Friday, August 28, 2009

Parliament Funkadelic

Sometimes one of the kids will run ahead and then yell, "I beat you! I won! I won!" And the other one will cry, "I didn't know we were racing!! That's not fair!"

That's how I feel here on my vacation in San Diego. I feel like, "Hey! I wasn't competing! I didn't even know there was a competition and even if there is, I don't want to be a part of it." Yes, my body here is not quite up to snuff. Sure, in Spokane I'm a super model, but here... wow... people keep trying to check me out but can't seem to finish the job.

At first I was very shocked. Wow! Look at all these beautiful people! I don't have 8 hours a day to work on my abs, and even if I did have 8 hours a day extra, I would definitely NOT use it to form, maintain, or count all six in my pack.

Then, I picked up a local rag. The first several dozen ads were for depression/anxiety treatments. And the next hundred were for plastic surgery. And then the last hundred were for medical marijuana: free gram on opening day!

Ah HA! These bodies are off the shelf! These bodies have serial numbers!
I read that I could get an eyelash enhancement for $99, vaginal labialplasty (for the close-up!) $2490, eyelid surgery $2499, 5-minute nose job $499, forehead lift, resurfacing, noses for $99 AN HOUR, and breast augmentation breast augmentation and breast augmentation.

So people watching has become a price comparison and a saline vs. silicone debate. They look like "learn-to-draw" sketches, perfect circles here and there and connect with a thin line. Couples walk down the beach, staring at their own bodies: she watching her breasts and marveling about the beauty of her surgical extra-puberty and he ogling his six pack, to make sure all the members of the pack are there. I imagine he's counting: one, two, three, four, five, oh shit! No there it is, hahahha, six. And I can pick out the tourists right away, because we all have lumps that are not perfect circles and are not all in the precisely right places. And we are not counting our bumps and we don't care.

There was a murder here recently where the underwear model's teeth and finger tips were removed but she was identified by the serial numbers on her breasts. Not only was the story gruesome, but I felt a sense of betrayal, like finding out Lance Armstrong used drugs. I want my models to be naturally beautiful, or at least working on it. But surgery is just cheating. Huck explained that for models, surgery is like going to college. And I did wonder where the line is between orthodontics and augmentations. I mean, my teeth are worth at least as much as a new pair of tits.

But last night! I found my crew! We saw George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic at a small club. It was awesome. There was an eye-candy-man dressed like a polar bear, break dancing. Jesus Christ was on the keyboard. He didn't look like he'd managed to fully rise from the dead, but he did look like he'd been dead for the past three days. I'm pretty sure the girls by his side were not the Mary's and Martha. But maybe they were, backsliders in underwear and wigs. Something extraordinarily beautiful was on bass. A man in a yellow vinyl Elvis jacket, paired nicely with a giant diaper orchestrated mayhem. Nothing you wouldn't see every day in New Orleans. The club was small and it felt more like a raging participatory party than a performance. George was awesome, in control, a maestro of funk. It was perhaps one of the top performances I've ever witnessed.

And when one of his back up singers raised her arms and I saw her hairy pits, I felt like I'd come home. I felt free to expose my post-pubescent pits, unshaved since 1999. And I was FUNKY too. Oh yeah. Funky! They were my people, only a few serialized, off the shelf boobs there. But mostly, hair and naturally giggling mammary glands. And I can't hear a thing today, but George and P-funk, funkin it up in my head.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stepping off a cliff backwards: thumbs up or thumbs down?

From the beginning of time flies have been congregating in this very kitchen for the lofty purpose of finding a mate and getting it on. They fly from all corners of the earth, even of the universe, and beyond, from Europe, Antarctica, the Horsehead Nebula and other unknown dimensions for to swarm in unholy orgies within my cornbread and my compost bucket. Why such eternal and sacred events should bless my particular kitchen, I know not. But I feel chosen, like the Blessed Virgin, to bare this fly-cross.

All former aspirations toward Jainism finally vanished as I purchased my mighty hot-pink fly-swatter. An unholy backhand takes out 12 at a time, plus two light bulbs and a glass of water. The fly tape impotently dangles from a ceiling fan, empty, whilst the flies daringly mate upon it's holder. Why are the young of this invasion so terribly ugly and frightening? What will become of us? How will we survive, after the Great Fly Plague of 09? After they have eaten all our stores of food? And how will I blog, when I cannot see the screen behind the flies? August farm.

I sent Blue to a rather expensive rock climbing camp as she loves knots and climbing and it's not a camp where going CHEAP is a good idea. Nonchalantly, I signatured papers and checks and trotted off for my first two hours of me-time of the summer. I returned to find her at the VERY TIPPY TOP! Nauseated, I ran back out to the hall and told her instructor to call me when she was down. As her mother, I shouldn't have seen that.

One day, after camp, she crooned, "Do you know what my favorite thing in the whole world is?"
"Stepping off a cliff backwards."
"Oh my god."
"What's you're favorite thing?"
Quickly, the answer rushed from me, "NOT STEPPING OFF A CLIFF BACKWARDS!"
"No.. really, mama."
Well, I don't think it's appropriate to talk to your kids about that sort of thing. So I picked my next favorite thing: a really good meal.

There was a 10 year old in her class who had been born a girl, but was asking people to refer to her as a boy. Blue tried to honor this as best she could saying, "She's a boy," and "She climbed up that wall. But I'm the only girl in the class."

We've had gender-bending friends and babysitters, so the concept wasn't new to her. It was a while before I knew T's gender, but that didn't stop me from enjoying her company. When we met her she was overweight in a way which accentuated the ambiguity, with a shaved head and a shirt that read, "Chick Magnet." She was a nanny and we frequently took the kids bowling.

So Blue wasn't too confused by little T. And I have to say that T had a boy's body and a boy's physical sense of movement and a boy's attitude. I've never met a kid SO completely fitting the gender they weren't born in to, in a essence sort of way. The only confusion came when little T started talking about the things he felt made him a boy. Wrestling with his dad. Blue noted that she likes to wrestle with her dad. And they debated types of wrestling and whether a girl could REALLY wrestle or not. Little T rattled off a few more activities: climbing trees, soccer, baseball. Blue said she also plays soccer (she doesn't, she stands in the field and picks daisies) and climbs trees (she does, she goes ALL THE WAY UP and I cry at the bottom). Perhaps, I posited, being a boy is more about what a person feels on the inside, not what they do on the outside. Admittedly, it's confusing. What is it to be a boy? Is it so different from being a girl? Is the boy/girl divide THAT great? I guess I just have to take little T at his word. I don't understand it clearly, which makes me want to just take his word for it even more.

Meanwhile, Coyote attended Enchanted Garden camp and made pink sparkly fairy costumes. And I took naps, apparently.

Last Friday, Coyote asked us to remove his training wheels. He's just a month past five, and we groaned. When Blue was 6 and a half, we had to cajole the wheels off her bike and then spent two weeks of intensive training.

The first day Coyote tried to ride, I tried to help, but it was his usual state of affairs. Crying in a ball next to the bike pleading for help, only to slap away my hands, scream at me and order me not to touch him and not even to LOOK at him, and he returns to crying for help. I quickly gave up... what was the hurry? It was his idea, NOT mine.

Tuesday he asked to show me something. And there he was, trucking down our road. Thursday, he declared to me that his bike was absolutely MADE for jumping and Huck produced just such an accessory. The week was really more than any mother should have to bear in heart-pounding, nausea-inducing, kid antics.

And then my parents spent their 40th anniversary with us. After a week of touring their favorite NW hotels, they spent the actual DAY separately, my dad hauling Coyote off to ogle classic cars, and my mom whisking Blue and I off for a back-to-school shopping blast. And we each strongly identified with our genders of origin all day long... although I do have a 45 minute shopping expiry and my mom bought me a red baseball cap that says "FARM BOY."

They also babysat on their anniversary evening so Huck and I could go out. We had fun... and then simultaneously awoke at 2 am, he rushing to the red Ace hardware bucket and I to the loo. Ah... food poisoning and a bad movie, our traditional date combination consistently tormenting us since early 2001.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dude, Where's My Dominion?

"There's a bovinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will." -sort of from Hamlet

Things got a little out of control. Give a shy but willing milk cow to me, and I'll turn her into a huffing bull in about two weeks. This is how you do it: reward all questionable behavior with running out of her way, or simply stop doing anything that might bother her the minute she stamps her foot. This turns slightly annoying behavior into nasty aggression.

These are mind games I don't like and am not well suited to. This is why I've never gotten a dog. With a cat, it's clear and comfy, and they don't bite, much. Dominance is not my forte. I'm open-mouthed, opinionated, and I'll fight back when cornered. But the practice of continually asserting my authority is VERY unnatural to me. "Never argue with a true believer" is my motto. You want to go there? You want to stand by that? Fine. I'm not stepping into your steaming pile of misguided opinions. I'll just tip toe past it and change the subject. This doesn't work with a cow, apparently.

Discouraged I'd become. Hendrika was getting ornerier. And that was patently my fault. But I really AM scared of her. She is big. And she's opinionated. And I'm just made of bones and small muscles. I remember something about how we're supposed to have dominion over all the animals, according to Genesis, which just PROVES the Bible's woeful inaccuracy. And I don't even know how to get to the genesis of dominion!

Lo and behold, snatched up at the bookstore: "Humanely Handling Livestock," by Temple Grandin. Hallelujah! It's more about massive movement and slaughter of beef herds, but it's got basics. So... I've gathered my courage and am starting anew.

In the evenings, instead of milking, I'm just going out and practicing dominance. I stare her down, dominion-style. I groom her until she does something annoying, then I stop. I scratch her chin, which apparently displays my dominance, versus what I was doing before, scratching her forehead, which signals my submissity (which is MORE honest, don't you think?). I don't let her leave a gate without passing by me. And this morning, I milked her and milked her until she STOPPED kicking, versus, until when she STARTS.

Why did I want a cow? I don't know, actually. I remembered liking them when I was a kid. They do seem sacred to me, somehow. They have an inner peace, or so I presume, that calls to me. I can't explain wanting a cow. I strive to explain lots and lots of things, with varying shades of accuracy. But this cow business is buried too deep for me to understand. It's almost an instinct.

My search for dominion goes back 5 years. Before that, I'd read books and books about Anarchist parenting: no gods, no masters, guiding without punishment, the punishment of rewards, etc. And then Blue turned 3 1/2, the AGE all parents FEAR and DREAD. And we needed something other than long, exhausting, punishment-by-way-of-lectures. Thus the "time-outs" (horror of horrors! Child Abuse!) began. Her first time-out, she (all of 42 months old) THREW her dollhouse at her bedroom door, making a very large gash in it. This is the essence of the 3.5 year old. I worked hard to belatedly develop dominion over my kids. It is still my least favorite part of parenting, but it is very necessary. Someone is inevitably going to be in charge; better me than them. Mother Trapped in Lord of the Flies, First Responders Unable to Extricate her from Literary Hell.

That's the beauty of plants, they don't balk when you stake them, they don't kick when you snatch their fruit, and you don't have to brush their teeth or make them change their underwear. They are generous and docile and easy to dominate. Animals (and children), however, require so much psychological effort that I think my brain is using more calories than they'll ever produce. Perhaps THAT is the Siren that sang me here. Perhaps that is why I invited Hendrika into my life, to learn how to practice dominion, to find my inner dominance.

That sounds messed up.

I gave up the idea of sin, of being a sinner, long long ago. It was terrible! Constant guilt about sins of omission and sins of commission and sins of thought and sins of this and that and the other thing. Just waking up seemed like a sin. But NOT waking up was a sin too! And then there was this idea that my sin caused GOD to commit suicide! Once I had a baby, I saw how off the mark this idea of innate sin was. People: it's a baby! It's not full of sin! It didn't caused GOD to die on the cross. It's an effing baby! And that was the very last, long-lingering straw.

But a conversation with a UU man, rehearsing his sermon with me (I volunteered!), recently set me thinking about it again. He said that sin was originally an archer's term for missing the mark. And we've ALL missed the mark. This is more in line with my experience: trying, trying hard but missing the mark. Not that idea that I was full of hostile, vile, evil intentions not even AIMED at the bulls-eye, but the understanding that I'm shooting for the bulls-eye, but I miss it sometimes (have I ever hit it?).

Summer camp. Archery. I took it every year. I loved the theory of being Diana of the Hunt. The theory of Indian-ness. The theory of strings and arrows, death, drama, and the zing in the air. But I sucked. Apparently, they always said, being a lefty made me suck. I always hit my wrist... somehow. But now that I think about it, maybe the problem was that my archery masters were college kids with minimum wage summer jobs. That was summer camp: failed archery, successful canoeing, crying in my bunk all night of loneliness and being saved by Jesus approximately 12 times a day.

Anyway, the UU guy hoped that we could all forgive ourselves of missing the mark. And when he said that, I felt suddenly like there was this whole world out there that didn't want to condemn me or make me feel eternally bad for missing the mark, but a world that WANTS me to forgive myself. Certainly, that's how I feel about others, too! And can I forgive myself? I miss the mark ALL day long. I miss the mark on my parenting aims, consumption ideals, even time management, zing zing zing. Very little plunking going on here. Easily, now, I forgive myself this missing of the bulls-eye, when I view myself as an inexperienced archer doing her best.

This idea buoyed me through my week with Hendrika. I have totally missed the cows-eye in bovine management/domination skills. I'm NOT using the term "sin", because that would be absurd. I am merely an archer-ess, out here without much guidance, aiming, missing. Instead of feeling discouraged and innately full or original missing of marks, it's obvious that I can get better with practice.

I haven't been doing everything wrong. According to Temple, I'm right about always appearing calm (though my heart pounds with fear!), moving slow, and being patient. I've never yelled or surprised her. Cows, and other grazers, NEVER forget. So if you're violent or shocking with them, they'll always remember. This seems harsh! Both for their handlers and them! They NEVER even get the chance to forgive or forget. What you did, you did for ALL eternity, in their minds. No pressure, but you can't fuck up, even ONCE with a cow. Suddenly, my forgetful mind seems like a grand and glorious mercy.

By NO means am I a Christian today. This ain't summer camp and I've already been saved enough for the next 144 lifetimes. And I'm not full of sin, merely mark-missing. But "The cross is in the ballpark," as Paul Simon noted. It may not hit the bulls-eye, but it might be tinging off the edge of the target a little, just a little. But it could probably get better with practice.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Someone's Singing! Oh Lordy! Koombayah!

Was it Sarah Cavanaugh's visit? Coyote's new guitar? Or some stifled musical attraction emerging from deep within, perhaps called forth by bellowing cows?

I'm writing songs now, apparently, songs I hope never make me famous, or even all that proud.

Coyote brought me his guitar and a request I play a song. I don't know how to play a guitar, which he immediately pointed out. My options were thereby limited. I couldn't play a familiar tune because everyone would know just how wrong it was. So I made something up. It's different every time. Sometimes I strum low for the toad and high for the bunny and sometimes I switch it up. Sometimes I repeat each "stanza", a la "there was a bear in tennis shoes and underwear," and sometimes I don't. Sometimes it rhymes and sometimes it doesn't. But the moral is always the same, the theme of my life thus far, what I've been learning through the past 15 years. Maybe it's not your theme. Maybe it's not your major in life, but I seem to have earned a BS in Nonsense from the School Unpredictable Results.

So... here's the song the kids keep requesting. Sung like Olive Oyle in Robin Williams' Popeye but with a randomly strung guitar instead of a tight mandolin.


There once was a cute, fluffy bunny
hopping down the road, wild and free.
In the road there was a toad,
a wide old toad in the road. (repeat, or not)

The toad said to the bunny,
"I used to be free, my friend,
I, too, used to be free. Once."

"How was that?" the bunny asked,
"How was that?"
"I used to be free, my friend,"
repeated the toad, "I used to be free."

"When was that?" the bunny tried again,
"When was that?"
"Let's see. About 1973.
Or maybe 1974. It was the year Great Aunt Velma had only 12 kids, so that must have been 1975.
I believe."

"Oh. No." Said the cute fluffy bunny hopping free,
"Oh. No. You're not that old.
Mr. Toad in the road. No you're just not that old."

"It wasn't when I was a toad."
He croaked, "No, not when I was a toad.
I was a bunny then. Just like you.
Yes, a bunny, wild and free."

"You were free then?" Asked the bunny.
"Yes," said the toad.
"yes. But what I have to tell you, it is sad, it is bad:
Freedom's just another word for getting run over by a car. apologies to Janie Joplin.
Oh! Freedom's just another word for getting run over!!"

"Oh! My gosh!" Cried the bunny.
"Oh! My gosh!"

Suddenly, a Chevy, careened down the road AND
The toad was gone and the bunny hopped on.
Free. Free. Free. Oh! my gosh! Free! Alive and free!
Singing, "Freedom's just another word for anything can happen!"

So, my son and daughter, make some plans,
and then remember, if you can,
You might as well be cute and fluffy and free,
Because there are no guarantees
And anything can happen,
so you might as well be you.
You might as well live free.


It's probably not a great song for creating docile and obedient kids. But they'll morph into grown ups and will spend most of their lives making their own decisions. And maybe this will be in there somewhere... and time will hopefully soften the tune and correct the key.

Okay, so perhaps not really blog-worthy. And certainly not my magnum opus (right? please!?). But it replaces the Baseball Opera.

Update from the Masters of Bovinity program:
More fencing went up one evening for our wandering Sukey, but it didn't go all the way around. And since Huck wasn't going to be home for a bit starting the next day, we improvised. Cue banjo music. A few pallets, some chicken wire, some plastic mesh and VIOLA, paradise turns in to a trash heap!
As an accent, I covered 3000 square feet of our field in black plastic.

Oh! What will the neighbors think!!!

Also, I got a full cup of milk from Hendrika today. And then she tried to gore me with her imaginary horns. Again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Crisis of Two Virgins

This would be so much easier if:
1) I had hand milked before (I merely sucked the machines on to the teets at my g'pa's farm)
2) Hendrika had been milked, or tamed
3) I knew at least one other person who had a personal milk maker.
Instead, what we have here is the common philosophical conundrum known as "The Crisis of Two Virgins" wherein one of us is clumsily fumbling around the teets and the other is tied up and mooing.

But I wasn't going for easy. Whatever I was going for is buried deep in my subconscious. But is wasn't anything called "easy". Easy involves a car, a grocery store, and a Winnebago-sized fridge with all the homogenized, pasteurized, and fat reduced (or not) pink, brown, and white options of milk products ever imagined in the history of mankind.

My first week of milking will hence forth be known as: Enormous Challenge Week. Mark your calendars.

My interactions with Hendrika always start out the same: "Hi, my name is Hendrika, and I weigh 700 pounds. And you are?" "Yes, my name is Sarajoy and you weigh about 5 times more than me. Would you please go stand over there, now? I mean, if you're not busy and you're feeling up to it and all. Would you like some oats or alfalfa?"

I have to cajole her with food and patience to do anything I want. I've tried coaxing her twice with buckets of goodies. This is a very bad idea. One should never stand between Hendrika and food, it turns out. The first time she tried to gore me, I dodged like a mighty matador. The second time, I was very thankful she's polled, meaning naturally hornless, otherwise I would be dead, or at least missing most of my stomach. She took that head of hers and tossed me up onto the side of the barn.

She's a SMALL cow! And generally gentle, except where it comes to food and bribery.

She'll stand for milking, or my mangled attempts at it. But when she's done with the grain she suddenly notices she's tied up and she has a "moment" during which I stand very far away.

We are waiting to ween Sukey until we get back from our vacation. So this month is all about getting down the routine and learning that most awkward and unnatural movement called hand milking.

A couple of goat milker friends have stopped by and donated tutorials to my cause. One even confessed that learning to hand milk was the hardest physical skill he'd ever had to learn. It's a bit like patting the tummy and rubbing the head (or vice versa).

I'm at the middle part, the discouraged and disheartened stage of learning something new. Every morning, I sigh deeply, and trudge out to the barn with my buckets. I'll slave away for my 1/4 cup anyway. One day I did get about two cups, but then she plopped a perfectly poopy hoof right into the bucket. Bah! I'll show YOU kick the bucket, girl friend!!

Sukey's a cute little escape artist. She's gotten out 7 times at least. Getting her back in usually involves accidentally springing Hendrika. She's got four acres to mow, and the grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence. We put up another wire last night, and tried to electrify it. But she was out this morning again. So I put a halter on her. Yes, I was calf roping at 6 am this morning! I've never roped a calf before. It took about 20 minutes and now she's tethered. Now Hendrika is a free mom. She's got childcare and she's off on the other side. Poor Sukey, wants to nurse, but mom has her own agenda. Will she ween before we want her too?

So, I joined a web chat group about family cows. Apparently there are enough of us to warrant such a thing. Too bad it's useless. No answers, just rumors and gossip and no way to find your question, but that's okay because there are no real answers, just a lot of real know-it-alls supposing they know more than you, and you, and you.

Too bad for me, I said Blue might get a pony. I bought her a horse care book in hopes that would stall the begging. But she's read it through twice. She knows way too much about horses now. She's been visiting the neighbor's bay. She was commenting on how well behaved it was even though it was a mare and it was so hot out. Huh? Oh... yeah... I haven't really cleared up that "in heat" misunderstanding yet.

During this past week, it's also been my great pleasure to host a couple of friends passing through town. Before now, before this life, we would have hosted anyone and shared anything. But, alas, we were holed up in the corner pocket of Pullman, not a thoroughfare like Spokane. And even if someone did take us up on our hospitality, it would have been obvious we had little space, or food, or time to share. For all our feelings of generosity, we had precious little to give.

Here, we have a guest room and bathroom, private, tucked away in the new basement. Our guests have all commented on how they don't feel like they are imposing on us down there.

It feels so good to have something to share, and enough of it so people don't feel bad receiving it. This too is something I've wanted. I've had it in mind all this time... a dream to have enough, so that there's enough left over to accommodate my impulse toward generosity. Enough so that what I give flows over, from the top of my full cup, and not from the last drop in the bottom.

Hey, Hendrika! How 'bout you return the favor!!


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