General

A Case of Myopia Writ Large

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Oh, hey!  It's been a while, huh?

Like, nine whole months?  Yeah. Nine months. A lot can happen in nine months.  Niiiiine months.

Yeah, so I have a baby now, everyone.  Surprise!  World's worst baby announcement right there, folks.

I didn't mean to time it this way or anything.  It's just that I've had a grand kick in the ass recently (a life-affirming, HELL YES kick in the ass) and it prompted me to wipe the dust off this blog and start writing here again.  So here we are, all new and shiny and old at once.

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Advice From My Younger Self

This piece won’t finish itself.   I was going to let it languish in the bottom of the “Things To Finish Later” folder on my laptop.

But then there were these signs that came my way, little bitty signs from the Universe that said: it’s okay to put this out into the world without a pretty ending.  That endlessness is in the air right now, the Universe said.  It’s the season of non-resolution.

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Panama! Part 2

Those of you who know me know I don't like small dogs.  I'm not subsumed by a baby-talking alter ego when I see their bulging eyes and stubby legs.  Instead I'm compelled to ask myself big, esoteric questions, like, How far I can punt this thing? Why can't this thing carry its own weight in whiskey barrels or picnic baskets?

Dogs have always occurred to me as Man's Best Helpers, so the itty bitty ones that bark and fit into handbags seem like a gross abomination of the species.  They seem to be made only for behaving obnoxiously and making their face hair wet with saliva.  I hate them.  It's probably because like repels like and our similar anxieties meet in the middle like two magnet ends trying to go at it.  Anyway, you should know all this because even I was surprised at how I responded to this little ball of fuzz:

I absolutely fell in love with him.  I can't explain it.  If you had told me months ago that I would love a Pomeranian, I would have punched you in the face for even suggesting such a thing.  And yet, there I was, covered in sweat and allowing a small hairy thing to rub against my bug-bitten legs.  He wasn't as barky as other dogs- so he had that going for him.  And he was genuinely cuddly without being cloying. He only sometimes came out to greet us when we came up the stairs.  He played fetch with a stuffed mouse for a short while, and then he stalked off like a nuclear physicist insulted by our pedestrian requests to know what pee-pee was made of.  He could take us or leave us, and that was refreshing to see in a small dog.  Would I be anthropomorphizing too much to say I thought he was moody?  Or brilliant?   I rather like the idea that maybe he wouldn't come when he was called because he was sulking under the bed, writing in his diary, bemoaning how utterly alone he was in the world because his parents had brought him to this godforsaken place where no one understood him.  It didn't feel like such a stretch.  And since there was a time in my life when I was also sequestered away in a bedroom ignoring the calls of my family and scribbling about my sad, what-does-it-all-mean-anyway life, I related.  It was like I was meeting the sixteen year old dog-version of myself.

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Panama! Part 1

Well, the world didn't implode.  It didn't even hiccup.  It was just another day in Paradise the day I walked onto Isla Bastimentos and delivered a big ol' hug to the Other Lauren Ziemski.

Our hug, our meeting... it was all very normal, really.  In fact, the whole trip had an air of total banality to it.  It was, as they say, soooo Panama.  Our plane almost crash-landed in Changuinola.  No biggie.  One day the whole island lost power.  Whatevs.  Whole sections of menus were unavailable at most of the eateries on the island.  Meh.   This is just how it IS on Bastimentos.

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MOAR CHRISTMAS!

Yeah, so that blogging every day thing didn't work out so well, now did it?  I should know better than to set the bar that high.  I mean, for God's sake.  I'd just come off a jag of showering only sporadically and ignoring the laundry while trying to write a novel.  Who was I trying to convince that I would be able to blog every day?

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The Twelve-ish Days of Christmas

I had this really good idea. I was going to post something every day, starting on December 1st, until we left for Christmas vacation on the 13th.  It was going to be so fun!  Updates from our crazy house every day!  Getting ready to leave, getting ready to spend the holidays with our families... so much to talk about!  I was all jazzed up after NaNoWriMo- so jazzed because the "novel" (let's not call something I squeezed out in 30 days a "novel", shall we? Let's call it a novella.  A practice novella.  A pranella. Ah, yes.  There we are.  A pranella) really got me into the habit of writing nearly every day.  Well, every day starting on the 16th or so.  Yes, that's right.  I frittered away the first half of the month and *technically* wrote the novel in 14 days or so.

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Thailand, Day 2

So we decide to take the train to Chiang Mai.  Why? Because it was recommended to us.  Forty dollars to sleep the night away on an air-conditioned train and awake in a whole new part of Thailand. It practically shimmered with romance and intrigue.

At 6 pm, we roll our luggage noisily up the curb and enter the station. The place is large and overlit with fluorescent lights. There is a second floor, from which you can look down at the passengers camped out down below.  And camped they are.  Or rather, the white people are.  The Thais are sitting in neat rows of chairs, their hands in their laps, their gaze focused on the large screen TV showing a Thai sitcom.  The white folks are strewn about like trash, filthy and splayed over their grungy backpacks, their eyes sleepy.  There is a section at the front of the station, roped off, and populated by men in orange robes.  "For Monks Only" the placard reads.  A few of them cup their chins in their hands and laugh at the TV show.  Burdy and I go upstairs to scope out the food situation.  We have no idea if we’re going to be able to eat on the train, so we figure it’s best to eat our dinner now.  Before we sit down, though, we go to see the train on the platform.

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It Looks Like This, Too (A Love Letter)

Upon my request, my husband has left me a thermos of coffee on the countertop.  He has made it in the early morning hour between his waking and mine.  He has left via the garage on his bicycle for work, having showered and dressed in silence so as not to wake me in that hour.  My husband has left me a drawing next to the thermos.  He has drawn me some birds surrounding a skinny, shaky heart.  He is man who was not used to drawing hearts before he knew me.  He has gotten so used to drawing hearts.

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A Visitor

I had an unexpected visitor this week.  The little girl I used to babysit- on the east coast, in Irvington, NJ- was here, in Seattle, and sleeping on my office floor. She was on a road trip- a soul journey- the kind we all should take from time to time to sort out what’s next for us and what’s important to us.  I’ve taken my share of those, so I was SO excited to finally play the role of hostess to someone on a journey like that.   

Not that Eliana really needed any sort of sagely advice from me, or a soft place to land, exactly.  You know you’ve both grown up in a hard place when you offer your guest an air mattress and she insists on sleeping on the hard ground because, y’know.  We grew up in Irvington.  What’s a little hard ground? In addition to being a damned good roadtripper, this young woman is also an accomplished musician, a fabulous cook (she makes a mean veggie scramble), and downright delightful company.  We talked long into the night and laughed about all sorts of things (not the least of which was the most monotone, eyes-glazed-over, culty happy birthday song either of us had ever heard at one of the Sri Chinmoy eateries here in town).

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Why My Next Tattoo Would Be An Apology

I should just start every damned entry here with : Wow.  I can't believe how long it's been since I last wrote. I am SO sorry.

If I could have a t-shirt made, or maybe a tattoo put on my arm, it would help diffuse a LOT of public awkwardness, especially about this blog.  It would be a handy catch-all tool, y'know? Like, if I ran into someone in the supermarket who wanted to know when I was going to post something else on my blog?  I would just smile and point to my t-shirt. If I received a text from friend who asked, didja get that thing I sent ya? I'd shrug, take picture of the tattoo, and hit "send". Done.

Procrastination has been the name of my game and I've been a champion at it.  I should have a gold medal in putting things off.  Like, every time I think I'm going to finish something, I wonder what's in the fridge. Oooo! Maybe there's some peanut butter in there...

Like all procrastinators, I have really, really good excuses.  Like... I've been busy! Cleaning my house! And organizing my office!

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Thailand, Day 1

What an inglorious two weeks, huh ?  I had this whole post ready to go, and then Boston happened.  Man.  It hit me hard, in the way that these things do.  I have this hang-up about posting really goofy, possibly frivolous stuff in the midst of national tragedies, and it’s happened twice now in the past year; first with Hurricane Sandy, and now with the Marathon bombing.  I had this post more or less ready to publish , but I felt conflicted about doing it last week.  The sun has been out for TWO WHOLE DAYS here in Seattle, so I’m chalking it up to some kind of “sign” that the air is clear to post slightly neurotic recaps of vacations to hot places. 

I’m back from Thailand!  Thailand? Yes, Thailand!   I went to Thailand for my honeymoon! Your  honeymoon? Yes, my honeymoon!  I went to Thailand for my honeymoon! With no planning and no reservation!  Um, what?  You didn’t plan your honeymoon?  Nope!  I just packed a bag and went!  No reservation!   Like Anthony Bourdain, but with way less leather jackets!

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On Writing

Recently, I had my ass handed to me by my writing group. It was a good thing, this ass-handing.  It didn’t feel quite as nice as being handed a bouquet of roses and a Grammy, but, it was probably more valuable. 

What happened was this: I brought in a VERY rough draft of a book chapter I’d written and I read it aloud to my writing group. I then got some VERY valuable feedback.  Feedback that made me reconsider whether or not I should be calling myself a writer.

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A Transplant. A Storm. A Way To Help.

You guys, I had this whole piece ready to go about the cereal.  And then Sandy hit.  And I just couldn’t fathom posting a bit about breakfast cereal as a wildly destructive storm was bearing down on the place I was born.  My whole family was in the storm’s path and I was worried for days about them.  They’re all fine now.  They lost power for a few days there, but they were all safe, and their property was not destroyed.  There were others, though, who suffered.  Suffered huge. And I just couldn’t stop thinking about them.  I couldn’t sit and write about cereal if I tried.

I’ve been working on what I want to say here for days now.  It’s been a crazy two weeks of emotional ups and downs: worry, then relief…endless energy to help, then frustration with red tape… helplessness, and then a renewed sense of urgency and hope … it’s been difficult to distill this down into one piece.

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Byrned

Last week, Mr. Burdy and I went to see the inimitable David Byrne at the 5th Avenue Theater here in Seattle.  The venue is one of my favorites not only because of the grandiose they-don't-make-'em-like-this-anymore beauty but because of how the seats are arranged. They cascade down from the balcony to the stage at a slight angle so each seat is offset from the one in front of it. This means there's literally not a bad seat in the house. No one's head is directly in your line of sight. See that, arena designers and theater owners?  I will gladly pay that "service charge" for the privilege of being able to see past Herman Munster, who, invariably sits RIGHT in front of me at every show.

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In Case of EgoMergency, Break (Hour)Glass

Things hit me in threes and fours, usually. It's got something to do with synchronicity, I think. These past few weeks, I have felt unmoored, adrift. There have been multiple deaths in my immediate circle lately (will write about that when I have something cohesive to say about it). Ever since the wedding (which I will write about soon, too), I have been feeling uncertain about the direction my life should take. It's the inevitable fallout, no doubt, of going from planning a very detailed wedding every waking moment of the day to planning... nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Working counts for something, I suppose. But my work has never been the thing that's defined me, so I'm back to feeling like there's something else I'm supposed to be doing with my day. That, and the presence of so much death has really got me thinking about how to live more purposefully.

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Mrs. Burdy Goes To Vancouver

A few months ago, I went to my very first Seattle Sounders game. I was about to tell you that it was my first ever soccer game, but that wouldn't have been entirely true.  I have vague recollections of being somewhat interested in the outcome of a World Cup a few years ago, but that memory is also twisted up with memories of drinking copious amounts of beer in a sports bar and yelling at a TV screen, so who knows what I was really interested in?  (Hint: rhymes with "deer".)
As Mr. Burdy will tell you, I am a strange breed of sports fan.  I didn't grow up playing sports in school (unless you count being the editor of the literary magazine a "sport".  Because, if you do, then I totally would have been MVP of writing bad poetry).  Naturally, given my moodier tendencies, I wasn't much interested in camaraderie or good sportsmanship or any of that sort of team-building crap.  I would have won an Olympic Medal if there was a category for scowling and bookreading and scribbling social commentary into a journal, but, alas, the ancient Greeks had a thing for throwing stuff and running and the like. Also, ours was not a particularly sporty family.  My dad didn't watch football.  My mom did not drive us around in a minivan to practice soccer.  How I managed to wind up engaged to a man with an active athletic life, I'll never know.  

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THIS is why you need to stay in school, kids

It's good to have your mind blown at least once a day. I mean, that's what I've always said.

OK Go has got to be one of the most brilliant musical (theater? dance?) acts on the planet. I loved them the minute I first got wind of them. They've joined the ranks of other mind-blowingly talented folks who have used Chrome to deliver a personalized, make-you-cry-it's-so-good, Internet experience. I feel like a total toolbag writing the words "Internet experience", but I'm at a loss for how to explain what just happened to me.

What makes this even BETTER is that OK Go has teamed up with Pilobolus, a Dance Theater Company. Here was my introduction to them:

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If you are not moved by this, then I'm pretty sure you are dead inside.

There are thousands of critics of our thoroughly modern electronic-gadget-driven lives. Hell, on some days, I am one of them. I waffle back and forth between wanting to unplug and run through fields of daisies and wanting to know what every single person in the world is doing right now through some form of media. I remember days when the first thing I did when I got out of bed was reach for the tea kettle. Now, before I do anything, I slip into my desk chair and check the news, my email, Facebook... Those simpler days are over. And soon to morph into something different, I'm sure. Though it's sometimes exhausting to keep up, I LOVE that our brains are complex enough to invent things like the Internet, streaming video, wireless accessories, and Facebook. (and I love that I'll be able to look back on this post in ten years and laugh at half of what I listed because it will be obsolete.)

On some days, I just need the tactile sensation and smell of an old book in my hands and utter silence.

Today, though, I needed these guys and what they have done with technology:

(You'll need Chrome to make this work properly)

http://www.allisnotlo.st

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We Can Talk. Or Not Talk.

CIVIL WAR, ANYONE?

The U.S. Civil War has been making recurring appearances in my life. Given the situation in the Arab/African world right now, I've been thinking, (if I'm thinking of war at all) about that area of the world, and not about my own country. But I was flipping through the channels on live TV the other night (something I almost never do) and there was a Ken Burns documentary on PBS. I was hooked within a minute. It was riveting. I had a million other things to do that night, but I couldn't pull myself away. Besides which, Garrison Keillor was narrating, as was Morgan Freeman. And who can resist their voices? Then, about a day later, a friend mentioned the Civil War on Facebook. (whaaa??) Then Ancestry.com sent me a newsletter and said I should thumb through their newly released Civil War records to look for my ancestors! (Ah, but Ancestry.com doesn't know my people are relatively new to this country). Since I am on a path, these days, of reading into every little thing that would otherwise be called a "coincidence", I'm taking this as a sign that my United States of Being are at war with one another. I think I need my own internal Abe Lincoln to stand up and give a two minute speech to say how regrettable it is that so many had to die to get this whole living as a unified entity right. Or something like that.

PHONE CALL FOR MR. JONES

I accidentally left an event Saturday night without my phone. I couldn't get it back until Monday morning. On Sunday, I ran the gamut of electronic-device-withdrawal: first I was annoyed, then panicked that it would be stolen, and finally, resigned to the fact that I was going to have to spend ONE WHOLE DAY (Oh! The humanity!) without my phone. I stopped in at one of those dizzying Here, This-didn't-sell-at-the-department-store-so we've-marked-it-up-from-its-department-store-clearance-price-and-shoved-it-on-this-shelf-with-an-egg-slicer,-a-no-name -candle, and-a-frying-pan stores. Doesn't that sound like a bargain hunter's dream store? (and a Type-A's worst nightmare?) I realized about halfway through browsing that I was actually sort of bracing myself for my phone to ring. Seems most things these days are interrupted by a beeping or dinging of some sort, right? But the phone didn't ring. And I eased into this sense of peace I have not known since 1999 or so. It was remarkable.

FUCK YOU, CHASE BANK

But Sunday was also the day I had set aside to call all the various financial entities that autodebit my account and tell them that I have officially dumped the jerks at Chase Bank and would they kindly autodebit my new bank account? And I didn't have my phone. I felt like I was missing a limb. The whole part about not having a phone is that you can't TELL anyone via phone that you are missing your phone.
Me: (sighing heavily) I don't know where my phone is.
Burdy: Maybe it's in the house and you just can't see it. Do you want me to call it?
Me: Sure. Go ahead.
Sound of dialing. Sound of silence.
Burdy: Well, did you call the event center to tell them you think you left your phone there?
Me: blink. blink blink.
Burdy: Oh. Right.

I HEAR / THE SECRETS THAT YOU KEEP

I'm spending lots of time these days inside my own head. I am doing what the head shrinkers call "a lot of processing". One of my head shrinkers told me yesterday that I need to "give voice" to stuff I'm keeping in my head. In other words, I need to get out of my head and into my vocal chords. I need to turn my internal editor off, and just let 'er rip. I can worry about the fallout AFTER I've insulted everyone in the room. The important part here, kiddo, they say, is to just say what's on your mind.

So, this morning, I'm having a dream. I'm knitting a sock while I'm having an argument with my dad. My dad is telling me to get a job. I tell him that I don't want just any job. We go back and forth for a while. The anger builds. He tells me I should apply for this one job, this job that seems completely improbable. But you need a degree for that, I shoot back. No you don't, he says, eyes ablaze with fury. And then, in my sleep, I snarl, at the top of my lungs:

I DON'T WANT TO BE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST.

I wake myself up and Burdy too. I'm smiling because I feel triumphant! and vindicated! Take that, overbearing dream dad! I'm smiling, too, because I have just yelled at the top of my lungs in my sleep, something I have never done in my life, and holy crap is it funny! Burdy, meanwhile, is trying really hard not to laugh. He spends a few minutes lying very still. He eventually stirs and I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling and start to spell "ophthalmologist" over and over in my head thinking there is some code word embedded in the letters if I just rearrange them. Burdy, unsure if I am fully awake or not, asks me if I remember what I just said. Yeah, I say, impatiently. I DON'T WANT TO BE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST. And we break down laughing. We laugh for a fully minute. This is going on the blog, isn't it, he asks. And I think for a moment and say no because then I will have to explain why yelling in my sleep is so profound and that I am seeing therapists to help coax all these words out of me and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is "I don't want to be an ophthalmologist".

And then I think: fuck it. I'm going to take the advice of those head shrinkers and worry about what everyone thinks later. So, yeah. I think I'm finding my voice.

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Pictures From A Trip

These past few mornings, I have been waking up from some pretty strange dreams. There's a rule out there that says never to fill your blog with descriptions of your dreams, so I'm going to skip the details. Suffice it to say, though, they have been setting the tone for the day in that way that unshakably bad dreams do.

Ever since the trip to California, things have been less sharply focused. All that energy I had before the trip has been slowly draining from my body. The weather has been colluding to keep me inside. It's been raining real rain, in real storms, for the past week or so.

This is a transitional time of year and I feel it in the very core of me. This is the time when we all want to stretch our achy muscles, wipe the dust from our eyes, and see the sun again. Our bodies sense Spring is around the corner and we want to end our willful hibernation of book reading and tea drinking and coiling our bodies under heavy blankets. The crocuses are poking their optimistic heads out from the ground. Daffodils have burst open, their bright yellow almost unnatural against the hard wet cement and mulch. We humans are gravitating towards windowsills, and lingering in front of piles of folded sleeveless shirts, and gradually feeling like our winter coats are just a touch too heavy for days like these.

I am ready, but the skies, heavy with clouds, have other plans for March. And, like a kid who can see, if she cranes her neck just so, the Christmas tree through the slats of the banister at five am, I know I have to wait some more before that really good thing can happen.

That isn't the introduction I wanted to write for what I am about to share, but this is a season of much back and forth, contradiction and anticipation, so maybe it is, after all, fitting.

My very good friend Tara just returned from a trip to Africa, specifically to Rwanda and Morocco. (She was slated to visit Egypt, but then, well, Egypt happened, so she had to do some rearranging). Tara is a brilliant photographer and one of the most kind, spirited, passionate, honest, talented, and ambitious people I have ever met. You'll see all that when you see her photographs.

When I watched the slideshow this morning, something was put back, something wobbly was righted inside of me. I gained a little perspective. All my fretting about my life, privileged as it is, was made to feel (rightfully) small in the face of genocide and civil war. Of course, something new was set in motion too. I started wondering about the long history of Africa and the inevitability of war... and then, because Tara who she is, and because of the genius of her work, I started to think about resilience, and this divinity we all posses, this ability to overcome devastating defeat and to rise again. It's enough to make me want to slap myself in the face for feeling sorry for myself.

Right now, it's all about scales of gray. What paralyzes me now will not keep me down me in the months to come. This will all be distant and probably laughable one day. I will look back and wonder who I was when I wrote these words. Right now, though... right now, this is all monotone and stifling and unbearably real.

Enjoy Tara's work.

http://tspoonphotography.com/darkroom/share/?n=rwanda</wbr>

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Did You Remember They Had A Dog?

List of things I did today out of love:

1. Wiped a four year old's butt. (Then washed hands)

2. Touched turkey cold cuts with my bare hands and spread mayonnaise on bread. (Then washed hands)

2. Took a four year old, a nine year old, and a rambunctious King Charles Cavalier out for a walk to the candy store. (Then washed hands)

Seriously. The skin on my hands feels like dried corn husks.

The most uncomfortable thing about this whole ordeal (did I say ordeal? I meant "glorious opportunity to experience the joy of parenting"!) is not having all my stuff with me. Stuff like my rubber gloves. The ones I wear when I do the dishes. The ones that help my skin to retain its natural moisture while I scrub pots and pans.

Burdy didn't get much work done today. He usually works from home, but now that our home is 20 miles north, in a house full of two kids and a dog (I can't believe we forgot about the dog), he's set up at the dining room table and the kids don't quite get that he's there to work. They're used to roughhousing with Uncle Stan when he's here. It's hard for them to understand that when he's obscured by that 27" screen, and his brow is furrowed, it means he's looking at the Matrix and coding. And it's wholly unproductive to interrupt Uncle Stan when he's looking at the Matrix and coding.

What's blowing my mind tonight, at the end of Day Two, is how distinct the consequences are when the schedule is not strictly adhered to. Dinner is to be served at six sharp... or plaintive cries from the living room for grapes will ensue. Bathtime is at 7:15, or you run the risk of running into overtime and missing the bedtime deadline... which, in turn, will make for a cranky child in the morning. There really isn't much else in my life that works like this. If I don't finish work for a client, I come in at some other time to make it up. No big deal. If I don't get all the laundry done on Sunday, it doesn't matter. There are always more clothes to wear and I don't mind wearing my dirty jeans for one more day. If we run out of frozen blueberries, well, then we'll just eat frozen strawberries instead.

But holy shit. Try explaining to a four year old that you ran out of blueberries and it ain't no thang... and you might as well say goodbye to the skin on your face, because his wrath will melt it clean off. (Note: we have not run out of blueberries.) Sticking to the schedule is turning out to be harder than I thought. And giving up my free time to be at the beck and call of two children is even harder than that.

I don't have that kind of rigidity and responsibility built into my life right now, so this change feels particularly swift and severe. Sure, I have to show up to work when I say I'm going to show up (more or less) and I need to meet deadlines, but everything else is up to me. If I want to skip lunch, I can. If I want to go to the gym in the middle of the day, I can. If I want to not come home till nine pm, I can.

This whole parenting thing has definitely put a cramp in my hobo lifestyle.

The dog, thank goodness, doesn't seem to care one way or the other about the schedule. He's just rolling with the punches right now. He seems like the type who wouldn't mind wearing his jeans for that fourth day in a row.

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Motherhood: The Beta Version

Alright.

I have about half an hour left in me tonight before I need to put teabags or cucumbers or whatever it is you put on burning eyeballs and I want to save that half an hour for an episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Because mindless TV sounds soooo good right now.

You people? With the kids and the jobs? Both at the same time? HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?

Burdy and I agreed, while their parents are out of town, to watch Giggles and Little Man for the next four days.

I know, I know. You're probably thinking: but what about the whole worm thing? Aren't you afraid you'll give them your parasites? Well, I've sworn off serving poop sandwiches for dinner, so I think we're all safe.

So, seriously now. I feel like I have whiplash. IN MY BRAIN. Yesterday I was just a single person, living my single person life, doing my single person work... and today... today I was inside a tumbleweed of schedules and snacks and pleads for toys from the toy store and dinner and homework and car seats and late night work hours and coordinating, coordinating, coordinating.

Yesterday I had visions of taking a bath. TAKING A BATH! And going to the gym. At NINE o'clock at night. BECAUSE I COULD. And today? Today I was calling Burdy to make sure he knew that it was half an hour till tooth brushing time and did he start story time yet?

Okay. I'm done with the whiny part. I mean, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to do this. I love those kids to death. And they love Mr. Burdy and me. I guess I just hadn't really done the math on what it would mean to go from single... to the legal guardian of a nine year old and a four year old overnight. All my gritty, urban styling is going to have to take a back seat for a few days while I pack coloring books in my messenger bag and bend over in my skinny jeans to wipe noses and tie tiny shoelaces.

I guess I'm not entirely unprepared for this. I am the aunty with all the cool stuff in her house. I've got a collection of manual typewriters that still work (always a hit with kids. "Where' the 'print' button?" they always want to know) and stickers and wacky stationary I pick up at estate sales. So, what I may lack in experience, I more than make up for with my obsolete technology and sparkly pipe cleaners. My elementary school art teacher persona kicked in to high gear this afternoon during our urban nature walk. We collected a bunch of goodies from the ground and made sculptures with pipe cleaners and hot glue when we got home.

Little Man insisted on calling the chestnuts "prickly balls". And I insisted that I would tell him when he was much, much older why I thought that was funny.

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Hawaiian Odyssey, Part I


You didn't think I was going to just drop the f-bomb on you like that and not have a good story to go along with it, did you?

Honestly, I have been saving this post up for about two weeks now. I have been trying to figure out just how to say this all. And there is more to say than I ever imagined I would want to say about the subject of marriage.

Let's just start this epic tale from the beginning, shall we?

Let's start by calling CLH by his new name: Burdy. That's what I call him at home (it's what he calls me too for reasons that are too over-the-top cutesy to explain right now) . Anyway, that's what we'll call him on this site from now on. He will no longer be "common-law". He'll just be my "husband". We are hereby removing the "CL" from "CLH", Internet. Weird. This will not be the last time I will see the word "husband" and think "weird".

So, Burdy left for Mexico about 8 weeks ago. He was to get on a boat and sail, with three other men, from Puerta Vallarta, Mexico to Hilo, Hawaii*. He did this because just about a year ago, I left for my own little adventure in a land-of-little-hygiene, and the deal was that if I got to go to Burning Man without him, then he was allowed to go on his own life- changing shindig a year later. So, he agreed to be crew for a 47' long boat named the Jolly Roger.

I was excited for him, but, I also tried to be as hands-off with his experience as he had been with mine.

Truth be told, I was WAY hands off. When it came time to prepare for his trip, I sort of tuned out. Did I care how many hundreds of pounds of rigging they would have to fly to Mexico to re-rig the boat? Not really. Was I concerned that he would have to brace himself in a tiny, rollicking, closet whenever he needed to answer nature's call? Not so much. Could I really conceptualized three WEEKS at sea with no land in sight? Nope. Was I excited to sleep in our bed ALL BY MYSELF? You bet your sweet ass I was.

That's not to say that I wasn't thinking about his safety- I was, in fact, but I was trying to not freak out. I was trying really hard not to think about shark attacks, and bad storms, and holes being punched in the hull by random crap and the guys having to hang on to floating debris and drinking seawater because they were dying of thirst and then going mad and murdering each other with sharpened pieces of decking. We all know that my adrenal glands did not need any more punishment, and I knew that by focusing on all the things that could go WRONG, I would a) make him more nervous about this trip than he needed to be and b) I would exclude the possibility that he might have a WONDERFULLY LIFE CHANGING, positive experience on his trip. So, I sent him off with a wave and a kiss and told him to say Hi to the sun for me.

Then I prepared myself for four weeks of glorious bachelorette-dom.

And by week three, I was really bored.

On Day One, I missed him. I cried at a little at the sight of his balled up pajama bottoms on our bed. On Day Three, I was LOVING living by myself. By day five, I had found my groove. I was garage sale shopping on the weekends, eating really well, avoiding caffeine and going to bed early (wow. on second thought... that isn't really a "groove"; it's the way quadruple bypass survivors spend their recovery period. What a bag o' fun I am. Jeezus.) Anywho, by week two, I was starting to get lonely. Shopping for goofy old records is fun and all, but it's more fun if there's someone by your side. 'Cause, you know. Snickering with your manfriend in public is normal. Snickering by yourself is sort of weird. I was finding myself having a thought, and turning to the empty space beside me where he normally would be standing... and then remembering. Oh yeah. He's on the ocean. And I can't talk to him right now.

And that sucked.

By the beginning of week three, I was feeling this feeling that I hadn't really ever felt before. It was this... I-don't-want-to-ever-be-without-you-feeling. Not in a desperate I-can't- live-without-you sort of way. Just sort of a practical "hey, this is stupid for us not to be together" way.

Can I get a little woo-woo with you, Internet?

The older I get, the more I believe that the Universe speaks to us just like we speak to each other. If you listen closely, you can hear what It's saying to you. Sometimes the Universe whispers. It says: you might want to get those cute shoes at that boutique you just passed on the street. They're not going to be here next week and you're going to kick yourself for not buying them.

And sometimes the Universe cold cocks you right in the face. It gives you a heart attack in the middle of the freeway to remind you to call your kids more often, or it makes your adrenal glands stop working properly to remind you that you're not living the way you should. The point is that the Universe has a cadence just like our spoken language does. And not all revelatory messages from the Universe are light-bulb-over-your-head moments. Sometimes our moments of truth come in very subtle, very quiet ways. And this was one of those times. When I thought about being without Mr. Burdy, the Universe just very quietly and matter of factly said: you should be with this guy for a long, long time. It's that simple. Stop fighting the simple and beautiful truth of your life: you have built an amazing life with this man who treats you well, who loves you for all you are and is excited to meet your future self too. He is generous, he is kind, he is going to make an amazing father, he listens to you when you talk about what needs improving, and he knows how to celebrate what is good in life.

A word about the institution of marriage and the the non-linear nature of my life:
not being married was, on the surface, a part of my fist-raised-to-The-Man defiance of the conventional... but it wasn't the whole story. Sure, I think it's utterly ridiculous that being gay in this country means that you can't be married legally, and, yes, I was making a political statement by not engaging in a practice that was being denied other perfectly qualified members of our society. But, really, my biggest reason for not being married was that I couldn't define what marriage MEANT to me. And my reasoning was that so long as I didn't really know what marriage meant, I didn't have any business being married.

Our friends have teased us over the years about not being married (we've been together for just about twelve years now)... about how were were probably secretly plotting to never be married. Or that maybe we had some plan to be the very last people in our circle of friends to be married just to prove a point. The truth is far less entertaining. Plain and simple: we were just children who weren't ready. Children who had not really figured out how marriage would make our lives any different. Life was comfortable and we'd never really had to make a decision. We were together and that's all that mattered, right?

I can't say we're any closer to understanding what marriage means. I just know we're committed to finding out together.

When we made the announcement to my family, two of the questions my little (taller) brother shot back at us were: why did it take so long, and why now? And those are the two most profound questions we've been asked since making this decision. I think it occurred to each of us, independently and simultaneously, that this is what we should do. Something changed in each of us while Mr. Burdy was on that god-forsaken sailboat.

Victoria asked me before I boarded that plane for Hawaii whether or not I would say yes if Mr. Burdy asked. I said, without hesitating, yes, of course I would. But if I am going to be totally honest, I have to admit that I'd spent many hours thinking of ways to say no. I'm spilling the beans here, on the Internet, because I think it's necessary to talk about this stuff in our marrying culture. Our relationship has meandered through quite a few profound twists and turns. We have been through couples therapy, and through individual counseling. We've broken up and we've gotten back together. We've had some awesome times together, and we've had some truly dark moments together. We both come from wounded families, and that has played no small part in delaying our decision to take the next step in our relationship. I have gone back and forth in my mind for years about whether or not I've made the right decision in being in this relationship for this long.

As a writer, I am moved to draw out and dwell upon ALL the feelings associated with commitment- not just the rosy invitation and dress-picking-out euphoric ones (though, euphoria definitely has a place in this whole thing!) I want to claim a spot at the marriage table for those of us who are still trying to figure this out as we go along. I want to be totally honest about this whole experience because I want to expose love for the journey it is. I want to use more than "scared nervous happy excited" to describe my feelings. Because sometimes I feel three of these at once. And other times I feel nothing at all. I feel completely neutral. Sometimes I feel solid and grounded and like I'm making the most natural decision of my life, it feels that effortless. And sometimes I start to literally hyperventilate thinking about about being with one man for the rest of my life. Scared and nervous don't even being to cover these emotions.

Before Hawaii, I thought about telling CLH things like: you're too late, sucka. Or, that he'd already had me for this long.... so what the hell would a commitment ceremony really mean when he'd gotten the milk without having to buy the farm for thirteen years or so? Besides which... there were logistics to think about. What coast to be married on, for beginners. The thought of having to suggest hotels and plane fares and pick out flowers made me want to stick my head under a pillow. One thing you can do really well out here amongst the evergreens here in the Pacific Northwest is delay your adulthood indefinitely. And we were doing that very well, thank you very much.

But in the moment, when he actually asked me, when it came right down to it, none of the "no" reasons came into my head. Of course, I might have been thinking HOLY SHIT WHAT AM I AGREEING TO, but I was feeling that right alongside YES! FINALLY! I'M SO EXCITED AND HAPPY! and the decision was obvious: of course I would marry him.

So here we are. Muddling our way through what it means to have nothing change and everything change all at the same time.

I'll tell you all about how he did it (and how I saw it coming but was still surprised) in Part II.

*You can read Mr. Burdy's version of events here.

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Love Is In The Air… Literally

Thanks to my fiance* for taking this. I happened to notice this while I was on the phone with Quickbooks customer service this morning. See what happens when you pace while you're on the phone? You notice insects having sex on your windowsill.

Also? The velvet plant has sprung a few new blooms!


*Wait. Did I just type that? Yes, Internet. Yes, I did. WEEEEEEEIRD.

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Letter To A Tropical Fruit


Dear Papaya,

Let's just start over, shall we? I know I called you all those horrible names at that breakfast bar at Macchu Picchu, but I think we should move on. I know, I know. You have every right to hate me. I practically projectile vomited you all over my traveling companions, but, so what, Papaya? Every friendship goes through a few rough patches, right? Okay, so, maybe "You taste like puke" is not something you say to a fruit you've just met. I apologize. I was young. I didn't know.

Brazil? Why are you bringing up Brazil? Alright, so I was much older then. It was many years after Peru, you're right. So I avoided you in Brazil like the plague. So what? Let's face it, Papaya. You taste like throw-up when you're overripe. And Peru scarred me for life. Plus, that lady at the hotel was feeding you to the local birds, so, really, how good could you have been? Imagine if you were all excited to eat fresh tropical fruit for the first time and it was early in the morning (and you don't do mornings) and you were standing in the midst of an ancient mountain range and you had piled your plate high with eggs and toast and brightly colored chunks of juicy, beautiful fruit as you prepared your body and spirit for a trek into those mountains. And then you closed your eyes slowly and bit into those exotic pieces of fruit, and instead of tasting God's candy, you tasted... well, you know what you tasted like, Papaya. I know you're trying to emulate your svelte relative, the mango, but, ummm.. you are not a mango. You are mango's ugly cousin in a stained muumuu and you really just don't smell that good. I'm sorry, Papaya! Somebody had to tell you! I KNOW I'm supposed to be apologizing! Calm down! I'm just trying to be honest with you! You see? This is why we haven't spoken in almost fifteen years.

I know you feed a good portion of the equatorial world, and that you're rich in all the sorts of digestive enzymes that my body needs, but ever since that time in Peru, I have not wanted to go near you. Your green self I can handle. Covered in lime and salt and fresh chilies and tossed with onions and maybe a string bean or ten? Awesome, Papaya. We can totally hang. But that mushy fruit thing you do? Gross, dude.

I'm over it now. I'm a changed woman, Papaya. I just recently found a variety of you in Hawaii that I really like: the strawberry papaya. And for two dollars for SIX of you, well, even if you DO taste a little like stomach acid, I can't resist a bargain. You know what goes really well with you? Strawberries. And mint. In the blender. Yum.


So let's be friends, Papaya. I promise not to hate on you any more.

Now, if I can just get Guava to answer my emails...

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B-Bonzo-Bean

Internets, I have about five minutes in here before two small children figure out I'm awake and available to play another round of Baby T-Rex vs the Power Cord (or whatever the hell superhero name the kid is calling himself), so this post is going to be a slapdash mess of bullet points.

I'm in New Mexico with Victoria, Dan, and their two lovable children. I'm playing part nanny, part friend, and part punching bag on this trip. Victoria invited me along because her mom, at the age of 53, is graduating college (Go, Mom!) and the whole family is convening to celebrate. I get to spend the next few days taking in the beautiful scenery of the desert, soaking up the sun, and avoiding "shark bites" (Oh, you don't know what a shark bite is? Ask a nine year old). The youngest of Victoria's kids has one of those classic kid laughs, the kind a sound effects guy would pay millions for. Anyone who hears it laughs too, it's that contagious. The air sickness, the turbulence through Tuscon, the whining and the constant demands for stories? It's all worth it to hear that laugh.

The little guy LOVES to be told a good story. He regularly asks me to tell him stories. And since I am a master at weaving together hyperbole and moral values, I oblige. We started the day yesterday with the tale of Bozo The Pickle who gets lost in the desert and mistakes a saguaro cactus for his mother. Somehow, via the magic that is a small child's imagination, "Bozo" morphed into "Bonzo", which morphed into "B-Bonzo-Bean". So this morning, I woke to the sound of small children thumping around in the next room and "B-BONZO-BEAN!!!" You're welcome, Victoria.

I went through another round of blood tests and a two hour medical interrogation from a new doctor a few days before I left for this trip. We are no closer to figuring out why my ear and neck feel like they are stuffed with fiberglass insulation, but we did find out that my iron and cholesterol levels are dangerously low. Did you hear that America? MY CHOLESTEROL IS TOO LOW! I'm pretty sure this gives me license to eat an unlimited amount of cheeze puffs and onion rings. I'm on an iron supplement right now, but I also (drum roll please) have agreed to eat small amounts of meat here and there. Did you hear that, mom? Mother of mine who thankfully doesn't read this blog because I would be able to hear the I TOLD YOU SO from across the country? I am going to have a tiny bit of bacon for breakfast. Because my cholesterol is too low! Because I haven't eaten meat, except for the tiniest bits here and there, in FIFTEEN YEARS. And because I lay in bed at night and think about the end of the world and whether or not burglars might take all my shit while I'm at work and whether or not that stain is going to come out of my shirt. It wasn't just that I've eaten a mostly organic, high fiber low fat vegetarian diet for the past fifteen years. I WORRIED the cholesterol out of my system, Internet. I fucking dissolved the stuff right out of my veins because that's what chronic stress will do to your body. It will eat up the very building blocks of your body until you a trembling mass of overworked nerves. I suddenly doesn't feel so bad having that second helping of nachos yesterday.

CLH is more than halfway home! I miss the hell out of him. I was given the okay by the captain's wife about a week ago to send daily text messages to the satellite phone on the boat, so I have been sending a haiku every day for the past week. The update from the boat is that the crew is apparently craving hot showers. They encountered FOURTEEN FOOT swells earlier this week (I had to fight back the urge to pass out, puke, and convulse all at once typing that), and they are having a BLAST talking to the Flying Pigs ham radio operators. Thank goodness they have more than each other to talk to. I've heard that the waves, the sea-sickness, the hard work, the lack of fresh fruit, the sunburn, the constant movement.... it's all manageable after a while. It's the monotony that eventually does you in as a sailor. So, thank goodness for people who understand how to work a radio. I'm sure it's the altitude change, the fact that my neck is a compacted mess, and the fact that we really haven't stopped moving since we landed in Arizona 48 hours ago, but I think I'm feeling sympathy sea-sickness pains. Can that be? Burdy? I miss you too, but quit rockin' the boat, would ya?

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I Heart The Sixties

I'm a real sucker for the advertising stylings of the Sixties. The extra lengths advertising executives went to to make you feel like you'd just purchased the world's greatest whatever-it-was... Astonishing, really. Sixties, you had me at Gold Tassels On Your Owner's Manual. Check out this little gem:


The Lady Shavex. There were actually two of them on display at the estate sale. The other one was baby blue and looked like it had been used maybe once or twice. But this one? It looked it had never been opened. Just to keep the whole thing contained on my way to the checkout table, I stuck the razor, the cord and the tiny, tiny container of "hair powder" into the handsome gold carrying case. When I got to the register, the lady charged me for a "clutch", which I thought was charming. I paid for a clutch and I got a razor for free.


What in the hell would make a person buy such a thing? Nostalgia, people. Plain and simple. My mother, when I turned 13 or so, handed me a very similar box, and told me it was a gift from my grandmother. I was "becoming a woman" back then, and apparently, I would be needing an antique shaving device that worked by vibrating the hair out of your follicles, it was that fucking loud. I tucked that thing down, way down, beneath the pantyhose and slips in my sock drawer and vowed never to shave my legs (or whatever other region of my body it was for... arms? neck? belly button?) It went missing in the era between "We Are The World" and Young MC's "Bust A Move" and I never thought about it again.

Fast forward to this weekend. I'm standing knee deep in a room full of Christmas decorations and books about weight loss at an estate sale and all of a sudden I see the Lady Shavex and I am overcome with this burning need to replace that razor of my youth with this shiny new one. I convince myself that having an electric razor would be preferable to the disposable plastic razor I currently use. I fork over a dollar for the privilege of ownership, and I am in seventh heaven.

Sometimes I wonder how far women have come in being able to announce our hygiene routines to the world. I mean, the men's razor CLH owns rests in hard-backed silver briefcase, for God's sake. The thing weighs something like 14 pounds. And the razor itself? A massive black buzzing phallus. If they could find a way to engineer it without imposing bodily harm, I'm pretty sure men's razors would be shaped like mini-chainsaws and would come with leather work gloves and a tool belt. Why do women have to hide the fact that they ALSO remove hair from their bodies by putting the instrument in a gold bag? (Suddenly, Mad Men is making a whole lot more sense to me. This is Peggy Olson's doing, isn't it?)

I showed the whole set to my friend Ruth who immediately burst out with, "OMIGOD! It's the GOLD BAG!" Turns out, growing up, her family must have owned the Lady Shavex too... only the bag had been requisitioned for things like tweezers and nail files and the Lady Shavex was free to roam the linen closet. That's right. HER Lady Shavex was all "WHAT?? THAT'S RIGHT! I'm A RAZOR, suckas! I don't hide in no carrying case! I don't know why that particular razor talked like Rosie Perez. Sometimes razors are tough like that.

I gave it the test. There were two settings: legs and underarms. To be honest, I didn't give it much of a chance. I thought: well, it's not going to cut as close as my disposable lavender colored Lady Schick, is it? Well, Ladies, it did. My legs are silky smooth and I didn't even have to use the icky hair powder!

Another Sixties favorite of mine at estate sales: cookbooks. The pictures of creamed EVERYthing in casserole dishes accented by things like silver coffee services and doilies just DOES something to me. Maybe it makes me long for the days when everything could be solved by just the right ratio of cottage cheese to pineapple rings. There is just something so reassuring about these recipes. The text around them is always so damned encouraging. There was no concern for any one's impacted colon, just the way their reaction to your sour cherry and lamb souffle made you feel. "Your hot dog casserole will be sure to please the WHOLE crowd, young and old alike!" "Your teens will sing your praises if you interrupt their yearbook committee meeting with a tray of Tang and deviled ham sandwiches!" "Your husband's poker buddies might be tempted to ask you to join them with this ham and artichoke bake!"


Johnny probably won't have any problems snagging a girlfriend later on in life after THIS cake.

THIS cookbook, however, had some "advice" for the new housewife. Little nuggets of wisdom to help her through her day of dumping cans of cream of mushroom soup over cans of ham before she hit up the medicine cabinet for her "headache" pills. Take this one:


The text reads: "Dr. Samuel Johnson once said, "A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek". Most families would agree with Dr. J."

Good point, Dr. J. Better to be full of Mayonnaise, Frankfurters, and Olive Puffs than to listen to your wife. After all, what could SHE possibly have to say? It's all Greek to us anyway! Am I right, fellas? Am I right?

When I was growing up, I almost never saw my mother consult a cookbook. She pulled out the tattered ol' Betty Crocker Cookbook around Christmastime to get her cookie recipes out (I still use those same exact recipes today when I make Christmas cookies), but I never saw her actually read a cookbook the way I read my cookbooks. Thank God, too. I mean, my cookbooks are full of feel good advice about food and community and health tips and measurement conversions and whole sections dedicated to mail order addresses for unusual grains and beans and spices. No one's telling me to shut my mouth and put a roast on the table because 9 out of 10 families agree that that's my job.

Sally never took her chances with roving gangs of root vegetables. She always fired twice. Especially at the turnips.</p>

</span>See how far we've come? We still hide away all the accoutrement of our daily routine, but we can at least serve salad for dinner and not feel like complete failures.

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I Can Now Cross “Help Birth Baby” Off the Bucket List

I hardly feel like I have the right to complain about how tired I am right now. After all, I'm not the rock star who birthed a baby in the middle of her living room last night. That honor goes to my friend Layla, who, while clutching the hands of some of her best women friends, her husband at her back, and her first child at her side, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

Layla asked me some weeks ago to be a part of her home birth. My duty was to babysit her first child, whom I affectionately call "Neener", while the new baby was being born. Neener didn't need much hand-holding, though. She was as big a rock star as her mommy.

I, on the other hand, fell apart at the seams. I could hardly keep my eyes open past 4 am. I couldn't sleep, either, as every capillary in my body was surging with adrenaline. I spent the rest of the night in my "catjamas" (as Neener dubbed them) alternating between heightened alertness and utter exhaustion.

But it was worth it. Oh, man, was it worth it. If I had any doubts left about what the human body is capable of, they were all dispelled last night at 3 am.


Welcome to the world, Kai Lucca.

Special thanks to Andrea for capturing this gorgeous shot.

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Bye Bye, Burdy

Well, CLH finally left for Mexico this morning. Between the rants about garage sales and panic attacks, I think I forgot to mention this, um, enormous factoid: CLH is sailing 2800 miles from Mexico to Hawaii with three other men on a 47 foot sailboat and will be gone for about a month.

Hey! Guess what? I'm going to sleep diagonally in my bed for thirty days straight!

I spent the day volleying back and forth from smiling giddily over being a "free" woman for thirty days, and crying like a baby. 'Cause, you know. I'm stable like that. NPR reports on a day of mourning for earthquake victims in China? Okay with me. Hearing the Eels song "Fresh Feeling"? Totally not okay. Total tearjerker.

I've been rattling around the house all day, which does not help at all with this sudden feeling of loneliness. I count on small things, like the smell of CLH's coffee in the morning, and the soft computer glow and tinny music coming from his side of the office when I wake up, to get me through the day. When I woke up this morning (after driving CLH to the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:45 am. Seriously, how do you people with the jobs do it?) the office was cold and quiet and then it set in: no CLH for 30 days.

It usually goes like this for me: whenever we are apart for long periods of time, I miss him and weep intermittently for about four days. By day seven I'm like "Stan? Stan who?" Last year when I left for Burning Man, I cried silently behind the novel I was reading on the bus. I don't know why I get so freaking emotional. It's not like he was dead, or that I wasn't going to see him ever again. It's just that we spend a LOT of time together, and being apart for the first time in a long time was just felt, well, devastating.

Of course, the last time I left, I knew CLH wasn't going anywhere. I knew he'd be at our apartment when I got back in ten days. This time around, it's a little more serious. There's all kinds of shit that can go wrong. Things like capsizing and shark attacks and injury and shit that only the Discovery Channel can design a mini-series around.

I have been trying VERY hard not to focus on all the things that can go wrong on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Did you notice I wrote the words "shark attack" and didn't have to faint? That's the NEW me talking. The new me who is reading a book she found at Goodwill in the self help section of the book department about panic attacks and anxiety. The old me would have needed to be cradled like a baby and told that shark attacks are few and far between (probably as frequent as alien abductions is my guess) and that CLH and his crew are going to be fine. The new me is convinced that everything's going to be just fine WITHOUT needing to be cradled like a baby. Take THAT, anxiety! (high fives with adrenal glands).

Now, to make sure I'm using my Single Lady time to its utmost potential while CLH is gone, I've got a bucket list going (and I'm not even sure I'm using "bucket list" correctly here so excuse me while I go use the Internet. {here's me clicking open another window in Mozilla and Googling "bucket list" and grimacing}. Okay, I'm back. Um. I don't want to give anyone the idea that I'm terminally ill. So maybe I shouldn't call it a bucket list. Maybe it's more of a finite to-do list.)

Alright, I'm so exhausted from lack of sleep my eyes burn. So here's just a few things:

Do a detox diet
Take trapeze lessons
Lose ten pounds
Write a children's book
Update this blog more often
Clean out the 'fridge

Some of the things are more thrilling than others. You can't believe how excited I am to clean out the 'fridge.

Goodnight, sweet Burdy. I hope you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

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Greg, You Loser

It's Saturday, so that means CLH and I have our own breakfasts. (He has a lumberjack's plate of eggs and potatoes and bacon and toast and coffee and I had a cup of tea and some old M&M's I find in the bottom of our snack drawer). I do what I do every Saturday morning after I make my tea: I sit with my laptop at the kitchen table scouring the Internet for estate sales in my neighborhood.

Estate sales, in my opinion, are very different from garage sales. I've spent lots of time rooting around in dilapidated produce boxes full of old Christmas decorations and doilies like a hungry raccoon in a garbage can, so I should know.

Garage sales are goldmines for people who want to refurnish their apartments with dated, well-worn couches or who have lost every cord to every electronic appliance they have ever owned and need replacements. If you ever need either of those two things (or several dozen novelty mugs or maybe a gajillion books on how to lose weight, find Jesus, or how to program in HTML), then garage sales are for you.

But if you want to find a framed painting of president Kennedy, 27 pristine vinyl albums of Scandinavian Folk Songs, and a decades old collection of Avon men's cologne bottles shaped like ram's horns, antique cars, and various sports equipment* in one house, then estate sales are your thing.

*real things I've found at estate sales.

I don't usually "do" garage sales unless I've thoroughly investigated the estate sales in the area. I think it's because the estate sale people are different than the garage sale people. The words are in their ads are spelled correctly, their lists of items for sale aren't fifty unreadable miles long, and the ads are usually inviting, friendly even. They include phrases like "Lots of good stuff" and "Great deals to be had" (a nice departure from the usual non-grammatical run-ons for garage sales that include vague threats in all caps like "I WON'T HELP YOU CARRY THIS STUFF OUT SO YOU'D BETTER BRING YOUR FRIENDS. AND A TRUCK. I WON'T HELP YOU. SERIOUSLY. I'M PHYSICALLY INCAPABLE".)

I think it's because the estate sale people are type As. And borderline hoarders. And that's cool with me. I like visiting with "my people" on the weekends.

Today, though, I skipped the usual estate sales and since the weather was getting nicer (you know, fifty-degrees-instead-of-forty-nicer. Nicer as in I'll-wear-my-scarf-and-winter-coat-but skip-the-hat-today nicer) I decided to visit only the outside sales.

And, oh boy.

There was the lady who wove (is it even possible to weave going 11 miles an hour?) down the street clearly looking for the same garage sale we were. I parked almost half a block away, walked, and still beat her there. She was, meanwhile, using up half the street and all of her might to parallel park in a space about 75 feet long. 'Cause, you know. She pays taxes. Why not use the whole road?

There was nothing good at this sale. Terrible Parking Job Lady, though, seemed VERY interested in an old-school compression powered paint gun. As part of her punishment for making me wait in the middle of the street for a totally not-worth-it garage sale, I was secretly hoping the thing would discharge in her face while she stared down the barrel. Garage saling makes me competitive. Forget sports. And academics. If you really want to unleash my inner tiger, put me in a starting gate alongside a half dozen middle aged women in mom jeans and appliqued sweaters and see who comes running out of there first. I am NOT afraid to shove when there's cheap crap at stake.

The next to last garage sale featured a a garage sale classic: Mr. This Stuff Is Too Good For You Guy.

"Greg" was sitting in his garage wearing sunglasses and listening to his Walkman when we walked up (I know his name because he shook my hand after our deal and told me his name and that I should check out his "other stuff" tomorrow as well, at the Fremont Sunday Market). There were like maybe 20 things for sale, and they were all jumbled in boxes, stacked in no particular order, sprawled out over one quarter of the garage. The rest of the garage was full of boxes of... wood. I think. Something an urban garage shouldn't be full of. Weird. Anywho, the whole time we were there, he kept talking about how awesome this "other" stuff was that he had somewhere else.

This guy was a pro. He must have been able to smell when we were about to direct our attention elsewhere, because as soon as we did, he launched into a oral history of the thing we were looking at, waxed poetic about how it was one of a kind, and did we need a replica of the Starship Enterprise? Because if we did, he had one. It was worth a lot but that he would be willing to let it go for less. And then, if he we even so much as opened our mouths to protest about the price, or the "need" for whatever he was offering, he vacillated between wanting to stroke the thing lovingly and letting it go for a bargain. And if there's one thing I hate more than the people who write garage sale ads with bad punctuation, it's people who try to convince me that the crap I'm rooting through like a hungry raccoon is worth hundreds of dollars and that I should feel bad for offering them less than that for their crap. You know what, Greg? If this record of Kabuki music I'm holding in my hand is so rare and expensive, why is it here, in this mildewy box, next to a car buffer and a golf ball puzzle? You don't want to take my lousy dollar bill for your stupid record? Then why are you selling it? If you like it so much, why don't you keep it? WHY DON'T YOU MARRY IT, GREG? Oh, you've got more stuff, Greg? Oh, I'm sorry. Your buddy has more? Well, where is your buddy and his "stuff", Greg? See, this is the way capitalism** works: If you want me to give you money for something, you need have your goods in front of you, in real time, with a price tag on it. When I go to the supermarket, I usually make sure my bag of oranges is in my cart before I hand the cashier my credit card. And when I fill up my car with gas, I buy it from a gas station that has gas to offer, not one whose "buddy" has some more gas around here somewhere...

**Okay, this is not how capitalism actually works. This is how it should work. Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps? Yeah. They don't count as capitalism. They're just straight up gambling hall adrenaline junkie bullshit. Just sayin'.

Anywho, we managed to convince Greg to take our crumpled five dollar bill for the records we picked out, and I have to say, they've been worth every cent. Especially this one:


It's worth two bucks just to stare in awe at this guy's cigarette ash and wonder what Jedi mind tricks he was using at the time to stand so still. Or what in the hell they make cigarettes in Asia out of...

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Warning: Side Effects May Cause You To Vividly Recall The 5th Grade

I don't know if it was because of clairvoyance or pure dumb luck that I asked for an asymmetrical haircut this last round at the salon. Because guess what's good for hiding a forehead soon to be festooned with angry red pimples? Cute, sweeping bangs, that's what.

My doctor warned me that the drugs I would be taking to help out with my poor, exhausted adrenal glands *might* make me develop adult acne. The drugs are hormones, after all. And what makes your adrenal glands able to finally put their heads between their knees and take a breather from all that running they've been doing for the last five years so also makes your skin return to its former pubescent state. Hallelujah. The body is a magical thing.

So, the diagnosis is this: I've been experiencing what's called Adrenal Exhaustion. All that crankiness, that loss of libido, that tiredness, those panic attacks, the fainting, the insomnia... it's all because my adrenal glands are overworked. Why? Because I'm a stress case. Quite literally. Most people's adrenal glands are supposed to be used every once in a while when, you know, their child is about to be mauled by, say, a saber tooth tiger. (I think that's what they told us in science class). Anywho, when your adrenal glands release adrenaline into your bloodstream you're filled with an enormous, sudden, and temporary amount of strength and energy so you can punch that sonofabitch saber tooth tiger right in the snout, grab your baby, and then run 82 miles at top speed in the opposite direction.

MY adrenal glands, because I am prone to anxiety and because I can't manage my stress properly, are squirting adrenaline 24 hours a day. And those adrenal glands are tired. Like tiiiiiiiii-red. Like dog tired. And this causes me to feel both panicked and unable to move at the same time. MY adrenal glands are exhausted from making adrenaline around the clock. To boot, the adrenaline-producing part of my brain is actually STEALING hormone-building chemicals from OTHER hormone-producing areas of my brain so it can keep making that slow trickle of adrenaline constantly. So, the hormones (like serotonin) that make me feel all good and loosey-goosey? Not being made. And the sex hormones? Well, let's just say CLH has had a very rough year.

To illustrate: Your adrenal glands are probably being manned by two 1930's era circus strongmen who smash them occasionally with comically large mallets, thus releasing adrenaline when danger approaches. My adrenal glands are manned by Droopy Dog and probably look like two crusty dried up balloons.

And there's your science lesson for the day.

Thanks to my new doctor, though, I FINALLY feel restored and alive. Eh, so what's a few pimples? I mean, sure, getting ready for work in the morning is a bit of a joke. No amount of sophisticated black dress and chunky, modern jewelry hides the fact that my skin is blotchy and red like a 13 year old's. I've never been one to wear a ton of makeup, but these days I go through several ROUNDS of cover-up.

Given all the bizarre medical tests I've had to endure, the months and years of not knowing what the hell was wrong with me, the chronic ear pain, a few zits is a very small price to pay for feeling better. And I DO feel better. That "depleted" feeling I was experiencing is all but gone. My energy levels feel restored. I'm working out at the gym several days a week. I'm seeing a new chiropractor now, too, so maybe my neck bones (which currently look like a crushed soda can) will get straightened out. And then maybe my ear will get the hint that the REST of me is tired of being broken and it will step into line.

For now, I'm reducing (at my doctor's advice) my dosage of the hormones, and I'm styling my hair so that it hides a good chunk of my face in a melodramatic, angry punk rocker sort of way. If I'm going to be sporting the skin of a 5th grader, I think I should be able to sport a hairstyle from one, too.

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And I Wasn’t Even High On Cocaine

It was a rockstar Valentine's Day weekend for me and CLH. We drove down to Portland on Friday night and we saw Echo Helstrom in a sold-out show at the Aladdin Theater. (You should buy their new EP, by the way.) Afterward, we partied like rockstars with the band. We ate, we drank, we hob-knobbed with artists and musicians from the Portland area, and then I passed out with my pants around my ankles in a bathroom stall.

I wish I was kidding about that last part. Or, at least, I wish that there were illicit drugs and hookers and the trafficking of tropical birds involved. Because THAT would make for a good story. THAT would give David Sedaris a run for his money. But, this? This is my life. And my life is not filled with gangs running cockatoos and diamonds from Bogota to the Pacific Northwest in the hollowed out carcasses of Beanie Babies. No, my life is filled with ill-timed bouts of unconsciousness followed by days of lethargy, doctor's appointments, and having to tell people to have bottles of orange juice at the ready because my blood pressure is dangerously low.

This was a different kind of faint in that I didn't feel it coming on. Normally, I feel all the "classic" signs of fainting: nausea, sweating, headache, extreme discomfort... But this time, all I had was an extreme and sudden case of nausea. I got up to pee in the middle of the night/morning, and, as I was sitting on the toilet, was overcome very suddenly by the urge to puke. I thought to myself: well, you'd better hurry up because you're gonna need to turn around to throw up in about two seconds. And the next thing I know, I'm on the floor on my back, and CLH is desperately trying to tug my pajama bottoms up over my hips. Also, my head hurts A LOT.

Usually when I faint (Am I even typing this? "Usually when I faint"? Who freaking faints that much that they have a "usual" kind of faint?), my senses return to me one at a time. It's the strangest thing in the world, actually. Weirder than any kind of drug experience, weirder than any kind of transcendent spiritual experience. First I can hear, then I can feel, and finally, I can see. I usually come to to the sound of CLH frantically calling my name. (Geezus. HOW many times has CLH brought me back to consciousness this past year? Note to self: buy that guy a Cadillac filled with jelly beans and a robot that does his laundry and a private lap dance from Shakira to thank him.)

CLH and I were spending the night at my friend Ross's house (who happens to be the lead singer of Echo Helstrom. SO rockstar-y of us, right?) Ross was also hosting a few other folks that night, and we all headed to bed somewhere in the 3 am hour. Our bed was in the basement apartment of Ross's house, which is where Ross's sister, her boyfriend, and boyfriend's sister were also sleeping.

So this toilet, being in a basement bathroom in Portland and all, was up on a six inch platform. I'm not entirely sure why basement toilets need to be raised, but I think it involves terms like "ejector" and "up pump", and other horrifying ways of vaguely describing the movement of poop. Anyway, thanks to the miracle that is indoor plumbing, and the renovations of some prior homeowner, I fell an extra six inches into pitch blackness. With my pants down. I can only assume that unconsciousness stops the flow of urine, because, thankfully, I wasn't covered in my own pee. I'm not quite sure what I hit my head on (probably the slightly open door?) but I also managed to smash my left shoulder and my left knee into something, too, before I rolled onto the cold bathroom floor. CLH heard it and leaped out of bed immediately. Nothing says GET THE FUCK UP NOW like the sound of your girlfriend's limp body crashing onto a tile floor a few feet away. It woke up another guest staying at the house, too, and she helped with the recovery process. I should have greeted her earlier that night with, "Hi. Just so you know, you may or may not find me half clothed and unconscious in our shared bathroom in a few hours. Enjoy your stay!"

So, that was how my Valentine's Day morning started. Not with roses or chocolate, but with CLH pressing a bag of ice to my forehead while yanking up my cat-themed pajama bottoms from around my knees.

I'm the luckiest rockstar in the world.

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Illegible Scrawl, or The Work of A Genius?

I made this resolution to myself for 2010: write everything down. Everything. It doesn't matter when the inspiration strikes. Just write it down. Could be nonsense, could be genius. Just write it down.

To this end, I have stashed several notebooks around the house... and in my messenger bag, and in my purse, and in the pocket of my car door, and in the drawer of my nightstand... just in case. In case of what? I don't know. I mean, did Hemingway compose "A Moveable Feast" while stopped at a red light? Philip Roth ever map out a character sketch while checking out at Macy's? Did Kurt Vonnegut scribble down plot notes in secret under the conference table while in client meetings? Okay, maybe. I think I probably have too many notebooks.

I just figure, hey, better to be ready than not. Genius could strike at any time. Because genius? Oh, it's like lightning. It does not strike twice in the same spot. Once you miss it, it's gone forever. Preparing for genius is a lot like preparing for a nuclear holocaust, or the second coming of Christ, minus the duct tape. You must be READY! As a matter of fact, I have a notebook next to me RIGHT NOW because you NEVER KNOW. I could be in the middle of telling you what I had for breakfast and WHAM! The next War and Peace could ooze out of my skull and onto my notebook. I mean, you just. never. know.

So, a few weeks ago, I was lying in bed and WHAM! There is was this stirring in my brain... this ... string of words... starting to form... and I just knew I needed to write it down. I was all OOH! OOH! GENIUS? IS THAT YOU? That the words did not immediately appear to be genius in its pure form (or really make any sense) did not concern me. What concerned me was writing them down. So, I reached for my small reading light (because CLH HATES when I turn on my bedside lamp while he's sleeping. He's selfish that way, always wanting to sleep in the dark and all). But the light's batteries were dead. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? Do you see what I mean about needing to be prepared? Jesus? He can show up whenever and it's all cool. Genius? You'd better damn well have a notebook and a flashlight.

So, instead of getting up out of bed, getting some new batteries, changing the old batteries, and turning on the light, I decide that THAT series of actions will interfere with, maybe even disable, the REALLY IMPORTANT THING that's happening in my brain. The GENIUS could be stalled.

So I decide to just lay there and write in the dark. With my left hand. Because to move even an inch to adjust my position (and get the pencil in my right hand, the hand I actually write with) might interrupt the flow of genius I am channeling. I wasn't going to get the batteries for the light. I CERTAINLY wasn't going to roll over and write with my right hand. Perhaps this will give you an idea now of just how impressed I am with my own potential for genius.

So here it is, my moment of brilliance:</p>

</span>
I assure you, none of this is genius. About the only two phrases I can make out are "time travel" and "karate chop". Yeah. 'Cause that's got best seller written all over it.

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An Open Letter to the Washington State Department of Revenue

Dear Sirs,

YOU are the reason people avoid filing and paying business taxes. I'm sure I'm asking the obvious here, but, WHY must you make it so difficult to file? And why must your agents, instead of answering a question directly, urge me to check some ruling typed up in eight point font on a page buried deep within your website? Do you think I have time to read that nonsense? If I had the time to do that shit, I WOULDN'T HAVE CALLED YOU. You see, when I call, I need a quick answer. One that doesn't involve you making all sorts of presumptions about my client's business and then ending the call by advising that I call the freaking department of Labor and Industries to see if maybe my client needs to be registered as a contractor. (I assure you, sirs, he does not.) I need to know about very simple things. Simple, innocent things. And you have turned ALL my questions about pass-through income and workshop activities and more into nightmare scenes in which everyone is being mutilated by airplane-sized locusts all because my clients don't have contractor's licenses. Or they're sitting in Guantanamo because they didn't know whether or not to take a credit for out of state wholesaling.

I will give you this: your forms are easy to follow. It's just like school! YAY! Boxes and pencils! Fill in the boxes with numbers. Put your name on the bottom of the form. Stick the form in an envelope. Lick the envelope. Put a stamp on the envelope. Then put that envelope in the mail. Done! Your online forum is also, admittedly, extremely easy to use. Log on, fill in boxes, click "ok". Very easy indeed. Here's what's NOT easy. Interpreting your freaking laws. Figuring out if I'm actually putting the right numbers in the right boxes. Oh, sure. You've got your phone number printed up there at the top of your website so we can call your "tax agents" and ask questions. But can they actually answer our questions? Well, I think we both know what happens when we call. People die at the hands of giant beetles.

While your agents are not so good at answering questions about ACTUAL business practices, they are quite good at making up imaginary ones. Today your agents sculpted out of thin air a scenario in which my client went from drawing up remodeling plans to overseeing a dozen or more illegal migrant workers. Pretty good, huh? Oh, and get this one: One time, a couple of months ago, your agents cleverly rearranged a scene in which my client is hosting workshops for kids into a slag pit full of weary minors leaning on shovels for a boss in a dirty t-shirt who has not obtained the proper building permit. Sirs, that kind of hyperbolic hysteria is reserved for Pat Robertson alone. And you, sirs, are no pat Robertson.

I mean, why did your agent have to "check with his supervisor" about this question this morning? Aren't there HUNDREDS, nay THOUSANDS, of people doing architectural type work in the state of Washington? Why did your agent have to go on a long-winded spiel about a non-existent situation? My question about this type of income simply HAS to be more common than you are making it sound. Why are you suggesting I call another agency about a question that YOU are supposed to know the answer to? And why are you suggesting my client get a license for a profession he DOES NOT WORK IN? While you're at it, why don't you dial up the North Pole and suggest that Santa Claus gets a workman's comp account in case of job related elf injuries? Or that my mailman gets a boat license in case he ever needs to navigate his mailman's cart across a really big puddle? Because your advice about how to interpret the law makes me think that my mailman should be arrested for operating a fishing vessel without a permit. THAT'S HOW CRAZY YOUR LAWS ARE.

I mean, seriously. Do you know what I feel like when I file taxes? I feel like a really hungry rat in a cage that's facing a bank of colored levers. And I can't remember which lever makes the food come down the chute and which one electrocutes me. Is it this one? I don't know! Do I put the numbers in this box? Or is it this one? I DON'T KNOW! I just know that if I pull the wrong lever, I'm going to get zapped. Now, I think I pressed this one the last time and food came out. But, that lever over there. I mean, that one looks like it's connected to food, too. I"m gonna just test this one ouZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! And the next thing I know, I'm on my back, the cage smells like burning hair, and I'm hungrier than ever. That hunger? THAT'S MY DESIRE TO FILE ON TIME. ACCURATELY. And those levers? THOSE ARE YOUR NEBULOUS LAWS THAT COULD GET ME INTO TROUBLE DEPENDING ON HOW THEY ARE INTERPRETED BY YOUR AGENTS.

It's like you want us to fail. Can't we all just fill in one or two boxes and call it good? We human beings and our businesses are varied, it's true. We should celebrate that. But our taxes? They should not be as varied. If you want to celebrate diversity so badly, do something to make sure every American knows how to prepare something besides Hamburger Helper for dinner.

One more thing. Have you considered farming your agents out to Hollwood? I mean, if I had to judge from the conversations I've had with your folks, I'd say they all have WILD imaginations. And Hollywood could use that kind of talent. None of us wants to see another cinematic remake of an eighties television show, after all. Maybe your agents could pen a script or two? Maybe make yourself a little money on the side, eh? Maybe cook up some screenplays? Something involving devastation and destruction brought on by hysterical faceless robots in suits who kill people by causing their adrenal glands to explode from stress? Of course, if you DID get a hold of Hollywood, and you DID get paid for a script or two, I would have to make sure that you filled out BOTH the manufacturing AND the service sections of your combined excise tax return, and I would NOT allow any credits for interstate trade or cultural/arts activities. And also, you would want to check in with the Department of Labor and Industries because if they found out you'd been constructing movie scripts without a contractor's license, they'd come after you with hatchets and bayonets.

Just sayin'.

Love,
LoLo

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Okay, so my sister and I have this THING about cats. There's a very long story here involving a well intentioned but HORRIBLY inappropriate Christmas gift one year, the menagerie of NON-CAT pets we grew up with, the parallels we observed amongst neighbors with unsettling hygiene habits and their ownership of multiple cats, my eye-swelling, uncontrollable-sneezing allergic reaction, and a bizarre twist at the end in which my sister ends up with not one, but TWO cats in her apartment. I will not go into details here because many, many lives would be ruined if I named names. I hate cats. Hate them. And my sister (and brothers) hated them too. That is, until my sister was transformed (and that's really the only word I can use here because how do you go from hating to LOVING cats overnight without the intervention of a heavenly being?) by two cats. So now she has two cats. My sister who once hated cats. I will never understand it. (Because my heart is dark and cold like that).

So, this "thing" with the cats started when we were very young. It started out with one of us getting the other a card with a "cute" picture of a kitten on it because we knew it would open up all those old wounds around this intense dislike of cats (We're a kind, considerate, loving family that way). Eventually, cat cards evolved into full-on cat themed gifts. One year I got her a leather cat handbag. And one year, she got me pink cat print pajama bottoms. Now, I know I'm stepping on all kinds of toes here with what I am about to say... (taking a deep breath)... but, cat paraphernalia? IT'S NOT CUTE. Not one bit. It's like you can SMELL the litterbox and FEEL the fucking hairballs brushing lightly against your ankles just THINKING about it. We can put a man on the moon and perform brain surgery on mice, but we can't find a way to make cat shit NOT stink? I don't buy it. If you live in a house with that kind of smell, well, then, you must have superhuman strength. Cat mouse pads and sweaters that say things like "my cat is smarter than your dog"? Excuse me for a minute while I go spit out the puke that just involuntarily filled my mouth.

My sister has an INCREDIBLE dedication to a bit. I mean, the cat thing has been going on for at least twenty years or so. Last night, in honor of my birthday, I received THIS gem in the mail from my sister.

And the bonus? The back, which I have filled out at her behest.


Melinda? You are the most awesomemest sister ever. I love you so much. Even if you do own two cats.

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Wheat: The Staff of Wife

WTF, right? An entry every day for thirty days, then some morose, then touching posts about family, and then a before and after shot of the Chipmunks. I'd be confused too. Where's the fucking consistency, lady? I apologize for being away for so long. It's just with the holidays... and the drinking and the friends from out of town visiting... and the baking and the wrapping and the shopping... one minute it was Thanksgiving, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in my new pink Snuggie watching four movies in a row on New Year's Day.

Well, It's January. Which means I am about to work for thirty days straight with no days off (except my birthday) because I am a bookkeeper. And bookkeepers' lives are one big wad of paper and Post-Its and reminders and frantic emails about deadlines and envelopes full of receipts. In January, that wad increases 100 fold. January is chock full of all sorts of federal (and state!) deadlines for businesses, and when you are a bookkeeper in January, you are not allowed to sleep because it's your job to make sure all those deadlines are met. Your job is to send in mountains of paper to some service center in Ogden, Utah so that some poor slob can feel like his life has meaning.

Not that I'm complaining. Because that would be a real jerky thing to do in this economy. Complain that you have TOO MUCH work to do. So, I'm going to shut up and tell you about bread instead.

I baked this.


And CLH helped. "Helping" in our house sorta sounds like this:

CLH: YOU HAVE TO PUT THE STEAM PAN IN BEFORE YOU PUT THE BREAD IN!! IT SAYS IT RIGHT HERE!! (fumbling with pages to find part about when to put the pan in)

ME: (standing over his shoulder and pointing to the passage that says to put the pan in at the same time as the bread, and not before) I think we can just put it in when we put the bread in. What do I turn the heat down to?

CLH: Three fifty. (still flipping pages to find elusive passage about steam pan)

ME: Three fifty? Really?

CLH: NO! I said FOUR FIFTY.

ME: YOU SAID THREE FIFTY!!!! That's a ONE HUNDRED DEGREE DIFFERENCE! YOU CAN'T FUCK UP THE DIRECTIONS LIKE THAT! IT'S A LOAF OF BREAD! IT CAN'T WITHSTAND A ONE HUNDRED DEGREE TEMPERATURE CHANGE. WE'VE BEEN PROOFING THIS BREAD FOR THREE FUCKING DAYS! AND YOU ALMOST FUCKED IT UP!

CLH: I SAID FOUR FIFTY! YOU JUST DIDN'T HEAR ME RIGHT! YOU SHOULD LISTEN BETTER! AND LOOK! IT SAYS SO RIGHT HERE UNDER THE SECTION CALLED "HEARTH BAKING": YOU. PUT. THE. STEAM. PAN. IN. FIRST. SO IT GETS HOT ENOUGH TO CREATE STEAM WHEN YOU POUR WATER OVER IT!!! (jabbing page emphatically and making "Um, hello, dummy. Over here." face)

ME: Oh. Okay. (squinting at page made greasy by jabbing fingers) But you said three fifty.

So, the lesson here is: the bread baking should be handled by one person at a time. Otherwise, you yell a lot.

See you in February!

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Santa? Or Chupacabra In A Red Suit?


It's that time of year again.

Time to be good for Santa because if you're not good, Santa will break into your house and take you... away.. from your family??? Well, if you're my client, that's what you believed because THAT'S what your fucked up dad told you when you were growing up. Yes, Virginia, Santa is a child-stealing psychopath who does not, despite the rumors, bring presents, but instead bodily removes, like a mixture between The Incredible Hulk and Child Protective Services, bad children from their homes.

And this little story illustrates why, as a bookkeeper, you should always attend your clients' Christmas parties. Allow me to illustrate with a simple mathematical equation:

alcohol + childhood trauma - inhibitions around bookkeeper = ammunition

Months later, when they have failed to turn in their expense reports, or they've crumpled up their receipts into unreadable balls, you can tell them that if they don't straighten out, Santa might come down off the roof and stuff them into a bag. Whatever it takes, right?

Oh, It's also time to bake cookies!

Millions and millions of cookies!


Okay, maybe just hundreds. But, still! When was the last time I had TWENTY FIVE POUNDS of FLOUR in my house?

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How To Visit Your Family For Not Quite The Holidays, Part II

You laugh and laugh and laugh.

You laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

You play video games till 2 in the morning even though your whole body is screaming GO TO BED NOW. You ignore your circadian rhythms. Your highly specialized health regimen is off the table now because every moment counts and sometimes those moments are best between midnight and two am. And you all complain that "for some reason" none of you has been sleeping well these past few days and it shows on your faces but none of you would dare suggest you do anything different.

You endure your eyes almost swelling shut from cat allergies. And the dry air made worse by the stale cigarette smoke. But you take it because they make you laugh so very hard and you realize that this whole trip is worth it just to be able to laugh with them for just a few hours every day.

You look down at your distended, swollen belly and tell it, Just two more days, ol' girl. Just two more days of eating this way and then you can go back to eating wheat free everything. And you can stop drinking beer. And whatever else is making you so upset. Just give me two more days because it's going to be another 360 before I see them again and I need you to hang in there.

You shop for clothing with your mom and realize that she actually DOES have an eye for fashion. And that she has an indomitable spirit. And you ache to tell her at lunchtime in the middle of that diner that, even though she put you through hell all those years ago, she really did a fine job of raising you. And that you appreciate all the things she's taught you. And that, on most days, you cannot fathom how you chose the path you did and how she chose the path she did. But that right now, as you sit in a vinyl booth off a major highway in New Jersey on a freezing cold morning, it doesn't really matter.

You have dinner with your dad and you pay special attention to the subtleties in the way he talks, the lilt in his voice, and you see it: THERE, there is where your flair for the dramatic comes from. And that flair, that ability to infuse a story with all that passion, that's okay. That's a talent, in fact. Especially when you're talking about his grandfather, who was an inventor. And the pride shines in his face just for a moment and then fades just as quickly and you're betting he feels his life is pretty dull by comparison. And you wonder if he has done the same calculations you do every night when you lie awake in bed and ask yourself: is this the life I am supposed to be living?

You see your family, your funny, talented, smart, sensitive, wonderful family, as much as you can, and you laugh and laugh. You think: Who cares about the small bed and the gunshot and the rest of it? I have this awesome family that makes me laugh.

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With All My Love

To all my friends who have answered my whiny phonecalls
My emails about how hard this is,
My blog posts about how much I have wanted to throw in the towel:

Thank You.

You have no idea how inspirational you have been to me.
Your encouragement means the world to me. And not just the hang-in-there-tiger stuff, either. The Fuck-it-just-go-get-a-latte-and-stop-beating-yourself-up-about-it kind has been a soothing balm as well. It is amazing how many iterations of defeat and triumph this novel has dragged me through. I feel like I actually understand much better the creative process. I understand that I should have been ignoring the dishes a long, long time ago, and giving in to the need to scribble notes to myself in the middle of the night. I understand that this is a full time vocation, that I can't really ignore everything that needs writing down anymore. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done creatively and also the most rewarding. I feel alive and I feel capable and that's how I know I've come home.

So, thank you all so very much. I had no idea what comfort you would be to me. Or that you would cheer me across the finish line when all I wanted to do was sit out the last lap.

We're rounding the bend, coming into the final stretch.

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Forecast: Wind, Rain, and Chance of Mood Swings

It's grey and cold outside and I am indoors, in a sweater and a hat. I am questioning the reason I am here, in a sweater and a hat, indoors. I am trying to trace my steps back to the point where I decided that, despite my love affair with the sun, I agreed to live in a city that doesn't get much sun. I am trying to understand what keeps me here, doing the same thing, over and over again. Why, most of my days, I feel like I am running in place. And I feel like my days are wasted. And why that feeling is worsened whenever I see pictures of my friends with their kids. I think: all this time I have been working (and for what, again?) and I could have been doing other things... like raising a child or two, or traveling, or sailing around the world. Or writing books, or getting degrees. Or meeting people from all over the world.

What happened to that sense of wonder I used to have? Where is my sense of adventure and why haven't I overcome my fear of not having enough? Why do I hold myself back? Why is the decision to leap so intensely exhilarating, but so threatening and scary at the same time? This kind of stuff plagues me. I lie in bed at night and ask the question: what am I supposed to be doing with my life? And always the answer comes back: not this.

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Happy Black Friday! Brought To You By Crows, Harbingers of Messy Sidewalks


With all this focus on turkeys this time of year, I thought I'd bring you some news from other parts of the avian world.

These guys are getting their Christmas shopping done early. It's so easy with one-stop shopping! For mom, orange rinds. For dad, the crow who has everything: old shoelaces. And for that finicky Aunt Marion: a used wad of Saran wrap. It goes with everything!

Do you think they got the lid off the can themselves? Because sometimes crows, when rooting through old soup cans and newspapers, are freakishly strong.

And, in case you needed any reminders that sometimes Seattle looks like the set of of a Hitchcock film from about November thru April, I bring you this. Is it any wonder I want to swallow whole bottles of Vitamin D for breakfast?

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Thoughts and Thankfulness

On sitting still on the bridge in traffic: There had better be some major fucking construction going on up ahead because it has taken me a whole hour to drive 6 miles and I need to be home writing RIGHT NOW.

On passing the accident scene, seeing two cars with their front fenders smashed in, the airbags hanging limply from the dashboards, causing said traffic: I am such an asshole.

On my OLD dentist after my NEW dentist tells me I don't need a root canal: That sonofabtich.

On not needing a root canal after all: Um. Wow. My intuition was right. I am getting a second opinion on EVERYthing from now on.

On my impending credit card bill which will include the charges for my new boots, my fillings, my teeth cleaning, my cousin's birthday gift, my chiropractor's visits, my drugs for a now unnecessary root canal, and groceries for a month: Oh, crap.

On being able to still have a credit card in this economy: Shit. I have a credit card in this economy. And a job. I'm pretty lucky.

On being able to sleep in on Thanksgiving Day: Yessssssssssssssssssssss.

On having such amazing friends, people who have taught me what gratitude really is... And clients who challenge me in so many ways, and reward me with money so I can buy boots on a whim... And a wonderful man-friend who knows how to do laundry and gives me neck rubs when I want them and who has taught me infinite patience: WOW. I am REALLY fucking lucky. And grateful. Very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Not So Much Progress

It's official: I'm sick of writing this novel. The words are just not coming, and surprise surprise, I find it easier to write about myself than other people. Shocking, I know.

No, it will not help to twist the plot and have the neighbor's cat swallow the evidence during the police investigation. It will not be cute, nor will it be clever, to make my main character morph into a bird or a wolf or a wizard any of that stuff the young people care about these days. I cannot introduce any more characters this late in the game. There's already enough death and destruction, so no one else can die. And there will be no vampires, damnit. There will just be normal humans who did extra-normal things whose stories I cannot, for the life of me, seem to push out of my fingertips without sounding like Jack Kerouac having an asthma attack.

Fuck.

This is harder than I thought it was going to be.

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Facts About the Sixties Triplex

Number of times CLH has nearly burned the place down in four months: 2

Number of cooking vessels he has nearly melted by leaving them on the electric stove while he works in another room: 2

Number of house plants that have been damaged/kicked over during the mad dash from the office to the kitchen because he has finally noticed the apartment is full of smoke: 2

Number of texts I have received this month that have started with the words "Uh oh": 2

Number of times I have forgotten to turn the heat off before I go to work: too many to count.

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An Explanation

Hey, you payers-of-attention to linear time: I missed a day of posting. I know. But mama needed new boots, so she blew off writing and went out and bought them. And my, how new leather smells soooo much better than my apartment, which is where I have been cooped up for the past week trying to scratch out another babillion words for this "novel" I am supposed to be writing. Look for a make-up entry real soon here.

Since it's mid month, I thought I would take a moment here and answer a few questions that many of you have been asking me lately.

Question #1. Who in the hell is "CLH"?
CLH stands for Common Law Husband, and that is the pseudonym I have given to the saintly man I have been sharing my life with for the past ten years. Since we have been living together for so long, we are considered by the state of Washington, where we live, to be a common-law husband and wife. And there you have it.

When I started this blog years ago I was supremely paranoid about privacy. I wasn't sure I wanted anyone to know specifics about my life (HA!) because I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take this blog in. Was it going to be my soapbox for my political rants? My venue for exposing the unprofessional doings of my clients? My million page opus on the juxtaposition between this city's yah-sure, you-betcha, can-do, consensus buildin', community-lovin', hug-fest attitude, and its staggering inability to make a goddamned DECISION ABOUT ANYTHING, SPECIFICALLY A MONORAL!? Ahem. (Smoothing down skirt and straightening hair). Where was I? Ah yes. Now that it's been a few years and now that I've told you about everything from my Eustachian tubes to my House In The Flight Path Of An International Airport, I think I can come clean about who I spend the majority of my free time with.

CLH's real name is Stan, but he also goes by Mr. Stan. At one point, he also went by the nickname Smooshy, hence the name of his blog and his business name. He is the one who makes the Internet go in our house, the one that does the majority of the laundry, and the one that makes fried eggs exactly how I like them. He is wonderful with kids, he is a black belt in Aikido, and he is a very talented massage therapist. As he has never killed a spider indoors, his karma is quite good. He is also eligible to claim a seat at the right hand of the Father for putting up with my mood swings, my demands for French Fries at 11:25 pm, and my utter disregard for the "proper" location of the toothpaste cap.

Question #2. How does one avoid the public stoning that is sure to happen once my crazy neighbor/soccer mom friend/impossible coworker reads what I have written about him/her on my blog?
Well, I don't know the answer to that one, my friends. Blogging is a balancing act between saying enough and saying too much. There are the lives of your loved ones to consider, after all.

Chances are, if you're committing your day to day life to your blog, you are going to have to tell a story or two about someone who REALLY pisses you off. And that's okay. I would advise against devoting TONS of time on bashing your coworker (unless, of course, you're trying to make us laugh. In that case, bludgeon the guy to death. Really. Go for it.) Seriously: I think there are ways to tell your audience a story without exposing all the identity revealing specifics and still make it readable.

I think you have to ask yourself two basic questions before you sit down to blog: for whom am I writing? And why? If you're worried your grandma from Texas might be reading your blog, and she might not like the part where you get high and start using your dog's back for an ottoman while you lie on the couch and watch re-runs of "Benson" night after night, you might want to turn your filter up to eleven. You risk, however, depriving yourself and your greater audience of the full experience of your life. Editing your work for the more sensitive reader means you're probably leaving out some of the very excellent stuff that makes us cranky, petty, angsty, confused, and therefore human. Not that those are the only things that make us human; there are plenty of other horrible things that make us human as well. It's just that blogging offers us the unique opportunity to hide some of the more "colorful" sides of us, and I say that we do ourselves a great disservice by not telling the whole story of ourselves. What is the Internet if not a giant sounding board for all of us to yell about our stale cookies? Or coo about our babies? Or post videos of our cats running into walls? Give your audience as much as you are willing to give up and I think the connections you will make with perfect strangers will far outweigh the scorn you'll receive for admitting you don't particularly fancy your neighbors. My only rule for writing is this: be honest. Tell the truth as best you know it. Be aware that your truth is not every one's truth.

This is YOUR blog, and YOUR life. Be honest. Be aware.

And the next time that sonofabitch in the next cubicle over starts chewing his doughnut with his mouth open again, you make sure to tell all of us about it.

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Urban Homesteading

Client cancellations come few and far between. When they do happen, I almost don't care about the money I am missing out on because, these days, time to myself is a rare and precious thing.

I decided to make the most of my day by running a bunch of errands that I have been putting off for weeks now. On the top of the list was:

1. Run the postcards from the Galapagos over to the moneyed side of town for hand delivery.

So, twelve years ago, I went on a trip to Peru with a bunch of other community college folks, and that's where I met my friend Barbara, who I lovingly call Babs. Babs and I have been in communication for the last twelve years now. Babs has visited every single continent on this planet, minus the Arctic. Some of them several times. She is an amazing woman and a true friend. She's also a HUGE advocate of the US Postal system. She worked as a mail carrier for a few years and I'm pretty sure Babs is single-handedly keeping them in business. Every few months or so, I receive packages with random assortments of stuff in them... things like letter openers made entirely of corn plastic. Just something to keep those mail delivery folks happy and employed. Anywho, the last time Babs was in the Galapagos, she visited Floreana, an island with a neat little tradition. Dating back to the time of whalers, mail has been left in post "barrels" for sailors (and now tourists) to pick and carry back to their homes in Europe and beyond for hand delivery. So, Babs, being the devoted ex-postal worker, scooped up a few addressed to Seattle and she mailed them off to me. I hand delivered them today. I have to admit, it was sort of neat to watch the reactions of the mail recipients. Also, I'm now guaranteed a place in heaven. Move over, Mother Theresa.

Next on the list:

2. Pick up hardware at packed-to-the-rafters-with-stuff, my-kinda-place hardware store. Hardwicks, you are the hardware store my father always dreamed about. Thank you for your bulk bins of six-cent screws and eighteen-cent anchors. I can finally hang that shelf in the bathroom.

And then:

3. Grocery shop at now-infamous home of the lady who banged a stale cookie on the deli counter. Mostly uneventful except cashier almost didn't swipe my coupon and I almost overpaid by $6.00. These are tough times. Pay attention to my coupons, ya damned hippies.

4. Came home and hand dyed napkins. Okay, okay, this one needs some explaining. Bleach, laundry, and colorfastness in my house are all mortal enemies. CLH and I have done more than our share of white loads that have come out pink because of a rogue red sock we didn't ferret out of the wash. I have destroyed a number of towels with my sloppy bleach handling. And our bath mat is only now starting to fade back to its original checkered pattern after CLH washed it with a indigo colored something or other that turned everything in the load blue.

Now, for ecological reasons, we don't use paper napkins in our house. Instead, for the past ten years, we have been using the same six cloth napkins. As you can imagine, they are a little worse for the wear. They're still in great shape structurally. It's just that they're stained with so much wine and discolored with so much bleach, it looks like we've been using them to clean up after autopsies rather than mushroom risotto. So, I decided to pull out the box of dye I've been hoarding all these years and my canning pot from the basement and try my hand at stovetop dyeing. It was incredibly simple, really. I probably didn't agitate the napkins as much as I should have. But they came out well enough. And now I have a set of clean, uniform looking napkins!

BEFORE:


DURING:
I'll post the AFTER shot tomorrow, right after I finish painting the fence and milking the cows.

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Wherein My Desire to Nickname Everything Results In A Glaring Typo

So, it's come to my attention (thank you, Shoshi) that I stated CLH went to go see a "Henry" Potter movie last week. The movie was, in fact, about "Harry" Potter.

Why the confusion? Well, at our house, we have a tendency to assign made up names to everything. You remember that our sugar bowl is the Sugar Chicken, right? And that the proper way to open it is to sing to it, right? Well, ditto that for lots of things around the house. There's our beat up armchair Chairy (sorry, Pee Wee, you can't have ALL the good names for furniture). And there's CLH's car, a white Volkswagen Passat, which we call OMC, or "Old Man Car".

Somehow, our alternate name for the wizard child "Henry Porter" merged with his given name, "Harry Potter". I don't know why we had to go and change his name. I really don't.

Now, if it sounds like we are in need of a swift kick of adulthood to the ass, or that we have a million cats, or that we collect appliqued Christmas themed sweater vests, rest assured that only the first thing is true. We can actually have normal conversations that don't involve adding cute endings to words, or altering normal names into pseudo porn star names. It's just more fun when we do.

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A Month of Movies

The bonus to my being chained to my computer for the next 23 days or so is that CLH gets to do something he rarely gets to do around here: watch movies. It's not that I'm anti-movie or anything, or that I put the kai-bosh on his movie watching needs. It's just that most movies out there are so... predictable. Especially American movies. And if I wanted to sit for an hour and see something predictable unfold, I'd throw a bunch of lollipops into the air above a dozen three-year-olds.

The other thing about movies is that I have a hard time sitting still for very long. And when I do sit still, I prefer to read a book. Also, the remote scares me and books are really easy to open.

A couple of nights ago, he got to catch up on his Henry Potter repertoire by going to see the last one at a great little theater just north of us called The Crest. The place hasn't been renovated since Elvis died, but, for $3.00 a movie, no one's complaining that their seat is missing half its stuffing.

Since we had our garage sale this summer, we've been paring down our belongings, including our furniture. Though keeping the enormous couch we moved from the House In the Flight Path of An International Airport would have been more comfortable, both CLH and I were tired of looking at the thing, and we finally sold it last weekend. That means that we only have our lovely (but small) couch and armchair as our living room furniture. And that also means that poor, poor CLH must suffer the indignity of reclining his six foot tall body on a five foot long couch. Of course, he doesn't seem to mind. He's getting to watch movies! And he did pay $3.00 to sit on a avocado green tweed seat vomiting its own innards. Something tells me that, when it comes to movies, comfort is a sacrifice he's willing to make.

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Why Snickers Should Change Its Tagline To: “Packed With Peanuts, Snickers Really Restores Dangerously Low Blood Sugar Levels In Near-Anemics”

So, I fainted at work on Friday. It was another bad faint. One where I needed to take the rest of the day off. Luckily for me, the folks that I was working with that day had a great attitude about the whole thing. I suppose if your bookkeeper pages you from the floor below and breathily asks you come downstairs, and you see her slumped in her chair and covered in her own sweat and she tells you she's just fainted and she just needs a glass of water, you have two choices. You can either totally freak out, or you can laugh your ass off at her stupidity for not eating breakfast. And if you choose to laugh at her, she will humor you because she will realize that, in fact, it was stupid to not eat food during the day, and she will tell you that, when she's not unconscious, she's a real hoot, and would you like to come to her housewarming party on Saturday night?

I'm pretty sure it was a combination of not eating a proper breakfast and drinking black coffee, and then getting scolded (yes, scolded, like a child) on the phone that caused the faint. Though I would love to tell you all about it, I can't really go into details about the scolding part because I have privacy to protect here. (Don't worry, though. As soon as I quit being a bookkeeper, every dirty little secret is coming out. That means your ass is getting exposed, filthy contractor with the cigarette ash and pubic hair covered keyboard). Let's just say that, in my profession, emotions run high because we're all Americans dealing with big bad IRS. As a rule, I try to live my life NOT being afraid of the IRS. As a matter of fact, I've dealt with the IRS on several occasions, face to face, and you know what? The IRS is made up of people. Live human beings who have kids and wives and bad hair days and, ultimately, they know humans fuck up from time to time. So long as you're not intentionally trying siphon off your firm's profits and stick it in banks in the Bahamas, they understand that we're human and that sometimes we make mistakes. And that we all needn't go to jail if our math is a little off.

Every one of us who works in the money industry knows that, more than random acts of violence, terrorism, pestilence, plague, or natural disaster, the IRS is the thing to be feared most in this world. Most of my clients think this way, too. And it's good that they do; the IRS can do unpleasant things like fine you and possibly make the case for your imprisonment. It was the IRS that I was being lectured about when my brain decided it would rather hang up a "Gone Fishin'" sign than to listen to any more tirades about money.

Anywho. I was getting scolded (because I may or may not raise the hackles of the IRS agent who may or may not audit my work) and my blood pressure went through the roof. Having eaten nothing but orange juice and a few carrots that day, my body had nothing in it to fight back with, so I pleasantly excused myself from the conversation because I thought I might faint, hung up the phone, leaned back in my chair, and fainted.

It was all very natural, actually. I've fainted so many times this past year, this just felt like a fire drill. Feel blood pounding in ears, general queasiness, and uncomfortably warm? Why, get near the floor! You're about to faint! This is almost embarrassing to say, but I'm practiced at fainting. It's gotten so bad lately that I actually walk into rooms and look for the softest place to land. I know exactly what to do when I start to feel faint. And I know the drill afterwards: ask for water. If candy is offered, eat some, but not all, and go slow. Follow up with protein. Go home, take nap, feel queasy for 24 hours, have general vocabulary words disappear temporarily from memory, feel better, and tell everyone you fainted.

So this is the part where I admit that maybe some sort of anti-anxiety medication might be in order here. Though I have always been pretty much anti-medication for things like anxiety and depression and the like, I'm starting to feel like maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to not faint all the time. And I really do feel like my body just altogether checked out when I fainted this time, and in the past. It was like it just couldn't handle the stress and needed a 15 second brain-scrambling nap. Sure, having not eaten had a lot to do with it, but I've gone for longer periods of time without eating and have not felt faint. I think, though it rubs against all my beliefs about how this country over medicates and how we all walk around numbing pain, I might benefit from sort of regimen to help me relax a little bit more. I know I need to exercise and eat better. But I also know that my brain spirals out of control when I give it two seconds of free time. I'm not sure how to channel this sort of frenetic energy yet. It seems to be building up in my system and causing me to shut down from time to time.

I know there are lots of natural things I can do to relieve stress. And I know, given the choice between caring for myself and working for others, I almost always choose the working for others option. I need to work on changing this.

I've been really anxious about saying any of this on this blog. I usually reserve this space for the more humorous stories in my life... but I was feeling like I needed to explain my very obvious absence from writing. I was getting all worked up about feeling like I had nothing to post about, and then that guilt and anxiety was causing me to not want to post, which was getting me all worked up about not posting... and so it went, on and on. I think, back before we had medication, this was called "writer's block". Now we call it generalized anxiety.

Whatever the hell it is, it's causing some major interruptions in my routine. It's causing me to shy away from one of my favorite creative outlets, and it's causing me to fall down on the job, quite literally. Which is maybe exactly what I need. Sometimes, when it needs a break from your unhealthy repetition, the body knocks politely. And when you ignore it, sometimes it launches itself from the ropes and slams you down onto the middle of the ring, face first.

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Pause

So, I have been trying to come up with ways to tell you about the rest of my Burning Man experience. I can't explain it, but I'm really struggling with the words. I have never felt so bereft of words and so full of writing material at the same time.

I'm having a hard time because my experience is really more than just a story about a bunch of zany, mostly-white, people whooping it up in the desert. Sure, there was the trip down there, the set up, the partying, the meeting of people, the dancing, the staying up all night, the witnessing of art, the burning of things, the hugging goodbye, the tear down and the drive home... but then there were the good feelings that just sort of oozed out from some balled up part of my brain and into my bloodstream when I got home. (And here is the part where I just want to flog myself for even typing that because, before I left, I promised myself I wouldn't describe my experience with incredibly cliche phrases like "Burning Man experience" and "started when I got home".)

This whole writing process has been even further complicated by the fact that one of my camp mates just posted that her younger brother died in a car accident this Saturday. It's surreal. It's almost impossible for me to comprehend that someone I shared an unforgettable week in the dirt and the sun with is now experiencing something so unexpectedly devastating. It's sort of hard to conjure up the zaniness of the trip when all I can think about is her and what she must be feeling right now.

The outpouring of love for her and her family has been amazing. So many people have responded to her, offering up their prayers and their good thoughts and their support. Even though she has been dealt this terrible shock, it is so comforting to know she is surrounded by so much love.

I am more moved by this than normal. I think it has everything to do with my experience at Burning Man.

This is one of the bits of fallout from Burning Man: you find yourself surrounded by this instant just-add-water-community and you can't help but have your empathy for your fellow human renewed (more flogging here for more inarticulate cliches). The whole reason I went to Burning Man (I'll explain more about this in another post) was to brush off these feelings of jealousy and rage I was having towards people who seemed to be "living an easy life" and to reestablish my connection to our commonality, our collective struggle, and our collective triumphs.

It worked.

My campmate is a person who I only really got to know aboard a school bus for two days... but I established a kinship with her that was otherwise impossible for me before this trip. I feel deeply saddened for her loss and I find myself wanting to extend myself to her and other friends in ways I didn't know I could before.

For many reasons (not the least of which is that I want to finally want to answer the question: How was Burning Man?) I am tempted to just sum the whole thing up with a couple of sentences about feeling freer and not having so much judgement, and be done with it. But I can't. Besides the fact that I loathe neat and tidy summations about deeply moving experiences, there is the
inherent dishonor I would do to this whole thing by not spelling out both the good and the bad. Before I left, I wanted to collect honest and practical anecdotes about what to expect. I now want to churn this experience into something as useful and as practical (and inspiring) as the stories I was told.

I also don't want to add to the nebulous-speak, you-had-to-have-been-there-to-know-what-i'm-talking-about type stuff that further "proves" the argument that Burners are all spaced out hippies who speak in surfer-dude sentence fragments.

It'll be worth it, even if it takes a while, to write it ALL down.

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Burning Man, Day 1

i arrive early, packed and ready. there are things everywhere. all over the lawn, the backyard, spilling out of the front door and onto the porch. the bus is not even in front of the house yet. the bus we need to pack and drive away. people are moving slowly, and without apparent purpose. i am confused. i was told to be ready, that we would be leaving in an hour.
this is the conversation i have with myself:
type a, sit down and shut up. there is no need to be on time anymore.

several times, i hear the phrase, "it doesn't matter. we're on vacation". it's true. nothing matters anymore. we are on vacation now.

the bus is loaded. it takes several hours. it takes so long, we won't be able to reach our first destination in time. we drive one half hour south. we stop at a shitty motel. we pile in, three to a bed. some of us sleep in our clothes.
this is the conversation i have with myself:
type a, get ready for all kinds of un-hygiene.

we get up, have breakfast, we get on the road. i miss my boyfriend terribly. i want to cry i miss him so bad. i read my book. i stare out the window and start many letters in my head to him.

there are arguments about the butterflies. where to put them. if we should put them. when we should put them. finally, we decide. we get the butterflies. we put them into the bus. we cram them into the bus. it takes all nine of us to get them in. we get them in. the sky clouds over. the air is cold and damp. soon, i think. soon. soon i will be under a merciless sky. soon the sun will bake my skin. soon i will be brown all over. soon i won't remember the cold.

we arrive at our second hotel. i still don't understand all the inside jokes. i am sad and i miss my boyfriend. i try whittling a crochet hook out of chopstick to keep my hands busy. it doesn't work. i throw newly purchased yarn into a bag half full of oranges and forget about it. we sleep. we awake. we drive.

finally we arrive. the sun is hot. we are greeted by a smiling naked man and two diminutive women in black leather knee high boots and goggles. i am told to make an angel in the dust. i do as i am told. i am told to swing a metal rod at a bell and declare, "i'm a virgin". i do as i am told. everyone tells us, smiling, "welcome home". i don't understand what they mean.
this is the conversation i have with myself:
type a, don't think. just go with it.

we set up in the half-blinding wind. the sun is obscured by the dust. we are cranky. we are tired. we are arguing over the best way to get a tent up. we have forgotten to eat. we cannot tell if we should push on or give up and sleep on the bus.

we work till the sun goes down. we exhale heavily, in between gusts, confounded by the wind. we use makeshift weights to hold things down. we stand with our hands on our hips and we are pushed like sails and we survey, first our camp, then the distance. we estimate what time it is. we estimate how long it will take to set up the other shelters. we pace. we guard our eyes from the dust. we comment about last year's wind. we calculate and re-calculate.

we eat. we take long swigs of water in between short sips of wine. we eat slowly, steadily. we slump in our chairs and lean against one another. we do not speak much except to thank our host for the food. we try to make jokes. we rest. we clean up. we stumble to our tents, to the bus, to the water truck. we try to find what comfort we can. we sleep.

this is the conversation i have with myself:
type a, this is where you will live for the next seven days.

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10 Days In The Desert

I'm going to Burning Man. I'm leaving in two hours.

It feels good to get that off my chest.

There is so much to say about it... but right now, my brain is a messy pile of spaghetti, so bear with me as I try to get this all down in one-pre-life-altering-event post.

I'm all atwitter with nervousness. Usually I would liken my emotional highs and lows to the typical roller coaster ride. But this? This has been more like being vaulted off the end of a see-saw at irregular intervals. When I first accepted the invitation (from my charming, freakish friends) they agreed to pay for my ticket if I took care of paying for things like water and gas and the like. And immediately I began my volley into the stratosphere. My first thought upon seeing my printed ticket?

WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?

Remember how I loathe the idea of a contrived community? Remember how I hate constant noise? Remember that whole episode in the Flight Path Of An International Airport? Remember how I like to BATHE? And eat fresh fruit? And sleep in a real bed?

Before I saw the ticket though, there was a whole OTHER set of things to worry about . The second I said yes to this whole affair, I became obsessed about one thing and one thing only: sex. All I'd ever heard about Burning Man, and all I knew (from friends who have come back) is that something snaps inside people when they go and they come back wanting to do things like change their names to be more in line with their new-found purposes in life. (Thing like Ruby Greensleeves or FeatherMoonbeam. You know. Totally normal.) They also want to do things like sleep with everyone. EVERYone. Because Burning Man makes them realize how sexually repressed we are as a society. And that we should be boinking a WHOLE lot more. So, why not start with your neighbor? And then your neighbor's girlfriend? And then your neighbor's girlfriend's neighbor?

Did I mention that CLH is not going?

Okay, so I did a little talking with CLH and with my hosts and I think I have calmed down about it. I mean, I didn't say yes to this whole experience so that I could try my hand at polyamory... but I am only human. And I am probably breaking about fifty social taboos right now, but I'm just going to admit that I am human and that I didn't know how resistant I would be to the lure of new ideas about monogamy. I think I can safely say now that, after weighing just how special and unique my relationship with CLH is, and after seriously considering what "experimenting" has done to other couples I know, I am quite sure that my pants are going to stay on the whole time I'm at Burning Man.

So, now that that's all cleared up, there's plenty of room for the next set of neuroses. Enter: how do I live in the desert with no cell phone, no computer, limited resources, and no way to escape the constant visual stimuli? I mean, I have never, ever had to pack, not even on the most "extreme" backpacking trip I have even been on, stuff that would literally make the difference between a good time and a helicopter trip to the hospital. I'm already a Nervous Nelly when it comes to new environments and people I don't know. Add in my-ahem-issues with a certain grain and my intestinal fortitude, a 48 hours bus ride, closed in spaces, and, well, I'm breaking out in hives just typing this sentence. I need to bring EVERYthing I might need to survive (food, shelter, clothing, and a feather boa) for the next ten days. In the extreme heat of the day and the frigid temperatures of the night.

Of course, I love me some heat. But, desert heat? For ten straight days? With no relief except the occasional 75 mile per hour blinding, must-wear-goggles-and-masks windstorm? The kind that has the power to blow coolers and lawn furniture and whole tents into the next state? The tent that is my ONLY PROTECTION FROM THE SUN FOR TEN DAYS?

I've made several dozen packing lists. I've pulled every mumu, every glittery eyeshadow, and every kind of skin lotion out of the closets, stuffed them into four blue totes, and have allowed near-perfect strangers to load them onto a giant yellow school bus festooned in silk butterflies.

Oh. My. God.

I texted my friend Tara yesterday while I shopped for wigs and blinky lights, and she reminded me of my formerly brave self, the self that was not afraid, in 2004, to buy an RV off the side of the road and then drive it home, on a downhill, with no breaks. Tara and I do stuff like that.
We started chatting about what we could have done had that RV actually been drivable.

Tara: I just picture us wicked hot and broken down on Route 66, meeting a guy "selling glass" while he follows Wide Spread Panic or some other jam band. We buy weed off him and then line dance at the biker bar all night. Some guy in tattoos reads us the poetry he recently wrote about open roads and the purr of his Harley.

I hope Burning Man is EXACTLY like that.

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Electric Stove: 1, Me: 0

So, one of the more unpleasant things about living in a rental unit? Having to get re-used to cooking on an electric stove. I have been cooking with gas for four years now (two years in my prior rental unit, and two years in the house In The Flight Path Of An International Airport), and, boy oh boy, what a difference a flame makes! Everyone warned me that once I went pilot light, I would never go back. Man, were they right.

Last week, I attempted to make my first pot of popcorn on our new electric stove. (Sidenote: CLH and I eat, on average, four bowls of popcorn a week. We've been making it on the stove from scratch for years now. CLH loves the classic melted butter and salt kind, but I fancy the more eclectic toppings... things like olive oil and nutritional yeast.... or sesame oil and minced seaweed. If you've never tried making it from scratch, I highly encourage you. It take minutes, it costs pennies, and believe it or not, it actually fills you up. I especially like to eat it in bed while reading. CLH, however, decidedly DOES NOT LIKE popcorn in the sheets. He's fussy like that.)

So, last week, I made the popcorn the way I have for years. Only, that method DOES NOT WORK on an electric stove. Turns out that the popcorn KEEPS COOKING even after you turn the heat off. Because that coil? That heinous heating element best suited for campstoves? That red hot spiral of menace? IT'S STILL HOT even after you turn it off. So, when I "turned the heat off", what I actually did was change the temperature from "branding-ready hot" to "third degree burns hot". Not much change there, you see. So, the popcorn burned. It burned bad. It burned so bad that, even now, seventeen scourings with white caustic powder and a green scrubbie pad later, it is still encrusted with carbonized corn matter. The pot got so hot (and stinky) that I had to put it out on the steps of the porch to cool it down. Which is where I took this picture.

Since then, the stove and I have made peace. It was actually the tea kettle that made this whole cooking-with-electricity thing clear to me. You're supposed to REMOVE the cooking vessel from the heating element when it is done heating! Otherwise it screeches at you! Now I remember! It's all coming back to me. Next week's lesson: Learning which setting means "not scorched" on the clothes dryer.

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Welcome Back To The City


(Today's photo is brought to you by the Indignant Urbanites of Seattle, the same folks who brought you the "These Cookies Are As Hard As Dog Biscuits" rant.)

The note states:

"Whoever put this bag of animal feces in my trash can, you need to be a RESPONSIBLE dog owner and take it home with you. Thanks."

My favorite part? Oh, I don't know. There are too many things to love, really. There's the fact that "responsible" is spelled out in all caps. There's the little lesson at the end about how to be that responsible dog owner (take your poop home, dude). There's the fact that the word "Thanks" is underlined. There's the fact that this person DUG THE POOP out of their trash, WROTE A NOTE ABOUT THE POOP, and then STAPLED THE POOP TO A LIGHT POLE outside their house. It takes a special kind of indignant person to handle poop that many times.

I was going to create a post about the joys of walking to work, of how good it feels to not drive everywhere, of how CLOSE we are to everything.... but then (while on a walk) I saw this and I thought: Who wants to read about walking to work on the Internet when you read about my neighbors' unholy rage about poop in their trash can?

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The New Face of Terrorism: Citrus Transporters

Among my more redeeming compulsions is my inability to throw away perfectly good food. Sure, I've tossed out my share of soggy bags of rotten lettuce... but I've done so with a heavy heart (and the memory of an elephant) such that when I got the chance to redeem myself later on down the road, no matter how much it made me that weird woman in the restaurant who just wrapped her uneaten tortillas in a napkin and shoved them in her purse, I've done it. CLH usually wants to slink under the table and disappear at times like these, but, to him I say: Look here, financial partner of mine! I have just saved us three perfectly good tortillas! That's at least THIRTY whole cents of food we won't have to buy this week!

Never mind that my fair city's restaurants compost a good deal of their food waste and that anything I don't eat gets turned into luscious, rich soil suitable for growing more food. No, even the most valiant efforts of our nation's most forward thinking city planners cannot stop my Depression Era tendencies.

Which brings us to the lemons.

So, we went on a trip to Canada this weekend. The trip was sponsored by a generous client of mine; he hosted nearly thirty people for dinner, which was prepared from scratch by one of our mutual friends. Mutual friend bought enough to feed a small army. And there were leftovers enough to feed another small army the next day. The sight of these leftovers, filling up an entire dining room table top, lit up the non-food wasting/money saving part of my brain, which, conveniently, is located right next to the part of my brain that makes my arms want to take home uneaten tortillas. Now, we didn't have a way to take home these particular leftovers... though, when we opened the 'fridge to take out our snacks for the ride home, we did discover leftovers we COULD take home. Sitting inside the fridge were pounds and pounds of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. They didn't get used in the salad the night before and they were there for the taking. I couldn't help myself. Tomatoes might be my favorite food on earth. I love to grow them, eat them, cook with them, and juice them, and I especially like them pulverized and poured over vodka with Tabasco sauce and cocktail onions, extra olives, please.

And what was there in the vegetable drawer right next to the tomatoes? Why, the lemons. And on the floor, still in its grocery bag? A watermelon. A veritable feast for god's sake, all for free. We packed it in the car and headed home, my skin all a-tingle with the frugality of it all.

But guess what you can't take over the Canadian/US border, Internets? Guess what the guys in the scary SWAT team uniforms will search your car for? Guess why I, the non-driver, all sweaty and bloaty with menstrual cramps, had to get out of the car ? And guess why I had to redeem my passport at a building off to the side of the road full of other sweaty, bloaty people?

It was the lemons.

CLH and I had a five second conversation about the fruit in the car as we pulled up to the border crossing. We've been to Canada dozens of times, and we know the routine with food. You're not supposed to do it. If you're going to do it, be discreet, don't carry metric tons of it, and for god's sake, DON'T TELL THE BORDER POLICE YOU HAVE CITRUS FRUIT IN THE CAR.

But, the wait was two hours long, and we decided, just to be transparent and not get hauled off for lying about it and then interrogated by angry men in itchy, hot jumpsuits, we'd better declare the stupid lemons. So we did. And the stern but friendly man in the booth slapped a giant sized orange Post-It onto the windshield and told us to pull off and go to some building to the left, where we would need to surrender our contraband TWO LEMONS and pick up our passports. At this point, I was nearly unconscious with the heat of sitting in a non-air conditioned car for two hours. (Did I mention we were nearly out of gas and didn't have enough to be able to idle/run the A/C for two hours?) The heat, plus the ibuprofen I'd popped to relieve the cramps, makes this next part a little fuzzy. Apparently, we were given bad instructions to get to the nebulous "building to the left", so CLH parked and walked into the building he thought was the leftmost one, the building marked "AGRICULTURE". (Silly, silly man.) When he got inside, the officials were startled and suspicious and asked him how he'd gotten in the building. He explained he was just looking to hand over two lemons in exchange for our passports and had simply walked through the door. They got all edgy and explained that he needed to go to THAT leftmost building over there, the one NOT marked "Agriculture". So, he headed off to the OTHER leftmost building. Once at the desk, the border police told CLH they needed ME to come in the building, along with the keys to the car. Perfectly logical. About as logical as walking into a building marked "agriculture" to hand in some lemons.

I staggered in to the building, my skin flushed and hot, my lower half full of retained water, my face a consummate grimace of hate for all things inefficient, and practically hissed and spat at the overweight lady behind the counter. At this point, I finally caught a glance of the two offending lemons. There were lying on a counter behind the desk, on top of the giant orange Post-It. They looked absolutely ridiculous back there, these two tiny pieces of bright yellow fruit on top of an imposing black counter top where guns and drugs had probably lain hours before. And here we were, stuck at the border, having brought in lemons. That we bought in Canada. That had probably been GROWN IN THE US. And SHIPPED TO CANADA. We told the officer that there were also a bunch of tomatoes and one whole watermelon in the car as well- just in case she was feeling snackish and wanted to speed up the process.

When the border control officer returned, she looked down her nose at us and said, "You know you have tomatoes in there, too, right?" And here is where I had to dig my fingernails into my palms to resist shouting: Ummm..... YES, LADY. REMEMBER HOW WE DECLARED THAT FIVE MINUTES AGO TO YOU? AND TEN MINUTES AGO TO THE OFFICER IN THE BOOTH?

Finally, she scribbled a big "S" on the back of the Post-It, and sent us on our way. And that was it. Our departure from Canada sponsored by the letter "S".

So, the lesson here (and you knew there was lesson in this, didn't you?) is this: You can mosey on in, unannounced and unassisted, to a border control building. You can tell two different Homeland Security Officers what's in the car, but they won't write it down or tell each other (or remember what you've said is in there, either). You can bring in a watermelon, which is large enough to house several pounds of whatever contraband you fancy. Tomatoes are cool, too. But don't even THINK about, don't even CONSIDER, taking TWO LOUSY LEMONS into the country. Lemons are the fruit of the enemy. If the lemons get in, the terrorists win.

I feel more secure already.

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The Unpacking Begins

Well, we're here, people. I have been trying to think of a more dramatic way to announce we've FINALLY moved, but there's just no drama 'round these parts right now. We're just back in the old 'hood. All things are perfectly normal. It's like we never left. All things are falling neatly into place.

Even though the mirror from the bedroom is leaning up against the couch in the living room, the crab leg crackers and the broken French press are co-mingling on the top of the fridge, and I'm using a metal box for an ottoman right now, I am perfectly calm. See me NOT freaking out about neatness? Isn't it GREAT!?

Oh, and listen:

Hear anything? You don't? Oh. Know why? BECAUSE I DON'T LIVE IN THE FLIGHT PATH OF AN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ANYMORE!

The move itself went very smoothly... though it did take us one trip in a fully packed seventeen foot moving van and FOUR, count 'em, FOUR, separate trips in a borrowed pickup truck to get all our CRAP from the old place to the new place. That's a LOT of crap, people. A LOT. As in, that's WAY more stuff than I remember moving with. As in, I didn't have time to be tired from moving it all because I was too busy being embarrassed at owning so much STUFF. Can you even imagine? A seventeen foot van was not enough room for two people, TWO PEOPLE, to move all their stuff out of their house. Granted, one of those pickup trucks was very full of potted tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, but, still. Seventeen linear feet. That's nearly 1800 cubic feet. And it was still not enough room to pack in all our thousands of pounds of stuff.

So, I am on a mission. The mission is simple: get rid of HALF of everything I own. HALF. Every time I open and unpack a box, I put half of its contents into one of several bins I've got stashed around the house. The contents of these bins will eventually all be sold at our enormous, enormous garage sale, date to be determined. There are people out there, young people just starting out, or older people starting over, who need my stuff. And I'm going to be selling it at rock bottom prices in about a month. It's not about the money I can get for it all. It's about dispensing it out in the world and letting someone else use it for a while. Seriously. Half of everything I own.

This move has made me very, very aware of how much stuff I have accumulated and carried around with me- some things in boxes that haven't been sorted through in years- from living arrangement to living arrangement, for purely emotional reasons. Tonight I unearthed a blue glass candleholder that I bought with money I earned from the second job I ever had. My second job. Ever. That was more than 15 years ago. And, no, the candleholder isn't plated in gold, or signed by the Pope. It's just plain blue glass. And it was probably a dollar back in 1996 or whenever I bought it. And, no, I haven't used it in YEARS. But I haven't been able to let go of it, either. Why? Well, it's probably one part minor hoarding compulsion, and one part nostalgia. It's a symbol, more than anything. A symbol of emancipation from my parents' financial woes, a symbol of my entering the "real world" workforce, and a symbol of my ability to build and decorate my own home, complete with blue glass candleholders, bean bag chairs, and posters of The Paperboys.

This is no small thing for me to let go of some of this stuff. I mean, I have literally been carting some of it around since before I moved to Seattle. The number on my lips these days is "10". Some things I have been holding onto for ten years. But this move, this period in my life... it's making me rethink all this carting around and holding on. I'm going to be doing some major sorting and thinning in the coming weeks. My goal is lightness. My mantra is consolidation. I don't know what opportunities lie ahead of me, just that I will need to be treading lightly on this earth to take advantage of them.

So, the unpacking continues. The bedroom is done. The kitchen is a work in progress. For now, the spider plant sits in the middle of the living room. Still, I am calm and every day, I feel a little bit better about being here. I know that this is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Also, I know that I don't miss the airplanes overhead. Not. One. Bit.

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Re-Lease With Peace

Internets, there is just so much going on around here, I can barely decide on what to write about. I actually have enough petty grievances saved up to tell you about that I won't need to leave the house for three days. And it's only Wednesday.

I should be sleeping, but the drilling and VERY LOUD pillow fluffing going on in the next room is keeping me up. That's right. Someone is using power tools and fluffing pillows in my former office. My "former" office because a renter is moving into it. A RENTER! Internets, do you know what that means? It means I am *this*much closer to moving out. And you know what else that means? For the next seven days, I get to share my bathroom with a stranger! A bathroom that I pay for! A bathroom that my good credit is helping to secure! A bathroom that I will have to learn to close the door to because when you OWN a bathroom, YOU CAN DO THINGS LIKE LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN WHEN YOU PEE. But you know what that ALSO means? It means I am moving out! In seven days. CLH and I are ending this experiment with co-living and we are moving into our our own place on July 15th: The two year anniversary of our move in date to this house.

After much searching, gnashing of teeth, and tearing of hair, we found a nice little unit in a triplex deep in the heart of one of our favorite neighborhoods back up in the city. It's not the rental house we were hoping for, and it doesn't have hardwoods, and it doesn't have a yard or a garden, but it's going to be ours. All ours. Every night for the past two weeks, I have gone to sleep dreaming about the three things I will want to do immediately upon moving in: walk around in my underwear, drink my morning coffee in front of my computer in peace, and watch obscene amounts of the Discovery Channel while painting my toenails. I'm currently trying to come up with a way to do all three simultaneously.

To be quite honest, though, I'm a little bummed that the apartment only met only 90% of our criteria. I'm excited to actually make the move and get this limbo thing over with, but there's a little nagging voice in my head that thinks that maybe I pulled the trigger a little too soon. I keep telling myself that we're only committing to a year there, that maybe we can go live in Europe or something afterwards. And, after looking at dump after dump, this place was the obvious choice for us, and, um, hello? NINETY percent is a pretty high number. On the advice of friends (thanks, Dave and Sarah!) CLH and I sat down at breakfast one morning during our search and wrote down all the things we wanted in a house. It was a great exercise because a) it gave me an excuse to make a list and lists are like the paper version of Valium to me, and b) it was a great way to expedite the decision making process when we saw a place that we were on the fence about. Some of the things on my list: wanting to hear birds (and NOT airplanes, for the love of god) first thing in the morning, bikeability to most clients' offices, and washer and dryer in the unit. Some of CLH's criteria: place for the missus to write, access to bus lines, and washer and dryer in unit. So, after confirming with each other that we would absolutely, under no circumstances, never, ever, ever travel more than ten feet from our clothes hamper to the washing machine, we took our list to the streets. And the place we chose met most of our demands. We've figured out some work-arounds to the whole non-yard thing (the biggest hangup for me); I'm going to set up a container garden next the garage. And CLH has promised me that he won't cringe too hard when I lay out the bolt of Astroturf on the driveway, roll the grill over it, and call the friends over for a barbecue in our "yard" .

Just to torture myself, I did another craigslist search for houses in our price range tonight. Thankfully, there weren't too many new listings. I say "thankfully" because I think I am still hung up on this not being an ideal new place, and wanted some confirmation that the place we've picked is the best thing out there. Having thought moving in to this house two years ago was a good choice for us, I am feeling like my ability to make a housing decision has become somewhat impaired. I think that I may have done some permanent damage to that lighter, more whimsical person I used to be when I agreed to move in to a fixer upper in the suburbs. Now I'm considering massive flowcharts and bar graphs designed to show, for instance, the inverse relationship between sleeping and planes flying overhead, before making ANY decisions. I know my wish list is a little unrealistic, especially in a rental situation, but, I sort of wanted this next place to be this beautiful, commodious, centrally located dreamhouse of a house. I think I need to realize that what we have chosen is going to be just what we need. Also, it sort of feels like it's SUPPOSED to be ours. I don't want to make too much of it, but I'm pretty sure the universe was trying to dropkick us in the head with this one. At the exact SECOND we finished clearing everything out of my office to make it ready for a renter, the landlady called to give us the place for $50 less than what she was originally asking. Did we need a bigger hint to take the damn place already?

We're just about ready to go, too. CLH and I spent last weekend stacking nearly everything we own into a very sexy 10' by 5' by 7' pile in our garage. We're at the dreaded place now where there are just random things lying around needing to be packed. Stuff that didn't get caught in the dragnet of my organization the first time around... things like the lone fork that's been in and out of the dishwasher a few times, the decorative glass jar that was hiding behind the sequined penguin ornament, a spool of thread, and the battery hatch cover to SOMETHING we own. That kid of stuff. I'm so OVER the whole packing thing, I'm starting to pack very unlike myself. I'm just throwing (inhaling slowly to calm myself) unrelated junk into a box. And the list-making, regularly-scheduled-sock drawer-organizing side of me is breaking out in hives over it. It's a slippery slope, that kind of packing. Classic gateway behavior. Sure, it's just a little toaster in with the tennis rackets now. But, soon enough, we'll be wearing stained sweatpants and "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts, parking our cars on the front lawn, and tying pieces of steak to fireworks. Just you wait.

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Movement II

I just had to post an Internet-sized THANK YOU to all my friends who have sent me their good thoughts and prayers in the last week here. I am so blessed and lucky to have such a supportive bunch of folks in my life. You all have sent me such wonderful bits of wisdom and all-around-wonderful good feelings; and I am feeling much better these days. I will take some time later to post about what's been happening. Suffice it to say that the more we pack, the better things become. Also, I just returned last night from seeing David Byrne in Portland, so how bad could things be really?

Thank you, again, to all my peeps out there who have kept me in their thoughts these past few weeks. If I could, I would buy you all ponies and mansions and your very own rock band as a way of saying thanks. For now, just know that you are amongst the most wonderful people on earth and that you have reminded me of how fortunate I am to have you in my life.

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Movement

I'm going to try really hard not to sound like a whiny baby in this post, but it's going to come out that way anyway. I'm just feeling like I want to crawl under a rock and not make any adult decisions right now. I have begun the house-hunt. It's official. We're moving on from this whole communal living thing. CLH and I scoured crazylist....er... craigslist this evening and came up with the usual overpriced, poorly lit, beige colored, human-sized cat boxes for rent. Note to landlords: I'm not paying you a non-refundable cleaning fee. Unlike your former tenants, I don't plan on actually shitting directly on the carpets, so I'm having a hard time thinking of why I should fork over a non-refundable $400 for "cleaning". Here's an idea: make sure your next tenants have all their teeth and that their hair isn't falling out in clumps; it's pretty much a sure bet that you won't need to call in a haz-mat team to disinfect the place when they leave.

Why don't any of the housing options I've seen tonight seem appealing to me? Why do I want to find my next home in Fiji, or someplace like it? CLH and I even started looking at boats to live on; that's how non-house-dwelling I am feeling right now.

Part of me really wants to take all our boxes, drive them out to the ocean, and dump them overboard with a ceremonial Zen Buddhism mantra about how our stuff is not who we are. And another part of me wants to donate everything to Goodwill, and start ALL OVER. Get rid of every last unmatching bath towel, every collectible fish shaped bottle, every antique nutcracker, and just buy everything new. No more remnants of my past. Just all new. Forks, plates, bedsheets, endtables, everything. All sterile and without history.

I'm feeling everything come undone- every connection to this city, to my clients, to my friends... it's coming undone. The intellectual side of me knows that this is temporary. This is what we call "having a tough go of it". This is the struggle that makes us stronger, the strife that tests the strength of our character. But I want to be done with it. The emotional side of me just doesn't have it in me to fight. I just want my life to go back to being easy.

When I moved two years ago, I completely uprooted myself. I tore myself right out of the upward trajectory I was creating for myself. I was saving money, I was driving less. I was reading more. I was paring down and simplifying. Then I bought a house. Now I find myself surrounded with all this STUFF... my life has been complicated with schedules that revolve around my commute, and what part of the city I will be in when. I'm trying to negotiate traffic schedules, and clients' schedules, and activities I want to do, and I can feel my energy being sapped every time. This is not the chaos I crave. The chaos I love involves travel and writing and the creative process. This is none of those things. I feel like I traded in a life of simplicity for this ridiculously, and unnecessarily complicated one.

I am rambling, and I know it. This is supposed to be the place I come to create clarity, to write it all out and make it all pointed and brief and resolute and entertaining. But, tonight I can't. Tonight it is all spilling out and I am feeling like it would be false to end this cleanly. I have been in a state of limbo for so long; making a decision for myself seems like a foreign concept. I suppose this is the part that I have been looking forward to for so long: being able to choose my own future... making a decision based on want and not need. But I have to admit that this is more challenging than I thought it would be. It is difficult to shake off the last 32 years of bowing down to everyone else's dreams. It is difficult to not know what it is I am supposed to be. It is difficult to not feel shame over this. I am trying to stay positive and remember that all this is passing.

There is still so much of the old me left to contend with.

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This Just In: International Symbol For “I Surrender” Doubles as “Need New Bra. Please Measure Me”

As a general rule, I detest clothing shopping. I usually do it alone, and in secret. Mostly because clothing shopping in this country has become something of a vicious sport, and I'm not comfortable being statistically capable, even for a small while, of trampling a Wal-Mart employee to death to get to the sale rack. I'm also painfully aware of the luxury we Americans enjoy in having access to so much for so little- without any mind paid to the social and environmental cost of acquiring those goods so cheaply- so I usually think twice before I buy anything, anything at all. This awareness, more than the price tag or the trendy stylings, or the need for whatever it is I'm shopping for, informs (and inhibits) my shopping habits.

That, and the fact that finding jeans in my size is a akin to trying to put a whole sea lion into a hot dog bun: some things are inherently disappointing, cause unnecessary sweating, and are better left unattempted.

Underneath my layer of consumer consciousness regarding child labor laws and the true cost of shipping formaldehyde-laced clothing in shipping containers across the ocean, there is another consumer layer. The layer that's not interested in wearing earth toned shapeless sacks festooned with peace signs and silk screens of eagles midflight just to prove a point about consumerism. There is a layer that squeals and flaps her hands excitedly over... well... shoes. I love shoes. I do. And I like jewelry. And I like the idea that I, too, should be able to change up my look every season and not be condemned to financial or moral bankruptcy in the process.

Lately I've been trying to lighten up my rather heavy approach to shopping. I'm trying to abandon my role as Rancor Filled Older Sister Who Calls Younger Sister for Fashion Advice Because She Can't Find Anything To Match Her Ironic T-Shirt Collection, and trying to be a little more gentle in my condemnation of retail therapy.

When my friend Victoria suggested last night that we go to an actual shop that sold only underthings to shop for said underthings, I tried to put aside my mixed feelings and instead embrace the reality that I would be, in less than twenty four hours, spending on one piece of underclothing -clothing that no one would see- what I would normally spend in one year on clothes.

As soon as I got to Victoria's Secret (the store, not my friend's), I realized I was dealing with the big leagues. I didn't even have the stamina for my normal hand wringing because it took all my energy to just take in the fanfare with which these bras and panties were displayed. This was not the dismally lit lingerie section of the department store I normally shop. And these were not the JC Penney clearance rack bras I was used to shopping for. No, ma'am. These were meaty, beefy bras, complete with wires and multiple hooks and names like "Very Sexy" and "Angels". These bras had names, for godssake.

Oh, and here's the other reason I loathe clothing shopping: sizing. I started this blog three years ago with an entry about my shopping for jeans (an ordeal that could have easily involved my clawing the eyes out of sales associates and setting dressing rooms on fire, so mighty was my exasperation) and not much has changed in the world of denim leg enclosures for me. Ditto for bras. Bras are designed for women with much more to work with than what I've got. When bras my size are designed, they are stuffed with all manner of foams and liqui-gels and padding, presumably so that the wearer can feel like she can compete in some pretty severe chest bumping competitions without sustaining any major damage to her mammary glands. (Or maybe to give the illusion that she has actually outgrown training bras, but I'd say the chest bumping is really what the designers were going for). I'm not much into push up bras myself. I'm of the opinion that no one should be shoving foam into various parts of their ensemble to enhance their look (I'm talking to YOU, designers of 1980's era shoulderpads). I'm small, but at least at peace with the fact that my genes have dictated that all the stuffing that should be on my chest has been stapled to my ass instead. I don't want to carry two demitasse swimming pools in my shirt just because God is horribly unfair.

I guess I've never actually been bra shopping before. The whole process is supposed to start with a fitting (and not, like I presumed, by sighing heavily and steeling oneself for disappointment). The perky sales associate asked me if I wanted to be measured out in the open. Here? I thought. Right here in the middle of the store? Well, I guess so. I mean, we're all here for the same thing, right? So, I threw my hands over my head, and the perky sales associate threw a tape measure around my chest. Then it was off to the fitting room, where Victoria informed me that the sales associate would be getting me "my drawer". I repeat: I guess I have never been bra shopping before because when I was handed an entire drawer of bras, in different shapes, for me to try on, I nearly fell over from the excitement.

The poor sales associate must have thought I'd just spent the last ten years living in a cave because it took a few seconds for me to to wrap my head around the fact that Victoria's Secret has been making the ordeal of trying on bras MUCH LESS OF AN ORDEAL via a very sexy system of streamlined organization. If I had been able to collect myself enough to form sentences, I might have grabbed the sales associate by the shoulders and exclaimed: This? This whole drawer? I get to try on a whole drawer of bras? This drawer here? Full of bras? And all of them are flattering? And none of them are filled with foam peanuts? And they've all been designed with my shape and size in mind? These bras here? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY ADULT LIFE?

I settled for a comfortable contoured bra, which is far less imposing than a bra that is so full of strange viscous liquid, it comes with its own red haz-mat disposal bag. I think the sales clerk must have known she was dealing with novice when she rung me up because she actually congratulated me on my purchase when she took my credit card.

So, to all you bra designers who are trying to make us less endowed women feel like we've got some catching up to do: I'm not buying it. I'll make you make you a deal, though. I'll wear your silicone filled bras when you start padding the backs of your jeans with bags of frozen peas. I'd call it even if you did.

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Warming the Planet One Ink Cartridge At A Time

I'm gonna come right out and say it: The people at Canon should be ashamed of themselves.

THIS is why our planet is going to hell in a handbasket. A fiery, unapologetic handbasket.


These little turds CANNOT be recycled. These are ink TANKS, not ink CARTRIDGES. These "tanks" are not hollow. They contain little sponges, sponges that soak up a good twenty five percent of any ink tank, hold it for an indefinite amount of time, and then render it useless. Something about the chip embedded in them, the sponges, and the fact they are made to be impenetrable, renders them unfit for recycling. And before you email me and say, "But have you tried..." let me state the following:

1. You CANNOT bring them to any of the major office supply retailers (Office Depot, Office Max, Staples) and trade them in. Some of these stores have a "turn an empty cartridge in, get money towards your new cartridge" program. Canon tanks do not qualify for this program. The employee may offer to "recycle" the tank for you, but they usually offer this so you'll shut your indignant mouth and move on.

2. You CANNOT ask Canon to recycle them. They have a way to recycle toner cartridges, but not ink tanks. And sure, they'll pay for the shipping to get the toner there, and they will show you many, many pictures of polar bears nuzzling their young on their website and claim that they are doing everything they can to protect the planet. But they, in fact, are not. 'Cause you know what they would do if they were concerned about the earth? NOT MAKE THESE UN-RECYCLABLE PIECES OF SHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

3. You CANNOT refill them. Either your very clever printer will recognize your efforts to save the planet, and tell you that it recognizes (via the memory-saving technology stored in the chip on the tank) that you are trying to re-use a re-filled tank, and the tank will not work... OR... you will have to go through a series of button pressings to "trick" the printer into thinking it has a new tank in it. And that's after you've managed to find a kit that will help you messily get the ink into the microscopic holes in the tank. (side note: One website's forum suggested I take a drill and drill a hole in the top of the tank. A drill? Like I'm just going to casually pull a POWER TOOL out of my desk at the office the next time I run out of ink?)

Listen, I'm all about getting my hands a little dirty to help out mother earth. I've filled dozens of ink tanks in my day (mostly HP tanks. Thanks, HP, for ACTUALLY caring about polar bears.) I did it because I thought it was important to NOT throw plastic ink tanks into landfills. But what about the average office worker who doesn't have either the patience or the precision to deal with such an operation? Is it fair to expect that every person using a printer is going to go to the same lengths to not throw a 2 inch square piece of plastic in the trash? Because, given the choice, most people would choose not to ruin their white dress shirts. And I can't say I blame them.

I get it. I like money, too. And Canon makes thousands upon thousands of dollars creating these "consumables" for the printing industry. And there is a whole thriving refill-kit industry out there too. So, who am I to get in the way of every one's cashing in on the impracticality of making my own ink? I just think there's a better way. Canon also claims that their printing is superior because of the whole sponge-tank technology and because its printers physically prevent you from reinstalling spent tanks. I get that too. I understand the benefit of good quality printing. I also understand that plastic doesn't EVER GO AWAY and that Canon is single-handedly creating MILLIONS of pounds of pure trash every year worldwide. What I can't understand is why we can't have both high quality printing AND responsible ways of disposing of the tanks.

I've always thought: if you're going to invent a product that has its obsolescence built into it, you ought to also invent a conscious way to dispose of it. If manufacturers thought this through, they could actually stand to MAKE money on the disposal/recycling part.

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Sleepless In Just-South-Of-Seattle

Oh, Internet. I can't sleep. Not with CLH rhythmically kicking me in the shin with his icy toes like that. I'm going to ask him tomorrow morning if he beat Lance Armstrong on the uphill because he's CLEARLY trying to out-pedal SOMETHING right now.

Things I am thinking about instead of sleeping:

1. I need to rent this house out. NEED TO. This whole living in limbo thing is getting REALLY OLD really fast.
2. I finally caved in and joined (wincing) Facebook. If, in ten years, economists are wondering about the precipitous drop in American productivity right around this time period, I think they'll know who to blame. EVERYONE has welcomed me into the fold with a variation on this sentence: "Welcome to the greatest time suck ever known to man". I've already found half my grammar school class (not hard since there were a whopping 25 of us in the graduating class)... and it's odd to see my childhood playmates... with boobs. And bald spots. I know I'm not a) delivering a social commentary that hasn't already been delivered about this cultural phenomenon or b) saying anything profound or unique, but, seriously. Boobs and bald spots. On my childhood friends.
3. I am really tickled by how many FAKE FUCKING EMAILS I am receiving from scam artists about this house rental. Just wait till I show you the latest round. I could have a full time job just responding to them.
4. On some days (like today) I feel like throwing out all my possessions out and starting over. I've already begun the process of photographing and listing all the stuff I think will sell on Craigslist before we move so that we don't have to move with it. I cannot WAIT to be rid of it all. Something about austere living has really got me in its clutches right now. Of course, I know that as soon as the weather gets better and the garage sales start happening in my neighborhood, I'm going to want to make the inside of my house look like a Bennigan's turned up to 11... so I'm holding on to this feeling of wanting renewal while it lasts.

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The OTHER OTHER Reason I Live In The Northest: Yielding To Waterfowl


Look right into the center of the photo. That's right. There are two ducks there. In the middle of the road. Two waterfowl are crossing the street and the CARS ARE FREAKIN' WAITING FOR THEM TO CROSS. Only in the Northwest, folks. Only in the Northwest.

I just so happened to be fiddling with my phone (illegal here in the Northwest! No phone fiddling while driving! Stop for ducks, but don't dial and drive!) when I saw these two, so I was able to snap this (contraband!) picture as they were crossing the road. Seriously. Look at that traffic backed up for miles. People are just so darned KIND towards their migratory mate-for-life birds here. If these same ducks (er... pardon me. Duck and Mallard) had been crossing the road where I grew up, they would have been flattened in seconds (after they'd been honked at, cursed at, and had balled up gum wrappers thrown at their heads). God bless 'em for having NO idea about anti-lock brakes.

In other news, I went to the first ever Carrotmob event here in our duck-loving little town! And, adorable spokesperson (who'd already had a beer or two in her) that I am, I gave the camera guy who was filming the whole thing a little interview about why I thought this was such a great idea. Vote with your wallet, America! Duh! So, maybe I'll be featured in the next video! How thrilling! I'll keep you posted. You can read more about Carrotmob and the idea behind it here. Thanks to my friend Rich for being my personal tooth inspector tonight. No one should appear on film without having a cute boy inspect her gumline for black olive bits. What a pal, huh? Oh, and note to camera guy: you might want to edit out the part where I mention that wheat beer is no good for my intestines. I don't know why i thought it was a good idea to advertise my flatulence problem while talking about social change. I was drunk with power... and wheaty beer.

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Let The Packing Begin

CLH and I have begun the process of packing up our belongings in preparation for our move from the house in the flight path of an international airport. Tonight we took our first load of books from the bookshelf and put them in the staging area in the garage. It's a strange thing, this move. For one, it's not exactly full of the hope and excitement that usually accompanies a new start. I'm feeling more like I just want this to be over, like I just want to let out the giant breath I have been holding for about two years now. This isn't going to be the clean break I was hoping for. This house, and all the responsibility that comes with it, has the potential to be a whole flock of albatrosses around my neck for the next few years here.

I haven't written much about the house because, well, I just haven't wanted to talk about it. Sure, I can write about our racist neighbors (charming!), or that time my battery was stolen out of my car while I was asleep 50 feet from the door (hilarious!), or how CLH saw a coyote in the neighbor's wild, abandoned lot of a backyard (sounds safe and fun!), but I can't seem to find the humor in any of this. All I can think of when I think about this place is the enormous burden I took on because I was one of the idiots who thought home ownership was something I needed to cross off my Great American Dream List (as if I've ever done anything in order on that list in my life...). There is, of course, much to talk about, given just how freakin' weird this whole arrangement is. And it really is weird. It's only occurring to me now that maybe I should talk about it because it is so weird and people are just dying to know how i do this. I just don't think I'm quite past the hump in this whole saga where the insane and tragic things that have happened here finally become, in retrospect, laughable. Right now, everything just seems raw and uncertain. And there's nothing really funny about uncertainty.

So, I'm just not really ready to talk about it. When my friends and clients ask how are things with the house, what they're really asking is, "What in the holy hell have you done with your life? And thanks for letting me watch while you figure it out". This whole experience has been a weird, slow motion train wreck; everyone who sees it pretty much says the same three things, in this order: "Wow. What a mess. Thank god I wasn't on that train."

And, really, I guess I can't blame them. I mean, if someone had said to me, "I am going to buy a fixer upper, in the flight path of an international airport, in a town with no sidewalks, and live in it with my two friends, and then try to move out after two years... during the biggest economic downturn in American history", I would have told them good luck and then laughed at them as soon as their backs were turned.

It's tough to tell the train wreck story over and over and over without wanting a happy ending. I mean, if it always ends in gore, you start to feel hopeless every time you tell it. So, I guess that's where I am right now: sick and tired of talking about the gore. I want to start talking about how the paramedics arrived and med-evac'd everyone to safety. I want to start saying that everything worked out; less people died in the wreck than initially believed.

I keep telling everyone that I think this is all going to work out; I believe it when I say it, though, lately, my belief fluctuates hour by hour. I wrote the "for rent" ad last night, and a lady at the office I was in today overheard me talking about it to my client, asked me to forward on the information, and she's totally interested. When she asked me for the info, I felt like this whole transition might be easier than I had planned. But, here, hours later, as I go over the idea in my head of having to be someone's landlord... of leaving my friends here to live with strangers because I just couldn't hack it in the suburbs... I get all down about it again.

I know I've made the right choice in leaving this house. I know that even this worrying will be funny one day. But, I just had to be honest with myself and admit that this process is weighing down a HUGE part of my soul. The release will come. And then I'll finally be able to tell the story of the house that nearly broke me.

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Adventures In Dogsitting Entry #1

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would never try to craft a clever title using the words "adventures" and words ending in "ing", but I've gone ahead and done it anyway. You have my permission to just shoot me.

I came home tonight and The Dog had my sock in his mouth. Not in a guilty no-eye-contact "Umm... yeah... about your sock being in my mouth...." sorta way. No, this was a maniacal "And guess what ELSE I've been doing all day?MWHOOHAHAHAHA!" sorta way. In fact, this dog wanted to PLAY with the sock with me when I got home. There he was, jumping, and, I swear to God, smiling at me, holding a ball of saliva-moistened blue Smartwool in his mouth. I'm pretty sure he was trying to tell me that he was bored all day and then LOOK WHAT HE FOUND! and why wasn't I as excited as he was?

You would think, given that I grew up with a beagle who would literally try to pull the socks you were wearing on your feet off to play with them, I would know better than to leave my socks on the floor of the living room. Dogs like socks. It's a given. It's just that the sun finally came out yesterday and after months upon months of weather that has made me want to suck on an exhaust pipe, I just HAD to take 30 minutes and just lay there, in the small shaft of light coming in through the window in the front room. And, for maximum exposure, I took my socks off (every square inch counts when you're this desperate for sun). I just forgot to bring them upstairs with me at the end of the day.

The Dog made sure my humiliation was complete by running off with my sock (after I commanded him to drop it) and depositing it in a hole in the backyard he's been working on for what seems the last eight years or so. He then came back inside, acting as if he had not just dumped an article of clothing of mine into a three foot ditch.

AND, you would think, given that this sock, this very same sock, was the victim of another sort of dog abuse just a week before, that I would have been extra careful with my socks this go around. You see, about two weeks ago, another Dog, a small, impish dog the size and shape of a loaf of bread, stole my sock when I wasn't looking, and then she sat on it, like a hen on her nest of eggs, until her owners got home and found it. I was watching this dog, making sure that she was fed, and kept warm and out of the jaws of much larger dogs while on walks. And this is what she did to me. She stole my damn sock and then hid it. Unbelievable, huh? That was my payment for putting fresh water in her bowl? I mean, have you ever heard of such cunning coming from something the size of a fuzzy slipper?

To be fair to this Other Dog, I did leave my socks out at a latitude that she could reach. And, I was warned by her owners that she might be inclined to steal not just my socks, but my underwear as well. I thought I made sure to hide all unmentionables, lest they be used as a prop in a modern dance routine involving lots of violent head shakes...but this dog rooted through my suitcase anyway, found my purple striped panties, and pranced around the house with them in her jowls like she was a majorette and my Hanes Her Way were her baton. I only found out about the sock via a text message that included a picture of said sock that read, "Is this your sock? We found it in the dog bed".

Tonight I will be gathering up all discarded footwear and bringing it upstairs with me. I will have a talk with The Dog tomorrow before I leave for work and I will tell him that, though it completely grosses me out to have to touch it, I will leave him a pig ear on the kitchen floor for a snack/plaything. All he has to do is go and get it. The socks are off limits. And if he promises to stick to the pig ear and the pig ear only, I will work on not using the word "adventure" in my blog titles.

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The OTHER Real Reason I Live in The Northwest: Renegade Marching Bands

I don't know how this happened, but I've lived here in the Northwest an entire NINE, count 'em NINE, YEARS and I have never once been to Honkfest West. NEVER! I'd never even heard of the festival until a gracious co-worker who understands my penchant for public displays of absurdity told me about it. I don't think I can adequately spell out my love for marching bands. Maybe it's that Eastern European in me, but if you give me an open road, a drum, a horn and maybe a violin or two, I feel like I've come home. Add a whistle or ten or fifteen, multiply the drum factor by eleven, and throw in some striped stockings, bowler hats, and eye makeup, and you've got the makings for a perfect night as far as I am concerned. Lest you confuse the folks below for the buttoned up band folks leading the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade... let me warn you: these are not they. This is more like anarchist biker clique meets talented musician meets Grandma's dress up trunk. I literally planned my whole weekend around this, it was that important to me. I just love the circus. I'm not even kidding. So, without further ado, I present to you, compliments of my phone camera with no flash, HONKFEST WEST!:


This blur is the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. Well, part of it anyway. I couldn't possibly take a picture of all of them because a) there seemed to be hundreds of them and b) they danced like maniacs. Quite possibly the most energetic band of the night. You might not be able to read it... but the inside of this man's instrument says "This Bud's For You". He ran around carrying that thing like it weighed nothing. And when I say "ran", I literally mean "ran". He ran with that tuba. Do you know how in shape you have to be to run with a tuba? I'm out of breath running to the bus stop with a tuna fish sandwich in my hand, never mind 20 pounds of fluted pipe.


There they are. The Yellow Hat Band! Just one of many bands that we followed into dark alleys to hear what else they could play that would echo off the highway overpass.


Apparently, the man carrying around this obscene (and sexy) amount of bent brass is the man responsible for this whole hot mess. If he weren't so busy cranking out the Klezmer tunes with the rest of his Fedora topped crew, I would have kissed him right on the mouth in gratitude.

That's right. That's a man in a carrot suit. Playing a saxophone. In a parking lot. You can't see it in this picture, but there's a stilt walker to his left. God bless the Northwest.

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The Joys of Living In The Flight Path of An International Airport

Oh, Wait. You thought there were joys involved in living in the flight path of an international airport? Well, I am sorry to have mislead you with that subject line, but there are no joys to be had living in the flight path of an international airport. Not a one. Not a damned one. I mean, unless you think joy is having your HDTV cut out every, oh, I dunno, FOUR SECONDS or so because there is a LINE of airplanes queued up, quite literally for MILES, just to the left of the window you've chosen to stick your receiver in and each time they fly directly overhead, they literally block your TV signal to the satellite in space that is so generously beaming Oprah down to you while you work out. I guess that's a lot like joy. Just like it, I'd say.

It's a not unlike scraping your knuckle on a shelf in the fridge as you reach for the lime in the back, and then squeezing that lime (and the juice from a jalapeno, let's not forget) ALL OVER your bloody knuckle. Now, living in the flight path has nothing to do with that little joy. I could have done that any ol' place. It's just that... when I want to make chili lime popcorn for dinner after working out, and I've just had to witness the gore that is a) seeing the local news team's haggard faces in HDTV and b) seeing them FROZEN GHOULISHLY MID-WORD while the TV tried to retrieve the signal blocked by the FLEET above me.... well, you can see where I'm going with this.

And the only reason I even bring up the chili lime popcorn and the fact that I had it for dinner (as a follow up to a mid afternoon snack of french fries, naturally) is that I have had to really watch CLH's diet lately and I offered the popcorn to him without considering that it was covered with a 1/3 cup of butter. I am a thoughtless person living in the flight path of an international airport.

You see, CLH might have something wrong with his gall bladder and he has been taking some dietary precautions to make sure it doesn't turn into something more serious. Fatty foods exacerbate gall bladder issues. So, while he chugs gallon upon gallon of apple juice (something about malic acid dissolving gallstones...) I have been trying to plan meals, since I do a majority of the cooking, that don't include lots of fats. Which is nearly impossible for me because, well, I LOVE FAT. I don't understand you if you've got a sweet tooth, because, given the choice between a candy bar and a bag of pork rinds, I will almost always go for the pork rinds. Or potato chips, or french fries, or Cheez Doodles. Oh, how i love Cheez Doodles...

Somehow, the internal systems gods saw fit to equip me with a decent metabolism and a love for green leafy vegetables (this, after the anatomy gods cursed me with a big ass and no boobs to match), so, I manage to stay in a somewhat normal weight range... even after I've eaten a whole bag of Robert's "SmartPuffs". In one sitting.

So, while I try to enjoy my one hour of sinful pleasure a night as my screen intermittently goes black, then pixilated, then gorily animated with wrinkles and fake eyelashes and spray on tans in time to the international airport's landing schedule, CLH fights with an aching internal organ the size of a golf ball. We all have our individual battles, now, don't we?

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Saved Voicemail from Taller Younger Brother #1

"Here's a tip for you. If people come to your door and are selling God, it's okay to say no thanks. And if kids ever come to your door selling cookies, it's okay to say no thanks, too. But, if kids ever come to your door selling cookies MADE by God, you should definitely say yes."

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The Difference A (Sunny) Day Makes

-Went sailing today (economy in crapper=clients in the building industry with no work=no work for me=day of sailing on friend's boat. Hooray for no work! Question mark? Exclamation point?). Had a much better day on the water than on Sunday.

-After living a relatively dog free life for the past nine years, I suddenly find myself surrounded by dogs. Swimming in dogs. Bombarded by dogs. I will tell you about my adventures in dogsitting soon. I have another gig lined up for next week and I'm really looking forward to it.

-I am learning to slow down and make better decisions for myself. I know this sounds so banal, but it's pretty important for me to say this aloud. This is what the flu taught me: I spend a lot of time serving others. It is now my time to serve myself.

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A Short List of Things I Am Obsessing Over Lately

-Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video
-Pastel colored peanut M&Ms

Um... know what's more addictive that crack cocaine? The "Single Ladies" video. WHY CAN'T I STOP WATCHING IT???? And what's with the sudden bad chocolate fix? I don't even LIKE chocolate all that much. And yet, about a dozen M&Ms find their way into my mouth every day. As my brother would say, "Sister, these are questions that even scientists have not yet found the answers to..."

Right up there with my new favorite video of Beyonce (woke up with it in my head, not even kidding): Lady GaGa's "Pokerface". And let's not forget about Pink's "So What?" You see? This is what happens when I get five seconds away from the house that Poor Planning built and I get to enjoy things like CABLE FUCKING TELEVISION.

CLH and I visited friends last weekend and we spent the night drinking South American liquor and watching women dressed in vinyl unitards and spike heels sing incredibly catchy pop songs on the TV. No, wait. It wasn't even cable. How 2001 of me. No, this was Apple TV with ON DEMAND videos. What's that? You haven't seen the in-home video of the choreographer who taught Beyonce her "Single Ladies" moves? Well, hold on to your pisco sour. I'm just gonna dial it up on YouTube on my 72" plasma TV. In the meantime, enjoy this photo montage from Flickr.com to the accompaniment of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits on shuffle mode. ON MY TV. WHAAAAA? A dollar and ninety-nine cents later, we were watching "So What". And then we were imitating Dave Chapelle imitating Lil' John because we had watched THAT on YouTube. ON THE TV. This is what happens when you hang with the suburban kids. And when drinking dulls your sense of an appropriate use of time. You get a taste of what life would be like if you weren't busy building consensus and sweeping the pine needles out of your front room. And you long for normalcy. Just a little bit of late night drinking after the kids have been put to bed and zoning out on the couch to watch Pink driving a John Deer tractor in rush hour traffic. You know. Just regular ol' fun.

*Sorry, Tara. I copied and pasted part of this right out of the email I sent you the other day. I can't tell which is greater: my enormous sense of shame, or my appalling laziness.

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The REAL reason I live in the Northwest: Writing Material

This evening, CLH asked me to stop off at the grocery store on the way home. He had a hankering for something sweet and NEEDED me to pick up a scone or a cookie or something. And, you see, to get this sweet thing, I had to go to this particular grocery store because they are the only grocery store around that sells sugar free sweet things. CLH does not eat sugar, you see. And since he had just gotten over a bout of flu-like body aches, and since I was feeling bad for him, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get him something to satisfy his honey tooth.

Now, normally I avoid this grocery store like the plague. I love organic strawberries and bulk bins full of popcorn and quinoa just as much as the next health conscious person, but i can't stand to walk into this grocery store. It's not the selection (which, admittedly, could be better.) It's not the cashiers (though, for a bunch of granola crunching hippies, they can be fucking surly when they want to.) No. The reason I hate shopping there is the customers. The stand-in-the-doorway-and-marvel-at-stuff-all-around-like-fucking-four-month-olds, finicky, righteous customers. And I swear they all stand in the doorway and block it every time I go in there. Every. Last. One of them. It's like they've never seen groceries before. Or they've all just woken up out the comas they've all been in for the last 46 years and they can't understand why the automatic doors behind them keep making that sucking sound. IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE STANDING ON THE SENSOR, JACKASS. Is there some kind of correlation between health food enthusiasts and their impossibly slow response time to stimuli? Can they not just fucking make a beeline for the carrots like the rest of us high strung gluten intolerant weirdos? Does the steady purchase of fruit and nut bars impair one's ability to walk in a straight line with a sense of purpose or urgency or both? Is the health food inside this place lowering everyone's blood pressure to near catatonic levels? Because, if I had to guess, I'd say everyone was operating with a pulse of about -9 over -7. Which is about the pulse of a bag of cedar shavings.

I decide that, since I'm already there, I might as well pick up a few more groceries. Which means I need to tuck my chin into my chest, firmly grip my shopping basket with one hand, and push my way through the throngs of idiots with my other arm held out in front of me like an offensive lineman. I get everything I need, then head over to the bakery section for needed non-sugared sweet thing. And, horror of horrors, they are out. No non-sugared sweet things. Plenty of vegan, evaporated can juice sweetened things. But nothing sweetened with honey or molasses or ground-up hippy bones.

I call CLH to deliver the bad news. I hardly get the words out when this lady next to me starts squawking at the young woman behind the deli case (which, lucky for me, is next to the bakery case). I can't hear what CLH is directing me to do (what was that? You want Scottish oats instead of a cookie?) because this woman's complaint is so ridiculous and so loud, it's causing me to ignore CLH and listen to her instead. "Well, it's been like this since the summer when your chef did something to the recipe. These cookies are harder than dog biscuits! I can't serve these! I mean, feel these! (and here she bangs said cookies on the deli counter). I mean..." and here she sputters, and exhales in exasperation, and then trails off, having run out of analogies for hard cookies. I'm trying not to stare, but I'm pretty sure the deli counter woman has a look of complete and utter disinterest on her face.

I try to get back to what CLH is telling me (What? You don't want a cookie after all? You mean I had to enter this hell just to pick up eggs I could have bought SOMEWHERE ELSE?) and eventually I head over to the checkout line. I pay, bag my stuff up in the bag I brought (See? I can care about the Earth AND hate health food store customers at the same time) and head towards the door. Which makes me break out in a cold sweat because I'm going to have to ram my way through another clusterfuck of people who haven't yet mastered one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. And even though I have chocked my feet against the checkout stand like a sprinter in a starting block so I can run like hell, I too slow down near the door. For a moment I think I have caught the slow motion disease and I panic. But then my vision sharpens and my ears hone in on a sound. And I realize I've stopped dead in my tracks because I cannot believe that, after five solid minutes of complaining and banging the counter with her bag of evidence, this woman has still not run out of righteous indignation at being served harder than normal cookies.

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Hate Isn’t Strong Enough

Prescription for indigestion before bedtime:

Put the finishing touches on your post, hit "publish", and receive an error message that something has gone dreadfully wrong in a server cabinet in Texas or Siberia or wherever the hell they keep the effing things, and realize in horror that your whole post has just evaporated. Log back in to the site and see that they have cruelly "saved" just the first line of your post and NOTHING ELSE.

Curse you, Blogger. Curse you.

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Happiness Is… Not Trembling With Fever. Warning: This Might Take a While

I thought it would never end, but it finally has. The fever finally broke on Thursday night or so. At least, the teeth rattling, body shaking, i-can't-hold-the-bottle-of-pain-reliever-still-enough-to-tumble-a-few-pills-out-into-my-quaking-palm-type fever is gone. I'd never thought I would see the day when I would pull a muscle in my back from having such convulsive chills. My poor body was trying to do a Richard Simmons workout routine in one square inch of space while excreting every last drop of moisture onto my skin in an attempt to cool my burning body down for three days straight. I still woke up this morning and gasped aloud when i discovered I'd left an actual wet spot on the sheets from sweating all night. My pajamas were soaked. Apparently, I still have a little more heat left to dispense with. But the chills, the chills are gone. I can sleep the whole night without having to tuck my knees under my chin to make my teeth stop chattering. I can sleep in less than 5 layers of clothing. I can finally exclude "fleece hat" from my nightware repertoire. Hell, I can finally SLEEP through the night.

This illness really knocked me on my ass; and, being an opportunist at heart, I like to take time spent flat on my ass to do some reflecting. Something about this flu really slowed me down. Really, really slowed me down. My brain was in such a fog that I couldn't, I physically couldn't, worry about anything. And for a stress case like me, well, that's nothing short of a miracle. I usually spend the time immediately after dinner until the moments right before I fall asleep at night to worry about everything from what I am going to wear the next day to whether or not we're going to solve the world hunger crisis. My nights are not really my own. They are just blocks of time when every little issue in the world becomes comes flying into my head and disrupts the "power down for the night" routine. Instead of coming to a slow, steady halt, a la HAL singing "Daisy Bell", my brain instead lights up like a Christmas tree and every memory, every concern, every worry, anxiety, unfinished thought, grocery list, and mnemonic device comes crashing into my head like a hoard of ants descending on a unfinished peanut butter sandwich. Poor CLH has gotten quite practiced at quelling my fears in a nearly alpha wave state of drowsiness. I usually find the need to talk about this kind of stuff just as he is falling asleep. Our conversations usually go like this:

Me: Did you lock the doors?

Him: Mmmhmmm.

Me: Do you think the tree out there would likely fall into our bedroom or onto the neighbor's house? You know, like during a wind storm.

Him: Hunh?

Me: Are you happy? I mean like, are you happy with your life? Like, do you ever wonder if you've made the right choice in being with me, in living here, and stuff?

Him: No...mm.....I mean, yes. Yes. I'm happy...mmmm

Me: 'Cause I wake up sometimes and I ask myself what on earth I'm doing here. Like big picture. Like what is my purpose in life. And it scares me when i can't answer. It really scares me. You just seem, i dunno, just so happy and content and stuff. It makes me feel like I am missing some crucial point about life, about being able to enjoy simple pleasures. Like, how come I can't just sit in front of the TV like every other American and forget about stuff? How come I don't like drinking all that much anymore? Am I fundamentally flawed? Am I incapable of feeling happiness over puppies and babies and stuff like that? Know what I mean?

Him: zzzzzzz.....

So the flu really calmed all that noise down. Oh sure, it still tried to worm its way into the folds of my gray matter as I lay there trying to fall asleep. But, louder than the burning questions coming from all parts of the universe was another voice. My own. And it was saying, over and over again: go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. My body was actually trying to preserve itself. It was trying to REST. It was trying to GET BETTER. And that urge was so strong, it actually dulled the sound of a million unanswered questions. I am trying to find words to describe this sensation, and the only thing I can come up with is NUMB. I felt numb. I felt neutral. It was a little like being high. I felt like i could find another day to worry about the crisis in the Middle East and whether or not we would run out of bread by the weekend. I've never been good at quieting my own thoughts; and this just felt magical and auto-pilot-y, like some other force was doing it for me and I will never forget it. I felt like if I could just hold onto this feeling... just memorize this feeling of being temporarily UNABLE to manage the list of anxieties occupying my head and being okay with it... that maybe I could recreate it at a later time. What a glorious trick the flu would be teaching me.

So, I've been going slow. Walking slowly. Making dinner slowly. Not letting some irrational sense of urgency hurry me along. I really hope this lasts.

No flu reflection would be complete without the requisite "what is it, again, I do for money?" and the resulting feeling of supreme letdown. While I am proud of what I have accomplished in my life, I am also, well, getting bored. Yesterday, i finally left the house for the first time in five days, and decided that I needed to trim the yellow, fuzzy halo of baby chicken down that has grown out of my formerly awesome haircut. And when I sat in front of that ginormous mirror, most of my body shrouded in a black vinyl cape, and the stylist asked, "what do you do?", i felt the smallness of myself as I answered, looking straight at my reflection, "I'm a bookkeeper". Ugh. Of course that's not all I am. Of course I am annoyed that in America, that question is one part small talk and one part the hallmark of our culture. I hate that it's so loaded. I hate that I assign such weight to it. What we do, for money, is important to us collectively, no matter how healthy our relationship is with money. And I could be all Ram Das about it and claim that, hey, man, i don't work for the man, and hey, man, like lay off and stuff. But the truth is I'm getting sick of answering that question. Mostly because I feel like such a loser when I answer it. And why should I, really? How petty of me. I mean, hello! There are are people who DON'T HAVE JOBS, you selfish jerk, people who are struggling to make ends meet. You see? This is the battle that wages itself in my head. This is where all my dichotomous feelings about worth and accomplishment and happiness get all jumbled up. Who am I? How do i reconcile my feelings of utter boredom and love of mastery? How do I reconcile these feelings of supreme gratitude for the opportunity to work, in my jeans and sneakers, no less, with my feelings of dissatisfaction with that work?

All this, of course, is exacerbated by this one thing. See, when the Advil finally kicked in and I had about four hours of normal body temperature, shivering free time to myself, i decided to do something a little weird. I decided to do something that I have always wanted to do but never really had the time time to: read Dooce's blog from start to finish. I'm a little embarrassed to be reading a MOMMY blog, for godssake, but there it is. I said it. She's wickedly funny, and a friend of mine turned me on to her because he thought she was brilliantly funny. That she's also a new mom is really just incidental. Before she was a mom, she was single, worked for a corporation, blogged about her coworkers (in a less than complimentary way, shall we say) was discovered, got fired, found the man of her dreams, got married, moved to Utah, bought a house, and started a family... all the while documenting the whole damn thing. Well, I'm up to year four or so (there's eight year's worth of stuff to read, people), and though i am totally loathe to admit this... i feel this incredible sense of companionship with this woman stranger. I don't want to admit it because, well.... here's another battle that goes on in my head daily, and it's the reason I don't belong to Facebook or other social networks (and can't sleep at night): I don't honestly believe that the connections people are feeling to people's updates or wall scribblings and stuff are, well, REAL. I know, i know. What a cold, soul-less bag of garbage I am. Before you write and tell me that I am a cold, soul-less bag of garbage, you should know that I am changing my stance on this. Not that I'm going to join Facebook anytime soon, but I GET IT. You CAN have things in common with strangers, or people you haven't spoken to in twenty years. You can also have absolutely NOTHING in common, too. But, you really can feel a sense of connection, and that's what everyone is so damn addicted to. I get it. I really do. It's not that i didn't get it before. It's that I didn't want to admit it was true. But now I have to. 'Cause I really feel like this Dooce is my long lost twin sister or something. And I have been silently crying when I read about her hard days, and I am laughing out loud when she writes funny shit, and I am deeply moved when she discovers something profound about herself or her relationship or her child. Her relationship with her husband is one of the most moving things about the blog. I have learned SO MUCH about ... gulp... LOVE from this woman, I am embarrassed to admit it. Who ever heard of such a thing? Learning what other relationships look like, and therefore how mine could improve, via a blog? When CLH couldn't get my attention the other day because I was so deeply engrossed in it, and he gently chided me for becoming so obsessed with reading this blog, i actually snarled at him:
HEY! I'M LEARNING HOW TO LOVE YOU BETTER, OKAY?

So, Dooce, and everyone else out there who has managed to crack open my hard, bony heart with your honesty, I thank you. Thank you for letting me into your poopy diapers, the workings of your relationship, and your swear word filled rants about annoying neighbors and dumb coworkers. You have given me courage and hope. You, and the workings of the flu on my exhausted body. I am always left grateful at the end of ordeals like this, and I have a long list of thank yous to deliver. Thank you for giving me perspective. Thank you for making available, through the magic of the Interwebs, your unfiltered life, so that people like me can stop feeling so alone and sorry for ourselves. Thank you for making me feel like I too, might be reaching someone right now with my long winded diatribes about insomnia and the horrors of trying to buy jeans that fit. Thank you for restoring my humanity. Thank you for making writing for a living a possibility (take THAT, you effing nay-saying family members of mine). Thank you for making this flu a bearable, teachable episode in my life.

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Happiness Is… a good Spackle job

Since the good folks at Advil have afforded me a few hours of peace in between spells of feverish sweats and hacking up globular pieces of my immune system...

I submit, for your perusal, a list of things done today, while battling the flu:

Picked at a yesterday's granola and yogurt breakfast, now gelatinized in take-away container. (Half empy box now sits on nightstand.)

Defiled handkerchief with substance that freely and unexpectedly launched itself out of lungs.

Brought laptop to bed. Checked email.

Listened to Hans Rosling talk about world poverty on TED.com. Admitted to myself that statistics, when combined with bright colors and animation, are about as sexy as anything I've seen. Sword swallowing at the end of any talk will pretty much guarantee that NO ONE will EVER FORGET your presentation. EVER.

Checked email again.

Blew nose several dozen times in sodden handkerchief. Realized that flu symptoms render all normal notions of hygiene and pride void. Moist spot on front of shirt was, no doubt, caused by leaking pipes and laziness with the handkerchief. Flu-like self does not care and just changes shirt (but not before using shirt to wipe nose one last time.) Normal self would have had shirt burned and anything it had touched.

Took shower under new light fixtures in bathroom. Thank Jeebus for CLH's handiwork. The holes are patched, the ceiling's been painted, and there's just the walls left to do. Even as my body is wracked by fever and chills, I am comforted by the even surfaces of our newly spackled walls.

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Scattered

This link was sent to me by a friend. She doesn't (yet) call herself a writer, but I know she's got a book or two in her. ;) For many reasons, this link was VERY timely.

http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html</wbr></wbr>

This was incredibly inspiring. I'm totally up to my armpits in tax stuff right now, and I have so many wonderful things to share with you about tax code, but I thought I would launch the discussion that should ensue after watching this clip: mainly, why do I (and so many other writers) demand that our "genius" be synonymous with madness?

I am moving away from this association in my mind. It first started to come undone in a therapy session I had years ago. I don't exactly remember the context (maybe the foot-dragging about writing?) but my therapist wanted to know why I thought that art should come from this deeply wounded place in a person's life. I didn't have an answer, really. I presumed that ALL art came from a place of deep insecurity, loss, tragedy, whatever. He told me that he created his best art when he was joyful. At the time, I was all HUH? JOY inspired art? Get off the dope, buddy. After my initial disbelief, though, I could see his point. Why DID I think that my art could only be drawn from the painful parts of life? Why COULDN'T it be about joy? Where had I learned that art was ONLY a coping mechanism for the most atrocious events in one's life?

...

I woke up this morning, and yesterday morning, with poetry in my head. Poems often write themselves in my dreams. I rarely can recreate them verbatim after I wake up. I was just in the final stages of the dream (and the poem) when CLH kissed my forehead on his way out the door. Now, most people would be touched by the tenderness of that action: a man gently kissing his still-slumbering love goodbye as he heads out the door for the day. When you ARE that still slumbering love, and you just LIVE for strokes of genius like this and your brain is writing this incredible poem about this character you've been dreaming about, complete with alliterative references to Lot and his wife turning to a pillar of salt and killer free form structure... and someone wakes you up just as your brain is putting the final brushstrokes on your masterpiece, and your brain activity immediately jumps from "Writing The Next Langston Hughes Award Piece" to "What Was That Sensation, Now Must Put Food In Mouth".... well, you kinda lose your shit. And then you sulk about it for the whole day.

Elizabeth Gilbert expertly tackles this very conundrum. She quotes two writers, Ruth Stone, and Tom Waits, each of whom have ways of dealing with the incredibly inopportune times that "genius" comes knocking (like when your dear CLH just wants to say goodbye to you while your lazy ass is still sleeping). Not once have I ever, like Tom Waits did, told Inspiration to cool its jets, that I was driving, for god's sake, and would not be able to get to a pen and paper. Instead, I have, over the years, stocked the car with several notepads and writing instruments, and driven with my knees while I balance a pad on the steeting wheel, trying to scribble down the five words or so that suddenly come into my head from out of nowhere. My approach to writing is rather like a hunter's is to hunting: I lay many, many traps for the poems to get snared in and hope for the best. I have notebooks in my bedroom, in my messenger bag, in my car... in practically every place I can think of so that I won't ever be able to say I wasn't ready.

Maybe if I was a little more deliberate, a little more practiced, a little more regimented, I could be have a better working relationship with that Inspiration instead of being resentful at it for having smacked me in the teeth at 5 am, or while I'm doing 65 on the Interstate.

Gilbert claims (and i agree with her) that it is much more healthy to say that we are not the geniuses ourselves, that it is the writing that is genius. We can thereby take the onus off ourselves to produce works of mindboggling brilliance EVERY time we write. I think this fear that I will miss something, that I won't be a "genius" every time I write, is what keeps my car and nightstand stocked with paper.

Why do we get so impatient with the source of inspiration and beg it to hold on for just one sec while we grab a pencil? Why does it always feel like it's rising up over the horizon, threatening to swallow me whole if I don't defend myself with a pen? This is what the practice of writing must teach me: that it is my job to show up, to do my best work, and to tell Inspiration to buzz off once in a while, go bother some other writer. I can't be poised like a nervous stenographer every moment of the day. It's exhausting. The writing can come from a place that is light and airy. The part that holds all these words hostage isn't always a dark cave. Sometimes it's a window thrown open, a bright clear stream overflowing its banks. And I can let them loose whenever I want.

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Crocuses and Bulls

Before CLH comes in here and tells me that using my laptop in bed is bad for the machine, and before the guilt for not posting dissipates into "awww, eff it", here are some things I have been up to lately, in no particular order. Consider this my long-winded Facebook status update. And no, i still don't have a Facebook account.

Here goes:

Crossword puzzles. Thanks to CLH's awesome birthday gift and to Will Shortz's humongous brain, I have been doing one a day. The New York Times has a very smart thing going with their online puzzle subscription. I have a fear bordering on hypochondriasis of Alzheimer's. I read somewhere (I CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE. NOW DO YOU SEE?) that keeping the brain limber via mental exercise is a good way to prevent Alzheimer's. And since keeping track of 12 clients and their appointments and memorizing at least three passwords for each of those clients, as well as the passwords for my own set of books and the password for my phone, my computer, and several other devices that need to know my mother's maiden name to operate WASN'T ENOUGH, I have prescribed myself a steady diet of crossword puzzles for the next 365 days, at least.

I bought this phone (you remember when I made the leap, don't you?) mostly because my clients, having updated THEIR phones, were now contacting me via text about our appointments, and well, the telegraph office was too far away by rickshaw, and I needed a way to stay in touch that wasn't so... y'know, 1981. I also wanted a way to take quick, cheap pictures of stuff I saw out in the world that seemed blogworthy. Like the time the supermarket near my house was visible from space because of the giant wall of PUMPKINS it had built around its front entrance. Or the time that guy left his dog in the front seat of his car while he ran in to buy a taco from the Mexican place and the dog looked he was leaned back in the seat smoking a cigarette. Of course, as soon as i bought the phone, I forgot all about that plan and used it to just to call people. How Plebian of me. Now that i have a few spare moments to myself every day (tax season is mercifully behind me now), I can get back to the ridiculous in life and start taking pictures of the really important things in life, like menu typos and puddles of water shaped like Gorbachev's birthmark. Here is a recent one:

Crocuses have a way of being so heavy with metaphor for me they practically bend over with the weight of it. They're somewhat whimsical, somewhat oblivious to anything but the great ball of gas in the sky (which is why i feel such kinship with them). They get the tiniest glimpse of the sun in freezing cold February and they're all "WHAT? I WANTED TO COME OUT, ALRIGHT?"

I went back to Jersey recently to attend a wedding. It happened to fall on the weekend of my brother's 30th birthday. I threw him a little party (which he thanked me profusely for with ribcage-crushing hugs).


Nothing says "Happy 30th!" like a little plastic bull fornicating with an oversized carrot made of sugar and butter. That's just how we roll in my family. Heavy drinking and karaoke followed.

I have been working, working, working. Nonstop. Weekends. Weekdays. All the time. My work schedule has FINALLY slowed down now that the federal deadlines have come and gone. Now I just have to work on filling jump drives and mailing them off to various CPAs so they can do their part of the work. It's almost odd (and, frankly, sad) that i don't know what to do with all this spare time. It's like i have a normal life now or something. I'm looking forward to catching up on reading, hemming some pants, and baking bread. Y'know. The sexy, glamorous things in life.

A good friend recently gave me a sourdough starter to bake bread with.... and that little jar intimidates the hell out of me. I mean, I've lived with pets that have required less care than that blob of yeast. I'm scared of killing it. It doesn't make any sense. It's twenty freakin' cents worth of flour, FREE tap water, and a recycled peanut butter jar. If i kill it, so WHAT? Just start over, right? Well, I'm having some guilt over the houseplants i recently froze in our laundry room. We call the laundry room the "meat locker" for obvious reasons. You could hang a side of beef in there and it would keep for the next ten years it's so damned cold. The guy who built this house opted for the "keep the kids on their toes by not insulating their bedrooms" package, so the laundry room is always a crisp 29 degrees or so. It's definitely not a place to put tropical plants. In the summer, plenty of sunshine gets through the windows. But, in the winter, the only thing that gets in is eighteen degree air. I got lazy and didn't move the plants to a warmer location before I went on vacation and so they offed themselves when the first snow hit. I've had some of them for YEARS. I was so MAD at myself (and at CLH who kept asking over and over again if maybe I had "just forgotten to water them". I later apologized for clawing out his throat). So, now I'm afraid of killing even bacteria. I'm going to feed the starter tomorrow morning and, if all goes well, start baking bread tomorrow night.

My car *almost* got stolen a month after our house got broken into. I say almost because the thieves got so far as breaking the steering column and stickin' her in reverse. Then they figured out the steering column was locked, so they couldn't turn the wheel after they'd backed out of the driveway. And that's why they left my car, after they'd scraped the side of the neighbor's parked car with it, parked in my neighbor's hedgerow. That's right: i said "IN". Those idiots drove it right into the hedge, got out, and left it idling there for nearly two hours. My roommate was the one who found the car when we came home from work and came in and told me about it. I am lucky to have my car back after only $50 in repairs. I still think it was the David Byrne that was playing at top volume when they started the car that scared them away.

We're moving out!! CLH and I have had enough of commuting and having major appliances stolen, so we're moving back in to the city proper in the next few months here. I cannot wait. My sister gave us these beautiful owl-shaped salt and pepper shakers for Christmas, and I swear, I am planning to decorate our new home around those two lumps of ceramic.

So, that's the less than complete recap. I've really got to exercise my writing muscles more often. I've got a bet going with a friend that I can't complete a whole chapter of a book before month's end... and I intend to win. So far, I have an outline. It's something, at least. I'm hoping to share some of the more thought provoking things I've scribbled in the notebooks stashed throughout my life soon.

If I can't, maybe I'll just post pictures of dogs and assorted members of the squash family.

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December, Part 2

Let's talk about theivin'. In the past 30 days, I've witnessed and/or have been told about more break-ins and robberies than I have ever experienced in my whole life. Seriously. I'll say it again because I can't believe it. In the past thirty days, I have experienced more theft than I have in my whole lifetime. I'm trying to figure out what it is, exactly. I mean, I know the economy's in the tank. I know people are hard up for everything from groceries to gas... but, honestly, I feel like the whole world is going out of its way to prove that old economics textbook inverse corrolary between the economy and crime. It goes: when things get bad, the theivin' starts.

So, the first incident, of course, is my house. I'll get to that. But, first, I just HAVE to tell you about what happened to two clients of mine. The first one was moving her office from the first floor of a building to the third. She works for a larger company and that company was moving all its offices to the third floor as well. The company hired a moving company to move the heavy stuff like filing cabinets and furniture. The moving company told my client's company this: they, the movers, would be responsible for everything but laptops. The movers were NOT to touch laptops. The owners of laptops were told to have them OUT of the building on moving day. Moving day came and my client showed up to loosely supervise. When she saw the crew come in, she knew something wasn't right. They all looked a little shifty. One of them approached her while he was on his cell phone and asked her the address of the place. That was a little odd since he should have known that... having shown up for work that day at said address and all. Well, within seconds, the guy had swooped into the empty room where she had her purse and her laptop bag (she ignored the caveat about laptops) and was out the door, literally hopping into a getaway car (the thief was on the phone with the driver; that's who needed the address). She did an equally brazen thing and ran up to the supervisor from the moving company and ordered him to get into his car and pursue the guy. They tried, but they weren't able to catch up with him in time. Within hours, they'd gone to the Sprint store and racked up $2800.00 in sales with her stolen credit card.

Then, I get into work this morning, check my email, and discover that another client of mine, traveling in South America, had his car broken into while he was sitting in it. He was stopped at a red light, minutes from the airport, when a man broke the window behind the driver's seat, reached in, grabbed a camera, a phone, and a bag with a passport and credit cards in it, and then sped away on his friend's motorcyle. It all happened in seconds flat. Unbelievable, huh?

When I rifle through the Rolodex in my mind and stop on "image of thief", I've got a guy dressed in black wearing a ski mask, almost comically sneaking-around-on-tiptoe in the night and carrying a cinched burlap sack. Ten blissful years in front of a TV on Saturday morning is probably to blame for that. Now I don't know what to think. Could be "guy at barber shop". Could be "dude next to me on bus". I have no idea. I do know that he's brazen enough to freakin' ASK HIS VICTIM the address of the building he's about to rob, and I know he's quick and strong enough to punch through a car window and yoink a couple thousand dollars worth of electronics and cash in the time it takes a light to go from red to green.

World, have you gone crazy?

...

It starts with a rabbit and ends with a rabbit. There are rabbits that live on our property. Maybe they are the offspring of the previous owners' rabbits. Maybe they've just always lived under the rhododendron on the side of the house. I don't know. I do know this: on some mornings, when I get ready to leave for work, there is a black rabbit sitting near my car. Sometimes he's on the lawn munching our weeds. Most of the time, though, he's near my wheels. It's like he's waiting for me. There's another rabbit, a white one, with black feet, but he doesn't come around as much as the black one does. The black one just sits and waits. When I get close, he takes off. When I found him the day of the robbery, I had this thought: He is the only bright spot in my life right now. Every morning, when I stepped out of the house and I surveyed the mess under the carport, or the spiny, dead, brown boughs of the monkey tree all around the front porch, or the muddy, scrubby incline of the driveway, I would just sigh heavily under weight of all that ugliness and work to do. And then I would see Black Bunny (as I took to calling him). And suddenly, everything was okay.

The day of the break-in was an odd one in that all the rules of routine were broken. I took the day off work- unusual for me- and the housemates were working at the same time, away from the house- unusual for them. CLH was spending the first half of the day at home and the second half away. We got up early (again, an anomoly for me) and went shopping for some last minute things so that I could pack up the box of Christmas gifts to be shipped back to my family and the suitcase to be brought to Panama. CLH and I came home, did a few things around the house, and then we left at the same time- he in one direction and me in the direction of the post office. I was so relieved to check "mail 50 lb box across country" that I almost didn't notice the dark mound in the front of the house when I pulled up. It was raining out. It had been raining for days. The ground was muddy; since we don't have sidewalks in our part of town (cue banjo music), i was able to see clearly that the dark mound was a rabbit. And it wasn't moving. It was Black Bunny. He was lying on his side. There was a small pool of blood behind his head.

I went inside and called CLH. He chuckled a little at my calling to report dead wildlife, but he stopped when i started to cry. Softly at first, and then the heaving sobs came. And then a great tidal wall of revelations hit me. The first revelation was this: I really loved that damned rabbit. The second was this: dead rabbits, pets or not, in the front of one's house, are not an omen of good things to come. In fact, they are an omen of horrible things to come. I said as much to CLH. "I don't think we should get on the plane", I said. We were scheduled to leave, at the point, in 12 hours. "We can talk more about it when I get home", he said. He said it in that way that suggested he knew that even though the idea of not getting on the plane because of a dead rabbit sounded ludicrous, he'd experienced firsthand too many accounts of my intuition being right to dismiss it.

I sat in my office and finished working on the project I had for the next three hours. Every once in a while I would look up from my work and stare across the front lawn to the dark spot. The rain was falling, and it just made the day seem all the more ominous. There was a heaviness in the air- there was a potentiality that I couldn't name, and in the absence of knowing, I started constructing the story of this rabbit's life. And this made me cry harder. Firstly, I knew it was a male rabbit. I didn't know this for sure. I just felt it. I knew his name was Black Bunny. I knew he felt safe at our house. He was my little spot of sunshine. The white bunny was his bunny wife. They had bunny children. I'd never seen them but CLH and the other housemates had seen them. He was their provider. He scoped out the lawn in the morning and came back and told them all where the good weeds were. And then he was dead. Some careless driver, probably, speeding down our residential street, had run him over and he'd limped to our front lawn to die. He was dead. His family missed him. It was raining, and I was alone, and I was staring out my window at his body, and he was dead. Thinking about his little white bunny wife... thinking about the white bunny finding his body out there in the rain... well, that just made me cry harder. The word "innocence" kept running through my head. I couldn't shake the feeling, the word. I had to. So, I decided to leave the house.

Around 6, I finished my work, took a shower, and got ready to leave. Again, completely out of sync with any normal routine, I was going to do the following: I was going to go work at a client's place for a few hours, then go to a party to see off a friend who was also traveling the next day, and then go home around midnight to catch a few hours of sleep before getting on the plane.

I left the house at around 6:30. I stopped at a store to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I got to my client's place around 7:30. At about 8:15, CLH called. "Someone broke into the house", he said.

I got home in record time. The thieves had kicked open the front door, so the door didn't close quite right. They'd hit my office, then my housemate's upstairs, and then they booked on outta there. It was a rush job for sure. They hadn't even unplugged the computer; they'd just dragged it from the wall to the front door. The surge supressor that everything was plugged into was in the middle of the room. There is nothing like surveying the mess someone else makes of your personal belongs... it does two things. It raises your blood pressure and it fills you with the most overwhelming sense of violation. There was the party favor from my dad's uncle's 50th wedding anniversary, on the floor. There was the picture of my family at Christmas, torn from the side of my file cabinet, on the floor. There was the memo pad holder that my grandfather made me when I was a small child, on the floor. My adding machine, the paper unspooled. My pencil cup. Everything on the floor, knocked over, spilled out, trampled on.

They pulled the laptop out of its power strip, but not before crashing into my craft table- and two UNsewn 4"x4" canvas bags of unpopped popcorn. (I was in the process of finishing them for a game of Cornhole. ) I had to clean that up too. As I swept, I kept hoping all those hundreds of kernels crashing to the floor scared the bejesus out of them, even if it was just for a few seconds.

They made off with my two laptops and my desktop, and a few small electronics. They also got a few computers from my housemate. They didn't however, seem interested in the passports that were just lying there, in plain sight, on the desktop. I was absolutely amazed at either their stupidity, their haste, or both.

The police officer arrived soon enough. We were told by the 911 dispatcher that he was busy investigating a vehicular homicide down the street. "Joy!" I thought. All this just in time for the holidays, when humanity is at its finest. The cop, either recognizing the potty mouth that spills out of us native born New Jerseyans when the ish hits the fan, or picking up on my references to having to tell the East Coast family that Santa came early and TOOK presents instead of giving them, reveals that he was born not to far from where I was born. Go figure. He spends an extra long time fingeprinting the place. "Fingerprinting?" I think to myself. "Do they even DO that anymore? I thought that went out with VCRs..." He got a few good ones, too. My bedside table drawer was left open- apparently, the thieves were looking for guns in there- and we knew they'd have used their grubby little paws to pry open the clean lines of our Scandanavian design inspired drawer faces. Weren't they disappointed to find a giant red leather bound Webster's dictionary and a few tubs of shea butter?! Ha, you jerks. That's what happens when you mess with intellectual peaceniks. You look for guns and what you get is fair trade shea butter.

The cop spends nearly three hours fingerprinting. It is midnight by the time he leaves. We are all exhausted. We start thinking about that party we were going to go to. We look around, survey the damage, throw the last dustpan of corn away... and then we all pile into the car and head towards the party.

CLH and I don't sleep that night. We just stay up all night. We hit an all night diner and order eggs and toast at three in the morning. We go home, get our stuff, and head to the airport. We are missing our computers, but we have our passports. By the grace of some god, or because criminals are just too dumb to know, we have our passports. And that's all we need.

Am I leaving out the hatred, the rage, the wanting to gouge someone's eyes out with a spoon upon seeing my office the way it was? Yes. There are greater injustices in this world than having your machinery stolen, so I don't want to dwell. I was lucky. I had three machines to be stolen. For god's sake. The thing that stung more, of course, was feeling like I was walking amongst criminals for the next couple of hours. ANYone could have done this. Anyone could have kicked in my door. Guy waiting for bus? Guy in convenience store? I didn't know. And I hate not trusting humanity. I was on high alert for the next 24 hours. I couldn't let my guard down. It didn't happen till I was in the air for a good couple of hours.

We had an absolutely amazing time in Panama; I'll tell you all about it soon.

But, back the bunnies. I can't even describe accurately the scene that follows the cop leaving and before we head to the party. We go outside, all four of us, plus some relatives of our housemates' who drove down upon getting the call. It's raining. It's dark. Housemate and CLH have already scooped up Black Bunny from the front of the house and put him in a cardboard box. They've dug a hole in the backyard near the tulip tree. When the cop shows up, they come back inside to give their testimony. They are wet and their boots are covered in mud. There is a joke somewhere in all this... I want to tell the copy to add "murder" to his list of things to attend to. The victim is out in the yard...

But I don't, exactly. I am somber. We gather in the rain and in the pitch dark night to each throw a little clod of mud onto Black Bunny's grave. I am sobbing like I am burying the love of my life. The break-in, my dead rabbit friend... I can't deal. I feel the world is supremely unjust in that moment.

We return from our trip down south refreshed and renewed. All desire to gouge out eyes with kitchen utensils has passed. A huge snowstorm paralyzes the city for a week straight while we were gone and I am so glad to have missed it.

With snow comes tracks. And one morning, as CLH and I each leave the house for our cars, he points out a familiar pattern in the snow on the lawn. Two little round indentations, then an oval, in succession. Rabbits. I don't know how it's possible. I nearly leap for joy. I do the calculations in my head: rabbits + rabbits = rabbits. Where there was one, there are many. There rabbits have come back to hang out on our lawn. Maybe those tracks belong to Black Bunny.

And then, a day later, I see him. A black bunny. I don't know if he is Black Bunny, and that maybe Black Bunny wasn't the bunny we buried, or if he is just a black bunny, and Black Bunny is dead, but he is by my car. And he is waiting for me. And he is saying, in his telekinetic bunny way, it's okay. I'm here. I'm here for you. It's going to be okay.

And it is.

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December Interrruped to Bring You a Book Review

Alright. I am interrupting Tales of December to demand you read a book. I'm pushy, I know. Especially after I demanded back in Fall that you read "What Is The What", by Dave Eggers. But, it's a great book. A book primarily about a child who was given lobotomy in the 60's, but, ultimately, it's a book about triumphing over abuse.

I was driving to work one day when I heard the now famous NPR radio program about Howard Dully. At the urging of his stepmother, he was given a trans orbital lobotomy by Dr. Walter Freeman. The goal of the operation given to Dully, and thousands of others, was to relieve a whole slew of symptoms ranging from depression to violent tendencies, schizophrenia and migraines. In Howard Dully's case, it was unnecessary. He was a perfectly normal boy. The only thing "wrong" with Howard Dully was that he was being forced to live in a highly dysfunctional home. The emotional instability he suffered was not caused by chemical deficiencies or physical deformation of his brain, but by the combined rage and neglect of his unstable stepmother and his indifferent father. He suffered so much from their abuse that, at times, he thought that living in institutions and stranger's homes seemed preferable to living at home. He was made to feel unwanted, unloved, and "different" his whole life.

I don't want to eclipse the fact that this poor guy had a ego-maniacal doctor knock him unconscious with electroshock and then push two ice picks through this eye sockets to scratch at the connective tissue in his brain... there were a few people mentioned in the book who agreed that lobotomies were better relegated to the "most failed, most barbaric medical treatment ever devised" category. But, there is a much bigger thing, I think to take away from this book, and that's the gift Howard Dully gives us with his story.

He shows us how vitally important it is to feel loved by our parents, and how, without that love in the beginning of our lives, we are nearly always destined to a life of self destruction, violence, hopelessness and directionlessness. Obviously, this all fate can be triumphed over, as Mr. Dully so humbly, thoughtfully, and eloquently has shown us. But it took Mr. Dully nearly his whole life to reconcile with himself. It takes many people the world over that same lifetime. In the meantime, they are set to a course of self-destructive behaviors (including drugs and crime) which, very obviously has a ripple affect on society. One person is raised without love and attention, and the whole society suffers. I just feel like the connection between psychopathic killers and their indifferent mothers, drug dealers and their absent father figures, gang members and their overcompensation for clannishness caused by a lack of real family cohesion... speaks volumes and volumes about the importance of wanted-ness in a child's life. I'm not a psychologist, but I don't actually think I need a few letters behind my name to point out that, if you asked every person locked up in jail right now, every desperate person living on the edge, how stable his or her childhood was, I bet you'd get the same answer over and over again. Some would say we can't intervene in the life of every person (or can we? Just ask Geoffrey Canada. He'll tell you otherwise. I tend to agree with him...), but surely we can dedicate more resources, in this country and others, to ensuring we aren't raising the next generation of murderers, rapists, criminals, etc., right?

What I have to think is that, given the time this all happened (the 50's-60's) "talking about your feelings" was just not the psycho therapeutic approach it is today. Dully talks a lot about the pride his father possessed. It was this pride, and the inability to ask anyone for real help with his son, (and his inability to talk about anything "negative" because negative thoughts were "useless" to him) that caused Howard to be shuffled around from institution to institution his whole life. Howard Dully's step mom, especially, seemed to have a personal vendetta against her stepson. He was the target for all her unexpressed rage, her dissatisfaction with the world. She didn't seem to have an outlet for the hurt and pain caused by her own walk-out mom, her alcoholic dad, and, later, her alcoholic first husband. Dully brilliantly wraps up his book by acknowledging this cycle of neglect and abuse. He, even after all he'd been through, was able to see that his step mom suffered a lack of love in her own life, that this was her motivation in treating him the way she did, and that she deserved compassion just the same as he did. His father too, though he couldn't bring himself to say the words "I love you" to his own son during his interview (arguably the most powerful radio interview you'll ever hear) was still loved unconditionally by Howard Dully. THIS is my reason for loving this book so much. The author knows, now, how a procedure like a lobotomy can be allowed to happen. And he knows now, too, how to prevent one from ever happening again.

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December, Part I

I know, I know. I left you hanging. What happened in Panama? How was Christmas? What happened with the break-in? Well, let me tell you now. All of it. Starting from the beginning. I'm just warning you right now that I may not get to it all. There's quite a bit to tell. But I will start.

Part One: The Faint

We start midweek with a fainting spell. I go to the doctor for a routine blood test. I faint. I faint real bad. So bad that it takes two nurses to hold me up after thirty seconds of unconsciousness. The one nurse looks shaken. She is saying something to me... something along the lines of, "It helps to put your head between your knees" and the other nurse responds, "Usually they can't move when they go out like this". I am so weak I can barely open my eyes. The room comes into focus slowly. Sounds are muted and strange and I can only hear out of my left ear. My body feels like it's been filled with lead. I look slowly to my left and see that my arm has flopped onto to the metal surgical table and that I've knocked over several empty plastic vials. I am trying to figure out when my arm got to the table. I am trying to respond to the nurse's suggestion to sit up, but I cannot move. I am so weak. I am nauseous. It takes all the energy in me to respond to my name. I am being held up in the chair by two strong nurses who are bracing the weight of their whole beings against my knees and shoulders.

After ten minutes, I am ready to move to the reclining chair, which is just a few feet away. The nurse chides that I should have told her that I was a fainter; she would have drawn my blood while I was lying down. I smile faintly and apologize. I don't have the energy to say anything witty. I feel sick. I lay down. After five minutes, I ask the nurse to hand me my phone. I call CLH. Luckily, he is in the neighborhood. I can hardly get my voice above a whisper, so he asks me to repeat myself three times. "I fainted", I say. I tell him to come get me. There is no way I can drive back to work.

In the meantime, a third nurse comes to the room. The first nurse has fed me a Tootsie Roll and some juice, but my body doesn't really want to eat anything. I eat it all anyway, knowing that I need to restore my blood sugar level. The third nurse is a senior nurse. I can tell by the way she tells the first nurse "no more Tootsie Rolls", and asks me what I ate that day. I sheepishly admit that I've only had an apple and some granola. I know I should have eaten more that day, but it's days before we are leaving for vacation, and when I get busy I sometimes forget to eat and I've been working long days to make up for all the days I will be missing and I am stressed out. The nurse shakes her head ruefully as I list what I've eaten that day and says that I just have super low blood sugar from not eating and asks if I will eat a protein bar if she brings it down. I say yes even though I hate protein bars. I still feel sick but know that I should eat to get my blood sugar up. She brings the bar back and I take two bites and cannot chew. I just let the brown gritty mass sit in my mouth and wait for it to dissolve.

Another ten minutes goes by. CLH arrives, calm and doctor-ly. He asks some questions, doctor-ly questions. I tell him what I've eaten that day. I try to take another bite of the protein bar. A few more minutes go by and I finally feel like I might be able to stand up. Well, not really. I feel like I could just sleep in the chair I am lying in. I was covered in sweat, burning with heat fifteen minutes ago and now I am freezing. I just want to sleep. I am so weak, I can barely bring the protein bar to my lips. The nurse and CLH help me out of the chair. My eyes are not right. Maybe they are dilated? It's like I can see the entire floor of the clinic in one glance. I can barely lift my head, so I am concentrating on my feet. Left foot, right foot. Keep moving. The car is not far away, I keep thinking. Just get through the door. Now just get through the hallway. Now to the end of the hallway. Now up the stairs. Go slow on the stairs. CLH is holding on to me and I imagine, from a distance, we must look like an old couple. I imagine that this is what it feels like to be really, really old. Like your body is full of lead. Like you just want to sleep all day long.

I get to the outside and inhale deeply. I kneel down next to the car and puke up the apple. A man walks by and asks if I am alright, if we need help. CLH smiles at him and says we are okay. I stand up and inhale deeply again while CLH fishes for a napkin inside the car. I get in the car and feel remarkably better. I say that I almost feel good enough to go back to work. We laugh a little. It's been nearly an hour and a half since the nurse finished filling that vial with my blood. I tell CLH to call my client, tell him I can't make it back in. We drive home and I get right into bed. I sleep for two hours. When I wake, I still feel dizzy and nauseous and the feeling stays with me for nearly a day. The hearing never really returns to my right ear.

...

This is not the first time I have fainted this bad this year. In the late summer, I fainted while CLH was giving me a fancy cramp-relieving massage. It freaked him out (strangely enough, in all the years we have been together, he has never seen me faint). When I came to, he was holding me in his arms like a soldier holds his wounded buddy. We made a little Pieta right there in the massage room. Me, limp and feeling like my body was full of liquid metal, and him looking down at me, concentrating, and a little scared. That faint was the first really bad one of my life. The first one that took me a whole day to recover from.

I've fainted other times in my life. There was that time, that first fainting in a clinician's office- when my pet guinea pig received a little impromptu swabbing at his rump to remove the pus and scabbing... that sentence alone should make you want to faint. I remember something about a red tricycle going around my head real fast- like stars or birds around the heads of conked-out cartoon characters. And the next thing I know, my dad is smiling down at me telling me I fainted. I remember thinking that I was too young to faint, that that was for Victorian ladies wearing too-tight corsets.

Then there were the times when we made ourselves faint on purpose. One of us had learned that if you pressed your Catholic school uniform tie up against some one's trachea for just a few seconds, they blacked out. But just for a few seconds, and then they came to. And the dreams they had while they were out were absolutely amazing. I remember having it done to me, and I remember having about a dozen, cacophonous dreams, all vivid and loud... and being so confused and giddy when I came to. I remember feeling thrilled, euphoric afterward. It was like doing drugs without the drugs. And the high was just seconds, with no side effects.

There were noises and colors this time around too. But they all came together in a loud, dissonant way. Like a car crash of sound. All my dreams smashed into one another at high speeds and every image bled into one another and when I came to, I was in pain. I thought maybe I actually had been in a car accident. The sounds lasted even after I opened my eyes and tried to focus. The unconscious was bleeding into the conscious and I could not sort it out. I wanted the noise to stop but it wouldn't. I was confused and angry and couldn't do anything about it.

...

The lab results came back perfectly normal. My thyroid is behaving normally. My vitamin D levels are low, typical of folks who live under constant cloud cover. My iron is a little low too, typical of people who don't eat meat. No anemia. Just normal, normal, normal. A recommendation to take a vitamin D supplement, and maybe an iron tablet every now and again.

My naturopath said that, in Chinese medicine, it is believed that people who faint frequently are suffering from a lack of energy input because they are giving it away faster than they are receiving it. In other words, they are doing too much for too many people and not taking enough time for themselves. Like what I had been doing every day of my life for most of my life. Of course. I got it. I got it right then and there. I was standing in the library at the time, talking on my cell phone to my doctor about the lab results and about Chinese medicine. A stack of checked-out books was under my arm. I was checking them out because I wanted to pack them in my suitcase to take on my trip. I'm going to Panama in 24 hours, I told the doctor. I am going to a place where I will serve no one. Where I will be taking no phone calls. Where I will be unable to be reached by email. Where my task list will have nothing on it. Where there will be no fainting for a very long time.

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On Auto Pilot

I am just muddling through, marching with my eyes at half mast. Trying to get through to the end of 2008. Working, working, working. I am a robot, a robot in skin still peeling. Still in the midst of unpacking and doing laundry and sorting through my bills and getting my new computer up and running... the wrapping paper still on my desk, the clothes in heaps, the suitcases still in the hallway, the mail still not sent, the boxes still not put away. I am filling out police reports and trying to find a carpenter to repair our doorjamb and hunting like an animal every morning in our cupboards for food I don't remember storing there. I am constantly thirsty and exhausted and my head feels heavy. I am content, I am slow moving, I am just on the verge of being consumed by responsibility. I dream of the color blue and of the beach every night. I hear the ocean, the birds in my sleep. I wake with the sunrise now, something I haven't done in years and years. I want to go away again. I want to finish reading my book. I want to tell you everything in one sitting. I want to stretch out the telling to last for days. I want to be back on vacation.

The heat coming out of the vents feels odd to me, almost too hot. I am slowly, slowly acclimating.

Something did not come back with me. Something hurried. I do not want it to find me again.

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I don't know what to tell you first.
My house was broken into 10 hours before we got on the plane. The thieves stole my computers. All of them. Wrecked my room. Stole my housemate's machines, too. Kicked in our front door, broke the lock. It took me the whole 10 hours of flying to come down from wanting to kill someone with my bare hands.
On Wednesday, I went for a routine blood draw and fainted. Fainted real bad. Took me a LONG time to recover. My naturopath told me that, in Chinese medicine, when someone is prone to fainting, it means they are putting out more energy than they are taking in. I told her I would keep an eye on that.
Hours before the break-in, our wild pet rabbit was killed. He lived on our property and occasionally munched our dandelions and hung out near my car. He was my little spot of sunshine. I had to bury him in the rain and in the dark as I was waiting for the cops to come.
I am hotter than hell and loving it. I just finished a breakfast of fresh fruit, fruit juice, and yogurt. I am happy to be wearing minimal clothing. A little gecko scurried across our doorjamb as we entered the room of our B n B night *the amersand's gone missing on this keyboard* and I took it as a good omen. Things are looking up.
I will be on my way to the beach here in just a short time here. I've brought 5 books and a brand new journal with me. I've brought 2 bathing suits and FAR too much clothing. There will be no Internet where I am going.
We are flying to the east coast in 9 days to visit our families. After the break-in, all I wanted was to be there. With familiarity. With routine. With comfort and the smells of turkey roasting and fresh cookies and the dry cold smell of snow. I cannot wait to see my siblings.

I am now officially ready to exhale and let vacation consume me.

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Why I’ll Wake Up with a Van Halen Song In My Head Every Morning From Now Until Mid-December

It's that time of year again. The time of year when I don't take my coat off when I come from work (I wear it until bedtime) because I just can't seem to warm up. I wear legwarmers around the house (and sometimes to bed). I run out of bed in the morning and head right for the heat ducts in the floor and stand next to them, hunched over like a guilty raccoon. Today the sky had a quality to it that made me think of my East Coast childhood days. The clouds were high and the rain freezing. I had a thought at about 2 pm or so while I was sitting at a stoplight: somewhere, just beyond those clouds up there, there is a big, burning ball of gas, so hot it will burn my skin. And very, very soon, I will be closer to it than I've ever been in my life. Thank Jeebus.

In a mere 18 days, I am going to Panama. The great comedy of this whole cold-as-hell tragedy is that I can't say the word Panama. I just can't. I have to sing it. As in "Pa-nuh-muh! Pa-nuh-MUH-uh-UNH-uhn-uh-uh!" As in, Eddie Van Halen's scratchy screechy PA-NU-MUH delivered from the depths of his be-mulletted soul. I giggle inside every time everyone asks me where I'm going for two weeks. "Panama", I say. "PA-NU-MUH!" is what it sounds like in my head. I do a little kick-split when I'm saying this.

Panama it is. Beach and mountains. Equatorial, baby. That means HOT. Like minimal clothing hot. Like tropical fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner hot. Like 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity hot. Aaaaaaah.... I can feel it now. Okay, maybe it's the wool socks and sweater and scarf and hot tea I'm feeling. Still... 90 degrees. Hell yes. I'm gonna get what I've always wanted as an adult for Christmas: a tan.

CLH and I have been loosely planning this for some time now. You know how when the Universe tells you something once, it's interesting, and twice, it's a coincidence, and three times, you pack your bags and don't look back? I'm a big believer in reading the writing on the wall (especially if the writing comes in the form of many, many random people who've never met before all telling you the same thing about a country you've never given two thoughts about before in your life). Well, I had a one-two-three run-in with the Universe dropping hints last year sometime and I came home one day and said, "We need to go to Panama." And here we are, months later, with an itinerary and everything. It's a pretty loose itinerary. It looks like this: Panama City, the canal, beach for five days, mountains for four, and then it's Christmas time with the fam on the East Coast. Then it's back on a plane and we're back home in the cold and the gloom. Sigh. Focus on the beach part. Focus.

I have mixed feelings about it, naturally. On the one hand, I'm all WHOO HOO! HOT SUN AND SAND AND PEACE AND QUIET! And on the other hand, I'm, "Um.... yeah... Panama. About that whole colonization of your country by my peeps... REALLY sorry about that, dude. We really botched that one. Apparently, we haven't really honed our We're-building-infrastructure-in-other-countries-without-killing-a-good-portion-of-the-native-population skills. We're working on that in Iraq right now..." Added to the pile of guilt over my being white and having enough disposable income to go lay on a beach somewhere tropical is my guilt over the carbon footprint (Yeti sized) we're leaving by taking a three legged plane journey. Having a conscience is an exhausting thing.

There is also the information I picked up from reading "Maiden Voyage" not too long ago. I don't remember the author spending as much time describing the land-features of a place as much as she did Panama (it's a book about sailing, for goodness' sake, so for her to talk so much about land... it had a big impact on her). Panama City is not unlike any city where Captain WhiteMan has pushed the indigenous folks off their land and then plundered it for resources or opportunity or both. The disparity between the rich and poor is drastic and obvious. What I remember from the book is this: the zone along the Canal is populated by the descendants of the folks who were in charge of building the canal (read: old money) and the area just outside the zone is populated by the workers who helped built it (read: no money). Having read a few books now about sailing around the world, and specifically around islands whose populations have seen The Conqueror come and go, I am uber-sensitive to the impact my presence has on the local economies of such places.

I will keep all this in the front of my mind as I hand over my credit card. I will be grateful to the people of Panama for letting me lie on their beaches and sleep nestled inside their eco-lodges on their coffee plantations. And I will do air kicks and brush my air-mullet bangs out of my eyes every time I say the name of their gloriously rockin' country.

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Yes, We DID!

From an actual email I sent my younger siblings a few days before the election:

"Here's the thing, my dear sibs: this is destined to be an HISTORIC event, this election. Seriously. November 4 feels like Christmas Eve to me. I cannot WAIT to wake up on November 5th and have this eight year nightmare come to an end. As a working class stiff who has to cut a $2000 check to Uncle Sam every four months for my estimated income tax payment, I deeply, deeply resent the fact that my hard earned money is going to pay for Iraq's infrastructure while our bridges literally fall to pieces during rush hour. I deeply resent that a majority of my tax money pays for bombs and guns, and only a tiny fraction is funneled into our education system. It breaks my heart, honestly. I could go on, but I think you get the point. I have watched for almost two years the Republicans waging a campaign of fear mongering and unmitigated hatred towards anyone who dares disagree with them. Sarah Palin has called parts of the country "un-American". McCain has said that the state of women's health is an "extreme" stance the left uses to defend their position on access to safe, legal abortion. His own constituency is so uninformed and so beleaguered by xenophobia that McCain has actually had to deflect their inane questions on national TV by grabbing the mic back from them and changing the subject. There are too many examples to list here of how they have tried to appeal to our most base sense of fear of other, and fear of change, to get themselves elected. That, coupled with the fact that i DIRECTLY, through my tax dollars, am forced to fund their agenda of vengeance and exclusion, has turned me into something I never thought I would be: a voter.

I am STRONGLY encouraging you, even if you don't care one bit about politics, to look around on November 4th. Something incredibly important is about to happen. If you are registered to vote, i URGE you, with every bone in my being, to vote for Barack Obama. You know that something historic is afoot when people in BERLIN, in BRAZIL, in LONDON are rallying on Obama's behalf. The whole WORLD is perched on the edge of their seats waiting for adolescent America to pull the handle for Obama. We have behaved for eight years like hypocrites, like bullies, like ideologues- NOT unlike the very people we are trying to rid the world of to make it "safe for democracy". That Bush can't see the irony is maddening, but also motivating. That's why I am voting. That is why friends have volunteered at phone banks and to drive people around on election day to the polls. It is why I attended our district caucus, along with THOUSANDS of other Washintonians (in some areas a 900 percent increase in turnout rate. NINE HUNDRED). It is why our friends attended a 12,000 member audience to see Joe Biden speak. It is why people have soaped the front windows of their houses in blue in my home town with the words OBAMA 08. It is why my former boss, a staunch Republican, proudly displays his Obama sticker on his car bumper. It is why, on November 5th, the WORLD, the WHOLE world, full of people who have never ONCE cared for politics, is going to break out in song in the streets.

You have a chance to be part of that energy. You have a chance to partake in the making of history. You will be able to say to your kids that you remember utilizing your vote to change the course of history. As a woman, especially, I am mindful of the women who came before me, some of whom literally gave their lives, so that i could, in 2008, vote. Women are not guaranteed that right in many places in the world, so i take my privilege seriously.

I hope you will too. But, even if you don't, even if you can't, just be mindful. I'm obviously very involved in this election cycle, and I think my political leanings are pretty obvious. This election is motivating people at an UNPRECEDENTED level. Literally. Our country is 200 years old and we have never had this many people involved in an election, most of them rallying behind Obama. Even if you don't agree with my politics, take a look around and see how the rest of your country, indeed the rest of the world, is reacting. This is big. "

How do I put it all into a neat little blog posting? I can't. I can just tell you that I must have high-fived two dozen strangers in the street last night. I was part of at least three impromptu parades, one of which was on an escalator coming down from the fourth floor of the hotel in which the governor had just given her acceptance speech. I screamed with joy until I was hoarse. I hugged my friends over and over again. I watched a 6'4" man break down in tears of joy and relief when the race was called. I stood in the same room as my mayor and many of my city's council members last night. I toasted our victory with free beer provided by local, ecstatic bar owners. I had to scream over the car horns in the street, the cheers and the applause to be heard by my friends. In another part of town, fireworks were going off. Other friends were banging pots and pans in the streets with their neighbors. I was told by a bouncer at one bar that he had to throw some punks out of his bar for their appalling remarks towards Obama earlier in the night. "You picked the wrong bar in the wrong city in the wrong state", he told them. I texted friends on the East Coast at midnight. I ran like a wildwoman through the streets, laughing and screaming, tearing through them like a thousand demons had been released from my soul. Indeed, they have been. Ding dong, the witch is dead!

Let the new era begin.

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Look What Four Whole Days of Sunshine This Year Got Me!

So, Summer is officially done here. It's rain and cold and wind from here until May of 2009. That's good news for those of us with boats that need to be pushed by that wind. It's bad news for those us who would prefer to wear a sarong all year round.

This is the time of year when I break out the knitting needles, the sewing machine, the Kitchen Aid... anything to keep my hands busy so I don't go mad with the lack of sunshine. This season's project? Making dresses for next summer out of last summer's t-shirts. More on that soon.

In the meantime:

Holy Nightshade Family, Batman. I mean, Jesus. There's only so much green salsa a girl can eat. Not to fear. NPR is a goldmine of information for the Northwest tomato farmer (read: overly optimistic fool). Just this last Sunday, my buddy Lynn Rosetto Kasper came to the rescue when she answered a call-in from a fellow Northwesterner who'd apparently gotten as crazy with the Cheez Wiz as I had last spring. These bad boys, all SEVENTY POUNDS OF THEM, were sleeping under a blanket of newspaper to trap their ripening off-gasses by the end of the day.

I used the bicycle basket the previous owner left us to cart the suckers all the way through the yard and up the stairs and into the kitchen where I weighed them. I actually had to use my bathroom scale to weigh them. The basket held about 20 pounds when full. I filled it up three and a half times. I lined quite a few up on the windowsill in the living room. Here's the way the rotation works: I leave them on the deck in their newspaper beds to riped to stage orange. Then I move them to the library, the room in the house that gets the most sun. They usually turn red in a day or two.

Day one was hot tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner. Day two: leftovers. Day three: gazpacho, accented with zucchini and cukes also from the garden. Delicious. Now I just have to come up with recipes for the other 60 or so pounds still out on the vines.

These pictures, by the way, come to you courtesy of my new phone: The Insight, Sprint's answer to the iPhone. I can not can not can not believe I had been so far behind the technological curve. I was literally talking on a brick with an antenna on it before I got this phone. I mean, storks literally flew out of the top of it to deliver my text messages. The paint was chipped off and half the buttons didn't light up anymore (that storm in New Orleans did her in. That's the last time I take a phone and a journal to an outdoor concert) This was how I was told, several months ago, by a gracious and sensitive friend, that I HAD to get a new phone:

(On a flight that has just touched down, from a few rows behind me)
Tara: DUDE! Did you just pull the ANTENNA out of your PHONE??? (hysterical laughter)
Me: Um... well... it helps with the reception. No, really it does!
Tara: (bent over laughing) YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! (sputtering, wiping tears from eyes) AN ANTENNA????
(Strangers crane their necks to get a better look. Scene closes as I slink down into my seat, slip my phone into a barf bag, and make a mental note to throw phone onto nearest barge headed for Siberia).

So, now do I not only NOT have to raise the antenna like the beacon of Luddite dorkiness it was, but I can take pictures, check my work email, type lightning fast texts, get directions, search on the Internets, find a coffee shop (pet store, shoe store, SCUBA gear store, chicken lo mein, whatever) within 10 miles, and take video. Take THAT, old phone! And all for the price Sprint was ALREADY charging me to carry around my cancer box with the antenna that did NOTHING. Way to go, Sprint, you scheming thieves!

So, beware, Internets. I may just stick several thousand more pictures up here real soon...

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Money and Rubber Gloves

Nothing like a good screaming match about the economy at the dinner table to make your food go down. Last night we had company, and, like all good liberals, we ranted about the economy and the bail-out plan over our organic greens. This, of course, after CLH and I had a competition to see who could best imitate the sound of an iPhone being docked (I won, hands down.) Being white and nerdy never felt so... well, white and nerdy.

Afterwards, it was off to the Internet (for more white and nerdy entertainment) where we huddled up around my laptop and watched the following:
Suzanne Somers, then and now pictures
Oprah, then and now pictures
Sally Struthers (just to verify it WAS really her, and NOT Suzanne Somers, asking us to Save the Children)
Olan Mills pictures (yikes, yikes, and double yikes)

And then, somehow, I stumbled back onto a good friend's blog. Man, she's good. I think I was digging around in my email looking for other ridiculous links to be taken to as a way to show the guests a good time, and I remembered that I hadn't checked her blog in a while. And even stranger still, I don't know how I landed on this particular passage, but I did. Here it is:

"i have dreams of being mugged and raped. rape is not a new dream. i remember having dreams of being assaulted since middle school. to my knowledge, i have never been molested, but i almost feel that i have a kinesthetic memory--do all women have this? why, when my great-grandmother first told me about when she was raped at the age of 13 (something she never told anyone until her late 60's), did i feel it? are women so smothered by the ubiquitous threat of sexual violence that we have developed extreme empathy to the point where we literally feel the violation of others or the threat of violation, independent of whether we actually lived a sexual assault? "</p>

This is put so eloquently, so damn well, that I just had to reproduce it here. It captures something that, yes, I think ALL women identify with. No, I've never actually physically been assaulted, but, yes, my body retains some sort of cellular memory of the violence all around me. When I see it on the big screen and in real life, my body first seizes in fear, and then I am filled with adrenaline. I AM that woman, and I am ready to fight. I am unsure of why I carry this memory; why not any other types? Maybe because this kind of violence, the violence that then becomes intertwined with an intimate act that bonds us bodily with a loved one, corrupts something fundamental about us. It takes away one of the last things about us that we can control as women. I've never heard anyone express it as beautifully as Lacy has above, so I just had to share. It's a heavy topic, but, strangely, reading it last night didn't actually make me feel heavy. It made me feel like I wasn't the only crazy one for feeling this deep, deep, bond with my fellow females. It made me understand that if I can absorb this from my atmosphere, then the membrane works both ways. If I can take in, I can put out. And I can monitor what I put out there. I can put out energy that is affirming and gentle and non-violent to my fellow women.
...

My eyes can hardly stand to look at this computer screen. My brain is sloshing back and forth very slowly in its cerebral fluid, still imitating the motion of being on the boat this afternoon. CLH and I both skipped work a little early to hang out on the new boat. I have surprised myself thus far with my ability to not lose my lunch while onboard. Of course, the marina has zero wave action, so I shouldn't pat myself on the back too hard. It's when I get back to land that the wooziness starts. I was warned about this by fellow sailors. The way they told me about it, though, was in this cute, anecdotal sort of way. Sort of like the way one might tell you how "funny" it was to get caught in a rainstorm and have to walk home soaking wet. Except when they got home, they took off their wet clothes, took a hot shower, and the ordeal was over with. This ordeal goes on for hours. Sitting still is torture. Brushing your teeth while looking into a mirror is torture. I can feel the whole damn house swaying to......... and fro............. and to............ and fro. And it's making me want to hurl. On the lighter side of things, CLH and I hoisted the sails by ourselves this afternoon while moored. Just a test run. And we did it! I have made a list of things I will have to get used to:

-dirt
-my lack of upper body strength

I didn't understand just how out of shape I was until I nearly threw my shoulder out trying to start the engine (that will be a posting for another day). I also didn't ever think I could even look at seawater without wearing gloves. I'm not exactly a germiphobe, but I do get the heebee jeebies touching anything dirty, slimy, dusty, rusty, gritty or greasy. In short, I like things neat and orderly and I DO NOT like getting my hands wet when cleaning stuff. I can feel all that changing. Whereas once I would have had to burn my jeans after sitting on a moist surface, I now find myself able to sit on a deck that I've just knocked a full beer onto. Whereas I once would have physically recoiled at all things floaty, furry, and slimy underwater, I now find myself peering for long spells of time at the stuff growing on the undersides of the dock. Just last week, I couldn't have even fathomed the contents of seagull poop, let alone touch it, and this weekend, I was kneeling down in it, scrubbing a 10 foot deck on my hands and knees, and loving it. My, how I have grown.

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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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Dear Greenhouse Babies

Dear Greenhouse Babies,

I am sorry you are so leggy and skinny that your shorter, stumpier counterparts make fun of you behind my back. I am sorry you have had to reach for the sky so much you've made yourself an extra 3 inches long and now your bottom leaves are yellowing and falling off. I'm sorry that yesterday's headline ran "Seattle Colder Than Siberia" and that it wasn't an exaggeration. It really was colder yesterday in Seattle than it was on that day in Siberia. I have been wearing my winter jacket for two days in a row. Two days, Babies. Two days. And I should have been wearing it the whole week, except you know how stubborn mama is. She made that stupid vow to not wear socks after Memorial Day, and there are days she comes home and has to soak her feet in a bucket of scalding hot water just to feel them again... (I hope you inherit that stubbornness. You're going to need it when I set you outside and the Jerry the Crow comes by to "talk".)

I'm sorry too the greenhouse smells a little like pee on hot days and that the door doesn't close all the way. When I bought the greenhouse I didn't think I would have to put my flip flops back in the closet and shop for fur lined boots on my lunch break in the middle of June, Babies. I thought I would be grilling things on the barbeque in the evenings and watching the glorious sunsets from my deck. I was thinking that even if the door didn't close all the way, there would be enough heat trapped in there from the day that it wouldn't matter. But, we don't have any heat to keep you warm with. So, you're not getting adequate light and heat and you've got the hideously deformed stalks to prove it. I put your brothers and sisters out a few weeks ago in my eagerness for warmer weather and they got pummeled by the rain and then eaten by Jerry and Co.

And about the water... You may have noticed a greenish hue to it... a distinct smell. Yes, Babies, that's algae. You see, we've been collecting storm water in 50 gallon barrels all winter to water you with. We thought we'd be through half that water by now, it being June and all, the rain having stopped, and the growing season being in full force... but it's been raining. And raining. And raining. And we haven't needed to use the water as it's been falling in copious, unending, stick-my-head-in-the-oven-and-get-it-all-over-with amounts for months on end now. So, the water's been sitting in the barrels, unused. And every six weeks or so, the sun comes out for about five minutes and alerts every tiny slimy thing that's been lying dormant in that water to get up and shake its moneymaker, and the next thing you know, the water barrel has a carpet of green algae growing on the bottom of it. And that's what I've been watering you with. So, the teenagers amongst you (I'm talking to you, sunflowers) are showing me your rebellious stage. Instead of getting creeped out by the stuff, you've actually taken a liking to it and coated your topsoil with it. Needless to say, I am completely repulsed, I can't understand why you would do such a thing to the person that gave you life. I am bracing myself for they day you start listening to heavy metal and smoking.</p>

We'll get through this, Babies. We will. I know the dormant peach tree leaning all scraggly-like outside your windows is not exactly the most inspiring thing to look at every day. And don't be jealous of the beans in the garden. They have problems of their own. One day you will be ready for the outdoors. More than likely it will be in mid-October, when we finally get some heat, when mama has packed a bag of Cheetos, a dozen novels, and a bathing suit and tried her best to make her tires screech on soggy pine needles as she hightails it out of the driveway.

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Internet, This Is What the Green Movement Looks Like


So, listen. This is how you save the planet one tofu tray at a time. First, you need to enjoy tofu. I love the stuff. Where once I turned my carnivorous nose up at it, now I relish it with glee (and peanuts and sesame dipping sauce). I like yogurt and salsa too. And just by liking those foods, I can do something about the fact that this country loves it some plastic packaging but knows fuck all about what to do about it when it's used.

Here's my solution to our problem of what to do with plastic that can't be recycled where we live: grow stuff in it. Seriously. It takes a couple of minutes and a drill. And that means that you don't have to throw away another container ever again. And it means tomatoes in July.

Here's how it works. First, eat some salsa (or yogurt, or tofu, or margarine, or anything else that comes in a plastic tub). Secondly, eat something raw that has seeds in it. Here are some suggestions: Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. Save the seeds. Here's how to save the seeds: don't eat them. Flowers are cool too! You don't need to grow something edible to use this method.

Next, get yourself a drill. I would suggest another method for poking holes in the tubs, but I have tried them, and with little success. Now, I'm no engineer, so if someone out there in Internet-land can manage to poke holes through plastic without destroying the integrity of the plastic, well, then, you, sir, are a better man than I.


Take that drill and drill a bunch of 1/8 holes through the bottom of your plastic tub. You are creating drainage holes here, people, so five or so will do it. Space them equally apart. Next, fill your plastic container with dirt. Potting soil is best, but, hell, take a scoop of the front yard and see what comes up. Then, stick your saved seeds into your soil. The rule is this: bury your seeds in the soil about as deeply as they are long. In other words, small seeds go in very shallow, and the bigger seeds (cucumber seeds, for example) go in deeper. Use the lids of your plastic tubs as TRAYS for underneath your pots, or, for yogurt cups without lids, cram two yogurt cups into one tofu tray! Now, water your seeds in your plastic tubs. The lids will catch any water that drains from the holes you just drilled.

Okay, now, depending on where you live, the next steps are up to you. If you live in the gray Northwest like I do, buy yourself a long, narrow plot of land with a huge smelly house and greenhouse on it with your almost husband and two friends and stick your pots in there. Okay, okay, so you don't want to live with your friends. I get it. Then do this: cover your pots with little pieces of plastic wrap (Saran works well, or, you can go one step further to reducing waste on your planet by cutting up old produce bags into squares). Secure the plastic wrap with rubber bands. Where do you get the rubber bands, you ask? From around the bases of broccoli and asparagus and scallions, from the supermarket, of course. (I would suggest you buy these vegetables, take them home, eat them, and THEN use the rubber bands. I don't want the riot police showing up at my house claiming I am an instrument of anarchy because I instigated the theft of hundreds of produce rubber bands).

Stick those pots in a warm place and water them every day. Depending on the seeds, they will germinate within a week to several weeks and viola! Once their little green heads pop up out of the soil, you can permanently remove the plastic wrap. You can plant the stuff outdoors, or, keep them in containers indoors (you'll want to move out of the yogurt cup soon enough).

Here's the thing about plastic: it lasts FOR FREAKIN EVER. So, the best thing about this is that next year, no drilling! You just use those suckers over and over and over again. And, in 50 years, when your kids can't remember a time when water didn't cost money and come in jugs, and when we're still arguing over whether we should call sticking the last freakin' cockroach on earth on the endangered species act a result of "global warming" or "climate change", you can say you did something to save a very small piece of earth.

(And, I realize, plant identification people, that those little green sprouts are NOT tomatoes... I got all excited and then realized that what i had sprouted were weeds... or something resembling lettuce or radish. The tomatoes are coming. I swear. )

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You know how sometimes you stop what you're doing and you take stock of what you're doing and then you have a meta-analysis moment? Well, in the middle of mending CLH's pants on the sewing machine while a loaf of bread was baking in the oven tonight, I had one of those moments. And, inside my head, it kind of sounded like this:

"You know, no one would believe that you are sewing and baking bread right now."

"Oh yeah? Now why would you say a thing like that?"

"Because you are wearing a pair of shit kicking black boots and your head is shorn and you have been known to swear in front of children".

"Well, that doesn't mean i'm all spit and vinegar, does it? I can have a soft side too, y'know. I can be domestic."

The sewing machine was my mom's. It's tempermental (not unlike my mother). During my childhood, I knew when she was using the thing because a) it sounded like a small train coming through the house and b) my mom would let fly from her mouth a string of curses like you've never heard. (Think: the father from "A Christmas Story"). I didn't understand the need for such language until I inherited it. Now I find myself also tearing at the needle and bobbin with both hands and cursing the little baby Jesus himself. She didn't use it often- I remember the year she made our Halloween costumes. I remember every rage infused stitch. Ah, homemaking.

But, let's get to the list, shall we?

Okay, so first things first. Friend, mugging, South America. Well, my friend is okay. She can tell you all about her adventures here. She's alright. She's better than alright. She's cruising around on a motorcycle with her male traveling companion behind her. In a Latin American country. Gutsy, I tell ya.

I only bring this up because this was a huge reality check for me. See, lately I've been thinking i want to live someplace sunny and tropical. And that place, in my dreams, is somewhere around the vicinity of Panama. I know, I know. What's with Panama? I don't know, to be quite honest. You know how you things come to you in multiples? Like when you can't explain why you're thinking about oranges all day long and then you see a sign on the way home from work that involves the word orange and then your friend calls when you and tells you he's just invested in the orange markets and then you find the next morning you've unconsciously chosen your orange shirt to wear? Yeah, well, Panama is like that for me. People were talking about it. And seriously, too. Moving to another country is no small thing. So, for lots of different people to be saying all the same thing at the same time... well, don't think I didn't sit up and listen. CLH and I just bought our tickets to go visit in December.

In my mind, the whole visit thing goes down smoothly. We arrive, we kick off our shoes, and we don't put them on again for a whole month because all we do is lay on the beach and read 56 novels each and occasionally we get up for food. Maybe we venture out into the hinterlands and we take some pictures and we find a cave or a pile of rocks and we feel like we've explored. We ask around about where 2 ex-pats can live and we get used to wearing white linen. Here's what's missing from this la-la land adventure: other people. There isn't anyone standing in the way of our being completely and totally lazy. There certainly aren't any criminals. So, when my friend wrote that she'd been mugged, I finally came back to earth. Right. There will be other things to navigate besides palm trees and pina coladas, dummy. Get this: people may not want us there. And even if most of them are cool with us, there are still the rogue few who can see only our wristwatches and passports.

On a totally separate note, the garden is coming along nicely. All the angst I felt about how big a job it was going to be is melting away. We've cleared out three beds and put our seeds in. Here's what we're growing this year: beans, peas, tomatoes (at least six different kinds), turnips, beets, radishes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and zucchini. I've also got parsley, thyme, basil, marjoram, chives, mint, and cilantro starting in the greenhouse (which has finally mostly been rid of its former occupants, the rats). Alongside the herbs in the greenhouse are rows and rows of pots with zinnia and sunflower seeds in them. This is the first year I have ever really grown flowers from seeds and I'm pretty excited to see how they turn out. The apple trees and the rest of the fruit trees are flowering. I hope the bees come back this year. The raspberries are finally breathing now that we've got some of the grass cleared out from around their bases, and the strawberries are being weeded one plant at a time. The rhubarb is also exploding like something from another planet. There's so much stinkin' fruit on this property, it's almost too much to manage. It's been amazing to watch everything return to green. Summer's gonna rock.

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Has It Really Been That Long?

I suppose it has. But, listen. I have been so busy lately. There's so much to tell! Hell, I went to New Orleans and was an insomniac and got caught in two torrential downpours and drank and ate so much I nearly needed my stomach pumped every night and danced till 4 am and spent a day's worth of wages on cab fare. And that was just in four days!

There's so much else, too. So, I have to list it all here, Internet, because my feeble brain just can't keep up. I'm going to tell you all the things I am eventually going to give you the whole story one... one day. And, hey, this isn't just a teaser. This is to remind ME that I have stories to tell you. I just don't have enough moments in the day to tell you all of them RIGHT NOW.

To start with, my friend was mugged in Nicaragua just 2 days ago. On the 23rd of April, I was scammed into buying a fake magazine subscription. In New Orleans, I met a world famous chef. I just finished transcribing a six page letter into my journal. I read "Eat, Pray, Love" and have found myself wondering if I need to talk to God in order to find peace. I found out my grandmother was an insomniac like me. My brother has had to wear, amongst other things, a small cutting board on a lanyard around his neck as a way to engage customers at his big box store retail job. I planted flowers in my front yard and got so sunburned my neck skin still aches and a crow we named Jerry followed me around all day. I could go on, people. There is a lot swimming around upstairs. Do you wonder why I can't sleep? While most of the world is twitching in its sleep, (or maybe that's just CLH) I am wondering about whether or not I should call the mechanic tomorrow on my way to work or in between clients, and if i should consider buying wigs for our next party from that great online site Dan told me about...

Alright, that's enough for now. I swear, I'll tell you the stories one by one. Go read someone else's blog and check back with me tomorrow. I'll have a little somethin' somethin' for ya then.

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Will Five Year Old Popcorn Still Pop In The Microwave?

You bet your sweet ass it will. And it won't even taste that bad, either. It'll taste pretty much like all microwave popcorn does: like hot asphalt and paper. It'll even leave that terrible oil slick on your tongue afterwards! Hurray for popcorn! Hurray for the poor old man who spoke three languages (Arabic, Korean and English) who sold it to me with a smile on his face! He didn't know. The expiration date was inside the folded edge of the package, inside the plastic wrap. At first I thought it was written in European time signature- you know, with the year then the day then the month... but, then i thought... that would make it even older than five years, so let's just stop trying to calculate the ways this could still be edible and pop it in the ol' microwave.

Speaking of smells that stick to you:
I smell like burnt coffee because i've been sitting next to a roaster for the past 5 hours. In case you've never had the pleasure of sitting next to a machine the size of a small car that chars green coffee beans at a rate of thousands an hour, let me tell you about it: it's not pleasant.. Deafening, smelly, smoky. That pretty much sums it up.

I'm going to New Orleans in a week. There are no words to describe how badly i want to leave RIGHT NOW.

My sister is coming to visit in June. I'm excited. So excited, in fact, that i'm moved to ask her to join me in an interpretive dance in roller skates in front of hundreds on her birthday just to show her how excited i am. I hope she says yes.

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Is there anything NOT on the Internet? I mean, really. I just spent the last 20 minutes in a link-clicking frenzy in blog-land. Seriously. I had to back up eleven pages to remember how I'd gotten there. One minute, I was checking out some serious craft in the world of indie-knitting, and the next thing I know, I'm on a YouTube video of Argentine kids screaming in fear at a gnome. Seriously. I'm not making this stuff up. In the span those few minutes, I had also seen David Byrne's newsletter, a recipe for blood orange sorbet, a knitted sweater in various stages of completion, a Rob Base video, old books made into journals, someone making pizza dough, and the abovementioned kids scared of a gnome. I'd hyperlink all that crap, but, well, I'm lazy, and you, well, you have Google, don't you?

It got me to thinking:
a) my attention span has begun to rival that of a thirteen year old
b) there is absolutely nothing I can't find on the web

And I'm not saying that in a "When i was your age, sonny...." sort of way either. What i mean is- well, it's hard to sum up. Is there ANY experience that hasn't yet been blogged about, wikipedia'd, databased, web paged or otherwise cyber-catalogued? Doesn't it blow your mind to think about how many different angles there are available to you about anything anywhere? For instance: I saw (on one of the sites I was on) a picture of a half-completed guerrilla art project on a pier in NYC. Now, there must be some blog somewhere by some artist who'd told the world that she was going to paint some barnacled bundle of wood in New York... and now, in addition to that one piece of information about the intent, there is a picture of that project, half completed, and a little blurb to go with it. And that's only one angle. Who knows if someone else didn't snap a picture from a different angle that same day, and write up a little blurb on her blog- or didn't take a picture at all, but wrote a little something about his walk along the water... or maybe he didn't write about the art project per se, but instead was inspired to paint something himself and then post that picture online... which sparked someone else's commentary on some other site... do you see what I mean? We're never just watching kids scream at gnomes. We're participating in this viral experience of the world. Every time we click, we're taking part in a massive social experiment to see if we can take it all in... all this information, all this experience.

When those rebels suddenly abandoned their paintbrushes and paints that day on the pier, did they think that someone might come along and snap a digital picture of their stuff and then write a blog entry about it? I don't know. But here it is, for the world to see and read about. It seems like that IS something you need to consider whenever you do ANYthing these days. Remember when you could just plant a garden or decorate your room or cut the sleeves off your shirt and that was that? Nowadays, the impulse to DO is inextricably linked to the compulsion to document it all.

It all screams of our very human need to seen and heard, doesn't it? Makes you want to add another thing to HomoSapiens grocery list of fundamental needs...

-Food
-Shelter
-Someone to notice me because i saw some stuff and talked about it

It seems like, at least here in the States, that since we've fulfilled our "manifest destiny" to inhabit every stinkin' corner of this country, the next thing on the cosmic to-do list is to have an opinion about everything. And to let everyone know what it is. So, instead of physically occupying every bit of land coast to coast, we now intellectually inhabit it. All of it.

What I'm curious about is the math on all this. I mean, there's only a tiny portion of the world's population that has access to the Internet, right? So, is there some sort of logarithm that states that as we learn more about each other, and as more people gain access to the Internet, the world gets smaller and more knowable? That if we keep sharing exponentially our experiences of the world, that eventually everyone will have access to the experiences of anyone on earth?

If that sounds like sci-fi mumbo jumbo, well, I admit, it is late... and I did just watch a video of a gnome in Argentina. Anything is possible.

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How To Rescue a Raspberry Bush

It's 10:38, people. It's March 17th. My taxes are still not filed. So here I sit, in my smells-of-livestock basement, with my laptop on my lap, my adding machine to my left, and my dayplanner to my right, and a pencil tucked behind my ear. I'm trying to calculate my mileage deduction for my federal taxes. I SHOULD be drinking green beer somewhere. Instead I'm here, freezing my ass off, inhaling the stench of chicken butts from 40 years ago, and adding 2.4, 5.6, 16.0 and so on. Yeah, I know. The cobbler's kids have no shoes, the tailor's wearing rags... and this bookkeeper's books aren't kept. And so it is.

Lucky for me, CLH is down here too, playing me the latest Cloud Cult album, his head hidden behind his gargantuan monitor. He's working. I'm working. Ah, quality time together.

This weekend, we went out to the back 40 and unearthed our raspberry bushes. This past fall, I went out there and cut the nearly hollow (read: old as hell) vines down to the ground, hoping they would make their reappearance this Spring. Well, Spring has been coming, slowly, and the vines are starting to grow. It's a bit tough for them, having to compete with waist-high grass and all. CLH and I got down on our hands and knees and ripped that grass out with our bare hands around the bases of the vines so the poor things could breathe. We couldn't use any tools to get between the plants because they are so close together and the vines so delicate. We played this game with the lawnmower afterwards. It went a little like this: we'd find a place where the grass was so tall, it was bent over and growing horizontally (you could pick out these spots because the ground would feel spongy and creepy underneath you). One of us would "comb" the grass in the opposite direction it was laying and the other would run the push mower over it. We repeated this for nearly an hour and cleared a spot about 6 feet square. Seriously. Our backyard is a lot like the Secret Garden. You have no idea what's growing out there. The former owners' mental state is the subject of much debate in our household. Sometimes, when we do things like mow the same spot of 3 foot grass for 15 minutes, we ask ourselves: Was it madness, laziness, or a combo of both that would make someone let their grass get tall enough to swallow a small dog?

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An Open Letter to Washington Mutual Bank

Dear WAMU,

Honestly. "Whoo Hoo?" That's what you came up with for your newest ad campaign? Have you completely lost your minds? Been reading the latest self help book about how the most obvious thing is usually the best answer and you took the first chimpanzee noise you heard your kid make and labeled it pure genius? Because it's not. This is not even close to bad. This is lazy. The worst. I suppose I can't blame you entirely. You hired a young, snappy marketing team, I'm sure, to help with this. Some group of extremely unimaginative but extremely well dressed men and women with artistic glasses and blocky jewelry. They probably took a look at your monkey language scribblings and rubbed their chins thoughtfully and nodded to one another slowly and made you feel really important and smart for an hour. I would have been taken in too. I watch TV. I know how enchanting the well dressed can be. Especially if they smell good and shake your hand, and say words like "move forward" and "branding" and "product placement" too.

It's impossible to miss the damned billboards. I pass at least two of them on the way home from work. Which is, I'm sure, exactly what the well dressed people in the artistic glasses, and you, wanted. I know enough about advertising to know that McDonald's doesn't make the best burgers ...but they do have enough real estate such that at the moment you get hungry on the road, you are never more than five minutes from a McDonald's. And you are reminded of that fact with a 40 foot McWhatever-It-Is plastered onto a billboard every 80 feet or so. Is that what you were you're hoping to accomplish here as well? Like, maybe I would be thinking about buying some coffee on my way in to the office, but then, Whoo Hoo! I would see your sign and be overcome with unmitigated joy at banking with you so that when I got to the store I wouldn't just buy a coffee, I would buy a to-go mug and a t-shirt and a key chain as well, charging up a storm with my WAMU credit card, exclaiming Whoo Hoo! with every item I picked up like some crazy locomotive/cash register hybrid?

Try this: take the money I give you and DON'T invest it in crap like this. Take it and do something interesting and worthwhile, like that Wamoola for schools thing you started a while back. You do know we're headed towards a recession, right? That the Fed just dropped the interest rate for like the 78th time this year? That means you have less available to pay me in interest... so please don't take the very little I've decided to stick in the meager interest bearing account I have with you and waste it on giant blue and green and orange billboards that read "Whoo Hoo!".

Oh, and don't send me a form letter back. I hate those things. Take the time you were going to spend going to your My Documents folder containing "We've Read Your Letter And Are Trying Our Best To Serve You Better Letter To Complaining Customers" and hitting "print", and save it. Save the money you were going to spend on the paper and the 15 minutes it was going to take your executive assistant to prepare an envelope and hand it to the mail guy... and just meditate for a moment. Think about all the paper you've used making this beast. Think about the money I've trusted you with. My money. The money I work very hard for.

Think about all the nonsense out there you and I have to stomach every single day. Think about the visual bombardment, the cacophony of noise you and I have to endure just to buy a t-shirt, or pay our phone bill online. Think of the pop-up ads, the junk email, the telemarketers, the guy standing out there on the sidewalk wearing a "Liquidation Sale Today!" sandwich-board sign on his body and waving laconically at you. Think about how much junk mail you throw into the garbage every day. There's a lot of "stuff" out there already. Did WAMU really feel like it needed to join the fray?

Here's something else: Think about how much energy and toxic chemistry it takes to manufacture an adhesive strong enough to hold a polymer to a piece of plywood in 20 mph gusts of wind. Think about the electricity it takes to light a sign all day and all night. Think about how many landfills are already full of the latest and greatest cool billboards approved of by well dressed people in artistic glasses. Think about how much waste and noise you've just put out there in the world to promote, not a money saving tool, or a loan product, but a catch phrase having nothing to do with banking.

Now think of the opposite of all that. Think about a clear view of the mountains in our state, unimpeded by big orange signs. Think about our water unpolluted with manufacturing waste runoff. Think about being able to offer your customers more than catch phrases. Think of the opportunity you have in this country, what with the sub-prime mortgage crisis and all, to help people save money and stay in their homes. Think about the money you've just saved by being a more responsible, environmentally friendly, and consumer-conscious bank. Makes ya want to say, Whoo Hoo, doesn't it?

Yours Truly,
A Loyal Customer

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Spoetry

America, this is what I'm talking about. This is what we're not allowed to say on TV or on the radio, but this is the kind of thing that IS allowed into my junk mail box.

These are subject lines taken directly, without alteration, from my junkmail box. I think I'll call this one "Why Power Tools and Weapons Belong Outside And Not In The Bedroom".

Why be a tiny cocktail sausage when you can be a mighty weiner?

Blow her away with your giant weapon.

Be a winner with the ladies with a huge lovestick.

Make her cry in pleasure when you enter her deep and full

Lengthen your male aggregate length and girls will love you promptly.

It's time to bring your good willy hunting.

Change your garden tool into a POWER TOOL.

Increase your male aggregate and you will sex giant.

It is greater than the oscar there will be blood
Armed with our rods, we thrust forwards.

FIN.

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An Update on The House and Why I Should Never Be Allowed To Touch Appliances

CLH did something very special today. He wired an electrical outlet onto its own circuit. I don't even know if I've said that correctly, but it was incredibly impressive to me to see. Yesterday the basement was a black smelly void and today it's a well-lit smelly office space. Being deathly afraid of electricity, I avoid the remodeling tasks that involve electricity. Move furniture, paint rooms, tear down molding, hang curtains, change light bulbs, haul trash, build garden, mow grass, polish floors, yes. Touch the wiring? No freakin' way.

The last run-in I had with do-it-yourself wiring involved a puff of black smoke, a clapping noise, and a temporary power outage in the office. I was there on a Saturday. That should give you a good indication of where my head was to begin with. I had just taken the job in the front office and, since we were switching over as a company to computers from typewriters and carbon paper, i thought I would usher in some newness of my own by painting and redecorating my office. There was one giant problem: the walls were covered with bulky sliding door cabinetry from the '70s. I can't quite remember the color of the things. It was something in between steel gray and failure. Anyhow, I called a friend to come with me to the office so she could help out with the removal of these cabinets around my desk. She was a good friend.

It seemed simple enough: just unscrew one end and then the other, having helper hold the end not being worked on with screwdriver. The unscrewing was easy. It was the little flourescent light that threw me for a loop. I'd forgotten that little sucker was mounted underneath the cabinets. (Sidebar: now that i am thinking about it, this was the second office I worked in the late nineties/early 00's that had these revolting cabinets on the walls. What was it with me and a) missing the dot-com boom, and b) working with people who liked working on the set of the Mary Tyler Moore show?) Anywho, the light. I'd forgotten he was up there. And he was up there GOOD. Mounted to the underside of the cabinets (needed another sized screwdriver to de-barnacle the cabinet) and then hardwired into the wall. Hardwired. No little cord running to an outlet. When these people said "seventies", they'd meant it.

Well, I knew that the little guy wasn't getting replaced, and I wasn't going to be plugging in anything else at 4 and 3/5 feet off the floor, so I just yanked the wires from the fixture and let them hang out of the little holes in the walls. One of the wires had a little (orange, was it?) cap hanging from the end of it. The other didn't.

But now I had these hang-y cords coming out of the wall. Definitely not part of the redecorating plan. I had to do something with them, and I just figured I could ask one of the shop guys on Monday to just clip 'em... so i did what any idiot with compulsive tendencies toward order and who knows nothing about electricity would do: i shoved the one cord into the cap with the other cord.

Enter the smoke and the flash and the comment, "So THAT'S what burned flesh smells like..." I don't know what we did, exactly, or what actually happened after the BANG noise, i just know that on Monday, my computer and my phone had both lost power, and, when asked about it, i just shrugged and backed up nervously to block with my body the black soot stain on the wall.

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A madcap recap

It's the last day of January. For bookkeepers in the US, it's New Year's Eve. In four minutes, it's all over. Anything i file after this day is late, and oh-freakin'-well.

I'm exhausted. I'm a list maker.

1. I shaved my head recently. Not bald. Just shorn. I've received several semi-uncomfortable extra-long looks from male clients who, judging from the way their mouths curled into devious smiles, were grappling with whether or not they should tell me aloud how sexy they thought it was. Several have. Some have asked to rub my head. I've let them.
2. I turned 31 and spent my birthday at a spa. I think I actually sweat out every last drop of fluid i had drunk in the last 6 months and replaced with fresh water. It was a thoroughly cleansing and remarkable experience.
3. I have been working 12 hour days for almost 20 days straight.
4. I want to live on a sailboat. I'm guessing it'll be in 2 to 5 years from now. I want to sail around the world, too, but that might be because i don't know how it feels to be pummeled inside the tiny hull of a boat by a twenty foot wave. I have never sailed before. I am slightly phobic of water.
5. I'm reading "Island" by Aldous Huxley and I'm amazed at how timely it is, even now.
6. I'm moved by how emotional people are getting about the upcoming presidential election. I wonder how many people will turn out for the vote. The current president is still an idiot.
7. I'm currently doing books for a family that is going bankrupt and might have to sell their house to pay off their debt, and another individual who is battling for custody of his kids, and everything he's got. I am working on setting emotional boundaries and it is difficult.
8. I call my brother daily. He was involved in a bad car accident in December and had to have part of his face reconstructed surgically. Getting injured in America without insurance is a terrible and unjust thing. I often wonder how a country that won't provide health care services for all its citizens thinks it's qualified to teach the rest of the world about democracy and freedom.
9. The sub-prime crisis has hit home. My home equity line of credit was frozen two days ago. I also wonder how a country that allows its citizens to be dispossessed of their houses because of a failure to mandatorily educate them about the predatory practices of its economic system thinks it has a right to label who is a terrorist and who is not.
10. It's February. Hallelujah.

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Everything Is On the Internets

CLH just sent a virtual hug to his brother via Facebook. I don't know why that bothers me so much, but it does a little.

We just found a picture of a friend of ours featured prominently (and nakedly) on Wikipedia under the term "Naked Cyclists". I am guilty of looking at pictures of old classmates online like I would look at a car crash: one eye closed to shut out the horror, the other open in morbid curiosity. People have found me, too. I'm creeped out by it every time. "Hey, is this the same Lauren that did so and so back in '89?" Eeeeeeesh. It's weird being found. I never think anyone's looking for me. But they are. Think about how often people are googling your name. Lots of people have googled me and it's weird that I can be found so easily. And with such a random attachment of stuff to my name. I write poetry. I sometimes update this blog. There's another one of me in California, somewhere, and she's an actress. Here are other things that you won't know by googling me, but should, if you are to really know me:

I like popcorn. A lot. I make it the old fashioned way: in a pot with oil.
I have completed several jigsaw puzzles with over 3,000 pieces.
I like to make art out of junk.

I have a client whose employees google just about every customer who contacts them. Just out of curiosity, they say. Y'know, for fun. There's a link to almost all of us out there somewhere. Isn't that odd? Isn't it weird that someone knows your shopping habits? Can track your credit card purchases? Knows your cell phone calls? I'm not talking in my conspiracy theorist voice, either. I'm talking in my David Byrne, "Isn't Technology Weird and Wonderful?" voice. There's a trail of ones and zeros behind all of us, stuck like toilet paper to the soles of our shoes and we track that stuff around everywhere we go and we can't shake it loose. Some program, right now, is plotting to put ads along the side of my email homepage based on the words on my screen. Some program, right now, is pumping out hundreds of junk emails to be sent to me because I am an identity that is a series of numbers and letters that most of the world can access if they just put those numbers and letters together in the right sequence. Who was I before I had a data trail?

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Thumbprints for Christmas

It's close to midnight and I sliding my 40th or so sheet of cookies into the oven. While I typically shun all things mainstream, I am a total sucker for tradition, including baking my mom's Betty Crocker recipe cookies for Christmas. They're made with the three basic ingredients that are almost like swear words around my house: butter, sugar, and wheat flour. My digestive system backs up from too much wheat in my diet, CLH doesn't eat sugar anymore (and has dropped thirty pounds since), and butter is... well, butter is no one's enemy. Yet.

I make the same cookies every year: chocolate chip, peanut butter, Spritz, Russian Tea Cakes (which my family calls "snowballs"), oatmeal raisin, candy canes, and thumbprints. The thumbprints are a family favorite. But this year, the recipe didn't quite live up to its former magic.

I'm not sure what the issue was exactly. I'm pretty sure I put in all the ingredients (although, i quadrupled the recipe, and i may have lost count of the cups of flour in there somewhere). The batch should have yielded 12 dozen, or 144 cookies. I got only 113 cookies out of it. I don't see how I could have lost almost three dozen cookies in that whole mess, but, apparently, I'm not the only one with a missing cookie issue. Thank goodness for the Internet. Who did I bitch to before this thing was invented?

Now, the original recipe I learned to make these cookies with resides on an oil stained, dog eared, high gloss page in the Betty Crocker cookbook, publication circa 1966 or so. It lives in my mom's house somewhere... though when I called over there years ago to collect the recipe, no one could find the book. It often goes missing and then reappears like some kind of magical prop. Well, since I had no access to the book, I had to look up the recipe online. And there it was at bettycrocker.com. I've made them for several years now, and, since I only make them once a year, I forget what a blatant lie the recipe is. The cookies taste great, but the yield measurement is WAY off, AND, the depression you make in each cookie RISES to meet the sides of the cookie so the whole "thumbprint" effect is rendered null and void.

My recipe was printed from the website, and i noticed on my (oil stained, dog eared) sheet of paper that there's a link that didn't quite get all the way printed called "Betty's tips". Thinking i had missed a critical clue to making these all these years, I headed over to the computer to log back in to Ms. Crocker's site. No tips to be found, but I did find a really angry (and therefore hilarious to me) review of the recipe posted by another Betty fan. The reviewer said the recipe didn't work because "There is not enough ingredients". I couldn't agree more, reviewer. I might disagree with your grammar, but I totally agree that the tiny bit of flour and sugar they told you to put in the bowl will not, no matter how you slice it, yield three dozen cookies. </p>

I'm a little bleary eyed right now. I've filled most of the lidded receptacles in the house with cookies. I even used the salad spinner bowl. Tomorrow, I start crafting the gifts. Better get to bed so I can get up early and do that. You've been warned about the thumbprints.
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Down the Slide of The Bell Curve

Listen.

There's a You Tube video going around featuring some pretty young thing from the South on the game show "Are you Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" grappling with the question of whether or not Europe is a country. She doesn't know if France is a country or not. She has never heard of Budapest, the country capital she is being asked about, nor Hungary, the answer. The worst thing about this is not that she doesn't know (I concede that there are probably questions on that show I wouldn't know either); it's that she's unaffected about not knowing. She boldly announces, as if it is pretty common to not know if Europe is a country or not, that she has no idea. She screws up her face and says the word Hungary like the answer to the question was as unexpected and obscure as "cat doo doo" would have been.

Here's something else: I heard on the news recently that we are trailing quite a few countries in our childhood literacy rates. Amazing, huh? With all this blogging and texting, we don't appear to be able to read and comprehend any better. I don't have the numbers, but it appears that girls fare much better in the literacy category all around. US girls carry the US over other countries only because our girls' reading levels are higher than average. And I just read something the other day about Ian McKewan handing out novels, in a little social experiment, to eager and excited women in London while the men turned up their noses in suspicion.

Why am I posting this? I'll tell you. It's one part confession, and one part record keeping. It's a little self aggrandizing and probably smacks of "I Told You So", but I'll say it anyway. When the shish hits the fan, and it will, I want the world to know I was a witness.

I was there when gas prices crept up from record lows to record highs. I was there when people complained and talked about the magical boycott of the big oil companies that would happen if it ever reached such and such a price. It never did.

I was there when children shot other children in their schools and we blamed things like music and the Internet for their disturbing behavior. I was there when we called the victims heroes and installed police officers and metal detectors in our learning institutions.

I was there when our junk mail folders were filled for ads for male enhancement drugs but we couldn't say "fuck" over the airwaves. I was there when we banned insurance coverage for women's contraceptives, and bombed abortion clinics. I was there when gays were not given the same civil rights as heterosexuals.

I was there when our magazines were filled with ads for plastic surgeons and we hated ourselves and each other so much, we cut off pieces of our bodies and filled them with agents to plump and distort them so often, we considered this normal and created TV shows around it.

I was there when one in three women had been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. One in three. One in three. One in three. One in three. Our mothers, our sisters, our lovers. One in three. One in three. One in three.

I was there when big box stores replaced independently owned stores and these stores became the places where most people shopped most of the time. I was there when people loved their low low prices but did not understand where their jobs and their sense of community had gone.

I was there when we launched a campaign to crack down on illegal immigration and people installed themselves on the borders of our country to shoot at people trying to get in. I was there when the idea was tossed around to build a wall, a security fence, around our country.

I was there when we were told that a terrorist threat was imminent. I was there for the imprisonment of people without charges at Guantanamo.

I was there when people went bankrupt paying for medical bills and insurance could not be provided for free for all from taxpayers' dollars. I was there when insurance rates went up every few years while the insurance companies cited reasons like "more diabetes". I was there when energy drinks, packed full of caffeine and high fructose corn syrup, were available in every convenience store. I was there when we took our kids to coffeeshops and allowed them to drink "coffee drinks" in plastic cups. I was there when we threw these cups away, at a rate of thousands per day, into the garbage. I was there when we still couldn't decide what to do about global warming.

I was there and watched it all happen. I took notes. I smelled our demise coming. I felt hopeless. I felt I had to survive. I slid down the slope of the bell curve knowing what was at the bottom and I went anyway.

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My metal heartbeat

Lately I've taken to pounding out letters to my two brothers on my old Royal typewriter. I happened upon the thing in vintage clothing store (which also stocks old typewriters and typewriter-themed clothing. Odd. And perfect.) I have been longing to replace the one from my youth for years now. (It suffered the scourge of one of mom's manic cleaning frenzies back in the day. Probably wound up on the sidewalk next to the trash can, which was fitting, since that's where my grandfather found it several years prior when he decided to take it home and restore it). I don't think this model is exactly the same. I remember ours being slightly darker in color, but it's nearly a dead ringer. Apparently, gray was THE color to make these suckers out of back in the day, and I have come across varying shades in my travels. This one most closely resembles the gun metal gray of my childhood typewriter. I remember, too, that ours had a case that fit over it. It was made of the same steel the typewriter was made of. The whole thing must have weight 30 pounds or so. It could have herniated our backs several times over, but that didn't stop my brother and I from moving it around the house when we were kids.

I've been searching the Internet for the past hour for images of Royal typewriters. The one I own now is the KMG model (i think). The M in the middle stands for "Magic Margin", a feature which is not so much "magic" as a series of levers and release buttons that allow you set up and then remove a few margins along the length of the roller. Ah, the 40's... a time when machinery that outperformed your expectations was dubbed "magic".

I wasn't sure, when I first bought this KMG model, that I was actually going to use it. I thought I might shove it on a wide plant stand and stick it in the hallway for passersby to leave quirky messages on... but, on a whim one night, I took of its dust cover, and started to pound out a letter.

I'm beginning to fall in love with typing on the thing. I can't type at my normal clip because the hammers get jammed. Instead, I have to be very deliberate with each depression. I have to make sure the hammer has slapped the roller with an "a" before I pound down the "b". It takes quite the effort to get a rhythm going, but once I do...it's the sweetest sound in the world. It drowns out all other noise. I become consumed. It's a wonderful break, too, from a plastic keyboard. By comparison, I am lazy and slack-wristed on the keyboard. The delete key is so handy, sloppiness is always an option. But on the typewriter, because I don't have the special white correction ribbon, sloppiness is not an option. Which is refreshing, because with the slowing down of the typing comes great intention, and with great intention comes great flow. I find that having to slow down my typing just that little bit gives my brain extra time to think of the next string of stuff. There's a slight delay between brain and hand motions, and it puts me into this strange and wonderful state of ease. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. Hands take care of last minute's thoughts while Brain and I starting setting up the next sentence. I can't express how much more relaxed and spent I feel after typing letters. It's a full body workout. I think I am beginning to understand how the great novels of the world were created on these things. It's hard not to write novels when sitting down in front of them.

So far, my brothers haven't written back. Mom thinks I'm weird for writing them using a typewriter (then again, she's the one who threw out an antique with the last week's leftovers, so I'm not going to count that comment). I'm going to keep writing them. Even if they never write back. At some point in the letter writing, it becomes about satiating a need to hear that thwap thwap thwap... the need to hear my writing as regular as my own heartbeat in my ears.

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Haircuts and Transplants

Oh, Glory of glories! The spider condos are gone! Removed by my own hand! (and CLH's). Carmelized then pulverized in the outdoor fire pit. Sigh.

And i thought MOWING the lawn was satisfying. Bah!

Seriously now. I don't know what the name of those suckers were (the plant books are still in boxes, and I'm not smart enough to figure out to search for a plant picture online without any good criteria), but there were COVERED in cobwebs. It was a low growing bush (when not housing a spider population) sporting tiny waxy leaves and bright orange berries. This one, however, was hardly green anymore because it was so covered in webs. The trunk was gnarled and withered. The spiders had long ago abandoned their 14 story house of filth, but their webs had all manner of decay still hanging around in them. The plant was grey, for god's sakes. Dis. Gus. Ting. Who knows if it was even alive? All I know is that the thing was creepy, it was half dead/half growing on the side of the house and it looked like hell. So, we cut it down, in the rain, and then we burned the thing.</p>

We had the fire going for several hours. We'd rented a chainsaw earlier in the day and CLH cut up the old Christmas tree and the who-knows-what-other-kinds-of-tree stumps we found in the many "refuse" piles in the yard. (By the way, lawn chairs don't compost, so don't fucking add to the piles of organic stuff, mkay?) We had a pretty sizable pile of junk wood going- weirdly shaped roots and dried out thin crispy boughs and stuff, so we got a burn pile going and lit it up. We'd burned most of the blackberries we'd wanted gone (they're noxious, but delicious, weeds here), and we were just relaxing after a long day's work, looking around the yard for other stuff to burn (the lawn chair almost made it in) when CLH remembered the spider condos. We both got a gleam in our eyes, grabbed the saw and shovel, and practically ran to the front of the house. By this time the rain was coming pretty steadily. Nothing too heavy- just enough to make all the dirt stick to our clothes. We looked like chocolate bunnies when we were done, but we didn't care. The spider condos were on their way to a fiery grave. I didn't leave the fire until every last inch of them had turned to ash.

There was something indescribably wonderful about burning all the crap that wouldn't stack in the pile. It was one part necessity, and one part ceremony. We, without adding to already stuffed compost bin we'd built, or the bulging yard waste container, got rid of the yuck, AND we rid our house of yet one more reminder of the rampant neglect that shows up everywhere here. Even plants can use a funeral pyre. Sure, we could have shoved the things into a wood chipper- but that would have seemed overly brutal and mechanical. The slow burn approach seemed a bit more ... noble (even if i WAS doing it with a little bit of sadistic glee in my heart). CLH and I transplanted some lavender and sage plants from the backyard (where they were also looking gnarled and spindly from not being trimmed) to the spot the spider condos had been. The rain came down harder later that night, so we didn't even have to water them. Now, instead of having our ankles raked by the tendrils of a dying old bush as we walk by, we will be greeted by the soothing (dare I say, therapeutic?) smells of lavender and sage. Ahhhhhh.... I feel calmer already.

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Public F*ing and The Art of Selling Out

Alright. Enough about the house already. The grass has grown back. I cut it. The library got painted yesterday. It's "coming along", people. Thanks for asking. Really. Onto bigger things.

Like public sex. Like the kind i saw yesterday on my way to an outdoor music festival. It appeared, from a distance, that a guy was rhythmically pumping one of those drop down flexible security gates, his hands above his head, clutching the rungs of the gate, his legs spread slightly, his pelvis crashing into the gate, causing it to shudder. It wasn't obvious right away, but there was a girl up against that gate. I probably wouldn't have even noticed her, had she not moved. As we passed, she reached for the hem of her denim mini skirt and tugged it down (for effect really. I mean, come on, sister. One more square inch of flesh isn't going to send anyone over the edge. You're having public sex, for chrissakes.)

Yes, the boy definitely was either stoned or drunk and his pants were about 3/4 of the way down his legs. His oversized shirt covered his backside. What was most striking was this: while they guy looked like he was enjoying himself immensely, the girl looked embarrassed and maybe a little scared. She was just a touch taller than him and her head poked out just above his right shoulder. She looked right at us as we passed. Weird.

Afterwards, I thought to myself: this is the kind of thing that always happens to other people and never to me. Almost everyone I know has some sort of "i saw people doing such and such in a public place". Not me. Not ever. Do I have some instinct to avoid this stuff?

I remember a bus ride home in high school. It was my first year of high school. I was still a naive little girl, fresh from Catholic grammar school, on her her way to Catholic high school and ignorant still of the inner workings of human sexuality. Nancy P., all ninety pounds of her, leaping up on her bench seat, revealing the rolled up waistband of her her too-big plaid uniform skirt, pointing to the window and screeching and giggling that the guy in the car next to the bus had his pants around his ankles and was masturbating as he drove. We all rushed the side of the bus Nancy was sitting on, but, by the time we got there, the guy had sped off. Nancy, breathless and smiling, told us the details. He was looking up at her. He was an older guy. The car was an older model. He was hairy. I sat back down in my own seat, disappointed that a few seconds had separated me from another opportunity to glimpse into the adult world of sex and its secrets.

After a few more blocks of walking away from the kids on the street, my thoughts took a turn. Was she there by choice? Was that a rape I had just witnessed? Did i just walk away from a CRIME, stifling nervous laughter and averting my eyes? Geez. She DID look a little scared. She WAS really young. She WAS tugging her skirt down so we couldn't see her... She did look right at us. Was she saying HELP, or, Man, I am embarrassed. Hurry up, drunk boyfriend, so we can get the hell out of here. I hate that I have to think that way.

***

Earlier in the day, I sold a little piece of my soul to eBay. I'll let you know if my "cute, perky" mug (their words, not mine) makes it to Internet. I was standing in line for a smoothie when a woman with an eBay t-shirt approached me and asked if i had ever sold or bought anything on eBay. Turns out, i had just sold my Simpsons figurine collection to a Canadian via CLH's eBay account. Made a cool $600 (i bought the damn things for almost $1200.00 seven years ago, so you could call that a really sound investment). I told the lady with the t-shirt the story and she called over her producer. I repeated the story to him. It wasn't much really- just that we had made all this money on the eve of moving into the house, and that, when all was said and done, I had essentially used that cash to pay my first mortgage payment. That, and after frantically wrapping up more than one hundred figurines after 51 simultaneous auctions on the eve of moving day, we moved with something like 12 less huge boxes. They ate it up (i think they ate up more that i was "cute and perky", "had great energy", and that i was wearing my hair in pigtails. I was asked three times if i was over 21 years old). So, i may be an eBay spokesperson soon enough. Here's the thing i took away from that: I am frighteningly good at taking direction. The producer made me do three takes, and by the third take, I was a 12 year old, telling the story in an almost-falsetto about my dolls that i sold on eBay and how thrilled i was that eBay was able (with a dramatic wipe of brow with back of hand) to help me make my payment just in the nick of time! Scary, huh? From jaded to juvenile in three takes. Who knew?

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A Conqueror and afeared to speak

That was the subject line of a junk email I received.

Having cut the grass yesterday, I sort of feel like the Conqueror of the Back 40 (that's what we're calling it these days: the vast, untamed expanse of a backyard we "own".) I also feel like there is so much to say about this place that I am a little intimidated about what to report. I'll start with the lawn and work from there.

A year ago (hell, three weeks ago!) I didn't understand what it was to cut your own grass. Power tools? For the birds. Definitely not for me. But, we bought this lawnmower at a neighbor's garage sale the DAY we moved in. We weren't quite sure how to start the thing, so we had to go back and learn the trick from the neighbor. Sure enough, it started, and its low hum was probably the most satisfying song i'd heard in a great while.

CLH and I did the front the next weekend. If I wasn't feeling like a suburbanite before, I was feeling it then. When I was finished, I stepped back, wiped the sweat from my brow, and admired my handiwork. The dandelions had been leveled. So, it wasn't so much a "lawn"mower as it was a "weed"mower. Nonetheless, it provided the illusion that I could manage the stuff growing in my front yard, even if for just a short time, and NOTHING beats the smell of fresh cut grass on a hot summer day. The interior of the house was such a freakshow... so, having just 10 square feet of order and simplicity felt hugely satisfying.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day rubbing my hands together mad-scientist-style in anticipation of mowing the BACK yard. Comparatively, the backyard is 6 or 7 times as big as the front... and even though I knew I'd only be able to get to one sixth of it last night, it was exciting. In some parts, the marshmallow (flowers) had to be trimmed before I could even get the mower over the grass. The lawnmower choked over most of the grass under the fruit trees. It was probably no less than a foot tall. A foot. I tried to recall the lawnmowing lessons of my perfectionist father- cut in even, symmetrical swaths, go over what you've cut, and incorporate just a few inches of the next swath on your next pass, continue like this to make sure you get everything... tilt the mower back on its back wheels and lower it onto the tall stuff, should you encounter it. Of course, my father never let our grass get a foot tall. It never was more than 2.25 inches long on any given Saturday afternoon. Towards the end of the night, as the sun was setting, I started to throw the rules out the window and was pushing that thing around like it was a vacuum and I was a crazed housewife expecting the inlaws in exactly three minutes.

There is so much more to do... but at least we can walk under the fruit trees and not have to wonder what on earth is tugging at our ankles. I must have found a dozen or more peaches underneath our peach tree IN the tall grass. This was in addition to the ones i found ON the tall grass. The previous homeowners said the peach tree wouldn't bear much fruit and that the fruit wasn't very tasty. We have found the exact opposite to be true. CLH and I picked about 10+ pounds of peaches a few days ago and they were delicious. My housemate and I skinned and cut them up last night and stuck them in a freezer bag for future smoothie making.

That's another thing: peaches. In my mind, they are reserved for the southern plantation. Any literature I have even encountered around peaches usually details lazy summer afternoons in the deep south, the cicadas buzzing... and now they grow right in my backyard. It's surreal to me. The cherries in my former backyard I could handle. Cherries are the pride of this state for a few short weeks in the spring/early summer. But, peaches? Peaches, too.

The Italian plum tree is so laden with fruit, there are more plums than leaves. I cannot wait to pick those suckers and turn them into prunes.

The apple tree is nearly 40-50 feet tall. I know, i know. Apple trees are not supposed to be that tall. But, when you've seen the rest of the house and the other forms of neglect it has suffered, you will understand how a fruit bearing tree gets to be 40 feet tall. We can't even see the fruit at the top of the tree. You wouldn't even know it's a fruit tree save for the beautiful, perfectly round deep red apples it drops underneath it every few days.

So much to do... I'll try to update this thing more regularly. And, I'll also try to avoid making this house the subject of every entry. It's a slippery slope...now that you know about the lawn, you're going to want to know about the kitchen and the bathroom. Camp bathroom. That's what we call it. The reason? Another time.

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This is not my beautiful wife…

So, i bought a house.

Hmmm.. That should probably be accompanied by more fanfare.

I bought a house!

Even that looks odd.

I just bought my FIRST house!! WOW!!

The "wow" might have been over the top, but I'll live with it.

It's an old farmhouse. It's in the suburbs. I live in the suburbs. It's a jagged pill to swallow, having lived in major cities most of my life. It's not quiet either or peaceful either. I live in a flight path, bordered by a highway. So, when the roar from the planes dies down, the roar of the traffic takes over.

I'll have more to write later; I am overwhelmed with having to add a commute to my morning time, with having to pack my life on my back to head into the city for the day. I'm trying to avoid words like "transition" and "life change", so it might take some finessing. There is so much to tell.

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Intertubes and Balanga

So, in talking with a friend tonight, I learned that one should never publish original work in her blog. Who knew? Who knew that someone might be so stupid, so devoid of creativity as to actually lift something from someone’s blog and call it their own! I mean, I’m embarrassed enough to be publishing my own small thoughts... I can’t imagine publishing someone else’s and calling them my own.

I’m still conflicted over the whole notion of having to update this thing regularly. That’s probably obvious by now.

Here is what I know:

This week, I had to stand in the back of a crowded courtroom and watch one of my clients testify before a judge that he was a fit enough father to his two young sons so that he might win custody of them. Before he stood at the cheap wooden podium, his sweaty lawyer at his side, he taped a paper doll cutout to its side. There were three dolls. The one in the middle was my client. The dolls flanking him were his sons. I knew this because they were labeled in a child’s handwriting. The middle one read “DADDY”.

This week, I had to tell other clients of mine that I would be leaving them because I’d just bought a house and the commute was going to be too long and the workload not enough. I was expecting a congratulations or two for the house purchase... but not knitted brows and looks of sheer panic, the-don’t-leave-me-please-i-can’t-do-this-by-myself look. I didn’t give myself a whole lot of time to sit with the feeling of being needed. I am needed. Somewhere out there, people need me. They don’t tell me regularly. But they need me. It is an odd feeling to be reminded so suddenly that I am so needed. Everyone is needed in this same way. Somewhere out there, someone needs you.

This week, I got another horrible sinus infection and had to spend most of July 4th resting. I read The Poisonwood Bible in about two and a half days. What an amazing read. Africa. Poor, poor Africa. What haven’t we done to you? Africa calls to me and repels me at the same time. The idea that there I share a planet with microorganisms that eat away at the membranes of the human body makes me appreciate the balance of it all, that a millimeter or three of porous material holds my insides in, and the atmosphere over our heads.

I can’t even really articulate right now what it is I want to say about all this. In general, I’m still ruminating on the theme of feeling purposeful on earth. My mind fixates on endtimes... and not because of any religious proclivities. Maybe I have been reading too much Jared Diamond, or listening to too much public radio... but it’s all very clear in my mind, more clear than most thoughts I have in a day, how this all goes. I live in a wealthy country that can’t stay wealthy forever. I watch as standards change, as I am being governed by a patriarchy of scared old men who make frequent and hollow public statements. I am watching security tighten, fears rise. I find my hope dissolves a little more every day when I hear that a little girl in Egypt has died of a botched female circumcision, or that we are in the middle of a mass extinction right now, the fastest one the earth has ever known. The Holy Roman Empire is in the valley below me, and I feel one part Chicken Little, and one part soothsayer, a history book in the one hand, and a notion to go run in the sprinklers in the other. I keep telling myself that when the year rolls over and a new president is elected, my hope will be restored. Even I know better than to entrust my precious hope to one man. But I need something to hold onto. Until I find it in myself- until I go to the place inside where my science melts into faith, and my doubt turns over into hope for the future, the infinitesimal spot where life begins inside me, I look for it all on the outside. I am morbidly fascinated by the shipwreck, observing it from the shore, praying I had nothing to do with it, wondering what it means that I escaped.

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Spinnet Circa 2003

3/11/04

It’s 9-11, isn’t it? You want me to write about it. Don’t you? Or maybe you are trying to tell me that’s the answer to the question of time I keep asking. It’s when it all began, or ended. That was the beginning of this… this period. This pupating, this time when nothing makes sense, when everything gets to get in. Every little thing I see, I hear, I taste, I touch, it all gets an apartment in my heart. I have no choice in the matter. It all gets to go in. And it all changes everything. Everything shifts and changes, like the interior of a lava lamp, all moving, all shifting. It never rests, and the same pattern never forms twice. There is nothing that can happen to me now that won’t affect me immediately. Everything must be thought of- every little thing, from the crushing of a bug in my kitchen, to what socks I wear and where I do my job. It’s more than a Zen exercise in mindfulness. It is a permanent change in my chemistry. It is the new standard. It is a painful new consciousness. It doesn’t fit me yet. I am piling on the new without having finished shedding the old. I am still tender underneath, having just shaken off the first half of my life. While scabs were still forming, this new awakening happened, and all the information I now posses just clamped itself to my body, stuck like barnacles. I cannot shake it, shake them. It is too much work to remove them, and too heavy to move with them. I am stuck. I am immobile. I am waiting. For what, I don’t know.

I am changing all the time now. I thought this would be the time when things settle and clarity comes with me wherever I go. Instead, every new thing I learn becomes a part of me. Instead of feeling adult and confident, I feel baby deer, unsteady on my legs, nervous, aware that I am prey, my life body fragile, my life short.

It is not liberating, though I have a feeling that is coming. It is gut wrenching and full of heartache, this time. It is full of indecision, and fear. It’s got me wondering all the time, and questioning… this is not comfortable.

I demand of myself that I be happy all the time. That everything be certain. I am always so surprised and hurt when things are neither way. I do not know what to do to pull myself out of this. All I know is that every time I look at the clock, it says 9:11.

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Into the Ether, Out of Mind

I've got "Comfortably Numb" echoing in my head: "Hello... is anybody IN there? Just nod if you can hear me"...

I never intended for this to be the place I post my feelings IN PLACE of expressing them aloud...

Frankly, I was pretty turned off to the idea of even having this blog for a long time. I knew exactly what would happen. I'd come here instead of to my friends to bitch and moan, to get something off my chest, to wax poetic about politics and brain tumors and the like... Something about the laws of energy just don't allow me to tell the same story twice with the same amount of gusto each time. It's either here, or in person... and the cycle is a nasty one; the more I do it here, the more I do it here.

And I think it's happening. I'm coming here more. And I'm not happy about it. And I'm concerned that I live two lives: one here and one out there. Is this what happens when one converts their innermost lives into public content? If it is, then I'm going to have to stop with the Deep Thoughts, and trim this back to funny anecdotes about buying jeans. Because I don't like the idea that I'm unreadable in real life and knowable here and only here. I don't like the idea that everyone is talking to my face and having a meta-conversation with the space just slightly above my head. "Oh yeah? Really? That's not what your blog said. I KNOW what your blog said and you're actually pretty upset right now".

I feel like I've got to refer back to this thing all the time, and it gets tiresome, frankly.

And I'm also tired of everyone asking me if i've read their blog. No, I haven't. And I haven't updated this one, so stop asking. And I have a life to live, and a paper journal to fill, where most of my writing goes. If you want to know, ask. And if you want me to know YOU, tell me. Is this what the age of information has done to us? Made us all foamy at the mouth with the thrill of thinking someone has seen us online, that we've connected to another human being in Ohio somewhere in some significant way, that we don't actually put any effort into actual face time with people? And we brush it off by saying, "Well, I blogged about it, so..."

There must be a law of equilibrium out there with this kind of thing. As in: for every blog writer who doesn't read blogs, there are three blog readers who don't blog. I am the non-reading type. Is it right to presume SOMEone is reading this? And that my karmic debt to read (and care about it) is cancelled because I am providing something for others to read?

Here's the thing about it all: for me, up until the moment I started this thing, the Internet was just a giant encyclopedia. If I wanted to find out when to plant my corn, what the difference between accrual and cash method accounting was, or who was playing the club on Saturday.... I'd just hop on the web. Now it's become a place I can be found. And I either need to get used to the celebrity, (however minor), or throw in the online writing towel.

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The Sound of a Zillion Crickets Chirping

That's how one online article described the experience of tinnitus. "The sound of a zillion crickets chirping." It also said that some folks describe the ringing in their ears as a loud roar. Mine sounds like those hearing test tones from my childhood. Sometimes high tones, sometimes low tones. Always comes in low at first, then finishes loud. Lasts about 6 or 7 seconds. Ironic, no? My hearing loss sounds like the test used to determine hearing loss.

Ridiculous, too, I suppose, that i would find poetry in having tinnitus.

I can remember when, as a child, i told my mother and her friend (who was a nurse) that I could hear these "sounds" in my ears. When I asked my mom's friend what it meant when people heard these sounds (I presumed everyone could hear these tones...), she exchanged this look with my mom, and, smirking, she said it meant "my body was working properly". I eventually invented my own mythology around it, believing that when my ears rang, it meant my grandmother was thinking of me, or that it was an opportunity to be extra aware of my environment. When she passed, i kept the myth going, thinking that she was sending out these vibrational tones from beyond the grave to make me think of her and give me pause for observation. As an adult, I've I've come to associate it still as an "alarm" of sorts... When the ringing starts, I try to take a breath, slow down whatever I'm doing, and notice where I am in my life. Even though I know tinnitus is actually a slow road to permanent hearing loss and not "my body working properly", I appreciate it in a way. I have a built-in meditation bell in my head, set to random, for the rest of my life.

Lately, though, it's taken on a slightly more ominous meaning: Meniere's Disease. It started with periodic bouts of nausea and slight dizziness, fatigue, irritability, and a general feeling of not being able to concentrate. Last week I found myself in the stairway of a parking garage downtown thinking that if I passed out from the nausea I was feeling, no one would find my body for some time...

I finally was able to see a doctor about it, and now I have three very scary sounding tests scheduled: an ECOG, an ENG, and an MRI. The doctor wants to make sure it's just my inner ear that's "grumpy" (her word, not mine), and not some festering tumor pushing on my brain.

I've been thinking about this whole brain tumor thing for a while now. I started to think of it when the nausea and pressure in my head started to get really bad. I've always had this vision of writing a novel in a hospital bed. Something about being forced into a simplified, regimented schedule was going to eek this book out of me. How incredibly self indulgent and theatrical. I think it's right up there with writing my own eulogies.

I asked a coworker today if he'd ever had an MRI. (Note: not the best opener for conversation with casual acquaintances). When I told him I was going to have one to rule out the possibility of having some mass growing under my skull, his eyes opened up wide and he searched for words... there were none, of course. Only the patients are allowed to be so flip about their own diagnoses. The rest of the population is supposed to struggle with their responses, supposed to make the appropriate cooing noises that indicate sympathy and understanding, but then elbow you right back in the ribs when you make light of having a potentially life threatening disorder.

And it occurs to me that being able to say you have something like Meniere's Disease sounds so official and defining, especially to someone like me who sort of does the same damn thing day in and day out and doesn't really have much else to talk about. It's given me something new to answer "So, how are you?" with. It occurs to me that in a country like ours, financially rich but physically and emotionally bankrupt, being sick can be a full time occupation, can create celebrity, can give you reason to be noticed. And I'm a little scared of that.

Not that I'm planning on having a brain tumor. Because, of course, the flip side to all of this is: the more I understand what's happening inside this tiny, tiny little nautilus shell of a structure inside my head, the more I can come to terms with what this REALLY is. Like when my menstrual cramps got so bad and I was told I probably had endometriosis... a disorder in which the uterus sheds little "mini uteri" and distributes them throughout the body so that EVERYthing hurts when you have your period. Having just moved across the country at the time (but still dragging all my emotional baggage with me), it made sense that my body was trying to tell me that migratory flight doesn't cure the thing you migrated from.

So, now I wonder what a tiny snail shell shaped structure is trying to tell me. This little infinity swirl giving me the power to hear... with water swelling deep inside it... this tiny little voice (or is it an echo of my own voice?) in my head making me nearly fall down on city sidewalks to force me to listen.... this infinitesimal lake trapped in a foreign land, angrily making its way to its source...

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El Nina on the inside

Wallowing isn’t supposed to be part of the plan, is it? I mean, we are supposed to have exit strategies built in. We’re supposed to know how to get ourselves out of our own funks... there is no just “sit and wallow in it”. Isn’t that what evolution is? Rising above the status quo and seeking your higher calling? There is no “feel the bad feelings for as long as you like...” There is productivity to attend to. There are parties to plan and baby showers to go to. I don’t have time to feel shitty about my life. I’m supposed to DO something about it. But I can’t right now. There. I just reinforced the neural network that allows that thought to manifest. See? This is what it is to be human. To understand the interchange of chemicals that is depression, but to still feel powerless against it. To know I can perhaps do something to change this, but to not do it anyway. To pace the cage like a restless lion... and to know God is calling too.

Community. I’m supposed to reach out to my community. That’s what community is for, right? You lean on your peeps when the going gets rough. What if you are so ashamed of your own negative thoughts you don’t want to tell anyone about them?

This has a lot to do with my feelings about gratefulness. I’ve thought about what it would mean to leave all this, this hard work and reward and this small empire of success I have built. It would look like dumping a good thing, it would look like dumping a boyfriend that’s loyal and kind and madly in love with me. Or kicking the dog. That’s what this is. It’s about being so grateful that things have worked out that I am afraid to leave it. Of course, the deeper fear is this: that I will never again be able to create this. Every morning I wake up and the first thing that pops into my head is “is this what you really want to do today?” I have not had a leap-out-of-bed moment in a long time.

I could be a writer. That means I would have to write something. That means I would have to pick something to write about. That means I would have to weed out all the bullshit complaining and have some hope about something. People don’t want to hear about complaining. They want hope. They want transformation. They want babies and futures and dreams. That’s why I never won any writing contests in high school. I didn’t have hope. Not a lick. I saw the world one way and that was that. It was bleak. It was frank. It was honest. It was semi-delusional. My rebellion was against hope, really. I was angry at those people who were happy. Who saw the rest of us as hopeless. Those who wanted to slug me in the shoulder and wanted to tell me that things would get better, and why didn’t I try smiling, I wanted them to know this feeling too.

I’m feeling prolific, which always means that things are roiling around inside and they need to come out. Even the crows playing with the Pringles can outside is cause for a paragraph or two. I feel like a liar. Everything is not fine. Everything is not okay. I’m not even listening to you. Know what I am worried about? That you can see right through me. That you know I’m lying. And because I am worried you can see through me, I am not even listening to what you are saying.

I always leave a bite or two of food on my plate. I never noticed until a friend pointed it out to me. Why do you do that? I don’t know. I just stop eating when I am full. But then I started to notice this scenario in all parts of my life. I give up at the end. I carry things out to about 95% completion. I used to hit home runs in gym class until the 9th inning. Then I would crack under the pressure and strike out. I know how to get most of the way there. I just don’t know the house number. I know most of the parts, just not how to finish the project. I know how to sell the thing, just not how to close the deal. I always drop off at the end. I never eat the last bites on my plate. I am afraid, aren’t I? Afraid to complete because that will mean something new and unfamiliar and ultimately scary and unknowable. I will let that shoe dangle there for eternity. Dropping means I have to find a new shoe. And what does that look like? I have no idea. It means starting something up myself. It means taking initiative. It means choosing. Where are my guides on this one? They are all shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders and telling me they don’t know. They never chose a damn thing themselves. They don’t know how to advise me. They have no idea what choice looks like. They were all servants and serving is all they know. It is the legacy they passed on.

Even my freakin' cranio-sacral therapist doesn't want to work with me anymore. Lauren, can you imagine the space? Can you imagine giving yourself that space? Letting that energetic dent in your field just find some space? No, I can't. I just want my ear to stop hurting. Here's a hundred bucks. Thanks for your time.

Okay, hope. Here's something for you.

Novel Idea #1:
Woman, at the end of her life, waiting out death in an ocean front bungalow, writes the novel of her life. Her husband of 40 some years lives with her. A stable, loyal type, he loves his wife but does not understand her. She writes about having ultimately sacrificed her dreams to be loved by someone who would be her constant companion. She becomes so engaged in writing the novel, she makes peace with her life after being able to write it all down, learning, in the end, it was her gift to be able to create a life on paper she may have been too scared to live in real life.

Novel Idea #2:

A book of short stories, all using the unbearably unimaginative subject lines from spam as the opening lines. Here's one: "Devoid asked Silicon". Authors names are the senders of said spam.

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Re-Entry

Got back from Brazil on Sunday. Yes, Brazil. No, I didn't write a damn thing while I was down there. Just a few scribbles in my journal. Just wasn't feeling the blog thing. Needed a break from the constant contact. It was all about being away from clocks and computers. It was pure bliss waking up every morning and having absolutely no idea what day it was.
Re-entry has been strange and slow. Waking up has been easy. Going to sleep has been easy. I am writing this in the half dark of the early morning, a time sacred to me because of its REM potential. (Read: if you wake me up between the hours of 6 and 9 am and I forget my dreams, death will come to you). But this morning, and every one since Sunday, has been easy, even pleasurable, to ease into. It's those hours in between the sleeping and the waking that are really hard to get used to again.

I went to the wrong client on Tuesday. Didn't really check my calendar or email and just sort of trusted from memory and a scribble somewhere that I was supposed to be North first and South second. Turns out it was supposed to be the other way around. Lucky for me, my clients are forgiving.

I can't get used to not having at least three different kinds of tropical fruit available to me at all times. Not having the blinding sun wake me up every morning or the sound of surf lull me to sleep. The air is cold here. I have to wear layers of clothing. It's Christmastime, for God's sake. People are shopping. Commercials come like machine gun fire. I can still feel the still, muggy air of the coast all around me. I can still smell the inside of the rental car, the hotel room, the smell that says "we do no live here; we need this to be clean and usable; we will make this space that smells unfamiliar and sterile our home and we will pine later on for the smell of our own kitchen, our own shampoo, our own bedsheets."

My nails have grown. That always happens on vacation. I like that.

I remembered my dream this morning. Something about carpooling too many people in a big white SUV and having to leave some people behind. Arriving at an unfamiliar grammar school, Catholic. Girls locker room... not knowing my way around.

Because we watched so much (bad) TV in Brazil, I can't really bring myself to turn ours on. Just listening to the radio is awesome.

Christmas is coming and I am feeling really torn up about it. That's probably what's making this re-entry doubly difficult. I saw my sister on the east coast during our three hour layover in Newark. It broke my heart a little. I had sworn off going back for Christmas because last year's was so traumatic (that'll be another post). And now I am feeling regret. I really want to see them all. I was feeling so brave in my stand against the drama-filled holiday. I'm not feeling so brave anymore. I miss them. Drama and all. I miss the joy of the season, which I know lives in them. I miss the effort, which, at least for my sister, is there. Of course there will be drama. It's not going to ruin my life, right? I've lived through the other 364 days of denial, drinking, neglect, and hazard. What's one more day? It's just a day, right? Just one day. Why is it packed with so much expectation? Of COURSE it's going to be traumatic. It's a holiday with a dysfunctional family, for Chrissake. What do I expect? Couldn't I have sucked it up for one more year and bought the outrageously expensive ticket and been with them for 48 hours? There is limited time on this earth to make amends with them. I feel like i have surrendered an opportunity just to prove I can. It doesn't feel very good. I want to be redeemed. I want it to go poorly. I want someone to injure themselves just so I can say I told ya so. It's not going to happen. I've got plans to stay here for Christmas with friends. I have faith it will be great. But I'm going to be thinking about them the whole time.

Detaching. Re-entering. Welcome, December.

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When Vegetarians find comfort in hamburgers

Some days, I just feel like bitching. Today was a rotten day through and through, and right now, at the end of it, at the very late end of it, there is no one home to complain to. My boyfriend/commonlaw husband/domestic partner- let’s just call him CLH for short, is in Brazil right now. He has stopped writing involved letters to me and has instead starting writing really involved blogs. So, standing here hunched over a 3,000 piece puzzle in my pajamas and Peruvian wool hat, listening to jazz and eating microwavable hamburgers for comfort... it occurs to me that if no is home to bitch to, I’m going to have to seek consolation somewhere else. The hamburger in plastic wrap was step one.

I shouldn’t even be feeling this way. It’s my job that does it to me. My clients. The problem with making a career out of being anal retentive is that when your clients aren’t, it really bugs. Why should I feel exhausted and defeated if my clients can’t get their acts together once a month? How hard is it to turn in receipts on time? How many times do I have to repeat myself about where things go? How can you leave for a vacation and not cross-train ANYONE in your office? How is it that exactly half of your whole bank statement has been entered incorrectly into your financial database? How is your response to my frustration always a pure and utter mystification that things can be this bad even though I tell you how to fix them every time I see you? Why are you still plying me with compliments about my thoroughness and loyalty when what I do IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED? HOW ARE YOU STILL IN BUSINESS?!!! I want to shout these questions to my client. I can’t give away too much about the identity if my clients. One day, though, I will. They and all their shitty bookkeeping practices will be exposed to the masses when I publish my book.

I thought about taking a relaxing bath- but, I’m sure the tub is just dirty enough to make that an experiment of human immunity. So, that’s out. I had a very small, greasy dinner and I ate it in front of the computer. The American Dream.

Kevin’s been bugging me about not updating this very often. He’s right to complain. I am crappy about the upkeep of this blog. I’ve got to let go of the notion that these entries are supposed to be tiny, perfect novellas. Forgive me, Kev.

I’m leaving in 4 days to join my CLH in Brazil. I practiced some Portuguese tonight but I quit after two lessons because my mouth hurt from trying to imitate the native speakers. I think learning Polish is much easier. I’m going to have to get by by pointing and pantomiming. I’ll be okay. I took Latin in high school and much of the written language is familiar enough to me. It’s the speaking a combo of three languages at once that is a little tricky on the grey matter. My mouth just can’t switch from the French words to the Spanish ones quickly enough. Ah... sun and more sun. It can’t come soon enough.

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Herculaneum

I spent the morning with my head cold and The Narrators. My head colds are like older relatives that come and inhabit my space for a week at a time, delaying and distracting me from my routine, leaving in their wake balled up tissues and half drunk cups of liquid and pill bottles and dried up tea bags... They visit at least four times a year and they are one part hurricane, and one part cause for watching lots of TV.

I cried listening to This American Life. I cried watching the History channel. Not good for an already stuffed sinus cavity. Maybe i just needed a good cry and a visit from Aunt Snot. What is it about being sick that makes me so emotional?

I wrote this on the couch this afternoon.

"Herculaneum"

It’s not that I am ungrateful
for modern conveniences
it’s that they give me pause
Like when I slough dead skin from my feet
with a luxury tool crafted for me
by the same forces that buried
thousands at Pompeii

water
and fire
vapor screaming through a tiny hole
the elements at work
like they have been for years
and then I have tea
I can wrap my hands
around pottery
the simple things, at least,
I imagine
don’t change much
after millennia
heat still soothes
liquid still equilibrates

it’s when I need my teeth to be especially white
or my water especially clean
that I am willing to
forego the caveman simplicities
and engage in a conscious relationship
with the castoffs of industrialization
polishing with fluoride
entertaining children with manufacturing byproducts
stuffing bras with liquid death
taking temperatures with poison

turning the dials on a machine
a Calutron Girl
never knowing how much
I am contributing to the
fabrication of the bomb
simply by being alive

never knowing how much ash
my best living is done in.

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Unsolved Mysteries

List of things done this morning:
Dreamt strange things. My sister was involved. Again
Exercised while watching a re-run of Oprah
Showered
Dressed
Watched 15 minutes of an Unsolved Mysteries, circa 1992, on Lifetime, about the Unibomber and the Zodiac Killer while brushing teeth

Has it really been ten years since Ted Kaczynski? It's been a long time since a lot of things, hasn't it? Who knew the Zodiac Killer started his killing spree in the 60's? Who knew that Kaczynski and the Zodiac Killer were, at one time, thought to be the same person? Not me. How much of my young life I am finally starting to understand some 15 years later? How much went on around me as a child that I can only now put into context?

I listened to a program on NPR last night about the conflict in the Middle East. When hostages were taken in Iran and planes being blown up and cities being carpet bombed... how could I have known what to do with this information? I am having it all re-explained to me now, as an adult, via television programs and radio broadcasts, interviews with historians and professors, retrospectives, books, articles...

Growing up while the Berlin Wall came down and planes were downed over Scotland... these events were like people. They were players whose nervous ticks and habits and missing limbs and appearances in my life other adults would explain away with cryptic assurances and smiles that indicated I would "understand when I was older". Now that I am older, I see what those assurances and simple answers were trying to protect me from.

It is amazing to have lived for so long without awareness. Not that anyone, including myself, was expecting a young girl to absorb the historical significance of anything, let alone remember what was for dinner in 1983. How incredible it is to be alive in the aftermath- to have survived to tell about anything, to have a story to tell to children that starts with "I remember when..." How amazing to be able to see history through. To remember when the Target on Mountain Avenue was a grove of trees. To remember when so-an-so was the president of Israel, of the US, of Chile. How amazing to have so much informational schrapnel flying around me as a child and to not get hit by a single piece.

Only now, as I brush my teeth with a toothbrush that does the work for me (the technology that guides it probably being developed as I breathlessly directed 3/4 of a yellow pie chart through a digital maze to gobble up white pellets in 1984) can I understand what it meant to die and how that "weird thing that Nanny did" was actually battle colon cancer, and that people were dying in international conflicts and from bombs in brown paper bags all around me ALL the time. Now things like "Iran-Contra Scandal" and "Unibomber" own their rightful definitions in my head. They aren't vague soundbytes and snapshots.

And when will I understand all that is happening around me now? In another 15 years? I want to call the White House and tell them not to make any decisions today, tomorrow, or next year. I want them to sit on things, for, say, 15 years or so, and see if they reach better decisions then. I want them to tune in to the History Channel and watch the bit about the landing on the moon, or the assasination of Kennedy, or something about the Panama Canal, or the acquisition of Hawaii, and I want them to think about when that became REAL for them. When the schrapnel of their youths finally caught up to them and they realized that history had been happening all around them the whole time.

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Really? It’s Permanent?

I can't believe I am going to type this next sentence. I got a tattoo today. And I'm not sure how i feel about it. I mean, when it was happening, my friends were there and they were stroking my hand and patting my back and telling me to breathe and taking pictures of my grimacing face, and smiling like jackals and asking how i felt and wasn't i excited and had i thought of my next one yet... And now that it's over... I'm not feeling how I thought I would. It's got a lot to do with how the design was arrived at. It happened just a few hours ago. I'm looking down at the bandage and I don't even know what this all means. I'm going to wake up tomorrow, and the next day and the next day, and there is going to be black ink on the inside of my left arm. Forever. My partner, who also got one today with those same friends, said to me when we got home, "Our tough points just went up by, like, ten".
Is that what this is? A sign of my toughness? I don't know. I don't even know if I like the tattoo that much anymore. It was spontaneous and ordeal-producing and, well, now it's going to be on me for the rest of my life. Am i the kind of person who gets tattoos? I never thought I was. I have always loved them on other people. But me? Really? On my skin? My skin that, frankly, I have always really liked plain and clean? My arm skin that tans so beautifully, despite my Eastern European DNA? Permanently? A piercing I can take out (and i have. Over the years, I have taken the jewelry out 7 of my former 11 earring piercings and now there are just little dimples on my earlobes where the holes used to be) But a tattoo? There's no going back.
I just never considered myself a tattoo person. I mean, EVERYone has one, right? Most people I know do. I was one of the only people who didn't. I kind of liked that. Is this as simple as me being sad that I am one step closer to being like everyone else? Or is this really major, some sort of milestone, some coming of age- which is what a tattoo is supposed to represent anyway- that i am resisting?
I mean, civilizations the world over have painted themselves in ceremony. Why the hell should i exclude myself? To be fair, the Amazonians don't have to show up to work on Monday to reconcile the books and discuss the budget like I do. But is that what this is really about? That i would offend some stuffed shirt with my body art? I was holding this no-tattoo policy in protest of all the tattooed folks who thought they were being hipper than thou. Am i now hip? I don't really think so.
Here is what my tattoo is: it's five letters, in circles. The circles are the round keys of a Royal typewriter, circa 1930. My tattoo says "WRITE".
I wanted that tattoo to remind me to write more, to consider myself a writer, and to act like one. I imagined that it would be a great motivator when i had, for instance, just about run out of juice, or felt that everything i had written up until that point was shit and not worth printing. I would look down at my wrists paused above the keyboard, and then my arms, and I would read what it said there on my forearm....and keep on going. It was to serve as a reminder to take myself seriously, to DO SOMETHING with this "thing i do".
How incredibly pompous, huh? I mean, really. Why not just ink the grocery list on your bicep so that when you are in the store you can catch your reflection in the produce scale and remember to buy more cantaloupe? How bad am I at remembering my true calling that I need to have a permanent black scar on my arm to remind me?
The truth is, I do need it. But let me tell you about how this all went down.
We went to a play, four of us. It was last night. When the play let out, it was still light outside, and we weren't ready for going home yet. My best friend, eyes wild, suggests we all go get tattoos, and her fiance nods in zealous agreement, leaning forward onto the middle console. My partner and I look at each other. "Really?" we ask. Best friend is serious. Fiance is serious. I am nervous and giddy. Yes, we say. And we go on the hunt for a tattoo shop.
They all come up with their ideas quickly. I deliberate. It should be significant. It's my first tattoo. It should be cool, and original, and mean something to me. I have thought about this reminder I want to put on my arm for some time. The idea is simple enough: It's got to be a typewriter. A picture of a typewriter. The one i learned to type on: an old Royal typewriter, a model probably used during WWII. The one my grandfather fished out of the trash in Newark and refurbished and plunked down, hard and heavy and smelling of metal and oil, in our playroom when we were children. The one my brother and I used to create a fake newspaper and crank out stories. I would write and he would illustrate. Later on, he would dictate the story of Mu-Shu the imaginary rabbit, and my fingers would hammer out his words as fast as they could. We would play bank, and office, and school, and we would use that typewriter for everything. It would soon jam, and the 'e's and 'o's had their hollow parts filled in with ink and dirt, and the red side of the ribbon would soon be smudged with black as we discovered that, in addition to being a word-making machine, it was also a percussive instrument. The harder you typed, the more satisfying a slap the hammers would make on the typing paper. Typing paper. No one makes typing paper anymore. For years I had saved the last bit of the ream from my childhood... moved across the country with it... and just recently used it up. Time to let go, I told myself.
There were thousands upon thousands of markings on the rubber cylinder of the return carriage. Someone before us had discovered the pleasure in typing without paper and leaving a mark on the cylinder in a grey-green-yellow ghost font. I used to wonder how many letters had been written to officers in far away countries with that rubber cylinder cushioning each tiny blow from the metal arms deep inside...
And now there is this command on my arm, this command I cannot erase. It's there. It's to direct me, to remind me.
But I wish it had come with more euphoria. The tattoo artist was not eager to put the silhouette of an old typewriter on my arm. It would blur, he said, in a few years, and turn into a shapeless blob. Well, then what about close ups of the hammers? Nope. The picture I brought in was not clear enough. Defeated, I chose the keys with the word WRITE. A command, a DEMAND, really. Nothing enigmatic or cryptic or symbolic like i wanted. No memorial to my talented and thoughtful grandfather. No thankful tribute to the machine that had taught me to type. No archival museum for antiquated, funny looking machinery. Just five letters, looking up at me and reminding me that every moment spent not writing is time not well spent. What was I thinking?
I wasn't. I had stomach cramps from macaroni and cheese. I was on the brink of getting my period and my lower half was churning and achy. I was probably dehydrated. I was caught up in the moment. I was excited to mark myself in honor of the decision made amongst really really good friends to be spontaneous, to celebrate our lives together.
And i know this is a GREAT BIG metaphor for the writing process- the denial, the self flagellation, the acceptance, the celebration.... and that makes me even more cranky.
I will probably learn to love it. I don't know that i will learn to love that razor blade pain, though. So maybe this will be my last. And if it is, that will be okay. Really. I have the rest of my skin to love.

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Letters to Nanny

So, the other night I had a dream.
My grandmother (who died when I was about 10) was sitting in a wheelchair. My grandfather (also dead) was standing next to her, and my mother (their daughter) was seated on a couch to the right of my grandmother. I called my grandmother "Nanny" when I was a kid, and my grandfather "Pop-Pops." (Side note: Funny how a toddler is assigned the role of naming grandma and grandpa. One of us kids eeked out "nanny" when we were learning how to speak, and that's what stuck. Don't know much about the etymology of "pop-pops", but we still refer to the stern, proud, 6'-something guy as "pop-pops".)

There was some subplot to the dream- something about me driving around with a boyfriend and being pissed off... i think we actually drove the car through a wall and into the living room where my family was sitting. No one seemed upset about the hole in the sheetrock. My grandmother motioned for me to lean down close to her head because she had something to tell me and couldn't speak very loudly. I did, but i couldn't hear what she said. She had something for me - a bag. Her feet were bound in bandages- and the shape indicated that maybe her toes were amputated (?). I knew she would never walk again- and I got the impression that the bandages represented a slow chiseling away at her existence, starting with the feet. Pop-Pops hands me a gift bag. Inside is stationary- all different colors and sizes, mostly pastels. There is a ziploc bag inside. I open it. It is filled with an assortment of stamps, all different denominations. I get the impression my grandmother was cleaning out a writing desk- some of the stamps are for strange amounts, and this tells me they came from a time when it cost less than it does now to mail a letter. I understand what is being asked of me. My grandmother wants me to write her a letter a day. I look in the bottom of the bag, and I see a glue stick and some Scotch tape, and one other object I cannot remember. The sight of this all brings me to tears. I don't just cry, either. I weep. I am overcome by the feeling of deep, deep gratitude, and a deep sadness. It felt like what it would feel like to have a starving child share his few grains of rice with you. This woman was dying- and she was giving away her last few possessions. I cannot describe how alive those objects were. I felt my grandmother's presence in the tape, especially. I could see that it had only briefly been used- there was quite a bit left on the roll. And it was the shiny kind- the cheap kind. It told me that she was used to a life of second-best, but what little she had, she was proud of, and it made her proud to give it to me. I took on the energy of that tape. There was shame, and there was pride, and there was so much love, so much wanting to share, to make someone feel special. I wept and wept. I understood that I was supposed to mail her a letter every day. It didn't matter what I wrote. I just had to write her. To keep her company as she was dying. She knew I was a writer, and she wanted to encourage my gift with the few things she had. By accepting the items, i was agreeing. I was crying still as the boyfriend and I drive off.

I thought I might wake up crying, but I didn't. I just sat in bed for a long time and tried to sort the dream out. I dream about my family quite a bit. (When I first moved here, I dreamt every day for 365 days about them- all the dreams were violent nightmares... it was a rough year). I can't remember the last time I dreamt about my grandmother so vividly. In fact, I can't remember if I've dreamt about her at all. There was no question about what I was supposed to do. Nanny wanted me to write SOMEthing every day. She wanted me to write her. I take my dreams fairly seriously. They are too vivid not to. This one especially.

I've been struggling with posting stuff here lately. I think my grandmother was trying to tell me to write SOMETHING, anything. Just to get my hands moving. Now that I am back in school (more on that later), I am finding the floodgates have opened. I am just having a hard time focusing on what to write about. There is SO much data coming into my brain... and I am taking lots of time to process it all... and as I do, the emotion about it all changes. I kinda feel schizophrenic these days. I suppose that's just how it goes with writing. The trick is to make time to write at least some of it down.

I saw David Sedaris speak the other day. What a brilliant, brilliant man. He said he carries around a notepad so he can jot things down to write about later. I do that too... though the "later" part doesn't seem to materialize for me like it used to.

Here's the weirdest part about the dream. And i admit this is really weird. I spoke to a psychic a few years back. I did this on some advice from a friend. And I swear she got everything right. Everything. She said the spirit of my grandmother is always over my right shoulder, encouraging me to write. The psychic said my grandmother was saying that "You should write. I don't know how to help you with the writing because my English is no good. But you should write. I support you". My grandmother was born in Germany. I don't know if the psychic knew this exactly, but she interpreted what my grandmother was saying into something like "i don't have the technical know-how to get you published, or to even understand some of the words you are using, but i know you should keep going." Ever since then, every once in a while, I think about that image. My grandmother gently pushing me to write more. I think she knew she had to make an appearance. I think she sensed me teetering out on the edge there, and she wanted to draw me back, encourage me to keep writing. I think she knew that my mind implodes daily with all that's in there that needs airing, and she was trying to tell me to go slow. Take a little at a time. Write a letter a day.

Thanks, Nanny. This one's for you.

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A Haircut, Amended

Alright, I take it back. My Guy, he must have been on something. I don't know what. All