Oct 31, 2006

Contagion: There's a plague on our house!

Contagion is a nasty word. It carries with it strong evil magic. It can be the scepter of death. The harbinger of armageddon. It conjures up the magestic word: PESTILENCE. Which is irresistably biblical, and therefore persuasive. Contagion is something to be avoided at all costs. Because none of want to die except the suicidal people who haven't yet crossed over. What's worse though, is the anticipation of the pain and torture that we imagine we will experience in the journey.

Strep throat is a modern pestilence that has developed an evil reputation, not on it's own merits exactly, but because of it's propensity to fascilitate the kind of complications that can kill children and the elderly. Philip has strep throat. For two days he's been prostrate. This is a man who has to be chained to his bed to keep him still the day after having major surgery on an impressively broken humorous bone. It is his usual way to pretend he isn't sick, to withstand great discomfort in the effort to deny sickness it's power. (It's a Williamson family tradition, possibly linked to the strong religious faith of his parents.) He could not out-wit strep. It felled him like a weak tree. He's been in the worst kind of pain. Barely able to talk. His throat has been so swollen he can barely form vowels.

Meanwhile...I have been experiencing the hardship of being a single parent. Let me say here, I'm a weak specimen if ever there was one. If Philip ever leaves me and I get custody of Max, I'm up shit creek. Seriously. That's one hell of a shitty gig. Granted, maybe it's easier when you aren't also caring for a sick log of a man. Still, single parents out there: Kudos to you! I'm beat. I'm brain-dead already. And I only have the one little munchkin. (Though he generally takes as much energy to raise as two or three combined.)

Yesterday I got Philip his prescription for the serious antibiotics. The kind they reserve for those who are already half dead. Then I went to work. I started to feel my throat swelling. Normally I wouldn't pay attention. I have seasonal allergies which frequently cause my throat to swell, sometimes get scratchy, make my nose run...and then as soon as I'm convinced it's a cold, it ceases fire. But this time, I felt chills run through my bones at the thought that maybe, just maybe, I was coming down with strep too. This is not allowable. Because if I'm brought down by this pestilence, who will feed Max, the cat, the dog, and the chickens? Strep isn't like a regular cold where you just power through. You can barely move. So I took myself to Urgent Care where Philip had gone a mere few hours previously, and got myself swabbed.

Which is horrible, by the way. I came very close to vomiting on the doctor. My strip came up negative for strep. However, due to the fact that Max has already had strep twice this year, and that my chances of having been infected were pretty good, and also the fact that I prostrated myself pitiously at their feet and BEGGED them to have mercy on me and give me antibiotics because I just can't get strep now or they'll be reading about our dead family in the News Register in two days....they decided it was wisest that I take some antibiotics.

As I have mentioned before, I am not necessarily a huge friend of antibiotics. I never allow antibiotic soap to cross my threshold. I rarely use antibiotic wipes. I didnt' grow up using them, and as an adult I have rarely resorted to them. However, seeing the state Philip is in, anticipating the pain I would feel if I came down with what he had, and realizing that if I did the usually-reasonable wait and see game, then it would be too late if I turned out to have strep, I did not want to mess around. I have never before used antibiotics in a preemptive strike against illness, but I'm going to boldly tell you all right now: I'm glad I did. Because today I am not contagious to Max or anyone else. If Max has already gotten it from Philip (or me) then we will treat it at once. But if he hasn't gotten it yet (so far he feels completely healthy) then he's safe. From us anyway.

Yesterday I did something else I have never done in my life: I wiped down all the door knobs and faucet handles, cabinet doors, and fridge handles. I used Mrs. Meyer's counter top spray. It's not antibiotic, but it wipes away germs. That shows how motivated I am to not get sick right now. All this has made me feel a little itchy about our house. As in: I wouldn't mind it at all if I had the time to disinfect this house from top to bloody bottom!

Unfortunately I don't have time. I have about five trillion things to do today and I actually still don't have a viable plan for getting any of it done. Except to stop writing, get my butt moving, and close my brain off to any suggestion that I'm not going to get through it.

Happy Halloween!

Oct 30, 2006

Ten Things That Make Me Super Happy

It was thirty two degrees outside this morning! It's the first frost of the season. It's crisp, blue, sparkly, cold, clear, and bright outside.

I wonder how come grass usually looks so much better with the frost treatment than rich women do.

I've been pretty crafty down at the store. I'm trying to prepare for the newest new store with more stock...actually I had planned on these holiday items anyway.

Fancy Christmas cards. Must make lots more. Must craft...must sew...must be ready...

And now, ten things that make me super happy:

  • The first frosty morning of fall. I love the million sparkles glamming up the whole landscape. I love the way the air smells when it's clear and cold and 32 degrees out. I love the way a sweater isn't enough anymore. I love the way my face feels when I come in from the cold into a warm house.

  • The first cup of coffee of the morning. I like it hot, black, and unsweet. No sexy innuendos need be applied. I love the way it makes the kitchen smell, especially on the first frosty morning of fall. I love how it punctuates the morning with it's earthy flavor.

  • A night free of bloody noses. We've been averaging one bloody nose a night now for a while. Last night Max went to bed without having had a bloody incident since five am yesterday morning and woke up just before seven am this morning, still free of any nose bleeds. May it last longer! I can't describe the relief I feel getting a break from the daily gore.

  • Butternut Squash soup with roasted garlic and sage. Heaven! It makes me super happy to eat such a rich, flavorful, (yet unfattening) soup. I love soup. Soup is one of my favorite foods. All kinds of soup. (All kinds of soup with no meat of any kind in it). One of my favorite parts of "The Secret Of Roan Innish" is the end where the grandma is making the seaweed stew. I don't actually eat seaweed because it's generally too fishy for my tastes, but watching someone make a soup of any kind to feed their family is so symbolic of giving them love and health that it makes me happy. That scene actually makes me wish I could stomach seaweed. And wish that I had a little rustic cottage by the sea.

  • Cooking with friends. And with friends of friends. Last night I had dinner at Lisa's house with her best friends Alicia and Laurie. The only thing missing was Philip who has the nastiest sore throat ever and is down for the count. Otherwise it was a wonderful evening of preparing food, drinking good drinks, and eating together. Also we enjoyed the fact that none of us are swingers.

  • That we are going to be moving to a really great store-front in two weeks. One that people will not be able to ignore. It won't be freezing cold, cavernous, dark, creepy on week-ends, or buzzing with old school florescnet lights. I'm so happy that our new landlords love the building (so they won't ignore important issues) and are really easy-going people who seem to be excited to have us rent their space. We can't ask for a better chance than that to make our business a success. It is now up to us to make it happen.

  • That I don't know any swinging couples. That's right, it makes me super happy. So if any of my good friends out there are leading a secret swinging lifestyle, I encourage you to keep it secret from me. I'll respect you more if I don't know that about you. Just like you will respect me more for not knowing that I secretly love old disco standards.

  • Having a good haircut makes me amazingly happy. My hair actually looks like complete crap at the moment, but that's just because I haven't bothered to make it look nicer after waking up. My haircut is actually pretty darn good this time.

  • Fresh sheets. Clean sheet night around here is a celebrated event. Saying it like that implies that it gets celebrated because of the rarity of the occurrance when actually it generally happens once a week. It's just so wonderful to climb into a bed made up with fresh smelling linens with no drool marks on the pillows, no dog hairs on the comforter, and no old sleep smell. If I was rich and had no concern for the environment, (like some politicians in office these days), I would have clean sheet night every night. I'd have a maid dedicated to the washing of the sheets and making of the beds every day. But I'm not rich, I DO CARE about the environment, and so we relish clean sheet night once a week.

  • Fresh eggs. There's nothing like them. It's not just getting the fresh eggs that makes me happy, it's knowing the hens who are making them for me. I love to hear their rustling, their clucking, their shuffling, and their scratching in the dirt. I love the cooing noises they make when they settle into their hen house at dusk. I love how they come screaching into view like cartoons the second they hear my voice. I love how they fluff themselves up and shake themselves off. I love how they take us in with their cocked heads like we're the most intersting specimens on the planet but they can never quite figure out why. I love how beautiful they are.

And now, one thing that makes me miserable:

Philip being so sick and in such pain makes me miserable. I feel so bad for him. His throat is so swollen he can barely talk. He's at urgent care right now getting a strep throat test. I hope it's strep only because then he can be treated for it at once. If this is a virus he has then there will be nothing they can do for him. Poor guy.

Note: Philip just came back from the doctor...IT'S STREP THROAT. I'm off to the Pharmacy for antibiotics. At least we can treat this problem. He's in tremendous pain. Now we just have to figure out how to keep me and Max from getting it. Is that possible?

Oct 27, 2006

Throw the Monkey in with the chickens

I don't know why shoes and socks make me so happy. I'm sure an entire doctorate could be based on this issue. I don't actually feel the need to explore it though. I would like to just say here that it isn't all shoes and socks that make me happy. I'm not a shoe fetishist. Nor am I a sock sicko. I like these shoes and socks.

We are now recieving up to four eggs a day from these productive girls! The light here is dimming earlier every day though, so I don't expect this impressive production to continue much longer. It's a nice introduction to the joys that spring will bring.
My little monkey has taken a fresh shine to the hens. It's his "chore" to collect the eggs now. I let him in the run yesterday and he wanted to stay and hang out with the girls. He promised not to try to catch them. He kept his word. Though he did get them all a-flutter when he dashed around avoiding their curious pecks. He thought it was great sport.

I don't really know what happened to my kid. He cleaned the toilets yesterday too. Yes, he made a mess. But this is a kid who, until recently, insisted that he didn't need to learn to clean up after himself because his wife would do that for him. We had to have a little talk about that. I didn't need to worry, however, because now he's insisting he's going to be a bachelor like his uncle Zeke and never marry. Maybe that's why he has a sudden ambition to do chores.

Why so many pictures of him? Why not. I love it when I see him have such unexpected fun. Remember that this is a super-hero we're looking at. When you are constantly fighting bad guys your expectations for fun are pretty high. Fun is supposed to be exciting, but it's difficult to top erradicating villains. For Halloween he's going to be "Toilet-Plunger-Man". Obviously I will take pictures of this. Last year he was "Sword-Man" with about ten swords strapped to his mom-made super-suit. This year he will carry two plungers around as weapons and I will make a plunger logo for his super-suit. I must do this tomorrow.

I don't actually feel like making a super-suit but there is no way in hell I'm gonna let this kid down in the costume department when he has such interesting ideas. How much more tedious would it be if I had to make him a dracula costume? No one else on earth is going to be "Toilet-Plunger-Man". I'm willing to take bets on it.

I don't actually like Halloween now much. (I know that Lucille and Ulla are shaking their heads in shame "why are we friends with this no-good party-pooper?") It's true. Mostly I find it annoying. I hate handing out candy. I do. I don't mind buying it, I don't mind kids having the candy I bought, but I hate handing it out. There's a lot of anxiety attatched to handing candy out. I know it's supposed to be this magical affair of giving succor to joyful little children...how could that stress anyone out? Welcome to my world where the question of how much candy to buy is agonizing as it can never be answered well. I spend all night simultaneously worried that I'm going to run out of candy and worried that I'm not giving enough to each child and will consequently be hated by them all. Then there's the teen-agers that I don't even want to give candy to, the ones who come to my door wearing a stupid hat and their gym clothes holding out a capacious pillow case begging for cavities. I can't refuse them because they're big enough to sock me. Then there's the point at which my child needs to go to bed yet the doorbell keeps ringing even though I've put a sign out that I'm all out of candy. They still come. They can't read my sign. So I turn out all the lights, hoping the message will be clear.

I usually opt out of taking the kid trick-or-treating. I imagine it will be even more stressful. The parties are the worst. I don't dress up for Halloween. When I was a youngster it was my second favorite holiday and I took enormous pleasure and pride in my costumes. I entered into the spirit of the day with great relish. I loved all of it. The decorations, the costumes, the parties, the candy. Eventually the clothes I wore on a daily basis began to rival any costume I could have cooked up, so by the time Halloween came around I just felt it was too much effort. I got to dress in Renaissance clothes whenever I wanted, why on earth would I put myself out just to dress up and eat hors'doerves? I frequently looked like Heidi, a witch, a Swiss Miss, a peasant, and Carmen Miranda. I just lost all steam for Halloween.

Now I have this kid who adores decorating for everything. He would suffocate our house in lights if he could. He'd build an enormous haunted castle on our front lawn if I let him. I will never be able to drum up the kind of enthusiasm I had for this holiday as a kid, but I'm appreciating it from Max's point of view. I'm enjoying that he's so creative with his costumes.

I've had a sudden thought: all kids seem to be dazzled by lights and sparkle and don't have any concept of when enough is enough...it's weird how Las Vegas is such an adult town and yet it's lights are so over the top I would believe it if someone told me a five year old designed the whole concept of the strip.

I didn't intend to write another post today. I'm avoiding the huge number of things I really should be doing to prepare to have our new store location open by the day after Thanksgiving. I have so many orders to place. I have so much to sew, glue, arrange, and change. I have to change our phone service, DSL, all the official tax numbers need to have my change of address, new insurance...holy hell. I'm not freaked about it. I'm just feeling disorganized and a little bit dizzy with excitement. And yes, worry.

I guess I'll go place an order for tagging guns and other fun retail supplies. Have a great Friday night!
The Pictures That Would Have Been
(and a school conference)

There are no pictures for this post because Philip and I don't always speak the same language to each other. We both sound like we're speaking English, yet when he tells me how I can do things on the computer that I've never done before (like download pictures directly from my camera into this post) what I actually hear is: djhsifuhpi dkjh, aidjhfp dj diiuh dio...see? Uh, no. We get frustrated with each other sometimes because I visualize things with words and he visualizes things with pictures. (Some surprise huh? Writer versus Artist. Classic.) In spite of this unique way in which we don't communicate, we're still married after thirteen years.

Our computer at work is a laptop that is not connected to our computer at home. So usually I will post pictures in a draft at home and then do my blog writing over my third cup of (decaf) coffee at the store. I didn't have time today. After a really nice little cozy wrestle-fest in bed with the dog, the kid, me, and a dormant Philip, we had to get ready to go to a conference at Max's school. The kind where they tell you that your darling little angel of love and light has been tormenting the sweet kid that everyone loves and has been named number one sociopath of the whole school. The kind of meeting where they tell you how your kid has been watching too many episodes of Ninja Turtles and insists on re-enacting each episode play-by-play during circle time.

Actually, the meeting didn't go at all like that. This meeting went so differently than the one we had last year at Proctor Terrace for his Kindergarten year. Shockingly different. At last year's meeting we were sat down to study Max's test scores for the first two months of school. We were told what we needed to help him work on so that he can pass his next set of tests well enough to be considered eligable to enroll in Junior High in another five years. The teacher made it clear to us that while Max is a fine kid and all, she was really upset that he was the first kid in twelve years to refuse to finish making his turkey decoration. She had almost nothing personal to say about Max as a student. It was all about the tests and the fact that he didn't tow the line like all the other kids. Plus he talked too much. Plus it was made plain to us that we could just forget about sending him to Harvard because Proctor Terrace wasn't going to endorse his application.

Yeah, they take education as seriously as some people take meth. He took home stacks of homework every week. The paperwork we got as parents of a child attending the golden school were at least a half inch thick EVERY SINGLE WEEK. I have a thing about stacks of paperwork. They intimidate me and live in brain forever.

The meeting today was a whole different animal. First of all, Max's teacher (Mrs. Kimura) asked us if we had any questions for her. We talked about the bloody noses. We talked about his attitude which she said has improved amazingly from the first few weeks. She actually had nothing negative to say about him. In fact, she had nothing but good to say about him. I mean, she didn't say he's a gem (I wouldn't have believed that kind of talk anyway) but she said his only disadvantage is his age which only time will fix. He's a lot younger than everyone else in his class, consequently he has some maturity issues. What's amazing is how much Mrs. Kimura is willing to work with him, his peculiarities, his immaturity. I don't think they've had a single placement test yet. Yet Max is learning more than we expected, his attitude has amazingly improved at home too...he's reading us books for crying out loud!

I've heard quite a bit about how horrible the schools in Oregon are. Maybe there are some really shoddy ones out there. They're everywhere, after all. But I have got to say that I love his school right now. I love that his teacher is letting him learn in his own unique way, how flexible she is, yet still she has her rules and consequences and she gets results. It's not a school obsessed with test scores. They are not inundated with stacks of homework. They are letting the students be kids and learn without the kind of pressure Proctor Terrace puts on its students. Yet Max is learning so much so fast it's breathtaking. He's writing little books for us. He's reading us books too, simple ones, but that's still wonderful! He's coming home with numbers in his head and already embracing math concepts. He's shining at Memorial school in a way I don't think he would ever have shined at the more rigid Proctor Terrace where I think he would have fallen in the cracks for not being a standard kid.

Max is probably never going to love school. I have to admit though that I think it helps that Philip and I don't get upset about him not liking school. We tell him he has to go, but he doesn't have to like it. Giving him the freedom to hate school has taken some of the heat out of his attitude about it. He comes up with plots to avoid having to go to school and I calmly tell him where his plots have gone wrong. I've heard a few people gasp in shock when I've revealed that Max hates school...I know, a serious crime. I sometimes wonder if people think that a kid who doesn't like school is already three fourths of the way to becoming a drug addict or a pimp. Why on earth should any kid love school? I think the main thing is that I already know Max has an active imagination and an insatiable hunger for knowledge. His curiosity about absolutely everything says more about him than his attitude about school.

I think it's interesting that sometimes the kids who need the structure of school the most (like Max) are the ones who have the worst attitudes about it. Max is a boundary pusher (you knew that from the bags under my eyes) which is why it's so important for him to have firm boundaries at all times. When he doesn't have them he comes unglued.

I don't spend a lot of time telling the world what a perfect little specimen my baby is, because he's not. But sometimes I feel guilty about how much I complain about him because it leaves so much less room to say how much I love him. How proud I am that he's not an average kid, that he doesn't fit any mold, that he's smart, curious, funny, and inventive. It's hard to focus on his good qualities because I know he's going to have some big challenges in life too. Because of who he is. I complain a lot becuase I have to let off steam. Bringing up the Max-monkey is no easy job. He's a little bit of an intense person (that was an understatement). He's a lot intense. It's been a while since he's wished we were dead, or wished he was dead. But I know we're not through with that. So I spend a certain amount of time waiting for the ax to fall. As well as mopping up blood.

He's a good kid. I love him very much.

Oct 26, 2006

Headless Elizabeth

Yesterday I spent three hours scouring the computer for a bride for BBQ Bob. As I’ve mentioned before, I was hoping to find a girl mannequin that wasn’t rail thin and had cute hair. I used a number of searches containing the words “plus size” or “size 14” and what did I come up with? There is only one plus size mannequin out there right now. Her name is Elilzabeth and she has no head. You heard right, she is headless Elizabeth. The only way you can get her with a head is if you get the white version, meaning the non-flesh-tone version with no features painted on, no eyelashes, just plain white. Like a plaster princess.

I was at the store while looking up mannequins and I have to tell you that looking at an endless parade of pictures of naked fake people feels a little like looking up prospective blow-up partners in a sex shop. Which I have actually never done since I’m not a kinky person. (I’m also not a man, do women ever use blow up dolls?) Anyway, some of these mannequins are being made super busty for places like Frederick’s Of Hollywood where 80% of your clientele has got a double f bust with a twenty inch waist. I was embarrassed when the two people who came in yesterday glanced at my screen to see what the untrained eye would surely assume was porn.

Three hours looking for a bride for Bob put me in such a surreal world. My head started to spin. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every internet store that sells mannequins, plus the one thousand female mannequins being currently listed on e-bay. Still I can’t decide. The one that has the cute hair has an especially stiff pose. The best mannequins I saw yesterday were at least $700. Those ones had good poses and body definition. But I can’t afford such a costly bride for Bob. I want to tell myself that I can always upgrade later when we are swimming in money. I realize just how crazy this will make me sound, but I can’t bear to plan an upgrade on a wife for Bob because it sounds too much like what happens to women in real life all the time. The lines between reality and the window world are blurring.

It might turn out to be unsafe to spend too much time in mannequin world. But here’s what weirded me out the most: what’s up with the plus-size model being headless? And why on earth can’t there be any models who are a size eight or ten? That’s not big, that’s just healthy and normal and nice. Why must my choice be between a size four girl in a stiff pose or a size fourteen girl with no head? What does that say about the commercial world? I can get whatever mannequin I want made special if I’m willing to spend over a thousand dollars. But I can’t. I think in the end I’m going to just have to get the BBQ Sue with the cute bob and good make-up. I won’t be able to dress her in my old “skinny” clothes because I haven’t been as skinny as her since I was in the fourth grade. Don’t get me wrong either, I don’t actually have any dislike of thin people or thinness. I really don’t. Unless they’re doing unhealthy things to get that way. Or unless they are purposely encouraging their skeletal frame to burst through their skin. There are plenty of women out there who maintain a thin figure through leading a healthy life and who look great doing it. I’m not actually sure why I’m being so defensive about it. I guess I just don’t want to alienate cool thin people with all my disdain for thin fake people.

Maybe the truth is that I will feel intimidated to work in my own store if my girl mannequin is all diminutive and cute and then when people come in they will be shocked to find that the shop keeper is a serious porker who looks like she should be working in K-mart what with her underwhelming wardrobe. Maybe I’m doing that classic awful reverse meanness, I feel gross and hideous being fat and so I reflect my feelings about myself onto the people I envy? I don’t usually think of myself as being so tortuously layered with hidden agendas. No, I really don’t think I secretly wish I was a size four. I not so secretly think women look much hotter when they are a little bit fleshy. (Just don’t cross over the line to my size is all I suggest.)

See how much mannequin shopping can make your brain spin? See how much it makes you examine your motives, your sexuality, your self image? Amazing. It’s difficult explain why such a creepy underworld of fiberglass people fascinates me, why I’m excited to dress windows with them. Why I enjoy playing with them so much. Wait a minute…it’s not difficult at all. They’re basically like giant Barbie dolls. The ultimate Barbie dolls! Wow! I know it’s not cool to admit to having been mad for Barbie dolls when I was a little girl. It’s so much cooler to say I was a tom-boy. A rough and ready girl playing sports with the boys. (Well, I did that too…) But my favorite toys of all time was my vast collection of barbies and Barbie paraphernalia. I’m just finding the grown up version. What a revelation.

Oct 25, 2006

Underdog Status: Denied!

Having a retail establishment where there isn't any foot traffic is a bitch. Hearing from most of the people who end up finding you that they "didn't even know you were here" is the kind of thing that makes you want to jump up and down on the street with giant foam fingers and point to your store while shouting to everyone to get the hell in your building. I'm telling you, it's tough. Especially when so many people who do wander in accidentally actually really like your store. It makes you feel like if you had a good location you might actually do pretty well.

I don't generally go around life feeling sorry for myself. If things aren't going well, or how I'd hoped, or I find I haven't been allowed to join the cheerleaders (again), instead of hanging my head, I hop on over to the Under-dog club where I'm almost always cheerfully welcome. We wouldn't have started a store in the first place if we hadn't have found the space we did in the Courtyard building. It was a great way to get our retail feet wet. It was inexpensive (because of no foot traffic) and a manageable size (150 square feet). It got us into the groove. It helped us develop what our store was really all about. But over the past few months we've gotten restless. We knew pretty quick that if we wanted our store to be successful we were going to have to get into a better location. That's not easy.

We're the new kids in town. To get a space here you need to know people, be able to pounce fast, and be able to convince the landlords that you are a better choice of tennant than the new H.P. Lovecraft Cult in town who wants to compete with the Navy for recruits. It can be a bit daunting and discouraging. Spaces have come up and we still found ourselves on the outskirts of the downtown frontier waving our foam fingers. I get a little bit rebellious sometimes when I feel like I'm not being allowed in any kind of exclusive club. It's not an attractive trait; I am constantly trying to put out the rebellious fires in myself. But they flare up anyway. I was starting to feel that no one was ever going to rent a space to us, that we were going to be overlooked for an eternity until we were forced to close up shop and go get applications for Jo Annes Fabrics.

So instead of letting myself feel pathetic for more than two minutes, I stood up strait and said: "Screw everyone!! We'll do well in spite of them all! We'll defy the statistics, we'll focus our efforts on the web store and this will be our design studio that happens to be open to the public." Basically, I filled out an application to the official under-dog club. Being an under-dog is a proud tradition that I am never ashamed to be a part of. Good things often happen for under-dogs and most of the coolest people on earth spent at least some of their time in this prestigious group. (If you're having trouble conjuring up an image of what I'm talking about, think about the movie "Mystery Men". It's all right there. The ultimate under-dog film.)

I filled out my under-dog application right after seeing that another spot had opened up downtown. A prime spot. A perfect spot with fabulous windows to dress. I made inquiries and on hearing how many people were interested in it already (a vague largish amount) I was discouraged. Obviously we weren't going to be able to compete with a vague largish amount of interested businesses because we are pond scum. No, we're not pond scum, that's the kind of thing my brain likes to dish out to me right before I decide to be too cool to care. So Philip and I decided not to worry or think about it. We went ahead and planned the grand opening for our new spot in the courtyard.

But I couldn't not care. I just couldn't stop feeling that if we got to rent a store front in a great location, with great windows to dress, that we would be a successful store and really add something to the downtown mix. This is our one chance, after all. So I decided to put together an application package. I decided to do it in my own style. I wrote a long letter to the prospective landlords about how come they should rent their space to us, who we are, what we hope to achieve, and furnished them with all the tax numbers and references they could need. I figured that if they didn't like our casual approach, or if my style of expressing myself was not dry and business-y enough for them, then we wouldn't want to rent from them anyway. Taking this attitude ensured two things: 1) that our prospective landlords would have an honest view of who we are so that we can continue to just be ourselves and 2) that if they decided we weren't a good fit for them, we would feel that we'd done our best and not felt bitter about the outcome.

Apparently they liked the casualness. They asked us to come down and talk to them yesterday. Within a couple of minutes we were told they would rent it to us. Which is when I started jumping up and down like a fifteen year old who just got a date with Justin Timberlake. When something that good happens to you it's impossible to remain stoic and calm like you just got a full labotomy. Now we'll have the chance we were hoping for, a fair chance to make this business successful.

I get to be a window dresser!!!

So we will be opening the store in our new location by December 1st at the latest. And BBQ Bob will get his bride. So, as you can see for yourself, we were denied access to the underdog club this time around. I'm sure we'll catch up with them somewhere down the road, but may it be a long time from now so we'll have great stories to tell around the super-suit campfire.

Oct 24, 2006

Night Walk

This lamp post is my map
to the shrubby pines
sharp resin reaching
choking this brick path
which tip-toes
into the darkness ahead.

This lamp post is a heart
from which all arteries expand
as its light limps
into the enclosure, just here
I will stamp the fog from my toes
and I will follow.

This lamp post leaks its life
through dense damp thicket
illuminating leaf by leaf
the secret of sight
and bending mind to enter
my name is snared
by this bower of twigs.

Standing naked, nameless now
standing where it all begins
I no longer need the light to see.

I am atlas to the forest moths
who hover close enough
to share my breath
and dust me with their
burning incandescence.

I will lead them fearless
to the end of this night
where we will scatter
into morning shadows.

Oct 23, 2006

Once again, Bob was left...holding the shovel. That's when he finally realized...martinis and graveyards don't mix.

This post is all about the making of a display. You see, I recently realized that I secretly want to be a window display artist in the nineteen forties. But we all know that can't really happen, because I don't have a window to dress. When life gives you a courtyard though, run with it! This is how the "pond" looked before I started. It was breeding mosquitos because it had still water in it. So the first step was to drain the cesspool and fill it with dirt. Sterile dirt.

Once I filled in the gaping malaria trap, I rearranged the rocks to look more random and then placed a couple of gravestones artfully around the area. Realistic, no?

Mannequins are strange fixtures. They aren't real, but they're made to look real. So undressing them, especially when they are the opposite "sex" as yourself can be completely surreal and honestly...I wish I had had a camera crew there to film the absurd dance and gripping that ensued just to get BBQ Bob off of his handy stand. Yep, I felt like a cheatin' wife. The thing is, they aren't flexible, so trying to get clothes off and on is a complicated affair. I almost (I said ALMOST) felt bad for Bob, if he had been real he would have had a very bruised ego, or thought we were having an affair. I'll admit that I fell over a couple of times while wrestling with his legs.

Mannequins have a way of looking like corpses or really lost people. I have a real fondness for them and am excited to get a BBQ Sue. (I've chosen the girl for bob based on her hair, but she's rail thin which I completely disapprove of. I haven't ordered her for two reasons: mannequins are expensive so I'm scared to press the red "buy" button, and also I keep hoping I'll find a really cute plus size girl for Bob. Men, even fiberglass ones, like a woman with something to hold onto. Women are pretty stupid not to realize that time and again, the good men almost always prefer the medium to plumper sized girls over the really bony ones. I am not saying men like fat, I'm just saying they like breasts and butts and curves. Which disappear when you get really thin, unless you surgically enhance yourself. It's amazing how off-topic I have suddenly gotten. The only reason the skeletal girls of Hollywood ever get dates is because the men there have no choice.)

I broke out in a sweat dressing Bob. I finally got him situated in the grave yard but the next step was to sew him into his trousers because they didn't fit him well, since, unfortunately he is too thin. It's difficult to see in this picture, but I would like you to observe that I have finally put some shoes on Bob. How weird is it that he fits in Philip's shoes and not mine? (I guess I assumed that such a girly-man as Bob would have small feet because he came with eyelashes longer than mine. I tried to shove his feet into my Dexter men's shoes, and was surprised they wouldn't fit. So he's been barefoot all summer. There have been comments about it.)

Bob is wearing Philip's 1940's tuxedo. It was difficult to track down the shirt and tie though. We finally got him rigged out by visiting Elite Tuxedo on Baker Street. I wanted Bob in a white tie because white ties are far classier than black tie, but Elite didn't have that.

This is a moon I made out of cardboard and covered in glass glitter. I wanted a really classy sparkly moon, but I ran out of glass glitter mid-project (it wasn't the good stuff anyway, but I was forced to order a whole bunch more of the same shoddy glitter to finish this project.) The effect wasn't exactly what I had hoped, yet in it's own way it add charm to the scene. Philip couldn't find fishing wire (our window dressing tool box is dreadfully lacking as we're just putting it together!) so he hung it with velvet ribbon.

Bob's disguise. It is amazing to me that it's impossible to find a Halloween/party store in this town where you can buy something ordinary like a Zorro-style mask which is what I had envisioned for Bob. I also couldn't locate a smoking jacket which I had wanted to put Bob in. In the end though, I really like his Groucho disguise which I found at the dollar store.

There is a sign in front of the display that reads: "Once again, Bob was left...holding the shovel. That's when he realized...martinis and graveyards don't mix."

On Halloween we will be employing some dry ice in the display. You can't see some of the cool details in these pictures such as the broken martini glass at Bob's feet. The creepy spiders. The spider webs. But I think it turned out pretty well. I already have a winter holiday scene in mind. If my life as a retail owner/product designer-manufacturer doesn't work out, I know what I'm going to do. I 'm going to become a display artist. I think McMinnville needs to really work on it's window display magic. Boersma's is the only store that really puts together a super creative, fun, and magical display. The bookstore sometimes has some great window displays. But everyone else? C'mon guys!!!! Step it up!!!

I have always loved the behind-the-scenes world where the magic is found, assembled, and built from store rooms of raw materials and random set pieces brought together to say something, evoke something, and make you believe something. I get my appreciation for it largely from thirties and forties films. I absolutely love all the gems like "Stage Door" where you get to see all the young beautiful hopefuls struggle to get noticed by the glittery producers...you see them in their grit before the stage curtain rises. I love those movies in which you see those Bergdorf windows done by Cecil Beaton and those crazy fashion shows choreographed by Busby Berkeley bursting out in rare early technicolor splendor. I want to dress that world of windows and stages.

I am going to look for some books to study on the subject. I need to find tips of the trade, how to pose mannequins, how to dress them without wrestling them to the ground and chipping their cheeks, and how to make your merchandise look superb on fake people. I have questions like whether or not you can buy different arms for the same mannequin; how to hide the underpinnings of displays artfully; where to find all the elements your display is missing (as in: are there stores that cater to window dressing?)? If I had my own window to dress in this town I would make it always look so interesting that people find themselves stopping to look closer even when they think they're in too big a hurry. I would make funny displays and sometimes magical displays. I would evoke that old world charm of the window of a store being not just a place to show what you sell, but a place to show the spirit of the store, a place to show the magic of the store.

But I don't have a window to dress. Anyway, it takes lots of practice and experience to work up to that ambition. You have to develop an eye for the display, you have to build up a collection of props to use, and you have to learn about composition. I need to read about it, collect some reference books on the subject. So I'll practice this secret vocation of mine in the courtyard and in my store. I'm pretty pleased with this one. It's so funny how going out on a limb to persue one dream can uncover dreams you've been hiding in yourself your whole life.

Oct 21, 2006

Pictures Of Everything But The Grand Opening

Mark's harvest hands. Mark hasn't had a day off in weeks. He doesn't even know we opened up some of the pickles.

Chick has really missed Mark and can't get enough of him. Yet she can't help but get excited that Ozark is also in the room.

I was so wrapped up in getting everything set up and then chasing down the boys to scold them for acting like sonic monkeys while trying to talk to the really nice people that came to our grand opening, that I didn't take a single picture of it. So here' s a sneak peek at the courtyard decoration.

This looks so much worse than it is. It's amazing how a fiberglass mannequin can look like he's been caught in a lewd act when he's being changed. Honest, no hookers were involved.

I now have witnesses...and Lisa called this cabbage "absurd". That's me with the cabbage in the work shop. The kitchen just wasn't large enough to deal with it.

We made Sid's cabbage stew with about a quarter of the cabbage. It filled up my pot.

Last night Max had one of the worst bloody noses he's ever had. It woke him up at one thirty in the morning. It was streaming out of both of his nostrils, he was sobbing and tensing up so that it kept coming out harder and the worse it got, the more panicked he got. I couldn't handle it after a while so I screamed out for Philip who came and held the tissues while I tried not to throw up in panic. But then he passed out. So my kid was bleeding copiously while my husband was passed out on the floor. I didn't get back to sleep for at least an hour. I felt so bruised and scared. I've staunched at least a hundred of his bloody noses now and I am living in fear of the next one. I wait with dread for Max to yell out that he's got another one.

This shouldn't be happening. His nose has been cauterized. It seems to be getting worse. He's not Russian Royalty, does anyone else on this planet have hemophelia? At what point do I have to be concerned that my kid is going to bleed to death of a bloody nose? Because I'm already there. It's the week-end (of course) so I can't call the regular doctor. I'm going to call the hospital to see if they have an advice nurse to find out if there is a more efficient way to stop the bleeding. And to find out at what point do we take him in? It's a horrible thing to see my little boy have to deal with this almost every day. To see him scared shitless. Why is this happening to him? If I don't get answers really soon I'm going to be no good for anything.

Later in the morning: I called the Hospital to talk to an advice nurse but they don't have one. Because of liability I'm told. How insane is it that the local hospital refuses to tell you how to know if something is serious enough to come in? Liability sucks, but aren't lawyer fees included in the exorbitant prices we pay for the smallest medical exam? Isn't liability already responsible for why we have to for-go sending our children to college so that they can have medical coverage? Screw them! I'm mad. So I called the regular doctor's office and talked to the on-call doctor's nurse. At least she had something to say...ice might help. Plus there's some new powder that you can apply topically inside the nose to staunch bleeding, though I am very interested to hear how to apply this in the middle of a gush with a hysterical child on your lap. But, at this point, I'm willing to try anything they suggest.

Oct 20, 2006

*****Breaking News*****

The store is open for business!!!!!!
You can get to the store by using the link in the links section.
Tell your friends!
Tell everyone!!
(Except the Whitehouse please)

Until we get some orders we won't know if there are any other wrinkles in the system, so if you end up being one of our first customers, we just ask that you be patient should we experience any glitches. You can be sure as hell we will do everything in our power to make all our transactions go smoothly and quickly. Can you tell how excited I am? I know that in reality it will take lots of time to find people out there and we may end up twiddling our thumbs for a while, but you can all go browse anyway. And if you have any troubles you can e-mail us. Or if you have any questions or comments. Except for mean comments. You have to wait until I've had at least one beer before shooting mean comments my way. Deal?

So what are you waiting for? Go have a look!
A Spouse-Clocking Cabbage

That's right, that's what I said. This baby weighs in at 19 pounds, I can't help but think that with cabbages like these, who will clock their spouses with frying pans anymore? I'd hate to get in a fight with Philip and in a fit of rage pick up this massive cabbage that's conveniently placed on the counter (because it won't fit in the fridge) and huck it at him. Luckily, I never get violent when I get mad and neither does he. Also, my muscles might collapse trying to lift it in a hurry, so I'd just end up injuring myself.

Seriously, this cabbage is enormous. I've posed Max with it to show you the scale of the thing. What really amazes me is that the folks down at Harvest Fresh just don't seem to understand why I would be amazed by such large vegetables. I was pretty openly stunned and told the produce man I was intimidated by such large cabbages and he looked in their direction and made the tiniest shrug ever, as though to say that I must be from a tiny-vegetable planet, where as here on earth people are used to 19 pound vegetables.

I continued to voice my amazement (c'mon, can you blame me?) and three people at the check-out counter tried to convince me it must be because of healthy soil. Yeah, and maybe some nuclear waste. They were talking as though all of them regularly grow cabbages and cauliflowers big enough to feed their families for a week. One of them even mentioned how big the vegetables in Alaska get, but when I pointed out that these came from Oregon, not Alaska, she just looked at me like I was the most dense person she'd ever met.

These guys don't fit in paper grocery bags. The cabbage didn't fit in the helmet trunk of my vespa. I didn't have any plans for them when I bought them, I bought them because I had to. Because I needed to know what it's like to try to use up such huge crucifers. So now they are sitting (ominously) on my kitchen counter and I'm cowering in here in the safety of my office wondering what to do with them.

I LOVE cauliflower and several pans of cauliflower gratin sounds divine, but I'm in the middle of this slimming gig and that sounds dangerous. I'm thinking that a few Indian inspired dishes with curry and potatoes might be good and not that dangerous to the figure. But what about that cabbage? I keep thinking of the best cabbage stew I have ever eaten that my really close friend Sid made for St. Patrick's day this year. She's a vegetarian, as am I, and so she made this stew that had roasted potatoes in it, but what else? Sid, this is an emergency...SOS...how did you make that stew? (I will have to e-mail her, which I meant to do last night to beg for the recipe which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist since I'm pretty sure she was winging it in her brilliant way.)

My mom likes cabbage steamed with Dr. Bronner's liberally poured over it. With rice probably. While that doesn't sound bad at all, it doesn't sound like it will hit the spot. Wait...I've got it! Someone at the Weight Watchers meeting last night mentioned cabbage rolls with beef inside. Obviously beef is out. But Lisa made this spectacular rice curry dish the other night and I handcuffed her to my kitchen counter with pen and paper until she agreed to write it down for all of us other mortals to enjoy. So I will copy it down here for you. It's her own recipe and it would be wonderful stuffed into cabbage rolls.

Rice Salad:
(serves four)

1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 pine nuts
Juice of one lemon
2 scallions chopped
1/2 cup dried currants
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the jasmine rice using your favorite rice making method.

Make a dressing by mixing the lemon juice, olive oil, and spices.

Add the pine nuts, scallions, and currants to the cooked rice in a big bowl.

Pour the dressing over the rice and stir everything really well.

YUM. We ate it stuffed into baked winter squash.

Now I'm going to eat it stuffed into one thousand cabbage leaves.

Other News:
On wednesday Max got his nose cauterized at the doctor's office. He's had two bloody noses since the procedure. One was almost not worth calling a bloody nose. But this morning he woke up to a doozy of a gush. He practically went into spasms of alarm and freaked about it getting into his stomach. Poor kid. If this doesn't work out then we try the next procedure that they use for problems with bloody noses that start higher up in the nasal cavity. He will have to go to a nose/throat specialist and be put under for that one. I really want this to work for him. It makes me feel so bad for him that he has to go through this all the time.

My dog is limping. An appointment has been made for the vet tomorrow. These mysterious things are very worrying. Especailly because I have to cook all day because at five we are going to PARTY at the store. Poor Chick. We've examined her foot and can't find anything wrong with it. She doesn't seem to be in pain, she just doesn't want to walk on it.

Happily: Yesterday I got my hair cut and I definitely don't look like a Bush Administrator anymore. What a relief. Plus, the lady who cut my hair (Alice, from Twist Salon) has acreage, meat cows, and cans salsa, so she was tons of fun to talk to. Not only that, but not drinking beer for four days in a row has caused me to lose three pounds in four days. YAY. I still look the same, but who cares? It's been ten months since I weighed less than 200lbs. Yesterday I weighed 199lbs. (The high point this year was 215lbs, so I've come a LONG way. But I will definitely not break out the Virginia Slims.)

I finished sewing the eighteen women's aprons this week. You better believe I'm having some beer tonight!!

Come to our Grand Opening if you live near by! Starts at five pm and ends at seven pm. We will be having a drawing for an apron at six thirty. There will be great hors'doerves. And wine.

Oct 18, 2006

The Future Predators Of America

*Caution: If the darker side of childhood makes you squeamish, skip this post. Also, if you are an expecting parent, please don't read either, this is hardly the time to hear anything disturbing about children. It's not my intention to distress people, but it is my mission to write about the things that are on my mind, important questions about life, and frivolous things too. Especially when I have questions I don't hear anyone else asking. Especially when I have questions I'm afraid to ask. Maybe everyone should skip this one. I had to write it though, that's why it's here.

Seeing large crowds of grade-school kids has the oddest effect on me. One of two polar opposite things happens; either I get all emotional and start to choke up as I often do with any kind of herding of people for some mysterious strange reason, or disturbing thoughts begin to percolate in my head as I watch them all milling around like busy ants-finding the scent to the proper classroom in the school nest. I actually find both reactions somewhat unsettling. (A strong indication that I have some social anxieties.)

This morning I walked Max to school and was marveling at how cute he looked trudging off to school like a big kid, backpack hung low, graham crackers being shoved in his mouth in great haste. I felt that distinct pull of motherhood, those strings of emotion being plucked because my boy is growing up. I have very little time for people getting grandly sad that their children are growing up, to me it is a joy to watch. The strings resonate because it’s beautiful to see children develop, to mature, to see the shadows of who they will become when they are adults begin to extend beyond their still-short bodies. Their cherubic faces start to wear the expressions they will carry with them into maturity.

I don’t feel sentimental about my growing boy so much as I marvel at it and savor each new change. He’s about to turn six and I look forward to it. His brain is constantly making new connections and as a parent I get to see it happen up close. The same thing my own brain was busy with at his age. Pathways in his body are being forged every minute. Every time I talk to him I find he has ideas in his head that he’s been mulling over, and they spill out like surprising windows into his psyche. That psyche is as rich and complicated as every other person’s on earth.

Adults like to romanticize childhood, to make it seem like this great age of innocence that eventually gets breached by grown-up muck and filth. Innocence that is ripped cruelly from them by age and learning, by sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. It amazes me how much adults like to hide in this fantasy, to believe it so thoroughly. They always talk about it as though it’s something they want to protect in their children when the truth is that they wish they could protect it in themselves because it’s the holy grail of the jaded. They don’t seem to realize that they never had it, that’s it’s an elaborate fantasy. The kind of innocence that adults are so keen to protect exists nowhere on this earth. A place where sex doesn’t exist, where there’s no violence, no rivalry, no sorrow, no desperate longing? Innocence doesn’t exist except in the legal sense of not being guilty.

I have mentioned many times before how often I have disturbing thoughts about things. Discomfort in the brain is a frequent occurrence for me. I experienced acute discomfort this morning when looking out at that sea of downy heads, of sprouting scientists, budding sports stars, burgeoning scholars, artists, and future parents. First I was overwhelmed by how damn cute they all were. That’s right, all these kids streaming out of cars, across the street, into the halls; skipping, jumping, laughing, scowling, holding hands, and dragging feet, and every damn one of them looked so cute suddenly. The dark faces, light faces, tow-heads, red-heads, the lanky ones with highwater pants, the chubby ones with cheeks so scrumptious they look better than apple pies, all of them were wonderfully appealing today.

Then suddenly the view collapsed into something else. Suddenly I saw the other side of the future. I saw inside those kids. Just as they all appeared so appealing, I also saw the vast amount of potential being housed in this one elementary school. Hundreds of future adults. Hundreds of fledgling people all with the equal potential to become amazing or to become monsters. The seeds of who they are are already there. It matters what you do as a parent, but the seeds of their potential came with the package. Maybe you should stop reading now if you want to stay comfortable. I looked at those faces and the questions started pouring through my head: which ones were going to become stalkers? Which of these girls are going to let men abuse them? Which of these boys are going to become rapists? Which kid here is going to rob the bank in Lafayette at seventeen? Which kids are going to work in Walmart the rest of their lives and never bother to have dreams? Which of these girls is going to become a prostitute? Which of these kids is going to be murdered? Or die of disease? Every single one of them has a life to build, a legacy to create, a mark to leave. It’s a fact of life that some of them will end up on the darker end of living. They can’t all become the next lawyer, the next Einstein, or the next Jerry Falwell. (Thank god)

Do you think they don’t already have some of the seeds growing in them for the life they’re going to lead? Do you think that if you make them study enough, make them smart enough that they’ll never hurt a girl or use their sexuality inappropriately? Education is a great tool for reaching high into the future potential for achievement, but it doesn’t automatically make good people. What I saw in those kids was that already they know about sexuality, that’s an instinct you can’t protect people from. Little people touch themselves and I guess adults generally think it’s an innocent thing because they’re so little they don’t know about “sex” yet, it’s just “exploration”. But their bodies know. They learn without you teaching them. They know so much more than adults generally give them credit for. Just because they can't articulate that knowledge doesn't mean it isn't already there. All those other dark things are already there too, the jealousies, the rage, the desire to hurt others, the understanding of death, physical pain, deep sorrow, aggressive territorialism, longing, aching, and deep fear. They feel these things pretty early on. Because they’re small humans, not fantasy angels of light.

My kid’s face was in there too. In that shadow-land of budding humans. Who is he going to become? He really enjoys watching our dog and cat fight which I find extremely disturbing. Is he going to be one of those awful people who like to watch cock fights? He’s smart as a whip but that doesn’t mean he won’t develop a taste for cruel sport. The more kids that get born, the more crowded the earth becomes, the more all of our children are going to have to fight for resources, for the basic requirements of living. The more competition there is for basic needs, the more cut-throat our children will have to become to succeed, to not live on the streets, to not have to rob banks. It’s not slowing down. The more crowded it gets the more savage our children will be forced to become. I admit that I’m scared for them all.

By having a child myself I have made myself complicit in this cycle of life. I have contributed to the population my own queer set of genetic material rolled into one energetic little boy body of fire and ice. One more person to compete with everyone else's children. Sometimes I want to cry (kind of like right now, just a tiny bit) when the enormity of my responsibility makes itself felt. When I realize what it means to have put a human being on this planet to duke it out with all the other human beings crowding out of every town and square foot of earth. Yes, life is full of beauty and fun and magic, but it is also ruthless and runs on a foundation of primal needs which no amount of whitewashing can alter.

Whole groups of animals have died off for want of enough resources to support it's population. Humans have become so saavy at manufacturing it's needs, making medicines to abolish the diseases that nature has provided to keep our population within limits. She wins. Nature ALWAYS wins in the end. Since there aren't enough diseases to kill off enough people, we are killing each other off instead in violent bursts. We are all so shocked. But why? People aren't meant to live together in such tight quarters. Stacked on top of each other, guarded by all manner of medicines and devices to keep us alive in spite of the growing sicknesses that such large populations promote. The pressure to survive, the fighting for jobs, and people constantly breathing down each others' necks, waiting to take our place...it makes us crazy. It makes us snap. It makes us imbalanced. It's a dangerous game we're playing and the consequences are huge. More violence, more drugs (both psychiatric and street), more therapy, more dissonance, more and more violence, and in younger and younger people. I am not shocked. I am troubled. I am worried.

Maybe part of me wishes I could believe in innocence. Maybe sometimes I wish I could float in that white world of dolls and lace and creamy sweet tea parties. Float in a world where we are all gentle souls with serene spirits. Maybe the perverse reaction I have to all of that is merely me being jealous that I'm not allowed in that club of precious childhood goodness where fairies never die, where every child becomes King or Queen, and rules with a velvet sceptre. Whenever I've had a chance to look in, maybe sit down at the great tea table of childhood sweetness, I have ruined it with my own darkling glances. I have always carried shadows with me where ever I go. I don't mean to. I don't want to. I want to be light. I felt it when I was a kid, and they felt it too, they SAW it over my head. I have always been the rain on the happy parade. I swear, I yell, my spirit claws at my heart to get out and tell it the way it really is, not the way I WISH it was. There's no better way to ostrasize yourself.

I don't think it's all that surprising then, that I routinely drink five beers in a night. The great soother of the day's rough reflections. It washes the grit of life down better than any pure water in the world. It's an awful lot like life itself, a blend of sugar and bitterness, a sedative, and it tastes so clean. I haven't had beer for two days. It's not that hard to not drink them when I get over the tough moment when I have to just decide not to do it. But beer is the ultimate tonic for me. I'll admit that I'm always in the mood for it.

I'm never going to belong with the darling crowd. The gentle crowd. Because it isn't genuine for me. It's a pretend world. I can't exist in a world that isn't real, where people never get mad and whisper all the time. The life I know is so full of light and dark that you never know where you are. The life I know is full of real magic, the kind of magic that happens when people find kindred spirits out there and when people pass random smiles out to strangers and open a window of sunshine in the darkness. The life I know is full of cruelty, necessary as well as random. The life I know is beautiful not because we're all such wonderful people but because in spite of the ugly struggles we go through to survive, so many of us end up shining through the darkness even though we get hurt. The life I know is beautiful because of all the contrasts between the light and dark. It's beautiful for it's smells and tastes and textures. But it's a damn hard gig.

It's possible my mother let me watch too many episodes of "Animal Kingdom". If you think I'm overstating myself, I suggest you watch the shows on the Cheetahs. It's all right there. More eloquently captured on film and in documentary studies than I can probably ever write it. I both loved and hated those shows. They were beautiful as well as starkly cruel. I couldn't tear my eyes away, even when they showed the Cheetahs starving to death because the Hyenas stole their hard earned kill, making me twist with agony inside. I learned a lot from those shows. I got all the gritty concepts in life that parents often try to obscure from their children's brains. So if you don't want your kids exposed to carnal urges, territorial fights to the death, poverty of resources leading to sickness and death, and thievery, then don't let them get an education. And for god's sake, don't let them watch National Geographic shows. Ah hell, forget it, you can't protect your kids from themselves. You can only hope the hyenas don't steal their dinner.

Oct 17, 2006

The Berry Barn in Scholls, Oregon

(Or: How I hate blogger for refusing-9 times- to post the prettiest picture ever of this farm)
Just another picture of the hooligans on stacks of hay. What I wanted you to be looking at instead is a picture I took of the apple and pear orchard we took a ride through on their tractor. It was overcast and the trees had that gorgeous grey soft look, the look they get when the weather turns, with the last few pieces of fruit hanging on the branches like singular jewels. But, whatever. Apparently blogger has it's own twisted code of censorship where all pretty pictures of orchards are refused.

Tractor rides are not for people looking for a fast thrill or wild entertainment. They are pastoral, bumpy, humble, and take you through the prettiest sights: farm-land. Though these kids regularly expect super-hero level excitement, they seemed to enjoy this ride almost as much as us adults did.

This was an apple festival week-end and so they had some special things going on like face painting for kids...for free. Tip jar only. She had a book from which the kids could choose designs. I was genuinely surprised that Max opted for a full face of paint. Normally he would not subject himself to the type of poking, touching, and clausterphobic feel of face-paint that is involved here. And then I half expected him to uneasily request that I take it off two minutes later. He kept his Spiderman face on for the rest of the day.

Elena chose to be a "Magic Cat". I was amazed at how still she sat for the face paint artist. For a three year old she shows great potential for growing into a zen master with a Doctorate in martial arts (that's right, she looks gentle and sweet, and can be, but don't you dare underestimate her tough side. She is no meek banana!)

Rex opted for the Spiderman chic too. The kids were pretty good on this trip, for the most part, but by this time they were getting restless and a little ornery.

Look at the magic cat! Careful, she looks like she sees a mouse. Better not be you.

The requisite pig shot. I don't know this guy's name, but he's only twice as big as the rooster you see here strutting his stuff. Philip, who went to the Berry Barn the next day, thought this guy looked like a piglet...I don't know, he kind of had a mature energy to him. He wags his tail when you talk to him though. Like a dog. Myrtle could chew this guy up in one delicious bacon bite.

More highlights from the Berry Barn:

  • They have a store that is incredible. They sell some Wendy Addison (reproduction) Halloween decorations, lots of super cool flour-sack kitchen towels, gourmet foods, french soaps, and great books on cooking and gardening. I spent a lot of time in the store and bought one of the Wendy Addison decorations for this year's Halloween addition (I buy one special Halloween, and one special Christmas decoration a year) I was introduced to Wendy Addison (and similar work) by my good friend Lucille. So every time I see them I think of her. (Also, Lucille, there were some super cool acorn dishes there!) This store is like a chic country store, but without all the cute Grandma references and sweet-sick country-life references. Country with class. I want my store to have the same feeling, like you walk in and know you have to explore to find all the goodies that are merchandised so well I've practically bought everything before I've been in there for five minutes.

  • They sell quite a lot of apple varieties: Spitzenburg (more on that later, and another thing that reminds me of Lucille), Rome Beauty, Liberty, Cox's Orange Pippen, Newton Pippen, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Roxbury Russet, Elstar, Critereon (sorry, this is the only apple I've ever hated), and a few more I can't remember right now. The boys tried lots of different kinds and in the end their favorite, every time, was the Spitzenburg. This is the only time I've been able to get Max to take part in an actual taste test. It's pretty cute the way he says "Spitzenburg" frequently now, as though it's been his favorite since he was born.

  • They also sell some trees. Because they have a nursery. So we fell under the tree charm and we each bought a Spitzenburg. Plus I bought a Red Bartlett. The guy who takes care of the orchard (one of the family that owns the farm) is super patient and nice, so if you buy a tree from them you can ask as many questions as you want and he'll do his best to answer it. I mean, unless you're asking him why "Pi" isn't being taught to Kindergarteners. I'm not really sure what his feelings on that are, but tree questions...

  • I have to tell you about the pie. Real pie, as in apple pie. Another family member is responsible for making the pies and if they ever have any while you're there, I highly suggest you try a piece. I don't like a lot of people's apple pie, especially the crust. I'm picky about crust. Her crust is fantastic, the apples are cooked just enough without being mushy, there's just enough of the sticky saucy stuff to make it pleasing without it being mostly congealed sugar. The taste is phenomenal. Their carmel apples are good too, but forget that, eat some pie. I don't even know the name of the lady who makes them (I should have asked) but if I had a pie medal, I'd give her one.

  • Now, for a quick note about Spitzenburgs: I first heard of them from my friend Lucille and my other neighbor Sandra. I'm pretty sure they both have Spitzenburgs in their yards. It doesn't seem like any commercial orchards in Sonoma county are selling them which is too bad. Lucille said it was one of her favorite apples and now that I've tasted them, I totally see why. They are firm, tart, sweet, sprightly, and juicy. Very apple-y flavor. So I'm really excited to have one in my yard.

Well, I'm off to work on some other things now. Like finishing those aprons. (I lied about staying til they were done the other night.) You all have a great Tuesday!

Oct 15, 2006

Life, Accelerated

(The longest post I've ever written, or: what a rainy sleepy Sunday can make you think about.)The hens are feeling it. More eggs a day...as though they know that nature is shutting down the egg hatch soon for winter hibernation. Not "as though", but really, hens KNOW because they are plugged in to the natural light fluctuations in a way us electricity beasts aren't. The hens that aren't yet laying (two) will probably bust out a few rogue eggs before the light forces them to turn inward.

The kids are feeling it. Talk of birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is multiplying. In our family there is an inordinate amount of activity between now and January sixth because in addition to the four main holidays looming ahead, we have four birthdays and an anniversary. To occupy Max, Rex, and Elena, and to offer some pre-holiday fun, we had them decorate this year's candy baskets. Paper mache forms that they painted and glittered up. This one is Elena's. That's green blood you see on the jack-o-lantern's face.

This one is Rex's exuberant creative use of paint and glitter. I feel he really explored his personal artistic style here.

This is Max's basket. He has a slightly more minimalist style than Rex and Elena, but it works for him. He was very proud of the bloody eye you see there.

These are smaller ones that I glittered up to sell in the store. These would not be appropriate for the over threes. Because once a kid turns three they really grasp that a bigger bucket means more candy and any parent who thinks their kid doesn't care about getting as much candy as possible is either in complete denial, or gave birth to a miracle child whose genes should be shared with the world more freely. Some kids may lose interest in eating all the candy a few days after getting it (I am silently scoffing at the idea) but all children get caught up in the candy-greed-heat-of-the-moment when they're out there on the hunt for it. And why not? We all came from hunter-gatherer stock originally.

Life is accelerating here. There is so much to do to be ready for the holidays, both personally and here at the shop. The aprons will be done today (because I've vowed to stay until they are finished) and then there's more Halloween items to finish. Then there's the opening to prepare for. The courtyard to decorate. And three thousand pieces of candy to buy to hand out to kids here at the store because we're participating in the safe downtown Halloween event. Thank god we can write off the candy for taxes. Can you even imagine what that mountain of mouth rotting goodness will look like?

I will be glittering a few bigger ones in the next few days. It will be too late to sell them on-line probably, but at least they will look pretty in the store. Aren't they festive? Next year I will have them ready early. Because everything here at Dustpan Alley will be running as smoothly and promptly as an Italian train during the fascist regime. I'm not saying we're fascists around here. I give you three guesses what we are around here...but keep those guesses to yourself because this is not an overtly political blog...stealthy maybe...but not overt.

Dang it. Now I've gone and tempted myself to enter into a political discussion because there's an interesting angle here. But the general wisdom is that if you want to sell things to people, you need to keep your personal opinions to yourself so as not to alienate potential or existant customers. Really, I do understand that concept and to some degree I think it's wise councel. However, the same people who would advise that also usually say that business isn't personal. That's complete wet B.S. If your business isn't personal then you're a liar and your business probably isn't very good. All the places I like to spend my money are places that you know are a personal expression of the person who owns it and/or runs it. It's that personal infusion that gives it a stamp of authenticity and charm. It's when you know what the business owner is about by how they run their company, how they treat their customers, and what they are trying to convince you to buy that you open up your pocketbook and let go of your hard earned money. Business is extremely personal.

So why can't I just haul off and tell you all exactly what my political opinions are? Why can't I tell you what my religious affiliations are? And what I think of everyone else's affiliations? I kind of do that here without the intent of stating my place in it all. It happens naturally. But I haven't really spilled myself completely because the truth is that I'm a damn coward and I want so desperately to succeed at what we're doing because I love what we're doing and I don't want to have to go work at JoAnne's Fabrics. I have the life I want now with the one thing missing: an income. I haven't decided yet how far I'm willing to go on my blog. My blog is not my business, it's a place where I can write about things that matter to me and where others can find my writing and see what they think (and share what they think too), but they are connected. They are linked. Unless I write annonymously, they will always be linked. So I have to think about what I say and who might be reading it and whether I care if those people will decide not to buy from me because of things I've said.

This is where you tell me to: "STOP NOW FOR GOD'S SAKE!"

I've decided that I will list here some of my beliefs and values that, if they offended anyone, I would not care if that person didn't shop with us:


I believe that every person on earth is born with the exact same potential to become a really worthy member of their society. I believe that legal equality is necessary and right between all the sexes and races. But I object fiercely to the suggestion that we are all the same. Men and women are very different. I believe they're both equally capable of achieving incredible things (often the same things) but there is no man I can look at and not see that he is different than me (and be thankful for it). And I believe that all races are equally capable of shaping and running our world, of becoming amazing people I would want my son to emulate. But we are not the same. Legally equal, but not the same. I believe it's the differences that make us interesting, that make us all unique, that give us all reason to explore and learn new things. I don't believe we're all born equal, but I do believe none of us is inherently superior to any one else.

(Plus, there's the fact that nature rewards us all for mixing up the genetic material with stronger healthier attributes, and in my humble opinion, mixing up the genetic material accross racial boundaries results in prettier people. So, mix it up people, cross state lines, cross cultural and racial divides...you're just helping to make a stronger more beautiful world.) (If you don't believe me then I suggest you do some comparing of pure bred animals with their mixed-breed counterparts. I know where you're going to find the weirdest physical features, the worse health issues, shorter life spans, and the worst behavior difficulties.)


I do not believe in oppressing people in other coutries. (In other words: I don't believe in Colonialism.)

I believe it's more important to be a kind, empathetic, and conscientous person than to be important. I'd love to make a million, or at least pay all my bills with what I make, but I'd rather live in poverty than become successful at the expense of people I love, the world I live in, and my soul. I know, sounds lofty, and pretty scary, but I've had to make hard decisions in my life and it always comes down to this.

I am not religious. But I was brought up with a deep respect for faith, for spirituality, and the many faces of god in this world. (Yep, raised by Hippies.) I can even respect that many people see only one face of god. I am fascinated by religion and have a deep personal sense of spirituality. I freely make fun of religions that lend themselves to it, like all extremist religions. Like all the ones based on something totally random. The more earnest and humorless the religious group, the greater the urge to make fun of them. But here's the deal, nothing makes me lose respect for a person faster than when they try to convert me to their faith. I appear to be naive at times, I appear to be a malleable person because I am pretty accepting of people's personal beliefs and I like to listen to people, but I'm not convertable. Period end. I know what I believe and I've come by those beliefs through a lot more life experience than people generally give me credit for.


In our household we generally vote our conscience and do not tie ourselves to a particular party. We believe that voting your conscience is generally the most patriotic thing you can do. It is the single most American way to vote. That's just what we believe. Though we are going through some seriously compromised political times and have adjusted our beliefs temporarily to try and right some imbalances that can't be righted by voting for the green guy named Gustav who just wants to play his piccolo to the birds in the estuary. That's right, we take the current political situation seriously. That's all I need to say, right?


Beastiality is sick and I don't ever want to know, talk to, or sell anything to anyone who has participated in this awful fetish. So go away before I stuff your head for Thanksgiving dinner. I really believed this was a sick joke that people who like to shock other people tell at cocktail parties but I have heard from a fairly credible source that this is real. Tell me no more.

I take my role in the decline of our natural resources and my role in the use of this planet seriously. I'm not a zealot. I'm not sanctimonious, I hope. But I am adjusting my way of living step by step to make less of an impact on this world. Because I like living here. I like nature. There are things I have yet to change because I haven't found an acceptable alternative yet. So I am always looking for something else to change. Something else to save or recycle, or some less toxic way to clean and live life. We're not perfect here. We don't use solar power(yet). We still sometimes use paper towels. But we are a one car family, we ride bikes and walk as much as we can. We reuse everything that we can. We keep moving forward with our efforts. We don't want to get in anyone's face about it, but if we can inspire others to make changes, even small ones, and if our business can fascilitate some of those changes, then it will make us feel especially useful to all of you.


I laugh at myself all the time, and I often laugh at others too. But not unkindly. I thoroughly enjoy human foibles, my own and those of others. Sometimes I go too far, and I'm always sorry when I do, but sometimes you have to jump off the edge of what is known to be safe in order to uncover the best in yourself, in other people, and the world we live in. As a writer you must always be standing on this edge or you will never find the truth. Truth is unsafe. But it's what makes us feel most happy being ourselves. It's the only thing that propells us forward. It's what we spend a lot of time hiding from, and then seeking, in turns. It can be earth shattering and also sometimes incredibly comforting. In the end though, we should all be able to find humour in there too. We should all cultivate the ability to see ourselves how others might see us, and to enjoy that sometimes we might seem funny.


Mental Illness should no longer be a taboo subject. Nor should it be dismissed. Our lifestyles and the fact that we are increasingly preventing nature (and/or god) to do it's job with natural selection through the use of fertility drugs means that there are more and more of us being born with funny wiring in the brain. It's not a joke, it's not something the psychiatrists are making up to sell more drugs. There's quite a nasty tangle there between the over prescribing of psychiatric drugs and the real increasing need for them. Psychiatric drugs are not "happy pills" in the way that you might pop a qualude or some ectasy. It doesn't make you "happy", it makes you more NORMAL. For anyone who wants to ask the question "What's normal?", I advise you to search for the topic in my archives (I think it's in the August archives), and I'll tell you what I know about normal.

I believe that the other animals we share with this planet deserve our respect. Extinction is a narural part of this earth's cycle, but we should take care not to be the sole cause of other animals' extinction. Plus I believe that the animals we use for food, for their skin, their eggs, and their bones deserve to be kept in a healthy and caring environment prior to killing them in a humane way.


So what do ya think? You gonna still shop here? Well alright, now that we understand each other, come in and let me fix you up some coffee and I'll show you what you can use to clean your house that smells terrific and is super easy on the environment! Then you can laugh at me for writing such unashamed long posts on my blog. And as long as you don't have funnier hair than me, we can laugh at my hair together too.