Thursday, January 17, 2013

Strange Stirrings

I've been keeping this blog for more than 13 years. !!! Longer than I've been married. But it's time to put this thing to bed. I'll still be blogging, just in a more private space. Let me know if you'd like to come along - I'd be happy to grant access. Leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

In about a month or so, this blog will disappear. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Notes from the Garden

I haven't really had my usual garden joie de vivre (joie de jardin?) this summer. I did, earlier in the spring, before it started to rain for 40 days and 40 nights and my tomatoes had to learn how to back stroke. I was just recovering from that and beginning to enjoy the longer days and getting my garden mojo on when the wall went up, and about a third of my garden disappeared. It was like the construction guys had a scorched earth policy. I know we needed the wall, and I know I can't expect them to tip-toe around my tulips, but it was really bittersweet to go out and survey the progress/wreckage each evening. And then I lost gardening time when we went to Portland, and then some more when I went on my retreat.

Things I'm glad I planted:
Sweet-peas! I've decided that I need to have masses and masses of sweet-peas, enough to fill my house with vases full of them, and enough leftover to make the garden smell wonderful. I'm not quite there yet, but I did plant a lot of sweet peas this year.
Basil! Regular and lemon both produced really well this year, and I've devised a tasty Thai pesto recipe for the lemon basil.

Things I did too much of:

  • Curcubits, as always. Although I can't really tell what is taking. I have two suger-pie pumpkin vines, I know that for sure. One of them has 5 pumpkins on it. How many sugar pie pumpkins does a person need, really? More than 5?
  • Being lazy. We got a ton of sugar snap peas, and they were yummy, but I just sort of stopped picking them and now they aren't throwing out any new blooms and they're starting to go dry. I probably missed a lot of strawberries by not checking on them often enough (and leaving them defenseless to the slugs). 
  • Being careless. I need to keep better track of what I'm planting, where. I planted green onions, garlic chives, and bleu de solaise leeks. Because I didn't know which seeds were which, I wasn't able to plant them under the best conditions for each one. I'm bummed that I failed my bleu de solaise leeks. I was excited about leek soup.
  • Scarlet-runner beans. I did these because they are supposed to attract humming birds, but I definitely didn't need all the vines I planted. The beans they bear are HUGE and tend to get tough and bristly. I think I'll plant a few of them around the garden next year for decorative purposes. Or maybe not - I replanted a bunch of cracosmia and I think hummingbirds like that. And they're bright red without vining all over everything.

Things I'll do next year:

  • More sweet-peas!
  • Stop trying so hard with the basil. I planted three batches of basil seedlings for various reasons, and the final batch -- I guess it's a crop, but whatever -- was just tossed directly into the soil in late May or June and it's thriving. Which makes me wonder why I bother with seedling-warming mats and starting them in February or whenever, and hardening them off. So next year, I'm just going to throw some seeds in the soil in late May or June. 
  • Sunflowers! I actually did sunflowers this year, but I paid no attention to where I placed them and they ended up looking pretty awkward.
  • Give tomatoes some elbow room. I did complicated math to make sure the buckets they are in are big enough, but I don't think they are happy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Retreat! Retreat!

I'm on my long-anticipated writing retreat. In fact, it's halfway over! I should have written before the trip, when I was really really excited. Now it's Thursday, and I've been here for 4.5 days and have only 2.5 more. And I'm still only in Ohio (in the story, I mean)! Put another way, my biography of Ben Legg has taken him to the age of about 12 months.

Ben Legg, circa 1907
Although, in my own defense, I have been working on Robert Legg for the past 40 years (in the story, I mean). And it's not that I've been slacking. The first day and a half felt really unfocused. I ended up constructing a timeline, which I half-assedly started early in the research project. Working on it felt all scattery, because I was hopping from source to source and person to person, and I felt guilty because I'd promised myself NO RESEARCH, but a complete timeline seems like a necessary tool. Even if I'm not telling the entire story in strict order, it really helps to know, at a glance, when everything happened. I also figured out when everyone immigrated, and where they were living when. And I did a ton of property research, which was required in order to finish the Ohio chapter. And I collected new information and figured new stuff out and was able to round out the story.

 Tuesday I worked on the intro and start working on the England section. Wednesday I finished England and started on Ohio. Today I'm wrapping up Ohio and starting on Issaquah. I think Ohio was one of the least-gelled chapters, so maybe things will get easier? It feels like it's going soooooo sloooooooooowly. Writing is haaaaaaaaaaaaard. Waaaa!

I thought I was going to leave here with a completed draft. Ha! Part of it is my own fault for having ridiculous expectations of myself. I was going to finish reading ALL THE BOOKS! I was going to finish taking ALL THE NOTES! And I was going to finish writing ALL THE CHAPTERS! And, ahem, I've spent the last couple months thinking, "Aw, I'm not going to work on Ben tonight, I'm going to play Peggle! I will work on Ben at my retreat!"

 Although I am not quite living up to my own expectations, I love the place. It's perfect. Well, except for the composting toilet. I'm not in love with that. And the shower situation is a little rustic. But otherwise, it's bright and comfortable and minimal. I will take pictures before I go.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rat's Nest

This Feministing graphic was the tipping point  for my writing this post.

It keeps coming back to guns. 

There are a handful of things I keep wanting to write about, for different reasons, but haven't written about, for one reason. It keeps coming back to guns. I wanted to write about Trayvon Martin and racism. I wanted to write about the book "The Trouble With Boys," and my own feelings about our elementary school's policy about "playing guns." I wanted to write about the death of Margaret Anderson, a Mt. Rainier park ranger killed by a suspect in another shooting. I wanted to write about a three year old child, dead because parents left her unsupervised in a car that also contained a handgun. But I keep stopping, ambivalent about my own rat's nest of feelings about guns.

Erica & Guns: A History
My dad had a .22 rifle. He kept it on the top shelf of his closet. I don't know where the ammunition was, although I'm sure it was far away from the gun. Occasionally, he went target shooting with a friend. He did a stint with the French army in his youth, and presumably knew how to handle a weapon. I don't ever remember handling it, with OR without permission.

I grew up in a hunting community. I didn't personally have any interest in hunting, but my first boyfriend did. He taught me how to shoot and we occasionally went tromping around his property, shooting at tin cans, etc.  I knew that I did not want to be responsible for the death of an animal, and I didn't particularly want to be around when he killed an animal, and I freely expressed my feelings about the senseless death of small woodland creatures. By "senseless" I mean, killing for the sake of killing. Killing for target practice. I felt -- and still feel -- okay about hunting animals that become a meal. It might not be technically hunting for survival, but at least it isn't wasteful. I'd rather have fresh venison than factory-farmed steak (not that I eat either with any frequency). Point being, I respected his right to hunt and he respected my right not to hunt.

I felt okay about hunting rifles. I still feel okay about hunting rifles. In my personal experience, they tend to be used as useful tools by sensible people.

Then there are handguns, where my ambivalence intensifies.

In college I met a woman in the Students for Choice organization who carried a handgun. She had been assaulted, and started carrying a gun afterwards. She was both comfortable and skilled with it. During the time we knew each other, she told me that she'd stopped carrying the gun. Walking home one night, she was startled by someone coming up on her out of the darkness. She pulled the gun before she even thought about it, and then realized that it was just a kid on a bike. Her own quick, instinctive reaction scared her.

In college I also started carrying a pepper spray key chain, after going to a self-defense workshop. One of the points the speaker made was that carrying a handgun could just put you in greater danger -- if you're overpowered, the gun can be used against you. Not that there was any risk of my carrying a handgun. But anytime someone (usually male) asked me why I bothered with pepper spray when I could just pack heat, I pointed out that I didn't want to provide anyone with a weapon they didn't already have, and pepper spray was about the extent of what I needed.

Do we really need handguns? Well, I don't. But I get it, some people really want one so they feel empowered to defend themselves and their homes. And, honestly, it's fun to shoot a gun, in the same way that it's fun to watch firecrackers. If you're a rational, cautious adult with a safe and no history of abusive behavior or drug and alcohol problems or severe mental illness, then I generally feel okay about your owning a gun. Not good, not great, but okay.

Or do I?

Guns Are Tools. Except When They's Not.
Three years ago, we lost a family friend to an accidental shooting. The details could not have been any more devastating for all concerned. The young woman, who I used to baby sit, was an investigator for federal public defender's office. She was accidentally shot by her father while they were cleaning guns after a morning at the shooting range. Both were experienced with handling guns. No one was behaving recklessly.

The point is that accidents happen. Even if you are intelligent and well-trained and cautious in handling guns. Even if you are completely sober and you are with someone you love very much, enjoying time together doing something you both enjoy. If an accidental shooting can happen then, imagine the possibilities when the people involved are untrained, drunk, on drugs, angry, abusive, mentally ill, etc.

A few months ago I participated in a discussion about guns on a friend's Facebook page. It started out as a conversation and rapidly devolved into a polarized discussion, which infuriated me. I posed the question, "How can we uphold a constitutional right to bear arms while also recognizing and PREVENTING the senseless deaths (both accidental and intentional) guns enable?" It's not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. The response was knee-jerk and not helpful - cars kill people, too, and we still use them.

I'm sorry, but I need a better fucking answer than that.

Assault rifle similar to the one used in the Aurora, Colorado shooting.
The whole "guns don't kill people" argument makes me livid, because what exactly was a handgun designed for? Or an assault rifle? In the case of an assault rifle, I think the name sort of gives it away. It's made for assaulting people. See also: Jason Alexander's controversial tweet where he points out, "So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality." (Take a look at the picture of Benjamin Colton Barnes below; In January 2012, Barnes killed Park Ranger Margaret Anderson. Is it really a surprise to find that he killed someone with this gigantic fucking CANNON? What else do you use a gun like that for? It ain't squirrel hunting, people.)

And, since I'm turning to entertainers to help me make my point, here's what Eddie Izzard has to say about "The Gun Thing":

Kids & Guns  Further complicating my ambivalence is the fascination my kids have with guns. Not with real guns - they have never seen a real gun before. They don't get to watch TV programs that have guns in them. They don't play games that have guns in them. But they are little boys and they are fascinated with destruction and explosions and things that go bang. Like guns.

My husband is NOT ambivalent about guns. He doesn't think that anyone should have a gun, for any purpose. Before we had children, I was adamant that they not play with Barbies and he was adamant that they not play with guns. I think this is a really difficult thing to enforce, since not actually having a toy gun does not necessarily prevent kids from playing with guns. I remember playing with the neighbor's air rifle as a kid, and I have yet to see any statistics supporting the theory that playing with toy guns leads to (or is even correlated with) aggression in later life.

I don't want to micromanage my chlidren's play. But I really don't like listening to them talking about blowing things up or shooting things. At age 3-4, kids seem to have nonsensical catch phrases that they say all the time because they a) are amusing to the kid, and b) annoy other people. Dylan's catch phrase was "Cat-pan!" (long story). Conrad's is, unfortunately, "shoot your head off." Or "shoot his head off" or "shoot my head off," etc. It pushes my buttons, and though he doesn't know why, he knows that it does. And that gives him additional incentive to use the phrase. In the wake of the shooting in Aurora, my patience with the phrase is at an ebb low.

I'm not sure what it will take to demonstrate to him that guns are not toys and shooting is not fun. I don't know, maybe I should make him watch the evening news? Or find a video on YouTube of someone getting their head shot off? That seems extreme. I'm at a loss.
Benjamin Colton Barnes showing off his weapons. 

Do Guns Keep Us Safe?
Here's an interesting parallel. The US/Soviet arms race was based on the idea that the best way to maintain peace was to stockpile as many weapons as possible. That same argument is now being applied to guns.

John Swift wrote about the arms race, "There were widespread fears that humanity could not survive. A single reckless leader, or even a mistake or misunderstanding, could initiate the extinction of mankind. Stockpiles of fearsome weapons were built up to levels far beyond any conceivable purpose, and only seemed to add to the uncertainty and instability of the age."

Our nation has already come to a conclusion about stockpiling nuclear weapons. It doesn't make us safer, it just scares us and puts us in a position where some nutball could destroy lives with a minimum of effort. When are we going to reach a similar conclusion about assault weapons?  Want a peaceful society? Then we need MORE GUNS! If only there were MORE GUNS, then the horrible tragedy in Aurora, Colorado might not have happened!

In an article about the Aurora shooting, Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky concludes that, "...this will happen again. And again, and again. In fact, as I said above, we are likely headed for a day in this country like the following. At a movie theater, in a mall, at a commuter rail platform, in a restaurant—some glory-seeker opens fire. Most people duck and scatter, but a decent percentage of them produce their pieces. The gunman goes down like Warren Beatty in Bonne and Clyde, but, since “most people” aren’t marksmen, maybe a few other people do too, and maybe, oh, a three year old. But hey. There’s always a spoilage factor. Rights are sacred. From their cold, dead hands. . . . 

Why are these acceptable losses? In a society where conservative legislators are trying to prevent the demise of every egg ever fertilized, in the face of our constitutional right to privacy, you'd think every human life would be viewed as sacred, and the senseless end of life something to be decried and prevented. But apparently we are supposed to just shrug and let these lives be the price paid for a constitutional right to bear arms. Gun advocates of America, I really want to support your constitutional rights. But can you work with me a little? You want your guns, and I want to stop hearing about this useless, pointless, PREVENTABLE death. Tell me how this is going to work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Grump Mom Cometh

Dear Creators of Super-Why:

Seriously. I spend most of my time as a mom trying to get people to STOP CRYING. I do not want to listen to an entire episode of your show where our heroes are listening to the sound of crying and trying to get it to stop. It makes me want to drive my foot through the TV screen.

Dear Elementary School PTA:

Will you please cash my freaking checks? You are wreaking havoc with my bookkeeping system. I am waiting for you to cash nearly $100 in field trip, silent auction, and other fundraising checks. 

Dear Daycare:

Ditto. Please. Cash the fundraising checks already. 

Dear Husband:

I have spent the last month calling and interviewing and collecting bids from wall construction/deconstruction/repair firms. I have approved a bid and secured money. And yes, they are starting today. ALREADY. Have I missed something? Is there something else we needed to talk about? Did you want to say goodbye to the wall first? I move quickly. Try to keep up.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of Bear

Conrad has been spinning long tails about the secret life of Bear. Right now, for example, Bear is laying down in Conrad's room (door shut) for his morning nap. After he wakes up, we are supposed to give him some magic water to make "all his dreams come true." Conrad also showed us two Valentines he made for Bear, but we aren't supposed to tell Bear about it until tomorrow.

Bear has a grandmother. Her name is Carla, and she is a RAINBOW colored bear. Bear also just got a new car, because his old car got "all banged up". His new car is red with lots of flames painted on it. Conrad refers to it as his "flamey car." Bear also takes swimming lessons, just like Conrad.

We have also been told that Bear is a brave ninja. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conrad, Up Close

Conrad's eye color has been shifting the entire 4.5 years he's been this side of the womb. They were blue for the first two years, then started going greenish. I'm starting to think that this qualifies as hazel. I'm also fond of his freckles, one of the few physical traits he inherited from me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Photos

Proudly wearing my Parkwood Panthers T-shirt. I'm grateful that their mascot is not the cougar. 

For Mullins: Happiness is a bunch of jars with bulk food in them. 

Dylan strikes a heroic pose while modeling his (adult size small) Issaquah Rodeo T (limited edition item! buy one now!)

Frieda sunbathing in a pile of dead leaves and pulled weeds on one of her rare (supervised) field trips outside.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In Which PMS Girl Bitches about Mass Transit

Alternately titled: I Am Aware These Are American Problems

I am not having a good day. I'm still cranky about all the crap with Dylan, and I caught him in another lie this morning. And I have PMS, so I'm irritable and just looking for a reason to go batshit crazy on someone and/or burst into tears in public. 

Cue a trip to Portland

I was too laissez-faire about planning my morning, and I left a few details of my day until way too late, and then started panicking. That seems to be my MO these days. I'm laid-back enough not to be totally anxious about getting there early, but apparently just a few hairs TOO laid back, and then I get everywhere late. So. Left the house late, all in a lather, couldn't find parking at the Northgate Park & Ride, and watched my bus drive out of the bus bay while I was still looking for a spot. I ended up just squeaking into a compact parking spot where both neighboring cars were edged just over the line into my parking spot. I had to manually fold all our mirrors in to get into the spot. I wouldn't be surprised if I had a nastygram waiting on my windshield when I got home. 

The next bus came at 10:46, and my train was due to leave at 11:25. I spent about 15 minutes sitting on the bus and getting more and more frantic while I planned my sprint from the bus tunnel to the train station, and/or my back-up plan if I did miss the train. I made it to the train station at 11:18, which was way too close for my comfort, but which turned out to be PLENTY of time because the train was running late from Vancouver, BC. Fortunately, I'd arrived in time to wait around for 30 minutes in the enormous line of people waiting for seat assignments. Since I was at the end of the very long line, I expected that I would get a crappy seat, or they would send me to the dining car. To my surprise, I had Seat 16, which (since 16 is divisible by 4, and there are 4 seats in each row) was a window seat.

And it was! Which was ideal, expect for the part where someone was already sitting in the seat. She got very offended when I asked if someone was coming back to sit in the empty seat next to her  ("This is my daughter's seat! She's coming right back!" Well, shit lady, I'm holding a seat assignment for the seat she's sitting in, I think I'm entitled to ask). I got back off the train to get some help from a trained professional. 

The beleaguered-looking Amtrak guy just told me to find any empty seat, implying that it was no surprise to him that I'd been given a seat assignment for a seat that was not actually available. So I got back on and asked about a few seemingly empty seats in the same car, which several people found offensive. Someone else asked if I was sure I was in the right car. Yes, I am thanks, I am fully literate and capable of finding Car 9. AND I HAVE RAGING PMS, SO BACK OFF, BITCH. Or get up and give me your seat).

So I went looking for the Amtrak guy again, who looked even MORE beleaguered, and he told me to find a seat anywhere on the train. Thanks. I paid $106 to ride the fucking train, and I'm getting the hairy eyeball because Amtrak assigned me an occupied seat. 

Right now I'm in a seat that was either unoccupied, or whose occupant is in the dining car (and will hopefully stay there).  I'm waiting for the conductor to ask for my ticket stub, which I lost sometime between standing in the aisle and sitting down in this seat. Unless it's behind my ticket thingie in the little slot overhead. And I had a mental image of being all productive and Willard-Joe-Award-Winning and doing work from the train, and now I'm just thoroughly annoyed. And I need to remember that I have to go back to Car 9 to retrieve my suitcase.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Look! Another Teal Deer w/No Pictures!

I found myself missing my dad today, which feel strange to say. He's still alive, but it's a different Dad.* I love him very much now, as he is, but I really, really miss the Dad I grew up with and fought with and who drilled me in my multiplication tables.

The last time I was struck by such a pang of longing, we were on our camping vacation last August and Dylan and I were kicking the soccer ball around. I probably wrote about it here.

What brought all this on? Dylan has had a real run of disciplinary issues this week. Sunday night, he and Conrad were caught chasing (and in Conrad's case, whacking) chickens and throwing rocks at (and breaking) the glass windows in the back of the shed. Monday I had a call from the librarian to tell me that he and two other boys had been repeatedly disruptive during library time. On Tuesday (I didn't find this out until today) he was repeatedly disruptive in class and got written up, and on the same day also "kneed Elijah in the privates" (quoting Dylan's account). Then on Wednesday, he got written up for slapping a classmate "hard enough to leave a mark" (quoting the form he brought home). Dylan didn't tell me about this one. I found the note in his homework binder. Every night I ask about his day, and he gives me a report. Usually it's an honest report, but that day he'd said he had a good day.

The worst part was that I didn't find out about the Tuesday write-up until the school called me today to see why I hadn't signed and returned the repeated disruption form with my signature. And I told her it was because I hadn't seen the form, which I don't think surprised her. She said she was sending another one home with him.

I stewed about this most of the day. Every day this week! Some disciplinary problem every day! And now I've received phone calls from his classroom teacher (we're old friends by now), the music teacher, and the librarian, and he's been written up by the gym teacher. We have these conversations with him and then drop him off and school and just PRAY (well, in an agnostic sort of way) that he has a good day.

Finally I left work early and called Jonny to tell him I would pick Dylan up. That's when I was hit with a wave of grief, in the car, on the freeway. I wished I could call my Dad and ask him for advice. Or, even better, have him chat with Dylan. Dad was a naughty little boy, throwing spitballs and stealing the town hearse and whatnot. I find myself channeling Dad (for better and for worse) in my parenting. It's definitely a modified version, but I hear his voice sometimes when I'm having a heart-to-heart with Dylan, or when I'm goofing around with the kids. I'll suddenly remind myself of him when I'm angry, too, which is less comfortable and strangely familiar all at the same time. It felt very odd to find myself wishing I could ask Dad for parenting advice.

I picked Dylan up and we chatted in the car. I did most of the talking. I told him that I could empathize with the temptation to joke and talk and goof off in class, and that we were willing to work with him on that, and he's made good progress, but that I couldn't accept the hitting and the lying. I must have made an impression because he burst into tears and admitted to the kneeing of Elijah.

I feel out of my depth. That's the problem with the oldest kid, you're so freaking tense about everything because you've never dealt with it before, and it gets easier with the second kid. You have more confidence. 

So Monday I start making phone calls so we can get some kind of assessment.... I haven't wanted to jump to any conclusions about ADD or ADHD, because I don't want to provide him a cop-out excuse. If it really *is* a problem, then we need to address it. I've finally been won over to reading "The Trouble with Boys" after hearing an interview with the author on Manic Mommies (a podcast I highly recommend) and she self-identified as a feminist, so I decided to give her a shot. I'm very resistant to the notion that because girls are gaining ground, that something horrible is happening to boys. More women than men are going to college! AAAAAAAAAGH! It's a crisis. Really? Isn't it just a statistic? 

But, I digress. Which is okay, I guess, because I was about done anyhow.
* Not only is he alive, but his quality of life has actually IMPROVED. The memory care facility (I never know whether or not I should put that in quotation marks) where he lives has changed management. They now have a much dorkier name (The Silverado! Although the exclamation point is only implied on their signs), but better food, less locked doors, and fewer drugs. This last one was key. He's on a variety of anxiety medications (hello, heredity! nice to see you here), some with "sedating effects." They'd reduced his dosage a bit already, and he was now much easier to wake up. Because he was always asleep. Then they reduced it a bunch more when the management changed and he started getting pretty frisky. He still doesn't talk (at least, not to me -- he gives mom a word or two here and there), but he's not in a wheelchair anymore, and he can partially feed himself, with is progress. It makes me feel guilty that he was so sedated for so long. The only challenge is that he's been popping people when they piss him off. Well, first he bit one of the attendants. Management said that it could have been avoided if the attendant hadn't pushed. But then he hit another resident when she got all up in his face. He's the junior heavyweight champ of the Memory Care League.