Mar 31, 2007

Easter Basket Give-Away!

It's almost a week to Easter and not an Easter basket has been sold. Not a one. Even though they are the cutest ones I have ever seen in my life. Even though I put so much thought into them. (What's wrong with people out there that they haven't been clamoring to get one?) Is this one of those items that people only buy right at the last minute? (I'm no Easter expert, as you can see.)

Well, I made nine of them. It pains me to see them sitting there neglected. So, I've decided to give one of them away here. There will still be plenty for late Easter shoppers to choose from here in town. This way, someone out there in blog land will get to enjoy one of these smart shiny buckets!

Here's how I will do it: you leave a comment here on this post. You will be entered. On Monday evening I will draw one name out of a hat or some other similar object and I will send it to that very lucky individual. Special note: anyone who has gluten allergies can also enter, tell me what chocolates don't make you sick and I will make you up a special basket. Because, except for when I'm not, I'm nice that way. Also, if you happen to be overseas: you can enter too. The only thing is that the basket probably won't get to you by Easter, but if you win then it could be like Easter being extended.

Oh yeah, you probably better include a link to a blog or e-mail so I can get your information from you if you win. Or you better be paying close attention and read the blog on Monday night to see if you're the winner and then e-mail me your information then. I plan to ship the basket out on Tuesday.


Here's what's in the basket for anyone who didn't see the million posts of them before:

A flocked bunny
A fuzzy duckling
A butterfly thingy on a stick
A couple of fake carrots to feed your fake bunny
A box of bunny Peeps
A couple of bags of chocolate carrots
A huge scoop of chocolate eggs

I'm off to go take an inventory and fill out fun forms for my tax homework. I know you all wish you were me. I feel your pain.

This drawing is now closed and the winner has been selected! Results shortly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mar 30, 2007

Can I pay the Feds in cookies?

Everyone in retail knows that one of the most important things to do is take inventory at the beginning of the year. As surprising as it may sound, the tax man doesn't take your word for it that you only made $5000 for the entire fiscal year or how much inventory is in your store, nor does he actually believe you when you swear up and down that you aren't second cousin to the mob with money laundering urges running in your bones. Yes, indeed, the tax man demands proof of your honest toil.

You should also probably be keeping track for the whole year of your inventory. With a computer system designed for this purpose.

We interrupt this program to announce this ground breaking piece of news: my son just asked for egg toast with ketchup. In other words: he's eating a piece of toast with an egg on it! I might pass out with joy...hold on...OK, don't worry, I'll be fine. I'm going to go weep in a corner now and be very very quiet so maybe he'll actually finish it.

And now, back to our regular programming... (does anyone have a cup of coffee around here?)

I have only just made an appointment with a CPA to do my taxes. Sometimes I feel like people will think I'm a princess to be hiring other people to do my taxes. I mean, what moron can't just open up quick books and do the data entry? Here we are in the middle of the DIY revolution, inching our way through the trenches, and I HIRE SOMEONE TO DO MY DIRTY WORK FOR ME? Yes, indeed. A couple of years ago I did our taxes again for the first time in a few years to prove to myself that I haven't gone soft in the head. I used Quickbooks and it took a long time though it wasn't really that hard.

However, I decided that it was well worth the money to pay someone else to do most of the work. Now that I have a retail store there is no way in hell I am going to do them on my own. We already have complicated taxes due to Philip's share in his family homesteaded farm in Louisiana from which he receives anywhere from $100 dollars in rent to $1000 dollars in rent a year. (His family rents it out to farmers and now oil drillers.) For this paltry sum of money we are required to fill out a whole separate complicated tax form. Even though the money Philip receives nearly always goes towards the lawyer fees the family must pay to negotiate the rental terms of their land.

Oh, you may notice how we have access to farm land and yet I keep whinging on about not having more property. You may be asking yourself how I could be so darned land greedy when we could move to Louisiana and stake out Philip's ten acre share, we could start farming soy beans right away and have even fewer prospects than we have now, so why aren't we there?

Because it's in Louisiana.
Where there are no hills, very little for vegetarians to eat, and almost no people where his farm is. Plus the insects are all super-villain sized and the climate would kill me off in my first season there. That's why.

Back to the our taxes are always complicated. Now it's even more complicated because last year Philip was on unemployment for part of the year, we sold and bought a house, we have a store for which we not only buy things from other companies, but for which we make our own products (so there's the wholesale supplies component too) and my head just hurts thinking about all the work I am going to have to do in the next few days to prepare for my tax meeting. I spent last night digging for all the merch receipts from opening the store to simulate a beginning inventory list, and now I'm going to have to do the same for the month of December when I should have taken another inventory for the needy tax man.

I don't expect to owe the tax man anything because there were no Capital Gains taxes applicable on the home we sold and we made only $5,000 dollars between the two of us last year. I'm kind of impressed by that. I haven't made so little in one year since before I was legally working. The money we spent to set up our little retail establishment is phenomenal. I don't even know the exact figure yet. Because I still have to add up the receipts.

You might be thinking to yourself right about now that I've been quite slip-shod in my business approach. Most people have a PLAN, and a known budget, and spread sheets, projected expenditures to contrast with projected sales for their first five years of business. And you should have all that. But here's the deal, if I did that, I would have found out immediately that there was no way I could afford to be in business and I'd be working at Wilco right now wearing tight Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots for the first time since grade school* and Max would have been in after school care too because my income would not have been enough and so Philip would be working at the local health food store as the underpaid produce guy who gets to rearrange a lot of really unfresh produce.

Instead of which we've had this incredible adventure that may or may not end in us having spent all of our home equity line of credit, liquidating the store, and getting underpaid jobs at Wilco. At least I will have had this amazing experience before having to sell my house and rent a little apartment with no yard. No one will ever be able to call me a coward. No one will ever be able to get away with calling me unadventurous.

A business plan and a binder full of information on how to run a business and report to the tax man before zero hour would have been the smart thing. But the smart thing wasn't going to work for us. We had to go in a little blind. That's the only way to crash and burn or come through to glory. For us, I mean. Just like when we got married. If I had known too much about Philip and his foibles, and if he had known just how crazy I was BEFORE getting married, if we had this marriage plan and a regular wedding instead of running off to Vegas, we never would have married. Of this much I am certain. Then we would have missed out on an incredible opportunity.

But for the rest of you out there, I suggest you be prepared. You may not be crazy enough to wing it and face the consequences. If we come out of this summer still in business, if we make it to the next Christmas buying season, I kind of think it could be declared a miracle. I don't know how we'll do it. If I do the paperwork, the financial planning, which is always hovering very close to the edge of my consciousness, then I will know for sure we can't make it. If, however, I close my eyes and just keep moving, we might....we just might make it to the other side of business. The part where people are ordering on-line every day, where we can barely keep up with our sales and where we are paying all of our rents and mortgages and don't have to sell our house or do something else.

I will say that I think this town would like us to succeed, which is a great feeling. We are doing way better in this spot than in the last one. We have lots of repeat customers. People are coming to check with us to see if we have what they need. We're taking notes about what people need. I know that if the money doesn't run out first, our store will make it. I can feel it. We are certainly filling a niche. People get excited when they come in.

There are all kinds of lessons you can learn from us. A lot of them contradict each other. Pick what works for you. Use us as a cautionary tale, or an example of idiotic bravery. The American Dream as we all have perceived it is fading fast, commerce and opportunity for everyone is disappearing daily, so if you want a piece of it, you better grab fast. Even if we have to sell our house in the end, we won't regret having tried for this dream. In other posts about our business some people have wondered if there's anything that makes having your own business worth pursuing, since so much of it is an uphill climb.

I will say this: it's the ultimate DIY project. It gives you the great satisfaction of having built something that is deeply meaningful to you. It makes you think and dive into your creative spirit more than any other job. It's easier to come to work every day when you know that you can, if you want to, decide not to take people's crap. As an owner, you are motivated to please people so you tend to be cautious about insulting people (unless you're me and you do it all the time on your blog), but knowing that if someone is putting their boot all over your face, you can kick them out, is wonderfully empowering. It's deeply satisfying to have made something that other people enjoy. I walk down town and look across the street to my store and I can't believe that Philip and I put that together between us, this colorful, cheerful store full of wit and practical products. We did it.

Yes, it's satisfying. That's why we've kept at it so far. That's why I am flying as blind as possible. If I look at the paperwork right now, if I make actual budgets, I will find out the dream ends tomorrow. I have more power not knowing. There's more room for magic to happen, for luck to blossom, if you aren't trying to count your fortune out. It's not the way all good businesses are run, but I would be dispirited to know how close we are to not making it.

So I will slog through this clumsy tango with the tax man and turn my face brightly towards April, the beginning of tourist season. I will turn my attention to the future where all things are possible because nothing is known. I see us coming through, even if it is by the skin of our teeth.

And I may need to increase my medication.

*I haven't worn a pair of jeans since the sixth grade. I despise them on me. If you ever see me in a pair of jeans (overalls don't count, I could possibly wear them if they didn't make me look like a giant snuffaluffagus) then you will know for sure I've gone over the deep end. Don't follow.

Mar 29, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

This is our old pear tree being revived by Philip's cunning skills with the pruning blade. I love this picture because it really does make it look like we have a farm. Well, we do, it's just a micro-mini farm. Almost as small as a micro-mini skirt is, can you see my yard's underwear?* This pear tree reminds me of the aged plum tree we had in my yard when we lived in Ashland. There was a rickety bench around the trunk where I would sit and watch our chickens scratch and chatter.

I loved that plum tree so much that when my parents chopped it down (because it was dying) I was crushed. I wrote, (if you can believe this) about a hundred poems and pieces of prose dedicated to this plum tree over the years. I mean, I was still nostalgic for it when I was eighteen years old and living in San Francisco. Is that madness, or what?

This pear tree has got life left in it so hopefully we'll have it for a long time. I have decided not to be too attached to this house since we have yet to make a steady income and the clock is ticking. I don't want to be devastated if we have to sell it like our last house. Yet, I have to say that it seems so right to have landed in a humble** house with an aged fruit tree in the back forty(ft). If we start to do well by this summer, I think I will put a bench around it's trunk. Putting one there now would seem like an arrogant act of self confidence that I will be here a long time. I don't want to attract the attention of the evil eye with cocky behavior.

There are two colors that I am not famous for loving: coral and salmon. However, these coral tulips have completely charmed me. It's a beautiful lush clump at the base of the pear tree.

I can understand how tulips became such a commodity in the seventeen hundreds. (Or was it the sixteen hundreds?)

This is Ozark the grumpy old cat. He was born fighting feisty and has never changed. Well, he's a lot slower now and sleeps all the time. So I guess he's changed a lot. But he still lets us know he hasn't stopped fighting with the world. We've had him since he was a sick five and a half week old kitten who had a fifty percent chance of living.

Portrait of Chick: the dog I never saw coming. Isn't it just like life: the type of dog I was most scared of all my life becomes the dog I love the best in all the world. I didn't even know I had it in me to love a dog at all.

I was trying to delete this picture because it's almost the same as the one above except not as good, but Max intercepted and insisted that I keep it here. I obliged him because I couldn't think of a good enough reason not to. So here she is again.

Here's my research project for today: find out how come I can't find any seeds for Chipoltle chilis? Are they called something else before they're dried? (The way a Pablano becomes an Ancho after it's dried.) Does anyone know? I grew enough Cayenne last summer to last through another year, so I don't need to grow any this year. At $24 per pound for the dried Chipoltles at my local health food store, I thought maybe I'd grow a few. I also might grow some Jalapenos and Serranos. I don't eat sweet peppers so I don't grow them. I also don't eat peppers that can be described as being "hotter than the hinges in hades". A Jalapeno is fine for me, thanks.

Max is calling. Spring break you know. So I'm off to wrestle with the monkey and his idea of fun stuff to do.

*I realize that many people don't even have a yard, I'm not unthankful for what I have. I just hope I get to keep it is all. I have dreams of bigger property, but I really do count myself lucky to have what I already have.

**Architecturally devoid of any interest.

Mar 28, 2007

Got Blood?

I went to the doctor for the first time in a year today. Don't be thinking I must be really healthy or something. I mean, it's not like there haven't been good reasons to go to the doctor, there have been good reasons. but the last time I went to the doctor was for my yearly exam which turned into a biopsy for cervical cancer. Ever had your cervix scraped with a wire brush? The doctor assured me it wouldn't hurt (much). I think she's never had it done to her. Why not just use a broken bottle down there? I know, it's possible that I am more sensitive to pain than some. I will only say to that possibility that it took me two weeks to take myself to the doctor when I broke my hip. When I finally came in my doctor sent me off to get x-rays and called me later to say that I must be a "very stoic" person because I had fractured my acetabulum in five places and had not been taking pain medication. Ha! So there.

Oh alright, I'll admit that every time I had to lower myself down to the toilet to pee it hurt so bad I kind of thought I might die.

That wire brush scraping morphed into a little slice of my cervix then being removed with a knife. Even though the biopsy came out negative, I'm a little reluctant to go to the doctor because I'm convinced that they're going to find something I can't afford to have.

Here's a list of my current ailments:

  • Sharp pains randomly shooting through the ball of my left foot. (The good shoes have really helped with this)

  • Right ankle is slightly swollen and hurts to walk on.

  • Hip hurts after exercising.

  • Back hurts after hip starts to hurt.

  • My right hand ring finger is often stiff these days.

  • Never got my bone density test after my hip healed.

  • Head might explode at any minute.

  • Can't sleep without having beers first.

  • afraid I am a thirty seven year old living in an eighty five year old's body.
The Verdict: The back and hip problems are most likely musculature in nature and caused by having weakened muscles from the hip breaking incident. Strengthening them will most likely ease this problem. Lots of stretching and low-impact exercising. And time. There's nothing to be done about the foot. The ankle can be healed by balancing on that foot to help strengthen it up again.

So if you don't get the subtext, here it is: I AM WEAK.

However, just in case there is some systemic inflammation responsible for all my aches and pains, the doctor thought it wise to get some blood work done. I love that phrase: BLOOD WORK. It sounds like some kind of kooky procedure in which you cosmetically enhance your blood or something. The next rich person's fad: GET YOURSELF SOME BETTER BLOOD WITH A LITTLE BLOOD WORK. I can tell you that I am not fond of having needles shoved in my veins to extract the stuff that keeps me alive. Blood itself doesn't usually make me woozy. Needles don't really make me that woozy either. It's the combination that creeps me out.

Here are some highlights of my blood work adventure:

  • Max and Rex came to witness the gore for the first attempt. They amused themselves with ghoulish noises and pretend passing out on the floor. This did not amuse the nurse who was trying to locate my veins.

  • Apparently, my vein "rolled" away from the offending needle in a willful act of avoidance.

  • After about six nurses asked me if I was OK as I waited for a new nurse to give my veins a try, I decided I must look much worse than I felt and should lie down.

  • They all kept asking me if I "usually" have trouble having my blood taken, as though I do it all the time.

  • I went through a total of three nurses. The one that finally got the blood told me why they had to keep trying to get the blood from the same spot, it turns out that when you have to take "a lot" of blood you don't want to take it from the smaller veins or they could collapse. She also explained that the reason the younger nurses were having so much trouble is that they were wearing surgical gloves which makes it more difficult to feel where the veins are.
So next week I get to get an x-ray to test my bone density to find out if I am, in fact, an eighty five year old.

Fighting for the middleweight
In the ring: the fashion industry vs. eating disorders

After the recent deaths of two models due to complications of anorexia, the fashion industry is scrambling to throw the mantle of responsibility as far from itself as possible. In the April issue of Vogue they've reported on the scuffling wild eyed search for some kind of solution to the problem of girls starving themselves in order to get work as models. They reported on Spain's attempts to put regulations in place to limit the age of models and to insist that models have a BMI index of at least 18.

This is less than useless, of course. What struck me plainly in the eye with shiner force is that no one seems willing to lay the responsibility where it really lies. Rebecca Johnson says in her article that "It's a fact: Clothes look better on a thin person. Models are therefore, by definition, thinner than the average person, always have been, always will be." I think it's stretching things a bit to call that a fact. Certainly you could make a case that clothes don't tend to look as good on overweight bodies as they do on fit bodies, but to claim that clothes have always looked better on a thin person is extremely near sighted.

Thinness right now is not the same that thinness was fifty years ago. Thinness is purely subjective. I look at girls who are plus size 12 and wish to god I could be that thin. It's a fact that no clothes look good on me. There comes a point where the body loses it's fluidity due to rolls or lumps, and the lines cease to be pleasing. I'm not trying to insult either myself or anyone else with my size figure, I'm attempting to be honest. But just as a figure gets too large to show off clothing to advantage, a figure can also be too thin to do anything but hang cloth on. The models in the magazines right now aren't doing anything for clothes. There is no substance to the bodies wearing the clothes in the magazines now, you may as well be draping the clothes on attractive padded hangers.

The people responsible for the still increasing thinness of the models are the people who are paying the thinnest ones to work: the designers. A designer can't make a person anorexic who doesn't have some predisposition to the disorder, but by hiring thinner and thinner girls they are weeding out all of the healthy ones. That's where the buck stops. Follow the money. Ask yourself who the trend setters are. We will bounce back from this extreme if designers learn how to drape fabric on the three dimensional human form again. If they remember that what they are doing isn't making a work of art in a vacuum but sculpting over the human body.

People follow the lead of the designers, how else could you explain the popularity of the boxy Chanel suit? How else could you explain bell bottoms and fur vests? The designers put their concepts out there and perhaps the consumer has some say in the ultimate style popularity, but not much. If every designer is putting fur vests on the runway then consumers tend to see the trend as hot and feel they must have it even if makes them look like prehistoric animal hunting stick insects.

Some designers seem to be making the connection, such as Caroline Herrera who Johnson quotes as saying "We have a big responsibility with this disease,". So true. If all of the designers refused to hire models that are grossly thin, people would begin to readjust their ideas of what a flattering figure looks like. If they chose only girls with a healthy weight (as in: their knees aren't bigger than their thighs) the models will have a lot less incentive to starve themselves. Go where the money is.

In every era there is some kind of fashion extreme. In the eighteen hundreds girls were killing themselves in corsets for the tiniest waist imaginable. In the medieval times some women would stuff their dresses to look pregnant because that was considered the most sublime figure. Some women think fashion goes to these extremes for men. To attract them, to please them, and to keep them. This is not at all true. I think you'll find that men will want to sleep with women no matter if they have a tiny waist, a large ass, or flat breasts.* Men adjust to whatever we do with ourselves because, mostly they just want the sex. If you ask men though, (as I have) the majority of them prefer women with figures. True fact. Boobs, butts, thighs. The whole shebang.

What I think is worth fighting for right now is the middle ground we lost first with Twiggy, and then with Kate Moss. The middle weight. The healthy medium. It is neither healthy nor attractive to pare your frame down to skin and bones, nor to become overweight as I am to the point where my weight bares down on my joints, causes me discomforts and health issues such as a higher risk of heart attack. I don't aspire to model thinness, as I have said before. I am lucky that my ideas of physical beauty were informed very early by women with substantial figures. My beauty lens was crafted and honed by the models of the thirties through the fifties by looking at old magazines and watching old films.

So what does the middle weight look like? Like Grace Kelly, who was certainly thin, but she had substance. Jane Mansfield, very buxom beautiful form. Marilyn Monroe had an ass, a belly, and boobs. Doris Day had a lovely figure as well. Did clothes look worse on them? NO. Clothes looked hot on them, and one of the reasons is that at that time designers were not cutting curtains for the body, they were constructing clothes to fit it. Again, I put the responsibility with the designers. It takes a special skill to design clothes that fit contours. It takes very little skill to drape over a flat plane.

Aside from the designers themselves deciding to use their power for good instead of evil, the only other way to change the course of fashion is for the consumers to start a revolution in which women refuse to buy clothes from designers who use bony thin models. So what's it gonna be? Who's willing to step up to the plate? Since I don't have enough money to even buy clothes from Lane Bryant, I'm hardly a consumer with power, but never the less, I will say this: if I ever make enough money to buy nice clothes I will only buy them from designers who use healthy looking models. I will also never aspire to the Kate Moss ideal. I just want my waist back.

So how about it ladies?

*Obviously I'm not referring to gay men.

Mar 27, 2007

A close encounter of some kind at a local coffee shop

The lady in front of me is fussing with her cell phone, having a difficult time discussing what her friend does or doesn't want while not communicating with the person trying to take her order. After five minutes of confusing chatter, a dubious order is placed.

Meanwhile, said individual has blatantly looked me up and down and mentioned some personal details about her daughters mixed in with random laughter that reminds me of the chatter of the starlings outside my bathroom window. Then she opens conversation with:

Total Stranger: Are you Christian?
Me: No.
TS: So you don't wear any make-up at all, ever?
Me: I usually do.
TS: You actually look good without any make up. And I like your hair. Just exactly as it is.
Me: Thanks.

More confusion over her order distracts her. Then she turns her gaze on me purposefully again and looks me up and down. The way you do when you're assessing a supposedly fine cut of meat for some hidden flaw.

TS: Where'd you get your socks?
Me: my husband bought them for me.
TS: I love polka dotted socks. You can't buy them anymore.
Me: ?
TS (after mentioning random things about her five children): You have any kids?
Me: Yes, one.
TS: So, you're a working mom.

Just as suddenly as this exchange began, it abruptly ends and she drifts off.

I know I said I wouldn't ever use specific conversations again. But may I just say to the Total Stranger if she happens to be reading this: Thank you for momentarily diverting my attention from my complete absorption in my stress. I needed that.

I should mention that moments after this exchange I knocked over my coffee on the counter. Because I like to punctuate my life with excitement.
Love in a dark closet

You were hoping I was going to write something about making out in a dark closet, huh? (If so, then you know me not at all.) This is my pantry. I love it. I love pantries. I love the smell of them. I love the potential that unfolds from them. I love the hoarding aspect of them. If everything falls apart right now, at least we can make some walnut pasta.

Which is what I made last night. This is just about the easiest sauce to make. It's also quite fast. If you weren't aware of it, you may like to know that walnuts are rich in the fatty acids every health guru has been going on and on about lately. The Omega-3's. So this is a healthful dish. Will this cost you many points in calories? Hell yeah. But if you only eat a cup of it, and the pasta is home made, the points are not wasted on your hips.

Here's what you do to make it:

Put the following ingredients in your food processor;
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnuts
3 medium garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Pulverize the crap out of it. When it's all ground up, slowly add:
3 Tbsp olive oil

When you've got a smooth paste, add about 1/4 cup boiling water. If you didn't screw up, it should look like the above picture.

Add it to 16 oz pasta of your choice. I used two pasta nests from my pantry, dried a few weeks ago. I'll be frank, I didn't cook the pasta quite long enough and it was a bit al dente for my taste. You can use half the walnut sauce on the 16 oz of pasta if you like a real light coating of sauce, or you can use it all. Up to you. I always add a heaps a mere dusting of Parmesan cheese to the finished pasta. I don't usually add red pepper flakes, I just thought it would look pretty.

Incidentally, for those who have voted that I go ahead and model my fat ass in my peace apron: the glamour shoot will have to wait for a new one to be made. Philip sold it on Sunday. So I'll cut out a few more today and get crackin' on some more.

Note: Most people I have served this pasta sauce to love it, but one time some people HATED it. I'm just warning you that it is unusual and I will judge you if you don't like it.*

*Then you may feel free to judge me for not liking goat cheese. That's right, I said it: I HATE GOAT CHEESE. It's out now. I feel loads better.

Mar 26, 2007

The "Workout" Playlist
(just what you've all been dying to know)

First of all, it's important to note that I don't have an I-pod or anything like that that enables me to put together a personalized play list. So I'm just going to list my seven favorite songs to work out to. This is actually pretty accurate because even though I may have an entire album of someone's in my CD player, I will usually get in a groove with one song and play it on repeat for the duration of my torture work-out. This is what I do when I write too. I can listen to the same song at least twenty times before I feel like my ears are going to wither. You begin to see how come I could never divorce Philip? How many people are willing to live with this quirk? (Because I also watch the same movies over and over.)

More importantly, how many other people out there do the exact same thing? Philip does. He's a good man.

Anyway, here are my top seven favorite songs to move to:

Out of reach- Gabrielle (This is on my soundtrack to Bridget Jone's Diary, I just love the words and when I listen to it housecleaning, I sing along REALLY LOUD. Satisfying smooth rhythm. And that voice is like silk. Did I just say that?)

Tuesday Morning- The Pogues (Because it's just so happy sounding.)

Drunken Boat- The Pogues
(for the angry swearing and all that talk of death and drunkenness, really helps me work out my kinks.)

I Will Survive- Gloria Gaynor (Do I even need to comment on this one?)

Mambo Italiano- Rosemary Clooney
(This just makes me laugh because you know everyone else in the YMCA is listening to hip hop or something equally modern and new. This song just makes me happy.)

Wherever You Will Go- The Calling
(This is on my soundtrack to Love Actually. I tend to like soundtracks. Did you already figure that out? I love this song kind of for the same reasons I love Drunken Boat. There's a kind of angry quality to it even though it's actually a very sweet song. I have no idea who "The Calling" are. I would probably hate the rest of their music, but I could listen to this song all day.)

Like A Prayer- Madonna
(This is my newest favorite. I have hardly followed her career, but I like her compilation album "Immaculate Collection". This song just has that sound I love so much that most of the songs I love have which I have no idea how to describe. A truth to it. A kind of emotional and musical power to it that feel a lot like gospel.)

There you have it.

And now I'm off to make walnut pasta. And photograph it for a post that Michelle from Michelle Sews has requested.

Mar 25, 2007

Butt-crack Central
(Neighbors, shaking their heads in shock: "It all happened so fast, we just didn't see it coming...")

You know how when your stomach has gotten just a little bit bigger than it used to be, the waistband on your pants, not being able to encompass the generous flesh of your middle, slips down BELOW the roll? You know how, when you're gardening, and your pants are already kind of riding low because of this, and you bend over repeatedly to wrestle with piles of clay soil and you feel a slight breeze brush across the top of your ass? This just might explain the crowd that inevitably gathers behind you in silent awe.

This neighborhood of mine is very "respectable" so I feel it's my civic duty to stir things up a little. Give people something to talk about to bring them together. But if gazing at my generous butt crack failed to get tongues wagging, you can be sure the removal of a rhododendron will do the trick. But before you view my crime, please observe this rose. I hope to show pictures of it in all it's glory later in the season. See the buds on it? Hopefully they will survive the shock of transplant. This is a rare noisette called Kaiserin Friedrich which it took me a year to get. When we moved last year I left it in the very good care of my close friend Sharon who is an exceptional artist and a rose nerd, like me. Philip brought him home to me a couple of weeks ago.

Just when you thought you knew the depths of my geekiness, I get to surprise you once again. However much of a geek I appeared to be before, you must now estimate that I am, in actual fact, much worse than you thought possible. I have thirty or so roses right now. That seems like a lot of roses to most people. However, I didn't plant most of them myself, they were planted by the previous steward of this little lot, so they aren't the roses that I must have in my yard in order to feel good about life.

I do have a Double Delight, which I can spot in a yard at thirty paces. That makes me happy. You know the incense you can buy, if you're a hippie, (which I'm not) that smells like old garden roses? This rose smells like that. Intense rose scent. But here are some roses that I cannot face the rest of my life without:

Oklahoma- (weak stems but incredible size and scent)
Honor- (not much scent, but proud tall plant with stunning white flowers for the Shabby-Chic moments of my life)
Abraham D'Arby- amazing scent, enthusiastic blooming, cut flowers look great in antique tea pots
Frederick Mistral- the King of pink roses in my opinion, with heavenly scent, notice a theme developing? You know what my current collection of roses is largely lacking? I'll give you one guess.
Peter Mayle- for the shocking fuscia lipstick color that vibrates out of it's huge flowers
Madame Isaac Pereire- she's a little bit of a Camille, but I love her so much I'll give her a slow drip of laudanum if required.

In my garden my plants know me as "She who does not weed" or sometimes as "She who thinks we are human and will answer her stupid rhetorical questions" or even "She who withers us with views of her butt-crack". I am very popular amongst my plants. When I feel low, I go out there and mumble pathetically to myself sing beautiful Scottish ballads amongst the sylvan beauty of my "wild" garden.

And now, for the crime... This is a rhododendron, known around these here parts as "the best plant that was ever cultivated and must never be removed from a site once planted". Please believe that I love a rhodie or two. Really, I think they're so exciting and I'd be very sad not to have a dozen of these babies, but this one wasn't as "healthy" as it could be. What I really did was spare it anymore pain and anguish dying here in this scorching spot.

Don't you see that I had to do it? For it's own sake. I hate that hose, by the way. It's super stiff and was slapping all my starts around something fierce yesterday when I was trying to plant my newest herb garden. (That's what this has become.) In the very back I planted a Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), next to that I planted a Daphne bush, there are two roses: Kaiserin Friedrich and Rosamundi. I planted French and English lavender along the edge. In the middle I have planted sage, parsley, and oregano. I have a few more to plant there but I couldn't finish the job yesterday because I had to hide in my house after the show I gave the neighbors practically caused a riot in outrage. Because my neighborhood is very respectable. You can tell by the amount of Japanese Maples and Rhododendrons that have been planted in people's yards.

The abundance of meticulously cared for lawns is also a give away. My neighbors don't know it yet, but my front yard is going to become a wilderness of luxuriously long grasses. (What I'd like is to plant my front yard mini-orchard with a sea of wild flowers, but I kind of blew it for this year. You need to toss the seeds out in the fall.)

Well, Max is at Rex's house for a few hours, Philip is tending the store. So I get to clean the house and then step out into my garden to see if my blueberries really are dying from fertilizer burn or if they're going to live. It's gorgeous out there. It will probably be raining by the time I get out there, but who cares, I get to be by myself right now and clean to loud music.

Poor poor neighbors.

Note: next up is a list of all the music I listen to while working out. I've been tagged by Mom-O-matic I am excited to do this because I'm so musically hip it kills me not to share!

Mar 23, 2007

Finding myself in the mannequin

If you could see the real me, she'd look exactly like this, only she wouldn't be so unattractively thin.

So if ever you find yourself imagining what I would dress like ( if I could) this is it. This is me.

I have already spent over an hour writing two versions of this post. You don't know it but you're glad I deleted it all. You're glad I spared you. Enjoy the rare silence.
(special project)

I made the mistake yesterday of reading part of the paper, snatched from the coffee shop. I stopped reading the papers when I was eighteen years old because I have nightmares about everything I read in them, nightmares send me into nasty cycles of insomnia. Occasionally I give in and read. I'm a curious person and if I see a headline, I have to read to the finish to know the end. Same with television news, which is largely the reason we don't have television. I want to know everything that's going on, but unfortunately it happens to be very unhealthy for me. So I usually glean what I need to know filtered through friends who read the papers and watch the news. So I get the big picture without the incessant and corrosive hyperbole.

So of course, I started getting depressed. There's the depression I have to fight that is always there because of my sorry-ass non-norepinephrine-serotonin-dopamine balanced brain, and then there's situational depression. The kind that is there because of imbalance is annoying and difficult because you can't just "shake it off" as many people stubbornly think you can. But situational depression is the kind brought on by events in your life that are sad, or difficult, or just, you know, depressing. Like war.

The great thing about situational depression is that this is the kind you can actually do something about without medication or long sessions sobbing on a therapist's couch. So I asked myself what I can DO ABOUT IT. Action is called for. Keep yourself moving. Keep replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones. Look for the good. Celebrate it when you see it. Do what you can to change the situation or how you deal with it.

I am composing a list in my head (shortly to spill here) of things I can do to help inch towards change. In the mean time, I was working on a project and thought of a little something to amuse myself and to say something where no one expects you to say anything. I'm not going to say what this project is, though I'll bet most of you can tell by looking at it. It should be done today and then I will unveil it. The composition above made me feel happy.

I have been sewing for many many years now but have only used this ric-rac treatment once or twice before, so I'm on a bit of learning curve with it. I love the effect, and always have. Learning to use ric-rac this way is a little like Green Kitchen's new mastery of zippers. It tends to open up lots of possibilities, and what do creative souls love more than that? I could now edge everything in ric-rac. I could have an entire wardrobe edged in ric-rac. I could become known as "That super-dorkRic Rac Lady" Because, lord knows I'm never going to be known for my (minuscule) boobage.

Now that Philip and I have simplified our tasks for the store, I actually have more time for things like designing more things for the store. Everyone keeps asking me to make little girls skirts. I am going to play around with a pattern, but I think all the people who have suggested it think that because I could make one with an elastic waistband that this will be a snap. Practically like walking in my sleep, which, by the way, I've never done before. The truth is that without having professional children's slopers, this is no easy task. Standard sizing is what's called for, and I'm not about to sew every size between toddler to ten year olds, so I need to come up with a standard small, medium, and large. NOT EASY.

It would be easier for all the moms who want simple cute skirts for their girls to make them themselves. However, I like to please people. I'd like to see if I made a couple of them, if they would sell. If I could get my hands on professional children's slopers for small, medium, and large, that would be great. Anyone know where to get them? I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of those items that people think would be great, but when I slap a price tag on them that reflects the materials cost and the time to make them, they will sit around collecting dust. One mom suggested doing clothes like Boden does, really cute, but cheaper. It brings me back to the realization that most people still expect hand made to be cheaper than corporate made. If Boden charges $40.00 for a girl's skirt, how would I be making something similar for much cheaper?

Anyway. See, no politics today. Just nice craft talk (if you discount the entire first four paragraphs.) That's right, step away from the subject woman...nice and easy.

Oh but, wait... I have to report that just as I was about to close the shop yesterday, a lady came in and browsed while her kid was taking dance lessons at the ballroom across the street. So I stayed open, because it isn't as though we'd had lots of customers and I love to see people browsing. I knew I liked her when she was laughing at the "Subversive Cross stitch" cards and book that we carry. Anyway, she ended up really making our day with a few purchases. We were chit chatting and I said something (can't remember what) and she replied "Oh, I don't mind. I get in the papers all the time."

It's not every day you hear someone say that. It turns out that she's one of three of our County Commissioners (all women, by the way). Is it alright for me to be pleased by the fact that someone who administers the county government likes my store? I was way more impressed by her shopping in my store than I would have been if someone like Halle Berry were to have come in.

Obviously though, not all government people are likely to impress me. But she saw that project I was working on (pictured above) (the one I won't describe yet) and saw the peace part of it and commented that it was cool. So even if she and I turn out to have different political beliefs, at least I know that she's an open minded individual. Besides, she liked the Subversive Cross stitch. I'd find it hard not to like anyone who thinks that's funny.

And just when I thought I was done with all the activist speeches fun talk, I was attacked by the desperate need to share more...

Last thing on my mind right now is that I spent a couple of hours reading a book called "From the garden to the table" by Sarah and Monty Don who live in Ivington England. I am just reminded once again how it seems (though I'm no expert on this) that British people, the English in particular, have got a very down to earth approach to gardening and eating.

What I mean is, I am constantly impressed by how far ahead of us they are in working to revitalize their local small farms, to press for less use of pesticides, and so many people there grow what they can themselves whether they have a tiny plot or large. For as many English people there are who are growing only prize gladiolas, there are a ton of them who are passionate about growing their own produce. I'm not an anglophile, but I will admit that I would like Americans to get as excited about the quality of their food.

And, HELLO, their country has banned the use of genetically modified foods and seeds until more research has been done. (In fact, they're waiting to see if America shrivels up and starts producing an abundance of third arms.) (Our government doesn't mind using us all as guinea pigs. When all our beneficial insects are dead, and everyone is getting really weird diseases, the corporate biggies who are making a mint off of GMO's will just move to England where it's a little safer to eat food. It's my hope that England will not let them in.)*

I get all excited whenever I'm reading about other people getting passionate about the origin of their food, especially if they do so without being sanctimonious. Sarah and Monty Don don't strive for total independence, their attitude is much more relaxed than that. They still opt for convenience at times, but are living a life that is more connected to their local than most people. I like that they aren't telling people it's evil to shop in a grocery store, since most people will always have to depend on stores for food, but they echoed my own feeling that every one's lives would be improved by at least trying to grow something for their own kitchen, even if it is just a few pots of fresh herbs.

I'm going to plant my new herbs this morning. And finish pruning the main patch of roses. (I have about thirty roses, and it's my plan to get many more since we left behind all my favorites in our old garden. Most of my roses here don't have scent, and that is something that must be remedied.)

I promise that tomorrow will be a political and activist free zone. It will be nothing but fun and pretty!

Mar 22, 2007

BBQ Bob's Ghost Parts
(This post is surprisingly full of religious content and anti war sentiment. So read at your own risk.)

Pam Kitty Morning requested a shot of the window with the finished Easter baskets on display. See, I'm still not all that thrilled with my window dressing skills, but this is certainly better than the last version.

A while ago I bought these tiny crocheted baby booties to use as embellishments for presents but it turned out I didn't have any good wrapping paper to really set them off with. I think this worked out very nicely though. This is our new store wrapping paper. It has to be, because I had to buy it in a huge roll.

I can't help myself. Just had to share the pretty packages.

See anything wrong with this picture? Can you see why BBQ Bob might not be feeling his absolute best right now? I am tempted to wrap up his stump with a bloody looking bandage. Don't worry, I won't. I don't even have to ask why someone would steal a mannequin hand from Bob. Who wouldn't want to show off such a score to all their other drunk buddies? What could be more fun than running around with a mannequin hand? People with fiberglass body parts are always leaders of the pack. Dismembered hands are also babe magnets in case anyone out there didn't already know that.

That doesn't mean I'm not angry though. I don't know if I can get a replacement for it. Just in case anyone might be bristling at the sly implication that it was a male who stole Bob's hand, I just want to say that I am totally aware of how many stupid teen-age girls out there are not only capable of doing such a thing, but also ripe for such hi-jinks. As you all can imagine, I myself was a perfect specimen of teen-age innocence and you could have crowned me with a halo right there and then and let God impregnate me, I was that pure....

Beware: this post is about to take a surprisingly religious turn

Have I mentioned how creepy I think the whole concept of immaculate conception is? I'm not trying to ruin any one's breakfast, but c'mon, how much more lecherous can a spirit get? The Virgin Mary actually happens to be one of my favorite biblical characters. Probably because she had to have had some pretty big balls to have given birth in a barn in front of about two hundred people. I also love how beautiful she always is in religious art. Statues of her in Notre Dame in Paris are so delicate and ethereal that I almost broke down and cried when I saw them.

Seriously, this might offend some people: don't say I didn't warn you!

While I'm not religious myself and I do enjoy an irreverent attitude towards most religions, I have wanted a Virgin Mary in my garden for a long while. I collect religious art and love religious music. I am also attracted to old churches. To me, the most beautiful thing about religion isn't the worship of god stripped down to it's bare essentials. To me, the most beautiful thing about religion is to see it reflected in the hearts of the people who believe. To see their love in a statue, a painting, or the carvings in a cathedral. There you can see love blossoming on almost nothing but thirst itself. I think it's incredible what people have been inspired to make and build in worship, it pulls the most awe inspiring work out of artists.

God doesn't give gospel it's power, the people who are singing and believing while they're singing from the depths of their ragged dog-eared faith are what powers the music. God didn't make that music, the people did. God didn't write Mozart's music, Mozart wrote that music, sometimes inspired by God. God is the ultimate human muse.

I realize how much that may upset some Christians. But why shouldn't humans get the greatest of their inspirations, to make art and to live well, from the spirit they believe made all the tools they use?

It's amazing how I can turn a store update into a bitter political statement. This demonstrates my commitment to the joys of wandering conversations. If you hate anti-war sentiments, now would be an ideal time to exit this page.

Now we all need to listen to more classic Bob Dylan songs to remember the truth: that everyone thinks God is on their side in war. It will be impossible for me to ever embrace religion until humans stop using God as an excuse to control other people, kill them, torture them, rape them, and take their oil. Christians come to my door with their literature, wanting to draw me in, but all I can see are the great waves of violence that Christianity has been responsible for since the very beginning. Since right after Jesus was supposedly telling everyone about living a peaceful existence. About non violence.

For a messiah, his message was pretty spectacularly ignored.

I don't disrespect Christians, by the way. But I cannot pretend to be blind to the enormous contradictions inherent in that, and most, faiths. I am aware, however, that not all Christians support war. I know that not all Christians think it's alright to torture Arabs just because they worship differently. There are many Christians out there who's faith is much more aligned to the message Jesus was really trying to get out there. There are many Christians who feel as I do about war. Who want the same things in life that I do for myself and my family.

The exact same things apply to Islam. Not all Islamic people support war. Not all of them think it's righteous to torture American soldiers. Although, right now, and the longer we keep sending troupes over there, the fewer Arabs there will be who will be willing to sit next to Americans in peace. I can't blame them. The longer we keep this up, the more persistent and deserved future terrorism will become. And for this, for this future danger that Bush and all his men have set up for all of our children, I think he should not be impeached, but convicted of this war crime. Of aiding and abetting and building hatred of Americans to the point where we will never be safe again.

Because now, unless the American army plans to kill every last middle eastern person, hatred for what we have done will brew in new generations of orphans living in the oppressive shadow of the American strong arm. When will everyone see this? While American life on our own soil is deteriorating beneath the weight of heavy taxes, while our own ghettos become small desperate nations, while all the small businesses across the nation are systematically being swallowed up by corporate greed, we are making new ghettos in other people's countries.

And here we have the big-ass question:

Does no one here in America actually care about our own quality of life?

And here's my answer:

I do. I care very much about the food our country produces, the poisoning of our environment, the diseases we are fighting, the spreading divide between the rich and the poor, the education our children are (not)* receiving, the health care most of us cannot afford. We have so much to do in our own country, right here, right now.

I learned from a great U.S. history teacher named Dean Frasier that you can be both patriotic and also critical of your own country at the same time. I learned that patriotism isn't about blind faith in your leaders, it's about being able to think critically and be involved in change. It's about having pride in the best parts of your nationality, and about being willing to look at what isn't working and fight for what will work. You can be respectful of our troops while disagreeing with their mission.

When's the next peace march in Portland Oregon? I marched in San Francisco. I've signed every petition that comes my way. I've called my Senators and Congress people. I've written letters. I've spoken out. I've voted.

I guess the only thing left to do is hope.

*I don't have a personal complaint about the education Max is getting, because he's actually so far gone to great schools. But that's not the experience all parents are having.

Note: partly what steered this post into a political direction was because I was thinking about a great post over at Abby Try Again about ending the war. It was refreshing to hear someone say something about it. She has a great blog which is largely craft related, but sometimes she explores other topics she's interested in. For a lot of people it's an act of bravery to publicly state their political beliefs and I always admire people willing to put themselves out there. There has never been a more important time to get vocal.

Mar 21, 2007

The witchiness in all things

This is my mother's faithful garden lion. She has handed him over into our care because she doesn't anticipate having a garden when she moves to Portland as apartment life is what she'll most likely have.

I believe in the power of sage to clean, to heal, and to taste good in butternut squash soup. One of the things my mother taught me that has always stuck with me, no matter where I go, whether I'm talking to her or not (there have been times when we drifted), is that you should always plant some sage wherever you are living. Always.

I was prone to getting sore throats as a kid and in our house we rarely used traditional medicine to cure what ailed us. My mom would cut some fresh sage from the garden and make a tea out of it with lemon and honey. I can remember when she first started doing this. I remember because the smokey green taste of sage made me want to vomit. I objected fiercely to being treated so wretchedly by my own mother. Sage smells like cannabis (as most people know even if they don't admit to such questionable knowledge) and it even tastes like it.

I will tell you an unsurprising secret: there was a lot of pot smoking going on in the commune. There was quite a bit of it that followed me through out my life. I have even smoked it myself, but should not have been surprised to find that it would make me gag. So when I say that sage and pot taste alike, I do know whereof I speak.

Though I could never get over the awful taste of pot (or the cotton mouth torture that inevitably accompanies the consumption of this weed), the taste of sage is something that eventually came to be a comfort. A signifier of all things healing and nurturing. It has power. It would cleanse and then soothe my sore throats. It also uplifted my spirits when I felt under the weather. As an adult I have come to value it in the kitchen as well. So I always plant sage just like my mother taught me.

The witchiness in all things is an underlying current in my life. I have spent a lot of time denying my hippie roots. I even tried to distance myself from Cat Stevens for a while, not because he became a Muslin, because I really couldn't give a monkey's ass if he wants to pray to "Allah" instead of "God", but because he symbolized and epitomized my earthy patchouli scented up bringing. People who are super cool do not listen to Cat Stevens, they listen to Laibach really loud.

Here's another (not so secret secret), whatever you are in that neatly hidden tightly folded core of self will follow you wherever you go. It's no use trying to outrun it, it can always run just as fast. Sometimes it's faster than you and waits for you to catch up. It's built into your skin. You may evolve in many ways, you may come to be defined by many different factors, but the kernel from which you came is the one that will always feed you, always inform you. Eventually we all fold back into that core of self and die. We die within the same vessel that brought us life. I don't mean our mother's womb, I mean the cell that divided to build us.

The one and only apartment I ever lived in completely by myself (the one with all the cockroaches I wrote notes to) was the place where all the things I tried to run from waited for me. They waited til I found myself in a building so shady that most of my friends would not visit me there. They waited until I was thoroughly alone with myself. All those aspects of myself that I had tried to deny coalesced into this vibrant inner life that I embraced because it was all I had at that moment to embrace. I was lonely. I found myself. I was nineteen years old and apparently as attractive to men as a giant ripe cod fish out of water. I found only myself. All of my selves. All of us sat in my very own one bedroom apartment with the clogging toilet, the brick wall for a view on one side and prostitutes getting business and shots from the other view.

Ah, but we were not alone. Because there were the cockroaches.

And we had me. Me and all my selves.

When I was eighteen I stopped abusing my body with razors and self loathing. I had an epiphany in which I realized that if I hated myself so much I should either just off myself right then and there or get on with life. Because torturing one's self, literally, will get you exactly no where and accomplish exactly nothing. I am a Capricorn, after all, I love to get stuff done. I love to achieve things worth achieving. I stood up and decided that I would choose life. Deliberately choose life over a state of half living; over a life with one foot always in the grave.

It's not enough to have epiphanies like this. You have to do more. You have to replace that half life with something fresh. By nineteen years old I had not yet completed my transformation from a half dead person into the person I wanted and needed to become. Until I sat with me and all my selves and embraced my crazy in that cockroach filled apartment on Hyde Street between Geary and O'Farrell in San Francisco. A block from the apartment where an eighteen year old girl from Santa Rosa (my future city) was stabbed to death on the first night of her adult life. Her first flight from home.

What happened in that apartment was my discovery of the witchiness in all things. I had wanted to find out that I am a person of fire and ice, of mystery and power, of awe inspiring beauty and desirability. I wanted to find out that I could conquer nations and be rooted to no spot on earth. I wanted to hang from the sky like drifting illuminated clouds. As is ever the way in life, this is not what I discovered. All of that wishing was rebellion against what I already knew. I am connected to this earth by cords much stronger than a spider's web magnified; with roots much deeper than the roots of a redwood tree.

I bought my first cookbooks; "The Vegetarian Epicure", and a 1948 copy of the "Joy Of Cooking". I started teaching myself to cook. I needed to because I couldn't afford to eat lunch out every day that I went to work. I also wanted to. From learning to cook it was an easy leap to tackling bread baking. I had one success and a few notable failures before abandoning bread baking for a few more years.

Soon I was making my own shampoo and getting dressed up to clean my house and to go shopping which I took great pleasure in even though it's doubtful others enjoyed my enjoyment in the store because to them I was just another crazy chick talking to the salt in the spice isle. I was learning to have fun doing the most mundane activities. I was learning to laugh at myself, something I had never been able to do before. (Being the serious writer type, it was important that I be broody and serious all the time.)

I drank a lot of coffee. I wore nineteen forties slips as dresses around the house and composed stories about young women living by themselves in shady apartment buildings wearing slips for dresses and finding God in all the little things. Talking to herself. And not caring. Crying for the loneliness and then realizing that I was pretty good company for myself. I made things. My selves merged into self. I collected all those discarded earthy bits I had tried to out run and put myself back together. I knew by this time that I was crazy, literally, and that being me was never going to be an easy proposition, but I also discovered that that didn't mean I couldn't have fun. I embraced my crazy.

I think about all this as I prepare to plant more herbs. Herbs for living. For food. For putting into pillows for sweet dreams. Herbs to satisfy the witchiness in me. Herbs, roots, and flowers to satisfy the witchiness in all things.

Mar 20, 2007

Soul Mapping

This is one of my very favorite photos of my mother and my sister. Two women who have been known to drive me batty and at the same time to inspire a fierce love and desire to protect. If I could give them everything they've ever wanted in the universe, I would do it. Just to make it clear, I have been known to drive them just as batty. We are all so different that we have to spend time trying to bridge the divides between our reasoning selves. At the same time, and what fascinates me about families, is that we share some elemental qualities in common. Elements of our true selves that often lay hidden in the folds of living.

My mother is many things. Among her strongest attributes is her earthiness. Her connection to the living body, the dirt we walk on, the food we eat, the physical sensation of living, the light that makes us grow, the primal drive to love, to explore, to move on and on and on, is strong in her. For so much of my life I have thought of myself as being so different from my mother. So separate in qualities.

Where she throws caution to the wind, I am constantly assessing risk and cautiously moving forward. Where she is completely comfortable with our corporeal existence, I hated the moment I had to start shopping for bras because I didn't want to be reminded of my body and it's dusky growth, it's neediness, and it's potential for abuse from others as well as from myself. While my mum has been more or less on a never ending safari hunt for the best spiritual expression, my spiritual life has been the same for most of my life, merely growing in definition rather than changing in essentials.

My mother has lived fearlessly, trying on new lives, new mediums for expression, new jobs, new adventures. She has lived in a commune, lived in Europe, written a cookbook, designed book covers, raised three children, raised chickens, built incredible gardens from huge patches of weeds and fallow earth, been married three times, been a pregnant farmer in British Columbia, was a part of the first wave of urban homesteaders*, lived in a tee-pee, sang in a gospel choir, and has marched against things she felt were corrosive to the human experience such as war, and she's gone to jail for it**.

In the past couple of years I have been surprised to discover that I am very much my mother's daughter. That I was cut from the same cloth. I'm not sure if my sister has always known that she is also very much my mother's daughter, but she is. All three of us share more in common than we share differences. My sister, for example, has the restlessness that made my mother move and move again. My sister has moved across the country and back. She always seems happiest when in motion.

Both of us take risks just as our mother does. I didn't see it for so many years. But my happy marriage was achieved through a strange sudden realization that I needed to marry Philip because he was so different than the men I usually unhappily went out with. The stranger realization that I couldn't date him, I just needed to marry him. I didn't think of it as taking a risk so much as I saw an opportunity that I could either grab onto or lose. We hardly knew each other when we married and certainly we've had the usual rough patches, but fourteen years later I see what others saw at the time; that marrying a virtual stranger constitutes quite a bit of risk. My sister takes risks too. Both of us have hauled off and moved to different states to start fresh lives. Just like our mother has done before us, over and over.

I can't write all that could be said about our sameness in one post. It would take days to write and longer to read. Right now my mum is starting fresh again. She's just graduated from her masters program and is interning to earn her license as an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). There is no one I can think of better suited to this job than a woman who has lived as large and as colorfully as she has. She has made a lot of choices along the way with both happy and unhappy consequences, but if seen from the therapist's lens, I think those choices have endowed her with a greater understanding of where life can take you, which makes her peculiarly suited to helping others steer their own boats away from shoals.

She is moving up here to Oregon in a couple of weeks to live with us while she gets replacement hip surgery. It's been a grueling past twelve months for her, living with such tremendous pain and getting no help from Kaiser. She has started a blog and I would like to invite all of you to check it out. She has made a set of cards that are her own version of a tarot deck. Every week she draws cards to see what the coming week may bring to us all. She's started to write about how her readings have panned out in her own week, which is very interesting. If you think tarot readings are nothing but witchy mumbo jumbo, I can promise you that this is no hokey promise of riches and husbands being doled out by a traveling gypsy, though, I must confess that my mother has always seemed like a gypsy to me.

She's going to put up her own shingle in Portland as soon as she has recovered from the surgery but needs to focus on something besides her pain to get through this time. So help keep her mind off of the surgery: ask her a question, ask her advice on just about anything. You can e-mail her at lorena laforest []and after a little dialog between you she will publish your question (anonymously) and post the answer. She can either address your quandary with strait therapy, or you can ask her to draw cards for you (which is basically just a tool for getting at the issues at hand) and use the cards to help answer your needs. I have to tell you that the cards are almost always right.

But aside from that, she's great at giving advice. I've found it annoying as her daughter at times to have her always being right; to have her telling me what I definitely don't want to hear, but knowing that it's always exactly what I need to hear. So this is your chance to get some free advice on how to choose new directions in life, how to overcome the patterns in your life that are keeping you from your dreams, how to mend relationships, and how to heal yourself. How to make tough decisions of all kinds.

Just remember, my mom was always the cool one, the one my friends wished was their mom. This can be annoying when you're a kid. But I've learned to live with her coolness.

*Urban homesteading as I see it is the desire to live as self sufficiently as one can in the modern context, the best you can without having a farm or more land than a city lot. She grew as much food as she could in our big yard and she also preserved as much of that bounty as she could through canning and freezing the food.

**I consider it an honorable thing to go to jail for protesting, for exercising our right to do so. I very much respect this. Just for the record though, her stay was the usual brief interlude of hours reserved for protesters.

Mar 19, 2007

Irrepressible Dirt

Never am at at more peace than while I'm gardening. Writing is something I have to do, and it is an essential part of me, but it is not a peaceful activity. Today the store is closed and for once we decided that while Max is in school we should do some yard work. So the first thing we did was spend two hours trying to procure all the things needed for our projects, such as dormant oil for the dormant season that has already passed, herb starts, and fertilizer for the blueberries. Then when we got home, Philip had to take a bike ride and I had to fix the deer fencing that the storms this winter knocked down.

Once those tasks were out of the way I was ready to get out there and prune stuff! Except that the groceries that were left on the counter had to be put away first. How sad would I be if I came in from my rigorous garden work to drink a tall glass of calcium-laden milk only to get violently ill within hours and die of some horrible bacterial thingy-ma-bob?

We had friends over for dinner last night so obviously the kitchen looked like it had barely survived the H-bomb. (I never do dishes after eating. It's pure laziness. I have searched in vain for a great and believable excuse, but with no luck. So there it is. I'm a lazy bastard. I almost had to clean the kitchen before going out to prune the blueberries. But then I realized that somehow it was already past noon. How the hell does that happen?

This is the BEFORE shot of my blueberry patch. I know you can barely see them. I did that on purpose. I like people to have to trip over my perennials in order to find them, that way my garden is a constant surprise (also heavily insured against accidents). I'm not obsessed with weeding. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy doing it. But there is no time in my activity budget for anything more than survival weeding. Which is where you weed only when they have strangled a beloved plant or bush. You go out there like the fury hell hath and cut them down just as they think they have dominion. It's a savage world out there.

This is the AFTER shot. OK, I know, I see it too. It isn't perfect. If I could have had a huge pile of mulch delivered I would have covered this entire bed which would have made it look so stunning and really landscaped. But first of all, I'm not sure I can afford a truck load of mulch when I am definitely going to need a truck load of dirt. But, c'mon, it looks better doesn't it? And I didn't just mulch those babies, I fertilized them. With ammonium sulphate. I think that's what the fifty pound bag that almost broke my back said on it. (We spent lots of time choosing the best fertilizer for the job. We also have tons of rhododendrons to fertilize. Even after we shovel prune a couple hundred of them, we'll have plenty more. )

You need to see the improvement more up close and personal to get the full affect.

AAAHHHHH...isn't that better? I love blueberries. It started raining while I was scrubbing my knees into this here soil. I like gardening in the rain when it isn't coming down ice and fast. It's cold outside, but just the way I like it. Philip stayed in the rain to prune the old pear tree. Poor tree. We haven't done it any favors by waiting this long to care for it. It has some kind of mite which needs to be killed already. We can't spray the tree now because it's raining. We'll have to do several weaker applications than is ideal because the tree has already broken dormancy.

It's a lovely tree and I now wish I had taken a before and after picture of it too. It also had codling moths last year so we got traps to put out. Poor tree. I love old fruit trees. When I saw that tree in the back forty (just kidding) I found this house more irresistible. There's also an incredible patch of tulips right underneath it which is budding out right now. Photos will be taken and shown.

Boy, wouldn't it be cool to have a "back forty"?

But I've decided to be happy with exactly what I have. Which, while not being a farm, is a huge yard for a city lot. I'm doing my best to make good use of it to grow the things I love. In a few years I will (hopefully) have the time to really make it shine.

For now, I'm just happy to have gotten a chance to get out there and do some damage to the weeds which I like to pretend are politicians that I feel are evil. Yank! You think I don't know what you're trying to do to our civil liberties? Yank! You think America will sleep forever? Yank Yank Yank!!!!

Now it's time to make food. Today I will eat healthily and not store cheese in my chipmunk cheeks. I will also not store any kinds of crackers in there. Or heavily buttered bread. I will, however, learn to make cream of broccoli soup using low fat milk.