Wheat! It’s what’s for dinner. Again.

Fall's has not traditionally been my "big change" season, but this year, it's all comin' together in September, folks. Big stuff.

Where to start? How about I work my way up the excitement ladder? Okay, so first off, I got the results of my food allergy test back in the mail today. Why the food allergy test? Well, let's just say that CLH didn't think that he could legally get away with listing "flatulence" as grounds for leaving me, but he was threatening to go that way. I finally decided to have my blood tested to see what on the food chain was upsetting my poor intestines. I was told by my doctor that I didn't have to make an appointment with the clinic beneath my doctor's office to get said blood drawn, but when I got there, a surly nurse told me otherwise. I had to go back upstairs to get the doctor's permission, and then take back downstairs my own clear glass vials and a box that had the word BIO HAZARD emblazoned upon it. The nurse begrudgingly took the stuff from me and led me to a chair. She warmed right up to me after I told her I usually pass out from having my blood drawn.

Three weeks later and here we are, results in hand. The exam tests for lots and lots of different kinds of foods: meats, nuts, dairy, vegetables, grains, etc. I suspected, given the bloatiness I was feeling after sandwiches and pastas, that I might be allergic to wheat. I had even been baking wheat free breads and the like for nearly six months in anticipation. Turns out, though, I'm NOT ALLERGIC to wheat. I'm allergic to EGGS instead! EGGS! My Sunday morning constitutional! My favorite thing to put on a kaiser roll with cheese! The only thing I like to eat at greasy spoons! I can't believe it! Who knew??? I don't have the kind of allergy where my throat closes up or my face breaks out in hives or anything dramatic like that. What I have is more like a "strong sensitivity" to eggs. A strong sensitivity that has kept a small patch of eczema on the back of my neck for something like 15 years now. And maybe my bowels in knots. So, wheat's back in. Eggs are out. CLH is far more upset about this all than I am. For the most part, I think I can live without eggs. I'll be grumpy about it, but, if it means I'll be healthier, I can do it. CLH has been moping around all evening, approaching me every twenty minutes or so and sadly reminding me of all the dishes I can't share with him anymore.

Him: "But what about omelets?"
Me: " 'Fraid not."

20 mins later:
Him: "But what about fritatas?"
Me: "Still no."

Okay, here's the other really big news: I bought a boat. I need to make this a big deal because I don't even think I believe it myself yet. I BOUGHT A SAILBOAT. A 21 foot sailboat. CLH and I. We own a freakin' boat.

She's older than us by a year. She doesn't have a name. Yet. She smells strongly of gasoline but CLH reassures me that that's because she's been closed up for almost a year in the marina. Once she airs out, he assures me, she won't smell so bad. Oh, and neither of us know how to sail.

Here's what I've been doing to prepare for buying a boat: I've been reading every disaster-at-sea story I can get my hands on. I mean, who needs to know about sails and navigation and all that crap? What I really need to know is how to survive a hurricane on a 90 foot yacht. You know. 'Cause the Pacific Northwest is known for its strong hurricanes and all...

CLH and I have been absolutely OBSESSING about this for some time now. Our bed stands are stacked with all sorts of books about sailing (well, his side is... mine's full of nautical disaster memoirs). He's learning how to raise a sail (useful information) and I am learning that you should think twice about having a boat built by unskilled Turkish laborers that leaves you stranded in the Mediterranean because your paint is peeling off in sheets and your deck is coming apart under moderate winds (totally, totally useless information).

I'm sort of hovering above this whole experience and looking down on it in wonderment. I mean, who woulda thunk it? Me, the wage slave, the kid of parents who never ever had more than two cents kicking around in their bank accounts, has managed to save enough to buy a boat AND keep it moored in a marina. And in a recession, no less. No, it's not the most fiscally sound thing to do given that America's about to get a taste of what the REST of the world lives like in short order here. But, hell, it won't hurt to have a getaway car when the Polar Bears start swimming ashore looking for a new place to call home. All I'm saying is: the boat comes with a blender and a 12 volt outlet. Heh? Hehhhhh? See? You would have bought it too.

CLH has just reminded me that I can't ever have deviled eggs again. Wait. I just remembered I own a boat. It's all going to be okay.

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Not Gay Enough to be Domestically Partnered

Well, CLH and I have done it. No, we're not married. Quite the contrary. We've done something even more permanent and responsible: we've drawn up our wills. How long-term-planning is that, huh? If you ask me, it's better than getting married. It's downright commitment-tastic. I don't need any crepe paper or gold rings or lines at the ice sculpture buffet table. No way, man. Just give me an old fashioned will and testament and I'm yours forever.

The wills came in letter sized envelopes along with directions about how to have them signed in bat blood by separate notaries public with 463 witnesses present. Or something like that. There's something ominous about seeing your name in 26 point caps on very, very nice paper stock next to words like "sound and disposing mind" and "as soon after my death as is practical".
There was also a letter from the lawyers describing some legal terms.

Here's the (hilarious) irony about our domestic partnership: apparently, CLH and I don't legally qualify for "domestic partnership". Here is (and I quote) the reason the good folks at the Legal Speak Paper Factory gave us:

"We were not able to identify you as 'domestic partners' in the Wills because, under newly passed legislation, this term has a very specific meaning and carries with it certain legal rights and responsibilities. As as heterosexual couple, you do not qualify as persons who can register as 'domestic partners'. Please see RCW 26.60.030 for the requirements and feel free to call our office if you have any questions."

So, I looked up this RCW stuff and read through the requirements. The first few seemed easy enough. "1. Both persons share a common residence". Done. Going on 11 years, off and on, and counting. What else ya got? Requirements two, three, and four state that you be partnered with only one person, be 18 years or older (done and done), you both consent, yadda yadda yadda. Okay. Got all that. Number five made me giggle a little: "The persons are not nearer of kin to each other than second cousins, whether of the whole or half blood computing by the rules of the civil law". (When I first read it, I thought it said "rules of the civil war".) CLH and I have a joke that, in fact, somewhere down the line, we ARE related. Both our families have roots back to Poland. Both our families are from the same part of Poland. Poland's not very big, so I just presume that somewhere, sometime, back on a farm in the countryside, his people and my people were swappin' spit, if ya know what I mean. I sometimes have nightmares that we finally get around to getting married and we do blood tests and we find out we're related and I go crazy thinking I've spent most of my life boinking my RELATIVE and we go through a messy separation because the shame is too great and I eventually sell my story to Hollywood but die penniless because of my heavy drinking. I digress.

Here's the clincher to the law, the "newly passed legislation" that I suspect was added to the existing law so that us lazy heterosexuals who just can't seem to say "I do" get screwed out of being legally recognized as lazy heterosexuals who can't seem to say "I do":

"NUMBER 6: Both of the following are true:
Neither person is a sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew to the other person; and
Either (a) both persons are members of the same sex; or (b) at least one of the persons is sixty-two years of age or older."

Did you catch that? I'm not ELDERLY enough or GAY enough to be domestically partnered! I don't know whether to laugh or be indignant, honestly. I'm happy for the folks who are FINALLY getting the recognition they deserve, for chrissake, but I'm unnerved that the term I thought was reserved for the likes of us scared-of-commitment-hets has been taken. Now what do I call my common law marriage? Domestic Alliance? LifeandFinance, LLC? The United Front of BedSharing? Meeting of Grocery Bill Splitters Anonymous? I'm a woman without a term for my domestic non-gay, non-old partnership. I'm adrift on a sea of parchment colored legal paper, a rogue single sailboat in an ocean of married yachts...

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My Dichotomous Life

I'm home in the middle of the day and it's a little disconcerting. I'm usually working during the day, so this feels odd. I have a hard time even typing the word "relax" and "i" in the same sentence, so I've been keeping myself busy with chores.

Thus far, I've made myself a smoothie, taken pictures of the garden with my newly found manual camera, pickled some beets for lunch, put some beans into the crock pot for dinner, and weeded the front yard. Also, I canceled three credit cards, cut them up, took a picture of them cupped in my palm, and then threw the bits into the garbage can.

The credit card thing was a bit impulsive, admittedly. I'm one of those rare (these days, anyway) "uses credit responsibly" people. But, CLH have been making motions to prepare our wills, and other long term planning stuff, and part of that process involves reviewing our credit scores. Mine came in the mail yesterday and the fine folks at the different credit reporting agencies explained my "good" rating might be improved this way: if I got rid of the department store credit cards I had with deliciously tempting credit limits. They also said that my credit history was slightly harder to track because the average length of my borrowing life was 153 months. Hey, Sears Credit folks, I'm a hit it and quit it kind of gal, so I'm real sorry I couldn't stick around for more than 12 months, but them's the breaks. Thanks for the 10% off.

What a bizarre and complicated world the whole credit score thing is anyway. I remember, at 17, my then boyfriend and I drove around the various mini-malls we lived near and filled out credit apps for all the department stores that would give us credit (hence the Sears card...). I also managed to get myself a student American Express card back then. All this, because, at 17, we were thinking that we wanted to own houses one day and we were going to get our credit history built starting right then and there. I don't know who gave us this advice, but it turns out to have backfired just a little bit. Having so many open credit cards, especially ones for department stores, does not make you a responsible borrower in the eyes of Big Brother. It makes your a slight liability. Because who's to say you won't up and run off to JC Penney RIGHT NOW and buy that luggage set, the bagel cutter, and 14 pleather purses and charge it all to your Penney's card with that enormous $500 credit limit??? (And trust me, you'll get it all on there since nothing ever costs more than 4 cents at JC Penney's.) So, here I am, out on the deck of the house I own now, lounging around in my Crocs and eating grapes in the middle of the day... My life didn't turn out too bad, I guess. The advice wasn't half bad after all.

The cards I cut up this morning didn't have balances on them. As a matter of fact, one the cards had been closed by the creditors just 5 days ago for non-use. Most of them were as shiny and unblemished as the day I slid them into my wallet so long ago. So, take THAT, credit reporting people. Now all the bad news you have for me is that my student loan is closer to NOT being paid off than it is to being paid off. What a strange world we live in. I track my spending life on 4 sheets of paper, and this paper is used to determine how I might or might not take my home equity line of credit and spend it on a trip to the Bahamas, or to put my sick mother through chemotherapy.

I'm feeling slightly schizophrenic these days. And I have to be careful about tossing that word around because I suspect there is some bad wiring amongst my immediate family members. I have to take it somewhat seriously. So, I can't call myself literally schizo. Let's just say that my life feels incongruous and therefore crazy.

Here's why I feel so split: the Fall is coming, and it's time for me to crawl back inside the cave of my own crazy-making self analysis once again. The summer never really got here. My tank tops lay unworn in my drawers. I want so badly to just be HOT and I also am looking forward to a season of reflection. One part of my life is spent battling apple maggots and dandelions, and the other spreadsheets and inquisitive clients. One part of my life is spent in ragged cargos and Crocs and the other in heels and tribal-themed jewelry to match. One part is pajamas till four and the other hair gel. One part plotting out a debt free life and the other buying tchotchkes at a garage sale. Boat. Home. Water. Land. Later On. Right Now. Comfortable. Struggling. Rich. Poor.

And I am on the one who's carved out these designations. I oughtta follow my own advice and just be cool with all those things all at once. I can be the granola crunching bread baking make my own applesauce kinda woman AND paint my nails hot pink and sculpt my hair into a mohawk every day, can't I? Can't I make money and not feel bad about it? Can't I drive a gas powered car and make my own compost? Can't I want to live in a tropical country and want a snowy Christmas?

Life is not so one or the other. Duh. But I'm feeling like I need to choose. I don't know where that pressure is coming from. Myself? The credit reporting agency? My tomato plants?

Here's what I think: Capitalism isn't just for those who can make a dollar mercilessly. And holistic living isn't just for people who don't shave their armpit hair. A la some infomercial host, I believe: "There's got to be a better way!" I guess I will just have to live with this split in my psyche until my two worlds merge seamlessly and I no longer care that I pick cucumbers in designer jeans or go to work in the big city with dirt still under my fingernails.

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Day 26 Without Countertops

I've decided to add a little list to this otherwise plain jane blog: a list of books I am reading/have read. I just finished reading What Is The What. I am speechless. Or rather, I'm not. I'm not allowed to be. You can't keep a book like this to yourself. And you certainly can't read a book like this and then go back to complaining about the price of gas or the fact that it wasn't all that sunny out today. You just can't.

The narrator, who spent his formative years outrunning his would-be assassins across the borders of three countries in Africa during the war in Sudan, wouldn't allow you to keep this book to yourself. You would feel compelled, like I am, to tell people about it. You would feel compelled, like I am, to log on to your online library account and put on hold any book you could get your hands on about the history of Sudan. You would find yourself wanting to immerse your whole being in the struggle of people who just want the simplest of things. You would find yourself asking yourself how hope remains a viable thing in times of so much destruction.

I'm mentioning this book specifically because I am struck by the power of several forces all working in conjunction to force a book about modern day genocide in Africa into the hands of a middle class white urbanite. The real-time-ness of this all is something worth studying, I think. I'm not an expert on history, but it seems like there is something unprecedented about being able to read about a major event like the mass murders of thousands and thousands of people just months after it's happened. In a bound book, no less. A whole twelve years of a young man's life, and his country's struggle, was just spelled out for me. This happened in my lifetime. While I was able to point out Sudan on a map. While I was going about the business of going to work, buying groceries, listening to the radio...

I don't know how soon the first autobiographies of Holocaust survivors were published after the end of WWII. I seem to remember learning in school that it was difficult for survivors to write their stories, to feel they had anything worth saying after the fact... and here we have books, a handful even, of stories from Sudan, even as the war is still fresh in some regions. It's astounding to me.

I'm not sure how else to describe this feeling. I'm not driven by an activist's energy, so my inclination isn't to run out and board a plane and ask how I can help solve the crisis. I hope that this book reaches people who can absorb the lessons of war in their lifetime, even as they are experiencing it. I'm not entirely hopeful that war is an entirely avoidable thing, human nature being what it is. I AM hopeful that, very soon, in our increased ability to immediately catalogue crisis and tell the world about it, it won't take losing a limb to understand war is hell. That it won't take losing your family to understand how violence begets violence. That slowly empathy will replace vengeance and that we might overcome our human instinct to forget the past.

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Day 7 Without A Stove

It's been seven days since I've cooked anything on a stove, and, frankly, I don't miss the thing one bit. That's right: the remodel of the kitchen has begun. Now, when someone asks, "How's the house coming along?" I have something to tell them about besides the apple trees out back. My hands are raw and ragged from putting together the cabinet bases tonight, but, I feel it is my duty to tell you that you that FINALLY we are doing something about the ugliest, most leaky kitchen in North America.

Last Sunday we packed up the contents of the kitchen drawers into banker's boxes and stacked them in the living room, we pried the cabinets off the walls and we took the stove, the oven, and the microwave and moved it out into the carport. By the beginning of the week, all that was left in the kitchen were the upper cabinets, the green linoleum, and pink wallpaper from 60 years ago. Pink seems to have been a popular color in this house. My theory is that the guy who built this house (and it was just one guy, and he did build the whole damn thing from scratch) compensated his wife (who raised their 9 freakin' kids while he was busy building tinkering around in the woodshed) for the ad hoc nature of things by painting every blessed thing salmon. "What's that, Dear? You want the insides of the closets to be salmon, too? And the kitchen? And the bedroom? And the pantry? And the stairwell down to the carriage house? Well, what the Mrs. wants, the Mrs. gets!" During the initial painting of this place, we discovered the salmon obsession in this joint. There was either a fire sale on pink paint in 1942, or someone was really getting their interior decorating on.

We've had no sink, no stove, and no real kitchen counters for about a week now. Has that stopped us from eating like kings? Absolutely not! Tonight's menu included buffalo burgers, corn on the cob, and fresh salad. How, you ask? Why, the magic of electricity, of course. Here's how a typical meal for CLH and I goes down: First, I have to fetch the water. "Fetch", really, is the most appropriate word here, too. I've been banking some serious miles jogging back and forth between the rat's nest where my heating elements are, the bathroom sink, and the hose outside, where the cleaning station is set up. Up until yesterday, I had to go DOWNSTAIRS to the basement to get the electric kettle to bring it UPSTAIRS to our bathroom for filling. After a week, we got smart and moved it to the living room (naturally). In the bathroom, I use a mug stationed next to the sink to fill the kettle. I use boiled water for most meals. Last week we ate a series of boil-in-bag Indian food meals. I just filled the bottom of our spaghetti pot with water, put the bag in, covered the pot, and let the meal warm up in there. Tonight's corn on the cob was made the same way. I have to fetch additional water if I want to, say, clean the lettuce for our salad. Again, we finally got smart about the fresh water and filled a giant cambrio with water and now have it stationed out on the deck.

The crock pot and the ricecooker are my two new best friends. Yesterday, I boiled chick peas in the crock pot for a few hours. About an hour before dinner, I drained them, let them cool, then sent them through the food processor (also powered by electricity) with some fresh lemon juice, fresh garlic, cumin, coriander, chili and tahini, and VIOLA! Hummus for dinner! It went well with some crostini (electric toaster!) improvised tzatiki, and fresh salad.

Tonight's burgers? Brought to you by your friend George Foreman, of course. Every meal is accompanied by our little construction buddy who stays downstairs in the cool basement all day: the pony keg. We've been nursing three of them since CLH's graduation from massage school. What a joy it is to clap the sheetrock dust from your coveralls every night, wash your hands, and sit down to warm meal and a Mason jar full of amber colored forget-it-all juice.

The demo process is always the most exciting part of remodeling for me. There's always a story behind the walls. For instance, we've found, to date, about seventeen pencils in the kitchen. Underneath the floorboards, behind the walls, inside the cabinetry, you name it. Pencils freakin' everywhere. Several in one spot, one here, one there. The air duct findings, though, take the cake. A sixteen inch hole in the floor revealed the following:
-one stuffed football shaped dog toy
-two glass prep bowls, approximately 5" in diameter
-three pencils
-one brass Christmas tree-shaped ornament
-two mummified pieces of fruit, unidentifiable. We think they were, at one time, grapefruit

The area underneath the butcher block countertop revealed this:
-four pencils
-one glass marble (which CLH, in accordance with his neurotic compulsion to push all buttons, stick his fingers in all holes, and flick on and off all switches in his line of sight, promptly shoved in a knothole in the original wood flooring)
-one wooden toy block, embossed with the letter "c" on one side
-several dried beans, probably navy variety

Of course, we will find much, much more as we refinish the rest of the house. Why, just today I was putting away our winter bedsheets and I found, at the top of the linen closet (whose depths I had not yet explored):
-three children's foam bath toys, farm-themed
-one glass candeholder filled with dried grey paint
-one pickle jar lid, circa 1976
-one "Woochie" brand costume mustache, still in package

Ah the stories this house could tell. I think ours would go something like this: Once upon a time, there was a family who wrote only with pencil. Their children's bath toys were kept on shelves too tall for any normal human being to reach, and they often lost their crockery to the beasts who lived under the kitchen floorboards, who were satiated only by offerings of fruit and plush dog toys.

The End.

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