Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holy the Traumatic Brain Injury

There are all these notes everywhere and it seems I've been thinking about writing more about my TBI experience.  It would be helpful if I could understand what I wrote.  But, alas, half the notes don't make sense and I can't tell if that's the fault of my brain when I wrote them or the fault of my brain as I read them.

I tried watching "Memento" thinking it would be cute to watch an amnesia movie at this point in my life. But I only lasted 10 minutes and became completely freaked out because it's a little too close to home.  Luckily I'm not a homicidal maniac... that I know of.

It's obvious that many brain cells are gone and pathways destroyed.  I can't put names and faces together well.  I'm still stuttering and slurring my words. I have entire weeks missing from this last month. But there's been these amazing sensations and moments. I hold a deep peace about what has happened.  The first week was surprise and fear.  The second and parts of third are just lost.  But throughout there is a thread of calm.  I think this was meant to happen, not in some sort of plot device way, not because this is the ONLY way for me to learn something (because I believe that whatever we learn from a situation is NOT that situation teaching us like some ass-hole professor who will stop torturing us once we "get" the lesson to his satisfaction.  Rather, whatever we learn from a situation is our own work, our own efforts. Be proud of everything you learn from your experiences because you are the one who did the work to gain that wisdom.  You didn't have to learn anything from that situation, but you did, you, awesome you, learned from crappy situations.  You are a force of nature, of compost.  You took rotten left overs and turned it into life giving food.  That you: Composter Extraordinaire. Evidence by theory is true: shitty old people who are big jerks who clearly have experienced many things in life and not learned from any of them.).  This TBI happened for a reason that is so embedded in the fabric of life it cannot be teased out. It is part of my life, my path and I accept it with this odd peace that withstands the frustrations and disappointments of missed board meetings, not being a contributing part of the Strategic Plan, missed opportunities, shelved personal goals, a deconditioning body and an inability to parent the way I want to.  But it all seems part of the whole in an integral way that feels right and good and simply beyond question.

My mind and body have never been more intertwined and obviously one as they are now.  I think, it hurts.  I hurt, my brain stops thinking.  It's abundantly clear when I've tried to do too much or think too long.  There's no question and if I went too far (which you have to do now and again to find where you're at) with mind or body, I just have to lay down immediately and fall asleep.

And as my brain has fallen apart, I feel this is a great opportunity.  Obviously this isn't terminal.  I'm not going to die.  I will clearly recover, though no one knows how long that will take, months to over a year.  So, I will have my brain back some day.  But I hope to build a newer and better brain as I recover.  I've spent ten years learning about optimism and habitual neural pathways. Since my habitual neural pathways have fallen apart, I plan to use the pieces to build better ones. Like compost, like legos.  The structure is gone, but all the pieces are still here and now I learned from the first shitty space ship I made and I'm going to make a better one now.  Perhaps this is just more evidence of my dented mental capacity, but I think my brain has not been this decomposed since my teens, a time when the brain patterns disintegrate and we rebuild anew who we are. That's the most recent research found in the book, The Primal Teen.

Of course, this might be tall order for a girl who filled her fridge with canned goods.  How could I expect to reformat my mind when I can't even remember what word I am saying. For all the peace, I've had some really negative moments.  And my social anxiety has built in to a crescendo of angst.  Noticing this, I was thinking "Damn it!  I'm screwing up my brain already!  When will I get it right?  Why can't I just get this stupid little thing?"  Well, double oops now, right?  Yeah, I better go a little easier on myself, not just now, but forever. I'll get it with time. And then... look at that.  There it was!  Positive thinking about positive thinking 

To stave off deconditioning of my body completely, I'm engaging in at least an hour a day (and additional hours of shavasana) of yoga, no inverted poses, just reclining, super slow yoga.  And I'm adding extended meditation sessions and I think this can only help with rebuilding my brain the way I'd prefer it to work. 

The other thing about the way things have been is that I've experienced the care and love of many people who wouldn't otherwise have had any reason to show it. Three friends in particular have really helped, have been the hands and feet of my well wishers who are either too far away or too swamped with finals or work to be able to help.  And since showing kindness is the most effective method of finding happiness, consider this concussion a gift to my friends!  An opportunity to show compassion where otherwise there would be none.  It has also been obviously wonderful and healing for me to experience the kindness of others.  I feel I can trust life a little more, trust people a lot more, and trust my friends to be there for me when I have need.  Just after I got konked in the head, I was telling my friend the story of the duck egg and how it was the first time I had ever experienced someone helping me puke (much less a stranger!) and the first time I had experienced compassion from my extended family.  And without the duck egg incident I might have gone on forever not seeing that people in general and certain people specifically care.  The same has happened with this. I felt very much alone until I blogged about it and within minutes help and meals and care and all that I needed were flowing towards me like a river released of it's dam.  One of the "reasons" bad things happen to good people is to allow friends and family an opportunity to show their love.  And here, it has been shown and witnessed and experienced.  Friends have redeemed the "bad" thing that happened into an opportunity to show love.

There is another "reason" bad things happen to good people that I discovered this week, but I will save it for another post.  Hope this was coherent-ish!  And now MUST go lay down.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marching to the beat of my own Concussion

Remember when you lost your baby teeth? One at a time, they created this void in your mouth, soft, gooshy, smooth.  And your tongue reached out for it obsessively, all day, while working on multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, all day, your tongue sought the emptiness.  That's what it's like in my head right now.  It's a fascinating emptiness, soft, gooshy, smooth, almost soothing.  I feel around up there all day, sensing what it's like, the pressure behind the eye, the stabbing shot of pain from the crown, the lost thoughts, the new switch that turns it all on (such as "on" is right now) and off into total, empty relaxation.

About a week ago I was simply standing in the doorway at a friend's house, wine in hand, chatting, laughing. Blue came barreling through with a light saber and she accidentally hit the chin-up bar above my head.  This chin-up bar was like a bicycle holder for cars, using gravity and the weight of it's duties to brace itself against the wall and the doorjam, so that when it was struck from below, it lost all sense of responsibility and simply crumbled off the doorway on to my head.  I believe it was made of lead. Bonk, bonk, bonk, all three parts clobbered me.  I did not cry.  I did not crumble to the floor like I might have done had I been alone.  I think I giggled a little, cussed some, and was just generally stunned.

A few days later, I was a total mess.  I was lost in my usual grocery store, faint again (on Tuesday the kids dentist had laid me out and given me oxygen), confused, crying.  I ended up at a "doctor's" office (not The Doctor, just A doctor.)  And they were even more alarmed by my inability to make sense and gave me a CT scan. So instead of a new oven, I got a crap load of brain X-rays, Merry Christmas.  It was very difficult to make any kind of medical decisions as confused as I was.  Impossible really.  Huck was out of cell phone range and my mother advised for the CT scan.  And I'm glad I got it - well I kind of have to be since I did get one.  There is nothing that needs surgery, nothing wrong with my brain.  But it was reassuring that 1) the doctors I spoke with were alarmed enough to beg me to get one so that means I wasn't just being ...um.. confused and hysterical just for fun (?!?!) and 2) since things aren't improving all that much I am reassured, somewhat, that improvement will be slow but sure and there's nothing else wrong.

I am a little concerned about writing this blog because this is how things work right now: they make sense when I write or speak them, but when I look over what I wrote, I don't understand anything.  So I'll probably write this and then reread it and it won't make sense so I'll edit it to make even less sense. 

I was going to apply to teach a 10 week class at Blue's school, but when I went to do the lesson plan, nothing made sense.  I worked on it for three hours and this one page plan wouldn't make sense.  Then I tried working on the finer points of our budget for the next six weeks, HA!  And the menu!  I have a four page spread sheet of menu items (I know, this seems a little obsessive but menu planning cuts costs and stress and keeps us sane)  But I couldn't make heads or tails of it.  I got to the part where I planned out what days we have evening activities so dinner needs to be quick.  And I figured out the part where Huck is home, so there's some point in making a meal that's a little more complex, not that I'm "cooking for my man" but that there seems to be little point in making something interesting when I'm the only one who's going to enjoy it.  But when I put together the days of the week, the quick meals, the full family meals, etc, none of it makes sense.

I am writing this in the morning because that is the only time of day my brain works, and I can feel it slipping now.  I think I've used up my day's alotment of focus, but I'm not done with what I want to tell you.  The fog is coming in around my eyes right now.  It's a dark fog, a little tunnel-visionny, and after that settles in... I don't know what happens next, I can't remember.

I have notes all over, "Are you cooking something right now?"  It reminds me of Huck's grandmother with Alzheimer's.  She'd covered Lue's house with sticky notes, "Door", "drawer", "table."  She knew she was loosing something and was making valiant final attempts to remember language and what it means.

Yesterday the kids had something like five or six desserts.  It wasn't until just before bed that I realized they'd had breakfast dessert, lunch dessert, snack dessert, dinner dessert and bedtimes dessert! Ack!  Snack Dessert?! How did I say yes to that?!

It wasn't until Thanksgiving that I discovered the only way to deal with my headaches was wine.  That sounds really bad; my mother made that very clear.  But tylenol, ibuprofen, all the usual suspects aren't working at all.  The doctor offered stronger medicine, but I declined.  One glass of wine can relieve a headache for about four hours, so it's not like I need to keep a buzz on or anything.  It's just medicinal.  Part of me wants to wait until at least early afternoon, for propriety.  But the other part of me is like, "Screw you all and your expectations!  Why should I be uncomfortable with a pounding headache just because you feel uncomfortable with me having a small glass of wine every four hours?  Who is my priority here? Me or you?"  And yet, I can see the danger: have to have a glass of wine to feel normal? That sounds not good.

I'm trying to apologize in advance for all the mistakes I'm making.  Coyote's record-breaking fundraising poinsettia delivery was a complete disaster.  Huck spent much of Thanksgiving morning fixing my mess.  And I spent HOURS trying to figure out what went to who!  But my apologies just sound like lame excuses: "Sorry, I forgot your name, your money, your needs, your child, you.  But I have a severe concussion."  Sounds LAME.  I'm worried I'll loose friends and respect. 

There's all sorts of loss looming here.  Not just my brain, not just the patience of others, but also my plans for the future.  Apparently this thing could go on for months!  How will I tell stories? Teach Exploratories? Write?  Not only do I tire very easily, I don't make sense most of the time.  And I can't remember anything from minute to minute.  I wander around my house discovering half done things.  I am relying on my smoke detector to let me know I am cooking.

But it's a little true that I do like having a valid, if lame sounding, excuse for all my failings. Just as this thing hit me on the head, I was marveling about how my best is so often not good enough, not enough to get the job done, and that's okay.  I wasn't worried about my best not being good enough.  That's fine.  And now, my best is worse than my worst effort before this happened.   Speaking of which, I decided I won't be going back over this blog post to edit for length or sense because I'm worried I'll just make less sense of it with my editing.  Sorry if it's too long or doesn't mean anything to you.

I am sometime frightened by this whole thing.  I do feel a little sorry for myself at times.  I wish, sometimes, that someone was here, checking on me, because I do get lost and confused and it's scary.

But there is some pleasure in this experience, and that is exploring the way my brain feels.  It's totally different.  I'm certain I'm "me" still.  But my thoughts are simple, clear, if completely forgettable and at times confusing.  It's kind of nice to have the mental cacophony dimmed somewhat.  If an awkward social situation comes up I just react, I don't have that thing where all possible reactions and counter-reactions flood my head and paralyze me.  I just say, "Are you ordering a CT scan to make us both feel like we did something useful? Or do I really need one?"  I didn't worry about the doctor's feelings or any awkward moment I was creating, or whether I was pathologically not trusting him because I felt obligated to trust him or blah blah blah.  I just spit out the question as it came to me.  Ahhhh.

There's one situation that is confusing me.  I am wondering if I should tell me friend who's house I was at.  I don't want her to feel guilty, or responsible to take care of me.  But if someone got a concussion at my house, I'd probably want to know. But I don't know how to say it without sounding like ... I don't know.

I also found this switch in my brain, like all the clutter over it was just tossed out and here's this switch.  It's a metal toggle and it turns my brain and body off.  I just have to flip it and everything stops.  It's very nice, but also disconcertingly easy.

So I think that's all I can do right now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Story Appropriations Committee

At Huck's very nice house in Idaho
I don't know how I managed to get such a dorky passion.  But that's me; I am a storyteller and extraordinarily dorky to boot. This passion has all the sexiness of geriatric story time at the old folks home. I tried to change myself to please a few jerks, but as we all know, that never works. Hell, if I can support gay and lesbian friends and family as they accept who they are, whether society likes it or not, I can probably accept myself for who I am.  If you have a problem with stories, it's YOU not me. There are 7 Billion people here, I'm sure you can find people who communicate in the utterly boring way you need them too. I'm just being who I was born to be: a storyteller.  And you know, I love your stories too.  I can also be a fabulous story listener as well.

This passion is not sexy. It's been confusing to figure out how to execute this passion. It all began, in earnest, at the Wenatchee UU Fellowship, thanks to Rita and Rocci who opened up the Children's Story for All Ages to anyone who wanted to be trained.  And that's how I found out there was at least one place for me.  I brought the concept to Spokane and gathered and trained storytellers and then scheduled myself in there too. But I wanted to expand a little. And I finally applied to the Spokane Folk Festival, with my one video of The Girl and The Chenoo (see link at lower right).  I was very embarrassed to ask someone to record that for me and worried people would think I was egotistical.  I know so many many men who do not have those hang ups, including the one who introduced himself to me at the Folk Festival as "an incredibly powerful public speaker."

I'd already gotten notice of my slot so I didn't open the PDF of the festival schedule.  I also didn't open it because my computer doesn't like PDF's which, in my brain, stands for something I'm sure Adobe never intended. So I missed some crucial information that I discovered when I finally received the official, final paper version in the mail two weeks ago.  There I was, performing in Conference Room 126, at 5:00 pm, Sarajoy Van Boven, "Retells Native American Folk Tales."

6th grade basketball
What the PDF !!!?!?  I am 100% certain that I did not apply with that program.  I was thinking "American Folk Tales."  I could see doing one or two Native American stories as part of a slate of Americana.  But a whole program?  Anyone with any cultural sensitivity would obviously note the problem here: I am NOT, nor have I EVER been, nor will I ever be: Native American!  I am Dutch. I am all Dutch. 100%.  Horrifically, after 75 years in America, my family was still producing 100% Dutch babies in 1975. Of course, I radically mixed that up with my post-globalization kids who are 1/2 Dutch, 1/4 Norwegian and 1/4 German.

So what right could I possibly have had to tell these stories? NONE.  True, I grew up in Marietta, Land of the Lummi.  True, I've had many good friends of Native American heritage (who hasn't?).  But none of that gives me claim to their culture.  Shit, man, I'm already living on their homeland, I'm going to hijack their cultural heritage too?  And now, here I was, displayed for all to see, commandeering Native American culture for my own purposes, whether I wanted to or not.  Whether I chose to or not, I will forever be written down as having done this.  At least I wasn't getting paid.

The other problem was that I was hoping to get more recordings to audition for other performances from this presentation, but I realized that if I took any more recordings of Native American folk tales, I would be forever branded (if that hasn't already happened) as That Native American Folk Tale Lady, and/or the Moron Who Tried to Make a Go at Being an Aryan Native American Folk Tale Lady.  This borrowing of Native American tales is very very bad form indeed, especially in storyteller circles, such as they are.

A glass class Blue and I took for a school report.
What were my options?  I could ask my Native friends for permission?  Perhaps Sarah (White Earth Ojibwe) could give permission on behalf of the Pima? the Passamaquady?  There's Lily, maybe I could look her up again and she could give the go ahead for my Tlingkit tales?  But what right would she have to speak on behalf of all Tlingkits? I mean, it's the same damn issue since 1492: Native Americans aren't a monolithic group and don't speak for each other.

And why me?  American Indians have a flourishing storytelling culture still in existence today with festivals all over North America.  There's no reason a Dutch girl would even need to do this.  These people haven't died out. They're here. Alive. They're the remarkable descendants of those who survived several waves of genocide, broken treaties, lies, and abuse and continue to be either ignored or discriminated against to this day.  THEY can still tell their own damn stories.  They don't need me to speak on their behalf.  But as I considered the rest of the schedule, I could see that no performers were Native American.  And if I didn't tell their stories, however wrong it was, they wouldn't be represented by a single performance.

The Spokane Folk Festival is a bunch of seasonal volunteers who put on an amazing program.  They simply accept applications; they don't recruit.  One assumes they did not have any Native applicants, for whatever reason. The ENTIRE festival is basically white people doing other culture's stuff. That's the nature of the region, white. And Native American. There's the white African dance troupe.  The white Bollywood-ers.  The only people doing the right color thing are the Reel dancers and jig pluckers.

Since it was my first ever festival, I didn't feel entitled to do what need to be done, which was to thumb my nose at the schedule and do my own thing.  So, I prepared a few more Native American stories and got working on them.  And the closer I came to the deadline, the worse I felt. Until Wednesday and Thursday where my cultural appropriation angst reached a crescendo. I could not have bunch my panties any tighter.


This is what I saw: angry Native Americans picketing my performance.  Throwing rotten tomatoes.  Or better yet, ROCKS!  And all I could do was crumble to the ground and say, "I know. I agree. You are SO VERY right."  And throw rocks at me too.

But then I realized that the museum was having their annual Native American days celebration (which might account for the lack of representation across town) and so they'd be there. That wouldn't make it right, but I might avoid an unpleasant confrontation. But then (my god! the horror!) word would spread of this nutty lady trying to steal the last vestiges of their cultural heritage and they would all carpool across town in rental vans, sit in Conference Room 126, fold their arms and seethe hate hate hate at me. And rightfully so. Except that I'm a human, am I not? And should be treated humanely even though I cannot, apparently, find it within myself to treat other cultures with a shred of dignity. 

Not a meth lab. It's mining waste treatment experiments
So, obviously, I'd gone off the rails and Huck wasn't there to help me back.  I righted myself by reminding myself that most Native Americans, although reasonably protective of their culture, are also normal humans with a normal sense of how to treat others.  And they would not humiliate or stone me intentionally. 

And it was too late to put together a whole new program.  And I came up with a plan. I built into the program not one, but two opportunities for me to address the living-ness of Native Storytelling culture and my humble borrowings of it for one day only. And if anyone said anything more, I'd respond with this well rehearsed phrase: "You are absolutely right." 

But I think its worse than rocks.  Most people are too polite to say anything so I'll never get an opportunity to explain myself.  Unless they stumble upon this here blog.  Which is very unlikely.  Only the elite few of discriminating taste can find this gem.

In the end, I got my first festival performance. Spellbound-ness happened. I loved it. I can't wait to do it again. Only NOT Native American stories. It would be tempting to do, however.  They are so so good.   

Bonus joke:
Coyote: "Blue, ask me a 'yes or no' question."
Blue: "Okay. Which do you prefer, 'yes' or 'no'?"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Middle school or Middle age?

Now capable of taking risks
Last week was Blue's first basket ball practice where the other kids showed up.  And there were these moms all hanging out in a circle, a shape without an opening. And after a while of standing around feeling increasingly odd and out, I left.  Yes, I was indeed in a middle school gymnasium and I wondered if it wasn't these buildings that cause this sort of thing. After decades of cliques, the walls had gotten infected somehow and were oozing this sort of clannish anti-newcomer virus.  So I left and sat in the car and chatted with my mommy.  But when I returned, one woman broke away from the group and approached me.  Obviously an introvert, she was shaking as she began a conversation.  It was stunning. Someone had learned something in the intervening years. Of course, I made it as easy as I could in my awkward, never-ending fourteen year old way.  And soon we realized that we'd met before and she'd worked with Huck.  And then another woman overheard Huck's name and it turns out that her husband and mine had been in a band together that practiced at her house.  So, I didn't know anyone, but this group of ladies knew my husband - and I felt like I then slid easily into the B-ball moms.

World's Best Cat
Last night was Blue's first game. And another reminder that even my best is sometimes, frankly "is often", not good enough.  I began formulating my plan of attack the night before to get everyone where they need to be.  I might as well tell you now (I usually don't tell for security reasons) that Huck is working out of town for a while.  And by that, I mean that his company got him a house in Idaho. And so things will get tricky schedule wise (and in a lot of other -wises too!). And we arrived early, fed, homework done, etc. etc.  And it turns out that's not where the game was. As all my relatives know, this sort of thing is my undoing.  I have no idea why I over-react to things like this, like missing the ferry to bring my mother to an important funeral, missing my flight out of India, missing all of our flights out of New Orleans once and being stuck there for days and days more. Every so often, even my surpreme paperwork, planning, i dotting, t crossing skills fail and fail spectacularly when they do. And my reaction is usually equally spectacular! 

Eventually we made it to the other side of town, half way through the third quarter of my daughter's first game. First game, in that the refs had to give constant mini-briefings on things like where to stand during free throws, what the lines mean, etc. etc.   Obviously, no one was upset we were late.  No one even cared, except they'd all been there before. And one mom says, "We have to fail like that some times, to give them something real to complain about."

Hard Cider begins
I was concerned that Blue would feel embarassed or discouraged with so many corrections and redirections.  I felt that way.  I started basketball when I was in 6th grade as well.  I actually played for McDonald's through the Salvation Army. And boy, were there some spectacular fails then!  My favorite was when I grabbed the ball and was instantly surrounded on all sides by my opponents, all grabbing into my space for the ball.  I'd seen girls in this position before, so I was pretty sure I knew what to do.  I twisted violently, left and right to get their hands off my ball.  And as I spun a large, thick, wet rope of snot flew out my nose and slapped each girl across the face and then suddenly disappeared back into my nose when they'd all been hit, never to be seen again.  It was like the Angel of Snot, smiting mine enemies. The girls ran away, squealing and screaming. And I got the foul!

But the real trouble came in eighth grade, when my backwards parochial school finally got sports.  First we got a new principal who no longer believed that sports were an abomination to god, a waste of time better spent in worship and devotions, 'cuz that's what we were all doing instead, right?  So we first came up with a mascot, the terrifically frightening "CRUSADERS".  No shit.  We named our team after historical fanatics who killed anyone who didn't believe exactly as they did, including a ton of Muslims, obviously.  Not that they didn't retaliate.  But still.  It was our fantasy that our fledgling sports teams imitate these studly pillars of the faith and slay our opponents mercilessly.  Under this banner of Christ's love, I played volleyball, basketball and baseball. I loved basketball the most.  I was a goddess at guarding, unsurpassed at passing, and a queen at dribbling.  What I was not good at was 1) knowing the rules and following them and 2) making baskets. I wasn't good at making baskets because I never shot and I needed glasses, but we didn't know that yet. I mean, I really never ever shot.  Until the very last game, we were 84 - 2 and my coach insisted that everyone had to pass me the ball until I made a basket.  I nearly passed out from trying to keep from crying.  On the one hand, no pressure.  We're 82 points ahead; we ARE the crusaders.  I couldn't possibly loose the game even if I tried.  On the other hand, the entire fourth quarter was focused on me and my refusal to even try for a basket.  I don't know if I ever did try.  I don't know if I made one or not.  But I have certainly retained a very intense memory and thought it over many times.  My conclusion is that I was afraid to take a risk in front of everyone.  I think it's the same reason I hate to shop in stores with big windows.  I don't know, just that shooting baskets is a very private thing for me, I guess.  Like pooping.  I just need the doors shut and the fan on, is all.  What do you think? What psychosis underlies my inability to take a shot in front of people?
Pirate, Poirot, Death and Ood

Later, I'd play pick up games with Orcas boys, who managed to put me on the "skins" team.  Of course, I managed to get in with the "shirts" instead.  I at least knew enough to play a decent game.  And to take shots eventually, no matter how far afield they go.

I just quested for my McDonalds/Salvation Army team photos to show you how classy I looked in sixth grade with my perm and my goldenrod and red polyester uniform.  I swear I've seen these photos recently.  I think my mother handed them over because she figured I was finally responsible enough, with a cavernous enough house to take in my own memorabilia.  Sorry, mom, you were wrong, apparently.  Instead I found a suitcase full of 14-15 year old Sarajoy.  And it messed with my head. I discovered that I have forgotten what sound like very sweet and lovely memories. Who was Laura, and why were we in her hallway? I also haven't changed enough.  I wrote really messed up letters to people. I wrote excellent poetry, and some really bad stuff too. I wrote about my own death a lot.  I was obsessed with death. I was seriously depressed and lonely and lost. And I feel all mixed up now, especially after watching 6th grade basketball last night.  Am I 11? 14? 37?  

Fingers? Nah, they're people!  With rights!
And so instead of preparing for Saturday's Folk Fest performance, I ran out of the house crying, you know, to prove I'm a big girl now. And I went for a hike. And I found my favorite tree. (I'm telling you, I'm really worried I haven't changed at all!) And I tried to take a photo of it, but my camera was dead.  So I cried, because I'm 37, damn it. And then I climbed to the top of the tree and curled up in a branch crotch and watched the swans. Until I felt like I might actually be 37 again.  And then I climbed down, which was scary because I was 37 again, and decided to further procrastinate memorizing a 45 minute monologue by writing in my blog.  And now I have to go pick up the kids.

 Anyway, I watched Blue and knew she was going to respond to all of this very differently than I did.  But just in case, we plotted our places on the learning curve, to show ourselves that there is more to learn and that we aren't expected to know it all right now.  But soon, we will know so much more than we do, right? right? I'll know where her games are and she'll know where to stand during a free throw.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feng Sh**

Hot Pink Chocolate Birthday Queen
I love Feng Shui.  It's added some challenge, spiritual significance, brain-food and fun to my FAVORITE chore of all time: housekeeping. I like to try to figure out logical explanations for chi and the rules. Like, it makes sense to me that if the corner of the room you first see upon entering is clutter free, it will make the sensation of walking in to that room lighter. Keep mirrors away from your bed; I sometimes awake in the middle of the night to see an unknown figure standing near me, imagine if that was doubled by a mirror! I would scream twice as loud! And if your stairways, hallways, and entryways are cluttered and difficult to enter, it's going to make it hard to move around your house and you'll get lethargic and overwhelmed. And if the photos of people in your house are always turned towards each other, I can see how subconsciously that might give you a sense of co-operation.

Ione, WA Train Ride
As a woowoo-leaning Libra who has noticed she is deeply affected by her surroundings (as Libra's are wont to be), it was only a matter of time before Feng Shui and I met and started dating. It was destiny. And being in the analytical triad of Libra, I like to suss out what causes these feelings. Take good luck charms. Are they really full of magic? Or are they as full of magic as we imbue them by believing it so. And, as the psychological "sciences" point out, the luckier you think you are, the luckier you actually are because you are open to finding and receiving positive experiences. If you aren't convinced that nothing good ever happens to you, you'll be able to see the ocean of cool experiences we're actually swimming in.  And if you want a charm to convince you of it, then take it, and believe in it whole heartedly and it will be truer than not.

So in my weekly thrill through the library, I picked up another book on Feng Shui, to inspire more decluttering and to find out what else I could do to feel awesome in my home and to create awesomeness for everyone who enters it, to allow the flow of awesome to come and go and radiate from my little Shinto shrine of awesomenity. And there were some good new ideas in the book.  If you feel ugly, clean out your wardrobe.  Certainly, clothes that don't fit and yet you feel obligated to wear because they are perfectly good isn't a way to waltz into the world with your head held high.  And torn unders can't do much for you either.  I purged chipped dishes (that could still be used for small snacks!) and noticed my purse was old and stained (the toll of time creeps in on these daily implements) and gleefully upgraded to shiny and new and 50% off.

Then.  Enter the woowoo-ness.  The "put an amythist under your bed to protect your marriage" part of the book.  I'm paraphrasing here because I flung the thing back to the library, but apparently there's this Five Fingers of Yellow Death that rotates clockwise around your house, taking up 30 degrees for a whole year and if you touch anything in that area, you subject your home, your wealth (such at it is today), your health and that of everyone you come in contact with to grave danger (ooo-ooo-oooo).  And then there's the Sergeant of Deadly Arrows who occupies a full 1/2 of your house every year.  No remodeling there.  The author admits it's a pain in the rear, but she doesn't mess with it.  In fact, in order to avoid the Five Ochre Fingers, she removes ALL objects from the 30 active degrees of Jaundiced Death Digits for the entire year and closes it entirely off.  Well, I'm sorry, but at that point we'd officially crossed a line from curious brain-food in to total horse-sh**.

Moving on, I decided to shine up our entry, touch up the paint, refresh the front door, etc.  In non-woowoo terms, this is so that when we come home, we do not feel we are entering a depressing pit of dilapidation where entropy is out of control.  But in order to do that, I would have to sort through a daunting basement closet where the previous owners left veritable pyramids of paint cans. So there, I'd identified a place of clutter that was gumming up the works.  So I cleared it out, toted a load of cans to the dump. Unfortunately, I accidentally took the empty can of dining room paint,  throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and now I have no idea what that color is. In order to do "touch up" I'll now just have to buy a whole new color and paint the whole damn thing. And that, my friends, is where F*** Shui began.

homestead grave yard- ooooh-oooh
I swept out the closet, put in a shelf, reorganized and now I have an easy to access, easy to understand home repair center.  And within minutes a most promising cow buyer fell through.  I broke about 5 dishes in one extraordinarily clutzy evening.  I charred dinner.  I failed to take care of several key paper-work type things. I got a bill for my duck egg fiasco which included two doctor visit charges (one of which my insurance rejected as absurd; that's what they told me) because, the office said, I had to be held for observation for so long and they said I should just be thankful I'm alive because it was clear I was close to not being so and a funeral OR ER visit would have been 5x as much, never mind I was the ONLY patient they had and my occupation of the room did not constitute any extra expense or lost revenue opportunity. This and that and then Huck came home and that's when he tore his calf muscle, with it's attendant ER bill (yet to be recieved), plus his inability to lift all the heavy things (chicken coops that need to go into the barn now) or that might have been acquired, like free ovens.  The Sh*ticane Feng had made land fall on our farm.

Curious about what Feng Shui might say about it, I discovered that the closet I cleaned out was the ONLY space in our house that was in the Five Fingers of Mustard Morbidity this year.  According to this book, it was the only place in the house I should not have decluttered, not this year anyhoo. Had the page about these fingers somehow influenced my subconscious?  And yet how could my subconscious tear Huck's calf muscle and double charge me for a doctor's visit? Especially since I hadn't really read the whole page or done the math to figure out what segment of my house was under siege?  Or was this woowoo-iest version of Feng Shui the real one?  Was there really a Colonel of Destruction residing, even now, in chi-form in half my house?  Could these Six Fingers really take down our whole family?  Could the power of positive thinking, could the LAW OF ATTRACTION counter Feng Shui?  Do the five fingers play paper-scissors-rock with Learned Optimism and Abraham and the Hicks? What trumps what? 

Popeye and kids
I found that my only possible Feng Shui prayer would be a Hail-Mary bowl of dirt.  And since my subconscious had already read that, I figured that if I put a bowl of dirt in the closet, my subconscious could rest easy and stop harassing my life.  But if I used positive thinking to combat fear of Five Fingers by say, denying Five Fingers exists or that it has power, by insisting the Five Fingers are a peasant-Chinese, non-scientific grab for explanation, ie: superstition, then if Five Fingers really exist, will I totally piss it off and a nuclear bomb will drop on Lucky Farm's East by SE corner? Note: we haven't specified what kind of luck this farm has! Or will the Force of the Fingers diminish it's imaginary power that resides solely in my head?

You know that discussion about "If I didn't know about Jesus, would I still go to hell?" And the missionary, compassionate and kind, says, "No."  And the proverbial Eskimo says, "They why did you tell me?"  So that's why I brought the book back.My thoughts are powerful. My imagination more so. And my subconscious supremely so. I need a sign above my door: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," perhaps?  Nah. How about something like "Don't Feed Inhabitants Superstition?"

Gun safety lessons (plus can shooting) with Opa
But things are improving.  Huck's leg is slowly healing as healing is the natural state of life, until it isn't. And I forgot we have this new, posh health care debit card, so the bills will get taken care of before the next millennium.  The front door is refreshed. The rotten board in the front porch is replaced (no thanks to me! Demo looks so fun when Huck and his dad do it; how hard can it be? A crow bar and some elbow grease, I'm loaded with that! And then I destroyed every board around the board I was trying to remove. Huck was able to fix most of my damage and replace the correct board, LAYING down!), and stained. The bills are all paid.  The pantry is full.  My birthday was an awesome cabin-stay in Ione with a train ride, thanks to my adventure-planning mother.  My vote for most magical human invention?  Trains...in autumn.  The kids are great.I mean, listen to this, my daughter gets to go to a school where the term "Geeky" is synonymous with ye ol' "Rad" and "Da Bomb." The marriage is currently cozy and affectionate. The house, sturdy.  My health, superb.  My creative endeavors rockin' on.  All the animals are well-fed and fine. And the sunrises are sublime, as always. And I think the crystals in the Southeast corner are finally working!

 





 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Non-Consensual Farming

Little Chocolatey Claire
Did I tell you our oven went kaput.  Well, not kaput; it went out in a blaze of glory.  A ball of fire proceeded along the element, leaving a molten puddle of metal as it traversed, shooting lighting to the sides. A new oven wasn't in the budget, so we've been without.  What's the big deal? It was summer and who turns on an oven in the summer time?  I'd just use the dutch oven if necessary, like camping.

Then, in the early hours, early in September a frozen finger of death descended upon our garden and took out 20 pepper plants, 10 tomato plants, 3 watermelon vines, 5 cucumber vines, a row of beans and 7 summer squash bushes. There were reports throughout the region of a few select households, like ours, hit by random acts of Jack Frost. For a light frost, it would have been early, for a hard freeze it was a full month ahead.  And what was the likelihood of this happening again? Zero. Zero, I tell you. Feeling slightly ill about a year's worth of loss (I'd also lost my carrots, most of my potatoes and ALL of my garlic to ravenous gophers. I did get a haul on onions, peas, kale, favas, and corn, however), I fell in to a fitful sleep that night. I awoke at 4am, sure the frost had returned. At six, I finally ventured out and witnesses all of my winter squash frost damaged.  ALL of it.

This would not have been a problem in other years.  Annoying, yes.  But I would have pulled them all in and spent a day or two cooking them up to freeze.  But alas, no oven. I would sell my cow and we would buy an oven.


Hendrika, the big red cow (with cute tiny Yoda!)
My big Hendrika girl was possibly the worst cow known to human kind.  She was ornery with a bottomless appetite. I hadn't milked her since her latest calving, another bull we named Yoda.  I have some things to say about cows: the first is that they're a hell of a lot of work.  99.9% of the population knows this, but I needed actual experience to realize that, yes, as soon as able, humanity ditched the family milk cow and her accompanying winters chipping shit-ice and filling troughs with frozen hoses.

The second thing I noticed was that cow-husbandry involves quite a bit of heart ache.  There was the shooting debacle, of course.  But every year I had to sell a cow, a cute one, a nice one.  And I had to decide who to sell and when to sell it. And it broke my heart annually.

Third: expense. Like most hobbies, it's more expensive than not doing the hobby.  Take knitting: you could buy a sweater on clearance from Target for $15, or you could buy $100 in yarn and spend a couple months making it yourself. Or para-sailing: you could jump off the high dive at your local pool.  But the stress  expense of amassing the chunk of change for a winter's worth of delivered hay was feeling tiresome.

I felt a little guilt.  Bonds had been made and they felt like commitments.  But cows aren't pets.  And I didn't marry Hendrika and I didn't give birth to her.  I have struggled with the boredom inherent in providing a stable home for children and in maintaining a monotonous marriage.  But I realized that I this level of commitment is not required of absolutely every endeavor.  In fact, in order to maintain the commitments I have, I will need to make sure the rest of my life is constantly fresh and moving and flowing with new things coming in.  That's not flaky, that's taking responsibility for my needs for adventure and novelty before it explodes in my face.

It took a few weeks to sell Hendrika. We had a vacation in there and one buyer had his truck break down. But eventually she (and her bull calf) went to a beef farm as a nurse maid.  I was somewhat relieved no one was going to try to work with her by hand. But the look she gave me as the trailer pulled out shriveled my soul: betrayal, disgust, fear, shock.

a neighbor's beet, organic?
And all I had left was the hard-to-find miniature Jersey, Chocolatey Claire, lover of onions and valuable because miniatures (old world size, the size they were when they arrived here from the isle of Jersey) eat so little yet can produce so much milk. This was the cow I'd wanted from the beginning when the closest one was Montana for $2000, ha!  So I figured I'd breed her from what I could get.  And then, once I had her, I felt done with the cattle adventure. Ironic. And now five deals have fallen through. This last one even PayPal'd me a down payment.  Saturday morning they texted me with their plan to ship her to Montana: the vet inspection would be Wednesday, the branding inspection, Thursday.  They'd buy my winters worth of hay (because she was hungry and I was starting to wonder, so with Hendrika's money, I bought hay for her instead of an oven.  Then about five minutes after the delivery left the hay ranch for my place, I'd gotten a call from this latest buyer, but it was too late to back out of the hay deal.so I have hay now and because of a math glitch -- despite the fact that I took several years of college math, not because I enjoyed it, but because I was good at it and there was this really hot math professor -- I miscalculated how much hay I would need and I now have 1 1/2 years worth) and I'd have my new oven.  And then an hour later, they called to say that the rules for getting her into Montana had added up to over $500 worth of inspections, plus vaccine issues.  It would actually be easier to bring a motor home full of cats with rabies into Montana that a little hobby-cow.

Images of that stainless steel glass top oven vanished.  And now I have a cow I don't particularly want and I am done with this selling roller coaster. Perhaps I will try in the spring, but by then we'll have bonded. My friend says, "Seems like the universe really wants you to keep that cow."  "Well it seems a little non-consensual of the universe," I pouted. Ah, but Sarajoy, darling, that IS life.  The whole thing's been fairly non-consensual from the get go.  No one here asked to be born, not even the cows.

While trying to sell her, I figured I'd try again to get her bred because anyone would want that in a heifer, plus we need her to shut up. The neighbors were commenting about her noise, and when I explained she was in heat, the lady said, "Oh I get that! I understand where she's coming from now!" So the breeder came out on Friday, in the middle of the daily morning mayhem. And we head out to the barn only to find the stanchion destroyed, strewn all over the field. I have no idea how petite and demure Claire pulled that off.  But after discussing our options, the main one being roping Claire and having me use my body to pin her against the barn wall while he inseminated her with his arm, I decided to pass this time.

I asked him if I was asking too much for her.  My price had started at $2500, because the closest available cow of this rare sort was now Virginia, for the same price, same level of "purity" of breed.  After the buyers at that price dropped off.  I lowered it, got a buyer, she lost her job, lowered it, lowered it, got a buyer who emailed me daily for a week with silly questions then dropped off, got this latest buyer and here I am at $800.  It makes me sick. And the breeder said I could get more than that if I just had the slaughter house pick her up! Being a miniature, she's cheaper to keep than cats, and now that I think of it, cheaper than getting the field mowed. And if I do ever get her bred, once she calves, she'll more than pay for herself milk-wise. But then there I'll be with another calf to hurt my heart as I sell it.

As Artificial Insemination Fred left, I collected the pieces of the stanchion from the field.  As I collected them, I noticed that it would only need a few screws and ten minutes to put back together.  As I noticed this, the AI guy I found on Craigslist disappeared around the corner.  And the whole hobby farming fiasco reached shitti-cane status and I got the giggles.

Chase of butternuts
In the meantime, I started looking on Craigslist for a cheaper oven.  I need to deal with this room full of winter squash before it all goes bad where the frost permeated the skin.  And suddenly, there are all these ovens up there, for free!  And they work and they're newer and nicer than mine.  Brushed nickel? no.  But white and newer and cleaner (I spent all last Sunday scrubbing that thing. I even used toxic cleaner and gloves and finally, a brillo pad and still, there's these black archipelagos across the stove) for free.  But, alas, Huck's calf muscle is torn and my Hercules, or should we say Achilles, is laid up for now.  He won't be lifting ovens any time soon.  So we "opted" to repair and spruce up the one we have, uber-eco re-users that we are. Huck ordered an element for our 40 year old oven. I bought new spill dishes. And in the process of cleaning it, wiped all the numbers off the dials, so I bought new dials. Unfortunately the new dials have a totally different number system, so where once a 5 was medium, it's now high.  And every dinner has been burned since. Lucky me, the element arrived and we found we need more parts to install it.  Still waiting for those.

Let's recap: this year I grew a garden and got little for my efforts.
I have a cow I don't want and
an oven I hate that still doesn't work.

But what am I, some conditional lover of life? If it's conditional, it isn't love. If I have the right conditions, I'll "love" it? So if anything isn't precisely as I ordered, I'm sending it back to the kitchen?  Ah, no.  I'll call this all an (mis)adventure, and I'll say I'm happy on this bull-ride o'life.  Who the hell knows what's coming down the pike?  Today, unplanned cow-husbandry and a garden robbed by weather.  And tomorrow?  Get ready, could be your wildest dream, hard times, frustration, thrills, spills.  It's wild out here in unpredictable life.  And maybe that's all I want really, maybe that's what keeps me happy and rocking along, all this unpredictability even in the midst of what seems like boring old stability.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love is a Rebellious Frisbee

Carmen is not my favorite opera, it turns out.

Wallace, ID "Center O'Universe"
I didn't realize that I liked opera until recently.  We were out to dinner with another family and the dad and I got blabbing about opera.  He is a thick-spectacled man with an opera vocabulary to match.  He used some technical term and I said, "I don't know what that means.  I'm not really an opera expert. It's not really my thing."  And my friend says, "Yeah, it's not really your thing, Sarajoy.  You two have just been holding forth for half an hour on opera.  You even have favorites, which is more than I can say, even though I've been dragged to more operas than I can count."

I stand by what I said: I am not an opera expert.  But her words got me thinking: I kind of do like opera.  I've been going since I was 15 and my mom got me tickets to see The Magic Flute, and I took my boyfriend and although I've seen many since, that's still my favorite opera, so much so that I bought the CD for my kids. And yet I HATE musicals and sound tracks to musicals and operas.  A long time ago, heading out on a little road trip, my friend asked what kind of music I like: "Good," I stupidly opined.  So she grabs some CDs and the ENTIRE road trip we were listening to Rent, while she narrated the plot. It was pure hell.  Now I always specify: no Christian rock or musical/opera sound tracks.  Everything else can at least get past the gag reflex.

So for our anniversary, I suggested Huck and I go to an opera.  Huck: "Pppffft, opera? I don't think so."
Wallace, ID
Oh, that's right.  Since we've been together I have attended operas.  Alone. We don't have to be the same person.  Although some overlap in interests would help sometimes.  And far be it for him to spend an evening humoring me, and certainly not on our anniversary.

I wasn't done, though.  If I've learned anything from my kids, it's that persistent begging can pay off, or at worst, dock you the evening's dessert.  It was a gamble I was willing to take.  Tactic #1) disparage and humiliate for being different.

"I can't believe you're a musician and you don't want to see Carmen.  That surprises me.  Can you grow as a musician without exposing yourself to new sources?"  Actually, that's what I was planning to say, in a very unusual instance of me 1) planning what I was going to say before I said it and 2) manipulatively and 3) to get my own way.  But he interrupted me at "Carmen."

"Carmen!!!  Carmen!! Why didn't you say so!"  And with that he whipped out his laptop and bought us tickets.

On Saturday we trotted the kids off to the birthday party and the over-nighter (thanks J and T!! A well-baby-sittered friend (who felt sorry for our baby-sitter-less existence) and I planned this over-nighter a while ago and I told Huck who said, "September 22?  Do you know what day that is?"  Um...no... let's see... birthdays? Band Gig? oh wait... maybe... it's our anniversary?")

Well, we didn't trot to their house so much as differently gait.  I, striding forward in a timely manner and Huck carefully swinging forward on his crutches because Thursday night he leapt to catch a Frisbee ("that Coyote was throwing" the bonus phrase Huck never omits because it gives him dad brownie points and basically points out that "(grunt) yes (grunt) I was injured in the act of being an awesome father".  And who's going to begrudge the crippled man his glory?) and tore his calf muscle.  And I seem to think it's important that it was the calf muscle on the leg that is reconstructed.  And Huck does not seem to think that is important because the tear is no where near the titanium knee. But that knee does wear on his body, does it not?  And why not get extra brownie points for being a mixed martial arts moron in New Orleans when you were 18?  But I digress, the point is we spent most of Friday in the ER, listening to "Wait! Wait! Don't tell me!" podcasts.  And we got expert care and no surgery is needed, just crutches and ice and they offered pain killers, but Huck refused because he's an awesome father.

The Family that Mines together, stays together
This crutching has brought up some issues, such as his refusal to allow me to help.
"Do you WANT to eat that burrito standing up in the kitchen?"
"Well, what else am I going to do? I can't exactly use crutches and hold a plate."
"Um, I could carry the plate.  I'm standing right here.  My hands are empty."
"I want to eat here. Grrrr."

And later:
"If I was hurt and hobbling around and you kept asking to help and I kept refusing, how would you feel?"
"Surprised. It's you we're talking about, you know?"

Take 2:
"Why are you not asking for help, even though you clearly need it?"
"I don't want you to resent me."
'Cuz that's me, the resentful grudge hoarder: "Well, it's backfiring, honey."


Just so you know, we both found these exchanges to be hilarious.  Let these repartee's be like a badge of honor: we have arrived, people. We are a bickering old couple.

Dinner was incredible, at 315 Martinis and Tapas in Coeur d'Alene where the entire staff was gay.  I don't want to let out some secret or endanger any North Idaho lives, but my gaydar was screaming. Idaho has never even considered any legislation to limit discrimination of gays in housing or employment because they are so very very weary of creating 'special' groups to protect from discrimination so it's always surprising to see gays braving the neo-nazi discrimination-riddle waters of Idaho, especially when civil-union-Washington is just miles away.

And then we were off to Carmen. Actually "Carmen."  It was partial Carmen.  It was North Idaho, not New York, "Carmen."  No set.  Voice-over summaries instead of some songs.   I almost cried when the curtains initially parted and I saw on stage, not fake-Basque representations, but the orchestra and a choir on risers.  But soon, the main characters came forth and danced and libretto-ed around a few pieces of furniture. Once I accepted the situation as it was, not as I wanted it to be, I was able to find myself enjoying the singing of the classic songs.  It was hard to believe, three hours in to it, that anything was cut as I dozed off in the last act, opening my eyes just as Carmen is killed, and rightfully so.  No, that would be uncharitably unfeminist of me to think she deserved it. But I have never seen a heroine so unlikable.  In fact, I didn't like Any of the characters.  Carmen is the most moron-rich drama I've seen since experimenting with the dumb-ass nerve-grating show Weeds.  The entire cast of characters should should ... should... I don't know. I am at a loss for words. Which means that Huck loved it, of course.

Of course, what I love about any experience is the moron-factor and the human drama, but apparently I need it to be real instead of staged.  The women behind me: "Is that the director of such-n-such?"  "I sure hope so, because it looks like she finally updated her hair."  And the woman in front of us turned around during a half-time and said, "Crutches, eh? I'll be on those in two weeks. I'm having a hip replaced."  And also: her husband had two shoulder's replaced, her aunt had a knee replaced, her cousin - a hip also, and she'd already had a head replacement, all in great detail. Huck interjected, "I have a coworker with a hip replacement.  She gets whatever oil or goop is in chicken wattles injected as a lubricant into her hip every few months."
And Mrs. Personal-Medical-History-of-her-Entire-Extended-Family says, "THAT is TMI, sir. TMI, you understand? Too Much Information."  And she whirled around, plopped down, and fumed in her seat.
Too bad we didn't get chatting with the man next to Huck sooner, a veteran Carmen performer who did not standingly ovate at the end. Surprisingly, he didn't sing along either.

And then the next thing we knew, the house lights were up.  And I awoke wondering how all the old people around us pull off these late nights.  We slowly made our way out, careful to not tip over the women teetering on absurd vericose-vein-causing uber-heels, clutching their men like they were crutches.  We stepped into the warm night, in to another year with our mis-matched paces and preferences and hobbies.  It was the best anniversary two people with nothing in common (except a marriage ...and kids, and a thing for sensible footwear... and also there's the "values" thinga-ma-bob too) could have had.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Art of Picking Up ... cat food

Gorgeous! c. 1985
I'm buying cat food.

And this guy asks me, "So, do you have cats?"


"Yes,"  I decide to humor him.  I'm grocery shopping and what I want to say is, "Why the f*** are you talking to me?"  But then I think, in theory, I really like a conversational, personal society where we interact like humans should, even flirt a little, from time to time, if called upon to do so.  
"I have 152 cats."


He stares then says, "No you don't."

I laugh, "You're right.  I actually don't have cats at all, but I have this really great coupon for cat food."

And he stares at me. 

And so I say, "Well, now that I look at the coupon, it's not that great.  It's a cheap coupon, one of those, 'spend $100, get 50cents off' deals.  Makes me feel cheap, you know?"

And he stares.  So I say, "I have two. Cats."

And this fits his expectations and he asks, "What kinds?"
 "Kinds that don't get along." 
 THE END.


Sena and Lewis Stremler c. 1950 BC
I was being silly and I thought I was being funny.  And although it probably wasn't something you'd buy tickets to at a comedy club, they were passable jokes. Right? But this man reacted like a squirrel in Prius head-lights. And I wanted to take him by the hand, sit him down, and warn him about the facts of life:
1) when you strike up a conversation with a random woman at the grocery store, you kind of need to be ready for anything.
2)  If you are trying to hit on me, or some such non-sense, you should be so nervous that whatever comes out of my mouth with a lilt, should have you exploding with nervous laughter.  The quickest way into a gal's pants is to laugh at her jokes, even nervously. This is why Huck and I are still together, because he laughs so hard he cries at the drop of one of my mid-quality one-liners.  Listen, random dude, I am talking to you out of the sweetness of my open soul to humor you and you are such an A**hat, you really can't humor me in return?
3) This might have worked out if I'd been a "dog"-woman, but I'm a "cat" woman; we don't do as we're told, we don't fulfill expectations, and we don't dumb it down.

And lesson #4) Don't try to pick me up. 
A) I don't like it. I am grocery shopping, not sitting on a bar stool looking forlorn and bored. I am usually wearing barn pants, crap-covered barn shoes, and frequently, a baseball cap pulled low over my eyes so I don't have to look you guys in the eyes. This outfit is not a subtle cue that I am desperate, it is a clear indication that I don't care what you think.  
B) It's pointless, unless it's funny. I am mostly happily married, although realistically some days I am annoyedly married and some days I might even be boredly married, but it's mostly happy. I'm not jumping ship for some unlabeled can-o-man I found at the corner store.
C) It confuses me.  I can't figure out what is going on half the time. For one, I don't perceive myself as being all that pretty.  I still have the ugly little kid I grew up as inside, so I'm always surprised and suspicious when hit on.  Huck has me because he had the clarity and boldness I needed to hear.  And also, he threatened to beat up a guy horning in on us on the dance floor.  (I know!  I know! screaming red warning lights of a jealous, violent type! But he clearly wasn't and the thing is, I'd never had a date willing to risk personal safety in order to keep hanging out with me, and in this very primitive way I found it irresistibly attractive.  That is how I knew he really meant it.)

Freda and Ed Roosma Dec 6, 1946
Of the many examples of my confusion in the face of overtures, a few stand out as striking: The mixed U2 love songs tape: "Thanks!  I love U2!  How thoughtful!"  I don't want to sound arrogant, but I've since concluded that the boy probably liked me. 
A gazebo in the middle of the lake, which was, Surprise!  set with all my favorite foods when we arrived.  What a kind friend! 
"Have you seen the new Batman movie?"
"No."
"Are you going to see it?"
"I don't know."
My coworker asked later, "Has he asked you out yet?"
"No, but he was asking about that Batman movie a lot." Turns out she'd done some very bad coaching with him on how to ask me out.
Lets fix that right now.
How to Ask a Girl Out 101: "Would you like to see the new Batman movie with me this weekend?"  But honestly, I probably still wouldn't get it.

In Mexico, they were really clear and really not serious about any of it.  As I would walk to work along the boardwalk, the line of taxi drivers would say things like, "Nice Mango!"  because I'd usually be eating a mango on my way to work, and at first I might say something like, "Thanks! I got it at the market on 5th," but as I gained experience I might say, "Thanks! I got it at the market on 5th" AND wink. Mexico taught me to enjoy a little fun enhanced by the fact that it obviously wasn't going anywhere.

But when someone whistled, it would annoy the hell out of me because I'd be waltzing along, fully engrossed in my own mind, and someone would jolt me out of it with this shrillness, and suddenly I would be plunged in to self-consciousness: what am I wearing? why are they whistling? Am I in danger? Suck in your gut, girl, all the world's a stage!  And I resented it.  I am not here to entertain, or please or amuse. I am just being alive for the glorious sake of being alive. It doesn't really have anything to do with you guys and my sense of purpose and meaning is in no way buttressed by the fact that you have seen yet another female (me) who's mango you like.

Men are not all that picky.  Their appreciative glances are about has hard to earn and highly prized as french fries, not the gold medals they seem to think they are bestowing.  Having seen Pretty Woman at an impressionable age, I thought that if a man thought you were hot, that meant you were as gorgeous as Julia Roberts.  But then, I saw a real working woman and although she was a full fledged human with a beautiful soul somewhere inside, she was no Julia Roberts.  And then I realized how picky men aren't.  Huck being attracted to me did not impress, but Huck willing to risk something to be with me, now that was something worth looking in to.

Huck and I marrying ourselves Sept 22, 2001


I consulted with an astute friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) who noted that the random grocery guy was  "looking to for some pussy!"  Cat food, indeed.  But she also noticed that it is difficult for guys to hit that happy medium between being clear about their interest and being a lecherous ass.  The thing is, though, that much of it is in the eye of the girl.  If she likes you, stalking is romantic.  If she doesn't, you could get sued.  Arrested?  Maybe, it depends on how seriously your local police take your safety and how the local prosecutor interprets the laws.  (Said unmentionable friend also noted, as we puzzled over the rioting of Muslims, "What do you expect of a religion that promises every man 72 virgins in heaven.  Not 72 women who know what they're doing, but 72 inexperienced virgins." It's clearly not about pleasure, but ownership. And where do these virgins come from?  Is this their hell?) 

Puzzling it out with Huck later, after the first cat joke (which Huck rightly and wisely found side-splitting hilarious), Huck says, "Oh shit, you are so out of that guy's league, baby!"  And that, good citizens of the world, is why I don't need to be hit on.  It will be 11 legal years on Saturday.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer summary: Doctor Silverwood floats cute condoms

Those rascally, meddling kids are back to school now after the best summer ever.  Meanwhile, I've turned aimless and pointless, waiting for my new balance to arrive.  While my brain re-organizes itself around this new reality, lets review some of what you missed.

Blue went on this twice!
* Silverwood.  I usually cringe at the massive, frivolous, unnecessary use of resources represented by theme parks, however, I found myself marveling this year at all the sensations we humans like to experiment with: rushing, spinning, upside down, that sensation you get when you're driving out in the country and the road suddenly dips. 

*Dr. Who.  So the kids bought a Wii with their own money saved up from Christmases and Birthdays. So on Coyote's birthday, for a surprise, I finally agreed to their plan (it wasn't his gift, just a bonus activity). Surprise! Mom gets to say YES! And Coyote goes all quiet, tears in his eyes.
 "What's wrong, Coyote?  Don't you want a Wii?  You've been begging for one for two years straight."
*SIGH* "I really wanted an X-box."
oh, the up-sell.  

 Why are we now opening the doors of our family's brains to this schlock?  Because this is their generation, not ours.  This is the society they are growing up in. I feel entitled to control the inflow of technology, to teach limits.  But I no longer feel entitled to deny it completely.
After watching Coyote's classmates all know the words to Wii dance songs sung at his "End of Second Grade" talent show, except Coyote.
After seeing Coyote's obsession with gaming and electronics.
And seeing that the future most likely is computer based, and most jobs in it will involve extensive familiarity with computers. And knowing people who have made a very very fine living through gaming, Google, etc.
After allowing gaming on Kongregate, Cool Math, Manga High, etc via internet...the big, scary, totally child-inappropriate internet. (We have been teaching internet safety, but then Coyote has these questions and you think, "MY GOD! NO, SON, NOOO! You can't really win things in pop-up windows!"  And you think, "Why are you asking me my email address?"  And you have to repeat, "No, you can't surf Youtube without my supervision."
After I'd observed the cool, co-operative, active gaming of Wii's.
It seemed it was time.  Their world is not going to be my world.  I can't control the sweep of fate, of history, of culture.  But I can teach limits, and to do that, we need to wade in at least ankle deep.
Unfortunately, the Wii also allows Netflix streaming, and years and years of Dr. Who.  And I am totally addicted and unfit to teach limits on technology.


San Diego Boogie Boardes
* Little Spokane rafting.  On the final float of the summer last week, with my sister and my kids, we were stalked for an hour by a very curious Great Blue Heron.  And we met a moose sunning himself on the bank just a few feet from our rafts.

*Cute Babies.  During our annual "summer's cleanse", I discovered a small journal documenting the cute little phrases, performances and deeds of our once-upon-a-time wee ones.  I am a little jealous about people who have tiny tots and Facebook.  My kids don't say cutesy little things anymore.  And I never got the chance to tell the world about their adorable pitter-pattering  brains spewing hilarity.  But, here, I'm going to try it out now.  Here are some cute mid-kid brainisms from last night:
Coyote: "OLD FASHIONED VANILLA? YESSSS! I hate new fashioned vanilla."
Blue: working on her parody of "I'm sexy and I know it," Also referred to as "I'm a parody and I know it."
Here's hers: "I'm Velma and I know it."
"Jinks! Look at that monster! (repeat until done)
Uh-huh - I'm freaked out (repeat until done)
I walk into a cave and what do I see?
A scary monster staring back at me!
I've got brains behind my glasses
And I'm not afraid to show it, show it, show it.
I'm Velma and I know it."

The Cataldo Mission
*Condoms.  At Mission Beach one night we overheard a group of younger guys walking by, "Yeah,  He said the party last night was so wild, he used an entire box of condoms!"  My, my! So many things may contribute to using an entire box of condoms in one night that do NOT mean the party was wild.  Did he have trouble putting them on?  Were they all old?  A box of 3 or a box of 36?
But then I realized: Holy Moley!  He's bragging about condom use!  YES! YES!  You use that whole box, boy!  You use all of them at once, or in succession.  A small box. A big box.  A blue box.  And gold box.  Whatev's!  The boy is using condoms. Condoms are now proof of how wild the party was!  Condoms made it! GOOO condoms!





Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rich, Robust, Bold, Full-Body!

I have a major crush on Bob! Dream come true!
Suddenly, this rushing sensation of glee filled me and I knew, I knew down to my pinky toes, up to the tip of my hairy pate, MY LIFE IS AWESOME.  Until that moment, it had been a mellow vacation.  My typical malaise, my hereditary and horoscopical melancholy had put down roots.  I blamed summer and its complete lack of uninterruptable space and the impossibility of goals (other than the one that goes: "make it to the next moment.") Lacking goals is difficult for we goal oriented folks. Also, goals that are too big, poorly defined, and unaccomplishable are also depressing.  But I had set before me a goal this summer of not having any goals other than enjoying the days with my children because I had Buddhistically blamed goals as creating stress where none needed to be.  So, away with stress = away with goals.  And that was the root of my suffering. 

Blue did learn to surf "the soup" this trip, just not in this guise
What changed this malaise?  I had an effing cup of coffee!  After 15 years.

My father has always been a 10 cup-a-day guy.  And this helps him just maintain an upright position. Some times.  I grew up thinking this was normal.  So when I started legally working, not in berry fields but in what I suspect was Bellingham's first expresso cafe, I started drinking, heavily.  Lattes are not bitter black church coffee. Mochas are like candy bars.

When I transferred to South Carolina, a sympathetic teacher told me to go into the teacher's lounge and get myself some coffee.  "I can do that?"  I asked.  "Just pretend you're getting it for me.  Ninety percent of life is looking like you know what you're doing, like your supposed to be there."  That was both a disconcerting statement coming from a teacher but also the truest moment of education in my entire educational career, and yet I still have trouble with it. So I drank coffee at school.

This picture is a funny story that I don't have room to tell in the caption
Coyote's drip-castles
But some time in my early 20's I realized that it might actually be possible for me to pass myself off as "normal" if I cut down on coffee. Why would I want to do that, be normal and all?  At that time, I was working 40 hours a week, plus taking 25 credits at the community college (causing serious mono), plus having just been royally dumped by my first husband I was experiencing massive stress over my value as a person, my likability index, my sex appeal and my future, plus having relocated to my old hometown in which NONE of my old friends lived, except the one that was WAY too busy doing cool stuff like snowboarding to hang out with me (that's what she said! especially nice to hear in my time of lowest self-esteem) caused the unfortunate epiphany that I was being summarily rejected by MY hometown = anxiety attacks!  And I quit coffee.  Quit Sudafed for my sinus infections.  Quit wondering if I should try cocaine or meth. And recently had to quit a dentist who insisted on using epinephrine in his Novocaine.  

Legoland's depiction of my fav Star Wars scene
Black tea, green tea, herbal tea.  The past 15 years has been a menage a trois of low caffeine.  First there was this one morning in Wenatchee in May 2012 where I had the best cup of coffee from Alpine Coffee Roasters (I have a birthday coming up in two short months: HINT HINT) Followed by an occasional so-so cup here and there. And I started to think that the doctor may be calling me again.  So then I drank this cup at Mission Beach. And I suddenly knew what a brilliant success I had made of my life.  I knew that I have done everything I ever wanted to do. I traveled the world when I wanted to travel. And I have Chosen to be a stay-at-home mom/farmer.  I am not at all stuck in some algae-green backwater of civilization watching the river of life pass me by with it's unattainable white water adventures.  No, I chose tranquility when I was ready for it.  I chose a sense of place, meaningful rich relationships with people and animal and land.  I have claimed my destiny as human-extraordinaire.  And damn it, if I'm not grand at being human.  A small human, with a small life, but an exquisitely beautiful life, like a ruby, like a finely restored one-bedroom bungalow, like a potato beetle, like a grain of sand reflecting the sun and the stars as it sparkles beneath the pounding waves of life.  Yes!  My life is effing amazing!  Hell, I AM AMAZING! 

Blue and Lego-Tut
And so, I took stock of the moment.  What could possibly be causing this euphoria, this foreign un-malasious moment in my life?  And in the morning, of all the godforsaken, unlikely times of day, especially after a night of non-sleep on the raucous, engine-rev-y, siren-y Mission Boulevard.  And I looked in my hand.  And in it was this brown 1970's flowered cup.  And like the layered petals of a rose, within that cup was something even more wonderful and fragrant.  It was coffee. The "wine of the bean."  With milk.  I will never be the same again.  Dear God, or myself, or the grand universe with whom I am one, with deep gratitude, I want to thank you this day for keeping anyone from making this beautiful drug illegal.  I want to thank you again but for a new reason for the ancient Sufi's of Ethiopia, the perceptive and creative  fathers of coffee and who I now want to marry and have their babies.  Amen. AMEN!!!!!!!  AMEN!!!!!!!










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