Nov 30, 2008

Sewing Room Crime Scene
Chapter One: The Saboteur

This is the saboteur. Hire her for weddings, funerals, and Bat Mitzvahs...she makes chaos out of order faster than you can do it yourself! An added bonus: she sucks at business so you can get her to create chaos for FREE!

What you are about to see is shocking. I have hidden nothing behind the flash photography.

Sadly, my income doesn't allow me to buy a proper lens for my crime scene photography so it is difficult to appreciate the true scope of the crime here. For that I would need a lens that is a little more panoramic. This is my drafting table. What is on the surface of this table:

glue gun, ribbon pins no one bought, pom pom reams, hand made cards, paper labels for other products no one bought, old patterns, thread rack, iron, fabric, purple fleece that makes my skin crawl, unfinished knitting project, many rulers, at least three pairs of scissors, boxes of sewing accessories, box of ribbon, oilcloth bag, weird crafts I made but didn't like and are now shaming me, unused zippers, stencil, one battery, tape measure, calling cards, beer bottle caps, pattern pieces to who-knows-what patterns, a strange beaded thing a kid neighbor left at my house three years ago that I keep meaning to send back to her before she goes to college (she's about 12 now), the stapler I was looking for for months, old sewing machine parts to sewing machines I no longer own, printer ink, tape dispenser, hangers, and various lids to lidless bins.

These boxes contain a lot of crap. When I say a lot of crap I'm not being modest. I'm scared of them. I've eliminated one but the other two are currently attempting to strangle me. The various types of contents found include:

Shirts that don't fit me, folded fabric scraps, folders, envelopes, paper, binders, paper, catalogs from my business, receipts, more envelopes, random lengths of bias tape, curtains, bubble wrap (?!), magazines, scrap stuff, a cheap clock, a cheap phone, address stamp from over ten years ago, misc. store display stuff, tissue paper (which is currently coming out of my ears), ribbon, zip lock bags full of miscellaneous stuff I have avoided going through for fully ten years now.

The Floor, which looks like a craft store exploded on it, has the following items on it:

Bits of fabric, labels, packages of craft scissors, cards, shamelessly ruined oilcloth, manila envelopes of every description, bit of paper, shreds of tissue paper, stacks of tissue paper the kitties peed on at some point without me noticing until now, random lengths of ribbon, Max's school projects, pattern pieces, plastic bags, paper, bags, bolts of fabric, paper bags I'm afraid to investigate, old letters, corrugated cardboard, books, plastic bins full of crap that is able to multiply itself.

What do you get when you are a writer, a generally crafty person, a pattern collector, an urban homesteader, and a failed business?

You get an unbelievable amount of crap that can never be reckoned with nor tamed nor stuffed into a ten foot by ten foot room. It spills out like a sea of locusts into the basement and the garage. I think my heart is made of pattern paper, rick rack, and weird miniatures.

This is my weight to bear, apparently. No matter what I do I keep landing in this same coliseum full of chaos with teeth. It's now been almost an entire year since I officially ended my business yet I have not been capable of dealing with all my stuff. I bring this up on my blog just about once a month. There is so much money tied to this crap. I wasted so much money trying to be a success and now it is just a pile of unwanted stuff collecting dust. I have been giving some of it to friends but frankly, they don't seem all that crazy-interested in taking it off of my hands.

Part of the problem is that they seem to feel guilty taking something from me that I bought for my store and failed to sell. Part of the problem is that there is only so much Mrs. Meyers a person can go through in a year.

I know what has to be done but it's like having to come to terms with who I am and that's not such a pretty activity. I just love a double edged sword: the longer I keep the stuff the longer I live with the reality of my failure and risk the ghost of my store rising up from the garage, the basement, and from my sewing room to come strangle me while I sleep.

Some people don't want me to get rid of it all. Some people think I should try a lot harder to sell the crap, not realizing that every day I fail to sell the crap is another day I have to feel like a stupid piece of shit business person. Another day I have to understand all too well how I landed us in such a deep financial quagmire. Every time someone suggests I keep trying is just another day I get to deliver the same message to my very tired head: you suck you suck you suck.

I tried to explain to my dad why the magazine is not about making money. I tried to explain how I am saving up for printing costs because it's just about realizing a dream but I'm not allowed to invest in ventures ever again. He had excellent suggestions for how I could do it as a real viable venture, starting off doing an online magazine and telling subscribers that their subscription will go towards a printed version after the first few issues. But that means trying to do something successfully.

I don't do that anymore.

It doesn't matter what I do or how hard I try. I am not a businessperson. I am a writer. In the end it is the only thing I consistently do well and isn't something I will ever make money doing. do I describe how hard it is to let go of all this crap because it could be useful, could be made into cool stuff, could be sold somewhere? But my head is ready to combust. I am in here, instead of doing anything else right now because this room is like a disease eating away at my life. I can't do my living room project until this room is cleaned up and out because right now I can't find my sewing machine feet in the mess nor the space to sew the chair covers. I cannot move forward until I shed the past.

So I have begun the process. I am going to give myself one whole month, the month of December, to get rid of every last vestige of my failed venture. To clean out the stench of what I'm not meant to be, the person I can't be.

****Continued In Next Post****

Nov 29, 2008

Starlings In The Chimney

On Thanksgiving day we had an incredible interruption to a quiet morning when two Starlings came swooping into the office with the dog following in hasty pursuit. I shrieked and yelled for someone else in the house to come and help as the cats started circling the poor confused birds who kept attempting to exit the room through the glass window. No one came and I quickly checked the two front doors (yes, we have two!) and they were both closed which required me to wonder how the hell this tangle could have begun?

Finally my boys came in to help and all of us kept trying to catch the birds before the cats and dog. Some people might have let the carnivores have the birds since they are not a greatly loved species of bird, but I couldn't. Not because I think it would be wrong but because I am one of those few people who love Starlings. I love their calls and how they change their feathers over the course of the season. The come back to the same places to nest every year.

We finally succeeded in catching them by throwing a sweater over one like a net and a dishcloth over the other. One immediately escaped when taken outside but this one I managed to hold onto long enough to tell it how sorry I was for the fright and to tell it how I love its kind and, of course, to snap a couple of pictures.

It then eased out of my grasp like silk and flew off.

The only way it could have entered my house was through the chimney.

I have heard people say that Starlings are aggressively pushing out other native North American bird species and are therefore considered to be nasty little pieces of bird work. When I have expressed my love of them I have received horrified looks in return. Apparently brought here by humans from Europe we are held in account for this invasion and are supposed to find a way to limit their spread to preserve the habitat for the native species.

I can't help but see the parallels between these birds and the Europeans who came to North America on their scourgey boats bringing with them their syphilis and other diseases and killing off with virus and sword nearly all the native North Americans.

So are we suddenly mad for protecting native species of flora and fauna because we realize what awful vermin we, ourselves, are? I can't help but see two sides of this. One is that nature itself sometimes delivers new aggressive species onto the shores of quiet unspoiled lands without the help of human interference. Sometimes in nature it takes aggressiveness and adaptability to survive and if the Starling has it, but some other native birds don't, things shift accordingly in a completely natural way.

Perhaps the same can be said of humans. Perhaps in the natural order of things the humans shift and adjust also. Perhaps it is savage truth that the Europeans who landed here on North American shores have the right of might.

But it can't go both ways. Either Starlings are stronger and more aggressive and therefore have a right to their new habitat, stolen from other weaker species, or they are invasive and need controlling. And whatever the answer is, it must be the same answer for humans. So which is it?

Perhaps through my love of Starlings I can be kinder to my fellow human kind. Perhaps I can see the early European settlers in a less negative light and also rejoice in the fact that in the coming years they will be out bred by the African Americans who settled here not long after the Europeans (against their will for the most part!!) and by the Hispanic people who have shaped and worked so much of this land and gotten so little credit for it.

The point being that everything shifts and adjusts on earth and I need to remember this. I am kinder to Starlings than to humans. Yet I have almost always taken the side of the Native Americans to the early European settlers.

Perhaps I should not be so concerned with humans out-breeding every other animal on earth because what always happens when a species of animal becomes too abundant for the resources at hand who has no natural predators is that they begin to die of starvation, disease and thirst. These laws are not limited to the animals we consider wild life. We are a part of the wild life. These laws apply to us too. It isn't something we can avoid. It isn't something that we can prevent from happening in a lab or by praying. No God and no science can miraculously increase the natural resources of our planet, it can only convert what is already here.

I find this calming. Here is the key to not caring about all the billions of babies being born to take my water and my food, to compete with my one child for all that he'll need for survival. We will all inevitably pay the price and eventually there will be fewer of us and a lot fewer of all other animals because the earth can only support a certain amount of animal life and it is bigger than us, there is order, there is this incontrovertible order to life. I take comfort there.

I would like to not contribute to any more of the using of resources than is strictly necessary and that is what I strive to become: a person mindful of everything I consume and use and I would like to become lighter and lighter in every way possible. I am not perfect, but I strive to improve all the time.

But I cannot ask the Starling to stop nesting. I cannot ask the Starling to go back to where it came from. It is here now. A part of our North American Melting pot. Like all the other people , animals, plants, and insects who come here from around the world.

Welcome little birds. You are beautiful and I hope you did not get too injured by my house!

Nov 27, 2008

An Unfinished Long List Of The Little Things
that make me glad I'm not dead yet

If anyone wants to know what my sense of humor really The Flight Of The Concords and you will have it all right there. I think the first person to tell me about it was my friend Chelsea. We share some movie and show watching taste in common, but she also loves The Office which is a show that makes me want to stab myself with a Bic pen or staple my head to the wall. There's something mean about The Office and depressing so that if there's any humor there it's completely lost in translation. Probably because of everyone loving The Office and assuming I would love it and being SO WRONG I took a brief hiatus from listening to any one's recommendations for movie and show watching.

Then my friend Laura sent me a YouTube clip of The Flight Of The Concords and without remembering that this was the duo that was recommended to me I watched the clip. Not without trepidation, actually, because most video clips people want me to be amused by are stupid. Sorry, but that's true. I watched anyway, preparing to tell Laura a lie "Oh- that was...amusing." Instead it made me laugh out loud against my will.

Fast forward...I found the first season of their show at my video store and figured why not check it out. Last night we watched the first four episodes and I haven't laughed so hard at entertainment in a very long time.

I am now convinced that Jemaine is my alter ego.

The lyrics constantly catch me off guard, I think I know what's coming next and then it takes a second for what they really said to sink in and it's just...

I'm being ridiculous. I love that show. I am extremely jealous of the writing, of the acting. If I could be reborn to be that brilliant and funny I would. Deadpan, dry, banal, human, dorky rather than sad and mean, humor that reveals foibles without vitriol. Seeing work like that makes me want to give everything I've worked for up. Why bother writing? I'm just an un-fun person who doesn't like games or jokes or riddles* and especially puns and plays on words which are usually just juvenile attempts to appear clever- I'm feeling more and more like a bitter old Bukowski writing about fat drunk people being left naked in broke-down motels.

So, today is the big turkey day. Not a great day for actual turkeys. It's 9am and right now, all across America people are greasing up those big birds to start cooking them because supposedly they take just about all day to cook. Martyred mothers are cursing under their breath at tradition and sighing loudly for everyone in the family to hear. I've always wondered how come people don't buy birds that haven't been unnaturally over-fed for six months, a leaner bird would surely cook in much less time (with the added benefit of being healthier)?

Another tradition I've never quite understood is why people feel they have to eat Thanksgiving dinner at 3 or 4 pm. What's the deal with that? Is that so everyone can nap a little before dessert? Other than sounding kind of depressing, I guess a nap isn't a bad thing after over eating to the point of discomfort as many Americans pride themselves on doing for this Holiday.

Me? I rarely over-stuff myself on Thanksgiving. I certainly eat more than normal, but since being overstuffed can make one want to vomit (just ask the ancient Romans) and I'm emetaphobic, I prefer to be more circumspect.

So about this whole being thankful thing...

I'm thankful for a lot of things lately and I don't need a special day to recognize this but I do love that we have one holiday that is centered around thankfulness for not starving to death, that is not about shopping, that is all about gathering around the dinner table with whatever we can afford to put on it. I do wish that everyone was lucky enough to have something, anything, to put on theirs. While some families are engorging themselves on over-fat birds others will be lucky if they each get a bowl of boxed macaroni and cheese. For those families I wish better fortune in this coming year and that they may experience the kindness of community to get them through.

  • I am thankful for our credit cards that have allowed us to live a decent life for a whole year of making not even enough money for the mortgage. Without those cards we would have lost everything a long time ago and not had beer to soothe our very knotted and frayed nerves. Although credit cards are the devil to pay back and we have a very long hard road ahead of us, we have been fortunate to have had them when we had no cash for food.

  • I am thankful to have such a great husband. I don't take him for granted** because I know that there is no one else on earth who could love me as much as he loves me and although we get annoyed with each other and sometimes want to hit each other with heavy objects, he is my very best friend in life, he is handsome, he is kind, he is a great father (in fact- before I married him I was 100% sure I would never want to have children), a weird character, a genius artist, and I just love him. We have been married almost sixteen years and I still love being married. That says it all right there.

  • I am thankful to have my mom live close by to us. We have had many ups and downs over the years and I've said unkind things to her, I've nagged her about things, I've enjoyed her generosity, and she always still loves me. When she was in California and we were up here in Oregon, I really missed her. She and I have both come a long way as people and whereas I was horrified the first time I realized how much I'm like my mom (many many years ago) I have come to feel incredible pride to have been on the receiving end of so many of her good qualities. Sorry mom, I still sometimes roll my eyes at your crazy like I did as a teen- but there is no woman in the world I would rather have as my mom and having you close by makes me feel very happy!

  • I am thankful for both herbal and modern medicine. Maybe it seems silly to be thankful for my medication, but if you were me trying to be a mom and a wife and remain a live person you would understand how important it is that I have the help of medication to trick you all into thinking I'm a relatively sane and normal person. I am also thankful that Philip just received his free three month supply of asthma meds (you have to be poor enough to qualify) and now he can start to actually breath comfortably. We haven't been able to afford them and it scares me to hear Philip breathing without their help. Though we both depend on modern medicine, I am also thankful for herbal medicine which I plan to re-incorporate into my life more than ever this year. It's a way of life I grew up on and have tremendous respect for. This year I found out that the anti-fungal salve my mom and I made works well for athlete's foot, but not on jock itch. (Oh, should I have kept that to myself?)

  • I am thankful that Max has been having fewer and fewer bloody noses. I am specifically thankful for it today because last night he had a really persistent gusher and left bloody trails all over my floors, was freaked out and therefor difficult to help, and later, seeing the dried blood crusted underneath all my nails I remembered that this used to sometimes be a daily event. Sometimes even more frequent than that. Last night's gusher tired me out so much that I understand the weariness of the last few years more sharply. On top of being thankful that he has been having so many fewer bloody noses, I'm thankful that this is one of the very few medical issues he has. So many children have worse problems than that and if I had enough of my own heart left over to spare some I would give their mothers some of mine to help them get through the awful pain they must go through.

  • I am thankful to have all the pets I do. They make every day of my life richer, funnier, and cozier. Some of them even give me eggs to eat and manure for the garden! The dog has given me a deep appreciation for her kind that I could only have gotten from loving an actual dog of my own. My cats are the sweetest, cutest girls and it gives me joy everyday to look at them and know that without us they probably would not be alive today at all. We loved our Ozark a lot and still remember him and talk about him, but the truth is- he was such a difficult cat and it's so nice that this time around we have two that get along, don't go far from the house, aren't mean to the dog, don't bite our toes every morning at 5am, are very snugly, and don't fight other cats or wild animals. I will never understand people who don't like having animals in their homes to share their life with.

Lastly, I am thankful for all the little things that make life worth living. Living a good life isn't about one big triumph. It isn't about being a movie star or a superhero, though those sound like fine things to be. It isn't about your job promotion or necessarily at all about how you make the money everyone has to make in order to have a comfortable place to live. So to end this already incredibly long post, I will list the little things that I believe are what make my life so good in spite of not having my paycheck yet and being hounded by my banks all week:

Get ready, this is a very long list...

Good coffee every morning, weird fake food to make me laugh, my son's cheeks which is all that's left of his babyhood, the smell of onions sauteing, soup bubbling on the stove, my cookware which was a huge extravagance when I got it but which has given me pleasure every single day I've used them for the past eight years, my Pilivuyt dish wear,

Nope, not done yet. I think you might find your list just as full....

my weird ghetto door, a brand new Razor Point pen, a fresh notebook, being awake before everyone else, watching snow fall, watching rain fall, picking vegetables in my garden, picking them at my favorite local farm, beer, toast with butter and jam, my great grandmother's china (what's left of it after the fire), my other random pieces of old china, a new bar of soap, kitchen scrub sponges, doing dishes on a very cold day, a freshly cleaned house, clean sheet night, hot baths filled with herbal or salty additions, cats purring,

Tired yet? I warned you. Seriously. Life is full of little pleasures if you just notice them.

my dog curling up against my legs when we go to sleep, PG Tips tea with cream and sugar (I don't indulge often because of the caffeine and my heart palpitations), Agatha Christie books, making excellent tarts, babies smiling at me in the grocery store, grocery shopping, people watching, learning to make new things, canning, drying my own herbs, shelling dried beans, growing things, cut flowers and branches all over my house, colorful painted walls, curtains, dinner with friends,

Dudes, there's more and you should know that when you've come to the end of this extensive laundry list of what makes my life good- I have only scratched the surface of the "little things"!

random wonderfully strange conversations with Max, medical TV shows, television, plaid, polka dots, roses, picking nettles with my good friend Nicole, reading Riana's blog, magazines, cookbooks, garden books, oh hell- ALL BOOKS, NOT reading Posy Gets Cozy, my grey hairs, walking by myself with headphones on, writing, pubs full of weird taxidermy, writing poetry however bad it might be, kitty chins, dog muzzles, lemon trees, old friends who love me even though I exasperate them, avocados, playing old 78's, old movies,

From now on, when I hear that someone is depressed beyond belief and asks me what the point of living is, this will be their first assignment- to make a list of the little things that they enjoy. If the list is smaller than 2o I will recommend therapy and medication.

touching herbs, seeing pretty teeth, the sounds my hens make, coming home, winter, bare trees, rose hips (for many reasons), taking trains, the sound of trains passing through town, frost, hats, the incredible scarf Emma knit for me, conversations with myself, mail, thunder storms, writing letters to Kelly, visiting the library, hanging out with my brother and sister, hanging with my brother and sister kvetching at a pub on the Isle of Skye escaping from the adults,

You have to open your eyes. You have to turn off your BIG expectations of life. Because as it turns out, they don't matter a whole lot.

hanging out in pubs with Philip, climbing the dunes with my kid dog and husband, dry champagne, eggs for breakfast, looking at all my jars of home canned food, sour cherries, foraged food, collecting nuts, making potions, mixing bowls, reading garden catalogs, choosing roses to plant, noticing and naming roadside plants, writing anything, finding out other people's little life details, staying home on New Year's Eve, lying on the floor, spring bulbs popping up through snow, cabbages growing in the garden, the smell of jasmine on summer evening air, digging up potatoes,

There is literally no end to this list. It has become my reason for being. When you've stopped noticing these little details, you need to make changes in your life. Life often sucks and there is enough sorrow in the world to suffocate all of us. Some of us get suffocated by the sorrow out there that isn't our own and need extra help quieting the noise out of our heads. There is always going to be starvation, fighting, death, taxes, abuse, crimes of fashion, and loss. So it's important to enjoy and relish these very small details of joy, satisfaction, and pleasure.

If I believed in God I would say that he gave us the senses to enjoy these details as a way of getting through the other nasty crap he seems to think his "children" deserve. I would believe that life isn't about working towards heaven or hell but about reflecting in ourselves what either of those places might be in our spirits, in the present, on this earth.

But I don't believe like that. I believe what matters is what we do with our lives right now, not because of some strange promise of things to come after death, but because now is what we have. It's really all we have. Ever. Right now.

So go be with your family and friends, and if you don't have any of them, go to a shelter or church where others are gathered to dish out kindness and sustenance. Enjoy the camaraderie of the moment and whatever small pleasures you can. It absolutely 100% matters. If you enjoy those little things now you will find yourself with more pleasant memories to temper the bitterness that life inevitably dishes out than you thought possible.

Lots of love to all of you out there. I'm glad you're alive with me.

*My kid is really into riddles right now, it's killing me slowly.

**This might not be his story.

Nov 26, 2008

It Isn't Thanksgiving Without A Wax Turkey

Martha herself is not as talented as me, a fact made clear by my brilliant use of a scented wax turkey that I just happened to have lying around as a holiday centerpiece. If I actually ate meat I might have baked my turkey with these grapes. Because I am a genius in the kitchen.

I know you want to touch it.

I generally try to shield people from the torture of having to compare themselves to me because I know how hard it is to be an ordinary person who doesn't have any fake grapes or wax turkeys. I won't even shake my finger at you and point out that you too could have had this wonderfully scented* wax turkey if only you had bought less fabric for a year. Some of us (like me) really know how to waste money in style.

So please don't be too hard on yourself just because my Thanksgiving centerpiece kicks yours to the gutter. I can't help it, I was born this way.

For dinner tomorrow I will be making:

Brussels sprout mushroom pot pies
Caramelized onions with sauteed spinach
My family's favorite yam dish
Salad that I will coerce my mother into making

Vanilla custard tart topped with sour cherry preserves

What? No gluten turkey? No stuffing? No cranberries? Are we secretly Muslim terrorists posing as wholesome American freaks? It breaks all Thanksgiving laws, I know. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year but that doesn't mean I have to have a weird green bean casserole that basically comes out of a can, or a big over-fed fat bird oozing juices, or that I have to have gravy on something.

Not that there's anything wrong with those things. Except for the oozing over-fed fat bird part and the weird green bean casserole. The pilgrims did NOT eat green bean casserole at the end of November because they would have been limited to what was in season.

As a little side note: until I married my husband I didn't know that yams could come in a can. It explains why so many people "hate" them. Gross!

I also didn't know until I was seventeen years old that you could buy pureed pumpkin in a can. My mom always baked a real pumpkin, often one she grew herself.

The hour is late. Now that I have deflated you with my brilliance I will leave you to drink your sorrows into the deepening night.

Good luck with that.

*They were going for a roasted meat smell but someone who sniffed it just today said it reminded her of the smell of dissected frogs in science class. Nice, huh?

Nov 25, 2008

Mustard Lentil Salad

One of the biggest staples of my fridge is a ready batch of mustard lentil salad. It's good by itself but is even better scooped onto a large bed of lettuce with some feta, croutons, and a hard boiled egg. One of the biggest blessings of this recipe, aside from being very easy, is that it is high in protein and reasonably low in fat. Fresh parsley is an amazing accompaniment to lentils for flavor and for it's vitamins, minerals, and the digestive qualities it offers. I always keep fresh parsley growing in my yard just for this recipe.

Mustard Lentil Salad


2 cups dry lentils, rinsed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced med/thin


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of favorite mustard (I used a spicy brown mustard)
1/4 cup (or more) fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
Hell of a bunch of grinds of black pepper


In a pot big enough to cook two cups dried lentils heat up the olive oil on med/high heat. Add the onions, saute until they start turning transparent, then add the celery and carrot. Saute all the vegetables for five minutes before adding the lentils and covering with water to about an inch above the lentils. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for as long as it takes for the lentils to be cooked through perfectly, usually between 2o minutes to a half an hour. If there is any water left at the bottom of the pan, drain the lentils in a colander and return to the pot, but not to the stove.

To make the dressing for the lentils: In a container that will accommodate an immersion blender add all of the dressing ingredients. Then pulverize it until it is thick. Add to the lentils and stir well.

You can eat the lentils at room temperature, hot, or cold. I nearly always eat it cold as a salad. If you are eating it by itself it obviously needs no dressing, but when I put it on a bed of lettuce I add some dressing to the greens. You can cut down on fat by not doing this but I like a well oiled salad. Plus I like fat.

How I serve it:
I put a big bed of lettuce on a dinner plate. I put about a cup of the lentils scooped onto the top. I add a sliced boiled egg, about a half a cup of croutons (when I'm being conscious, or about a cup when I'm not minding my manners and my waist), and about an ounce and a half of feta cheese.

This is a filling and very wholesome lunch or dinner. It includes protein, dairy, legumes, greens, grains, and a whole heck of a lot of vitamins and minerals. As far as calories are concerned I know that eating it as I often do will land you around 700 calories. If the rest of the food you eat in the day is leaner and smart I think the calories here are very well spent.

Note: If you have one cup of the lentils on one cup of lettuce with one ounce of feta cheese and 1 tbsp dressing for the greens it has only 470 calories. That's also a good way to eat it and not spend so much of your daily calorie intake in one meal. I did the math on this quite a while ago as I eat it a lot and it was a staple when I managed to lose weight the first time (after having a baby. Now I have it all to lose again after breaking my hip!)

Nov 24, 2008

I'm Not A Racist, I'm A Species-ist

Chick, who is part lab, part pit, and part bull mastiff.

I have recently gotten into two discussions about pit bulls with friends. Apparently I can't possibly have any opinion that doesn't champion the underdog. Is it possible that I am mistaken in thinking that this "breed" has been maligned unfairly? Doesn't it seem a little unfair that the Pomeranian that killed an infant hasn't given Pomeranians more bad press than it did?

I think Pomeranians are scary little dogs. But, whatever.

The pit bull is the devil-du-jour and I don't think any information I can dig up or any debating on my part is going to change anyone's opinion.

The more I talk with people the less I like them (I really like the friends I was talking about pit bulls with though, so I'm now speaking more in general terms in case anyone was feeling singled out). The more I hang out with animals the more I like them and think they are better than us.

I did always spend a lot of time in the chicken coop as a kid.

I was not kidding when I said that I don't believe humans are superior to other animals. You can look at all my beliefs and see that that is always the guiding principle.

The reason I argue with people so much over things is that not very many people share my point of view. I see all beings as having qualities that make them equally valuable on this earth and I don't see any beings as having anything that sets them apart as superior. Supposedly us humans are better because we can think and discern good from evil. I really haven't seen a whole lot of discernment between good and evil amongst people.

So all my arguments start off with the belief that dogs are equal in worth to humans on this planet as far as "right to live here on earth" is concerned. Or as far as "right to be treated with respect" is concerned.

I concede, for anyone who cares, that pit bulls are a more dangerous dog than many other breeds because of their tendency not to let go when fighting. Statistics support that pit bulls are responsible for a large percentage of the fatal dog attacks in our country. I've just had my head sunk in all kinds of statistics and this much can be supported. When a pit bull attacks, it is a more dangerous animal than a Pomeranian. Except for when Pomeranians suddenly need to sacrifice an infant to the tiny-dog altar.

What was also made clear from information gathered from a couple of different sources is that a lot of people don't actually know what a pit bull is and the people reporting attacks (who didn't die, obviously) can't be reliably counted on to recognize a pit bull. I just took a little quiz and I failed it. Can you pass?

People mostly focus on the fatal dog attacks. Less attention is given to nonfatal bites. After all, who cares, right? Who's going to get outraged at a little scratch? (Unless it's a scratch from a pit bull of course because while people will make excuses for a lab they will not make any excuses for a pit).

I'm not sitting here trying to convince anyone to love pit bulls because I know I won't succeed unless I spend about four days glued to reading material and then spit it out very carefully and simply for every one's reading displeasure. Even then, it's not like they're my favorite dog, I merely find myself defending a group of dogs who deserve some defense.

I'm just saying what's on my mind as it comes to me after reading a bunch about dog attacks and breed information. I thought it was interesting that in temperament tests amongst dog breeds at certain facilities**, pit bulls passed the tests at a higher rate than Labrador retrievers. But people, does this surprise me? No. Because in all the years that I was afraid of dogs it wasn't pit bulls chasing me down the street or Dobermans gnashing their teeth at me or Rottweilers who lunged and nipped me. It was black labs. And I was bit by an Australian Shepherd mix once too.

Someone isn't going to believe that information so I'm going to have to dig it up again when I have more time. It was on an SPCA site, possibly in the Bay Area.

One of the sites also compared the number of children killed by dogs every year to the number of children killed by parents every year. You want to know who kills more precious babies?

Well it isn't the pit bulls winning that contest.

Human parents kill more of their own babies a year than any dogs do.

I consider humans much less predictable than dogs and in fact, a lot more dangerous. In spite of the fact that I spent the first twenty five years of my life horribly frightened of ALL dogs, I haven't ever had nightmares about them whereas I am haunted in my sleep by the tremendous violence of man.

Humans suck.

There, I've said it.

A couple hundred thousand Iraqis were killed in an unprovoked attack from my people. How can I feel that there is any argument that can put humans in a beneficial light? We blacken everything we touch. We breed ourselves so extensively that the only places we aren't exhausting natural resources are places where we haven't figured out how to survive in yet. We kill off other species, we suck up the viscous bones of the earth's previous species to use to fuel a revolution of pollution and then we have the gall to turn around and decide that we have the right to snuff out a species of animal because it kills some people every year.

You know, I think that if I was ever to turn suicidal it would not be out of depression or anxiety like it would have been if I'd killed myself as a teen. It would be from shame for my species. It would be from shame for humans and the darkness we've brought to the planet.

I guess that's also a kind of sorrow. I suppose it's a constant solace to me that no matter how much we learn from science, none of us will ever figure out how to really cheat death.

I think I liked us better when we weren't quite walking upright and we had to have more respect for our landscape and other beasts because we were a lot more vulnerable then and had no reason to develop arrogance. We got killed by other animals a lot more often. We blended in with our atmosphere, with the other species on earth.

Humans suck.

I do think it's funny that here I am aching for dog rights, wishing that people would stop mistreating animals in general and dogs in specific, and stop trying to put the problem on the dogs instead of on ourselves.

If you dare say that there is one breed of dog that is just plain bad, are you also a person who looks at an entire race of people and believes them to be just plain bad? In my book it's the same thing. It's the same crime.

Don't worry, I realize that I am almost alone in this tiny universe of mine. I know you don't agree. Neither of us are going to change though are we? No.

It's funny that I used to be so damn scared of dogs and I have, over the last fifteen years, become more and more educated about them, more involved with them, more interested, less scared, more amazed, more enamored, more compassionate, more understanding...resulting at last, in having my own dog for the first time in my life three years ago. Since then I have only become more experienced at handling and getting to know canines and this has increased my respect for them in general.

I will still cross a street or turn a corner to avoid coming close to a dog wandering around without an owner. I haven't grown stupidly complacent. Dogs are still animals with bigger teeth and claws than mine. I think being cautious with ALL DOGS is smart. I think being careful is smart.

I've come to realize that I prefer animals to people for the most part. I respect them more. The honest truth is that if all humans, including myself, were to die today, the earth would be a much better place for it.

I already hear the little voices out there calling me melodramatic, irrational, and emotional. Some things never change. I've been hearing it all my life. I'm used to it. It's stupid to dismiss someone because they are emotional, but it's an easy target. I'm an easy target.

I will just turn my attention to the other life forms all around us, I will listen to the sound of the rain chinking through my kale leaves, or hear the blanket of mist muffle the noises everywhere else in the early morning, and I will listen to the frog who calls out to sexy frog girls through the cold while hidden from my view by arum italicum leaves, and to my hens who shuffle and scuffle and live small lives in hay and who tell me they really don't like that weird bean dish I made and could I please give them some more fruit scraps? I will sit here and wish I was a beetle trenching deep into the hummus.

I'm not a racist but it becomes clear that I am a species-ist.

Note: I keep trying to temper things by saying that I don't love pit bulls, but the truth is I happen to be incredibly enamored of bull dogs as a general group and I can't help but be mesmerized by the beauty of many different dogs I've met who were pit bull mixes. So, let me just say that there's something about most bull dogs that I find magnetic.

*"pit bull" is a description used for a variety of separate breeds that may or may not have the same danger level. I have found out that even I don't really know what a real "pit bull" is. The real pit bull is the American Pit Bull Terrier. Because these breeds share general physical characteristics amongst them it is easy to confuse them. But I think you all know that I'm referring to your average pit bull-style dog here.

**I found larger breed temperament study at this site and pit bulls do not pass at a higher rate than Labs, but they still pass at a high percentage.

Nov 22, 2008

How Much Is That Girl In The Window?

If I told you what just flew into my mind it would be "What if we could buy back who we used to be?". What a completely useless what if question. As so many of them are. One of the concepts heavily covered in Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the idea of core beliefs. Core beliefs are the underpinnings of everything that motivates us whether negatively or positively. Core beliefs are the underwear our spirits have on. You can hem and haw about a thousand things but ultimately you believe a few things almost incontrovertibly. To change those beliefs is like moving mountains or reshaping flesh like a plastic surgeon's knife.

I spent some time examining mine a few years ago. I don't think I was able, at the time, to recognize them all. You almost have to turn out your lights to find them because you take them so much for granted you can't see them with your conscious mind. Your subconscious knows all about them. You have to peel away at all your skin, all your rationalizations, all your behaviors, and all of your words to find them. Any thought you have, any comment you make can be traced back to some original basic belief. The foundation of everything that comes out of your life.

That's pretty big stuff. You'd think it would be easier to get at.

Exposing those beliefs can be raw. Frightening. Revealing. A relief. A revelation.

I will show you some of mine, but I can't ever show them all. This is elemental stuff. You scratch at this stuff and I could flake into a pile of ash like ancient silk.

  • People are not superior to other animals, just different.

  • People cannot be trusted, cause pain, and are savage.

  • Sex is a violation of a woman's body.*

  • Every action counts.

  • We are each responsible for the experience we have in life.

I am so out of shape that riding my bicycle anywhere is quite a heaving experience. I am trying to do more of my errands on my bicycle. I went downtown to the grocery store the other day when it was cold out, crisp like icicles, misty in that soft way fall can be, and it felt so good to feel my blood moving to warm my skin. There's something so exhilarating about feeling cold air hit warm cheeks. I had my bicycle baskets full of Brussels sprout stalks and other local produce and my bike was weighted not only with my considerable heft but with the bags of groceries. I felt so pretty. It seems like the most ridiculous thing to say. But I did. Riding down the street on my old bicycle with the blood in my cheeks and the air in my lungs, I felt pretty.

I think the worst thing about being me is knowing that I used to inspire so much more chivalry in the world and now it is so much rarer. Perhaps that is not important to some people but to me it means a lot. I'm not a feminist in the modern sense of the word. I like to feel feminine, perhaps because I hated it so much when I was a teen, I like to feel pretty and I like to feel that others see that I'm not the clod-hopping old man I sometimes act like. I like to feel evidence of that.

That's another core belief but I can't actually put it to real words lest I freak myself out and cause deep and everlasting pain to myself. Interpret that how you will.

I'm a strong person but I want to be valued as a fine piece of glass.

I used to feel pretty as I walked alone on the streets of San Francisco. Not beautiful, not sexy. But pretty like a peach blossom you admire just before it drifts away from the branch into a breeze, floating like a paper lantern to some spot you haven't yet reached. I feel pretty when my body is in motion, being used like a machine, when I am pushing it towards the horizon with the wind in my sails. When my body feels flight.

I also feel pretty when no one is looking. I believe my magic fades under scrutiny.

It may be a shade of my crazy. Doesn't really matter.

I want to be in the air more often. I need to fit that in.

I want doors to open. I want protection.

It's what my dreams are of when they aren't extremely violent and dark. They are full of chivalry. Not sex, which means so little in the big scheme of life, but that protection, kindness, thoughtfulness, and --

I can't really talk about it anymore. It is too ridiculous. Something I am incredibly uncomfortable about. The fact that when I have fantasies it isn't about sex but about chivalry. Chaste chivalry. I'm not sure what it says about me but I am so uncomfortable with it.

What I do know is that this has been such a great autumn and things are falling into place. Good things. I am not how I wish to be remembered right now. I have not reclaimed myself in all the ways I need to but something is opening up that was closed before. Clamped shut with blood held back, bruising. I feel the winter coming like a mother calling to its child. I walk to winter with every happiness and a little excitement too. Coming home never felt so good.

Change takes time. To change you have to know what underwear your spirit has on. Don't fool yourself. Know what's under there before you rip the scaffolding down.

*Not a healthy or comfortable core belief.

I smell like the damned. (Totally random thought I didn't want to forget I had.)

Nov 21, 2008

Eight Years Old Today

What you should know about my extraordinary kid:

He knows when you are lying.

He will kick you in the balls if you try to do anything inappropriate with him like steal him.

He is feisty.

He's a warrior dude.

He will not eat your food. Especially pizza, pasta, or rice.

He hates leaving one place to get to another.

He's tenacious.

He's a ball of fire streaming through the world.

He hates George Bush.

He loves sugar.

He thinks about things on a molecular level.

He believes his belongings have feelings.

He doesn't believe in God.

But he does believe in Santa. (a surprise to me)

He's smart as a whip but doesn't think so.

He wants to have lots of friends.

He's not always easy to be friends with.

The nicknames his parents have used on him: Little Napoleon, The General, The Little Dictator, Bug, Sweetie, Funny Monkey, Lieberschleben.

He will not go quietly.

He doesn't like movie theaters because of all the people in the dark.

He has a stunning vocabulary.

When he really laughs the crust of the earth swallows some bugs.

Today my child is eight years old. A visitor to this blog recently wondered if Max was an "accidental" pregnancy. Ever since I've been wondering how many of you out there also thought this? This answer is no. It took me seven years to decide to have a baby and we planned when we would start trying, what we would do if we couldn't conceive, and we were fortunate enough to not have to wait long.

I don't think I love being a mother in general, but I can honestly say I love being Max's mother specifically. I don't think anyone else could handle parenting him. Most of the time I can't either. Being a parent has exhausted me beyond belief. Every day I'm amazed I get to the end of the day. Since having Max I have often wondered why I thought I could do this whole parenting thing when clearly I can't. But then I look at my kid and I realize something important:

I had to be a mother so that I could mother him. Why? His spirit needed me, not someone else. Me and Philip. Together. Why? Because if he had come to you (whoever you are) you would have already ruined him. I don't mean you are a bad parent...I only mean that you probably would have tried to force him to eat whatever you eat and you would have crushed his spirit. and made him hate all food. I only mean that you would probably have given up on him because of his negative downward spirals and not understood where they come from and that he can't entirely help himself. I just mean that you wouldn't have known how to get him to his eighth birthday believing in the magic that makes sense to him and not trying to force him to believe in things that don't make sense to him. Parenting a warrior is a tricky business.

All I'm trying to say is that Philip and I got Max because we are just the people to figure out how to raise him, just as you are the perfect people to be raising your own children.

In spite of how challenging it is to parent my child, knowing Max is such a pleasure, such an excavation into the human spirit, and sometimes it's incredibly fun. He's extraordinary. He's strong. He's everything I could want him to be. He's funny. He's curious. He's warm. He's honest. He's passionate.

I love him. I will continue to complain, to drop my parenting troubles onto the table, but in the end, what matters the most is that I love him.

And I'm fiercely proud of who he is.

Nov 19, 2008

Just Say NO
(because "no" is the new "yes")

I got to hang out with my friend Lisa B. and our mutual friend Angeleen for a while yesterday and aside from the fun of talking about pubic hair lasering, religion, and the importance of personal preferences in body products (an excellent argument for making one's own!) I was reminded by Angeleen about something I already knew but had forgotten in this crazy shuffle that my life has been:

That saying "no" is one of the greatest gifts I can give to myself in order to create the life I actually want to be living.

Apparently I managed to inspire Angeleen to make some choices for herself that have led to a greater fulfillment in her domestic pursuits. She has let some things in her life fall by the wayside so that when she's not working she is doing things around the house for herself and her family which have been making her a lot happier than she was.

It reminded me of the happiest time in my life when I was thirty four years old, finally medicated and through some therapy, living in a house I loved, with my kid and my husband, not working outside the home but toying with starting a part time business called "Dustpan Alley" and spending lots of time gardening, cooking, hanging out with neighbors and friends, and doing projects around the house. Although we weren't at all rich, we weren't financially struggling at that time. We were comfortable. I was in love with my life. So much so that right before everything fell apart I actually knew I was living the life I wanted, that made me happy, that made me feel useful loved and excited.

What I loved the most was not having a lot of obligations outside of cooking almost every day, taking care of the kid, and the house.

So what's standing in the way of having the perfect life right now?

Me and my inability to say no. No to offering to teach people things, no to taking on jobs I don't want, no to volunteer work, and no to activities I don't want to be doing. In fact, I think I may have a compulsive problem with offering up my services all over the place. I don't even realize I'm doing it until the words are out of my mouth and a retraction would be not just impolite but kind of dishonorable.

I haven't been getting far on the magazine this week because of all the time I've spent cooking. I'm cooking a lot more and better food than I have in a long time. Trying to provide Philip with food to take to work so he doesn't buy it out. Trying to make sure there are good healthy choices for me to grab instead of cheesy quesadillas every time I'm hungry. Not working on the magazine stresses me out because I really want to do it. Back when I was picking a name out with all of you and trying to come up with a time line for it I thought I would be able to just sit down and figure the program out. Which has turned out not to be true. I also didn't count on suddenly having four jobs instead of one.

Just as soon as I was down one job I volunteered my ass for another one like a real verbal incontinent. Afterwords I wanted to take it back. But the person I offered to do freelance work for has really beautiful teeth.

So after hanging out with Angeleen I've been asking myself how I could be so close to getting back to the ideal life yet be so far?

It's because I keep putting new projects on the roster that take me away from my home and what really matters to me.

It's because I don't know how to shut up.

It's because I keep putting pressure on myself to do projects for others out of a sense of duty.

I just realized, while making split pea soup and lentil salad that the magazine isn't going to suddenly become irrelevant to those of us who would be interested in it. I'm still getting articles in from my friends. I have just gotten my copy of the book that will hopefully tell me how to use the program I have acquired to make this magazine in. What's up with the asinine rush? Why do I always have my thumb shoved into my own jugular?

I've decided to not worry about it. I'm still doing it. But I've realized it's going to take time. And I want to give it time. Because I want to do it right. Plus I need to save up money to print it. It won't go bad if it comes out in late winter or spring. Everything going into it is still going to be exciting and relevant.

But worrying about doing it right now is making me unhappy. I am happy when my life isn't rushed. I am happy when I can take my time to do things. When I can go at my own pace which, everyone who knows me well is already aware of the fact that- it's SLOW.

My life is slowing down finally and I both love and need it to.

Which means I better start saying no to everything.

Want to join a committee for underprivileged goth teens Angelina?


Could I pay you to make me some clothes Angelina?


Wanna do some grave digging Angelina? I can pay you $3 per hour!


Wanna join my weekly coffee Klatch Angelina?


Wanna give a talk at the local art school about eating locally?


How would you like to attend a boring local function with people who don't give a crap about you and your little problems?


The biggest lie most of us tell ourselves every day is that we have no choice but to do everything we're doing, even when we really wish we weren't doing so much. We make excuses. We say we have to do it "for the kids". Or we think that if we let go of so much outside activity in our lives we will internally combust.

The truth is, we are all a lot better off when there's room in our lives for things like spontaneous naps, unexpected visits with friends, and sudden silly games with our kids or long talks with our spouses. The truth is, life is a lot better when we have time.

Since there's only 24 hours in the day, something has to give.

Practice saying NO to everything non-essential which means anything that doesn't pay your bills or make you and your family happy.

Time is the best medicine and the only way to get time is to stop wasting it.


NO is a beautiful but elusive word.

Go ahead...ask me something.

Nov 18, 2008

The Winter Garden

I didn't get my fall beets planted until August 1st which is a little bit late. Never the less one of the two beet beds I planted has lots of healthy greens growing in it and even some bulbing ones. The other bed must not get enough sun because the leaves are small and I haven't seen any bulbs forming yet.

I'm scared to let my beets overwinter because what if frost and snow kill them? If I wait and they make it they may get bigger in the spring and that would be a nice reward for patience I only pretend to have. These are the kinds of things it takes quite a bit of trial and error to find out about one's climate. I had just been getting my nose into the real rhythm of my old climate when we moved. After six years of gardening in it I finally knew what I could get away with planting late in the summer and early in the spring. I have only been gardening in my current climate for two and a half years. So much yet to learn.

I don't think my lettuces are actively growing anymore which means we should eat it all before it gets tough and bitter as the cold continues to creep in.

Today I rode my bicycle to the grocery store downtown. The air is frigid and the trees are getting increasingly bare. I could hear people's snow tires everywhere. I love the sound of a town anticipating storms and snowfall. Though we don't get much here, it's a lot more than we got in California and I'm grateful for every quarter inch of it.

I'd really like to work on making my house and my garden look less like a ghetto. Mostly this just entails some regular cleanup and not leaving cardboard boxes everywhere. Getting my Monastery style garden finished and filled so that lumber isn't lying around getting uselessly warped from neglect. These are things that I am not good at taking care of. Routine maintenance. Even before everything fell apart I wasn't good at it. But three years of just clawing my way through each day, being happy if all I got done was to do the dishes or make one phone call have driven us much further from taking care of the little chores that make houses seem loved and pretty.

I don't really care what anyone else thinks of my house. I'll never keep up with our crumbs and dust. It isn't about impressing anyone. No, that's wrong. It's about impressing my house. It's about my house knowing it's getting the degree of polishing it deserves.

We are so happy with our house. Every day we look around at the walls here and we tell each other how relieved we are to have moved here from the other house. It certainly complicated our plans to rise from the ashes of our entrepreneurial disaster, but only for a while. This house has a lot of funkiness. Some that we love. Some...not at all.

A house knows a lot. So does a garden. Mine will have to practice patience with us as we are notorious for moving at an extraordinarily slow pace. I should show my house and garden the before and after pictures of my two California houses. I think they would feel reassured.

Time to get in my Pyjamas and watch some season 4 Grey's Anatomy and get pissed off at Meredith and Derek being so stupid and in case anyone wants to know- I think Cally is one of the best characters and has been given such a short straw on the show that she really deserves to kick everyone else's asses.

Good night house. Goodnight garden.

Nov 16, 2008

Life Owes Us Nothing

I almost forgot about my notes to a suicidal friend who asked "But what meaning is there to life?" all the time. An urgent question she needed an answer to in order to grope her way through her suffocating head to where the air was clear. She was certain that life had no meaning and without meaning it is better to be dead. I heard her and I understood what she was asking. We go through so much pain in life, maybe some more than others, and we look back and ask "What was all of that for?". It feels like the only way we can pick up our feet again to move forward away from pain is if pain has a reason, a purpose.

We make up reasons all the time. But I don't believe that the big picture has reason. I believe in karma only because it is so completely obvious that we get what we give. I believe it makes a difference how we act and how we think. But I don't think that there is some grand plan for each of us in life. I don't think there is one purpose for us or one path. I don't believe that life is about purpose. Unless you think living as long as possible is purpose.

We live because we are alive. We stay alive until we die because we are built with an instinct to survive. I think it's that breathtakingly simple.

Maybe life feels better when we have focus, when we have a plan, and when we use the gifts we were given with our corporeal equipment. Achievement is admirable, but sometimes it gets in the way of everything that really counts. Like breathing. Sleeping. Noticing the texture of the soil underneath our feet and caking under black fingernails.

In the past three years of struggling to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing, what path I'm supposed to be taking, and what I'm supposed to achieve in this life I forgot about the letters. I forgot what I used to tell ailing spirits. I forgot the words I used to say.

I'm remembering it now because I have been listening to so many other people like me struggle in the same way and the old reassurance comes tumbling out of my mouth without over thinking.

Stop beating against the glass like a trapped moth. This is life. This is what it is. Right here, right now. There's no such thing as "supposed to" or "should". Our job is to breath. Life isn't complicated. We make it complicated because the hardest thing of all is to accept simplicity. We have no right to expect to live for any specific amount of time. We have no right to expect no sorrow. We have no rights. All we have a right to is this millisecond. The one we're having right now.

Everything else is just extra.

Why bother living life? Because one second of pure air, pure love, pure happiness is worth all the pain we humans inevitably inflict upon each other and on ourselves. Why bother living life? Because coffee at 5:30 in the morning is the best experience in the world. Because one great night spent eating home made food with friends while drinking beer or wine and talking politics passionately is worth all the rest of the time when life sucks.

Just living, and living well, is enough reward for being alive. A life in which no awards are won, no publicly recognized achievements are made, or in which nothing remarkable has apparently happened is still a tremendous achievement in itself if it was lived with senses awake and memory sponging up the liquid light of every morning.

I said so many times that there is no grand purpose but to enjoy pinching the leaves off of herbs to put in an omelet. There is no greater reason for living than to love another being. To notice the shifting precipitation in the air and to watch the lightening from a perch. This is what it's about: the minutiae.

Mothers in my age group are obsessed with advising new mothers to "Enjoy every minute of your baby's early years because they go so fast". What kind of pressure is that? What a huge burden to put on someone. You don't have to enjoy every minute of it and you won't. What's important is to take care of the person you brought here. What's important is to enjoy those impossibly tiny minutes in which you are both laughing so hard you pee your pants and not chastise yourself for all the times your baby made you want to die of exhaustion. Stop worrying about whole lifetimes and just try to be present right now.

What I told my friend who wanted to know why she should bother living is that it doesn't matter what her life looks like to anyone when she gets to the end of it. There is no neon sign that says "Congratulations! You did what you were supposed to! You may now die with pride!" What you see when you look back is not how you should be moving forward. Out of pain. What you see when you look back has already been. Cannot be changed. Cannot give greater meaning to this moment we are in. Right now.

When you stop asking what life is "supposed" to be you will realize that it already is what it's supposed to be. Full of pain, love, laughter, shame, propellant, flight, stagnation, hunger, danger, abuse, kindness, creation, all of it.

Oxygen. Life is about oxygen in our lungs. Blood in our veins with a pump to keep it fresh. That's all it is. We can live it or lose it. It owes us nothing. It gave us everything already.

So stop breaking your feathers against the dank glass. Stop thrashing yourself against this wall of your own making.

Sit still.


That's all there is and it's a gift because none of us did anything to deserve it.

Nov 14, 2008

Strength Between The Pages

Max and I made a horrible discovery today. We saw something no human should ever have to see. Especially humans who rarely come in contact with meat-type items. I got flea medicine for the animals today and the one for the dog now comes in a chewable tablet form. My dog will generally eat anything and when I say that I mean to say that an open litter box is her candy store. However, for some reason she was suspicious of these tablets so I got out those meaty soft chewy thingies you can put dog pills into so that they will take nasty medicine. I pulled one out. But it looked wrong.

It looked wrong somehow. So I looked in the bag and almost hurled right there and then.

Oh god.

So I made some kind of choking noise and held the bag away from me and Max asked what the noise was about and I told him there were worms in the dog treat bag. So he had to see.



He decided not to eat any more food until someone invents a brainwashing machine so he could get that image of the maggots out of his head. I totally understood. I am squeamish about them too. I would have made a terrible sailor in the age of salt pork and maggoty bread.

Our computer caught itself a nasty little virus that could have (but didn't) result in us having to shut down all of our credit card accounts. Watch out for any insistent button that shows up on your computer suddenly claiming you need to buy the windows 2009 version of the spyware that will get rid of the virus your computer has supposedly just caught. That is the virus. Don't buy the spyware. We didn't. Because it seemed suspicious. Because it was.

Magic has happened that I think cancels out the maggots and the virus... my kid has said he loves reading. MY KID. The one who resisted it for so long. The one who's main passion is video games and playing spies. He treated reading like a chore until this past summer when he was staying up to read his TinTin comics. He got into Calvin and Hobbs too. And then Bone. And then he and Philip read a chapter book together. Of course, most of the books he loves the best are comics and graphic novels. I don't care. That's not what matters. What matters is that he'll bury his restless head in them and get lost. Like I did when I was his age.

In so many ways parenting hasn't been what I expected. Things I thought were going to be easy have nearly wasted me and other things I thought would be hard have turned out to be nothing. My kid is who he is and nothing I can do is really going to shape his most decided spirit. Yet I can see the influence of love and care in him. I can see him finding his way but also finding ours. I can see that he is discovering the magic of books and it's something that gives me a great deal of reassurance. If the kid loves to read, is there really anything he might not be capable of? Or anything he can't get himself through?

It reminds me of all the time I spent reading while I lived by myself in the upper tenderloin with a brick view. I worked hard all week and then, lacking a social life, I would read all week-end. I would get so engrossed in books that I would put off peeing until it nearly became a medical emergency. I would drink about a billion cups of coffee (before I got old and developed delicate problems like heart palpitations) and not eat much food. Reading got me through loneliness and fuelled my imagination so that I had a very rich life just on my own.

I was still trying to write fiction back then too. I try to be kind to myself. Every writer starts off thinking that the only way to legitimize their calling and prove themselves is to write the great American novel. At that time I didn't realize I could write creative non-fiction. So I typed out really bad fiction after reading books that set me on fire. I knew I had the language in me, I just didn't realize I lacked the stories. Self and words are same. I can't write a character who isn't me or someone I know.

What is still fresh for me is the urgent need to always be writing. All the time. I would be thinking of what I could be writing if I wasn't at work while I worked. Poetry would sift through my brain as I packed boxes full of funky lycra garments. For some reason heavy manual labor sparks my need to write more than most other things. That's the only way I can explain why I seemed to drift into words whenever I used the industrial steam iron to the point where I couldn't really hear whatever else was going on around me.

I also wore boots. I think work boots are magic and maybe that's what's been wrong with me for the last few years- I haven't worn work boots in a long time.

I haven't been reading much. My reading life has been mostly limited to non-fiction and mysteries in the last few years. If and when I actually read. You might say I'm stuck in a desert. Or maybe for the first time since I was a kid it's important not to pollute my head with too much influence from other writers. Maybe this is the moment when I really find my way, my reason (if there is one), why I come here every single day, sometimes two or three times, to write.

I long for more conversation with other writers. I want to get into their heads and know what moves them, stops them, and what kind of an island they've built for themselves. I wish I could ask some of my favorite authors questions. Questions that interviewers either never ask or ask but then don't pursue in detail. I want to have dinner with a room full of writers.

Who are writers? Anyone who writes? Anyone who keeps a journal?

Anyone who has to write or else burn up like onion skin and float away into the atmosphere. A writer is someone who, above all other things, must write.

A person who coughs words.

I've learned not to take anything for granted in parenthood. It is often a dark place for me but seeing my kid devour new words, understand irony, and forget I'm in the room because he's so absorbed in a printed story is like seeing him get baptized. For a lot of people out there God is the direction you turn to in tough times, but for me it has always been the public library. It has always been to books. Books and the buildings that house them. So hearing my kid say he loves reading is like watching him find something greater than himself, that he can turn to for his whole adult life.

It's in moments like this that being a parent is exciting. I can relax for a brief while and watch my kid find his words and his feet. It's at these rare junctions that I feel like it all might turn out alright after all.
Choosing Fabrics And Colors
plus some lip balm math

I have been going through my fabric for reupholstering choices. I don't have enough of any wool besides this pretty orange to recover my couch. This (as some of you may remember) was supposed to be my new winter coat. That never got made. Sometimes you have to make some hard choices like- do I pay my electricity bill so it doesn't get turned off today or do I pay my I recover my couch in my winter coat fabric so I won't be depressed sitting in my living room or get depressed making a cute coat that I'm too big to look cute in?

Seems impossible to decide sometimes. However, I can probably make a winter coat out of some of the other wool I found. The flower fabric is what I'm thinking about using for the arm chair. It does occur to me that it may give a slightly British chintzy look to my living room but it matches the orange for the couch perfectly. I will have to investigate my stores of fabric just a little more. Most of the fabric I buy is suitable for aprons and quilts and cute projects and not really for a big armchair.

If I use the orange for the couch I think I'll be using the "fern shoot" green for the walls as we did in our last living room. I had finally decided on an antique yellow color but I don't want lots of orange with yellow. Orange with green is much nicer I think. Mixing cool with warm. Balance.

Meanwhile our main computer has a virus. So I'm doing everything on the laptop. Not particularly ideal. But it makes one terribly thankful to have a laptop at all at a time like this. I'm wondering if I should have Philip install InDesign on this dinky machine and work on the magazine from it or wait until the main computer is cleaned up? I'm afraid my magazine launch keeps getting pushed to later and later. I hope you'll all still be interested if it takes another couple of months to get the first one out. I bet most of you don't even think I'll do it. I don't blame you. Personally I think it was a little over enthusiastic to think I could produce something in one month using a program I don't understand.

I have today off. Having at least one day a week off from work is pretty nice. I could get used to this. I can do whatever I want!

What I'm working on right now is making lip balm. I am also preparing oils for using in solid deodorant. If you want to learn how to make both I'm definitely going to tell you here eventually. What you should be doing is saving your used up lip balm tubes and tins, clean them out using the tip of a knife, then a q-tip and/or a paper towel. If you feel more comfortable disinfecting them before using again- wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. For the deodorant, save your tubes because you can use them for your home made version, clean out the residue in the same way you do with the lip balm tubes. This way you don't have to buy containers for this project and you keep some plastic out of the landfill a little longer.

I've been saving up lip balm tubes for a while. I think I've mentioned here before that I go into a full panic attack if I go anywhere without a tube of it. I have a tube of lip balm on me at all times. And OF COURSE I'm very picky about what lip balm I use. I don't like it to be too slick. I don't like the slick sensation (which is why I hate it when magazines say punchy little things like "...with a slick of lipstick on her lips..." Dude. Gross.) The perfect lip balm is the regular Burt's Bees lip balm. It's usually $2.79 a tube around here. I buy lip balm fairly often. I mean every couple of months I buy a couple of tubes. That may not seem like much but think about it: I spend about $16.74 a year on lip balm. That means I also toss out at least six tubes of it a year.

I know what you're thinking: that is so insignificant it doesn't matter.

You're wrong. (if that's what you were actually thinking)

Just think: If only half of the US population uses lip balm (150 million people) and each of them only used and tossed out one tube of lip balm a year, that means that every year 150 million plastic lip balm tubes get tossed onto the landfills every year. But then you have to multiply that number by the probable number of years we're all tossing empty lip balm containers in the garbage, most of us are lucky and get to be adults for at least twenty years. Twenty years have already gone by that I have been using up lip balm and throwing the empties away.

That means that I have already thrown away 120 tubes of lip balm and spent approximately $334 dollars on that product. See how such a tiny little thing can add up?

So if even half of the adults who use lip balm in this country live as long as I have so far there have been about 180 million plastic tubes of lip balm tossed onto the landfills.

I'm being conservative on purpose. Most people who use lip balm probably use more than one tube a year. Can you imagine what 150 million tubes of used up plastic lip balm containers looks like in one heap? Huge. That's how the little things add up. Fast. It's not just you in this country doing whatever you're doing. There are about 305 million people in the United States. So whatever you're using up is being used up by millions of other people too.

But I can't control what other people do. Maybe my desire to reuse lip balm and deodorant containers and make my own sounds insignificant, but every tube of lip balm I don't throw on the heap is one less thing that will take a million years to decompose.

The thing is, it's cheap and easy to make your own lip balm. Obviously that's what I'm going to show you. It's not complicated and doesn't take much time. Plus, you get to have complete control of what goes into it and what it tastes like. It's also cheaper than buying it. I promise, it's cheaper.

Math is so cool.