Monday, December 27, 2010

Can't wait 'til I'm 78

Ooooh.  Woweee!  It's the 1980's around here now.  I'm cruising through the 20th century.  Vroom.  Vroom.  I got a microwave for Christmas from my mother!  I've used it 20 times in two days. I've done two hours less of dishes per day.  And instead of having my usual lunch of two fried eggs on polenta (the quickest gluten-free thing I can do around here) I've actually microwaved soup.  My anti-microwave stance started to wane in the Wenatchee McApartment which came with one.  I realized that it didn't necessarily have to reduce the quality of food we ate.  And I duly noted that the longitudinal mass-experiment has 30 years of no documented cancer connection.  So... throwing caution finally to the wind, I put it on my Christmas list! And bingo.  Mama Santa delivered!

With a little help, Huck got me the world's BEST tea pot: a cherry red ipot  It looks like it was designed by someone who actually drinks (if not grows and harvests) loose leaf tea instead of coffee.  It's got everything a girl could want and cute to boot!

The Candy Cane girls choir
Coyote was confused by his coal candy on Christmas morning.  Never mind that it was candy and it was on top of some pretty cool gadgets.  In his most disappointed tone he said, "But I was so good yesterday.  I wonder what he was thinking."  And also from the Kids and the Darndest Things file... today in the grocery line Coyote was looking at the tabloids and asked, "Why do you suppose they put all these women in bikinis on the magazines?" And before I could explain anything about their constant need to be critiquing bodies as good and bad and how dangerous that is for all of us, he answered his own questions, "Oh.  I get it.  It's to inspire the boys."  We might have another gifted one here, folks.

hiding in the bathroom cupboard
marshmallows or liver?  Rachel needs to know
I was wondering what the next Chinese New Year might hold for me, and loving all things divinational and having found the predictions of the last two years fairly accurate, I looked it up.  I am supposedly a rabbit.  A wooden rabbit.  So these last few years have really chewed me up and spit me out.  But in January, we return to the year of the rabbit.  And perhaps you'd think that was lucky for me.  What I found was a life time luck-o-meter.  Apparently, they said, I was born in very bad luck.  The lowest possible.  And the last decade has had medium bad luck for me.  And it just goes down from there.  Down.  Down.  Down.  I thought it had been looking up for us as a family, if not for me personally.  And I felt that we were due some upping-ness, not that life works that way, I just wish it did.  But my damn chart just sinks me all the way down to the bottom, perhaps lower.  I don't know.  The graph mechanism wouldn't let me see that far down.   Until I'm 78, at which point my luck-o-meter goes WAY UP.  Seems like if I'm having that bad of luck for the next 43 years, I probably won't be making it to 78.  But the way I'm feeling today, the sooner this human experience is over, the I guess all my bad luck might just mean living to 78.  I was trying to spin it like this: for the next 43 years I won't Need Luck because I'll be creating it myself.  But by the time I'm 78, I'll start needing all the luck I can stand.  Too bad I probably won't make it to 101, because then my good luck goes off the charts.

But really, what the hell kind of astrology is that?  A life time of hopelessness in one foul chart?
Coyote shows anti Rachel the video game he's writing

I prefer Rob Brezny's work. For instance, a few weeks ago, he said that a gallon of cow's milk requires over 300 squeezes.  This, people, is inspiring.  Because you'll remember that I was struggling with housework.  And instead of conquering the kitchen all at once, I realized that perhaps it could get done 15 minutes at a time.  And I did.  It took four days, but bit by bit I got it done.  And then I turned my attentions to the rest of the house and inch by inch it got all perky again.
Christmas morning fat lip from jumping over boxes

Simultaneously, in the segment of homeschooling I'm calling Psyche-Ed, we had begun reading a kid oriented book about perfectionism.  Blue's work book contains a list of only five attributes of perfectionists, while mine is loaded with about 25.  Mom, she says, I think this book is more for you than me.  Indeed.  And this is what, it turns out, is wrong with my housecleaning and yoga and yadda yadda yadda.  I won't do it unless I can do it perfectly.  My first husband used to come home sometimes and sigh and say, "Oh god.  Did you try to clean the house today?"  And there I would sit, crying on top of a pile of everything we own.  I would put a book away then realize the book shelf was dirty and all the books dusty, so I'd take it all apart to clean it, only to find an earring and then go put that away only to find a messy pile of jewelry .... etc... ad nauseum.  I've improved a lot over the years.  But it's been work.  When I was 30 I realized that perfectionism had prevented me from trying new things.  So that year I learned to down hill ski, surf, and took up jogging (I've since bailed on all of them due to the following reasons: expensive, lack of waves and ocean, and mind-numbingly boring, respectively.)  But this was the first time things coalesced to reveal my thinking about housework and yoga and the more mundane practices of regular maintenance.

Oma and Coyote at Duck Land
I think my relationship to cleaning sounds like the way some people describe yo-yo dieting.  This one method, you think you've got it.  It's really going to stick this time.  And then it doesn't and you feel like a failure and all crappy.  And then another method catches your eye and you think this one. This One.  It's really going to work this time.  And then more failure.... and on and on and on.

And so my latest method which I anticipate failing is the fly lady, a hoot and a half.  I love her radio posts, especially when she starts crying and gets all blubbery.  It's so endearing and yet nutty.  I am working through her baby-steps system.  And I am realizing that I wasn't that far behind.  My house wasn't THAT bad.  My expectations were just THAT high, however.  And this method... this one is really going to stick.  I just know it.  I just KNOW IT!  Damn that Chinese astrology.  I'm not Chinese anyway.  This method is going to work until I'm 78, and then some.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

I witnessed the worst movie ever made last night.  It was so painful, I started asking around for oxycontin.  It was even worse than Soccer Dog.  Seriously.  Huck wouldn't believe me.  But it's true.

Coyote's school hosted movie night.  Kids in PJ's.  Big screen.  Popcorn and icecream 25cents each.  Sleeping bags.  And Huck took Blue to choir practice as they are both singing in the pageant.  And that left me.  I am frightened by large groups of children, especially excited ones.  But my lil' Coyote was excited and what could I do?  The movie was The Search for Santa Paws and is not really worth a full review.  But it did include Santa, magic crystals, swirling magic sparkles, a talking stuffed dog who comes to life, dies and gets resurrected (no, it's not a cartoon), an orphanage out-fitted by Pottery Barn, orphans by Mini Boden, a plunger microphone, and a workshop full of Down Syndrome midgets and short Asian women.  I treated my self to ice cream.  Rolled off my chair (it's was just a cushion on the floor so no one was hurt) laughing when Santa's tear brings his dog to life and Mrs. Claus hammers us over the head with: "You see, Santa, your love brought life back to Paws," because Santa is stoooopid and couldn't interpret that himself.  And I was horrified to see myself crying when Santa was on his crystal induced death bed.  I NEVER cry at movies, not even terribly made, badly acted, horrifically written wastes of resources.  The only movie before this that made me cry since Anne of Green Grables when Matthew dies,was La Vie en Rose, during which I bawled from opening to credit roll and not because it was bad but because it was sad.  I pray to god my tears had something to do with PMS or the moon or all this darkness or some subliminal over-reach of Hollywood music or the whole hopeless mess of a movie.  Because it really didn't have anything to do with me.

I see this movie as a kid version of Rocky Horror Picture Show some day.  The kids will toss glitter at all the right moments, throw soft icecream at the cave crystal, Hoho's at Santa, and sing with the orphans into their own plungers from home.  It has real possibilities for kid campiness.  But I can't bring myself to say anything to Coyote who thought it was a pretty good movie.

So, in case you hadn't heard, Coyote and Blue were really naughty AND Huck was off cleaning up an oil spill this week and I got all exasperated and wit's-endy and grasping-at-strawsy and bluffed, "I see Santa's just going to fly right over this house without stopping this Christmas!! Bah Humbug AND Harumph!"
Coyote says, "No.  Santa doesn't care how we behave."
WHAT?!?!?!  WHAT??!?!?!
Coyote:  "I was pretty bad last year and he still filled my stocking full."
And thus a major conundrum was created.  The entitlement chafes.  The not-even-trying-to-be-good chaps.  But could I really drop a lump of coal in a six year olds stocking?  Won't this Christmas then feature prominently in the therapy sessions?  Won't I?  But under what circumstances wouldn't I feature prominently in therapy?  I'm the mother.  No matter what I do, I'll always be a topic of psychological plunging.
And has he really been that bad?  Worse than his sister?  Other than first grade detention last month (well earned and a topic for a post of it's own), wantonly peeing his pants, hiding when it's time to catch the bus, waking up at midnight to play with his toys, and begging incessantly for video games and candy, what's so bad?  Other than the fact that he seems headed to either be a spy, a ninja or a drug dealer, he's a good kid.  And he upgraded his opinion to Santa only caring for the three days before Christmas.

But Blue's all on board with the coal.  I took her along Christmas shopping, because she's home all day and I had to.  And she kept trying to cheapen Coyote's gift.  "That's too expensive."  "You can't get him two things."  "He doesn't deserve two things."  "You can't get him that, I want that."  "Well, if I get it for him, then I'm not giving him the thing I'm making, because he just can't get two gifts."  "No, I think you've gotten him enough stuff for his stocking."  "If you buy him that, you have to get one for me too."  Okay.  Fine.  I'll just head out late some night next week WITHOUT his sister.  And then maybe they'll both get coal.  Hahahahaha.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I think I just really hurt my cows' feelings.  I didn't mean to, obviously.

I was cross country skiing around our unfenced property, having misread the clock and thinking I didn't have time to go to the field at the end of our road to retrace my route from yesterday.  So I was doing the loop around our house which involves a short stint in the neighbor's five acres (which are for sale and which I desperately want to buy and am hoping the economy stays down until our income is up enough to nab it) and I got bored and I looked across our flat field of virgin snow, eyed the cows lounging in the barn, and I went for it.

My skis are new to the last century and me, this year.  We all got outfitted with 1980's sets of cross country skis from the ski-swap: this thing here in Spokane that takes over the entire fair grounds and is... just... pure mayhem.  So my ski boots/shoes are Addidas: silver with royal blue stripes and trimmed with: hot pink, garish purple, hot yellow, and red.  But seriously, these shoes are easier to put on, more comfortable and slip in to my skis smoother than any other pair I've ever owned or rented.  So I was cruising around our ice-covered snow.  Luckily we'd laid tracks a while back because when I put a new one down in the neighbor's field yesterday, I spent most of my calories on groin control and splits prevention.  But there, just beyond my own fence, laid my own pure field.

Without even removing my skis, I performed the miracle of opening and shutting the gate behind me.  The lazy cows looked up and smacked their cud.  I slipped through their brown snow and on to the crust.  I glided across the top, my skis just where I wanted them, my legs parallel, smooth, fast.  At the end, I turned the corner hoping to make a big square.  And just in time to see three winter fat cows RUNNING AT ME!!!  They were hopping, skipping, leaping, twisting, and RUNNING.  I suppose they'd kept themselves inside long enough.  And I had inspired them.  They were obviously playing, bellies bouncing, hooves flinging.  Either that, or they're actually predators confused by my prey like motions of flight.  But I'm family to them, so the natural thing to do would be to play with me too...or trample me.

Any time we're outside, they love to stand as close to us as the fence will allow.  This summer, every time we played tether ball, bocci ball, baseball, frisby, horseshoes, or whatever.  They were there, parallel playing in their field.  Not those games specifically, but it was like they'd catch the mood and join as best they could.

So there I was... cornered against an electric fence with giant, cumbersome, dexterity and flight preventing sticks attached to my feet.  I worried the cows would first stand on my skis and then trample me.  So I popped one shoe out and stood on it.  And that foot sunk two feet further into my grave.  My foot secure again in the awkward feet-antennae skis, I turned to face my bashers.  And I brandished my voice and my ski poles both.  I learned pole weaponry skiing in central Alaska where I was always prepared for a moose or a wolf out there in the fire break. And I yelled the same things I did back then:  "I DON'T WANT TO PLAY!!! I can't play with you.  You'll kill me.  You weigh five times more than me and I lack hooves!"  Sukie shimmied in circles around me, kicking up her back legs.  Hendrika stopped just short.  "Thanks."  Wild-eyed all of us, we stared eachother down.  I head-faked to the right.  She dodged.  And there we stood, wondering what the other was thinking.  We cooled off.  I skimmed away.  Only to be surrounded once more by the Swing Dance Heifers.  Maybe it was polka and they needed a fourth for their square.  They let me get a head start back to the gate.  I turned frequently to make sure I was likely to survive the next 20 feet and they looked at me with big, sad cow eyes.  The dejection of rejection written all over their long furry faces.  They looked truly forlorn.  And I felt truly guilty.  Here I am, their family.  Here they thought I'd come to relieve their winter boredom and all I could think about was myself, my own damn self and it's continued existence.  Ouch.  They charged again, once I'd crested the frozen shit pile. I stumbled and crashed out the gate before they were upon me. Huffing and puffing, I'm glad we all survived our exercise today.

A note about my world famous shit-ice pile.  The two feet of snow (under which lies our hose, somewhere) got all slushy for a few days there, slid off the barn roof to make piles right in front of the barn doors.  And this is where I had to shovel a very heavy, very special slurpee you can't get at 7-elevent (or maybe you can) twice a day, to open the doors in the morning and shut them at night. All the while mostly dodging the shedding ice sheets myself.  If I'd had any faith the slush would melt within the next four months, I would have left it there.

I am having some trouble with the wheelbarrow in this stuff.  I think I should designate a shit-sled for winter use.  But the point is that I can't really load up my wheelbarrow (held together with baling twine) with that slush.  So I just tossed it as far as I could with the shovel, thereby making these fabulous hasbrouck brown (or also: rootbeer candy) mountains that are now ice and are kinda in the way.

Isn't that enough for those cows, or do I have to risk my life and play with them too?  Aurgh.  The guilt never stops.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kiss and make-up

All yesterday I was in this terrible funk.  I thought, when I saw the sun for the first time in weeks, that my funk should have lifted, but it didn't.  It settled, a fog of discontent smothering my head.  And I thought, "Damn it!  It's always on these days when I have to go to some social function or party or whatnot and I SHOULD be perky and party-animalistic and all.  But instead I have this irritating ire under my skin!  What is wrong with this universe?  And Yeah, I'm talking to you: god or planets or higher self or whatever!"  Ah but the answer was in the question: that type of funk only happens on days when I have to go to a party where I didn't plan it and I don't know anyone.  Huck's holiday office party.  Could you invent a worse nightmare?

I remember one of my coworker/friends bringing her boyfriend to the clinic's holiday party one year (which we had in January because the party planner sort of forgot about December and all).  And all I could think was, "Suffering succotash! Why in the world would you bring someone you love to a work party?!!" Unless you are conjoined in a surgically-defying way, this just seems like the worst form of cruelty.

The problem is they're Huck's coworkers.  And they're his coworkers.  This means that I don't know anyone there and can't drink enough to alleviate the awkwardness.  And people you don't know are crazy.  A room full of people you don't know is a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get:  is it a moldy cherry covered in chocolate flavored poop?  Or is it a cream-filled lecher?  Does it look all fancy, a gilded delicacy who thinks you might be the same but then upon closer inspection is turned off by your unplucked eyebrows and cow-milking hobby (pure projection on my part, but you reach to explain behaviors sometimes)?  And what could be worse than having to behave yourself and not embarrass your spouse in front of his coworker? Not that Huck is particularly embarrassable...

I was simultaneously helping to plan a party at church (which is now a comfort zone) while also arranging for a babysitting swap with another church family without once connecting the dates to be the very same.  It's like the hemispheres of my brain are two ships passing in the night. So that got all kafoofled.

And what should I wear?  A friend gasped at my empty closet.  I don't buy clothes I don't love and I can't afford one's I do.  So it leaves me wearing the same mostly lovable thrift store finds again and again and again.  And then, what was I going to do with my face?  Is make-up expected at these things?  It's been two years, at least, since my last attempt.  All I can really do is a little mascara and a little lipstick which both seem to sit on top and refuse to integrate.  And the rest of make-up-dom is some foreign language I've never learned.  I come from a long line of cover-up being interpreted literally: what's so bad that you have to cover-up?  What are you hiding?

I tried once, when I had a pixie cut that made me look like a man and/or Liza Minelli and I tried to make up for it with make-up.   And then in a powder room one day this 14 year old goes, "Ohmygod!  Not like that.  This is how you apply that!"  I was simultaneously grateful and offended and ashamed.  Application is apparently rocket science.  I put the big girl tools away and haven't looked back.

In Mexico, I let my friend take me to an eyebrow shaper.   And there was one incident at a spa in Seattle that left me with a red, swollen unibrow for days.  And that's pretty much the extent of my experiences in beauty.  That and these photos of Miss Teen South Carolina doing me up (she convinced my eager mother to let her) for my Junior/Senior in my Junior year.  She also let me rent the dress from her! The look on my face is unrelated to my date, MQ, who was obviously just a nice, normal kid.  And, probably deserving of a blog post in and of itself, the night commenced with a heated debate among people who knew me over who MQ's date could possibly be.  One emphatic that I would NEVER be dressed like that and another pretty sure that underneath it all there lurked a Sarajoy.  And also, boys who hadn't even glanced at me were scooping in on MQ's time.  And they got an earload about how shallow they were. And here are photos at 18 (look at that glowing baby-skin) with a growing-out crew cut.

Last night, Blue donated some eyeshadow that she got from a spa party (the absurdity!).  I didn't know what to do with it, so I artlessly smeared the most invisible-looking powder I could find on my eyelids.  And then I suddenly wanted my eyebrows shaped, maybe a hair do, or nail polish, or some thing else...  I didn't know.  Maybe I could look a little more lively than I do.  But where to start?  Meh.  Forget it.  I live in the Northwest where 1/2 the women never wear the stuff.

The party was fine.  I had enough wine but not too much.  I purposefully got cornered by an extrovert who seemed not the least put off by a room full of strangers.  I clung to Huck at times.  I laughed with the room.  And I kept silent otherwise.  And I actually enjoyed myself here and there and we all made it through the mine field of the office party.  Phew.

Except I still can't figure out how to get the mascara off.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Luck rules, mom drools

Superstition lives down the road from religion, on the same block.  Growing up religious, I sometimes thought they resided at the same legal description of real property.

My tiny, religious school experimented with volleyball in my eighth grade year. The old principal considered sports a distraction from the task of obeying God, an abomination, and a sin against productivity.  My guess is he was always picked last.  If I were team captain, I would've picked him last too.  But the new guy was new.  I have a long and contorted history with volleyball which, if you knew about it, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that I felt the need, very strong and virile, for a lucky charm to help my serves over the net.  For this, I selected my mother's 1964 charm bracelet (get it? Charm!).  It was confiscated post haste.  Lucky charms are, apparently, bad luck religiously speaking.

And yet, even until my mid-twenties, I still craved a lucky charm.  Guiltily.  Because religious prohibition had turned into logical prohibitions and scientific shackles.  I dreamed, literally, all night of lucky charms and statuettes.  Luck, luck LUCK!!!  Until finally, a lady in my dream, a lucky-charm shop-keeper, said, "You're right.  This Chinese coin doesn't actually contain luck.  What it is, is a symbol of intention.  It provides a moment for you to focus, clarify and state your desires, what you really want, and thereby gives you an image of its possibility."  Sometimes, I love those people that live up there in my dreams.

And I've since found studies to back that lady up.  Studies that suggest that we do create some of our own luck.  So I'm kissing this little marble turtle and pointing him south.

This gave me a new parenting tactic.  Perhaps "luck" has been a shorthand explanation for complex cause/effect.  Perhaps people couldn't always explain why something turned out good when you did it that way, but they noticed it and called it luck.  Translated into modern parenting: after a reasonable explanation, the shorter one is called "luck"

At dinner, everyone says something they're thankful for, anything: a movie, a shirt, a dream, a person, the food, whatever.  And if anyone balks, which they astonishingly do now and again, I might say, "It's bad luck to not be thankful."  Which is true in a complex psychological way that I'd explained once before.

More luckitudes:
It's bad luck to not be happy for others, even when their fortunes are so much greater than yours.
It's good luck to be kind.
It's bad luck to criticize other people's bodies.
It's bad luck to not wash your hands with soap and water for 30 slowly-counted seconds.
And it really is bad luck to open your umbrella inside, because then your mother will confiscate it!
And it is good luck to care for your things because then you may receive even more such blessings.

This last one maxed out recently.  I was being all feng shui-y and arranging and decluttered and all that jazz.  But with this homeschooling and driving thither and yon and cows and chickens and effing holidays, I've not been able to keep up with the housekeeping.  And this house, being at least a 1000 sq ft larger than I wanted, is way way way too big for a lady like me to maintain, while also having a life.  I can't find things here.  I mean, there are 1000's of perfectly logical places for me to put something like an alan wrench (how do you spell that kind of wrench?).  I ached to chuck everything we own out the door if it WASN'T an Ellen wrench because everything that's not the wrench was obviously standing belligerantly in the way of me finding the dod gam wrench already.

And then came the epiphany:  here I've been wanting a barn some day, a pink tractor, a hot springs, and this and that other thing would make this all so much easier  But then I'd have to take care of this or that.  I'd have to keep an entire BARN clean.  I'd have to repaint it when it needed doing.  I'd have to fix its hinges and battery-up it's smoke alarms. I mean, can you imagine the work involved?!  Oh my god, I need another glass of wine just thinking about it.

So here's why I'm only half distressed about the state of my house.  I don't need no more material blessings.  I can't maintain the one's I have and until I can (or can afford someone else to do it for me) I'm just going to say no to everything.  Including laundry. 

I wish I loved to maintain stuff.  A touch of OCD on this topic might be really beneficial.  But as it stands, I lovelovelove a clean and spotless house but I still hate housekeeping, an eternal personal flaw worthy of the the personal flagellation I inflict upon myself for it.  And it's not like I haven't tried forty bazillion methods to motivate, organize, encourage, hypnotize, and beat myself into it.  But it's the repetition.  It's so hard to find any iota of pleasure in doing the same things over and over and over again with no end in sight.  When we first moved here, cleaning this house was all novelty and cuteness, but the honeymoon is over, Alice. Maybe if the dust were a different color every day. Or the laundry spoke with the voices of musical instruments.  Or there were a vacuum cleaner that could handle even one strand of long hair before crying out for me to dial 911. On the double!  Maybe then I could pick up the all the snow clothes and shove them someplace useful.

And Coyote says, "Mom! I need more pants!"  Nope.  Son, what you need is a mom that does laundry like it's novelty and gifts. A mom that gets endorphins from folding unders.  Good luck.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

cozy crazy

I was going to ask, rhetorically, if there was anything cozier than a threesome of cows and a foursome of chickens cuddled up in a barn full of hay while the snow piles up outside. And then I quickly realized that, yes, a chaise lounger by a hot fire, with a cup of tea, is actually cozier.

The hay in the barn was "stacked" by a couple of crippled men and me. Those 90# bales are piled cross-ways, diagonal, sloping, etc.  It's all pretty dangerous and the kids haven't been allowed to climb it... when I'm looking.  The hay outside, covered tight with tarps, is molding to the extent that it's covered in mushrooms.  I'm trying to clear it out quickly, but now it's covered in a foot or so of snow and is hard to get.  Where did I go wrong?

In the barn, things were cozy, until the wind kicked up, blew snow into every corner and covered the "dry" hay with a pretty dust we call: Frosted Mega-Wheats.  The 8 house finches that stayed are very unhappy with my schedule.  They are ready long before I to see the light of day.  And they fly at me when I open the doors in the morning.  The other people more than ready for my arrival are the 40 or so quail who have set up their compound in our wood pile and would like to get some drinking water from the chickens' heated trough and pick up the crumbs they left.  Yesterday, I saw two large white owls soaring over our property, so I ducked in to the barn to check on the chickens.  But instead, I freaked out the quail flock which frantically flew into the walls and hay bales until most of them finally bashed their way out the other door.  I don't want our chickens co-mingling so closely with these wild ones (no matter how adorable their plumes) due to bird flu and other avian ailments.  But I can't imagine what I'd be willing do about it right now.  The chickens are still laying, somewhat, but unless you get that egg a few minutes after it's laid, you can count on the frozen goop bursting the shell out.

This is the first time we've been hit by both snow and wind from the NE, so new parts of the house were tested.  You'll remember that last year my father-in-law re-installed the french doors on the east wall.   The foot tall snow drift in our green room reminded me that I was supposed to install the weather stripping, which I did mostly, but I wasn't sure I'd done it right.  So I left the bottom foot off, for some reason that made sense to me a year ago but cannot be explained now.  Anyway, I meant to ask Huck if I'd done it right before finishing it off and making un-re-do-able cuts.  And so on Monday, I remembered that finally.  Only too bad for us because the stripping was now frozen in an unhelpful position... nothing a little interior duct tape redecoration and some rolled up towels couldn't handle.   Other than that, we've stayed pretty cozy.

Between homeschooling, Coyote being sick and Coyote's snow days, moments to myself have been non-existent.  And I am now at that unfortunate place that makes it impossible to enjoy my children.  I know.  I know... some of you just think that a mom needing alone time is the biggest sin of all.  What are we to do, we who need large swaths of empty time: never have children?  It's a struggle for all of us who need clear space for the old cabezas and uncommitted time to mentally roam.  Having children does pose it's difficulties to each personality sort, and for me, this is the biggest.  At this desperate point, we're about to pile in the auto and head for the West Side.  Unfortunately, such trips involve not only being cooped up in a confined space hurtling at unlikely speeds over ice, but once we get there, it's socializing non-stop with people you love, and no empty rooms.  But if the weather and passes change my mind, then I'll be home in yet another snow storm WITH THE KIDS!  Huck will be home for the next five days and I hope he can relieve this dearth of space, because I'd really like to get back to the place where I want to play with, cross-country ski with, and even look at others.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the uber-borrower

About a year ago, I started reading books centered around the inhumane period of humanity in which every corner of the world seemed to be demon possessed and humus-being groups across continents inadvertently screwed themselves with high-caliber torture instruments while attempting to screw other earth-dwellers.  And the collective human soul went through a self-induced apocalypse.

And after a while, I felt I'd looked the demon in the eyes for long enough and wanted to take a break, unfortunately every book I picked up turned out to be related somehow to WWII despite my intentions.  Mean Little Deaf Queer, I figured, could NOT have anything to do with WWII, right?  I picked it up because it WASN'T about WWII and it could be interesting. After all, I am neither mean, nor little (decidedly medium on all fronts), deaf, nor queer.  And it was a fabulous, well written memoir, that starts in Stuttgart Germany, moments after WWII,  with a spy-dad.  Aurgh!

Finally, with Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea, I got out of WWII.  We listened on CD in the car and the kids were enthralled.  I was so enchanted that I'd listen to it after dropping the kids off here and there and then I'd listen to that part again when I picked up the kids.  This led us into our latest in-car adventure with the Sussex, the tale that inspired Moby Dick.

Keeping on my theme of reading things way out of my areas of expertise and life experience, I then picked up The Widow Clicquot.  No, not an actual bottle of her ancient bubbly, although it is on sale right now for a scant $70.  No, for FREE, I borrowed it from the library.  Huck's shocked that I have 54 books checked out.  And it made him laugh.  And I got all defensive:  54 books is NOT that many.  And I'm borrowing them.  I didn't buy them, although I might have.  And I'm going to bring them ALL back!  ON TIME!  And then he's all, "Oh my gosh! Did you think I was laughing at you?  I'm not laughing at you but at 54 books.  I mean, that's a lot."  No.  It's NOT.  Not when you consider all that I had to leave on the shelf!

So anyway, The Widow Clicquot is the exact opposite of me.  I am NOT a highly competitive entrepreneur.  But she reminded me of my lovely soapstress goddess, a cleaver and talented woman of some ambition.  And it got me thinking about my own career malaise.  Perhaps there is no problem, really.  And I'm obviously doing what I need to do with my life right now and lofty ambitions would just interfere and distract.  So maybe they're waiting in the offing for their cue to enter stage left.  I hope they don't miss it!

On the other hand, the problem could be that I naturally lack ambition.  But I think it's more that I lack ambition if I don't really want it.  People say you have to really want something to do all the work and pay all the dues to get it.  And I thought this meant that if you really WANT something, you make yourself pay the dues.  But now I think that perhaps a willingness to do the work and an inability to see the obstacles are an indication of something you really want, not a result.

Huck's band played half-time for the roller derby recently.  We all went.  Seeing the roller derby now, in its current form, felt a lot like finally seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 12 years after it came out.  It was sort of like: ho, hum, cross-dressing, gay, ooooh-so-shocking, yawn, although it was very heart-y.  (And I do often sing, when life presents the occasion, as it is wont to do especially considering laundry and kitchens: "Six inches forward, five inches back.")  Anyway, the Spokane team was decked out in their retro bad-ass now-somewhat-cliche "uniforms" and they totally lost to the Bellingham team by something like 300 to 2.  It was pathetic.  And it was the most obvious manifestation I'd ever seen of seeing obstacles.  Those girls (who could barely stay up on their skates and produced a pile-up during their introductory lap!  Not that I should talk.  I was a waitress on skates at a drive-in in South Carolina when I was 16.  For ONE day.  I didn't lie, per se, on the application.  For a Bellingham girl (pre-roller derby craze), I could skate.  But in the South... anything less than shooting-the-duck with a tray of food is for babies.  And I didn't know how to brake, which the job application never asked about.  So on my first delivery, I ran straight in to the blue Corvette and dumped an extra large slushy-type drink all over the interior.  So... I'm not saying I could do any BETTER than the derby girls) could only see obstacles, not openings.

I see obstacles when I don't really want something.  But when I really want it, I don't seem to see the problems.  I become completely unable to calculate the basic math and obvious difficulties in owning milk cows.  I can't imagine an single reason why I shouldn't go to India during my third trimester of pregnancy.  I hop on a plane last minute to go work for some alcoholic wank in Mexico, because I really want to get out of this easy EnglishEnglishEnglish-nonchallenging-comfortzone-24/7-ness.  If I want it, I'm totally deaf to the words "That's not going to happen."  And that is how I know I want something.  When I can't even see what for others are perfectly obvious problems.  This is the way I work, so I don't even notice it when I'm being ambitious or taking big risks, because I don't see the risks.  They just don't exist in my mind.  So maybe I'm not a lost cause career-wise, perhaps blind ambition lurks in me as well?!  I could make it, if I really wanted to... as long as I don't go whaling, right?

But sheesh, comparing careers is stupid anyway.  And no one can really compare with the Veuve Clicquot.  Nor with Mozart.  I guess, if I really want to feel bad about the only part of my life aside from my bank account that is not some Disney fantasy, I could go on and on comparing myself to the uber-successes of humanity.  And that is just about as depressing as spending a year wallowing in the uber-crap of humanity's uber-dark uber-night of our collective uber-soul: WWII.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Last night was dark, as nights are won't to be.  I gave the calves their share of hay and popped open a new bale for Hendrika, in her separate stall.  As the first section freed itself, hot steam billowed from the interior of the bale.  Very hot.  It was odd.  But it was dark.  And I could only feel, not see.  So I hefted it over the bars and into her stall.

The steam, combined with our neighbors' yard-waste smolder that's been ongoing for the past smog-filled few days caused quite a dream.

I spotted a puff of steam from a dreamed-up pile of rocks in our field.  As curiosity drew me closer, the steam cloud grew larger and stronger.  And when I finally saw the hot, bubbling pool from which it sprang, I sank to my knees singing hymns of joy, in disbelief.  "Could it be?!  Could it be?!  Could ALL my dreams be coming to reality, even the craziest?!  For have I not said more than a few times that the only thing this property needs (other than a big red barn and a few dozen full grown maples) was a hotspring?!  And here!  Hark! At my feet such doth billow up thusly!" (NOTE: Blue and I have been watching Shakespeare lately) I worried, though, that it was one of those super acidic Yellowstone pools.  So, cautiously, I reached in to feel the perfect 130 degree water.  But what was this, at the bottom?  A lid?  A lid to what?  A lid, of course, to a buried tank full of toxic waste.  No, that was not water foaming up from the earth's breast.  Yes, this property, in this dream, had formerly been an illegal toxic waste dump.

I left that on the pillow and trotted out, quite late, to milk.  But what I found in Hendrika's stall was not very milkable.  That girl had bloody diarrhea all night long.  The stall was coated.  I needed more than a few fresh air breaks to give my gag reflex a rest.  I was (and am still somewhat) worried it was the beginnings of a miscarriage.  Not only would a miscarriage be a big bummer, it would also mess up the schedule here.  But when I fetched more hay for the girls, I may have found the source of the problem.  The bale I'd opened the night before was STILL steaming.  And covered in mold.  I fed it to the cows again.  Everyone says that cows can eat moldy hay... so I didn't really think much of it.  Once I made the connection, I opened a new, non-moldy bale and they switch immediately.  When given choice, cows will go for what they need.  But, like us, when hungry, they'll just eat what's available and deal with the consequences later.

But it might not even be due to that.  She could have sand colic, or metal in her gut cutting holes (cows eat everything and your supposed to give them a magnet at some point to keep all the metal together and inside.  I haven't done that yet because I don't know when you should do that.)  Or a miscarriage.  The sperm was a little old.

Hendrika is still really bloated and squirty.  I hope she's okay and pulls out of it.  Her ears are warm.  And I can't remember if that's good or bad.  I think cold is bad.  And she's sweet and bore my petting tonight.  I wish there was a cow vet in the vicinity.  I miss Pullman, where half of our friends were vet students.  One vet friend said that if I was going to have a cow, I should also get a gun, because nobody wants to listen to a cow die all night.  I don't think I could do either of those things.

I left her stall open tonight so that maybe she'll roam out of it and spray her stuff in the open air where I don't have to clean it.  I won't milk her in the morning.  I'll let the calf take care of that.  Who wants milk from a sick cow?  Except a hungry calf.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trees Please

Homeschooling is awesome. The chickens are free-ranging.  The garden is tucked in.  I've just wiped out my kids' entire stock of Halloween Almond Joy's.  We saw Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.  Life is good.

But what's really great are trees.  I don't know what's with me lately...or maybe I've always been like this.  Yes, I think I have.  But it's really pronounced these days.  Trees.  I am totally in love.  "Mom!  STOP talking about trees!" "Mom! Watch the road not the trees!" Everywhere.  Every hour.  Every moment I'm gaga about trees.  And this long fall has been the best.  But it started even before that.  All summer.  All spring.  I don't know what it is, but those trees are really getting to me.

Is it because we lack trees here?  We've got two pines, three or four aspens, and three baby cherries, not to mention the 30 we planted but still can't see over the grass I never mowed.   Am I suffering tree-envy?    Is it because I'm still shopping for trees?  Why do people pick the trees they do as their land mates?  Is it their forms?  Their colors? And, oh god, the way they move in the wind.  I love them grouped with their friends.  I love them grouped in contrasting diversity.  And I even love them singularly.

They're so humanoid.  Similarly life-spanned.  Tall-ish.  Reaching-ish.  They have distinctive rhythms.

I checked out books about trees.  Dangerous trees.  A global history of trees.  And they're so dry compared to the real thing.  I returned the books before I was even done, disappointed they weren't bringing me closer to trees.  I guess I wanted an interview with them.  I want to hear their voices.  Hear their hearts beating.  I don't think I want to know About trees.  I just want to be with them all the time.  I like to touch them.  I confess, I do hug them.  I've named them.  I've talked with them.  I had pet trees in middle school.  Consultant trees.
I loved to draw trees, back in the day.  Their patterns would emerge and I would feel their pulse in that...dare I say spirit.

I choke up when I see power-line mutilated trees.  Trees disfigured by human will and hubris.  Not bonsai necessarily, although I am no fan, but the carelessly hacked trees.

I don't know what's going on here with me and trees.  I don't understand it.  I thought those books would clear it all up for me.  But I couldn't even read them.  I wondered if maybe I would find a career in trees, if that's what is going on.  But I don't think so.  I'm not talking about something that has to do with a W-2 form.  It would be like trying to find a career in loving your spouse.  What I know "for sure" is that I am enchanted.  I am a slobbering fool for trees.  I don't understand it, but it's been going on for a while now.  My family is growing tired of my demands to "Just LOOK AT THAT TREE! OH MY GOD!".

I don't think I'm going crazy.  I mean, it's not like the trees speak English to me.  And I don't think I AM a tree.  Entirely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeschool nut

Here's the truth.  Your child is amazing.  Your child should get the education she deserves.  Your child should be recognized for all of her unique abilities.  Your child run with it.  I want to see your child go all the way, the way she was born to, the way her DNA tells her to, the way she must.

And so with Blue.  She's brilliant.  And I'm not hiding her light under a bushel any more.  The schools may try to sweep her under a rug.  Tell her to sit down, shut up and just be happy she's making A's.  But it's not going to cut it.  She deserves a free and appropriate education.  Just like all children.  As a society, we've codified this in to law.  And that's why I'm homeschooling her. It was either that, or sue.

After years of waiting and seeing for someone to help her, I had to do something. 

Last year, after she tested 10% higher that any other 3rd grader in the district on one standardized test or another, after I'd waited for the gifted program to kick in for most of the year, I finally found out about a special school in Spokane.  And she tested in easily.  So all was set, right?  She'd go one day a week this year and hopefully go full time next year.  It would be brilliant and finally her needs would be met.

A few weeks ago it all unraveled so quickly and horrifically, it left me gasping for clear air and made me cry like a drama queen.  The school she was in wouldn't share her.  Not only had they disbanded their gifted education, they didn't want to share 1/5 of her funding with the Spokane district.  When Huck complained to the schoolboard, something got lost in translation and what the school heard was that they needed to slap together a gifted program in three days.  And the woman to do it was a lady dear to us.  And so a procedural fiasco turned into an interpersonal one.

And anyway, what kind of adequate program could they cobble together in three days?  Even if the fabulous B was at the helm.  And did I seriously want Blue's teacher all mad at her and stressed out like this?  It's certainly fine that she makes the best use of her time and energy by teaching straight up the center of the bell curve.  It'd be crazy not to.

This and three new facts:
*Blue had been asking, "Why am I so different from everyone else?"
*The Mormon kids at school had been refusing to play with her since she wasn't Mormon.  I can only guess that this attitude comes from being told weekly that you are chosen by god.  We Unitarians don't get those weekly ego boosts.
*And we received the Major State Test results.  Passing and exceeding (A+) was a range of 60-80% score.  Blue maxed out the test with 100%'s.  There was no place for her to go.

Enter A... or re-enter A.  She'd told me about the special school the year before.  Having been entrenched in gifted education since she was born, she had a thing or two to say, a study or two to cite, and some curriculums to lend and a huge amount of information about the gifted homeschooling world.  If aliens drop down in to my yard tonight and order me to take them to my leader, we're going straight to A's house.  She found the Spokane homeschool school for us.

I had to make this major, life changing and threatening decision in not much time.  It was wretched.  I wailed and cried and revisited that contract Blue and I made the first time I looked in to her slimy, cloudy eyes.  Honestly, I haven't been a good advocate.  I've been inappropriately modest on her behalf.  I've waited and seed her blind.  And it was time I pulled on my big girl panties and got demanding or at least ensuring.

Parenting is one of those endeavors.  You want to leave it all on the track and not look back.. given the limits of sanity, time, and personal space, of course. 

I know I'm not the only one who was looking at my life wondering when I'd find a career, when I'd fire it up and get going on my own path.  I know I'm not the only one that was happy with my 8 hours a day to move it forward.  But I'm 35 now.  And one more year out of a non-existant career is not too much of a sacrifice.  I give up no money, no power, no prestige, no recognition, not even water cooler chat time.  Nothing... but a year of potential. 

And even so, no career can top parenting for meaning.  Equal?  Perhaps.  But I can't trade up, as far as importance and resonance.

And for Blue?  Maybe a chance to find some peers?  More than 10% of her life.  An important time.  For Blue it could be so much more.  "You'd officially have the most screwed up elementary education ever, if we do this."  "So what?  It's already messed up.  It definitely won't be worse."  She wanted to homeschool so bad.  And I didn't have anything better to do, that I could see. 

I was scared, am scared.  Fear blocked my path forward for days.  The sacrifice I'm making is bigger than I'm letting it sound.  It's a critical time for certain unnamed projects I've thrown myself into for years and years. I hope they survive.

So she goes to the special program now where they'll dissect sheep brains.  She's so excited.  She's my daughter and I am the girl who didn't touch a dissection in biology but let my lab partner (now a doctor) do it all.  And two days a week, Blue goes to the homeschool school for chemistry, data analysis, book club, fiddle, gymnastics, lego science and writing.  I'm doing math, spelling, vocabulary (her example for inhumane hurt very badly), sock folding, potato digging, and miscellaneous projects from the Dangerous Book for Boys (She declined on the Daring Book for Girls as, "oh that.  It's not nearly as exciting.")  Looking at the shopping list she handed me, I think she's making a time bomb.

It's true.  I have been shy to talk about it.  And this is why.  I get a bunch of stupid responses.  Number 1:  so what?  so she gets all A's and gets in to some great college and makes it rich.  To which I long to have the bitchiness to respond, "OH!  Looks who's not gifted!"  These folks don't understand.  They weren't labeled gifted or they lack imagination (such as is apparently the case with school district superintendents who disband gifted programs because they aren't improving test scores).  Perhaps they were confused when the gifted kids smoked a bowl every day before math.  They probably think that if they were just a little smarter/prettier/richer, life would be a cake walk.  This thinking should be discarded as the dross of ignorance it is. A study recently found that most parents of gifted kids are eventually forced to shell out 20k a year for a private education to meet their kid's needs.  Some one commented that the concerns of gifted parents were bourgeois and petty.  But the concerns of the parents of disabled kids is what? Low brow?  What kind of stereotypes are we running off of here?  Yes, the parking lot of the gifted program does contain a lot of Lexi and Mercedes.  But there are beaters there too.  And average sedans.  This is the assumption again: smart = rich = easy life.  This is miscalculating life: underestimating hard work, luck, confidence, and the life-ness of everybodys lives. 

Number 2:  Oh, you think she's so smart?  Well, my son, nephew, step-aunt-twice-removed, taught herself calculus AND Latin in Kindergarten.  To which I long to respond: how nice, but we're not competing, thanks.

Number 3: supportive and understand: my favorite one.  A said, "Welcome to the special hell that is gifted education."  Thanks!  As crazy as it sounds, that's exactly what I needed to hear.  And most of you reading this, will likely find yourself in this category... unless you have "gifted bitches" in your Google blog search alert.

The homeschoolers are another level of delicate social embroilments.  I'm not there because it's the right thing to do, because I love my kids more than all those other shmucks in public schools, because god told me to, or because this is my wildest fantasy come true.  And because I'm not there for those reasons, I really should keep my mouth shut about what a pain in the ass all this driving is.  I am finding some sort of kindreds here, however, thanks to a teacher who's putting together a group of kids and their parents who both homeschool and go to the special program.

So, our learning curve has been straight up.  And now Blue knows about learning curves.  And we plotted our place on it.  And we are way at the bottom of this thing with a couple more weeks of confusion and frustration in front of us.  But it's going way better than I thought.  I love teaching her math.  And vocabulary.  I love her time bomb or whatever thing she's making.  I love her creativity and her long intellectual reach.  I love her questions.  I love her.  I loved her when I sent her to preschool.  I loved her when I sent her to public schools.  I love her now too.  And that's why I'm homeschooling this year.  In a nut shell.  A very large, uncomfortable, nut shell.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some notes on October's first weeks

1) People are bringing their apples to our house and cidering.  We keep the pomice (ground-up left overs) for the cows, but we've had more than the cows should eat and can't quite keep up.  I dumped a bucket of obviously sparkling pomice in the field, thinking it was too far gone to interest the cows.  Hendrika slurped it up in no time and then wandered around, approached me for some petting, stared in to space, just like a cow but a little more so.  With a little extra swaying.  Cow tipsy.

2) A day trip to the Barter Fair in Tonasket.  The kids bartered cookies and my wild edible cards which were an inexplicably huge hit this year gaining toys, rocks, pelts, shirts, jewelry, truffles, and verjus.  Lost my train of thought a few times.  "Why is my mind so blank all of a sudden?"  I wondered.  My brother (who we met up with not knowing he'd even be there) said, "Because you're breathing Barter Fair air, obviously."  On the way home we ate at Colville's locovore fancy pants restaurant, Lovitt's. I slurped a perfectly seasoned black bean soup.

3)  Black beans and I don't get along much.  I love the flavor, but the farts leak out without notice.  Suddenly, sounds are coming from my ass and I'm the last to know.  That's special to the black beans.

4)  My biggest public speaking fear is letting one rip while on mike.  I saw it happen to someone once and it's stuck with me, filed in a very special place.

5)  Sunday, I had a public speaking engagement and spent all morning memorizing the children's story while doing the Downward Dog to get it all out.

6) Things went awry.  The first service went well.  It felt natural and good.  And I didn't fart.  Blue tried to correct my story in the middle of it, and I kicked her in the foot - fabulous public persona I have!  I was utterly unprepared for the second service.

7)  The congregation was much larger.  And there were a hell of a lot more kids.  All the familiar faces which I rely on to ground me during speaking were either behind me in the choir or in the Religious Education meeting.  A photographer with a giant camera and a telephoto lens perched in the front row and started snapping photos of me using a massive FLASH!

8)  Each flash was a reset button.  I am on earth.  I am human.  I am standing in front of a couple hundred people.  I am supposed to be speaking.  What am I saying?  Each flash lost my place in my memorized children's story.  I had not practiced with a strobe light.  It had been almost two years since my last children's story.  I am not that experienced of a public speaker.  I couldn't take it anymore and told the photographer to stop.  Then, I was really lost and had to find my place in my notes.  Then, I was so nervous my mouth went cotton-dry and I had to find a glass of water.  I did not run off crying, like I wanted to.  But finished the story, my mouth saying the words while in my mind a Greek chorus sang across the stage: "This is hell.  Someone get me out of here."

9)  In the afternoon, after delivering Blue to a party, I arrived home and dashed past the cidering neighbors and Huck and took some relief laying on the living room floor groaning at the fiasco which I'm sure wasn't that horrible for anyone but me.  I don't actually know anyone who'd be cruel enough (except maybe that lady from a few weeks ago?)  to tell me the truth of how terrible it did turn out.  So far, they are only telling me that I dealt with a bad situation as well as I could.

10)  Somewhat recovered, I go out to say howdy to the neighbors.  Tell them I just had a bad public speaking experience and needed to recuperate for a minute.  "Did you have some chamomile tea?"  "No.  This required rum and coke."  There's something about mentioning hard liquor at 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon that drops jaws and renders speechless.  Lesson learned: always lie about hard liquor consumption.  In my defense, it was decaf coke, because I have learned that the dis-inhibiting alcohol mixed with any uber-energizer (such as one drop of caffeine for me) leads to really stupid things.  Even just one.  Also, unlike beer, rum and coke is 100% naturally gluten-free.  (so are potato chips! FYI)

Seriously, I go through about one bottle of gin and one of rum a year.  But I mention it every single time I do.  You talk about alcohol consumption and some people want to peg you as an alcoholic ASAP.  Deny it, and your double screwed.  I am not an alcoholic, so screw me.  I crave one drink about twice a week.  But if I talk about it, it counts for a hell of a lot more apparently.

Public performances, as every priest knows, can sometimes require lubrication.  I was running a fundraiser auction and someone wavered on whether or not the band got drink vouchers.  Duh.  I thought, but said:  They're about to perform in front of a couple hundred people.  Obviously, they get free drinks.

It's fine.  We're all going to be okay.  But today's my birthday, so I'm having another.  And it's not even noon.  Am I bad enough for you?  Hendrika and I, here we sit, staring into space and swaying together.

11)  Huck showed up with a moving van yesterday.  He's a little understated.  No, seriously.  You have to pay close attention to what he's saying or doing or you might miss the most romantic comment ever about the color of your eyes.  He's got no flair.  His voice tone never announces: I am about to say the most swoon-worthy thing you've ever heard, PAY ATTENTION NOW!  It took me a few years to figure that out.  So... he shows up with a giant moving van, which is a giant yellow statement itself, but wasn't all: TADA! LOOK WHAT I DID!! No he's more like: don't get too excited... I don't know if your going to like it.  What went through my mind was not, for the first time in Huck surprise: he's leaving me.  So that was kind of a break through, because unlike any prior surprise, a moving van might actually have indicted that.  It was: pony? king size bed?  A corner office desk.  Used.  And I am totally thrilled!  As he warned, it's not the prettiest thing ever.  But boy, is it big and serious and fabulous and exactly what I wanted, but didn't actually imagine actually having.

12)  Still figuring out how to tell you about why I decided to home school my daughter.  Turns out, talking about it at all, with 95% of people, is offensive.  And I'm nothing if not about not offending you.  But just as a precursor, let me tell you what all but 5% of you are going to choose to hear: your kid is dumb and I hate mine.  There, now we've got that out of the way.  And I've successfully prepped us all for my next blog entry.  Onward and forward with my birthday plans now!  Which include: painting the front porch, washing dishes AND... TADA!! folding laundry!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I thought I was joking when I called it Farm O'Death.  But our foray into senseless slaughter has continued to mount into a grievous pile of dead things.

My neighbor came knocking.  I was on the phone.  I had girded myself that morning for an hour or two of boring paperwork, just to finalize Blue's school plans.  And moments before she knocked, I was coming to the slowly, painfully, phone-call-by-phone-call-reveal-edly realization that I had just been plunged into School District Tartarus.  What I could see ahead was a tangled bureaucratic mess that would eventually stretch into three weeks, become political, turn my life upside-down and make me a homeschooler.  But enough of that.  My neighbor was on my doorstep knocking.  The only other time she'd shown up had to do with cows, out, eating her rose business.  She began with pleasantries that I interrupted: "Just... um ... is this about my cows."
"Sort of."
"Where are they?"
"It's about the fence.  It's killing gold finches."
Damned if you do.  Damned if you don't.
Cavalier, I said, "I don't mind a few dead birds.  We've got hundreds around here.  They're eating my tomatoes (at this point, that's a blessing. We've had way too many.  The kids actually used a box of them for batting practice).  And if the fence keeps my cows in, I guess we'll just have to deal with a couple dead birds now and again."
"oh my god."
The birds were landing on the electric fence, sagging, connecting with the pigwire fence, and exploding. Who could have known the would happen?!

A week later, my sister helped me rearrange part of the fence.  I thought I'd turned off the fence, but when I first grabbed it, I sizzled and my arm went all twitchy .  Serves me right, yes, I know.  But the funny thing is, that even when the fence was unplugged, and I'd made my sister test it, the message had been so clear that every single time, all 50 of them, I squirmed and squinted and nearly peed my pants as I reached out to touch the clearly dead wire.

And today, I did the rest.  And counted 54 bodies.  Or parts indicating a body had once been there.  There were severed legs hanging from the wire, still clinging to its executioner.  About 10 whole fried birds hanging upside down.  A few t-posts with feathers burnt on. And a bunch of bloody stools. It was terribly gruesome and I feel horribly bad about it.  Bad.  Bad.  Bad.  However, I would like to note that those birds ate all of my grass seed.  Not that that justifies a slaughter, just saying...

The next day there was a mouse on the dining room floor.  Just sitting there, enjoying the tortilla chip crumbs under Coyote's seat.  I screamed.  It ate.  I screamed some more.  It ate some more.  I got the cat and put it on top of the mouse.  It ate some more.  The cat ran off somewhere.  I got a jar and put it over the mouse.  It ate some more.  And then jumped up and bashed it's head on the top several times.  The kids wanted it as a pet.  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  "But," Coyote pleaded, "it's so cute, and maybe, you know, you have something in common with it."  Like what?  "Maybe it's a mom too!"  ACK!!! EEEK! That would mean baby mice!!  The lid was put on tight and the mouse died by morning.  Her baby, electrocuted in my little black box, the better mouse trap.

The next day, I felt a chill in the air and wondered about the our first frost, long over due- still.  Weather Underground said 30.  It was our anniversary.  A full moon.  And Huck and I worked hard in the garden, harvesting the "last" of the zucchini, peppers, basil.  Huck lifted 6 tomato plants, whole, from the ground and piled them, dirt and all in the conservatory room.  We tucked the rest under warm blankets.  Whew!  I'd almost missed the first frost.  How lucky we were that I'd checked!  I awoke the next morning, eager to see how low we'd gone over night.  48.  What? 48?  48!!  What the hell?!  Exactly what Cheney town had I checked?  And now I had a ton of dirt and 1000 green tomatoes in my house screaming for immediate, and yet totally nonexistent and unavailable attention and time.

The next night, I found a dead chicken.  It looked perfectly fine.  The body was in tact but dead.  By the time the man of house saw it, the head was missing.  Huck wondered if we could leave it out for owls or coyotes.  But I didn't want them thinking our house was a buffet.  So, as Huck took the bird to the field, I remained behind to inspect the area for clues to it's death.  That is when the world's largest owl with, I swear, a 24 foot wing span dive bombed me.  And I screamed my lungs out.  The moon was still fullish.  And Huck yelled from across the field, "Holy crap!  That looked awesome!"   "Not from these eye balls!"  We hauled the chicken coop, chickens and all into the barn and then buried the limp Buff Orpington known as Nugget in a shallow grave, which took an hour or so, in the dry end-of summer concrete that used to be soil.

The next night, around 2am, I heard this terrible chickeny squawking outside my bedroom window.  I leapt up and saw an owl flying away and a chicken stranded on the top of a telephone pole, screaming.  I wondered if I should call the fire department like they do for kittens.  It seemed kind of species-ist not to.  But it wasn't one of ours and about five minutes later, the owl returned for it.

And then King Louis decided to start putting his gophers (he has a taste for gophers and birds, but NOT mice) in his food dish.  Blood smears all over the floor.

And now our sump pump died and no one can take showers or do laundry until it's fixed for an exorbitant sum.

Death.  Death.  Death.  Day in.  Day out.  That's the way it goes.  It harvest time here, for the Grim Reaper too, I suppose.  Maybe we're just making space for new things.  Like invasive starlings and rats and really expensive shit-moving equipment you never see.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On a Mission

Our anniversary fell on the fall equinox (as it always does and by design), the full moon, the school board meeting that made everything even crazier (a story for another day), and a mistaken identity problem (also likely to be coming soon to a blog near you).  Huck had managed to make some celebratory mousse, but that was all.

So this weekend we jettisoned ourselves to honeymoon in Wallace, Idaho.  Our initial reservations were for the well-signed Stardust Motel.  Once we saw it in person however, we bailed for a more um... open, clean, and staffed place on the outskirts of this adorable historic little town that doubles as the crown jewel of one of the largest Super Fund sites in the U.S. 

When we lived in Pullman, we'd head for Dayton.  The first town in Washington, nestled in the bosom of wine country, a walking architectural tour through the history of gorgeousness, and bragging rites to an improbable number of  amazing restaurants.  And I'm nothing, if not a food bitch.  Do not attempt to charge me an arm and a leg for opening a can and smearing the contents all over a Costco tortilla and Rosarita beans.  Charge me a finger or two, and I'm fine, but if it's a cell more than that I myself will open a Costco-sized can of whoop-ass.  Perhaps I've calmed down a little about crap being dressed up with some old parsley and called a meal.  But Huck still gives gentle warnings like, "So... I've never eaten here before.  I have no idea what the foods going to be like.  Just so you know..."  I realize now that it is unlikely that any restaurant I can afford to eat at will be serving anything comparable to, much less better than, what I make at home for my passel of ingrates.  However, I can recognize the value of not cooking and cleaning up a meal myself... even if it is an over-priced experience that causes heartburn for a variety of reasons.

At first I was all: why are we going without the kids?  Life's so boring without the kids.  Who goes on a bike ride without kids?  And Huck said, "You'll remember.  You'll remember."  And what I remembered was how much I ADORE antique shopping.  When I was 12, I'd plead with my antique-appreciation-deficient mother to drop me off at the antique mall.  And for my 13th birthday, I talked her in to buying me a 1920's satin debutant gown which I have never worn because it hasn't fit me since. 

Oh gosh, did Wallace make me swoon.  I picked up a shiny red, super old, drill called a brace that you brace against your shoulder.  I love those things and so does Coyote who took it straight-away to the dining room table thereby reinforcing the difficult decision to decline on any more antique furniture. 

At dinner, Huck wouldn't let me touch the water.  He didn't physically prevent it, he just seriously advised against it.  He tests their water and knows all that it contains.  What happened in that valley is a disaster intentionally perpetrated by mining companies who dissolved after coating the valley with lead. 30 years later, the kids are called "leaded" and can't function.  Now the town feels stigmatized.  So they want the EPA out.  They don't want anymore tests (Huck's equipment is routinely shot up) and they don't want any more clean up.  They just want everyone to shut up about it.  It's like homophobia.  As if talking about it, as if knowing the truth were the problem! 

So, Huck packed all our water in from home.

Saturday morning, we plotted our bicycle course.  With the kids, over the years, we've repeated many parts of the Trail of the Couer d'Alenes, but not this eastern section.  Huck wanted to start at the end, in Mullan.  And I wanted to picnic at the Cataldo Mission.  And if we did both, we'd cover the rest of the trail.  And perhaps make it back in time for a tour of the Bordello Museum who's curious menu, posted out front from the good ol' days of 1988 mentioned a Straight, French, No Frills for $24, $2 for each additional position.  What did it all mean?  I wanted to find out.

Unfortunately, neither of us did the math on this trip.  No one added it all up, except for perhaps our waiter, who recommended we cut the trip 20 miles short by turning around at the Snake Pit, an 1881 casino.  But then we wouldn't finish the whole trail!  Or picnic at the Mission!  Or... um... make it back to the car before dark... or ride anything less than 65 miles.

The first 25 miles were pleasant enough. The red and yellow leaves crunched perfectly under our tires. Huck detailed all the toxins in the picturesque creek beside us.  But the eastern end of the trail is not it's best side.  Mostly, it hugs the interstate and the back sides of towns like Smelterville and Silverton.  And if these towns don't look so hot from the front, the backside is... icky. 

Huck and I traded bikes and I discovered this concept called: efficiency.  His bike was so much faster than mine, that despite being in better shape, he couldn't keep up with me!  I was furious at the fact that all those years, commuting 20 miles a day to work, I had been riding a tank, a leg powered tank, a Flintstone minivan.  I'd dangled by the crotch and spun like a crazed hampster...on a gristmill.  I was routinely passed by larger asses on skinnier bikes.  And I'd wondered to myself, "What the hell?!"  Yeah, well, it wasn't me.  It was my dumb bike.  My shiny red bike named Sinner.  Sinner indeed. 

And to make an ill-spawned journey worse, I'd forgotten Rico.  How I could forget my padded bike shorts, I don't know, but forget him I did. 

The last five miles was all about: "Not Quitting Now," - my idea.  But after we perused the Mission grounds, marveled at the size of it's beams and agony of construction, regained feeling in our butts, and ate our salmon jerky and peanuts, I was entertaining secret fantasies about hitchhiking.  When we returned to the parking lot to find a family jumping in to a big truck, I sprung into action.  Huck's ensuing confusion botched my plan entirely.  And we did, indeed, argue for a while there. After all, pre-"us", he hitchhiked the West coast and I, the Eastern Seaboard and the Rockies.  Our first vacation with Blue (then 4 months old) involved camping and hitchhiking Baja.  So...I was a little appalled when he turned up all bewildered at my plan.  But then, he currently commutes via bike 20 miles a day, whereas it's been 2 years since I did that.  So he was kind of wondering what the heck my problem was.

He eventually agreed that the whole way back, we'd try to find a ride.  We met a lot of really nice people in really nice cars with plenty of room, going the other direction.  We were miserable.  Or maybe it was just me.  And yet a quiet peace settled between us, if not between my legs.  And this is what we figured out: we would not be alive today if it weren't for our children.  Neither one of us has working brakes when it comes to adventure. After the first six months of Blue's life, we stopped doing these things, like hitchhiking in Mexico and backpacking in the Olympics without any supplies.  Since then, all of our adventures have taken into account the finicky schedules of kids, their limited stamina, their need for food and water and shelter, etc.  I mean, just this past summer, Huck and I had another night off and cruised out to Bagby hotsprings, arriving at night, via unmarked logging roads, without a map, and totally out of water and food. You see?  We need our kids to ensure our own survival, without them, we're dead nuts.

All in all, the trip was a nice metaphor for our marriage thus far:  unintentionally conceived and much longer and more difficult than either of us were looking for initially. 

By the time he dropped me off at a beautiful but whacky restaurant in Wallace to wash the bugs off my face and dine, I was relaxed, yet in total pain. 

The Jameson is just opening up and I hope they work out some of the kinks.  The "fancy" salad was iceberg with three baby green leaves placed on top because the iceberg had sinned against lettucekind and was covering up for god.  The liqueur license had yet to be procured, so the spiked grape juice was free and I'm sure the liqueur board will be very impressed with their ingenuity!  And the menu was like sifting through the mind of a schizophrenic.  It took several tries before I hit on something that existed.  I did steer clear of the roasted vegetable aspic, although it was probably gluten-free.
Huck continued on his bike to Mullan and our car, as we had only one working head lamp between us and he was not yet dead. And eventually, we returned home alive to find my parents -alive!- who had managed to keep our children alive as well!  It's a miracle.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Come on, now! Socialize!

When I did the math on how long I'd be alone, daily, after Coyote finally went to school, I did it wrong.  It's 8 hours, not 9 --which explains why my "to do" task-master-list is not being completed.  This incompletion may also be due to the fact that my list is two pages long and not even an army of studmuffins could complete it in a week.  I'm a bitch of boss.

But my point is that I do not see people for most of that time.  Except for Friday's knitting group (I forgot how to knit over the summer hiatus!).  I am apparently much less social than I thought.  And either I've grown to be frightened of people or I've come to realize that the immense energy I exude when around people is terror-based and I've adapted by slapping up a fresh coat of smile on it and ... tada! I look like I love a room full of strangers!  It's magic. 

The bad thing about not being socialized is that I get out of practice.  I forget to ignore and avoid.  I forget my manners.  I forget to suck-in my energy level.  I forget to hide myself, basically.  I forget to pretend I'm someone WAY more together, quiet and proper.  When I'm in practice, I can sort of try to fit in.  This has been a bigger challenge here in Spokane than anywhere else.  Spokane is full of wonderful people.  But it's different.  I seem to get along a little better if I keep at least half of myself covered up in my magic, invisible cloak that the elves gave me.

(this photo is of me, incognito, and Coyote wearing his "night-vision" spy-gear that he found at Goodwill)

The Unitarian neighborhood potluck was right after church today and I thought I'd have time to go home, toss together my now-famous gluten-free clafouti and arrive in time.  I'd convinced myself that this glorified flan recipe only took 20 minutes. 

"Now how much time in the oven?  35 minutes! What that hell?! Nuts-a-roni! You dingleberry!  Your conversion bakes ten minutes MORE than the original recipe.  Not 10 minutes period."   But a clafouti once assembled cannot turn back.  What was I to do?  I showed up at the potluck with my timer ticking, obviously.  The moment I walked in with my timer in my hand, I realized I was going to have to explain myself, and I knew the gig was up.  I knew there was no hiding the spastic lady I really am deep down inside.  I knew there was nothing to do but be myself in all my unacceptable glory.  And so I was.

Gleefully, most people seemed if not amused, then at least well-tolerating.  And I enjoyed meeting lots of "new" people, most of them old, except for one younger wife.  And lucky for me, they seemed glad for some new energy.  Not all people are like this.  I once had a writing professor direct me to get my thyroid checked, she thought my enthusiasm for her class was misplaced.  I discovered that it was misplaced and my thyroid is the picture of health.  At any rate, I enjoyed these people and their interesting lives and no one suggested I get my thyroid checked.

One woman and I were discussing our trips to Belize.  In more obtuse terms, and thoroughly abbreviated, I related this story:

I worked in Mexico with a Belize girl and we thought it would be fun for me to visit her family for a week or so.  We went on vacation together.  Her family was Mayan and had a sugar plantation I checked out.  We ate huge avacado's for every meal.  Her sister-in-law taught me how to make tortillas.  Her brother tattooed me with home made ink and a guitar string. 

And we went to the fair.  When in Rome, do as the Romans, right?  That's how I roll, except in the U.S.  So I let them pick out my clothes to match theirs, imagining that I'd just blend in in her satin, purple and very short dress and very high heels.  Already being a foot taller than anyone in her town, the heels were entirely unnecessary and the dress-on-loan was WAY TOO SHORT considering the length of my legs vs. hers.  When we rode the wooden Ferris wheel, the entire town assembled at the bottom to watch my butt poke through the slats.  Then I danced with a doctor who kept telling me what wonders my dancing with him would do for his reputation because he'd grown up in that town as a total dork and even now that he was back as a doctor he still couldn't live down his dork reputation.  Perhaps, I thought, that's because the problem persists.  But I felt safe with him and he was polite, considering the songs.  Caribbean music is... rather... um... crude.  This dance had a caller calling out the moves and so it was: porno-meets-polka.  "Pop the bunny in the hole to the left.  Pop the bunny in the hole to right.  Swing your partner and now it's three steps back and bury it in the beaver. Keep it there.  Keep it there.  Alright now." 
"Hooo-ee!" I said after about three seconds, "I should really take a break!  I'll go get something to drink."
"Yeah," he said, "I better go check on my mom.  I think she wants to dance too."
I strode up to the bar and ordered a water.  A man offered to buy me a beer.  I declined because I was feeling a little disoriented and lost and wanted my full set of faculties just then... not that they did much good.  Another man overheard and offered to buy me a beer too.  I declined, but another man overheard and offered to buy me a beer.  I declined.  And then another man overheard and took matters into his own hands and just bought me a beer.  I declined.  So he poured the beer in to my water.  A few to a couple hundred other men overheard this and also poured beer into this "super-tall white-girl's" cup.  But then my cup overflowed, so they pressed in on me and poured beer all over my head, my shoulders, my arms, my hands. They were almost like a host of anointing angels, except the exact opposite.
And just when I realized that the situation was completely out of hand and looking extremely dangerous, someone yanked on my arm and pulled me out: my friend's brother.  He shoved me into his van and told his wife to keep guard.  Then he rounded up the rest of the family and we went home where the father and the family and I all had a frank discussion and they decided I should leave for my own safety.  I didn't want to head back to my job in Mexico (because I had been threatened with deportation for working without documents), but aimed for Guatemala instead, which they all agreed would be much safer (and it was, for the most part, except for the bus back to Mexico that dropped me off in the middle of the jungle... but that's another story).  I was driven to the bus station and given explicit directions.  I was not to look out the windows and not to make eye-contact with anyone.  Belize, they said, was too screwed up for a single traveling girl. And it was.  It was the most colonialistically screwed up place I've ever been and that includes India and parts of Africa. I actually have many more stories from both that night and my week there, but this is the only one you get today.  If you want more, you'll have to come out here and buy me a beer yourself.  By the way: I'm sure the beaches and hotels of Belize are all fine tourist sanctuaries.

My potluck companion and I marveled at how different her trip was.  And then this other lady of super-stiff demeanor says, "Well G, the difference is probably your personalities.  Yours is so open and honest and hers is... well."

G interrupts, "Oh MY GOD!  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!  We actually have very similar personalities, more similar than what you'd think." G frantically shut her up and tried to erased her hurtful comment.

But what personality did that lady think I have? And why did she imagine she knew after having been in a room with me for an hour?  Did this have to do with my timer?  But the clafouti turned out awesome!  I drove home, pulled it out of the oven just in time and drove back with a perfectly set clafouti.  Here I was, resigned to being the off-putting crank that I am and the results were just as bad as I feared.  But I can't be too hard on the stiff-lady because that's just the sort of foot-in-mouth accident I'm too familiar with myself.

G and I decided that the difference was 1977 and 1999, married and single, well-worn tourist-accustomed path vs. godforsaken village, and who knows what else?

Sorry there's no photos of this.  There was an accidental viewing of that photo album and I decided it would be safer to put it in to deep storage and I have completely forgotten where that might be.  It's probably for the best that I don't post these internetally.  I might want to get a job some day. 

Anyhoo... these pics ARE of our Saturday amble to the Spokane County Fair where spinning around backwards really fast thankfully did not have much of an affect on the curly fries, root beer float, and cotton candy in my stomach!


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