Saturday, June 26, 2010

Vigilante Justice

What I was going to say was that Huck was sent out of town last week.  Because it's summer vacation, of course. And that means the kids are home and Huck's gone.  He was at Hanford, helping out a with that Super Fund, instead of here, helping with the Super Fund in my kitchen.  This seems to be more and more obvious (but so far no one's saying much about it): before we do things, we should first know how to clean them up.  Take oil drilling, for instance.  PBA's.  Mining.  Space junk.  Or nuclear waste making.  If you can't clean up the mess, don't make it.  Rules I learned in Kindergarten.  And should learn in the kitchen.

And then I was going to tell you that while the cat was away, the mouse tried to play.  I bought myself a Rose', a wine type that Huck hates.  It was from France.  Unfortunately, it was a very crappy thing.  Either the French have totally lost their vintage touch or they just don't get the $5 range AT. ALL.  I mean, there are decent wines in the $5-$10 range and this was not one of them. It had such a cute label.  I can just hear the French: "Zee Americanzz, they juzt like the bicicletta, in zee pink, wiz zee bubbles on zee label.  Tahehehe.  Ziz is zhit.  Total zhit wine, I pizz it when I pazz zee kidney ztones.  Zee? American Rozze.  Heh. Heh. Heh."

But then, I realized that this 109 year old house makes enough creepy noises with Huck here and if I told the world, or all five people reading here, that he was gone, the house would probably make even weirder noises.  As it was, I barely slept.  Lights on.  Such a ninny.  I was so tired during the days, I fell asleep on the park bench "watching" the kids.  It's not like we didn't do 3 whole months like this before... and this was but one week.  I've lost my grit.

And while that cat was away, other mice did play.  These pests always emerge when the man of the house is absent.  When my dad left town, we ALWAYS had a bat in the attic.  Count on it.  Mom would scream and we'd all know just what it was.  Maybe it's the testosterone pheremoney things those men exude that repel rodents. 

It happened so fast... I was in that much denial.  First there were a few tiny pellets on the counter top.  But maybe they were flax seeds.  And then there was the beheaded and disemboweled mouse in the hallway and a proud, bloody cat.  And then, the final straw on Wednesday:  I opened the silverware drawer and there was this little brown mouse with big chocolatey eyes and the longest eyelashes I've ever seen.  It squatted and gazed up at me, this big pathetic, hopeful expression, "Hi, my name is Fivel and I'd like to be your pet.  Do you have any spare wheels or balls or anything around here that needs to be incessantly turned all night?  Something squeeky?"  If it hadn't been so placid in the face of something 2000x its size, I might have just shut the drawer and continued on my little Denial Way.  Mouse?  I saw nothing of the sort!  Just a brown straw slipping behind the forks!

Although we live not in squalor, we've gotten a little lax, not sweeping before bed, leaving dishes on the counter over night.  Upon moving in we noted: old house + big field = mouse heaven and we vowed our vigilance.  We'd done battle with the mini-beasts before.  In Pullman.  One night, Huck returned from the shed proclaiming that something VERY LARGE had taken up residence in there over the winter.  It'd been months since we could open the door due to, actually, five full feet of snow and then some.  The next morning, we smelled, we saw, we marveled.  And the brown shag carpet draped all over the shed turned out to be mouse droppings.  You see, our cat needed special food for his urinary blockage problem, and our vet-friend scored us a bunch for free.  So we'd stored it, in it's original and secure paper bag.  Mousey gluttony ensued.  And those mice had the best damn bladders and urethras of the mouse kingdom.  And with such an infinite source of food, they felt their future would be bright enough to feed no less than a thousand kids. We suited up and scoured that shed, and made it to shine like the top of the Chrystler building. 

What could the suddenly starving mice do now but rush the house?  Within hours, there was crap in the pantry and sighting hotline set up.  We stopped feeding the cat until he pulled his weight, which wasn't hard.  These mice were so slow and stupid.  It's like what we'd all be if something should happen to our tenuous food supply chain.  We'd all just wander the streets going: "doh, de, doh!  Were'd the food go?"  Until some giant man stabbed us with a garden stake...just like Huck.  Traps.  Plug in anti-mice sound machines.  I foamed up all the holes around the pipes, causing massive stink bombs under the house a few days later.  Ick!

So we knew.  Yes, we knew all about mice.  We have the trash and compost cans they can't get in to.  And trap expertise.  Yes.  I may be mostly vegetarian, but when mice (and outside: gophers) get into my food stash... it's war and war is not pretty.  Even so, the physical and glue traps creep me out.  I mean, who would want to listen to a stuck mouse cry for four days before it finally gives up the ghost?  And the traps that hold up to five live mice?  What are they going to do in there until they starve to death? Well, what would you do? Breed.  ICK!! Doomed mouse orgies under the fridge and I'd have to listen to it while making dinner.  I don't think so.

So, we've got this black box and the mouse goes in, completes an electrical circuit, usually in some very bizarre position, and bam! Instantly fried, its little sizzled tail pointing out the back.  I open the lid and drop it into the trash.  Viola.

After admitting to myself that I'd been running and screaming for five whole minutes.  I had to come to terms with what was now fact: mice had invaded my drawers.  I searched the nut, seed, rice, bean drawer below the flatware drawer.  This is the drawer where, when we moved in, I vacuumed up "flax seeds" and a few stray lentils.  And I guess, subconsciously, it registered as a "suggested serving"  and I stuck my dry goods back in there.  And bought blond flax seeds.  So I spent the night vacuuming out drawers, dumping torn open bags of rice and beans, scrubbing, pouring unscathed food stuffs into glass jars, sweeping, mopping and setting traps. 

Sweaty and exhausted, Huck rang then to tell me, of course, that he was at a winery tasting the best wine he's ever had (not this Pepe le Pew crap I've been trying to come to terms with) and the best meal and a fabulous stroll along the river and he misses me.  Well.  @#%$&^*.  I miss you too, honey, but for all sorts of different reasons.  No... it was sweet of him to call; the right message, but at the very wrongest time.

So, I killed them.  Two.  I think that's all.  They're in the trash together, side by side, the beautiful one with the doe eyes and the blander one too.  A pair, and hopefully they weren't too busy in those walls eating and pooping and breeding. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Longest Day of the Year was three days ago.

CHEESE!

I made a new cheese this week and it was an awesome feta-type thing.

I took a Mozzarella making class a few weeks ago.  I paid for it!  I showed up on time!  And here in lumbers the instructor, who had just been informed he was doing it THAT morning.  And now he tells us that he only has goat milk and you can't make mozzarella with goat milk.  So he's going to show us how to make un-named cheeses.  "If you want something with a name, you have to get all scientific.  Which I don't do.  Basically, if it's harder than yogurt and edible, it's cheese.  So let's see what we make this morning!"  Um... but I can already do that, and do do that, in my own kitchen, for free!  Regardless, I figured a 20 year veteran of random cheesing might have some thing to teach me.

When I take a class, I asked lots of questions, trying not to be annoying or interuptive, of course.  Normally, teachers LOVE me.  They love that someone doesn't have a glazed look in their eyes.  They love that someone's engaged enough with the topic to actually ask relevant questions.  But sometimes, I get a dud who can't see what a gem of a student I am.  One professor YELLED at me to stop thinking.  Another professor walked out on the class when I innocently asked for clarification on the topic of the Roman's being totally egalitarian... apparently there was a pile of personal history there and I stepped in it.  Another teacher, concerned about my having a pulse and some enthusiasm, apparently a very rare trait in her classes, suggested I get my thyroid checked.  And this one slowly drawled, "You...know, that's...the...great... thing...about... the...internet. You...can...just...look...up...all... these...questions... on....Google."

The one thing I did get out of the class was a more cavalier approach to cheese making and the edibility of disasters.  Hence, my totally rockin' feta, which I then used in a fritatta (which we have weekly now) made with my yard's own lamb's quarters, my own chicken eggs, my own cream (from the cows, of course!), and some left over rice noodles.  Yum! 

And then, here's the real story.  Huck's Birthday cheese cake.  He wanted cheese cake.  Me, I am from a Betty-Crocker-Box family.  And Huck's from a scratch-learned-in-Switzerland family.  I'll be making a cake and he'll suddenly have feedback about the direction I'm mixing the batter (apparently you go different directions depending on which side of the equator you live on!), the types of peaks my eggs whites have crested to (Rockies vs. Appalachians)... whatever...some sort of esoteric bakery knowledge he pulls from a universe with which I have had no contact.  His helpfulness has unintentionally made me very conscious of my complete vacuum where this world of knowledge might exist.  Sensing my performance anxiety, he offered to make his own cake, but I just couldn't let him. After the "Fred-Flinstone-buys-Wilma-a-bowling-ball-for-her-birthday" present fiasco, I felt I just had to make it.  And guilt, fear and a total lack of confidence are always the best places to start with any endeavor.  Right.

I hunted through several hundred cheese cake recipes searching for the right, gluten-free one.  I knew he didn't want gummy cream cheese.  So we needed a marscapone or cottage cheese recipe.  And I thought I found what I was looking for in our antique cook book.  A fabulous looking recipe promising "basic" cheesecake.  I have since concluded that cheesecake recipes have come a long way, baby, in simplification.  This can't be what everyone else is making.

I thought I had enough time.  One hour to piece it together.  One hour to bake.  And one hour to cool while I picked up Blue from her day camp.  But one hour later, my miscreant egg-whites still wouldn't fluff.  My whipped cream was quickly regaining consciousness.  I was very confusedly creating "dry cottage cheese" by rinsing the cream off the curdles. Meanwhile, I was frantically searching for a substitution ratio of cornstarch for gluteny flour (1.5 tsp for 1 TBS wheat flour!).  So, I figured I would finally fold in my sickly egg-whites right before I left to pick Blue up, slap the baby in the oven and get back just in time to take it out, assuming no traffic.  But my cottages weren't blending with my crest-falling whipped cream, so I got out the food processor.  And I proceeded to dump the mixture in, before looking to see if I had put the blade in, which I hadn't, so it gushed straight through to the counter.  In the mean time, my 12 minute egg-whites completely deflated.  I quick called Huck, cried, hung-up (as if it was some middle school prank!), and ran out to pick up Blue.


Upon return, I screamed through 8 eggs to get my three egg whites, thanks to separation anxiety.  But these hard won whites went from placid ocean to Grand Tetons in less than two minutes! Lucky me!  I finished it up, poured it all into the spring form.  I transferred the top rack to the middle and we were on our way.  Right.

I checked back an hour later to find something strange going on with the oven rack.  I'd moved only half the rack down.  So there was my cheesecake, perfectly cooked and practically flowing over one side, while the hazelnut crust plummeted into an abyss on the other. 

Huck's assessment was that it listed like a drunken sailor yet to find his sea legs.  The recipe said NOTHING about cooling the cake, so we slopped the hot cream onto my nifty display pedestal. And there, the force of gravity and the fact that the solid was still hot enough to be a liquid took their tolls and we blew out the starboard side while the port side imploded in emptiness.

And the only candle we could find was the nine from Blue's birthday.

Nevertheless, it the was the best tasting, best textured damn pile o'cheesecake any of us have ever had or ever hope to have in our lifetimes.  Seriously.  God, it was so WORTH THE PAIN!  I'll do it all again, I swear.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Huck

Huck's birthday is tomorrow and I'm in the same muddle I always am this time of year.  What do you get for a man who wants nothing?  He's as non-materialistic as humans come. And yet I feel compelled to materially display my appreciation for his birth.

The first time he dropped by my place in Seattle, he was wearing a brown leather jacket from the late '80's which he'd found in some wiser man's dumpster.  It was not the first, nor the last, turn-off he had to overcome to win my "hand."  Currently, he loves our old '94 Oldsmobile as a political statement.  The door squeaks, LOUDLY, when/if it opens.  The automatic windows don't go up without serious midwifing.  The transmission is nearly dead, slips out of gear in intersections and takes about five minutes to find a gear, any gear, upon start-up.  In fact, it can only find reverse with any certainty, and only after pressing the gas down as far as it will go, then it leaps back, howls at the moon, and runs off.  So you have to parallel park it where no one can get in behind you.  The oil pan has a huge crack in it.  Once that goes, the whole car will be gone in seconds.  And now there's thumping around the driver's side tire.  We plunked down the $1800 trade-in value my grandma wanted back in 2003.  Aside from an occasional tire or two and a few oil changes (with the leak, it's really a self-changing system), we've spent nothing on it's upkeep.  And the insurance is about three pennies a month.  And so, what could ANYONE buy for a man that loves to drive this butt-ugly crime against Detroit to work when he's not riding his bike?

I've given him a fancy trombone case.  A full tuba tune-up.  Socks.  Jazz from France.  Culinary tools.  Socks.  T-shirts.  Good running shoes.  Bike accessories.  And that's it.  I'm done.  I've got no other ideas hiding up here in this feeble cranium.

The kids had no problem: a hula hoop and boomerang!  In the bag!

Every year this birth day thing comes up and every year it stumps me.  I suppose I could get him a tie, but he's got a lifetime supply of four already.  And he'd only like if I got it on clearance from Goodwill.

Lingerie?  I have the best already. 

The thing I think he'd really like, is a big fat deposit in our bank account.  But that's not something I can give him with my current job.

I feel like, pretty much, the lamest wife ever at this point.  Every six months.  It's my twice-yearly I-suck-fest. Like the Macy's sale.  Lowest pride of the year.

But it's kind of his fault.  He wants nothing.  He doesn't want.  He doesn't like to want.  He's is fulfilled. Damn former-Hari Kirshna.

Perhaps I can count as his gift our trip last weekend for him to play at the Conscious Culture Festival in Tonasket.  And what a gift it was!  More like the Unconscious Chronic Festival. My reward for this lameness was pretty awesome, in all honesty:  playing in the parade on the go-cart drum set, created for Burning Man, but moved up to the site of Barter Fair by a sweet guy named Quill.  It wasn't all lame stonerness, which I should say isn't Huck's thing either.  He's allergic, actually.  (these are the photos you see, and I'm including one of myself this time, because someone took one finally).

Recently he mentioned, fervently frustrated, that our covers are a mess.  Here I thought he was a "toss another blanket on" kind of guy.  So, every time I wake up cold, I trek down to the basement to rustle up another blankie for our growing mound.  Making the bed takes about an hour.  The covers have to go on in a certain order.  You don't want the wool ones right on top of you, but they're kind of stained army-surplus numbers that you don't want to see every time you walk in to the room either.  It's a "full" size bed, which means that you could just lay one arm across it and it would be FULL!  And the kids like to join us some mornings.  Someone always ends up crying on the floor with a split lip or sprained ankle.  King Louis sleeps at the bottom of my side...which means that I spend my nights in perfect cannon-ball form, as if I'm getting ready to make my big splash at the community pool.  Meanwhile, the motley blanket lasagna slides off in all directions.

Huck finally declared that he wanted a comforter for his birthday.  And I insist on all natural, so a down comforter (which I've wanted for decades) is on the menu.  Unfortunately, the price is not on Huck's birthday wish list.  I found a deal, but then spent two hours searching for a duvet cover, which they don't sell in this town, apparently.  The kids were getting wacky (it's summer vacation now, so they come with me everywhere, wacky or not) and I was getting grumpy and suddenly I realize it's 6:00pm!!  And we're all hungry and tired.

The day is gone, wasted, a duvet-cover-less sunset and Huck had to make dinner, I'm that demoralized.

And Sunday is, DOH! Father's Day!  When will this madness stop?! 

Otherwise: Coyote lost his first tooth, Blue's in rafting camp this week - in the rain, the fridge is full of my own yogurt, cheeses and raw milk again, my heart is filled with joy every morning at five am, as odd as that sounds, for the sweet smell of sunrise and a cozy barn. And Lucky Farm's broadcast pasture seed is feeding fascinating Eastern Kingbirds and Brewer's Blackbirds. Happy Birthday Huck.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gluten-free Hives

Apparently gluten was the only thing keeping my skin on my body.  Who knew?

Two weeks ago I decided to go gluten-free.  There were no intestinal problems or obvious links, but after reading that gluten intolerance could be causing the tingling and burning continuously bothering my feet since December, I decided to try.  (I could complain about my other symptoms too, but we'll just stop with the feet.)  The other options for diagnosis aren't so great.  And my doctors are fairly convinced (but haven't convinced me) about what IS causing it, and they never mentioned gluten. 

It was a quick decision, after a lot of suggestions from people to do just this, and me ignoring them. I read that because I have a 1st order relative with Celiac's, I have an increased likelihood that gluten is causing me problems.  And suddenly, I thought: hey, if this works, it'll be good.  And gosh, it's cheaper than another MRI and the lab is getting sick of checking me for diabetes. 

I'm not sure how this gluten thing works however.  They say that for those who are intolerant gluten flattens the cilia in your colon and they can't absorb the nutrients.  All my nutrient levels are fine.

It's an experiment and we'll see where it goes.  What could be the harm? 
Well, on the first grocery trip Blue -my giant, stoic 9 year old- crumpled to tears in the grocery aisle.  "Pancakes, waffles, cake, muffins.  Why? oh Why are you doing this mom?!"  Literally crying. 

Gluten-free isn't exactly the cheapest diet I've ever seen. And I'm not even doing much direct substitution (one dollar for a Tablespoon of a grody, dry granola bar!!).  Just more potato chips, rice cakes, and corn tortillas.  Being a vegetarian as well means a lot of salads and chips and bananas.  And did I mention the potato chips?  Still on the menu!  And I'm loosing weight anyway, which was not my goal. 

TMI WARNING!!
This week I started shedding skin fast and furious. It's coming off in balls and I find myself showering and scrubbing it off several times a day. Is this a sign that gluten was my problem?  But could gluten possibly be the problem if it is the only thing holding me together, like a pinata?  Will I eventually have no skin?  It would save on sunscreen, I guess.

I volunteered at Coyote's school this week: the final cleaning.  His teacher and her sister were there, and I just love those older ladies.  They've got the statistical knowledge of six or so decades and they've seen everything.  When a cinnamon roll appeared and I declined, EVERYONE needed to know why.  And so I said.  And then I mentioned that I was shedding skin like a nervous snake, several times a day.  They'd known lots of gluten-free beginners.  And here's their warning.  First, they said, the skin will go, leaving you still fully covered, thankfully.  Then they said I could experience severe thirst.  AND THEN, once the cilia are free to absorb everything, I might discover food allergies I had no idea I had.

Enter the hives.  I have never had hives before.  And now I do.  At first, it just seemed like a few mosquito bites.  Then I thought I'd suddenly caught a mad case of fleas.  There aren't fleas on this side of the state, usually, but the winter was apparently mild (for those not milking cows at the crack of dawn).  And now these lumps are all over.  Massive itching.  ACK!!!!  I'm wishing all my skin would just go away after all!

And now I get to guess at what I'm allergic to!  I think it's the microwave popcorn I tried yesterday while volunteering at Blue's school.  Why? Well... it would be very convenient. I hate that stuff and I don't have a microwave.  But what if it's strawberries? Milk? Eggs?  Cheese? Wine?  Gin and Tonic?  Cornflakes?  Bleu cheese?  Oh god.  I just couldn't live.  Maybe gluten is for me after-all as this is all starting look like starvation dominoes o'misery. 

Maybe the MRI would be less trouble.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

THE END

Talk of THE END TIMES (as one recently tried to engage me in.  Also, it sounds like a good news paper:  The End Times: $1.50 on Sundays) used to freak me out.  And I heard plenty of it.  The "Left Behind" series was a classic teen lock-in Christian horror flick that stuck with me, causing panic attacks for eons.  Even though I was supposedly one of the saved who would rise above it all and endure in grace and glory, I still didn't look forward to this totally freakish transformation and saying good bye to all the fabulous, eternally hell-bound people I love.

It turns out that most religions and groups have an END TIMES scenario fantasy.  For each group the END TIMES is terrible, horrible, hell, for everyone but them.  If you stay with that group, follow their rules, and believe in their god, you won't just survive it, you'll thrive.  Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Back-to-the-Landers, even remote tribes of Colombia.  All entertain this phantasmagoria of flames and annihilation for everyone else

If someone could come up with an END TIMES prediction in which everyone is destroyed equally and without regard to race, creed, sexual orientation, or hobbies, then it might sound like something more than just pure manipulation.  But all of them promise that if you stay with their half-rate religion (which is apparently not good enough to lure or retain you for long on it's own merits, but needs a fear-monger crutch to seal the deal) then you'll be saved.  They create a worst case scenario and then save you from it.  How nice!

But the result of such psychological manipulation is that we've now got a planet chock-a-block full of groups who hanker for the end, for the tables to turn on everyone, and leave them standing, victorious and right.  So... basically, if we do the math, we find we've got, roughly, 6 billion people excitedly trying to bring about the end of the world.  And they're going to drag the remainder of us into their hell.

And this is why Universalism must take root.  Because we will all perish miserably if salvation, if god's love, if compassion and care are not lavished equally upon all, regardless of where you were born, what cultural religion you were born in to, regardless of who you are, your interests, your path in life, your essential self.  God's love is for everyone.  The banquet is open and free, no RSVP necessary.  If you didn't get the invite, that's okay, there's a place for you anyway.

There are Christians who believe that Christ did die for our sins, must have died for the sins of human kind, and that the forgiveness earned in that death is universal, for all, not just for a few pre-destined souls, not just for those who hear and accept, but for all humankind, for all time, for ever.  Although I'm just a human with my flawed human ethics, I cannot stand a version of God who pumps out souls who aren't pre-destined for union with him.  I mean, a god like that just needs therapy, not devotees.  I'm not a Christian, but if I were, I'd be one of those Universalist Christians.

This Universalism is absolutely necessary.  Without universalism, each little group will play their part in turning the oceans red, in suiting up their four horsemen, in stock piling nuclear holocaust fantasies, in saving themselves and making sure everyone else is damned.

Yes, I do believe we humans could, and have locally, create the end of the world.  I do believe we can drop nuclear bombs, cover the seven seas with red oil, genocide the whole planet.  And the hell I believe in is one that happens here on earth, when love is denied to anyone, even ourselves: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, drug addiction, child abuse, et al.  But that's humans, not god.  And an end we bring about is euthanasia of a planet that's just approaching midlife.  And that, my friends, is NOT pro-life.

But I will admit to a feeling that I am experiencing the END of the WORLD right now.  Every moment is the end.  And every moment is the Beginning, the birth of something un-pre-destined, something innocent and new.  Every moment is the beginning of the world.  And aren't I lucky to be here after all, experiencing this, the birth of a moment that hasn't gone horribly wrong yet.  We are the only captains this ship has got and if we want to run it into the ground, we can.  If we want to set sail for a new world, we will.  And we will all go together. 

So that's my soap box of the day.  Love your neighbor, love yourself.  Love and salvation from whatever assails us is for everyone, equally.  Or this is really going to suck, equally.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm gonna be BOMBASTIC!

I've never been one to brag. Blog, obviously.  Share too much information, occasionally.  But out and out brag?  Probably not going to hear it.  Some folks drop their accomplishments in to conversations so smoothly, no fanfare or boasting, but letting people know all the same.  How do they do it?


Blue tested in to a public magnate program in Spokane for especially gifted students.  Not only did she pass, she scored the highest possible points on the tests.  I am so proud and happy for her, and also for myself, because this means I don't have to home school, which is something I think parents should only undertake with heart-felt passion, not because they have to in order to keep their child engaged and breathing.

I teared up when they told me she was in.  She'll live.  She'll survive.  She may even get a chance to thrive.

I am also proud of myself for noticing Blue's teacher was a totally unengaged dip-stick who is, of course, retiring after this year and who just wanted Blue to shut up and do another work sheet.   

I like to "loose" her work sheets, especially the ones where she's supposed to write down how much she reads every night for a prize.  These people who invent this crap have never read the studies on motivation, apparently.  And I can't imagine they actually enjoy reading themselves.  Prizes are fine for quick, bland tasks.  But for life long things like reading they do more harm than good.  So I toss them in the trash and sign notes verifying that they are lost.

As a person who doesn't like to brag or demand special treatment, it's been quite a journey, and I'm sure it's not over, to learn how to advocate for my children in a system, a world, that demands them to shut up and sit down.  

Myself, I feared the testing procedure.  How we would deal if she didn't make it in?  The school might not be a good fit, I pre-cushioned possible failure.  If she didn't make it in, she was still extremely smart.  And even if she wasn't smart, I would still love her.  And, of course, being smart is not the most important thing to be.  Loving is.  Because smart people made and dropped atomic bombs.  And basically lots of smart people can and do make this world a living hell, not to turn all Pol Pot on academia.  But still, they might try teaching things like ethics along with chemistry and physics and law.  Smart is nice, but love is best.

I signed her in late for school.
Doctor?
Testing.
What for?
The gifted magnet program in Spokane.  She passed, so she'll go one day a week next year until she the full time program is available.
Oh, we had a girl who went there this year.  But she was fourth grade.  SHE skipped third grade and she was INVITED to the Odyssey program, FULL TIME, her FIRST year.

Well... lahtty dah!  And anyway, you have to test in, by law. And full time doesn't start until 5th grade.  But gosh, if it means that much to the secretary that someone else was smarter than Blue, and I'm sure there are plenty of kids who are, then she can just keep that little treasure in her pocket and I won't take it away from her.

I sure wish Blue could've skipped third grade; she didn't learn shit the whole damn year. She's learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs at home so she can be motivated just to stay alive.  I've taken her to college lectures on her favorite subject, black history, so she can have a reason to get out of bed.  Huck's been taking her to college science competitions so she knows that there's life after worksheets.  We don't push her, we just want her exposed to that bigger, brighter world that's available once she gets out of prison, er, school.

And now, lets chat about me.  When does a person who graduates ranked #5 from a college prep school feel like she's stupid?  When she's always been compared to her quiet, bookish siblings, that's when.  So, I read that thing on my college diploma, that thing I've been told I'm not allowed to talk about, I was shocked.  Shocked! And I didn't think I was even college material!  So, I told a few people, laughing, until one of my professors told me that wasn't really the thing to do.  None of my professors were surprised.  But a relative conjectured that UW must have a very lax program, or a weird grading system.  Which was kind of what I was thinking, but when you hear some one else say it, it's like: SHUT YER IGNORANT MOUTH!

And someone else said, "Oh you think that's something?  Well, your huband's relative graduated SUMO cum laude from BROWN!"  Well... you see... I wasn't competing with so-n-so.  I think she's super duper and smart to boot.  But the surprise here is that I didn't think I was smart...see.  So although I'm not as smart as she is, it's still an exciting discovery... not that I'm doing much with it.   But thanks for trying to take me down a notch or two, since I already perceive myself as being at the bottom, it's nice to go lower now and then.

What is up with this bubble bursting?  What the hell are people thinking?  All it means is that when I've got good news, they're the last one's gonna hear it, and it'll be through the grape vine, if at all.

And also, Huck runs 5 minute miles, several at a time, with a titanium knee. And he just played a fun show at the Knitting Factory.  He rocked the show with superstar energy and smooth bone playing.  We brought the thoroughly ear-plugged kids and I spent the evening trying to get Coyote up off the icky barfy dance floor where he was break dancing while I was simultaneously trying to prevent Blue from beaming out his eyes with her laser.

So, how did that work out?  I've just bragged about me and my daughter's smarts, and my husband.  Was that bombastic?  Too subtle?  Unnecessary?  (honestly? blogging, period, is unnecessary)  Do you know people who can brag much more smoothly than that?  I bet you know some guy who graduated from Harvard with a PHD by the age of 8 even though his brain was encased in a lead balloon.  He went on to be President of the free world by the time he was sixteen, and spent the rest of his life on Mars studying quantum imagineering statistics while simultaneously playing Mozart's life's work on an instrument he created using only the atmosphere, a little star dust, and half a booger, and he can humbly tell me all about it, WAY more humbly than I ever could.  Well, you can go shove him up your ass and leave me alone, happy and proud.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On loan from Hell's library

I awoke screaming at 4 am.  My abdomen was clearly being torn apart.  My dream-brain hopped around for answers.  Labor?  Not pregnant.  Microwaved and about to shoot out boiled intestines?  Time will tell.  Cyst? Possibly.  Bad gas?  Considering the morning that followed, likely.  At any rate, Huck hauled a five gallon bucket of Ibuprofen up to me.  And in an hour, I was feeling merely odd sensations and none of them breath-takingly painful.

It was good and I'm not even being sarcastic.  This is because at the moment I awoke, I was dreaming that I was one of the last survivors of Hiroshima.  I was wandering around a scalded prairie of bones and charred humans, black alligators, crawling and begging for water.  I was skipping between that and attending a potluck for people trying to prevent any further nuclear detonations on earth.  Unfortunately, the potluck was held at a ramshackle house and I kept trying to reassure the remodeling owners that they'd "get there... some day."  And "You never know what kind of treasures and views you'll stumble upon as you remodel," I was saying.  Even though I didn't really believe it.  Between utter devastation and awkward social situations, I was glad to awake in my safe home with clean drinking water, five gallons of ibuprofen, my husband ready to help, and my healthy children sleeping in the next room.  It wasn't so bad.

I'd put myself in the library queue for the new book The Last Train from Hiroshima.  Two weeks ago, my name came up and it was my turn to speed read that thing in two weeks.  I took the challenge.  Yes, I did.  But in the mean time, one of the other books I'm reading is called Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  That's not a new book    I didn't have to read it right then.  But I was.  I was wandering around the library as I usually do on Wednesdays while Blue's in piano lessons and it caught my eye.  I recognized the title but had no idea what it was about.  Now I know: a psychologist survives Auschwitz and takes notes.

After an evening reading of the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, before going to bed I do a chaser of Auschwitz.  Not that Auschwitz was much better, just a slower version of the same. But there were several differences.  Frankl searches for meaning in all that suffering.  And the first 2/3rds of the Hiroshima book does not even strive for meaning but rather creates a mosaic of unimaginable suffering. 

In addition, I've read plenty about the holocaust, been to the museum in DC, seen the films, etc, and have built up some sort of psychological mechanism to deal with it.  It's still barf-inducing terrifying, but I've coped before, starting in 7th grade with the reading assignment of Corrie Tin Boom.  But the horrors of the atomic bombs were all new.  All new to me.  I was not ready.   No one could be.

And the third way in which they differ is not that I sympathize with one group of victims over the other, it's that my nationality is implicated in one case as well as my humanity.  Way over in Germany, Hitler (a nice point person for blame) spoke German, and only my humanity is implicated and no more so than all humans in general. 

Obviously, I wasn't alive in either case and cannot shoulder the blame at all.  But the words ordering the drops in Japan, for better or worse, wrong or wronger, whatever the political situation, those words were uttered in English and those bombs were made in the USA.  I don't know a lot about the political situation at the time, and can't say one way or the other what was right and what was wrong.  The more I learn, the more complicated it all seems. But the point is the those bombs came from my country.

Between the two books, it's been a cheery time up here in my head.  And imagine this lucky stroke: my nightmares are things I wake up from, and sometimes I even get a voice in them that tells me everything will be okay and that I'm dreaming.  I mean, at least I got a break from Hiroshima to go to a potluck, even a hopeless one.  My nightmares are better than their reality.  In Auschwitz, they stopped waking people from thrashing nightmares because even those were better.


On the one hand, I'm staring the worst of humanity in the eyes, sort of, as much as one can through books and I suppose I should just love everything that's not bombs and death camps and 12 year old Kamikaze's.  On the other hand, both books allow for everyday pains and hurts; they honor them.  Even my stomach ache, I felt assured last night, would be met with compassion from Frankl and Dr. Nagai both.  And in this recognition that all pain is the same, all of it fills our space when we experience it... this has given me peace about my own hurts.  Not a comparative peace, an at-least-I'm-not-on-a-train-to-Auschwitz kind of peace, but permission-to-feel peace.  And this makes my already beautiful life feel even more beautiful.  Yes, it is allowed, yes it is human, yes it is right that although my garden grows, although the cows give good milk and my chickens lay, even though my children are healthy and happy, even as my husband is such a loving stud-muffin, even so... I feel the slings and arrows of life and that is okay, that is the human experience and although it sits in perspective, there is nothing trivial about it.

I never was able to finish Country of My Skull (South African Truth and Reconciliation book)  and was told I probably should have as it ends with some hope and meaning which was an end point not foreseeable from the middle. 

All three books should be required reading for all of humanity, although perhaps not concurrently.  Let's hope the worst is behind us, and it could be, if we collectively want it to be. Although, even as we speak, genocides and atrocities continue.  Dr. Nagai (a double bomb survivor) concluded that unless we love one another, the whole world will one day look like Nagasaki. 

And I'm so thrilled those books are due tomorrow!  May humanity as a whole return these stories to the shelves forever.  Let them collect an eternity of dust.  It's kind of a ramshackle dream.  Maybe we'll get there.  Maybe.  You never know what's coming down the pike of history that could make it more likely.

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