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.


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