Jul 31, 2006

The Rip Of The Cocoon

“I wonder if butterflies feel the rip of their cocoon. The way a woman breaks apart to bring her baby to life. I feel the rip. I can tell everyone everything I’ve told myself, true things, about why we have to go, and they believe me because I have sunk all my stocks in the honest line. Every sign points to the road. Is this the continuation of our demise, or is it the grit of metamorphosis? Are we about to emerge transformed by unemployment, fire, insanity, bad luck, and good business decisions? I feel a bit small. Maybe a little lost too.” (What I wrote on February nineteenth, this year, as we were selling our house to move to Oregon.)

One year ago this past week I had just found out that the reason I couldn’t walk after taking an unexciting fall at a friend’s house was because I had fractured my acetabulum* in five places. I had already been bedridden for two weeks, thinking it was just a pulled muscle (I’m obviously not an athlete or I would have known better). There was nothing they could do for a break like mine, so I didn’t walk for three months. I never took stronger pain pills than a steady dose of advil. Instead I chose to drink more beer. Lots and lots of beer. Beer is great for pain management. At least in the short term it is.

For a while I only worried about the lasting complications the broken hip might cause me (almost certain early arthritis in the hip, pain whenever I do high impact exercise, not being able to run), but as the months wore on and I continued to drink the same amount of beer, a new problem began to emerge. I got fat. (Beer is actually not the only culprit; lack of exercise- not my fault!, and plenty of comfort foods- mostly cheese, were also to blame.) I needed a lot of comfort long after I began walking, because by then we had a lot of other problems too. All of them led up to the decision, at last, to sell our house in California and move to Oregon. It felt like we were going to make a clean break from all that had been happening.

I felt that once we moved and settled in to our new life I would be able to ease off the drinking and comfort eating and really transform myself . I really thought I was going to experience a metamorphosis. Now that I have reached the one year anniversary of the day my body broke, I am frustrated to find that change is proving so damn difficult to make. I know what I have to do. I know the formula. I see what I want myself to become, I see in my mind exactly how much better I could be feeling. My self esteem is taking a pretty bad-ass beating being my current size, and being unable to resist the charms of beer every night, and lots of it.

Change is usually work. Often painful. Like giving birth. Like I imagine snakes feel when their old skin gets too tight for their growing body right before they have to inch themselves out and expose fresh skin to the harsh atmosphere. I know this. After all, wasn’t it hell all those months leading up to the move?

I don’t need to be thin. I kind of liked myself rounded out. I think most women need a little more flesh on their bones than they think looks good. When women get below their healthy weight (read: healthy- not fashionable) they start to look predatory, like Victoria Beckham. That woman scares the shit out of me. She has stopped looking like a woman and started looking more like a starved viper (do you think if she ate a mouse we would be able to see it sticking out of her belly?) But I’m sick of being fat. I have crossed the line by a few miles and I hate this road I’m on. Right now, for me to become comfortable with myself again, to feel my body follow my mind without noise, I will have to lose forty seven pounds. That’s a lot. And it takes so long for momentum to build enough to carry you through the tough moments.

It’s very difficult to keep my feet on my elliptical machine for long enough to make it worth while. But I’ve been doing it. I did my time just a short while ago and followed it up with sit ups and push ups (with the help of the fit ball) and forty eight lunges. While I was doing my lunges I experienced that rush of hope that’s counterbalanced by the inner calm that comes to me when I’m asking my body to do something difficult and it performs for me. The rush of hope comes when exercising feels good and I can remember what it felt like to be fit… and I look forward to more lunges. I look forward to a day when my body will show how hard it’s worked. I feel hope as little rushes of body chemicals get to my starved brain. Exercise FEELS GOOD.

As I did those lunges I flashed back to the lunges I did in fencing class, I remember how beautiful bodies can look while fighting. Lunging with a foil is elegant. It makes me feel fleet. Fleet is a word that haunts me. Dictionary description: fleet (2): adj. 1. swift, rapid 4. archaic a. to glide along like a stream

I want my body to glide along like a swift stream. I want to feel fluid and powerful like a rushing stream of clear water. I want so bad to hurl insults at what I am right now because it pales so drastically to what I wish to become, but I won’t. It’s time to stop making things worse by feeding negative thoughts about it to myself and everyone else. I’ve wanted to crawl out of my own skin since I broke my hip. It’s really important that I start to deal with this, because my life is so damn good now. All that holds me back from really moving on from the misfortunes that brought us to this wonderful new life is this erosion of my self esteem that began when I gained all the weight. I’m so tired of this tape playing in my head.

I’m terrified that I will- actually I’m too scared to say in print what I was about to say. I have always been a determined tenacious person. I work hard. I can focus on the task at hand and get it done. (That was mostly pre-parenthood, actually.) I’ve got the strength to accomplish this goal, I just have to figure out how to tap into it again. Fleet is a beautiful word. I will dream it tonight. Boats, sanded and sleek, cutting through dark water.

Jul 30, 2006

Feathering The Nest


The poor wee hens have been living in heated darkness for over a week. They don’t really care why it took us so long to build the run. They don’t want to hear excuses like: “We’re sorry we’ve been keeping you in a closet, but it’s been raining for ten days and we didn’t want to build your run in the rain.” Because they’re chickens, and chickens don’t have enough brain space to process man’s paltry reasons for ignoring their comforts. They just knew it was hot, they were getting an awful lot of feathers on their backs, making them even hotter, and they were living in a closet, like forgotten hens.

Today wasn’t momentous for them, as they simply think they’re finally living as all poultry should live: in the safety of a run, with plants to crush, bugs to eat, and dirt to roll in. But it was momentous for me. A little over one year ago I sat in my wonderful yard in Santa Rosa, listening to the funny soothing noises Claudine, Cora, and Dikas were making in the warm, lazy afternoon. I was looking at the things I’d planted in my garden, taking in the color of the flowers already in bloom, and I had the sudden quiet realization that I was having a perfect moment. More than that, I realized right then that my life was exactly as I’d hoped it would be, that nothing was missing from it, it was full, it was perfect.

You can’t have a realization like that without attracting the attention of the evil eye, (unless you have said realization while looking in a mirror and crossing three fingers), (which I wasn’t because I’m not the kind of person to have mirror “features” in my yard), so within two weeks of that beautiful moment, my life began to fall spectacularly apart. As most people already know, the first seam to rip was my whole utopian chicken set-up. As most of you also know, “Shagreen” (the name has been changed to protect me from lasting ripples of evil on the waters of misfortune I have already swum) is the person whom I blame for everything. Alright, alright, relax. She’s not responsible for anything more than an abnormal intolerance for chickens anywhere near her person. And since her house was directly behind mine, naturally she could hear Cora laying in the afternoon. Because, really, there wasn’t anyone within two blocks who couldn’t. But unlike most of our neighbors, she couldn’t find charm in chicken noise. So we had to get rid of our girls.

You can call it silly, but it really broke our hearts. Those birds were the crowning touch on a good life. They supplied us with amazing fresh eggs, cheerful noises, and entertainment. Ever since they left I have missed sitting next to their run, watching them scuffle around in the dirt, and play out their funny little pecking order skirmishes. Today, I got to sit down in the dirt with a beer, next to our newly built coop, and watch my hens trying to sleep after a dreadful ordeal with Chick who wants to kill them. I got to watch them pile onto each other for the best dozing position while keeping one eye on me until each one began to feel the calm and all their heads dropped like sudden death. It was heaven. I’ve come full circle. After losing Claudine, Cora, and Dikas, (all of them are dead now), I didn’t know if I’d ever get to have chickens again because they’re illegal in Santa Rosa. I couldn’t see what was going to happen in our lives. I couldn’t see that we were going to move to a town that allows us to have up to twelve fowl.

I’m not going to say my life is perfect now. It’s hard to fool the evil eye with lies when you’re holding the truth in your head, so it’s with satisfaction that I can report that my life would be perfect if we had everyone we loved here in Yamhill County. But we don’t. However, as I put my birds on their roost for the first time, tucking them into the safety of their coop as the light finally faded, I felt such peace in my heart. An inner quiet I haven’t felt for just over a year now. Philip and I stood in the middle of our farmy garden, enjoying our spot in this wonderful town, and listened to the quiet trilling of the girls as they dropped off to sleep. Now we just have to find a way to convince Chick that the chickens are not an invitation to use her retriever skills.

Jul 28, 2006

Does Size Matter?

When you're speaking of body parts in a bedroom type scenario, I'd have to agree with whoever originally said that "it isn't the size that counts, it's what you do with it that matters." When you're speaking of tomatoes, you'd think I'd have a different answer, but I don't. I don't personally take my tomatoes to the bedroom, and if anyone else does I don't really want to know about it, but what you plan to do with your tomatoes will directly affect your opinion on what size is best.

I grow paste tomatoes every year with the intention of making the best damn dried tomatoes I have ever tasted. I have yet to succeed, but I keep trying. Generally they end up in salads (fresh) because I get discouraged by the drying results. I have dried Sungolds, which turn into raisin sized discs which, when reconstituted in water, turn out to be mostly skin. I have also dried Principe Borghese paste tomatoes, excited by its status as a well loved flavorful heirloom paste known for making great sauces and sundried tomatoes. But the Principe Borghese (as demonstrated above) is quite a small paste, drying to a size only slightly larger than the sungolds.

This year I found some Polish Linguisa starts and decided to plant those along with the Borgheses to see which I liked better. Now that the two are maturing side by side, I cant help but be astonished by the enormous difference in size. The Linguisas are HUGE, but each plant is producing a fraction of the quantity the Borgheses are. It will probably take several weeks to dry out one of those sausage sized Linguisas, but will they out-perform the smaller pastes in my kitchen? I confess I've got my hopes pinned on the big ones this year.

I've been wondering about drying methods too. I have tried drying tomatoes in my oven on the very lowest temperature, but have only managed to end up with a pile of crispy singed chips. I have also employed the use of my American Harvest dehydrator which takes over twenty four hours and makes a lot of noise, but the results are pretty good. What I'd like to do next is try drying them in the sunshine like the Italians supposedly do in the country. Only I'm not keen on inviting ants and wasps to a tomato coctail party, so I was thinking of using one of those drying racks that come with superfine netting that protect the fruit. (What do the Italians do about bugs? You see them string up clusters of paste tomatoes and hang them from their houses, do they pick out the bugs later? Or do they leave any incidental insect victims in the fruit and that's what really makes them special?

My dream is to dry tomatoes and then preserve them in olive oil with herbs, like the kind you can buy for a king's ransom in the jars. That's what I want. Those succulent, tangy-sweet, substantial, chewy, rich tomato halves you pull dripping with oil from the jar and add to pasta. Can a person produce such a culinary treasure at home? If I ever pull it off, I promise to share my methods. But if someone else has already accomplished this, would you please fess up and tell me how it's done?

Jul 27, 2006

Loose Screw Extracted With Exacto Blade!

The threaded piece of wire that worked it's way out of Philip's humorous bone has been slowly working it's way up through his bicep muscle (causing quite a lot of discomfort on its way). By yesterday afternoon you could actually see the metal pointing up just under his skin. Luckily, he had a doctor's appointment this morning and the doctor managed to extract the wire with an exacto blade and needle-n0sed pliers*. I'm not wishing I was Philip today. The great news is that he was scheduled to have surgery next week in Santa Rosa to remove this renegade metal, now, two stitches later, he will not have to go back to Memorial Hospital. So this is a happy day!

*Alright, alright, Philip insists that I note that the doctor did not, in fact, really use an exacto blade and needle nosed pliers, he used a scalpel and the thingy-ma-bob-that's the surgeon's equivalent to needle-nosed pliers. Would anyone have actually believed my version anyway?

In Other News: A Change To The Comments Section

I don't know if any of my friends or family have attempted to leave comments to any of my previous posts and found they couldn't (I'd like to think that at least one of you has tried) the reason is because I didn't have my comments template set to accept comments from anyone besides other bloggers from Blogspot. I have now changed the settings so that anyone, anywhere, can leave comments. For those who are not familiar with word verification: please note that before posting a comment you must enter the letters you see in the word verification, this makes it difficult for junk mail to be posted here. So please, let me know you've stopped by, it will feel like old times when you used to be able to drop by my house for a casual chat.

Jul 26, 2006

This is BBQ Bob standing outside the courtyard building.

We have lots of Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products.

That's the whole tiny store. However, there's
more in there now.
Pictures of the Dustpan Alley Store

Weeds Become Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how misleading it is for me to tell people I’m a passionate gardener. When I say that to someone I’m pretty sure that the first image that comes to their minds is a gorgeous landscape of orderliness, that I can be seen in it every day weeding out the two or three dandelions that threaten to overthrow the tidy arrangement of border dahlias. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they are conjuring up a quaint picture of me as a modern day Mrs. Marple, tweeds and all. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It would probably be more truthful to say that I cultivate chaos.

What I’ve been trying to figure out is how much I actually care that my yard is full of stately weeds almost as tall as myself. A person’s yard is often criticized based on how well it’s being maintained. Apparently lots of people think of a dying lawn and a tomato patch hidden by the six foot dandelions growing around it is an eyesore. I keep hearing the voice of a friend of mine condemning our whole neighborhood for the horrible state of it’s gardens, how no one does anything to take care of or beautify their yards. I personally had a whole different take on the state of the gardens in our neighborhood. I saw yards teaming with flowers gone wild, overgrown lemon trees bursting with fruit, roses weighted down by lush cups of color and perfume, I saw “love in a mist” taking over whole front yards creating a feathery mass of dainty blue flowers. I didn’t condemn people for disorder in their yards. I didn’t care if their vegetable patch was filled with weeds, I was simply excited to see people growing vegetables.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because we live in a neighborhood now of very carefully mown lawns, judiciously placed shrubs, and a sparing use of annuals. The farther into the summer we get the larger my weeds are, the greater the chaos, the browner the lawn, and I’ve been feeling guilty about it. Worrying about how offensive the neighbors may find my yard. What opinions they may come up with about who we are, value judgments they may make based on the number of weeds we are currently cultivating and how infrequently we mow our lawns. Frankly, it has really started to annoy me that I care at all what the neighbors think. That’s not my usual way. So I’ve had to ask myself if I really care about the weeds at all for my own sake.

My answer is very clear. If I had the time to really clean up my yard and maintain a tidier look, I would enjoy it, definitely. When you clean a yard up, mow the lawns, and keep plants trimmed, the beautiful things in your garden really stand out. But I don’t have time. Some people who don’t have time to keep a garden tidy plant “low maintenance landscapes”. I find landscapes like this institutional and depressing. I would rather plant what I love and let it go wild. But I think the most important thing to realize is that the purpose of my yard is not as a pleasant showcase of my design abilities, it’s purpose is to provide me with food to eat and flowers to cut. That’s my true passion.

I enjoy planning a garden. I would love to have a mini Versailles right here in my back yard. I absolutely love it when form and function combine together. But what I love more than that is eating fruits and vegetables that I have grown myself, gathering flowers to fill the vases in my house, and to share all this with the people I love. There is a practical reason to weed which is to prevent your plants from getting choked of light and robbed of nutrients. Yet I must say that my tomatoes are growing just as well right now, being surrounded on all sides by weeds and volunteer cosmos, as they have done in the past when I’ve had the time to keep them weed free.

One bonus of not weeding much is that you get to learn the history of your garden. Letting whatever pops up grow to maturity will inform you what has grown there before. Aside from the common weeds that we usually don’t value much, there are also other things that can pop up. In my case, seeing a field of cosmos grow effortlessly amongst my vegetables makes me ridiculously happy because in my last garden I couldn’t grow cosmos worth a damn. Even more importantly is that as I have watched the cosmos, sunflowers, and bachelor buttons flourish, it has made me feel connected to the last gardeners who tended this spot. We seem to love the same things. So I’m never alone out there.

In the end, I say the neighbors can do what they want with their yards, and I will stop feeling guilty that they have to look at mine. I own this little spot on earth, it’s my playground, my constant experiment, a place of exploration, a connection to other people, and to me it is a place of tremendous beauty whether it’s been well maintained or left to tangle it’s riches up. I don’t give a damn what anyone (including friends) think of my yard, it is a huge source of peace for me, weeds and all.

Jul 25, 2006

Me And My Heat Rash Clean The House
(in less than three hours?)

That’s right, the heat rash on my neck has grown very fond of me. It’s at least a little cooler today than it has been for a week so I thought it would be gone…I guess I may as well start referring to it as another person. Max is in school, Philip is working in the store, and I’m here at home. I’ve just put on some music SUPER LOUD. I’m playing the same songs over and over. The neighbors that aren’t deaf are probably not particularly keen to live near me. Well, shit, this neighborhood is WAY TOO QUIET. I like noise, life, kids playing, neighbors chatting, and music. I guess we’ll have to provide all of that for everyone else.

I feel very happy in spite of the steady stream of sweat trickling down my back and neck. I love being home. I love cleaning it. I love it when after putting all our detritus away and scrubbing everything down I get to put fresh vases of flowers everywhere. I love clean sheet night. I love it when the bathrooms shine. I love this life I have. In spite of being disgusted with my fat body, I actually feel lucky to be the kind of person who can be made happy by a few hours of solitude caring for the things we’ve worked so hard to get. I’m truly happy. I want all of my friends and family to feel the same about their own lives. I wish I could send this feeling to all of them in a first class package.

Well, I better get started because I have a lot to do. If anyone else out there is home today gardening or cleaning or cooking: be in the moment and we’ll all put that much more simple joy into the atmosphere. Cheers!

Jul 23, 2006

What I Love About Extremely Hot Weather

I feel the tone in my earlier post was, perhaps, a little too negative. So I am going to try to find a more positive tone by enumerating, here, all the positive things I can about living in extreme heat. (Especially since more than one thermometer has now reported that it is 107 degrees out there):

  1. It can really strengthen your connection with your body; you sweat in places you didn’t previously know you could, which forces you to be very present in your skin. Aren’t gurus of all sorts constantly extolling the virtues of this?
  2. Feeling unfresh for five days in a row can really help you develop a tolerance for the hygiene-impaired people who are never fresh. Tolerance is a quality I greatly prize.
  3. Extreme outdoor temperatures give weight to the long-held (and much cherished) rumor that people can spontaneously combust. What seemed ridiculous when it was merely 95 degrees outside, seems suspiciously possible when it soars to 107 degrees and you’re on your scooter riding through walls of flame like a tiny match.
  4. If you are afflicted with heat related ailments such as heat exhaustion, headaches, and nausea, or bloody noses, it provides you with plenty of opportunities to practice the art of stoicism. (Notice how I haven’t mentioned the stinging heat rash that spread across my neck just after I started this list?)
  5. Living in extreme heat can educate you about things you were previously incurious about, such as; what it feels like to be a grain of sand in the Gobi desert; how it feels to be an ant under a magnifying glass on the sidewalk; how a carelessly dropped ice-cream cone feels as it liquefies; what lobsters must experience as you drop them into a pot of boiling water while they’re still alive.
  6. It can feel devastating when the garden you’ve nurtured all year shrivels up in one big suicidal mass of brown crispy leaves and petals, but if you think about it, doesn’t that provide you with a well deserved hiatus from all the work you constantly put into it? Slow down, relax, and watch other neighbors work their asses off to save their own gardens.
  7. It’s provides us with a real test of strength and endurance. Since heat like this can actually kill people, if you live through it you can really call yourself a survivor. Heat like this is not for sissies.

I’d like to come up with a couple more things I love about the heat but I’m tapped. This has been a real break-through for me. Now it’s time to watch some episodes of “Arrested Development” and try to ignore the rash. Beer will aid me in this effort. I hope all of you have heat rashes too- whoops, little Freudian slip there- I meant beer.

Life As Roast Pig

You know how when you climb into your oven and those visible waves of heat envelope every inch of your skin, and your skin starts to feel and look like hot lava, and then the volume of your body mass starts to shrink as your blood all boils off, and then every last bit of animation leaves your body because, obviously, if you put a pig in an oven it will die? You know what I’m saying? And then what if your wonderful help-meet spritzes a little water in the oven so that you get a little steamed too, to preserve some of your natural juices? Well, I’m wondering if I might be a little more comfortable if I actually basted myself. Maybe then I’d start to look like an often-and-well baked celebrity with that orange skin they prize so highly instead of a pink pig shoved on a spit.

Yep, it’s damn hot. This is day five of temperatures over one hundred. We peaked at one hundred and six degrees on Friday. It’s supposed to be one hundred again tomorrow. The thermometer hasn’t dipped below seventy-seven for this whole time. But Philip and I suspect that’s just a rumor our thermometer was spreading as a morale booster. If it ever did, in fact, get that low in the last week then it did so for exactly five minutes. Jesus.

Although I feel pretty miserable, I suppose I must be obligated to feel lucky since it didn’t reach four degrees higher like it did for my friends and family in Santa Rosa. I hear it got up to one hundred and ten degrees. I should feel sorry for them, but I don’t. Because I don’t have the physical energy it would take to muster up that much empathy while I sit here in a pool of my own sweat trying to get used to the permanent sheen my face has developed.

I’d say my attitude about warm weather has improved dramatically over the years as I have come to terms with the fact that homegrown tomatoes don’t thrive in the same climate that I do. I like to grow things. The things I like to grow like heat and sunshine. So I have learned to appreciate the merits of these conditions to the point where I actually tolerate temperatures up to eighty five degrees with aplomb. At this moment, however, my improved attitude is on strike. I am grumpy.

To make it more fun, Max is like his mamma was as a youngster and gets bloody noses when the temps soar. I suspect that the preschool is starting to think hard about the likelihood that they have the youngest meth addict ever known. I can tell by the medical reports I receive from them (which include the amount of time it takes them to stop the bleeding) that they find nosebleeds like his alarming.

I have just enough energy left to be happy that my body isn’t covered in thick, dense, black fur.

Jul 22, 2006

Ten Great Mysteries

  1. How a precision instrument such as a penis can shoot pee so wide of the toilet bowl target.

  1. Why everyone in the world is so obsessed with getting nowhere faster than any one else.

  1. How it is that George Bush has not yet been assassinated. (Note to FBI: I’m not suggesting that anyone do this, only that it’s a great mystery to me that no one has.)

  1. How the urge to procreate is stronger than the pain and carnage a woman experiences giving birth.

  1. How it is that boredom became the new Zen. In my experience, you have to be pretty determined to be bored in a world where there is so much to do. For me to reach a state of boredom I would have to go to a boredom clinic and find myself an ennui master to guide me. Yet so many people achieve this state effortlessly.

  1. Why it is that so many women seem to believe it’s more honorable to be a mother than to be a wife. Seems to me that most women are subservient to their children in ways they would never be subservient to a man. Considering that half the children out there that women “serve” are boys, isn’t mothering also contributing to the “evil” patriarchal system? How is it more honorable to scrub the floors in service of your three year old napoleon than to scrub them for yourself and your spouse?

  1. How people can live in a flood zone for twenty years and make a great show of being surprised every single year when they have to evacuate their homes because of flooding. Guess what people? It’s going to flood next year too, so either stop pretending to be surprised or move out of the flood zone for cryin’ out loud.

  1. How a person can be a size zero. Zero can’t be a size because it means “nothing”. You can’t be no size. And why do women feel proud to achieve a zero existence?

  1. How women actually believe they look younger with plastic surgery. All it does is make them look like mutant older women who wish they were younger. (It makes me really sad.)

  1. The amazing disappearance of critical thinking in my country. When did we stop teaching it? Did all the critical thinking skills get sucked up into a big black hole and land on some other planet? Or is there a new disease out there like tuberculosis that renders people incapable of thinking critically? If so, why aren’t we inoculating our children against such a life crippling illness?

*Reading this list through I notice that I appear to be more mystified by women than by men. For the record: this list merely reflects what I find most mystifying today, by tomorrow men could easily figure more prominently on a similar list.

Jul 20, 2006

Madness (The other side of normal)

We are feral beasts
clawing at the dismal dark
to get at your lamplight
to feed from your torch of normal.

We are the devil’s drumbeat
a legacy of god’s abandonment
battering our way into placid dreams
declaring native war
against everything you must believe
to keep us invisible.

We are you, in acid nightmare
every honest emotion you ever had
played through an amphitheatre
the skin of mind ripped down
leaving only raw thoughts.

We are mankind’s mirror
we’re what you see inside yourself
when stripped of every certainty
when shivering alone in luminous pool
of quickly burning spirit.

We are the animal of survival
that whispers when to shut up
when to run like your cheetah brother
almost faster than death.

The Most Annoying Question: “What Is Normal?”

(With Regards To Humans And Their Behaviors)

I hate this question. It makes my stomach curl up and slap my lungs. I believe there are two kinds of people who ask this question, those who are NOT normal but don’t want to be included in a grouping that might have negative connotations, or those who ARE normal and don’t want to be excluded from a grouping that might prove to be a lot more interesting than the one they’re in. Normalcy is not a value judgment. Being normal or not-normal isn’t an indication of your coolness, or your acceptability as a human being, or your ability to contribute value to society.

Here is the dictionary description of normal: 1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal (that’s so helpful); regular; natural. I think “natural” is a great place to start. Normal, with regards to human behavior, is a way to describe the “natural” state of being. It’s a way to describe how the majority of human-kind behaves in any given situation; the way people most commonly behave; the way most humans are equipped to live life, make decisions, hunt down boar when they’re hungry, and generally get along with each other.

Perhaps I should mention that the reason I have developed such an avid animosity towards this question is that I have spent most of my life living on the other side of normal. I have had a lifetime to observe how others react to life’s stresses such as taking tests in school and compare that to how I react to taking tests in school. I have been able to see what normal is by being the only one in art class to hear an alien ship landing outside, being the only one to realize there’s a damn good reason to panic about it right now! (Until my friend pointed out that the noise I was hearing wasn’t an alien ship, it was the school band practicing next door to the art room. Yikes.) I have come to understand what is normal by my ability to shut up an entire room of happy social people by simply stating what’s on my mind. When thirty other people look at you like you just stepped out of a can of reddi-whip, you develop a deep sense of what is normal and what’s not.

No matter how much some people don’t want to believe there is such a thing as normal, everyone participates daily in defining what is common (and acceptable) human behavior by the way they react to everyone else. You can say that there’s no such thing as normal, but people, like dogs, have an energy they carry around with them that always tells the truth about what they feel, and is incapable of projecting what they wish was true. Humans can tell a lot about each other just by the energy they are carrying inside of them. You could tell me that it’s totally normal for a teen to cut themselves up with metal shavings found in the woodworking classroom, and aside from the fact that I would automatically know you were an ass for even saying something so patently stupid, I would know you actually found such actions abnormal, and probably creepy. (Unless you happened to be someone who’s done that to themselves.) I can tell when someone is weirded-out by things they don’t understand. I can tell when a subject makes a person afraid, because I can feel the fear surround them like a small toxic cloud.

Generally speaking, when a person exhibits behaviors that fall outside of the natural range of human behaviors, it’s not because they desperately want to be different than everyone else to be cool, it’s generally because something in their bodies isn’t working optimally. Generally speaking (have you noticed my liberal use of the word “general”? I really mean it.) if something in your body isn’t right and it’s affecting your behaviors, it means your brain is involved. What I’m saying is: it’s usually a strong indication that a person has some form of mental illness or other. Mental illness is becoming a pretty hot topic, and it’s about time. For a stigma to be removed, it has to first be understood, to be understood it has to first be talked about at great lengths.

This is my first installment of writing on a subject that is incredibly important to me personally and is increasingly important to everyone else as mental illness is on the rise and getting pretty hard to stick in the little locked trunk every family likes to fill with bones and stick in their closets. I would continue with this subject right now but for two reasons: 1.) no one can take more than a few bites of this subject at a time and 2.) I have to go take my medication so that I can continue to live on this side of normal which is so much easier than living on the other side of it, as I did for the first thirty one years of my life.

Post Hole Digging: Not For The Faint Of Heart


I’m pretty sure every guy on earth who has any pretensions to toughness will make it seem like digging a few post holes is (to him) no more strenuous than kicking a few clods of dirt out of the way. Unless he agrees to dig a few for you as a favor in which case he will probably let you know how hard it is so that he can get you to massage his poor shoulders later and kick down a few beers. I am tempted to make all kinds feminist sounding jabs at the weakness of manhood…but only because it sounds like fun. The truth is, digging post holes ought to be used as the stress test in cardiology centers because I’m pretty sure that digging post holes is more likely to give you a heart attack than walking on a stupid treadmill. (I should know, I’ve done both often enough.) When you ask anyone to help you dig a few post holes you should understand that you are asking them to commit to at least two days of pain.

Once you stop minding the burning sensation in your chest, shoulders and biceps, that you experience within the first five minutes, digging post holes can be a therapeutic activity. I find myself meditating on the millions of people who have dug them before me and how we are all connected by a long line of unbroken labor. Somewhere in the ether there are songs that hang like dolorous stars above every workman’s head, tapping out the peculiar slow rhythms that metal striking rock-dotted dirt makes and every workman’s body begins to move to that same rhythm. Universal. Like the old cotton-picking songs of the south. I wonder if grave diggers have their own rhythms and songs decorating the air they breath?

How hard your job will be, and how much you are putting your heart at risk, is definitely determined by the type of dirt you are trying to cut into and how many months it’s been since the last rainfall. I can’t say I have experienced the worst kind of soil…wait, yes I can. I once dug post holes in bone dry dirt freshly freed from its cement covering (which Philip and I broke up ourselves using a pick ax which is a whole other story in itself). This dirt was not only bone dry and about as compacted as it could get, it was also full of rocks. I dug these holes on a burning October day in Santa Rosa. It’s amazing to me, even now, that I didn’t lose ten pounds in sweat on that one afternoon. I have to admit that at the end of the day I had a pretty good opinion of my own tough-factor. I would have arm-wrestled the Governator if he’d asked me (after a few days of rest, obviously).

Today the dirt was solid moist clay. The main challenge with clay isn’t cutting into it, it’s relieving your digging tool of the clingy clods. This can make a grown man weep. I had to hit the digger sharply on the near-by pebbles every time I unearthed a new batch of clay. (This activity, by the way, is very disruptive of the universal post hole digging rhythm I spoke of.) And it’s very important not to lose any toes in your haste to add your new inch of dirt to the growing pile by your feet. I can say from personal experience that it’s a very bad idea to plunge the digger into your toes because a tool that’s meant to cut through hard dirt doesn’t have a problem cutting through a couple of flimsy bones. I’m pretty sure my big toe is still attached, but I haven’t taken my shoe off to examine the damage because, frankly, I’m scared to see what I’ve done to myself.

I managed to dig six post holes in one and a half hours today. Did I mention that the posts are for the chicken run we have to build within the next couple of days because our chicks are too big for their wash-tub basin? Tomorrow I will build my third chicken run door. Call me farm-girl Mathilda. Just as I was finishing up the last post hole the fluffy white clouds that had casually been floating around the bright blue sky turned low and mean. Thunder started to rumble and the air cooled refreshingly. Within seconds of putting my tools away (I know, I’m not famous for putting my tools away, pretty good huh?) the sky let loose some very slanty serious rain. It was lovely. Two things I love: sudden rain, and physical labor. It’s been a good Sunday so far. And now we’re all off to see a Mac Theatre showing of E.T. to celebrate the alien themed week-end.*

*Just to be clear on this, we didn’t make our week-end alien themed, McMinnville does it every year, with an alien parade and everything. Definitely dorky, definitely fun.

Jul 19, 2006

Farm-girl Lesson (5-5-06)

When you go to rent a rototiller for the first time, and the guy behind the counter tells you that you need an eleven horsepower tool for the job you’ve described, believe him. Because if you don’t you will pay with sweat, blisters, and if you’re very unlucky, blood. Today has been a marvelous day of honest toil and I have learned my lesson about farm tools. It’s been my dream to use a rototiller since I first started gardening and found myself shoveling up yard after yard of unforgivingly hard ground. I imagined that if I had a tiller I could plow through that ground like whipped butter. I saw myself at the handle of a shiny red Craftsman, like a nineteen thirties advertisement, easily gliding through my garden beds turning my obviously loamy soil, all red lipstick smiles because my life was made so effortless by this amazing tool.

To use a rototiller you must first find the switch that will turn it on, otherwise you may waste fifteen minutes trying to start the damn thing. If you rented it from Hertz there will be no instructions to inform you that there is an on/off button because they will assume that you already know this. Once you get the engine going it’s a simple task to simply walk it in a straight line and watch the tines break up the soil. Well, it would be, if you had the right horsepower for the job. If not, you will immediately get nowhere. You will notice that the blades are not really engaging in the soil. This is because it does not have counter rotating tines which is very important if you are trying to till anything besides a soft flower bed. But don’t worry, I know how you can make a front tine tiller work much harder than it’s meant to. And I’m going to share my secret with you.

Basically what you do is fight the machine’s instinct to pull forward. You pull it backwards in the soil and it will work perfectly well. It’s exactly like trying to pull a stubborn fifteen hundred pound horse forward when it wants to go the other way. You might rip a few arm muscles doing this, but at least you will get the job done faster than you would using a shovel.

This is how I got my garden tilled. My chest muscles hurt, my hands are blistered, my arms ache, and I’m dead tired. But I don’t care. I got to use farm equipment today. My vegetable patch even looks like a tiny farm. My last garden was so much fancier with the potager that Philip and I built with the brick paths between the beds and the arbors with fruit trees growing up them. It was lovely when everything was in bloom and when I managed to clean it up. I really loved that garden. But this one satisfies me more. Part of why I like it better is that there is a much larger space just for vegetables and it’s not broken up by anything but an old pear tree. It’s just a huge patch of potential abundance waiting to be realized. I’m finally getting the farm life I’ve dreamed about on a scale I can actually manage.

Jul 17, 2006

The Kid Whisperer

Lately we’ve become addicted to watching “The Dog Whisperer” which is a brilliant show featuring Cesar Millan who teaches people how to be pack leaders to their dogs. The theatrical treatments on the show are entertaining (such as the intro which makes Cesar seem like a super hero emerging victorious from the dust), but the premise of Cesar’s work with dogs is extremely simple and consistent: a dog owner must become a “calm and assertive” pack leader, and what every dog needs is exercise, discipline, and affection. In that order. Ah yes, and one must never give affection to their dog when the dog is not in a calm submissive state of mind. That’s it. He rehabilitates the most difficult dog neurosis and aggression problems with what seems like magic. He tells a dog what he wants them to do and presto! The dog does it.

I’m not the only one who wonders if the exact same principles can be applied to children. Quite a few of the people who have appeared on episodes of “The Dog Whisperer” have mentioned how they plan to apply Cesar’s techniques to their children. In dreamy moments I imagine calmly and assertively forcing Max into a calm submissive state by simulating a bite on his neck with my hand…and then I imagine him giving me a swift punch in the boob and launching into a doozy of a tantrum. Why don’t aggressive children become immediately submissive when you roll them over on their backs? I think Cesar himself puts it beautifully when he says this about dogs:

“It’s not that your dog is LESS than human, it’s that he’s NOT human”

You’d think that would be obvious wisdom, but there are thousands of people out there who view their dog as an extension of their family, a kind of adopted child. So this explains why I can’t just make Max submit with a choke chain, even when I’m using it correctly. So for those of us who have “challenging” children, who can we turn to? There are so many child psychologists out there, so many different philosophies, so many wrong turns to take, so many avenues we can turn down that may or may not turn out to be useful. I’m not going to trust anyone who has eight children (such as Dr. Sears) to tell me how to raise one VERY determined child. I’m not going to trust anyone who suggests I wait around patiently for Max to want to cooperate. It will never happen.

I’ve taken a positive discipline class and it wasn’t for people with children like Max, it was for people with average children. Children with a little stubbornness perhaps, children who will readily be motivated by tiny gestures and treats. I tried the methods and always it came down to: so when you’ve walked away from your child’s temper tantrum calmly and he’s clinging to your ankle like an angry Chihuahua for forty minutes screaming the whole time, what do you do then? My teacher had no answers for me because in her experience there aren’t any children like Max. What I need is a Kid Whisperer. Someone who has a philosophy that will work every time and is based on a simple , practical premise. (Not something simple and stupid like “Jesus will guide your child” because I’ve noticed, if no one else has, how many church going children grow up to be pedophiles and murderers.)

Since there is no Kid Whisperer, we are going to have to wing it until one shows up. We are going to come up with a plan today. The first thing we are going to tackle is: feeding the beast . Feeding Max has become intolerable. He will now only eat two kinds of crackers and ice cream. It seems to be natural (and common) for lots of kids to go through a few years of picky eating in their lives. I have certainly come to terms with a limited food palate in my child. However, there comes a time when it turns from picky palate, to a Napoleon-sized power trip. We have truly entered the war zone, and it’s gotten ugly. Today we will outline a plan and tell Max what it is, and post it on the wall for quick reference any time we feel we’re slipping. We will list the acceptable food items he can choose from for each meal of the day. If he won’t eat any of them, we will have an alternative list of acceptable foods he can try instead. If he won’t eat any of those, he just won’t eat. Crackers will no longer be acceptable as meal foods. Snack only. Bars and desserts will only be allowed after he has eaten an item from the acceptable list.

It’s easy to make a list. It’s easy to write up a plan. Max is going to fight hard. I’m going to have to work really hard to conjure up my calm assertive parenthood. Because what I’m going to want to do when he starts throwing his ugly fit is to scream at him. The panic will rise in my throat, and I’ll want to give up because parenting Max is the hardest thing I’ve ever been called upon to do. I might need more medication to survive this gig. Maybe it will help me to remember that I am as strong and as stubborn as they come. Not always qualities in my favor, but in this case these qualities may act as a brick wall against which Max may batter himself into a more peaceful state of mind.

In the meantime, if anyone finds a true Kid Whisperer out there, let me know.

Jul 15, 2006

How to have fun cleaning your house

1. Dress up. Wear lipstick*. Don’t even think about wearing those twelve year old sweats the cat peed on when you went on vacation just because you don’t want to ruin your good clothes. June Cleaver did not wear aprons as a sign of her meek subservience to Ward, she wore aprons to protect her clothes. So if you don’t have an apron, either make one or buy one. (Obviously I’d love it if you bought one from my store, but I won’t be offended if you buy one from someone else, as long as it isn’t an uninspired butcher apron.)

2. Put on your favorite music. Not the kind you listen to go to sleep. Not the kind you listen to to annoy your neighbors. Put on the kind that makes you want to dance and sing at the top of your lungs. Put on the kind of music that makes you feel giddy like a kid. If you’re in a situation where you can get away with playing it loud, then play it LOUD. Some of my personal favorites to clean to are Johnny Cash, the soundtrack to “Bridget Jone’s Diary”, The Pogues, and “Mob Hits”.

3. If you have room mates, a spouse, or children…kick them out. It’s difficult to have fun cleaning house when other people are lurking around trying to get your attention or complaining about your music. If you can get them out of the house for two hours you can transform your living space (for everyone’s enjoyment) while getting to spend some quality time by yourself singing and dancing with a sponge in your hand.

4. Don’t answer your phone, the world will not fall apart just because you unplug yourself from it for two hours. Start cleaning and don’t stop for breaks until you’re done. Keep the music going, keep your body moving, keep executing tricky dance moves between the sink and the tub. (This method of having fun while cleaning has the added benefit of burning calories.) When at last you’re finished you will be able to whip off your apron and like all good action heros, be ready for whatever else is coming your way.

*If you are a man who prefers not to cross dress for the sake of a clean house, ignore this suggestion. Men should avoid sweats too. They don’t look any better in them than women. Most men’s aprons are about as dull as three day old dishwater, so if you’re looking for something more interesting, check out the BBQ aprons in my store.

Jul 14, 2006


I have many times joked about having a few screws loose in my head, but I never imagined a person could literally have a screw loose inside their body. Yesterday I viewed Philip's newest set of x-rays which clearly depict a screw floating around his bicep. He's suspected for weeks that something wasn't right in his arm, he mentioned his concerns to his physical therapists and doctor and everyone was convinced (and tried to convince Philip) that it was just some hard tissue which could be reduced by applying incredible pressure to it. So for three weeks Philip has had people grinding this two inch piece of steel into his bicep muscle. The mystery of the excruciating pain he's been in has been cleared up.

Another mystery has been cleared up. His arm was bruising pretty seriously after each session of physical therapy. Some bruising is expected, but his bruises were huge and about as ugly as they come. It almost makes me sick to think of what he's been going through. I mean, I had an inkling that he was worse off than before because of the alarming rate at which the advil was disappearing, but like the doctors, I figured it was unlikely that anything really serious could be wrong.

So clearly he's going to have to go back to the operating table to get the loose screw removed. Details about when that might happen will be determined when Dr. Graffe has been consulted.

Jul 11, 2006

Ten Things I Know For Sure

  1. No one is responsible for your happiness but yourself. Lots of people like to argue this one because sometimes the choices we have to make to become happier are scary or unpleasant, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are always choices we can make that will lead to better happier living.
  2. Everyone pees and poops. I realize how infantile that sounds, but it offers comfort in dark hours when it seems like everyone else is doing so much better than me. Donald Trump may be germ-phobic, but I like knowing that he makes as many germs as I do and he may sit on a golden toilet in his tower of Trump glory, but he still has to poop like everyone else. And it isn’t golden.
  3. Perfection is like a Barbie doll with impossible breasts. I know a lot of perfectionists and they create some pretty amazing art and do some pretty impressive work, but at the end of the day, if perfection is torturing you, it’s useless. I believe we should all constantly strive to become better at whatever were doing, but aching to be perfect is as useless as trying to parch your thirst in a mirage of a spring. Plus, I have to say, perfection is really dull. No one is perfect, nothing is perfect.
  4. People, the world over, want the same things for their children. It’s important to realize that no matter what religion a family is practicing, all parents want their children to have shelter, food, to outlive them, and have a chance at a better life. So when you’re out there bombing little Islamic children and mothers along with their “terrorist” fathers, you are killing people with the same dreams and the same family love that you profess to be protecting for yourself. The only difference is that they have a different name for God. And they have some oil you want. Pretty lousy reason to obliterate a lot of people who are, beneath the robes of religion, just like you.
  5. Being fat sucks. While that’s something I know for sure, I also know that while circumstances can sometimes make it obscenely easy to gain weight, it’s still my own choice to remain fat. There’s no injustice here. And let’s be honest, while the fashion industry has been instrumental in making women believe (wrongly) that being as thin and mangy as a starved stray cat is the ideal, they’re hardly responsible for making people find obesity unattractive. It just isn’t as healthy looking as a person who looks like they might be capable of outrunning a wooly mammoth.
  6. Mental Illness is not an excuse for poor behavior, or for being miserable. But listen to me Tom Cruise and all you other wacky Scientology cult members: mental illness is not an imaginary condition. The brain is an organ just like the heart, and sometimes it doesn’t work well. Being mentally ill is a physiological condition which can be treated. How many people would refuse to take medication for a heart condition? It’s ridiculous to be willing to take advil for a headache, but not be willing to take paxil for anxiety, which is a real headache to live with.
  7. The Domestic Arts are a vital part of human development. Without the quaint home-ec skills we like to think of Aunt Mildred performing in her dusty attic, us humans would still be wearing nothing but the occasional untanned fur cape, foraging for whatever food we can find, and Catholicism would never have been able to promote such heavy childbearing because all of us would pretty much be dead by the age of thirty five. Food preservation in particular has advanced human kind in ways we now take for granted. Every person should read “Pickled Potted and Canned” by Sue Shepherd. It’s entertaining and eye opening.
  8. There is no substitute for kindness. Everyone needs it. Money can’t buy it. There are a million opportunities every day to show kindness to other people, other creatures, and the environment. Use some of those opportunities today, and every day that follows.
  9. Living life with grace is more important than living it importantly. What does that mean? The dictionary entry is very long, here’s the short version, the grace that I am speaking of: n. 1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action. 3. favor or good will. 5. mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace. 8.b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them. (I believe the “spirit of God” may be interpreted to fit anyone’s spirituality, because the “spirit of God” is essentially the same in all religions.) I believe every person on earth, no matter their circumstances, is capable of living life with grace. Even me.
  10. We are all going to die. I realize how dire that sounds. I don’t mean we’re all going to die in an Armageddon style catastrophe, just that it’s an incontrovertible truth (and a thing I know for sure) that eventually each and every one of us has to die. The most pathetic thing I can imagine is spending the greater part of my allotted time on earth trying to look as though I will live forever and instead end up looking like a strange inbred wax person with large stiff breasts. Obsession with youth is wasted energy, every minute you spend trying to pretend you will never get old and die is time you could have spent enjoying the time you’ve been given. Plus, if you don’t try to re-sculpt yourself with knives and needles and toxic chemicals that we try to keep out of preserves so you don’t die eating them (botulism), you get to become more and more profoundly beautiful as only the old can be. Happiness and grace (and a good moisturizer) are all you need to grow old beautifully and live life well.

Jul 9, 2006

I have been open exactly seventeen minutes on this Sunday morning. Not a single soul has popped in for a look. Someday I'm going to look at these sleepy days at Dustpan Alley and I'm going to remember them fondly (because, naturally, once everyone finds out about us they will flock to our store in droves!). Normally I would be a tiny bit anxious about the lack of living souls coming into my building, but today I confess to bliss. I am escaping a household full of chaos. One of my best friends in the world is here with her two gorgeous children. So there are three kids, two crazy adults, a puppy with big teeth and claws with a penchant for incessant sustanance scrounging, five hens, and a cranky old cat all clashing together fifteen blocks from here, and I am sitting quietly enjoying a latte in complete peace. Honestly, life is wonderful.
All my life I have been striving to achieve my dreams, always working my ass off to get one step closer. I have daydreamed away so many hours of my life imagining what the perfect life would be like, and how to get it, I don't know if I ever really thought I'd get there. I know I never became a famous chainsmoking fashion designer or a whiskey slugging tortured poet, but I have always imagined having my own little store. This dream was always the less glamorous but most enduring of my daydreams. And here I am. Living it. So does the daydreaming end here? What do I fill dazy warm late afternoon hours with when I'm not cooking, cleaning, playing with Max, paying bills, working in the store, sewing, watering the yard, playing with the dog, or doing laundry poorly? Is there anything left to strive for? There is always more to strive for. (I have replaced my dream of becoming a famous chainsmoking fashion designer with the dream of getting my laundry whites actually white.) The day I stop striving is the day I lay down and die. It's in my DNA to reach ever farther. But for starters, it would be a major achievement to make money with our store. I'm not aiming for millions (though I don't have any moral issues with making millions), I just want to make enough to pay our bills and pay off our debts.
So come on in everyone! I have the secret to happiness and I'll tell you what it is...come into my store and let's chat and smell soaps, try lotions on, and dress up to clean our homes because there's no time like now to feel pretty while caring for the place that gives us sanctuary from other people's madness. I can't promise to make cleaning fun (though, honestly, there's no reason why it shouldn't be), but I have cleaning products that will make your house smell so good (without trashing your health or the environment) that you'll never want to leave it.

A friend from Santa Rosa, en route to Washington, just spent an hour and a half in my shop. It's wonderful to have friends come by, it makes our shop feel so much more alive. She bought presents for her family from us too. I would never ask my friends to spend money shopping in my store, because being an Avon lady has never been in my plan, but I have to say it feels good when your friends and family support your business. Dang, I told her to pick out a sachet because she spent over $20.00, but I don't think she did. I'll have to find out.

In Dustpan Alley news: we are having a promotion right now...if you spend $20.00 or more you get a free lemon verbena sachet. While supplies last. I made them all myself and they smell heavenly!

Jul 1, 2006

Hard Work And How I’m Not Allergic To It (5-26-06)

I am beginning to wonder if I have been wearing a sign on my back my whole life that reads “Allergic to hard work”. When I think back, I seem to hear an incessant echo of voices saying to me “ well, you know, that’s a lot of hard work” in warning to whatever it is I am proposing to do. When I wanted to be a professional poet people would tell me how hard it is to succeed at being a poet, how much work it is to submit manuscripts and get rejected again and again (and also the fact that no one really reads poetry any more was often offered up as a deterrent.) Every time I have ever mentioned wanting to own my own coffee shop I’ve heard the same thing “It’s a lot of hard work, and you probably won’t make any money.” Or when I’ve mentioned wanting to open my own retail store: “It’s a dog’s life. An albatross around your neck. It’s a lot of hard work.”

Do I look like a person who’s afraid of working hard? Have I ever given any one reason to believe that I cannot stand up to the challenge of putting my nose to the grindstone? I was helping to do my family’s laundry by the time I was six years old. (I can’t say I was ever good at it, but still, there I was, doing laundry at six.) I was doing regular chores from the time I was seven. By the time I was eleven I was babysitting for money, and also cleaning my parents entire house (woodwork and all) once a week for my allowance. My brother and sister did not vacuum their own rooms. I got my worker’s permit when I was sixteen and paid for everything on my own besides my rent and some food. And I never stopped working hard.

It’s not just that I have been working for as long as I can remember, it’s that I have not been afraid to do dirty work either. I had tough jobs. When I was the shipping manager at Weston Wear I worked long hours lifting fifty pound boxes and steaming clothes with industrial strength steam (and gave myself some industrial sized burns too.). I wore boots and carried a packing knife around like a sheriff in a gold mining town, (my burns were my badges), always ready for the UPS man when he came. When I was the stock room girl at Staccato I may have worn some pretty floral dirndle skirts, I may have looked a tiny bit like Heidi on the gentle Swiss hillsides, but I could crush down twenty boxes in two minutes flat. The sales girls wouldn’t even venture into the warehouse space unless forced at gunpoint (it was much too dark and dirty back there.)

I am beginning to believe that the power of our words is much stronger than the power of our actions. I have been working hard my whole life, and never once have I shied away from something because it might be too hard. But what I often tell people is that I’m a pretty lazy sedentary person. I often say that my favorite things to do are drink beer and read books. I guess I don’t usually preface this statement with: After a long day of digging post holes in bone dry dirt, planting forty potatoes, cleaning my house, and cooking a week’s worth of meals, I like to drink beer and read books in my chair like a big fat lazy beast.” It’s kind of like how if you tell people in a bright and passionate manner how much you love life they will find it hard to believe you’re diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It doesn’t seem to occur to too many people that you can love life in spite of having to fight against encroaching darkness every day.

Maybe I should be flattered that people seem to simply believe whatever I say about myself. That they don’t feel the need to look more closely, or to dig deeper. Maybe this is my secret super-power and I can use it to fight evil. Max is always asking me what my super power is (he insists that since he’s a super hero, I must be one too because I’m his mother) I wonder if he would be impressed if I told him I had the power to make people believe anything I want them to believe about me? Nah, he’d just ask me what use that is against bad guys if it doesn’t explode or shoot poison or knock them down. It’s so hard to impress savvy five year olds!

The main thing is that Philip and I are finally opening a store like we’ve always dreamed of doing. I can feel the doubt and the concern out there amongst the loved ones. I can feel some “hard work” speeches just itching to be freed. This wouldn’t happen if I was getting a job at Wendy’s again, no one ever told me what hard work that would be, but honestly, that was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done because there was zero joy in it, there was almost no pay, and I got my change machine robbed. Hard work is nothing when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. It doesn’t count when you look forward to what you’re building. If poverty is coming our way, if ruination is to be the outcome of this venture, then it brings with it the sweetness of all great labors-of-love.* It brings with it the satisfaction of trying to make something worthy of remembrance.

I’ve decided not to listen to the speeches or be hurt by them this time around. I have not built my life around being a mouse. I have not built my life out of standing in the shadows of other people’s towers of regret. I’m not afraid to reach for what I want, to work my ass off for what I want, and most important of all, I’m not afraid to fail. I’ve failed before, I’ll fail again. But in between those failures I have forged great friendships, experienced a lifetime of valuable lessons, and become a person I can count on and sometimes even be proud of.

*This sentence is a classic example of the things I say that seem to mislead people. I don’t actually think we’re headed for poverty or ruination, but someone is bound to think I lack confidence because I’ve admitted that this is a possible outcome. What I actually think is that we have a great chance of success, it’s just going to take a lot of work.