Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chickens of a Lesser God

Cosmos will be spades more adorable when he learns where to put the poop.  Blue's Christmas present isn't yet clear on the fact that the Norfolk Island Pine in the dining room is not a fancy outhouse. 

We visited several shelters to find Blue a kitten and when they didn't have one, the question was posed, "Why not a cat?"  And I was tempted, yes, especially by the Main Coon calico.  But the issue is that since holding our friend's baby, Blue has been wanting one of "our" own.  Begging. 
And I say, "Babies are a lot of work.  I'm not really up for another round of that and I'm happy with what I've got."  (Although some days I load the kids in the car and think, "That was too easy," so I momentarily look around for our "third" kid.) 
So then Blue says, "We could adopt!"
giggle giggle "Making the baby isn't the hard part."
"Can I have a kitten instead?"
Baby vs. Kitten:  Where would you tell your bookie to put your bet?  It's not a turtle, lizard, bird or marsupial.  We're already doing the "cat thing", living the cat lifestyle.  We know a good cat-sitter.  And maybe this will keep her from snooping in my room again and throwing out our birthcontrol method.  So no, dear shelter workers in all your guilt-tripping glory, we aren't getting a cat this time.  We're getting a kitten.  King Louis, world's most glorious cat: gorgeous, charming, gopher killer and fully eligible for well-deserved narcissism, came to us from a shelter eight years ago.  We love him.  But Blue wants a kitten.

Coyote offering comfort to the King
The shelter also had dogs.  I shocked us all by suggesting that out of curiosity and just for fun we walk down dog alley.  The psychic energy hit me hard.  The eyes, shaped just so.  The silent doggie pleas screaming in to my head: I NEED someone to love.  By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late.  I was hysterically bawling.
"We're getting a dog!"  I smeared the snot along my sleeve.  
"We came for a kitten.  We're not getting a dog."  Huck held his ground.
"But we talked about getting a dog once, a few years ago!"  WAAAAA WAAAAA.
"We came for a kitten.  They don't have kittens.  We are leaving.  Now."
"Kitten, dog, whatever! These animals are in pain.  And I can stop it.  I am the Jesus Christ of dogs!  I am their savior!"  Cry. Whine. Sulk.

We finally found a kitten at the pet store.  It was discounted and Blue couldn't figure out how it had been there for a whole month.  Because I am her mother, she's well aware of the history of black-cat lore and not impressed with superstition.  Norse goddess Freya, in a star-studded cloak, rode (rides?) in a chariot pulled by two black cats.  When the Christians came to convert the Norwegians, they turned all the evil goddess stuff in to bad luck.  Friday.  Freya's number 13.  And black cats.  Luckily, they left the stars out of their religious wars.  So it didn't occur to Blue that black cats should be left on the shelf.

Cosmos has amazing vertical leap.  You might be standing in the kitchen and suddenly there are claws in your back and you scream in a key not known to man.  Or maybe you are eating breakfast and Cosmos wants to jump on your lap but he doesn't want to hit his head on the table again, so suddenly you find a kitten with crampons climbing up your leg.  Maybe a baby would be less taxing.

The kitten wrote a little poem this morning while he was waiting for people to wake up:

Kitten of a Lesser God
There is an emptiness 
in my bowl and my belly
and someplace else.


My god sits and turns the pages so slowly.


She could fill my silver bowl
with gold stars and I would be so happy.


Am I not a good kitty?
Do I not train hard for the hunt?
Am I not soft and are my eyes not the greenest?
Do I not poop in my box most times?


My god says I am good.
My god loves me.
So why do I feel this hunger
so deeply, for so much.


What can be filled are my lungs.
What can be said is Meow.
And I will go to the parents of my god
and I will say
all night and
all night:
Feed me.

Something comes, something leaves.  My last Buff Orpington, Goldilocks, has joined the living dead.  She keeled over nearly two days ago.  My chicken's head went limp, her eyes are black x's, and she's been curled up in a pile of chicken shit for two days.  The smell could kill anyone.  So I kept moving her head, but she obstinately shoved it back in the pile.  Again and again.  But she's still breathing.  For TWO DAYS.  No food.  No water.  Huck even tried preparing her a grave, but the ground is too frozen.  "She'll be dead by morning."  "She'll be dead by the time Huck gets home from work and then he can bag her up and put her in the garbage can."  "She'll be dead by morning.  She has to be."  So this morning when she was still breathing, I knew enough was enough.  I have no idea how to kill a chicken.  I mean, I could do it lots of ways: suffocation, sledge hammer, lawn mower, saw, ax (if I could lift it).  But I didn't feel like it for some reason.  My neighbors butcher chickens all the time.  Maria was at work, but said Sergei could do it.  I boxed her up and delivered her like a neighborly Christmas gift.  I was expecting to learn how to kill a chicken.  To watch and see just what Sergei did. But Sergei was heading out the door and just shoved the box in his garage.  He barely speaks English, so I was wondering if we had a language-based misunderstanding, after all the whole point was to put the thing out of it rasping, shuddering misery.  "That a sick chicken."  He says.  "Are you going to kill it?"  I ask.  "Later.  I have to go now."  And Sergei leaves.  So instead of dying among it's familiar piles of chicken shit, Goldilocks is laboring through her last gasps in a strange garage down the street. Luckily chickens can't make their eyes go puppy-dog and there isn't much wracking of sympathy on this owner.  May the chicken valkries have mercy on me.  May they understand I tried to help, even if I wasn't particularly emotionally attached to the process.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Immutable Me: an anthem of Truth with a soaring crescendo of Glory

See these photos of my mother?  If you knew her really really well, had ever thoroughly pissed her off, or gotten tipsy with her, or watched her go through tough times with her "stoic" face on, or been embarrassed by her enthusiasm for life which you unfortunately inherited, then you'd recognize these faces as hers, always and forever.  From the beginning, she has been Marjorie.  She changes, she grows, she learns.  And yet always she has this immutable quality, the Marjorieness that has never disappeared.

It's a complex question that's no longer under the purview of philosophy but belongs now in the schools of psychology and neuroscience: what is it that makes you you?  is it continuous?  does is persist in the afterlife?  If you die and then come back as per Hinduism and Buddhism, do you come back as you?  does an interruption in your existence alter you? Our cells change over in 7 years.  Our ideas change.  We change.  We are the flow of life, changing, responding to the shape of our river beds, moving through the landscapes of time.  And yet the Mississippi is the Mississippi and the Columbia, the Columbia.  Like sports teams who change players, names and cities, but never, never their colors; we root for the colors and we align with the uniforms.

When asked, I'd always say it is nature + nurture.  Neuroscience has found that experience can change our DNA, turning elements of it on or off.  Very deeply, nurture affects nature.

But when thinking about myself, I've named nurture as my nature. A pastor's daughter, the middle child, a Libra with the rest of her chart in Aries except for the moon in Sagittarius, a female, a mother, an adventurer, a farmer, etc.  I've looked to my past to describe who I am and how I came to be this way.  I've sought an explanation for myself that is outside myself. 

I remember a journal entry from middle school in which I wonder why it is I write in a journal at all.  I suppose it's for the purpose of self exploration, self-discovery, and self-knowledge.  And then I wonder what is the point of self-knowledge.  My answer confused me even more.  I supposed that the purpose of self-knowledge is to find your shortcomings and work to make up for them.  This opened a new line of questioning where I wondered who says what "short comings" are?  And why?  My teachers said my impulsiveness was a fault, but then they're all about controlling the classroom environment.  So their judgement had some serious self-centered motives.  What are faults?  And who's the judge?  And where do we learn to call them faults? And shouldn't we be questioning that? And then I became bored with the subject and ran off to do something else.  But the questions have lingered, unanswered and likely unanswerable, their value perhaps more in the asking than the likely pat, unsatisfactory answers we could shout out.

Although perhaps the pursuit of self-knowledge, if valuable (and how do we judge value?) might be in knowing what it is we love and what it is we ask others to love. 

Although I have treated others as souls within circumstances (location, birth order, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, and astrological sign), I have not thought of myself as a person with some sort of unchanging and pure quality within circumstances.  But I have always thought of myself as molded and shaped and reshapable.  This is hopeful and true, but there's also something else true about me.  Something I can't name, but exists. Something my culture can't direct and mold.  Something that would have been there no matter where I fell in line with my siblings, if I'd had them, or if I was a boy, or (godforbid) a Scorpio. 

I suspect that my immutable qualities are unnameable and perhaps unknowable.  The circumstances which cradle my Self and are nameable include: female with a female brain with the feeling centers closely located to the expression centers, my farming life, my heterosexuality, my spousalness, my motherhood.  But I suspect that the truest parts of me have no handle but are expressed in every circumstance my soul finds itself in.


It's time I had a talk with myself and the world.  A coming out.  I'm going to take myself to a beautiful little glen in the woods, near a small waterfall. I'm going to sit myself down on a mossy rock and tell myself the truth. 

I've always been inspired by my gay friends who have this moment of truth with the world, a frightening moment to be sure, with the potential to take a bad turn just as in any birth.  The truth is born and they say to the world, "I am who I am. If you have a problem with that, it doesn't change the truth.  If you have a problem with me, that's your problem, not mine."  I've found a lot of courage from them.  As PFLAGG says, "You being you makes me happy."

And so I'm here in a similar way, to say the Truth which cannot be said, the immovable, non-relative Truth about me.  It is the Truth that has no words, no description, and so I'm not sure what the point of writing about this is.  But it's True none-the-less.  I am me and you are just going to have to deal with that.  My self-knowing is NOT about making your life easier and molding myself to your expectations, making your classroom manageable so-to-speak, and ridding my Self of things you call "faults".  My Self will not always please you.  My Self is difficult to understand, but that doesn't get you (or me) off the hook from trying.  My Self is an odd collection of traits that don't fit any mold, like cayenne and lime with chocolate.  I'm smart and I have enthusiasm (which resembles a 13 year old at a slumber party and is often confused for nievete and inexperience), plus follow-through, and that's a hard combination for people to wrap their minds around. But you're going to have to try.  And I'm here to make you.  Plus, that's just the stuff with names, that's not even the hard stuff that's more complex than language. 
 
And in other news, I'm bravely posting some photos of Huck and I going out for his office party and a subsequent night on the town.  I assumed that because the cruise was leaving from a fancy hotel that it would be a fancy cruise. But it was a solidly jeans and parka affair.  I knew there was a risk of this going in to it, because I live in the Northwest and Every Gol Dang event here is a jeans and parka affair.  A girl gets Sick of it.  Knowing the risks, I dressed up anyway and even shaved my pits for the first time in 13 years.  And I loved it (except for the pits part because they really itch now!).  The camera does not do justice to how beautiful I felt.  The flash and my general chronic unphotogenicness both destroyed my inner glory.  It reminded me of how I wanted to be a rock star when I was 7 and spent a lot of time jumping on my bed belting out the only tunes I knew, "Jesus Loves Me," and "The B-I-B-L-E,"  until I borrowed my brother's tape recorder and cut my first track.  And played it back.  And, oh Jesus, I'm glad somebody loves me.  I never dreamt of spotlights and spandex again.  That's what these photos are for me, my brother's mean ol' tape recorder.  But, in the corner of this boxing ring, cheering for my inner sensation, helping me beat down the reality and ouchy truth of cameras and tape recorders came an elderly rich-looking woman sweeping through the hotel lobby with her entourage and as she passes me she whispers in my ear sweet things that I cannot bring myself to repeat, they were so breath-takingly flattering.  After seeing the pictures, however, I wonder if she wasn't just preparing to die by doing pennance for a life of hoity-toity harsh judgements by whispering incomprehensibly fabulous compliments to every little thing the cat drags in.  Or maybe I really did look stunning and cameras and tape recorders are all liars.  In which case, break out the the laser light show and hand me some tall leather boots and a microphone, I've got a song I'm ready to sing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A fish story

I cooked fish last night.  This is a major accomplishment.  I understand if it's no big deal to you, but I have never cooked fish and have barely cooked any meat at all in 17 years, so this was a BIG FREAKIN' DEAL to me.  And it turned out Great!  Even Coyote ate some corn-breaded cod.  It took a minute to get my mind around the meat + side dish = menu ensemble that characterizes the meat-ed meal.  This is the reverse of the mind warp non-vegetarians have to undergo to understand the complete vegetarian meal.  They get stuck in meat + side and all they can imagine that we eat is sides.  Sides and more sides and they can't figure out how we can be healthy eating nothing but corn and over-cooked green beans with a bun.  Which we don't.  We eat stews and soups and frittata and sautes and tempeh burgers and burritos and beans with rice or cornbread....etc... etc. We vegetarians eat a wider variety and more creative menu that those trapped in the clutches of the cults of meat-eating.  So I underwent the paradigm shift in the opposite direction last night.  And we had a side of home grown fries.  Fish and chips.

Slavin
I used to cook meat, for about 1 year when I was first married to my first husband.  You cannot imagine the crazy stuff I did back then.  I did this thing where I MADE HIS LUNCHES!  I found it slightly humiliating, but I was 18 and was doing what my mother would do, my mother who's cultural heritage development has been seriously delayed by traditional values.  Obviously, a good, virtuous wife makes her husband's lunches.  It says so in Proverbs.  So I made him 2 lunches a day for his 16 hour cannery shifts.  And I felt really shitty about it.  During this time, Jack in the Box was having its e-coli issues and so when I made the burritos, which had to include beef, OBVIOUSLY, I burnt the hell out of that beef.  It was mostly just beef char that I scraped in to his burritos.  And, scared of meat as I was, that's how I cooked everything.  Fresh deer meat (we lived in various parts of Alaska during this time) was boiled then broiled in butter.  Turkey was basted in one complete pound of butter... although that one was good.  How could it not be?

I never liked the cooking of meat.  My family raised our own beef.  I bottled fed them every morning before and after school and then I was compelled to eat my pets.  There is some boundary that gets betrayed when we get that close to animals and then eat them.  It's like you eating Fido for dinner with your brother (who never liked Fido all that much) with a piece of Fido on his fork, making it make barking sounds.  It would be like this: on a Saturday my mother would come in to my room, close all the curtains and sit on me.  I would hear the shots, scream.  And then I would have to stay in my room until the butcher truck left.  Because my parents knew, and knew they did, that if I got a whiff of this conspiracy, I would chain myself to my beloved steer and hell no, I would not go.  You'll have to shoot me first.  This is why I now have a milk cow.  I love cows, but I'm not eating my own.  Having a milk cow has it's own special heart aches I've since learned.

I was also not allowed in the kitchen during the cooking of meat.  While this did nothing to prepare me for the life of a new and virtuous wife, it did make dinner less dramatic.  A Thanksgiving was seriously marred by my trauma when I cross the kitchen while the turkey neck was being exhumed.  Imagine my joy when we moved to South Carolina and THAT's what was for Thanksgiving dinner at the home we were invited to.

I was saved from the seemingly inevitable destiny of  meat by my brother's thoughtful Christmas gift when I was 19: Molly Katzen's magnum opus The Moosewood Cookbook.  This book certainly contains some awful recipes.  The more expensive the ingredients, the worse she messes it up.  But it's also got my staples.  I've used it so much, it fell apart and is now housed in a three ring binder.  It opened my mind to a new life, a life without bloody patties and mystery hotdogs. I learned to cook from this book.  I learned to make my own lasagna sauce and my own enchilada sauce.  This book became my Bible.  So when I ate enchiladas at someone's house a few years ago, I begged her for her sauce recipe and the entire table dropped it's collective jaw.  Recipe? For enchilada sauce?  It comes in a can, lady.  A can.  We open CANS of sauce.  Wow.  Thanks to Ms. Katzen, I didn't even know enchilada sauce existed.  And now I've shaved over an hour of cooking time off enchiladas!  And all 'cuz I asked for a recipe.

Unfortunately my brother and Ms. Katzen were unable to save me from making my husband's lunches.  I was too immature yet to let myself not do that. I imagine I would have been trapped in the life of the Virtuous mother-y wife for eternity if he hadn't left me.

That was the thing that stuck in my craw the worst.  I wailed, "AND I MADE HIS EFFING LUNCHES!  HIS LUNCHES!  THE HUMILIATION!  AUGHGGHGHGH!"  Despite being played a fool, being cheated on, being abandoned suddenly, it's the lunches that dug at me the most.  THE EFFING LUNCHES.  I burnt meat for that ingrate.  Only once have I made lunch for a man since (excluding in a professional capacity as a pizza cook), and it resulted in lots of tears and anger.  And long-suffering Huck just asked me not to ever do it again.

That's why I don't put Huck's laundry away.  Because if he ever betrayed me, which he doesn't look like he's going to but if I've learned one thing in my not-so-short life it's that people can really surprise you when you least expect it, and that you can't REALLY know anyone.  So, as far as I can tell, he's not going to up and leave all of a sudden, but if he did, it would be putting away his laundry that would make any betrayal even worse.  I've explained this to him.  And he has agreeably accepted the fact.

And that is the story of how I cooked my fish last night.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Outpost of Normalcy

I feel a little odd today.  I've been busy and now I'm not so much.  And it seems a little: blank.

Last Saturday, I helped run a sheeshee auction for a hospital in Bangladesh, plus a certain Club.  I got pulled into it by an amazing old man who loves my stories thereby qualifying him as awesome. In addition, his awesomeness also comes from being a surgeon who developed some prosthetic devices and with the money from that, founded this hospital in Bangladesh.  I've run auctions before but this time, instead of doing all the 6 months of drudgerous labors required to set it up, I simply popped in on the night of and told all the volunteers what to do.  I'd forgotten how good I am at that!  And I joyfully received the kuddos for a job well done.  Joyfully, because that kind, any kind, of thanks and recognition is lacking in my current position.

Thirteen of the volunteers were teens, and I was surprised to find myself liking them. I haven't worked with teens, nor barely glanced at their surly faces since I was one. These kids came from a poor, rural area, and from horror stories ... while supposedly waiting for "real life" to begin.  They were amazing, competent, hard working, helpful.  Of the three non-disadvantaged teens, two were gorgeous and frankly dumb as a box of rocks.  When I introduced them to their third co-volunteer for the job of "runners", they all just stood around, staring at the floor, the ceiling, whatever.  "Do you know each other already?" I asked. GROAN!!    You've done business before, I see.

Two volunteer boys were talking about how unfair it was that girls can hold hand and kiss and it's all just silly messing around.  But if boys do the same thing, they're called gay and made fun of.  And then one boy turned to his friend, "That's all we're going to say about that.  THAT'S ALL.  NOW."  'Cuz that's the discreet way of dealing with it.  Trying to help ease the awkwardity, I told them about the physical affection among men in India, holding hands and walking with their arms around each other, meaning nothing other than that they were friends.  And I told them about my gay friend who went to India with me and how he spent two months trying to figure out "The Code": how to tell who was gay.  I didn't care one way or another, but this guy was obsessed, and when he found out, it was a secret he kept carefully guarded.  And these two boys found this story endearing and attached themselves to me. Oh, god help them.

I also did some doorbelling and phone banking for my friend who made a great showing in her first run for City Counsel, going from a no-name late-in-the-game to 45% of the vote in just a few short months. But anyway, phone banking is weird.  The script I was given didn't roll out of my mouth with any ease, and so I spent a good 25 phone calls, stumbling around, trying to find my voice, stuttering and cringing the whole time because I knew I was interrupting their evening with my clumsy, stuttering spiel. Meanwhile, the guy in the cubicle next to me was clearly experienced, smooth, relaxed, entertaining.  I felt ... inadequate to say the least.  After I'd developed my own a script, I was tickled that guy started stealing my phrases.

And on the home front: I had a relaxing realization: my kids' issues are normal. Sassing, lying about toothbrushing, homework tantrums, complaining about dinner = totally normal. I learned all that from rereading Calving and Hobbes recently.  All the jokes, so familiar, which could mean only one thing, right?  Normal issues (Don't look now, sj but: Calvin? normal?). So, I'm not screwing that up too bad ...so far... it seems.  Ukelele Solo of severe silliness here.


This is not a blizzard, just a perty hoar frost




And there was Halloween, which I might have forgotten in all the hecticity around here.  But thank GOD for pictures! Coyote had two costumes, having lost most of his stuffing at the Sunday night Girl Scout Unicef party and having little left for Halloween night. We joined Coyote and his friend and his friend's mom and his friend's dad who both could be called "Ex's".  It wasn't as awkward as I feared.  The male had on a handle bar mustache, a subject I just didn't broach because who knew if it was standard procedure, divorce fodder or just for Halloween. Turns out it was for Halloween, thank god. They took us to MANITO.  THE double boulevard de jour swarmed with hundreds, perhaps thousands of ghouls, wizards and Darth Vader.  The street was blocked off for a 50+ practiced dancers of all ages and contumes doing the Thriller Dance (said breathlessly) beneath spotlights and big speakers. Ghost Blue had her first non-parental Halloween night out with her friend, running amuck in a more/less gated community, getting FULL SIZE candy bars... all of which I had to confiscate, obviously.  Huck was a handsome devil.  I was an earth goddess/ 1970's bridesmaid for the party but Sargeant Pepper for trick or treating.  The change was due to me wanting to be warm, of all things, so I wore the Soviet sailors coat I bought off a sailor in Red Square for five American dollars in a secret alley deal back in 1992 when it was all collapsing.  He also wanted to sell me his clothes, but I realized the sketchy situation I'd gotten my 16-year-old self in to, declined and fled. 

And then the kids spent today Smashing (our own home-grown GIANT) Pumpkins to feed them to our cows... ah the cows... there's so much to tell, but that's another post.  And in breaking news, we're having a blizzard.  Right now. 

So, over-all, we can sum it up as NORMAL.  Normal Farm...that creeps me out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photos!

GF pizza at Pacific Avenue Pizza in Browne's Addition
I feel like I'm standing directly under the Niagra Falls of time. The constant, gushing, flowing of time pounding down upon me and sometimes, I catch a breath.

Enjoying some gifts, including a bolster for my in-bed reading habit
I turned 36 the other day.  The first birthday in which I was less happy the day after than the day before.  The celebration itself was fabulous and fun and I got a camera, as begged for.  And everyone was lovely and happy and good.  After I got the camera, Coyote took my old one, which still kinda worked but had some funky problems.  And he spent three minutes pushing buttons and checking it out.  And fixed it.    He's so proud and I'm a little ticked off. He brought it to his soccer game and was more interested in taking photos of the game than playing it.

The camera I got is great, however.  And as my dad told me, the thing about technology moving so fast is that there isn't a camera for sale that won't be better than the one you've had for six years.  And he was right.

And then I bought some make up, because I am now eligible for the senior discount, and I would like to stop looking like that.  This process has actually been going on for some time.  I trotted into Nordstrom the other day, all haywirey and grubby and announced bluntly that I hadn't worn make up in 20 years and I might find occasion to do that from time to time and could they help.  So... they went to work like wolves on fresh caribou and "soon"  I was covered in 3 different flesh-toned layers, plus extras.  Just to note: sometimes working on one's logic abilities can also be rewarding.  For instance: when some one says "I haven't worn make up", thinking through this thoroughly one could imagine NOT shocking and overwhelming them, but just starting them out with something basic, like they ASKED FOR.

Always a roast with Opa and Oma
I also didn't like the public nature of it.  Everyone in the shoe department watching me flinch from twenty kinds of brushes.  Not to mention the expense of getting started.  The entirely new vocabulary: The E the 3 and the W.  Sure.  A friend offered to help me, which made me feel supported.  But shopping is a Very Private thing to me, so I declined.  It's similar to wanting to shut the door while you use the bathroom. Very Private.  Do Not Disturb.  And if your store is too public, with big windows on a busy street, I will not even go in to it.

After a bunch of research, some experimentation and then the usual final flair of head-long, rash, self-doubt-filled bravado, I did get some stuff to apply.  My eyelashes now get stuck in my eyebrows (which I might pluck some day too!) and my face feels like it can't breath or move much.  But I've only worn it twice, not including the experimental day here where I ran out and asked Blue's carpool lady if I got it right.  Does this look normal?  Yeah... all except the part where I am.

No one seems as shocked by it as I.  I could not have tied my patties in a tighter wad over this.  All this: what does it mean? Am I just giving in?  Why do I want to start doing this?  Am I not comfortable with who I am?  Am I feeling insecure and inadequate?  Or more secure?  Am I putting my best foot forward, or just the one others seem to want to see?  Am I doing this for myself, or for you?  Am I uncomfortable with the aging process?  Why do we wear make-up?  Why not wear make-up?  Why not experiment and experience life in other ways? Do I have to look the same my entire life?  Why am I buying products? Do I have money for this?  Do other women have such convoluted hang-ups about make up?  How do you get it off?  When do I stop thinking about it?


A starling problem, with a non-problematic moon

Hendrika posed for this.  I kid you not. 

What's up chicken butt?

Chocolatey Claire and Beignet

Balloon hilarity

Mousetrap AT LAST!

The Coyote who lives across the street

Oma at Slavin Reserve

My favorite tree, again.

skip church, go bowling



Peace at Turnbull

Monday, October 10, 2011

Add-ages

I am still foggy after this weekend, a UU women's retreat which involved WAY TOO MUCH TALKING.  Obviously.  And every time I tried for alone time, someone else was already there, or following me, and thought we should talk. I even read a book about how to end conversations before I went.  Admittedly, many of these conversation were fascinating and I didn't want to stop them.  However, I couldn't even take a shit without someone in the bathroom chatting me up about UU issues the Board of Trustees needs to know about...while I'm laying a log.  Seriously.  And I thought privacy was hard to come by at home with two kids... sheesh!

So I find myself chatting it up with some ladies late in the drunken evening.  And I end up telling this story, which I think is a knee-slapper.  But then, that's all in the ears of the hearers, isn't it?

Here goes:
I was at Value Village and the cashier asks me if I qualify for the senior discount.

NOTA BENE: that's kind of it, that's the whole story, just a one liner.  LAUGH NOW! Or Else. 

"Um... uh... I don't think so?  I mean what kind of generous policy to you have?  What's the cut off?"
Snicker snicker, "55."
"Um... I guess not then."

I live in a world where people don't mess with other people just for fun.  I live in a world where offensive comments are always accidents and mistakes, but they meant no harm.  Up here, in my head, it actually took me 20 years to figure out that the "reputation" I had that prevented me from getting on Mat Maids (high school wrestling cheer leaders... never mind that I have no sense of rhythm, hate wrestling and hate cheerleading) was a not-so-good "reputation" fabricated by a competitor.   So, the universe in my head is much nicer than the one out there. I like to stay in the mental one I maintain like a Zen Garden of grey matter.  But some times I get a shock when I peak out into the real world.

Once I got to my car, the cashier's cackle still echoing in my mind, I realized she was funking with me!  (sorry to bastardize the precious word "funk" here.  I love funk.)  And then I wanted to charge back in and take any old thing about her and say mean things about it.  For instance, I enjoy the company of many over-weight people, and yet I wanted to ask her if she ever got the "grotesquely obese discount."  And if she'd been skinny, I would have asked her if she got the "skinny, mangy, bitch discount."  And, although I would probably like many people who work at thrift stores or are otherwise similarly employed, I might have asked, "Do you qualify for the I'm-45-and-I-work-at-Value-Village-Discount?"  But if she'd been an attorney, I'd want to ask, "How about that I-use-antilogic-for-shit-loads-of-other-people's-hard-earned-money discount or the grade-grubber discount?"  Oooh! Sizzle!  I know how to sling mud!

Actually, I'm pretty bad at it or did you already figure that out?  My sister has amazing zinger-mouth (she's in recovery) and I learned from an early age that zinging wasn't my forte and I'll never win a zing-contest... so generally when someone starts in with clever insults, I just shut up and go away, or scream incoherently when I've had more than I can take.

Buy you see, the joke is, this lady asked if I was eligible for a senior discount.  Haha.  ME?  Haha!  I mean, I know I don't look 16, but crapola, I'm not 55.  That lady was just being mean!  I'm not even 36, yet! Ha! Ha. Ha?

And the three women around me didn't say anything.   They just silently scrutinize my face.  For, like, MINUTES.  And then one says, "Well!  Ha!  You couldn't pass for 55, at any rate."

Yes.  So.  When I was about 28, I jumped from looking 16 to looking an inscrutible age somewhere between 25 and 45.  I have this thick gray patch that showed up on September 13, 1996 in a hotel in Wenatchee.  But my face still looked juvenile enough for people to talk baby talk to me.  The gray has gotten bigger.  And I now have some smile (or are they frown?) lines.

A few years ago, coworker said she'd spent a lot of time trying to figure out how old I was.  She had it narrowed down to 21, 28 and 40.

So I come home and regale Huck with the hilarity of these ladies having to pause a moment to consider if I did indeed look under 55 or not.  Hilarious right?

And then Huck, a man who looks younger by the day, PAUSES!  Dear Husbands, Don't do that!  And at this point I'm yelling at him (yes, I am on the toilet pee-ing as I yell) to shut up when he's not even talking.  I would NEVER ask, "Does this make my butt look big?"  Because I know the booby trap I set for us.  And I also know he would yell, "Hell, ya! BABY!  Bring that big ass booty over here!"  But this?  I seriously thought this would be a no-brainer.

So he goes, "Um..." clears the throat, "You have an ageless beauty." Shithead.

I want an ageless beauty between 20 and 30, not 35 and 55.

An original T-shirt given to me by Marion M., an actual, real, old lady and heavy-weight feminist


I'll be 36 on Friday, but that doesn't apparently matter to anyone but me.  And next time someone asks if I qualify for the senior discount, I'm going to say yes. What's it to me if everyone thinks I'm 85?  I think I deserve a discount, at this point.  And as a friend once assessed, I've lived three lifetimes in the space of 1/3 of mine (based on statistics, not actual foreknowledge of the age of my death).  I qualify for 3 senior discounts, honey.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Paradise Stolen

I did see that car.  It was a sedan, dark blue or green, shaped like a Crown Victoria, barge-like.  It was in my neighbor's drive way, parked at an angle.  And when they asked that night if I'd seen anything unusual, the nearly forgotten inconsequential memory was slowly pulled from the brink of extinction.  And as I examined the memory, I could see that yes, it looked odd parked that way.  It wasn't a familiar car.  I even saw someone run inside.  So why didn't it raise any alarms at the time?! Why oh why didn't my little Poirot-esc brain cells perk up? My curiosity is so easily peaked, why not this time?  Why not this time when some asswipe cleaned out my best neighbors?

I was busy.  I was piling the kids in the car.  It didn't even register as an event.

The neighbors have a lot of cars coming and going: contractors, piano lesson kids (that's who I assumed it was), heating/cooling guy, painters, sometimes a gardener, perhaps even a cleaning lady, maybe a relative or two.  I don't know!  It's a parade of cars and I couldn't keep track of them even if I wanted to! And when you park in your garage (instead of stuffing it with tools and toys) I cannot tell if you are home or not.  And although I can be very snoopy and when I worked in a law office I was ordered to unleash all my snoopiness (it was great fun!), I don't want to snoop on my neighbors. I don't want to be the one who notices so-n-so's had that same trans-man over every day for the past several weeks and he's not carrying piano books.  Certainly we've got the cocaine/gay party house in cognito as a country estate and don't think I'm being judgemental here; I didn't get that knowledge from snooping; 50 cars full of men can't be wrong.  But over-all I try to strike a balance between snooping and being alert.  And what with getting kids in the car and all, I guess I let the balance tip the wrong direction on Tuesday.  And I feel just awful about it. 

Although for my own personal safety, that might be for the better.  Between fight or flight, when cornered I'm pure fight, apparently.  I don't know why.  When I was a babysitting teen, one of my charges screamed that someone was looking in her window.  So what did I do with that adrenaline?  14 year old Sarajoy took a baseball bat and a flashlight around to secure the property.  When a peeping-Tom ran from a shower stall in the Women's locker room at a pool at UW, a soaped up Sarajoy chased him down, OUT of the locker room, THROUGH the pool and nearly out the emergency exit before I realized I was still naked.  I don't know what's wrong with me, but it might have kicked in on Tuesday.  And the only thing worse the a robbery is a botched robbery cum murder.  And they probably have a case of guns already.  Because....

The house on the other side of us was robbed recently too.  A gun case.  A case of guns.  That sounds to me like someone knew what they were after. So I wasn't on alert. 

This weeks robbery was in broad daylight, during a two hour window.  Someone knew someone's schedule a hell of a lot better than I do.  And so it seems we are being spied on.  And I have that penchant for running around naked.  I figure the windows which usually catch me wet, running up from the basement to my room are along the road where people drive fast enough, they won't notice. 

With our direct neighbors on either side being robbed, we have a strong sense of "YOU ARE NEXT." 

So what's the strategy for a house made almost entirely out of French Doors?  Oui Oui.  Zee kind wit all zee vindows and zee doors zat "s'ou qui que" when zeey open. Because glass is so breakable, they installed dead bolts that open only with keys.  So that if there is a fire, we first have to find the keys to get out and since I've already been through one massive structural fire (in Petersburg, Alaska, took the whole block, but spared the gas station but gave me lasting PTSD), this feels like a very real risk to take.  In addition, this thief, which the sheriff informs us has almost finished cleaning out the entire neighborhood (oh! NOW they tell us!), has a special tool to use against dead bolts.  It destroys doors.  And if a thief came to our house that would be the most expensive thing to replace. 

Taking a quick inventory and comparing it to what was stolen from the neighbors: all of my jewelry is plastic, clay, or rock (actual, non-valuable rocks) and fossil.  None of our CD players work, nor does our iPod.  Our camera, as you must have noticed my now, is broken.  Of our two computers, one is running and that is 8 years old.  Our TV is from craigslist and is non HD compatible and is attached only to a DVD player, no actual channels or anything.  EVERYTHING we own was used when we got it.  Goodwill is a revolving door for all of our possessions.  It's like dust to dust: Goodwill to Goodwill, or sometimes Value Village to Goodwill, with a short or longish life in our house in between.  And an occasional exotic item from Craigslist.  So to prevent a broken door, I have been leaving it unlocked.  They might have already been through, assessed the potential and left.  This is one of the greatest benefits of having nothing anyone envies.

We might have also been passed over because although I adore my old house, in this neighborhood it is obviously NOT the house with the money.

The other reason why we might have been passed over by the angel of theft, is that our house is wide open.  Our bereft neighbors have both put a lot of time and money into privacy screens.  So that no one can watch them ... um ... live and stuff.  Because of the configuration of powerlines and our lack of funds to hire people to constantly trim our trees, we have no privacy.  You couldn't break in to our house and NOT have the entire world see it.  It's a blessing and curse.

Or maybe it's the mask we picked up in Singapore that's meant to scare off evil and is propped against a window, looking out, menacingly, at all comers, with it's spiritual threat.

Whatever the reason we have been passed over, we still have the feeling that it's just a matter of time. 

And then at the feed store today, I asked about all the new security measures.  They said they've had huge huge problems with people taking off with LOADS OF HAY!  "It's just going to get worse."  They said. And then one guys turns out to live near me and he said that his road has had so many thefts there's a sheriff that drives it every day, all day long.

So yesterday, one neighbor notices two trucks parked out front the recently robbed neighbor's house. She parks, she rev's, she maneuvers forward and back to get a look at license plates.  She's on her phone.  She's in a lather.  I know this because I am shoveling out carrots right next to her, not because I have any desire to stand behind my curtains and peek out at everyone with binoculars. And I couldn't figure out why she's doing this.  Does she think the thieves came back in their TWO $50K trucks to take ...what? What's left?  The Grand Piano and some unders?  And they are using power tools on the front door?! And thieves have the ability to BUY $50,000 trucks, two of them?  This is just how they make their payments.  I mean, let's use our heads here.  I can understand that we've all got our road lit up like a football stadium, although the theft took place in the middle of the day.  But don't you think these trucks might be the locksmith?  Or the contractors coming to repair the door?  These thieves aren't going to hang around the neighborhood, much less hit that house again 24 hours later.  But I also guiltily felt it as a rebuke, "See, Sarajoy, let me just show you what caring neighbors do!"  They snoop, apparently.

We are all uneasy here on Paradise Prairie. Lucky Farm is nervously waiting our turn.  Wondering if and when it will come.  Wondering if we should lock our doors or just stick the broken laptop on the front porch. Hoping whatever happens, we don't get stuck in the middle of it.  That no one is home.  It's out of our hands.  That delusion of control and our false sense of security is what they've already stolen.  It wasn't worth much anyway.  I wonder what they'll get for it on the black market?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Freak School

I am officially NOT homeschooling as of two full weeks ago.   So you can order me a cocktail now.  And draw me a bath.

Blue's enjoying her special school a little too much.  We are all relieved to see she has a posse of friends already, which has never happened for her before.  These kids are no-mold weirdos who instantly get each other and most have had no prior friend experience due to being so different in normal schools.  So that's exciting.  And she's had two hours of homework per night.  And only one total melt down, which we are getting used to.  We just kind of make sure she doesn't break things or people.  She gets that from me... and my extensive extended family.  This seems to be the one identifying trait that comes through time after time. Much more dominant than brown hair, obviously.

So I get a call this morning, "Uh, mom, can you bring lemonade?  I was supposed to bring lemonade today."  This doesn't happen with homeschooling.  I bring it, I'm heading in to town anyway.  And I get chatting with her teacher. 
"Blah blah blah... you know, I don't know what you're doing, but this is the smoothest we've ever done homework.  She only had one melt down last week.  This is one of the reasons we homeschooled: the sheets and sheets of repetitive garbage that I was just sending back to the teacher with a big "NO" written across the top.  'Don't bring that hell in to our house please!' Blah blah blah, stick-foot-further-in-to-mouth, blah blah. But she's really in to the homework you've assigned!  And she's actually doing it!  All two hours a night!"
"Oh dear!" Ms. M-M says.
Oh Dear?  What's 'Oh Dear!' about this?
"Two Hours?!"
"Well, she's related to me so a good hour of that is staring in to space."  Also a trait more dominant that brown hair.  What's one got to do to get a brunette kid around here? I'd trade tantrums and spacing for brown hair in one of my kids.
"But I haven't assigned homework yet.  That's just the stuff she hadn't done in class because she was talking to her friends. And it should have taken 15 minutes, max. Oh no... I don't know how she'll respond when I actually do assign homework this week.  And I do assign worksheets too." 
"Oh!"
"Oh."
"Oh. My."
"Call me if you have any problems this week."

Coyote also seems to have friends at school this year.  They are boys, though, so "friends" is just shorthand for someone you exchange punches with who won't go tell the recess teacher... and will tell her you're just playing Starwars if she asks. 

He started second grade with a project called "A Little Book About Me," which lets the teacher know many things: drawing skills, internal sanity level as revealed by subject matter, writing level, and just how messed up home life is.  Did the child draw the table empty of food?  Is a War scene in the kitchen?  How many different fathers are pictured?  Coyote came home and said, "Where I was supposed to draw us as a family was too small, so I just left papa out." What the hell do the Mormon kids do?  "He's been working so much lately that he's not really part of our family.  He's just kind of on the side."  RIP A MOTHER'S HEART OUT!  Holy shit. 

True, Huck's been working a lot.  Project work is hard to control.  Sometimes you have no projects.  Sometimes you have multiple deadlines.  Since July was empty, we really needed this work to refill the coffers.  So he HAS been working long hours and many of them are out of town too.  But Huck is amazing at being present when he's home.  When he's here, he's all the way here.  He's not playing video games, watching tv, drinking, or whatever.  He's playing with the kids, wrestling, helping with dinner and homework, etc.  It's an amazing talent that I lack.  Even when I was working only part time, I'd come home from a grueling four hour day and crash for three hours, then shuffle to the kitchen when Huck called me for dinner.  Not so for Huck.  He might go for a jog or do a little yoga, but that all brings him more in to the present.  So I felt the sentiment was a little unfair of Coyote.  But who am I to judge? This is how he feels, and I just wanted to listen to that. 

So then he brings home the book.  And reads it to me.  Yes, there's our house, our cows, your toys.  And here is the family.  I braced myself.  Three people.  ALL of them BLOND!  "Who are these people?"  I ask, a double entendre.
"That's Blue.  That's me.  And that's dad." 
"Where am I?" 
"I didn't have room for you."
"It IS a pretty small space."  That little crapper!  I just spent ALL of his waking hours with him for three months straight!  I make three meals and two snacks for him every damn day.  I do ALL of his stinky, grody, skid-mark laundry.  I read with him every day.  I play games with him: Risk, Chess, Sorry, Uno, even the crazy no-rules games he makes up.  I help him with projects. I gave him tools to disassemble his old bike. I even teach him how to clean and do chores, which I know he thinks sucks, but will actually be good for him.  AND on top of it all, I let him have screen time!  AND NOW HE LEAVES ME OFF THE FAMILY PORTRAIT!!

(Writing that reminded me that Huck and I are still marveling over this new-to-us division of labor.  When I was working the chores were 50/50, childcare was 60/40 and cooking was 40/60.  It was very even and without any score keeping.  This is still so awkward for us.  What do I owe "us" the Palmer family, of my time?  Especially now that I have it.  What percentage of my time goes for my own personal and career development and what percentage do I owe to the keeping of our house and life in order?  When do I have to put my own projects down?  What projects are MINE and what are OURS?  Is staining the front porch US or ME?  Is working on potential money makers US or ME?)

So, anyway, it turns out, I'd rather have Huck left off than me.

The kids were talking about the lunches I pack them.  And the fact that we have no TV or game consuls/consoles/consuelos??? (hey, we have DVD's!)  The health food.  The non-commercial clothing (no cartoons or brand advertisements and no flashing shoes with toxic batteries in the soles).  They talked about what kids say when they take out their sandwiches: "What is that?  Did your mom pour molasses all over your bread?  Why is your bread brown?  Why do you have seeds on your crust?" 
"What?  Kids really say that?"
"Yeah, mom!  Most of them have only ever seen white bread!"
"Mom!"  Coyote yells, "You think you're raising kids, but what you're really raising are FREAKS!"
Yeah.  That's right.  FREAKS that leave their mothers off their family portrait!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Help you, I can! Yes. MMM." - Cow Master CowYoda

In preparation for the farming classes I will be teaching on behalf of the city of Spokane, I will prepare a lesson for ya'll folks.

Topic one: Field preparedness
It is important to groom your field prior to bringing cattle on it.  Weeds prevent the proper growth of a healthy grassland and thereby reduce the amount of food your cows can get for free in an already challenged area where the free-grass-season is two hours long.  The rest of the year pay you must for cut, baled feed.  That much baling twine on a farm trips a person up, a lot. Expect bloody noses.  As a direct result of not keeping your field free of weeds.

Should weeds invade your farm, you will need to remove them.  You can do this by poisoning your cattle as your spray weed-killer on their food.  Or by digging up weeds in the spring and breaking your back.  No matter what method you choose, remember that every square foot of soil contains enough weed seeds to keep said square feet flush for over 100 years.  It is a loosing battle. 

Mugwart is a noxious weed, and a poisonous hallucinogen as well.  It is a perennial and will get stuck in your field for millennia.  Unfortunately, cows will not eat the stuff: 1) it reproduces without restraint and 2) your milk is never quite THAT interesting. 

The other weed-to-watch is thistle.  Remember that Eeyore was not a cow. Cows don't eat thistles.  And so to reduce thistle, you will want to cut it down before it flowers.  If you are late on this, you can also cut down the not-yet-seedy flowers and put them in a bag in your garbage can.  You will want to select a thick bag as thistles are always pokier than you remember them.  Do NOT select an old feed bag as your thick bag.  Although it meets the requirements for padding, it also excites the cows who see you traipsing around their territory, unarmed, and carrying what can be reasonably interpreted by any reasonable cow as a 50# bag of feed. 

Farming is all in understanding how the cow thinks.  The cow thinks, "OH MY GOD!! FOOD!!"  And then thinks, "How fast can I get to it?"  Followed shortly thereafter by a more instinctual instruction to the legs to run as fast as they can while also kicking out to the side in a dance of joy,. 

Farming is also understanding how to think like a farmer.  The farmer thinks, "OH MY GOD!! CHARGING COWS!"  The well-seasoned farmer responds with inexpert kung fu, shrill screaming, followed immediately by running away.  The learned farmer will turn around periodically to threaten the cows in creative new languages that the farmer invents on the spot because the farmer is just that experienced.  The farmer will also expertly wave a small hand-clippers at the cows mimicking the light saber and chanting, "Much to learn, you still have!"

Break out session: break in to small groups and discuss:  If a cow charges, how should you respond?  If a cow thinks you are carrying something tasty to eat, will she charge?  What steps could prevent an over eager cow?  The answers are very tricky and always wrong.  Much to learn, you still have!

Topic two:  automatic cow sympathy systems: who's side are you on?
Cows will sympathize not with the expert farmer, but with each other.  Let's say you have separated one from it's calf in order to milk the next morning.  The one you have expertly chosen is the quiet and docile, more cow-like cow, frankly.  But the one who is free, with her calf, to roam the weedy wastelands in which you imprison her, may feel a kinship to what is likely to be both her daughter and lesbian lover who you've locked up.  The other cow, this less cow-like cow, understands what the docile one does not, and that is that mooing desperately at 4 freaking AM is an effective way to bring neighborhood shame on her captor.  So although one cow is locked up and fine with that, the other will provide urgent, ear-splitting sympathy moo's.  The expert farmer will, however, not give in to this and soon, after several weeks, the cow will appear to loose her voice... her bellows becoming croakier and quieter. Neighbors may call cow-CPS at this point, so beware!  A good idea at this point might be gifts to all neighbors: earplugs wrapped neatly in Far Side comics, perhaps. 

The expert farmer will remain firm in her milking schedule, for to give in will create whiney and demanding bitches of her cows, who are already half way there.  The expert farmer will occasionally consider slaughtering her spoiled cows but then wonders how she will teach cow classes if she murders her subjects and if this won't after all prove she is just an amateur psycho and not a real, expert farmer psycho.

Break out session: what do you think duct tape could accomplish on a farm?  Could it be used to silence the herd?  Do you own a large caliber gun?  Are you willing to use it?  Can you field dress a cow?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Someone HANDED me the bulhorn!

I had just concluded that perhaps my place in this world was a very small place.  A very small and insignificant yet cozy place, much smaller than I've ever envisioned or even currently occupy.  Perhaps my place in this world is just my bed.

Two months ago, I felt that my life was on the cusp of making sense, or that I was at least on the cusp of making sense of it... of crafting a story around it, a setting, a bed of roses, to make it all smell nice.

And then I landed on last week.  Monday, I had a pap smear.  I actually signed myself up for it.  It'd only been 7 years, but I was already excited for another!  And it was just a fabulous as I remember it being.  I'd go in to detail, but it's already been done.    

Tuesday:  This was our second week at a weak farmer's market near our house.  Blue's hope was to sell bouquets.  We planted flowers.  We weeded.  We watered.  And then we picked and packed them up. And nobody came.  This week, our friend who has the tent and the signs didn't even show up.  So we sat, the kids and I, in the hot hot sun, in the barren parking lot, all by ourselves without even a sign to tell you what we were doing.  The flowers were wilting.  Coyote's robot was melting.  HE was melting.  One lady drives in, buys two patty pans for $.50 each (that's ONE WHOLE DOLLAR, for those of you too lazy to calculate).  She then fingers a giant bouquet of at least 10 sunflowers and asks how much.  $5.  But that was just too much for her.  I understand.  It must be hard to feed the Escalade.  And she doesn't owe us.  But the way she asked and her sniff when I said the reasonable price... it brought back all those years at the Seattle Farmer's Markets: the burnout of too many haughty, stupid questions from the same idiots every week. ("What's in the bread?"  Same Effing Thing As The Last Three Years and yet you ask EVERY DAMN week)  What about selling something makes some people think they are better than you?  And that's the thing with burnout, it comes back so Fast! We waited longer. We sweat in our chairs.  And then we packed it in.

I FELT, "Good grief, why does nothing I do ever work out?  Everything I touch wilts.  Everything I try fails.  There's really no place for me in this whole godforesaken world, is there? I have no talents, no abilities.  I am probably just 68" of wasted resources."

But I know all about building resilience in kids, so I SAID, "Well, what a useful learning experience!  We learned so much!  What did we learn?"  "That the Eagle Ridge Farmer's Market SUCKS and that we're never coming back!"  Blue says.  "Exactly! And we also learned that you always bring your own tent!  And that flowers need ICE.  And that some people are just too terrible to sell anything to!"  And then I locked my door and flopped on my bed for a while. And then got up and went to a meeting.

(nota bene: this blogging has been interrupted about 100,765 times by urgent, violent children who are burnt out on summer vacation.  Where's alien abduction when you need it?)

On Wednesday, I thought that I should probably be kicked while I'm down so I tried some thing else new.  I went to a writers group.  And it was just like every other writers group.  It was a bunch of people I could relate to if I reallyreallyreally tried very hard.  All the usual suspects were there.  The non-strategic thinker, obsessing over possible translation glitches for a book he hasn't even written yet, much less published, much less sold a copy of... etc. etc.  There was the girl complaining that people think she's whiny and unlikable... which she was... and no one disputed, but someone did say that lots of great writers were whiny and unlikable.  There was the girl wondering more about personal problems than writing.  At least two lecherous men, one of which was a classic blow hard who made a point to speak patronizingly to everyone.  An ancient, confused old lady from New York.  An MFA student with red hair and white eyebrows who knew A LOT about the necessity of sending everything to the Library of Congress to get a copyright stamp... cuz our stuff here is so HOT that people can't keep their plagiarizing mitts off it.  Early on, this voice in my head, the clearest one I've got, said "LEAVE. NOW"  But this other voice, sounds kinda like my mom, said, "Now now.  Don't judge a book, or a shelf full of them, by its cover!  You never know what you might learn!"  And so I stayed and sank even further into my trough of despair.  And then I went home and locked my door and flopped on my bed.  My home.  My place.  My only place in this world.

And Thursday.  Because I can't help myself (oh why oh why ever NOT?!) I tried something new.  I went to a march today about the general state of the economy and the taxes certain multinational corporations aren't paying.  This being Spokane, I girded myself for the worst: a measly turnout with a defeated attitude.  The kids and I made a sign, "Those who benefit the most from a healthy, safe and educated workforce should help pay for it." And the almost amusing, almost sensical: "Tax cuts 4 multinational corporations don't work.  People do." Seems hard to imagine how I could have used bigger words to convey that, huh? And off we went.  What I found were a lot of people I know.  The organizer, who I didn't know,  handed me the bullhorn and said, "I can't lead the chants and do all this at the same time.  Find someone who wants to use this thing." So I turned on the mike and said, "Well, folks, looks like this bad-ass proclaimator is all mine!"  And off we went!  (video here, possible if I did it right this time!)  This would be the second time I sang an acappella solo in a week... me, who can't sing AT ALL (On Sunday I dressed up as Malvina Reynolds and gave a short speech to the congregation that involved solo-ing the first lines of several songs before I helped the kids make protest signs...Blue's said "less embarrassing parents" and I'm sure she wished she'd brought that sign along on Thursday!)

And then when we got to the U.S. Rep's office, they lent me a little soap box to stand on and give testimonial, as we all made a soup line along the street. I love me some good bullhorn, baby. And after I was done, someone asked me to speak at a feminist event this Friday.  And then me and my family went up to our Reps office and complained bitterly about these fat cats not buying the cow cuz they've been getting the milk for free... and she's a chicken to not stand up to it (did I get the whole farm in there?  I'm kidding.  I used more sophisticated language.)  Our Rep is confused and imagines that the Tea Baggers are the only ones who vote or have voices... so we just needed to remind her that other people in this world disagree and we have good reasons too.

We tried something new (protest, new?  Sarajoy "Von Protest" - as I was dubbed in high school, where have you been all your life? HELLLLOOO!) ... new for our life in Spokane. And I came home and flopped on my bed and felt good for a few minutes before I got up and went back to work in the kitchen where I've been canning and cleaning for the last several days (except for the one I spent at the pool and the one I spent couponing).  It looks like that's actually my place here, in this world  Now... what will I say to the feminists?

P.S.: the camera is as broke as I am, so no photos until October, when my birthday provides the perfect opportunity to beg.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Better to have loved and lost and all that

Ugh... it's getting time to choose between my two cows.

Contender #1:  Hendrika: matriarch and total bitch. Her moo actually has a whiney edge to it.  I've gotten milk from her these last few days but she's kicking and screaming the whole way and even made contact with my recently tetnus'd up arm.  She won't let down and I have to yank on her to get anything.  She inhales the grain and I've got only 5 minutes to get the job done.  And she kicks - did I mention that?  She's the one I bought off range-land lo these two years ago.  She'd had no contact with humans and was basically as wild as a wolf.  I was like Romulus and Remus - only imagine if the wolf is completely without compassion and doesn't want to give them milk. And she's still crazy.  Last year at this time, she was calmer and was giving over a gallon a morning on our milk-share program in which the calf gets milk 1/2 the day and I get the other half.  But now she's such a withholding expert that I'm getting barely over a quart.  Hardly worth the stream of cusswords and rage I feel at 5 am. What a way to start the day, eh?! I feel like I'm the one getting milked for grain.  I am so embittered at her 4 am bellowing me out of bed (world's most irksome alarm clock) and then kicking at my arms while I try to force a few ounces from her that I've started snapping the wet rags at her ass- ala boys' highschool locker room (the movie interpretations).  She's a mutt and a bitch and can't be appreciated --- except by me, who admires her refusals to go along to get along, her questioning of authority, her rebellious nature,  her basic anti-cow, anti-docility.  And she's already been bred with miniature Jersey again.

Contender #2: Sukey: Hendrika's inexplicably mellow first born, now a mother herself.  Sukey daintily nibbles at her grain.  She pleasantly releases her milk.  And never kicks.  She's has the sweetest personality of any cow ANY BEING I've ever met.  She is the perfect cow.  Except she only gives a quart, but give it she does!  Happily and freely.  And she's beautiful - not that I'm shallow, it's just something you notice.  She's got those dainty pink toes and that alabaster face and auburn hair and shapely calves (har har).  She's so sweet, you can almost here her humming as she picks her way through the hay. I'm afraid if I sell her, her new owners wouldn't be capable of appreciating such a fine animal.

But I'm also worried I'll get resentful because the process of milking takes the same whether you get 1 quart or 1 ton from a cow.  You've got time overhead costs: you scrub the teets with hot, soapy water; you milk; you feed the cows; you clean the barn; you strain the milk; you boil the rags; you sterilize the bucket.  You may milk for 5 minutes or 15. 45 minutes of work for 1 quart?  How's that going to feel in February?  Will I get to make cheese?  She'll produce more over the next couple years and hasn't even reached her peak for this cycle.  We may get up to two quarts.  But when it's time to let her go, won't I just love her more?

But then, how will my arms look in February if Hendrika stays?

Whoever I keep will be my cow for the next two years and then Chocolatey Claire will ascend the stanchion-throne.  So two more years of wrestling and wrangling or two years of low-drama low-volume.

Why can't I keep both?  Because that is insane.  I don't need both.  I don't have room for both.  I don't have money to feed two full grown cows all winter.  And I need to sell one in order to buy the hay for the other.  


So, let's vote, please.  Not binding, of course. Just a poll.  To your right there.  Who would you choose?  It's like The Good Son.  It's like those morality-in-a-life-raft brain squeezers. It's Sophie's Choice

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm a big kid!

The extended gypsy fantasy included sleeping outside and lasted a week
The kids are gone for the week.  I actually do miss them because I'm actually enjoying summer vacation with them this year!  But ... have already found a few things with which to occupy myself.  For instance, in the 36 hours since they left I napped on the porch with a beer, skinny dipped, hiked, polished my yoyo skills, kicked Huck's hiney at cribbage (TWICE!), and not done one load of laundry nor washed a single dish (it's getting a little obvious now too).  I've slept, eaten, dressed and frolicked without fielding a single complaint!  I've witnessed Huck read Neruda to 200 people.  And I watched a hummingbird attempt to solicit nectar from every single one of my clothespins.  I am trying my hardest to enjoy the absence of 130 collective pounds of responsibility. Meaning has been easily replaced with entertainment and simplicity.  Oh... the trade-offs.

I've also watched two movies, Something something vs. the World (it was great) and the another of my fabulous movie-for-myself flicks... something Huck wasn't interested in and the kids couldn't watch.  I've had two in recent months and Gollleeee! do I pick some winners!  I've indulged myself in two gruesome lesbian/murder flicks: Boys Don't Cry and Monster.  Both true stories which makes them in some ways worse... and in other ways if someone had made them up, I would be suggesting lock down. Both movies are such well done horrors that instead of letting myself flow along with the well-spun magic, I take firm hold of my emotions and don't let go.  It seems that if I really allowed myself to fully move in to these stories, I would go insane.  I would be plummeted into an existential crisis the like of which I have not seen since high school.  I would become, permanently, uselessly, a total wreck.  AND an committed atheist but definitely NOT a humanist.  I would be left with nothing, hope-wise.  These redemption-less stories sure do wreck what's supposed to be a self-indulgence.  And yet I prefer them to things like Chocolat -- no matter how many Johnny Depp scenes they flung at that thing, it was never going to be better than awful and it did plunge me into a cravass of futility-of-existance and a desire to hurl rotten tomatoes at the creators -- or whatever you call such wasters of resources.

Also, with the kids gone, I've got the Calvin and Hobbes books all to myself.  C&H were hilarious as a child.  And now, as a parent, they are even (if it's possible) funnier. When I was young, I couldn't pick a favorite between Far Side and C&H.  Reviewing them now, C&H stands.  The Far Side was revolutionary and broke open the funny pages and has been mimiographed so completely that even my kids noted the similarities to Bizarro, Off the Mark, and others.  (NOTA BENE: we are funny page connoisseurs sometimes necessitating purchase of several dailies in order to enjoy them all in their proper formats.  Other kids favs: Garfield and Peanuts).  Far Side is still hilarious, but the quirky humor element that so surprised us in the '80's is no longer so surprising and that dents the hilarity, but tips the hat to it's revolutionary success.  Calvin and Hobbes, on the other hand, remains induplicatable.  Philosophical, drawn to convey the Platonic-ideal of each expression, bridging the gaps between generations, it will never be surpassed.

The longer I am a parent, the less, it seems, that I remember being a child.  And this is by some necessity.  It will not do to understand the children more than I understand my own position and task.  Yet Calvin and Hobbes manages to connect me to both, simultaneously. And Blue says, "I like how sometimes Calvin is just imagining a monster and other times there really is one, but his parents just don't understand." I remember thinking that as a child too. 





wheat field across the street
I may not be an atheist yet, nor a committed theist, but I am a CalvinandHobbseist.  I believe in the resurrection of monster snowmen.  I believe in the attack of the stuffed tiger.  I believe in Spaceman Spiff.  And if there be a heaven, it will include Calvin and Hobbes, both, forever and ever, Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Theories on The Worst Possible Thing

Beignet is truly attached to his balls.  Those things are papery-white, shriveled, and yet still hanging in there! 
We thought they'd be gone by the time we got back from vacation, but there they are! Ghosts of their former selves, haunting Beignet, a bull-in-appearance-only now.

watching the green flash at sunset
Our vacation to Huck's ancestral lounging house at Mission Beach was so tremendously relaxing that when they changed our flight itinerary 375 times on the way home, we didn't care.  We went through Denver, Pheonix, Seattle and from there to Spokane on a 30 second Horizon flight which served complimentary wine which we were all obliged to chug before the tray tables were snapped up for landing: it was nice.  Through it all, our luggage hadn't been able to keep up and I was told to just come back the next day to see if it had made it.

While vacating, we talked of this phrase "wanting something bad enough."  It was used to inspire my middle school basket ball team. I took it at face value;  if I stood at the foul line and wanted to make a basket bad enough, I would.  And it never, ever worked.  I wanted, oh! Did I WANT!  I LONGED to make a basket, just one!  I ached.  I stood on that line and quivered with desire to make a basket only to discover that my coach was an effing liar.  It wasn't until maybe a few years ago that I realized that the "want" only works if you translate it into practicing, like, a LOT.  And so, in that case, I didn't even want to want it bad enough. I would have been honest about that, given half a reasonable explanation of how this "wanting " works.
Pacific Beach combing

I've had all sorts of explanations for how the world works reeking havoc up here in my brain for decades now.  It's been a slow process to unravel it all. I have to take a lot of breaks so I can laugh at myself.  Here is my old-as-I-am explanation for how the world/god/fate works:

I grew up hearing these testimonies... lots of testimonies... in fact I could write a book about all the messed up junk I learned from testimonies: the importance of alcoholism, abusive childhoods, drug use, DRAMA, promiscuity, etc. etc. and what a GREAT story those things make!!!  No one wants to hear the testimony of the good, obedient daughter finally realizing the error (where's the error?  is it that speck of a swearword over there?) of her ways and then repenting, tearfully, and making a dramatic change in her um...life. BORING.

So anyway, one of the things I'd hear again and again went something like this, "I didn't think I'd ever be a ___________ (Christian, pastor, wife, human, sober, teacher, mother, etc) or do _______________ (missionary work, funerals, teaching, good stuff, dishes, etc)  And I was sure I'd never _________________ (I'm drawing a blank on this one).  But God has a funny way of MAKING (key word emblazoned on my psyche) you do those things you swore you never would!"  Knowing laughter ripples through room.  Why were those grown-ups laughing?  What secret did they know?  I determined to figure it out in the absurd isolation chamber of my little child-brain.  Late at night.  Laying awake in bed.
forts at the beach house

I would imagine the "worst possible thing" (WTP).  And I developed a very special talent for this which persists to this day!  I would then try to figure out how God would MAKE me do this or that.... would MAKE me get to the place where that would finally make sense. 

WPT:  I'd HATE to be doctor!  Touching people's bodies, blood, bones, dead people dying right beneath your incompetent hands.  And here you'd been thinking for decades about how god-like you were, saving people from the clutches of death, only to have the crushing realization one day, as Suzie bleeds uncontrollably in your human hands, that you are, in fact, impotent against the forces of death, and you realize that your life has been just an empty shell of work and student loans, a futile resistance to the one force in the universe stronger than life itself.  And so you start taking your own pills, by the handfull, day after day after day, making horrifying medical mistakes but not caring because we all die.  We All Die.  Sooner or Later.  So what's a few years off your insignificant lives anyway?

Barry's mega-castle format
Next step:  Oh crap!  Now God's probably going to MAKE me be a doctor!  Well, there's really only ONE way he could do that!

Step three:  Basically, God would have to make my mother or sister or dad or brother or ALL OF THEM die from some previously unknown disease and then I'd have to devote my life to a crusade to discover, name (that's the hard part: what would I name it? VanBoveniphilitis?) and eradicate this disease.  I'd HAVE to become a doctor!  Which brings us to...

Step four:  THE ONLY WAY to save my family is to actually WANT to be a doctor before God has to smite them in his bid to force my hand.  But then they'd never know or thank me for all that debt, medical school and depression that I forced myself to endure just to save their lives.  Maybe I could just SAY I want to be a doctor and fake god out until it's too late for me to go to medical school or study science-y things.

EXAMPLE 2:

I HATE Michael Dolan ( probably a nice guy - no idea what he's up to these days and I have no idea why I didn't like him... he wasn't a jerk or anything.)!  Which brings us to WPT:  GOD now has to MAKE me marry him!! YUCK!!!  Please, God, don't make me marry HIM!!!  There's NO WAY!  I'll become an atheist!  I'll hate you to the end of time if you do that! (To this day: I wonder in what sneaky ways God could have made Huck be just like Mike Dolan! ACK!)

Pisco Sours on the Roof every night!
Step Three: God will have to destroy the earth.  Mike's the last man on it.  I'm pushing 80, so there's not much time I'd have to spend with him anyway.  AND he had a brain injury that completely changed his personality.  And his acne is gone.  Then.... maybe.

Step Four: no step four.

I guess, life did turn itself strange on me.  I didn't imagine I'd be a stay at home mom. Or be married to a blond, science-y guy.  Or spend vacations in San Diego.  Or drive a Honda.  Or be Agnostic.... but then how couldn't I be? What with a god that MAKES your worst nightmares come true as a matter of course.

But as far as being a home-maker, I hadn't really imagined anything else, or actually SEEN anything else.  I kind of thought I'd only-the-good die young, so tragic, so romantic. They have the BEST funerals. And then I was 24 and maybe that wasn't going to happen after all. And, oh shit!, what if I lived to 85?  How could I afford 20 years of retirement?  God's got 50 more years to MAKE me become a doctor and 45 more to MAKE me marry Mike Dolan.  God could do that... if he WANTS to bad enough.  Let's hope he just sits around wanting and doesn't actually wake up early on Saturday mornings to practice.

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