dishes and rent out the basement.

7) Get all the help you need. Our society has a pact that we try not to let each other down, too much. And we have bureaucratized this pact into social services: food stamps, and in some states, low income health care. Take advantage of these things. Remember that you have already paid for this with your taxes and some day you will again. Don't complain about taxes if you pay them. I look forward to the day when I make enough money to actually be taxed.

8) Don't be embarrassed. Money is not self worth. Everyone hits bad times. But when the good times roll around, don't be a fool again. Bad times WILL return and next time you can be a little more prepared.

Although, this time around, our personal economic downturn hasn't been fun or easy, it was made much less painful by following these rules. Hence, we moved. We've cut out expenses. We got food stamps again. And I haven't been too embarrassed. Especially now that everyone knows we're in a recession. Scaling back definitely sucks, but it doesn't have to be a disaster or a tragedy if you stay ahead of the waves of suck-i-ness.

At first, people kept marveling, "Oh, he seems so bright, why can't he get a job?!" And now that they've dated the recession back to the very day Huck started looking for work, everyone has been much more sympathetic. 300 resumes. 3 large binders of job search. And one really crappy haircut.

And yet the instincts are sure: it was right to sell the house, it was right to leave that other "job", and I'm right to not get work now. (Photo to right is of King Louis, a cat that doesn't understand the history of cats and rocking chairs, and yet he still has his tail. That's an analogy. List the ways we are like him: st __ p __ d).

It's not going to be all doom and gloom forever. Stay tuned, because there's good news coming.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Peace shall come...


...when the nations shall hammer their whoopie cushions into cradles? This obscure Biblical reference introduces Coyote's latest creation. Apparently whoopie cushions are common enough around here to be considered a raw material for our dolls.

And I'm posting some photos from the farm. This is where I'd want to raise my kids. Our back yard is a lake with public access meadows and woods all around it. Everyday, we can walk down, through the rows of peach trees, through the old milk weed meadows, the once-upon-a-homestead corkscrew willows, and the wild junipers to the lake's edge. It's a talkative lake that's creaking, groaning, and popping a lot now that it's over 40 degrees. This is good: no car, no roads, nothing stands between me and nature. I simply leave my door and there she is. Although, I am getting a little sick of her shabby-chic, frosted-leaf look.

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