Sep 30, 2006

Local Woman Suffocated By Her Own Mail

I'm pretty sure it multiplies in the night. I know it walks around the room. I have proof. But I'm not at liberty to tell you how I discovered this disturbing talent that all paper possesses. These here are the bills I have just tackled.
What I think is sick and scarey is that those bills, once paid with the important records filed have left behind this pile of refuse. Garbage. Total waste. I recycle it, of course, but it's so distressing to see how much paper companies are still sending out that is 100% unnecessary.

This is always how I feel when I'm done doing my bills, sorting the mail, and filing the bits I'm told I need to hang onto for seven years. Chick was watching me and just collapsed with exhaustion.

Unlike most people, I don't mind paying the bills when I know I have the money to pay them. I'm not rich, but you pay along the way and I understand that this is the way life is. I don't resent dollars and coins and debit cards being our currency, I don't actually hanker for the old medievil barter system, because money makes the exchange of goods much simpler. I don't mind that in place of giving the grocer a hundred bales of hay I don't have to feed his cow I can give him dollars and walk away with food. I can't grow hay. Lots of people can't. I just don't grudge having to pay for the things I can't make or grow myself, or don't have the time to. I don't have money issues. I like it. I like to earn it-spend it-dream of saving it-and at the end of the day it is never my god. It's just money.

I also used to really enjoy getting mail. All kinds of mail. I love letters, catalogs, packages, and the bills don't bother me much. I have beautiful recurring dreams in which I go back to the house I lived in twenty years ago and collect all the stacks of fat letters and fascinating packages the post office has continued to deliver to my old mail box. I hate waking up from this dream. Erratic postal delivery service makes me itch. I like to be able to set my clock by the mail man's arrival on my doorstep. But this love affair with mail was bound to sour eventually, right? I mean, it was just too expectant, too naive.

The one bad thing about growing up, getting a life, owning things, and staking your taxable claim on this land is that you will never be free of paper ever again. It will follow you everywhere. It will breed in the dark dust of your attic where you think it lives secure in file boxes. It multiplies like republicans in the white house. It will pile up in all the corners of your house, it will eat your cat, clog your plumbing, and if left completely to it's own devices it will seal you into your own house. You can scoff if you want to, but this is the truth. Kids are free to throw away any paper they want to, but adults must keep all documents for at least seven years, longer than most marriages last these days. Every day the mail brings fresh rashes of paper that you will have to decide to keep or toss into the recycling bin. All the papers adults get sent look official so that you have to open every damn piece of shit advertising to find out which ones are the bills you actually owe.

I have anxiety. I used to call myself a worry-wort (which may have been responsible for some self esteem issues, what a hideous thing to call one's self!). That was my ugly yet gentle way of describing what is actually (in my case, not yours, I'm sure) a serious problem with stress. Stress that elevates my heart rate, causes palpitations, shortness of breath, knotting of my stomach, inability to focus, obsessive thoughts, and eventually passing out. There have been times when this was a constant feature of my life. The panic attacks. I went to cognitive behavioral therapy and began taking a small dose of paxil and consequently had a lot fewer panic attacks. My general stress level is much lower, which is much healthier for both the mind and the body. But lately, the paper has been creeping into my brain. It sits there all day long taunting me. I have begun to dread reciepts. I feel I have to have them in case all the mice in China go case I have to prove I really do buy cage free prove to a court of law that I couldn't have killed my chicken-hating neighbors because I was shopping at Safeway at the time...but then I take the reciept and it fills my wallet. What the hell do people do with their reciepts? Once my wallet is stuffed with them and the seams are bursting they begin to drift to all the corners of my purse. I'm afraid of them.

I'm afraid of my reciepts. Of my mail. Of not noticing that I tossed out a real bill and kept the ludacris offer for a credit card that will allow me to spend as much as I want to and never pay them a penny for the rest of my life. I'm afraid of throwing out the notices that say I'm being sued by the city for not weeding my front yard more than once a year. It feels like life is constantly piling up and then draining into this vast wasteland of pulp. I am finding it increasingly difficult to face the mail and the resulting stack of crap I have to sort and make decisions about. So I let it sit. It steeps and collects my peace of mind, it taunts, it molds and then when I can stand it no longer, I attack it.

Life should be simpler than this. But it's not. My challenge is to find ways of diffusing the power these complications weild in my life and my brain, while at the same time not allowing the effort to increase my stress levels. Anxiety is not a rational condition. Decreasing it is a delicate thoughtful operation requiring a lot of repetetive talk and work. Some days it's harder than others. Right now I feel relief at tackling that pile and I know that it will have multiplied over night while I am dreaming of hat shops in which every hat not only fits but makes me look fantastic. It will be waiting for me when I wake up. Hopefully, between now and then, I will have convinced myself to just be okay with it.

Sep 29, 2006

Ambitions Redefined

When I was seventeen my life ambitions were drastically different than they are today, in fact, my ambitions have continually evolved over the years from pretty outrageous to absolutely tame. Here's a sample of some of my youthful ambitions:

  • To be a concert pianist (9 years old)

  • To be a soap opera writer (10 years old)

  • To be a fashion designer (13 years old)

  • To be a novelist (14 years old)

  • To be dead (15 years old)

  • To be a rich and famous fashion designer (17 years old)

  • To be so rich and famous I practically rule the world (17 1/2 years old)

  • To be a well respected poet (23 years old)

Obviously there are more. Obviously I am a person with a constant flow of ambitions. They change, they redesign themselves as I input information into the think-box from the life I'm currently living. The most constant ambitions have been to develop my writing skills into something worthy of respect, and to be a designer.

Funny things happen when you're open to life. I never had the ambition to be a housewife, but taking a month long hiatus from work for the first time in my adult life when I was twenty seven years old, just to be at home, transformed my ideas about what my home had to offer in terms of entertainment, skill development, and fulfillment. I went on to work at a bookstore for a year before finally chucking it in to be a housewife. It turned out to be the best job I ever had. Seriously. This was before having my baby. It's very respectable in society to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom, but to tell people you are a housewife carries with it a kind of conversation-killing curse. Curiously, it elicits a response in people similar to when you announce that someone has died.

I found myself especially disappointed in the response I got from women. It seemed that most of my acquaintances and even a few of my friends felt that being a housewife was a waste of my potential as a woman. Or that by choosing to stay home I was as good as chaining myself to my man's wall of masculine will. That somehow I was automatically saying goodbye to my own needs and desires. People you have just met are normally curious to know about what you do for a living and will ask questions about it. But I found that when I mentioned that I was a housewife I would get one of two responses: a) "But what else do you do?" or b) "Oh..." with a change of subject.

It made me angry that women were acting no better than misogynists in making so many assumptions about a woman's place in this world. Making so many value judgements on the choices other women make. It depressed me that women had come to a place where they didn't value some of the things that women have traditionally done, not because men have been holding the whip over us (because, if you're being honest, you will know that women are always the ones wearing the pants in a healthy home) but because we're naturally better at those things than men are. That's right. I'm here to say the taboo thing, go ahead and get the timber lit under the stake: women are usually better at keeping house than men are. Because we are generally better multi-taskers, better planners, better with time management, and better at most of the skills that go into keeping a home in shape.

I'm not saying that women aren't suited for a million other things, because all those same skills lend themselves to being CEOs of huge corporations, and to being entrepreneurs, I'm just saying that the reason women have been at the helm of homelife for so long (until the feminist revolution) is because we're better suited for the job than most men. (And please, let me just say here that I'm aware that there are men who have become the leaders of their homelife and are doing it as well or better than their women can. I'm just saying that most men are not naturally suited to the job.)

I was a housewife and stay-at-home-mom for seven years before I started my own company. What's interesting to me is that having been open to being a housewife, an ambition I never actually had, has shaped me, my interests, and my skills in such a way as to lead me to where I am today. To the new ambitions I have. If I hadn't been a housewife I wouldn't have developed a company that is more meaningful to me than being a fashion designer ever could be. A company that envelopes and celebrates so many of my skills and interests. That allows me to write, design, create, make cool things, be productive, and still be home for my child and my house.

Here are what my ambitions look like today:
  • To have financial security

  • For my business to become successful

  • To see my son become a good man

  • To stay married to Philip

  • To turn my garden into a mini-farm

  • To preserve enough food to get through the winter (wouldn't that be too cool?)

  • To grow enough food to not have to buy any for a whole summer

  • To become a housewife again
I often like to say I'm not a feminist. This isn't really true. I'm a true feminist in that I believe what's important is that women always have the choice to persue a life that suits them, whether that be out running the world, or at the helm of their home and family life. I believe that reaching our true potential does not mean we have to be doing things that the whole world admires. Sometimes the most beautiful achievments are the ones that very few people see besides those we love. Does that make it less worthy? Is it so much more important to be cooking food for strangers who pay you than to do it for free for people in your own home? If our self worth is solely calculated by our income in dollars then we are completely cheapened. If you turn things around a little on their side, to take a fresh look our way of thinking, doesn't it seem like working for dollars can in some ways be likened to prostitution?

I think every young girl should be taught to be self sufficient, to go out in the world and take care of herself. All women should be able to build a wonderful life for themselves that doesn't depend on having a man. But when a woman knows her own self worth, when she is an independent spirit, when she is a strong force of her own making, she ought to be able to choose whatever life makes her most content. Whichever road quenches the thirst of her ambitions. She should feel free to explore the world and it's offerings with an open mind and heart. And if in the end what she really wants is to shack up with a good guy and be the lady at the helm of a life they are creating together, why shouldn't she? And why shouldn't we all admire her ambitions to define herself not by the money she's bringing in, but by the quality of life she's creating for herself and her family?

Sep 27, 2006

Tagged by Songbird

Four jobs that I've had:
1. Shipping manager for Weston Wear
2. Swatcher/design asst. at Mulberry Neckwear
3. Housewife
4. Owner of Dustpan Alley

Four movies I watch over and over:
1. Love Actually
2. A Mighty Wind
3. Bridget Jones' Diary
4. My Man Godfrey

Four places I've lived:
1. San Francisco
2. Ashland (Oregon)
3. Santa Rosa (CA)
4. Petaluma (CA)

Four things I like to do:
1. Stay up late talking to Philip (my husband)
2. snuggle up with Max (my kid)
3. Grow food
4. Play "Piemontesina" on my accordion

Four of my favorite foods:
1. cheese
2. anything that goes with cheese but isn't an animal
3. pesto
4. tomatoes

Four places I've been on vacation:
1. Scotland
2. Israel
3. Paris
4. Coos Bay (Oregon)

Home Canned Pears
(with a twist of genius)

These pears are so good I wish my entire pantry was filled with them. I can best describe them as delicately flavored succulent textured pears with an underlying note of vanilla.

We used Bartletts for this canning project. Now I know why people sometimes mistake me for a simpleton: because I can stare at pretty jars of fruit all day long.

We used the Ball Blue Book of canning recipe for canned pears. We chose to make a 30% sugar syrup (a light syrup) and we pre-treated the pears with Fruit Fresh. In each jar we put one small piece of cinnamon (bark brought back from India as a gift to Lisa and Mark by their very good friend Frank) and two cloves. The real secret though is the addition of vanilla bean to the sugar syrup for the simmering of the pears. Lisa had some vanilla beans she bought for something else but didn't use so she thought it might be a nice addition to the recipe. It infused the pears with just a slight warm vanilla flavor that I believe has transformed the pears into something superior to all other canned fruit.

If this sounds good to you but you don't want to do a canning project to taste them, you don't have to. Just make a sugar syrup by combining 2 1/4 cups sugar with 5 1/4 cups water* in a sauce pan. Add a couple of pieces of vanilla bean, a stick of cinnamon, and a couple of whole cloves to the sugar syrup while you heat it up. Once the syrup has begun to simmer, add to it a single layer of pears quartered and peeled. Let it simmer for five minutes. Five minutes is sufficient to cook them, but you can cook them for another ten or fifteen minutes if you want the pears to be more strongly flavored by the spices.

Ways you can eat them:

  • stick your fork in the pan and spear yourself a pear (warning: you'll keep doing this until they are completely gone if you don't exercise extreme caution)

  • arrange the pears in a pretty dish and add a dollop of whipped cream on top

  • add a few slices to some unsweetened yogurt for breakfast

  • make some individual tart shells, fill with vanilla custard, arrange the pears on top, don't share with anyone.
We canned fifty pounds of pears with a yield of seventeen quarts. But I just don't think that's enough. I promised myself that this project was it, NO MORE CANNING FOR THIS FARM-GIRL. If I don't make more of these pears I might go into a decline. People don't go into declines much these days which makes it dangerous because no one knows what to do for you. I might start lounging around on couches holding smelling salts and pulling a modern day Camille. That won't be pretty. I'm bound to get clobbered on the head by someone (I always hated Camille and thought she needed a real good smack in the head.) I'm thinking the only way to save my reputation as a sensible down-to-earth person is to make more of these pears. Don't you?

*I made up six batches of the syrup to can the fifty pounds of pears

Sep 26, 2006

The Sins Of My Ambition
(Or: How my house got ugly while I canned everything under the sun.)

I want to say that this mess only occurs during my weeks of frantic harvest activities, but you'll discover the truth sooner or later so I may as well tell you that my laundry is ALWAYS in a state of shameful disarray. This is clean laundry.

I am not the kind of person who picks up after myself frequently. I have nothing but admiration for people who do this, but I am not tidy. My energy goes to other things for about six days before I suddenly become aware that my head will explode if I don't clean my house in five seconds. Cleaning is a religious experience for me. Every single item I put away is a messy thought in my head that gets put back in it's box; every room I sweep is like my spirit having the dust shaken from it; every surface I scrub is some corner of my soul getting the scum removed. When I'm done I feel as though I have been baptised with a fresh life. Though it's a mystery how I think I know how that feels since I've never been baptised. I imagine you feel clean, fresh, and infused with a new flush of appreciation for all the blessing that already exist in your life. That's how cleaning makes me feel. Tidying up just makes me feel fussy.

I can't cook when my kitchen looks like this. I actually clean my kitchen every single day except for when I'm canning or doing some other major project. I actually get panicky when I see my kitchen like this. As I jetted off to Lisa's to can those bartletts I had no chance to clean. So this is two days worth of kitchen grunge.

I will never be a tidy person. Because that's not in my nature. I love my house when it's clean and flylady would certainly like to convince me that I merely need to tackle the mess for fifteen minutes a day and always clean my sink. (I actually joined flylady for a couple of days until I realized that the fifty obsessive e-mails I was recieving from them a day wasn't a fluke, it was a flylady way of life.) The truth is, I don't have any desire to change the kind of person I am. So the best way to combat mess without changing who I am is to find places for everything so that everything is easier to put away. My goal is to have my house really rigged out within six months...with great organization. I want my walls painted, my carpet all ripped out, and my laundry closet made nicer than the little rat-hole it currently appears to be. I have plans. Yes, lots of plans.

I am now going to excuse myself for a few extra minutes of music blasting before I have to pick Max up from school. If you aren't enjoying cleaning your house then you should probably stop playing Lawrence Welke and get yourself something that makes you move like fire across a dry forest.

Sep 24, 2006

The Hood River "Fruit Loop"
On the road with Farm-girl Greta and Farm-girl Mathilda
(The following wonderful pictures were taken by Lisa)

The first stop of two is Rasmussen's Farm where an apple celebration was under way. But I don't have any pictures of apples. These amazing looking pears are Canal pears. They taste pretty good, but I still like a bartlett or an Anjou better. These ones were so pretty I kind of wanted to get into the bin with them. (The bins were really large. I could've fit.)

Children among the corn...The one thing the kids enjoyed (for the four minutes it lasted) was the corn maze which I thought was pretty neat. As you go through the maze you see little 3-D scenes from the three little pigs made of gourds and antiques. It was pretty cute.

Draper's Farm, the second of two stops. You probably won't believe me when I tell you that this dude has four horns. Rams usually have two. Why isn't this guy famous? Lisa did take pictures where his side horns are more visible, but this was the handsomest one. This guy is quite a stud.

These are the same kind of pigs we saw at the Oregon State Fair, only these are babies. They make the best noises imaginable and snorffle around for grub with the most charming insouciance. These babies will become very large in time. It turns out that Lisa and I both really enjoy hanging out by the pigs.

OK, how can you not find this tail at least a little bit charming? C'mon! Don't you want to pull it out of curl and watch it spring back? Not even a little?

The Horse Princess is reaching for fruit that is no longer there. Or maybe she's just busting a little dance move. Does it matter? She looks so sweet, not at all like a feisty little girl who can rile up a pack of boys faster than I can take a swig of beer.

The Hooligans catch a rare moment of real fun on the swing at the farm. I love this picture so much because of how it stops them in motion...if only this was my real life super-power we could have sat down to enjoy this view of Mt. Hood and our boys laughing and not complaining at all. There's still time for me to accidentally fall into a vat of nuclear waste...

It only lasted a few minutes, but it was really nice. I actually did sit down for a couple of minutes and enjoyed watching these guys forget all their "boredom" and complaints to just goof off and be in the moment.

Who wouldn't want to live here? (As a matter of fact, the Draper Farm is for sale.) If I didn't already love where I live, I'd totally be contacting the real estate agent. But the pigs would have to come with the twenty acres.

We had to take a picture of it. To get home from the "fruit loop" we drove all the way around the base of Mt. Hood and saw a few really nice looking camp grounds and views. This one kind of caught my breath. You can't see it, for many good reasons, but there are three children peeing right off to the side of this majestic view. Amazing how the mighty and the quotidienne blend together in harmony every day, every where.

The DO's and DON'T's of travelling with a six year old, a five year old, and a three year old without parental sedation:

  • DO multiply the number of children you are travelling with by the average number of times each one will have to pee to get the number of times you will have to stop to pee whether or not there is a place to stop for peeing.

  • DO bring plenty of changes of clothes for the accidents and "accidents" that will inevitably occur. (There is no mathematical equation with which to prepare yourself for these as accidents are as random as the lottery.) (Notice that I have not claimed "accidents" to be random since we all know what I mean by these.)

  • DON'T assume that gently asking two boys to stop pestering a feisty-yet-sensitive three year old will suffice. Not even if you ask them five times. Be prepared to threaten them with bodily harm in order to scare the living bejeezus out of their heathen souls in order to get them to even hear you.

  • DON'T expect the three year old to help maintain order amongst the heathen boys, she has just as much of the wild heathen in her and will help to stir the pot of exciting trouble just as you think you've got everything under a firm hand.

  • DON'T assume that just because children have consumed entire bags of fancy goldfish crackers, huge bags of Nilla Wafers, some popcorn, milkshakes and sodas, waffles, granola bars, and Cheese Nips, that they will ever stop being hungry.*

  • DO assume that just as you have taken care of the capacious needs of one child's tummy that the next one will suddenly find that they have more room in their tummy too. Do assume that they will never all be hungry at the exact same moment.

  • DON'T expect the kids (especially the five and six year old) to be as impressed as you are with the gorgeous mountains (Mt. Hood) and powerful rivers (The Columbia River) that you are passing. But if they do suddenly get excited about the trecherous cliffs they see out the window, enjoy it, because in five seconds the bickering over legos will resume.

  • DO treasure the moments of pure fun like when the little heathens are swinging on a swing at a farm whose situation in front of Mt. Hood renders it a gorgeous spot to pretend you aren't about dead with exhaustion even though it's only three in the afternoon and you won't get home for another four hours.

  • DON'T look at other people when you take three kids to a restaurant or you may be forced to see the less sympathetic element glaring at you because your boys are using the table as a landing pad and base for an army of lego fighters. They will continue to glare at all the loud demands the kids make and the noises of discontent emanating from your table. Just keep your eyes on the food or pretend you're not sure how the hell you landed at a table with three strange kids you've never met before.

  • DON'T travel two and a half hours with three children to see anything less exciting than a NASA space shuttle about to take off. Corn mazes will not excite them for more than five minutes. Even four-horned-freak rams offer only seconds of amusement to your average child. To the naturally sharp minded kid, the amusement will actually only last a nano-second.
  • DO acquaint yourself with the litter laws in your state before taking a trip during which your children may ask you to open the windows in case you notice things mysteriously flying out of them. It's possible that state troopers will think poorly of popcorn flying out the windows of vehicles.
  • DO make sure there is plenty of beer to drink at the end of the road. And fantastic food. And a dungeon to toss the children into for a few hours of parental decompression. Don't worry about the child protection services busting you for this, all the best parents are doing it now!

*It should be noted here that this is not the usual daily diet of these children, not even Max.

Sep 22, 2006

St. Vincent de Paul

I went to St. Vincent De Paul today looking for the proverbial “treasures” amongst the detritus of lives pared down, of lives ending, of lives changing. I found some cool items there, but the hunt left me with a heavy mantle of thoughts as well as a slight sheen of dust under my skin. Thrifting is not something I learned from my cool friends, I didn’t join the thrift revolution because I have a desire to find the next Rembrandt in the stacks of sad seventies framed amateur self portraits. I learned to thrift shop at my mother’s side.

She lived in a commune when she started having her babies and she dressed us in clothes handed down by others in the commune as well as clothes bought at thrift stores in Berkeley. After she married my (step) dad, they still had very little money and we were sometimes clothed extravagantly from presents made to us by my dad’s cousin who owned a kid’s clothing company. But mostly we were dressed in interesting garments found at the Good Will. I learned to be ashamed of this in the third grade when I wore my polyester shirt embroidered with ice-cream sundaes on school picture day and noticed that all the other kids had on crisp stylish new clothes. Mostly the shame started because they noticed.

Even after we had more money and my parents started taking us shopping for new clothes at the beginning of every school year, we still frequented garage sales and the thrift stores. Sometimes it was really fun, like when my mom took us shopping for things to use for our Halloween costumes. Other times it was painful, like the time I took a tap dance class and wanted so bad to have real tap shoes and my mom took me to the Good Will to look for shoes we could put taps on. I actually found a pair of mary janes that looked alright, but they never fit well and I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m not a famous tap star today.

After a period of rebellion against used clothes I rediscovered thrift shopping, oddly enough it was once again because of my mom. When I turned fourteen, after a somewhat painful effort to appear as a preppy kid (doomed to failure because I’m not and never was a preppy person) I gave up trying to impress my haughty class-mates with my ability to be exactly like their own sad excuse for coolness and struck out on my own. Sartorially speaking. I went to used clothing stores where you could buy a pair of nineteen forties velvet shoes for three dollars. I dressed myself as I pleased from army and band jackets bought at the Good Will. My mom inspired me by her own small collection of really cool vintage clothes. Once I showed everyone in my school how much I couldn’t care less what they thought of me, and started finding my own dress code, I became a whole hell of a lot more popular. Sure, I was still an outcast, just a popular one. (I did get spit at and had bottles thrown at me, but that’s another story.)

For many many years I found most of my furniture and clothes at thrift shops. I didn’t shop there because I couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else, though often that was the case, I did it because I had always done it. I didn’t go there for the thrill of the hunt. I went there to find practical things I needed and sometimes found amazing unexpected finds. The bicycle I have been riding for ten years came from the Petaluma Good Will. But over the years something shifted. The experience started opening a window into a world I can’t look at for long periods of time. Maybe because I’ve been too close to those worlds. I started to see, I mean to really see the other people shopping at the thrift stores. The people who worked in them were the same.

I began to feel a kind of oppression touching all the objects that had been donated as is. With all the grime and dust on them that whoever last had them let accumulate before shedding the item, before casting it off like old skin. I felt such a deadening of spirit seeing how many people who shopped and worked there had half as many teeth left in their mouths than myself, people who were around my age, with black holes in their head. Maybe it’s important to know that I hear things in the world and see things that other people don’t. Mental illness of the kind that I have has a way of amplifying life by a hundred decibels. You think I don’t know when you’re sad? I usually do. You think I can’t tell when you’re holding in your exciting secrets? I may not know what they are, but I know when you’re bursting with something. I have the sensitivity of an acutely aware wild animal, or of a child before he learns to articulate and then deny the things he sees and knows. When people out in the world feel pain, when they are bleeding to death alone in their cluttered apartments, I hear them. Most of you don’t, but I do. Do you think I’m crazy? Well shit, that’s what I’m trying to say.

Spirits leave their voices all over this beautiful world. I can feel the inexpressable love out there that mothers are feeling for their sleeping babes, for their growing changing children whom they drink up like a drug. I also feel them shivering with the inevitable fears we all have for our babies, the fears that make you want to scream so loud that the whole world will stop so that you will never have to see your baby die. I am listening, right now, to the gorgeousness of this minute. I can feel so much anticipation for the dropping leaves of fall, and I can feel thousands of eyes watching the sun set on the clear sky, the reddening leaves of the trees glowing against the green, casting it’s own rich halo over all of our skin. I feel people’s joys too, the kind that makes you jump out of your skin and lose your breath because it is so full of itself, so completely pure in the moment. Like a child who for no reason suddenly starts running and screaming with laughter, hairs rising on their arms with animal energy.

Medication helps to quiet the roar, so that I can live my life in relative peace. But it never completely leaves me. I arrange my life carefully to make sure I experience less of other people’s pain which sometimes makes me want to rip myself open so that I can give of myself whatever it is that makes me come through pain over and over again, still loving life. Today, while I searched the shelves of the St. Vincent de Paul for possible overlooked gems, I couldn’t shut out the people around me. A lady coughing with the deep phlegmy conviction of someone who has spent the last forty years sitting in a chair that wasn’t even pretty when it was new, chain smoking filterless Marlboros while watching the Price Is Right. Her acquaintance who had the pallid complexion of a woman who has been sweeping church floors and eating canned yams without ever tasting the sunshine outside, the sunshine in the fruits of the earth.

And I can’t forget the large woman in pants three sizes too small for her, with dull feathered hair, wearing the worn out look that women often get when they’ve been shacking up with poor excuses for men for way too long. Careworn. I want to cover her with rose petals, with everything that is healthy and new and fresh in this world. I want to guide her out of there and start her life over for her. Show her that she’s worth a million better men, that she’s got so much to find out there that isn’t half broke already. Because she’s starting to look too much like the chipped faded cheap china stacked carelessly on the bowing shelves.

I know that not everyone who shops at thrift stores are like that. Almost all of my friends shop in them. About a billion cool crafty people do. But those aren’t the people I see when I’m there. Those aren’t the people ringing me up. Those aren’t the people who leave indelible impressions on my soft temple. Who haunt my dreams with all their needs unmet and their passions never more than half drawn against a steely backdrop. I came away with some cool things. But the price was, for me, much too high in the end. I am left once again needing to make the choice to pretend I’m like everyone else, or to protect myself, and risk showing my true mad colors to the world.

A lifetime of experience has taught me that no one will ever really be fooled about me. It’s no use pretending to be anything that I’m not. My life is richest and best when I make decisions that protect me from the damage living in this world can do to my brain and to my nervous system. So I choose not to have access to television; I choose not to read the papers; I choose not to drive a car; I choose not to go to large parties; and now I am going to choose not to shop in places that make me wish I was God so I could take away all that dusty apathy and broken spirit and replace it with some measure of grace and love and plenty. I’ll shop in antique stores where things are presented in some reverence and at least some effort to show the human detritus in the light of cherished objects.

I know that tonight I will dream of those ladies I saw in the St. Vincent de Paul. I will bleed a little in my sleep. Maybe someone else will hear me out there.

A Colorful Life

The canning and preserving whirlwind is not yet finished. Tomorrow Lisa and I take the kids to the "Fruit Loop" near the Hood River to pick pears. Well, Lisa and I are going to pick pears, Max just thinks he's going to do the corn mazes and climb hay bales and get a tractor ride in. He's been in a great mood these days which is such a wonderful change. If he didn't still smell like my very own little/big boy I would wonder if there really are aliens (as he likes to tell me he thinks there are) and that they have taken him to study his interesting eating habits...I mean, he actually said that visiting all the fruit farms sounded fun. He did add the caveat that it only sounded fun if we could go RIGHT NOW. Still, for the last few days he's been so much less fussy and prickly. It makes me want to snuggle in next to him and inhale his good spirits which look so handsome on him.

For anyone who hasn't figured it out yet, I am a woman obsessed with planting as many edible things on my property as I can possibly squeeze onto ten thousand square feet of clay. We have planted four cherry trees, two apple trees, and one nectarine that I fear will never do well because someone around here told me they never do well. (All of these trees are semi-dwarfs that will be pruned to stay small.) These are all in our front yard. We still have room for a few more semi dwarfs and I told Max that one of the farmers in the "Fruit Loop" has sixty five apple varieties and that we could probably taste quite a few of those. I told him how cool it would be, since apples are the only fruit he consistently eats, if he were to taste a bunch of them and pick the next apple tree that gets planted. His eyes got really bright and after correcting me about his favorite fruit (which is apparently cantaloup, though he'll only eat that a third of the time I buy it) he said that sounded fun.

Seriously, what has happened to the cantankerous little boy I'm used to engaging in major discussions with about how everything in life is not stupid and boring? So this is how come other parents survive parenthood on less beer than me (their kids are not at all like grumpy old men). (See, only three beers last night compared to an amount I refuse to divulge to anyone, all because my boy is acting like an easy-going happy guy! And he hasn't even gotten any new toys recently.)

Last night I attended my first Weight Watcher's meeting with Dominique. Maybe it's because I've already lost a couple of pounds in the last week while practicing better eating choices (I consider not eating an entire block of cheddar cheese at twelve am a better eating choice, though a tiny bit sad.), but I am kind of excited. Alright, it's true that I generally reserve a tremendous amount of scoffing energy for any kind of trademarked institution. The whole copy-righted feel good schpeel they splash on every possible surface of their materials seems so contrived and just cheesy...but I say these things because I have a natural rebellion against nearly all group activities, and against any kind of institution that converts people into walking advertisements. However, I have to report here that everyone at that meeting seemed really nice and genuine and the whole Weight Watcher's plan is actually pretty much based on healthy eating which we should all be doing anyway. So, no matter how much it's fans like to spout the ads out of their mouths, the truth is that this is a pretty good thing. So I'm excited. I know I won't lose weight quickly, which is fine, but I feel like I will be encouraged to tame the wild cheese and beer beast which is something I have been unable to do on my own.

It helps A LOT that Dominique is willing to do this with me. She is hardly what I would call a stout woman. She's got the body I hope to achieve (lovely curves). She's not there because she's FAT, but she feels she needs to regain some of her healthier eating habits. Plus, she doesn't feel like she's at her best right we both have goals. I don't think I could do this alone. So: Thank you Dominique for being such a great inspiration!

Today I make corn chowder to freeze. I love tools. I saw this little gadget that cuts the kernels off of corn cobs much more easily than you can do it with a knife. I instantly wanted to own it, but since I wasn't going to process any corn in great amounts, I knew I had to walk away. Just-walk-away-from-the-tool. But I have to cut the kernels off of twenty eight cobs today, so I think a special tool is called for. Whoopiiiiiiieeeeeeee! Why am I going to try to do this project at the same time I am going to be working on those eighteen aprons? BECAUSE I'M MENTALLY ILL FOLKS. Also, the local corn is almost done for the year. Also because this kind of activity puts me in my element. It's also very helpful to have low-fat home-made dinner choices ready to defrost at any time. Sometimes when I'm hungry and there's no already prepared healthy choices I am forced (yes: FORCED) to eat a grilled cheese sandwich with avocado and some more cheese on crackers while I wait for the sandwich to become golden.

I have revealed many secrets in this post, but I won't say what they are. This is how I reveal all and still maintain a little sense of mystery amongst my friends and acquaintances. I'm off now to make hay while the sun shines. Have a great Friday.

Sep 20, 2006

Ratatouille For Freezing: It's Either Now, Or Next Year!

I know it's a little over the top, but Lisa and I couldn't help but make festive little still lifes with these farm fresh vegetables. I know what you're all thinking about the tomatoes...what dirty minds you all have!!!!!

If you weren't thinking it before you are now. Isn't this cute tomato NOSE too original? But stop looking at it for one second please, to enjoy the beautiful eggplants. We picked them at Bernard's Farm and maybe went a little crazy. We picked a big bucket of them because it was impossible to stop searching for more gorgeous ones, it was like a treasure hunt, finding the next color, the next variety hidden in the long rows. I want to plant a million varieties in my own garden next year. You would know what food geeks Lisa and I really are if you witnessed our fifteen minutes spent admiring these picked beauties once we got them back to her place. Not even two giant buckets of shiny red tomatoes could distract us from ooohing and ahhhing. I think money is great and all, but you wouldn't catch me sitting in my store room counting gold coins even if I had any. But if I was a farmer and had this much abundance, you would find it difficult to drag me away from my root cellar or pantry where I would be ogling my enormous piles of vegetables. Just call me farm-girl Mathilda.

Little Elena (Lisa's three year old Horse Princess) helped prepare the eggplant on the grill by liberally sprinkling salt on them. How cool is it that some of the salt turned the color of the eggplant skin? How could I not take a picture of that?

Normally you make ratatouille by sauteeing the eggplant, but as you will soon observe, we had no stove space to do that so we grilled half of them and broiled the other half. This worked out fantastically. I have to admit that the broiled ones were the most wonderfully aromatic and lush of the two groups. Here: Farm-girl Greta watches over the eggplant.

See what I mean? Can you almost smell them?
Three pots of ratatouille and one of tomato sauce.

Dinner at the end of a really long day of work. I have to tell you that it turned out to be the best ratatouille I have ever eaten.

Obviously we did not follow traditional methods of preparing the ratatouille, so there may be some really anal-retentive people out there just waiting to say that this isn't the real deal. Do I care? NO WAY. I'm not a purist. I think it hurts people's brains to worry too much about details like that. Ratatouille is generally cooked in layers in big pots. But when you're making enough to send Napoleon's troops back into Paris, you have to find new ways of putting it all together. I've already mentioned how we cooked the eggplant, and I'm not positive, but I'm willing to bet that the method we chose actually added some depth of flavor to the whole dish. The onions were sauteed first, then we added the zucchini, then the roasted and broiled eggplant, the tomatoes were next, and then we added the truck-load of garlic we had waiting on the side-lines. We were really WINGING it the whole way. My friend Chelsea (an amazing cook) would have been proud of me that day.

We waited (as everyone should) to add the basil til the very last moment. We used almost two whole bunches per pot, julienned by yours truly. Meanwhile, for many hours, a pot of tomatoes was cooking down. I now know what Italian cooks spend most of their time doing. Cooking down sauce. It might have taken less time if we had let them drain first, and if we had followed the general wisdom that if you are making a tomato sauce: squeeze out the seeds. I always figured people just have a prejudice against tomato seeds. Now I get it. Farm-girl Mathilda has learned that seeds contribute lots of JUICE to the pot. How was it in the end? We added lots of garlic (but not enough to overwhelm the tomatoey goodness) and a ton of julienned basil...WOW. Totally worth the time it took. I will make more next year.

The tomato season is closing. It's raining which prevents ripening and also splits the fruit. The nights have turned very chilly. Lisa and I managed to can a total of thirty nine quarts of diced tomatoes, sixteen frozen dinners of ratatouille, and eight portions of tomato pasta sauce for the freezer. If we were true homesteaders I'm afraid our families would not be making it through the winter...but happily we're not. Never-the-less, I feel so satisfied that we got so much put away. It's been lots of work but the kind that makes you feel sunshine in your blood. I'm looking outside right now at the slow drizzle, the steely sky spread out over town, and I know I can pull out a bag of ratatouille from my freezer any winter day like this and serve up a rich summery feast. A reminder of the plenty our lives are filled with right now. A shot of warmth that goes right down to the bones. You can't put a price on that.

Eccentric Ecclectic, Art Deco, or Midcentury Modern...Does A Girl Have To Choose?Can we all please look at this picture for an extra five seconds because it took fully TEN tries to convince Blogger that it was worth posting? Thanks.

When I was sixteen, listening to The Cure, dying my hair black, and filling my room with enough moody candles to supply about five hundred seances with light I really never imagined that my taste in music, clothes, and the accoutrements of life was ever going to change. Because if they changed then it meant that I was changing, and if I was changing then that meant I wasn't really being true to myself. Aren't sixteen year olds funny people? Then when I was nineteen, living in my own apartment in San Francisco, I was listening to Kate Bush,wearing a lot of interesting earthy medievil type witchy clothes, whipping up my own shampoo in my kitchen with an occasional forray into some fruity Carmen Miranda outfits (I mean, how could I not when I liked to clean house to her music?), and I really couldn't imagine a day when I wouldn't be into ecclectic clothes and music.

The same kind of gradual metamorphosis has occurred with my tastes in architecture and home decorating styles. For the longest time I thought that the only style of house I would really be happy in is a Victorian. Wait a minute, as I'm thinking this out I'm realizing that the home and decorating tastes exactly mirror my musical and sartorial phases. I guess that isn't really a surprise, is it? Anyway, with each house Philip and I have lived in our tastes have been changing. The only real constant has been that we always like vintage or vintage styled things in the mix. We like old stuff. Up until about a year ago I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to ever be into styles newer than the early nineteen fifties. My very good friend Lucille has always had an appreciation for mid-century mondern furniture and homes, mostly nineteen sixties stuff. I remember once, when we were on a drive to a friend's house, she pointed out a sixties house that she particularly admired, and I told her I just couldn't get excited about that style of house.

I'm laughing at myself now because my ever evolving tastes now encompass mid-century modern homes and furniture and if Lucille and I drove past that same home I would probably see it completely differently now. So I keep wondering why it is that some people seem to have one style that they are true to most of their lives (like Lucille for example) and others (like myself) seem to go through many evolutions. Does this make me a stylistic whore? Is there virtue in finding your perfect style and sticking to it for all time so that when you're eighty you can scoff at the five generations who've come after you all discovering what you have already known was cool for the past seventy years? Even as I come to appreciate new eras and schools of design, I don't ever completely let go of the old ones. So maybe this is how ecclectics are made. Is it as simple as that?

Don't worry, I don't lose sleep over these issues. If I'm going to really put time into worrying about something it's going to have to be much juicier and meatier than figuring out what the hell I would call my style. But I got to thinking about it because I found a really cool blog called "Circa 1955" that's written by a woman dedicated to the 1950's in every possible way. I got to thinking how constricting that would feel to me. I need room in my life for my Art Deco furniture, my Ikea shelving, my Rivendale-ish bed, and for the Alexander McQueen clothes I would fill my closets with if I was rich and thinner. How does a person stay within such rigid stylistic confines? I'm thinking that some of us have a comfort zone that once found does not need to ever be expanded again. There's a rich fantasy in that. But others, like myself, enjoy continually exploring different styles. It's not that I'm a fickle person, it's that I'm a person who appreciates form and function like a connoisseur. It doesn't matter when something was designed, if it's designed to function well and look appealing, I will probably find some space in my world for it eventually.

Like the orange pitcher above. It looks like it needs some Tang in it, which I've never tasted in my life. It looks like something Alice would jauntily pull out of the Brady fridge to refresh those bright shiny Brady children. Normally I would not be attracted to such an item. Fiesta Ware is a much more expected purchase. But since developing an appreciation and desire to have mid-century modern things in my life, I find myself attracted to a whole new set of things. I really enjoy looking at this pitcher on my shelf. I'm excited to find some other choice things to populate my home with. This is the kind of adventure that unfolds slowly and I relish with great deliberation.

Sep 17, 2006

The Squash Is In

I grew Delicata and Butternut. A couple of them got to be a decent size.

But look at this tiny you think there's even one bite of meat in it? I wonder if I can lure Max into trying it because of it's teeny tininess. Max loves tiny things. OOH, that reminds me: he ate three sungold tomatoes yesterday! Anyone who knows Max's eating habits will be suitably impressed.

There are a couple of pumpkins not pictured here because their vines haven't died back yet. Next year I hope to have a huge winter squash harvest. I have plenty of space to grow a huge bed of them. I just didn't have time to get it together this year since we were still settling in.

In the new space we have an inventory room. Right now we're storing all our extra stock in our garage, office, and my sewing room. I'm super excited about this space.

Notice how much bigger this space is than our current space? It's L-shaped. Where I'm standing to take this photograph is where my sewing area will be situated. I will keep most of my sewing supplies in the store-room to keep the actual store looking tidy. This is a great spot because I can see anyone coming in. We're keeping the gold color on the walls, but the other walls are white and we'll be painting those the Dustpan Alley Turquoise color. The floor will be red. Lots of color. If the gold ends up looking like puke with our other colors, we might change it. Normally I don't like this ochre type hue, but for some reason I'm really attracted to it right now.

One of the positive things about my blog reading yesterday was that I got some great inspiration for organizing my sewing space. When I'm working I don't like to worry about putting things away, I'm messy. But I like to have my space easy to clean up. A place for everything. People seem to be finding some great containers to put their annoying craft bits into, such as vintage canisters. It seemed to me that in Santa Rosa there wasn't a lot of good stuff in the thrift stores. I'm hoping it's better here. But also, my focus has changed. It used to be that I wasn't really interested in things that were newer than 1950. But now I have an appreciation for the 1960's too which opens up the possibilities more. Even (GASP!) some select 1970's things are appealing.

I guess it's like my assertion, in my late teens, that I hated Simon and Garfunkle and all the other music my parents listened to. I listened to music that had NOTHING in common with that kind of folky stuff. Tones On Tail, The Cure, Gary Numan, Grace Jones, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy. You get the picture. What's really makes me laugh at myself is that in the end, I can't listen to those bands anymore becuase they take me to a place that was really dark for me. To a time when I had a nervous breakdown (not because of the music). Now what I like to listen to is anything folksy. I love Simon And Garfunkle. Of course I also love swing music, old blues, and classical. But my main life soundtrack consists of a whole lot of folksy and traditional music from around the world. I'm sorry to say that bread dough (mine, anyway) doesn't like to rise to the sound of Dead Can Dance.

Wow, that was a huge conversational detour. The point is, my tastes continually evolve. I want to go thrift shopping for fabrics and containers. So I'm excited to go to a few places this coming week.

Counting points for weight watchers is kind of time consuming. At first. It's kind of like a puzzle too. Trying to figure out what the hell I can eat that will keep me within my point goal while also affording me a few beers every day. Actually, I'm trying to get myself to drink wine again. How did I become such a beer chick? Eventually I'd like to go back to only drinking on the week-ends or for social gatherings. It's been a long time since I've been capable of doing that. But for now, I'm just trying to cut down. Getting to bed earlier would really help.

In order to get to bed earlier, I have to make my bedroom into a place I actually want to be. It needs to be painted. I find white walls really unappealing, uninviting. We've finally decided on a color for the bedroom, wait for it: GREEN. So who's surprised? And yes, it's similar to the sage green all our bedrooms have been since the beginning of time. I was going to try to go for a different look. You know, shake things up a bit. Get color wild with blues and taupes...but in the end, I guess I find green (that type of green) inviting and soothing and pretty. So does Philip. When will we have time for this transformation? Probably in early 2009.

Yesterday while I was getting all crazy in the head at work, Max and Philip were doing art in the garage. Max made a little army base from the old kid-proofing outlet covers, drawer locks, and some strange stuff of philip's like the top of a plastic skull. I could tell that Philip really enjoyed doing that with Max. He even got the kid to help sweep the garage. I have to ask: what drugs was he giving the kid?

Well, I guess I better go figure out what the heck I can eat that won't use up all my points before lunch. I will view this whole cooking by points as a temporary puzzle to solve every day. I won't be doing this forever. Just as long as it takes to bring myself back to the comfortable pudgy stage, and clearly out of the fat stage. It could take a while. But it will be worth it.

I hope you all have a great Sunday!

Sep 16, 2006

The Back Is Not So Broke
(Now That I am a person with a "bad back" I know a lot of tricks for making it better fast)

Philip is taking a well deserved break from working in the store. Since my back is considerably recovered I let him sleep in and am in the shop. I've been here for six hours and about five people have come in, none of them inclined to shop. I've taped up most of the new space in preparation for painting. I've spent five hours looking at blogs. This can be exciting, it can be inspiring, and sometimes it can get you thinking about things you don't feel comfortable with. I found one blog that absolutely charmed me with it's flavor of happy domesticity and as I read the happy home life unravelled before my eyes like a very good suspense novel in reverse.

It must have taken me an hour and a half to read everything on that blog. At the end of it I find that the writer's husband has left her for some other woman and it felt like getting hit in the chest with steel club. It shook me up. I come from a family full of divorce and I can honestly say that each of my parents' divorces were for the best (there have been a total of eight between them). Yet the shadow of that legacy does sometimes still loom over my head in sharp focus. The shadow is comprised of my fear that all marriages inevitably split up. That no one is capable of spending their lives together. My fear that no matter how well you think you're doing in your marriage, the fall-out is always just around the unexpected corner. And I guess, to a certain extent, that no man is capable of fidelity in the long term. Which is so unfair, and I hate that some part of me ever thinks that.

I've been married for thirteen years. I love being married to Philip, and in fact, love being married. I didn't ever pin my life's hopes and dreams on finding a great spouse but then Philip turned up and I got married. About seventeen years earlier than I expected to. The thing is, I'm not very romantic, I'm not particularly sentimental, nor do I view my husband as some Prince Charming. He's my man, he's my best friend, he's my partner, the father of my child, the only man who ever sees me naked, my life's companion, and sometimes he's the man who makes me scream in frustration. I have evolved around, in, and because of my life with him. Together we have been building a life we love. It's far from perfect. Full of pit falls and set backs, as all lives are. But we are doing things we enjoy, being the people we want to be, and we continue to redefine what we want our future to be, together.

Because Philip is an honest and faithful person I don't spend a lot of time worrying that our lives are suddenly going to combust with affairs or drift into some infinite hateful purgatory, but when I read about fifteen year old marriages that seemed happy until one day someone has an affair or discovers that they are miserable and have to leave, it makes me scared. What scares me is that it rarely seems obvious that these marriages are heading for the rocks. It makes me wonder if there are signs all over our lives right now that I am not seeing, or refusing to see. Because the usual revelation is that the signs were there, they just didn't pay attention to them.

So after reading this particular blog and feeling all shaken up I decided to peruse some other happy crafty blogs, and you know what? I couldn't stop wondering: is this person really happily married? Is this blog going to take a sudden bad turn? Is this cool person's life about to drastically change? Break-ups have a terrible after taste. But what's even worse is that aside from suddenly being paranoid that under every apparent happy story lurks a dark turn, I saw all these amazing crafts that other women are doing and felt completely humbled. There is super cool shit being made out there by amazing women. There are so many great writers too. I find myself wanting to send them all spazzy e-mails saying "Hi, I'm a super dork and basically I think we were seperated at birth and need to reunite." Or "I think we need to be best friends but unfortunately I'm a toad and can't be friends with someone who writes as well as you do."

It's in moments like these when my crazy side shines. I'll bet all those cool brilliant women are thinner than me too and have whiter teeth and talk to Jesus in their sleep and have halos over their heads while they serve up broccoli to their children WHO ACTUALLY EAT IT. I know it's no good thinking these kinds of thoughts and I fight this kind of stupid shit in my head all the time.

Very soon I'm going to head home and I need clear my head before I get there. So here's some other thoughts:

  • Philip needs his art space set up ASAP and needs to have time to spend in it before he realizes that having a wife and child has stiffled the most brilliant part of himself and decides to leave me to live the life of Picasso.

  • I will be setting up my sewing studio in our new space in the next couple of weeks so I will be able to get my sewing done while at the store and not stay up until two in the morning to do it. This will also mean that Philip can spend more time at home since he can work on the website from there and also schedule in time to work on his art.

  • When Philip asks me to get a boob job I will have a real reason to worry about our marriage.

  • When Philip tells me he's going to get a boob job himself I'll have something more interesting to worry about.

  • I love to read the blogs of creative crafters, artists, and writers, but I don't need to be their best friends because I've already got such wonderful creative friends in my life and though many of them now live far away from me and I can't see them or talk to them much, I have two really cool women friends right here where I am and I'm lucky they don't know how crazy I really am.

  • Philip will probably never leave me because he HATES change.

  • Our website really will be up in the near future and hopefully that will give us an actual income and spur me on to create new good things.

  • My back doesn't hurt now and that's a great relief

  • Max is wiping himself now AND blowing his nose (he has systematically refused to blow his nose with-or-without help since he was born.) So obviously we're doing something right. I wish I knew what it was so I could do more of it.

  • I'm going to do weight watchers with Dominique so hopefully I'll finally get my ass in (smaller) gear. It's nice to work on this with a friend.

  • Life has been very good to me when it hasn't been really bad, and I have a whole hell of a lot to be thankful for.

Sep 14, 2006


(I guess this is the price I paid for cutting out 18 women's aprons and 9 men's aprons last night. Bent over fabric for six hours will do that to some unfortunate people who are no longer in their elastic healthy twenties when you can stay up til five in the morning and still look dewy fresh for work. Damn weak back.)


Sep 13, 2006

Harvest Time

The dahlias are all starting to show themselves. I could find out what their names are if I wasn't so damn lazy. But I am. I love the white tips on this one, reminds me of a french manicure, which I actually don't like on people much.

After we painted our last house pink (a classy pink, think: Monet's house in France) a neighbor told me I couldn't plant any yellow flowers near it since pink and yellow clash. Obviously that neighbor (who is SUPER sweet, by the way) is following some crazy rules for coloring that nature has yet to hear about. You'd think she wouldn't bother telling someone who has just painted her house pink with dark green trim that she can't mix pink and yellow, I mean, obviously I'm the kind of person who would wear white shoes after labor day.

I love the wild arm-waving appearance of this dahlia. I had to have it. It was a lot more expensive than the rest of them. It's actually a little bit more orange in real life.

Flower Bud is a shy bird who is showing every indication that she's going to start laying soon. For those of you who don't already know, she's a Barred Rock. I think she's our prettiest bird.

I grew five cayenne plants this year and I believe it was the perfect amount. I like to use ground cayenne (just a pinch or two) in almost every winter soup I make. Just enough to make our blood heat up, which takes the edge off of those cold winter days. I also like to use pepper flakes in a couple of my favorite pasta dishes. It's not like it takes a King's ransom to buy it in the store, but it's so easy to grow and so much more satisfying to stock the pantry from my own garden.

The jar of tomatos on the far left is filled with tomatoes that Lisa grew. She got enough huge luscious toms from her own garden that we were able to fill six quarts with them. We have canned a total of (I think) twenty one jars of tomatoes. (But split that in half between us and you will understand why I think we should can some more.) I look at these jars and I keep tasting tuscan white bean soup with diced tomatoes and swiss chard...

It's harvest time for so many people, so many farms, all across the world where it is actually the end of summer. It's also crush time for the wineries. Mark works at a winery in Dundee and is now putting in long hours to prepare for the harvest and crush of the grapes with the company he works for. This time of year makes "wine widows" out of the spouses of people who work in this industry. I don't envy Mark the long hours, yet I think it's exciting that he's a part of this wonderful process. His work is dictated by the seasons which is so much more natural than the jobs so many of us do. If he was reading this he would probably want to smack me in the head with a frying pan for trying to make it sound wonderful when in fact he really misses spending time with Lisa and their kids, and misses feeling rested. Luckily, he's too busy to spend time reading some poncey prose about harvest time.

Lisa and I have been tapping into the whole spirit of harvest time by continuing to stoke up the fires for the canning pot. When I first met Lisa I thought she was very quiet about her love of life. She doesn't run around shrieking about how cool it is that she has a grape fort growing in her back yard, which is the kind of thing I do. Now that we have been canning together for the last month, I have found out that she is just as spazzy as I am, she just isn't as loud as I am about it. It is so much fun to have someone who gets as carried away as I do about stocking the pantry, making food for the freezer, perfecting jam. I just don't want to stop, and luckily, neither does she.

Part of the appeal of canning is the control you have over what you're making. You decide where the produce comes from, you decide how to flavor it, and how much sugar goes into it. But another part of canning that is really wonderful is how productive it makes you feel. I love cleaning my house; I always enjoy that feeling of walking into my son's bathroom and NOT seeing the evidence that his pee-aim is not yet mature. But the satisfaction of cleaning lasts exactly five minutes if you have children, or are me. Canning is productive in a longer lasting way. Long into winter you open your cupboards and enjoy the hard work you did at the end of summer. It helps to punctuate the seasons. It places you right in the middle of what it means to be a part of this planet. Harvesting, preparing, storing against famine, like squirrels. (I've actually been accused of storing nuts in my large cheeks. I always choose to take that as a twisted compliment, otherwise I might want to hurt someone.)

Picking, preparing, and storing food is to me one of the most fundemental acts of love, and nurture. Sex is all well and good, but feeding yourself and your family the highest quality food that you can is amazingly satisfying. It would be even better if my child would actually eat regular food...but even though he doesn't, I make it available to him every day. He loved the apple cider we pressed and canned from his Grandpa Lars' apple orchard. When he drank every quart of it that I canned, even though it wasn't the same as eating bowls of spinach, I felt warm and so deeply satisfied to have provided him with something grown and made by his own family. All that work I did, leaning over the hot steam, transformed itself into liquid love. (Good God, that sounds so dirty and disgusting!!!) And it became a part of my child's life, his body, his growth, and maybe even his memories. You just don't get that from a bottle of Ocean Spray apple juice.

I am a chipmonk collecting nuts. I am a squirrel putting acorns in the dark cavities of tree trunks. I feel the air changing; I feel the light weakening; I hear the almost inaudible rustling of dried leaves detatching themselves from summer-burnt trees, falling in symphony to the ground in tiny drifts that will become larger as the month progresses. I am part of something so much bigger than myself. I am witness to such better things than war and complicated human relationships. I revert, as the cold begins to lick the tomato skins, to a simpler being. One that only sees the gorgeousness of vines dying off, leaving the fruits behind that they've been feeding all summer. Melons, cantaloups, grapes, and winter squashes peppering the ground like muted smooth jewels. Like lingering summer music. Like my ancestors before me, I gather them up and see the future in my basket full of the harvest.

I love this time of year almost more than any other.

Sep 11, 2006

Will Dying Make Me A Hero?

I know that today is an emotional one for a lot of Americans. For everyone who lost someone five years ago in the terrorist attacks it must be an especially bitter day. But I am appalled at everyone's determination to declare that everyone who died on that day was a hero. I'm tired of Americans using this event as a way to make us all feel more justified in fighting the war we're fighting. Does dying automatically make us all heros? I object to raising people to hero status just because they died an unfortunate death.

Anyone who is memorializing the people who died on "9/11" in 2001 should also be memorializing all the people we have killed since then. If all it takes to be a hero is to be an unwitting victem to someone else's rage, then we should also be calling all the Middle Eastern people we've killed heroes too. If it was wrong for someone else's religious extemists to attack us and kill our people, it's also wrong for us to have done the same thing to them with even less excuse.

I am sorry for everyone who lost someone they loved on that awful day. But it is revolting to use their deaths to justify the slaughter of a shit-load of people who are no more terrorists than I am. I am ashamed at the horrible use our country has made of that event to manipulate our population into feeling that everyone of Islamic faith must be a terrorist because they don't want to be a democracy; into beliving that we have a right to invade their countries and kill whoever we want. Count their dead. Are we all willing to say that they aren't worth counting? I know the news will never report those figures. Because how could we then all sleep at night?

I have been happily canning tomatoes all day long, but I have not been able to stop thinking of the dead my country refuses to count publicly. I don't have the numbers, but I am thinking of everyone we've killed because of our country's own extremist believers. So to all of you who have lost loved ones to my country: I am remembering your dead tonight. I am so sorry.

Seattle Travel Notes

It's a serious policy of mine to never enter a skyscraper whose base is considerably smaller than the rest of it. Nice architectural design for daredevils though.
Tired of knitting tea cozies? How about knitting cozies for sidewalk railings? I found some similar knit accoutraments on some trees in the Key Plaza but forgot to photograph the evidence of Seattle's more interesting urban craft projects.

Is this a city-wide project or the work of some insane insomniac?

The Westin Hotel buildings: I love these round buildings but had the uncomfortable random thought run through my head as I took this picture that they looked an awful lot like twin towers. Did anyone stay there yesterday and feel a little nervous twinge?

I kept courting the desire to freak the living shit out of my scared-of-heights self by going up the Space Needle. I circled it at the bottom, had determined to be the brave woman I know I am, and then saw that it would cost me $14.00 to make myself want to vomit. That is something I would only be OK about if I happened to be bulemic. Since my fear of vomiting is second only to my fear of heights, it seemed almost like I'd have to be sado masochistic to do that to myself. I don't enjoy pain much either I decided I was fine just taking pictures of it from the safety of the ground.
This is a costume/party shop mostly featuring "Playboy" brand play clothes (DD breasts required). I looked for a fake Clarke Gable style mustache for BBQ Bob, but all they had were Hugh Hefner masks and fake chest hair. I would rather let Bob continue in his girly-man style than make him into the gross kind of man who prefers playmates with a sick twist of animal parts symbolizing their sexuality. (What's up with that anyway? No, wait, I don't actually want to know.)

This is the Pike's Place Farmer's Market. It was as crowded as the street market Philip and I went to in Tel Aviv. To swim against the tide of people is to perform a little emotional suicide. It was packed with people. I really enjoyed it. I listened to my headphones and just went with the flow. There were incredible dahlias and more produce than I've ever seen in one place.

Lots of fresh fish too. I hope none of it was caught right out in the bay. That water doesn't seem the least bit fresh. I really liked this sign. I'd like it in my house even though I hate seafood.

Some more random observations and travel notes:

  • Uncomfortable thought while looking out on the freeway from the airport shuttle: How many of us right here will be dead within the year?

  • Uncomfortable thought while walking through the Seattle Airport: If I start screaming and thrashing around right here, I will create mass panic.

  • Note to self: When flying Alaska Air, notice that they assign seats or you will be publicly shamed.

  • Alaska Air celebrates old time flying styles such as the use of seat cushions as flotation devices; outdoor walks along the tarmac to rickety stairs up to the airplane door, after which you will be publicly shamed for taking someone else's assigned seat. (This must be their way of punishing people for flying with Southwest where seats are never assigned.)

  • I am a person with a high proportion of uncomfortable thoughts in my head.

  • I like Seattle but I actually think Portland has more style and beauty. Someone at the trade show was saying how he likes both cities but that Portland was like Seattle with an inferiority complex. Interesting assessment.

  • Right before catching the shuttle back to the airport I went to the MAC counter in Nordstrom. A very pretty, super nice lady helped me pick out a bunch of new make-up. I haven't bought any for quite a while. My new purchases included two lip glosses: a new item on the airport contraband list. I unwittingly smuggled my dangerous lip gloss through security (I forgot I had them until I was drinking a bland Bass ale in the airport bar, by then it was too late to turn them in.) How did they not see the lip glosses in the x-ray machines? If they're going to go to so much trouble to make airtravel so tedious, the least they can do is actually notice when illegal items travel past their noses. Although, on second thought, that lip gloss was expensive, I'm glad they didn't take it away!

  • On the car ride home Max had some interesting thoughts on his mind. Max: "What if salt water was made of spiders?"

  • Max: "What if it rained snakes?" (doesn't that sound biblical?) Philip: "I wouldn't like that." Max: "Well, what if it was garter snakes? Would that be OK?"