Oct 31, 2008

The Skin And Bones Of Love
Civil Rights Is Not Just A Racial Issue

I am struggling to concentrate on the fact that I don't know how to do anything with the InDesign software and need a dummy book which means scootering in the rain to the library. Meanwhile my head is absolutely screaming inside at the bigotry that is still haranguing the homosexual sector of the population. I keep reading posts on other blogs about yet another attempt to keep gay people in domestic partnerships from becoming legally recognized as couples.

It is a civil rights issue and it just amazes me how we have to go through this all over again. The last time in our country that we fought over such issues was during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. You would think, that if we can recognize how wrong miscegenation laws were, we wouldn't need to cover the exact same territory again. And again.

Yes, I'm emotional right now. Apologies to those who dislike it when people believe passionately about anything. My passion doesn't actually interfere with my logic, which is lucky, and luckier still that I have logic at all when so many of my countrymen have none.

People (yes, mostly Christians) used to think it biblically wrong for a white person to have sex with a darker skinned person. What they were essentially arguing is that melanin in the skin is something that God cares a whole lot about and it offends him when people with different concentrations of melanin in their skin get together in the sheets. Worse yet when they get married and have babies and get the same rights as more "moral" unions.

A body, what it looks like, its racial profile, the color of its skin, the genitals that develop, the amount of hair it has, is all determined- not by evil or good qualities in a person- but by the particular combining of the genes donated by the body's earthly creators. Chromosomes decide what gender we are born with and hormones often have a strong influence on how our body functions and relates sexually.

Our bodies are just biological matter. Skin, bones, blood.

A penis is made up of the same essential material as a vagina.

Why does anyone care if people of the same gender decide to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives?

Perhaps an objection is that they cannot go forth and multiply which is the only reason for getting married, supposedly.

NEWS FLASH: the earth is overpopulated!!!

Many gay couples who want children either have one through a surrogate or adopt one. ONE. Maybe two. The very difficult aspect of similar gender prevents them from easily multiplying themselves and the expense of adoption does the same. When they adopt they are taking care of one of the products of disastrous unions between man+woman. Children are littering the earth and not being taken care of.

So it seems to me that gay marriage might possibly provide something we really need: loving homes for children abandoned (for whatever reason) by pro-life parents.*

You know what? Since my country made laws preventing gay couples from being legally married, we should make a law preventing anyone who masturbates from being married. Cause you know what? Supposedly god doesn't really appreciate that either. Wanna guess how many people masturbate at some point (or all points) of their lives?!

Maybe you haven't ever done it, and gosh, go bless yerself for showing such delightful restraint... but I have never met a man who hasn't enjoyed regular sessions of self loving and why not? And women? Women are much less likely to admit it (being so coy about such things in spite of women's lib) but are just as likely to be enjoying some sexy sessions with themselves too.

I really think it's time to appreciate that being gay is just one different but unharmful way to love another human being and when a gay couple wants to settle down together and make a steady life with vows to support each other and protect each other it is just as beautiful as when it's between a man and a woman.

Skin, bodies, bones, teeth, hormones: each and every one of us is made up of exactly the same materials. The only difference between us is in how those hormones, bones, water, skin, chemicals, and matter are distributed according to the map of our individual genes. There is no moral value inherent in the way one body lacks testosterone and another has different neurological wiring; or how one body has one x chromosome and another has two; or how one body's skin lacks pigment and another has a lot of it.

We are all made of the same matter. When any two adult bodies come together consensually there is no moral value attributable to their union of flesh. Moral value is attributable to behavior. When you look at a couple, the only thing you should be concerned about is how they treat themselves, each other, and the world outside of them.


I sent my Oregon ballot in today. Voting is done. I am no less tense than anyone else about the outcome. If McCain wins I will have to fight off a very strong desire to leave my country. I happen to love Oregon and my little town in it, and can't afford to move, so I won't. But it will be painful to face the next few years here. I am so sick and tired of my country's downward slide since Bush took office.

I wish I could go vote on proposition 8 in California. All I can say is: I give you my support! Equal rights for gay people is just as important as racial equality and gender equality is to me. I see no difference in the issue and my spirit is with you. I hope like hell that proposition 8 is voted down.

Added later: I also wish my own state would keep fighting to allow gay marriages. California was really trailblazing deciding to legally recognize marriages between same sex partners. You'd think that a state that legally recognizes an individual's right to kill themselves when terminally ill would be progressive enough to allow gay marriage. Perhaps it's coming soon.

I would like my brain to stop spinning now. I would like to feel hopeful about the future in my country. So I'm going to go do what I always do when I'm feeling buzzing mad or barely able to keep myself from imploding: cook food.

*I'm not working on any assumption here. If a woman opts to give birth to a child she doesn't want or can't take care of she is demonstrating a belief in pro-life. All those unadopted children out there flooding the foster care systems are the results of choosing life. No matter where you stand on the issue, the many unadoptable children in this country are direct results of choosing "life". I honestly don't see how it is morally alright to give birth and abandon your baby to the state but not alright to kindly spare a tiny being such a life. But whatever. AAAARGH.
Wisconsin Is A Separate Planet
(and how Romanesco is proof of alien life in Oregon)

All the time I was growing up in California my cousins in Wisconsin would make fun of our state saying hilarious things like "California is where all the fruits and nuts are! hahahahahahah!" Meanwhile, my view of Wisconsin was that it wasn't all that different. The way I figured it, there were just as many fruits and nuts, it's just that a lot more of them were wearing double-knit polyester.

As an adult I have listened to my Aunt make statements about her planet state with great curiosity. When my mom was helping her to paint a hallway wall a kind of Mediterranean yellow color my Aunt kept muttering things like "Oh, I wonder what so-and-so will think of this! People around here just don't use colors like these." As though she was painting her hallway glossy ebony or metallic gold. My main thought was "Why would you care what anyone will think?" But she did. She cared quite a bit and gave all the appearance of a kid defiantly chugging a vodka tonic in front of shocked parents.

Later she was talking about my cousin Nick's interest in heirloom vegetables. The way my aunt tells it, she seems to have never even heard of heirlooms before and was certain you couldn't get any in Wisconsin.

Now this I couldn't be silent on. Seriously, half the heirloom vegetables I read about originated from places like Wisconsin and Illinois and Michigan. How is it possible that I can only get them in California because we're into fads and everything super new and that in fuddy-duddy old states like Wisconsin they don't go in for these new-fangled crazes?

I didn't believe her. Just like I didn't believe her when she said you couldn't get fancy olives like Kalamatas at her little ol' plain grocery store. Not true. I had to go there myself when I was seven months pregnant to show her that the truth is, they're right there, she's just never looked for them.

The other day I was looking for some local produce at the health food store. I was eyeing the mutant Romanesco cauliflowers that are twice the size of my head. They are an old variety of cauliflower that the Romans supposedly grew back in the good old days when they were still throwing people to the lions for fun. It is admittedly one of the strangest vegetables around. It's incredibly architectural and seems to illustrate the concept of worlds within worlds. Each big angular sharp knob is made up of smaller precise replicas of itself, and each of those is made up of even smaller precise replicas of itself. I wouldn't be surprised to find that they look exactly the same on a molecular level.

Another older woman was also gazing at the Romanescos in wonder and awe.

"What IS that thing?" she asks me.
"It's a Romanesco type cauliflower." I say.
"Uh huh." she says uncertainly, like I might be baldly lying to her.

That's when I become the produce salesman. It happens all the time. I can't help it.

"It's really great roasted with some salt and pepper and olive oil." she still looks unconvinced and is circling the stand of Romanescos like they might draw weapons on her at any moment. I have detected a slight twang and drawl that is very unique to people in Wisconsin (and Canada).

"They don't have this kind of thing where I come from." just like a line out of a book.
"Where do you come from?" I chirp up. Because I'm affable.
"Wisconsin." she tells me gruffly.
"Ah," I say with total comprehension "I have cousins who are from there." you know that it explains everything when you say you're from Wisconsin.

"We don't grow weird stuff like this in Wisconsin." she repeats.

So it becomes apparent that people in Wisconsin all think of themselves as simple people from a simple state where weird things don't grow and exotic things don't flourish. They want to believe that anyway. It must give some kind of comfort to think that the best cheese available to them is fried curds.

This lady decided it would be a hoot to grow one of these things (interesting how she seemed reluctant to call it a vegetable) and asks if one can find seeds for it. I suggest a seed company and she repeats it several times before decisively announcing that she'll forget it before she gets outside. So I decide to leave her to her strange adventure in the bizarre land of alien food and pick out the largest of the mutant Romanescos.

I roasted a quarter of mine with some "non-weird" cauliflower and it was superb! Some seed catalogs refer to it as a broccoli and some as a cauliflower. In either case it is gorgeous, green, tastes a lot like a "regular" cauliflower, but perhaps with a slight semblance to broccoli. It would be awesome in soup (especially a cream soup), perfect for a stir fry, and what I really want to do with the rest of my ten pounds of it is to make a sharp Cheddar gratin.

If you would like to grow some (Allison) here are some places that you can get the seeds:

Seeds of Italy
Park Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Oct 30, 2008

Rosemary Marinade
(Especially For Robin)


1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp mustard (spicy brown or Dijon)
3 cloves peeled garlic, roughly chopped
3 - 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
1 tsp salt
many grinds of fresh pepper

Put all of these ingredients in a deep bowl or measuring cup (large enough to use with an immersion blender*). Blend them until the marinade is thickened and all the rosemary is well chopped.

How to use this marinade: I brush it on everything I grill. It is my standby favorite. It is thick enough that it sticks to my vegetables and I love the rosemary and mustard combination. One of my very favorite ways to use it is to roast the following vegetables:

summer squash

Then chop all the roasted vegetables, combine with fettuccine pasta, and add some marinade to the pasta for sauce. Serve with Parmesan.

This would also be great on tofu.

I have never used a marinade on meat (because I have never been a meat eater) so I can't say if the proportions of vinegar and salt are enough to partially cook meat before being grilled as marinades are often used for. I do know that this is a very flavorful way to dress anything you want to grill or broil. I don't use it as a salad dressing because I don't like rosemary for my salad as I think it's too strong. So I don't think of it as a dressing.

*If you don't have an immersion blender, use a regular blender. Or a food processor. And then let me convince you that an immersion blender is so much better than a regular one.

Oct 28, 2008

What Is In My Head
(is now in yours)

I once said that rain hitting my face while riding my scooter feels like bullets*. I would like to add that sometimes rocks hitting your knees while on your scooter feels like bullets too. Or maybe rain feels like rocks but I like to be dramatic. When traveling at a speed of 60 miles per hour and a rock hits you anywhere on your body you don't particularly care if it's a rock, a marshmallow, or a squirrel because the main point is that it hurts like fucking hell.

Sometimes when I'm going really fast on my scooter I wish I could completely take off; be like a smear of light stealing other people's air as I speed past them. It makes me feel a little bit like an asshole. And a man.

When a dog doesn't want to see you, they have no inhibitions about letting you know. Today was the first day I ever stood around a dog whose hackles are up and teeth showing to say nice things to him. I think that shows how far I've come from hiding in the coffee Roastery's bathroom whenever a dog would come in.

I saw a dead kitty on the side of the highway and I said "meow" to its spirit.

It makes me really sad that there is a product so sub-standard that it has to be called "chocolate flavored chips".

I'm really thankful I don't pee my pants all the time. I wonder if I should present this gratitude at the Thanksgiving table.

I know it's terribly "western" of me, but I think eating the sperm of an animal is not a whole lot different than drinking its pee. It may not be bad for you (being sterile) but bodily fluids (including blood) as food really trips me out. I might still be thinking about it tomorrow morning.

For those of you with very dirty minds, the conclusion that you have come to about me is correct.**

Do any of you understand just how very much I despise balloons? I didn't think so.

I think it's important for everyone to recognize what they're good at and celebrate that. Even if what you're good at is counting raisins or picking fur out of sweaters. That takes patience. Don't let the rest of the world keep you from your empowerment.

There are a lot of people busy out there, right now, feeding yeast. I think that's just about as brilliant as it gets. I get very excited talking about yeast. Not yeast infections...yeast that we tenderly feed sugars to and encourage into full bloat mode so that our breads will rise, our grapes ferment, and our sodas fizzle. It's harvest and in my area and that means a lot of people working very hard to serenade the yeast that is now hanging out in the grape juice.

The owner of a winery has decided to call me Denise. Do Denises generally have chin hairs? I've decided to be Denise for this guy. It means that I can start calling him Ralph.

It freaks me out that almost all the Oregonian election candidates have six or seven children. I almost want to not vote for them just because of that. Except for the Catholic one. I kind of wanted to vote for him anyway. But only because the Catholics here are insanely outnumbered by the more fiery hot and bothered faiths. Catholics have the best music and art. But obviously I'm not going to base my voting on how many children a person has.

I will absolutely base my voting on a candidate's stance on a woman's right to choose.

I will also base my voting on how a person looks. I don't think you can be a really put together human being if the picture you send out of yourself for your campaign looks like a federal prison mug shot.

I'm super bummed that Sarah Sidle has left Gil. Seriously bummed. Can't anyone have a good relationship anymore? Damn it.

SO NOT surprised that Madonna and Guy are getting divorced. Now I just wish they hadn't stolen that African child.

*As if I would know how that feels.

**For those of you who need it spelled out: I don't think human sperm is sexy "food" either. Pointing out how salty it is will not make it more appealing to me. Yes, prude prude prude me. I rather like to think of it as being discerning, rather than prudish.

Oct 26, 2008

Butcher, Baker, Candle Stick Maker

When I woke up, late, this morning at 6:15am I was a headline editor. I had grammar intact, an intellect sharp, and diplomacy beating like blood with coffee in my veins. My mind grasps words like art, I correct writing in my head not just for spelling but for grace because I want to feel it in every one's prose. I see the budding voice and I don't want to squash it, I want to move it, encourage it, and blow a little gold dust into it. Help it evolve, transform, and become more than it is. Because words have kept me alive. Words alone have kept the dark lit and the razors from dermatological contact. In words I have found everything a human heart needs most: hope.

By 11am I was a freelance photographer. I snapped grapes getting dumped into industrial vats for making wine. I stood high and looked low. I invaded the everyday work place of people whose job it is to feed yeast, to punch down the grapes, to wash and wash and wash an endless parade of dirty bins big enough to hold twenty dead bodies. My technology watched and wormed into private work moments, the sweat of ordinary men watched. I realized that the longer you stand with an apparatus to your eye the less weird those around you find it. But I take this role gingerly. I am naturally shy. I pretend often that I'm not. I bluster and chatter my way through everything. But being the eye, the great watching eye is uncomfortable. Photographers often talk about the comfort and anonymity of the camera but I find it makes me stand out more and I feel like a heel. Yet as I find my opportunities I lose myself eventually because others do too.

By 12pm I was a metal grinder. My hands forced weld to smooth. My hands took matter and made it different. I shaped and smoothed acres of weld into smoother joints that hands might grip without pain, without incident. Metal on metal makes directional fire that you must manipulate away from your own skin, your own hairs. Missing, I smell singed hair. Not sure if it's hair on my head, my chest, or my arms that have burnt. Body matter changes as you use muscles that remember nothing at first. In all these actions there is a deeper memory that eventually everyone remembers. The fires of early man being stoked with wood; hot breath on chilled open air, the clang clang of hard steel being hammered into swords to make mothers weep.

My eye has seen it all. My blood hammers through my veins like a mantra of faith. I have been here before. You have been here before too. These rituals of living. Rituals of survival. Of art seen through arteries of everyday life. So many people seek answers in the divine, yet all the answers are written everywhere if you look. You need no epiphany to know who you are. You need no express note from god to see magic when all the time it is reflected in your own cornea.

When I woke up this morning, late, all I thought was that I had some jobs to do, on a Sunday. I didn't know I was going to be so many people and bend so much matter. That at the end of the day my hands would ache from gripping a metal grinder for hours, that my cameras would be so full of hopeful apertures, that my inbox would be so full of words to translate and send back out into the ether. I merely woke as a simple human with the simple hope that this day would have a rhythm.

All day I kept remembering my nightmare. One of those boomerang dreams in which everything you never wanted to express for fear that if you did the whole world would explode gets expressed to its fullest ugly extent. It was full of moving, which I never want to do again, and my parents who never divorced twenty years ago*, and my brother and sister, all of us in a trailer, plus the girl my parents decided to adopt. I can't hold it together and I become the family bomb that makes an enormous explosion by imploding. I scream like a shrew, accusing everyone of everything I've ever imagined accusing them of, I am betrayed, alone, my lap full of crumbs. My family abandons me and I keep seeing them everywhere. We intersect at a Scottish inn that isn't in Scotland. I am ugly, shrill, and unbending. Except that when I'm in the inn I am seen for the person I thought I was, not the person I have become. It is a haven.

I don't know, when I wake up, how my family really sees me. Maybe I never will. Do they know what color my spirit is and what coat I wear when no one is looking? Do they know that today I was three people? That I can be an editing eye, precise with words, intent, and execution? That I can find the truth behind the eye of a shutter? That I can talk to wine makers about their craft and know enough about the process to not get lost? Do they know that I ended my day covered in grit from grinding metal smooth for a welder?

At any given time we are all many people. I know that my mother has spoken disparagingly of her tendency to be a "jack of all trades and a master of none" as though this was some kind of shortcoming. Better to be a master of one thing? I don't think so. I think it's pretty amazing to be a renaissance person. It fulfills so many needs, so many desires. It taps into something so much older than "career paths" and vocational dedication.

What all of us are when we are necessary.

It's 10:47 pm now. I came down here to bleed words. Even as I need sleep. I needed to channel this rhythm into something more tangible. It always comes back to words for me. I will vomit them in my sleep. I exude them. They leak from me and evanesce from my atmosphere. They drip from my fingers and seep into my shoes. It always comes back to words. A hammer of words that drive through my head like a grave digger's shovel in dirt.

I am afraid to stop. To quiet down. To stem the flow of thoughts. I wonder if I might bleed internally if I cut the line now and crawl into bed. Everything comes to me in sharp contrast. I feel so young and so old as though my spirit is suspended in some place just out of spitting distance of reality.

Sometimes I feel like a conduit of information. Like a fortune telling idiot savant for sleepers. Sometimes it feels like I know what is going to happen to everyone. I have looked at people and seen their spirits suspended brightly above their bodies, like hovering ghosts. I have felt my bones tingle and my hackles rise with these moments like I am a guest at a table of bodiless souls.

It has never scared me. Except when I try to pretend it isn't real. I hear what others might hear if they bothered to listen. That is all.

That is all.

And now I hunger for that silent embrace in sleep. That anonymous protective set of arms that finds me when I'm abandoned at train stations. The spirit that crouches close to the breaking point and softens the corners of madness; the spirit that kept hope alive when I was six years old and irreparably damaged. I hope that whatever guardian of sleep it is that visits me will visit me tonight, like it often does when I feel so small I might pass through the eye of a needle.

Take these words. Please hold what I was close to the fire and to your warm skin. Please don't let go until the light of early morning shivers through the air and breathes new ghosts into clouds. Please protect what still believes.

That is all.

I am butcher, baker, and candlestick maker.

That is everything.

*They really did.

Oct 25, 2008


Dot, the head of poultry operations at the Williamson Farmhouse, has signaled to the rest of the flock that moulting should be in full progress. I would have taken a photo of them earlier in the season of moulting.

But they hide when they are going bald. When chickens moult they look mangy and half naked. They look, in fact, a lot like chickens getting plucked for dinner which I think goes a long way to explaining why they feel like hiding during the worst part of their moulting which goes on for about a month. Most of the girls' feathers are filling in again.

We're having a fly problem right now that we've never had with chickens before. It is normal to have a few flies buzzing around a chicken coop. You should not have a cloud of them. I put a fly trap inside the coop and caught a ton of them. However, now the problem is that they are hanging out in our "breezeway" right next to the run. I'm not sure why. they've had fresh hay and a clean out but I think it may be because we haven't been scraping down their droppings where they roost on top of their hen house.

I think scraps are a problem too. When they don't like a scrap we give them it rots in their run. It's not true that all chickens will love all your scraps. Chickens are individuals just as people are.

Here's what they love:

cruciferous vegetables

Here's what they like but would leave alone for something better:

carrot tops

Here's what they don't like at all:


I need to locate a reference for what's poisonous to hens and what you should avoid for their health. This is information that I would like to include in my poultry raising article in Roost. I'll have to look for that. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to feed them raw potato. They are natural scavengers (and omnivores, they will eat meat) and so they can eat a lot of things without being harmed but I know that there are some things that aren't good for them.

My girls are still laying but production is easing up. They don't lay as much when they moult and when the daylight hours begin to decrease. I'll have to buy eggs now through spring at least periodically unless I set up artificial light to stimulate laying but I won't do that because it wears the hens down faster.

I would love to hear what other people's hens' favorite scraps are. Do share!

Oct 24, 2008

The Great Fashion Layoff

I really don't want to age like Susan Powter. Do you think I can avoid it by not getting "work" done and not being too thin? She's scary looking now like so many other people in the celebrity world. (I would have said "women" but have you all seen the work that Patrick Swayze has been getting done?)

I have a huge pile up of fashion magazines. I haven't been in a fashion magazine mood for a few months now. Most of them haven't even been opened. This has happened to me once before. I went through a couple of years of not wanting to see them and then I started seeing some interesting fashion come back. The interviews of famous people have long held a fascination for me but I'm tired of the sycophantic writing the interviewers use. It's really sick. The extreme effort they go to to paint a celebrity to appear "just like us". If a celebrity is so average and normal we wouldn't be interested in them in the first place. If a celebrity is extraordinary yet down to earth, this will be apparent in their conversation with the writer. There's no need to set us up.

It's almost as though the writer has been handed this directive by their editor: "Paint a picture of normalcy...make them appear 'just like us', alright sport?"

The best interview I've read in years was the one with Denzel Washington where he was a total asshole and the writer gave up trying to see the softer side of the jerk. It was great. It actually felt real. Denzel is beloved by everyone and is so charitable and down to earth and wonderful and perfect and talented and still married to the same woman how could we not all love him?! Yet, he was a complete and utter dickhead to the interviewer.

I'm not going to renew any of my subscriptions. The worst one is Bazaar. It is just one big showcase for the big name designers. I would love to see a magazine come out that only showcased small scale designers, indie designers, and people who are making it up as they go along. Fashion for me. Fashion for people drafting their own patterns and sewing their own clothes and accessorizing with choice pieces from the thrift store or the awful ubiquitous Ross.

So, I'm off to grind metal today. I hope you all have a great Friday!

Oct 22, 2008

Metal In Your Eye
(is not a medical mystery)

Sometimes there really is something wrong. This is why we go to the doctor even when we don't see any visible cause for pain. It turns out that Max had a tiny spec of what appeared to two doctors to be metal. A tiny piece of metal was stuck in his cornea. Causing him all that pain. Boy do I not regret letting him have that Motrin two days in a row! I was tempted to say "Stick it out kid, there's nothing wrong with your eye..."

But most moms know when their kids are faking it and when they're not. I knew he wasn't faking it when he told me he would like to rip his eyeball out because it hurt so much. The first doctor told us that tiny abrasions on the cornea can be terribly painful.

To see what was going on with his eye the first doctor had to put dye in Max's eye which would then be visible by ultra violet light. This was the coolest thing that happened to us today. Except that obviously it wasn't cool having a piece of dye covered paper poked into Max's eye. But we take our pleasure where we may.

The second doctor (the optometrist) put numbing drops in the kid's eye. That has got to be very freaky. The thought of a numb eyeball makes me flinch a little. Which Max did. Then more drops followed which made Max look insulted. The doctor was quite deft. Before we knew it the science fiction machinery was in front of his eye and a pair of the sharpest tweezers I've ever seen were navigating the surface of my boy's cornea. It took about three tries before the doctor got it. We could see it. Very tiny.

Then some ointment was unceremoniously slopped into his eye. This made him more squeamish than all the rest of the procedure. He hates weird textures of goop on his skin. But then it was over. OVER.

This was so much less like torture than taking him to get his nose cauterized the second time. That was pure agony. But this, this was not very much fun. Still, the metal spec is out of his eye and he's home enjoying sugar. Now this has become one more legend in the family history to retell over and over again.
Young American

I am impervious to sentimental bursts at most of the signs of maturation in my child that many moms succumb to frequently as their "babies" morph into fledgling adult people. I know I was excited at my kid's first steps when he was nine months old and it did seem fascinating in an awful way that four months after my baby was born he lost all the very dark hair he was born with and started sprouting white/blond hair in it's place. But these things have never triggered that strange stew of hormonal emotion that they seem to stir in other mothers.

I was happy (yes: HAPPY) to tote my kid off to kindergarten and thought "This is what it's about; the kid goes off to get some interaction and experience with the world outside and I get to spend time doing the things that remind me I'm my own person until the kid gets back. Then we hang out." Well, except that in California they believe that instead of "hanging out" one should do five pages of homework with your kid every night. Five. That's a lot. Other moms stood around the kindergarten classes with arms outstretched madly tearing up. I feared that a couple of them might actually end up completely prostrate.

I didn't shed a tear when he walked off with that huge backpack weighing him down. I didn't shed a tear when he started getting lanky, or when he started telling me not to hug or kiss him in public. This is part of what having children is about- seeing them through all of these periods of growth.

I'm not very sentimental. But all of my much more sentimental friends will appreciate that when my boy came home yesterday with one of his front teeth in a baggy, proudly showing me the big gap between his teeth I almost broke down and cried. To me, losing your first front tooth is crossing a real line between your baby years and your adolescent ones. I see all these kids in Max's classes with their grown up teeth pushing into their mouths, reshaping their faces into older versions of themselves.

I have an innocent fascination with teeth. Teeth are important. Have you seen what happens to a face that has lost all its teeth but not been filled with dentures? Dudes, that's going to be me in, like, five years! It's not a pretty sight. Our teeth affect how we speak, how we eat, how we smile, and how our faces are shaped. Our baby teeth are nothing. They don't say anything about us and are milky nubs that get us through the first few years. I have known all along that my son doesn't look how he's going to really look because he hasn't got his real teeth in yet. The ones that he will wear for the rest of his life.

Unless he loses them all as a professional boxer or because of his very strong affinity for everything with sugar in it.

I put some David Bowie on and made some eggs while I was thinking about all this. I made eggs without any cheese. I contemplated what a life without cheese is worth to me. ( NOTHING.) I mean, if I was told by the doctor not to eat any more cheese or I will die I would steel myself up for the brave challenge and promise not to eat it and then I would wake in the middle of the night dying for a thick slice of cheddar and I would eat it before I gave it two seconds thought. It's amazing that people like me survive life as long as we do.

I was thinking how incredible it is that I'm sitting around getting sentimental about my son's first adult front tooth coming in. I was thinking about how most moms seem to feel that all of this babyhood goes by really fast...too fast...sobbing fast. I don't. It feels like it took a million years to get to this point. I don't see it all slipping away. I see it all before me. Max getting his first front tooth in is wonderful not because everything about my kid is wonderful (but, obviously it is), what it really means is that he made it through his earliest years alive and (so far) with all his limbs and digits still attached.

Although we do have to take him to the doctor today for some mysterious eye pain he's been feeling that reduced him to tears last night which brought on the biggest bloody nose he's had in months, it amazes me he's almost eight years old. For me the time does not go at breakneck speed. I am so anxious about parenting generally that I don't think I'll truly rest until he's an adult and I can at last say "Kid, it's all up to you now!"

Hopefully this eye thing won't turn out to be some rare disease. I may as well say that this kind of mysterious pain/illness really charges my atmosphere with apprehension. If it's possible, I've thought of it already.

So while I was listening to the song "Young Americans" I was wondering why people love that song "All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth"? As much as I'm a tooth person, that song makes my skin crawl six ways to hell. Someone played that song a lot at the Holiday Market downtown last year and I almost had a nervous breakdown over it. Why listen to such awful awful music sent by evil its self when we can all be listening to David Bowie instead?

When I listen to "Moonage Daydream" I always decide to forgive him for capping all his teeth so that he now has Hollywood teeth instead of cool teeth.

The face my boy will wear as a man is beginning to shift into place and that's pretty crazy.

Oct 21, 2008

Chickpea Rosemary Soup
Serves 6-8
Calories per 1.5 cup serving: 189


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped medium
3 carrots, chopped in 1/4" thick rounds
1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes (or 1 quart of home canned)
1 (4 oz) can of tomato paste
1 quart water
15 oz chick peas (pre-cooked)
3 cloves garlic, minced small or pressed
2 medium potatoes (any kind) diced to 1/2" cubes
2-3 fresh stems of rosemary, minced very small
1 small head cauliflower, cut into med- sm flowerets
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne


Snip the rosemary from your garden making sure to stop and take a deep breath of the pungent piney scent before returning to your kitchen. Note how nice it is to have gone to your own plant to get the freshest rosemary on earth.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over a medium high heat and throw the diced onion in. Let the onions cook (stirring frequently) until they are starting to sweat, then throw in the chopped carrots. Continue sauteing for a couple of minutes. Pour in your diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and water and stir well until the tomato paste is dissolved.

Wait until the soup comes to a simmer on medium heat, then add the chick peas, potatoes, garlic, minced rosemary, salt, and pepper. I usually put about a teaspoon of salt in but you can adjust it to your own tastes. I usually put in about ten grinds of fresh pepper.

When the potatoes are tender, add the cauliflower. Now cook until the cauliflower is tender. At the end add the dash of cayenne and stir well.

Please note: you may need to add more water as the vegetables cook depending on how thick you want the soup. If it cooks down and you want it brothier, add more water. If it's too brothy for you, let it cook down with the lid off for a while. I never measure how much water goes into the pot. I can only say that at least 1 quart goes in in the beginning.

Soup is one of the most flexible and forgiving foods. It is warming, nourishing, and easy to make. While soup certainly takes time (this one takes between 45 minutes to an hour) once everything is in the pot it's just a matter of stirring it.

You can use more rosemary than I do here if you like, or less. I always use at least two 3"-4" stems of it chopped fine. I don't like the rosemary to overwhelm the wonderful cauliflower flavor (the most delicately flavored of the cruciferous vegetables). If you don't like chick peas, use white beans. If you have celery, add a couple of chopped stems of it.

The worst mistakes to make with soup:

  • burning it
  • not adding any herbs (dried or fresh)
  • not cooking your legumes enough
  • over-salting (yes there is such a thing)
  • burning your tongue with it
  • not making any
  • over-seasoning it
  • not inviting me over for some

Next up: a rosemary marinade for roasting vegetables with.

Oct 20, 2008

Fresh Rosemary

It is cold and rainy out today with short blasts of sun through the clouds. I'm feeling tired and am fighting off a big panic attack which doesn't seem to have stemmed from any particular provocation or obsessive thoughts. So I put on some opera really loud, cut some fresh rosemary, and made soup.

That was right after cleaning out everything fuzzy and frightening from the fridge. It really bothers me when I waste food so I'm trying to keep the fridge cleaned out more frequently and eat what's in there. Never the less I found some hairy black beans, quite a few bags of liquefied vegetable matter (can no longer identify the victims), and a black spotted jar of dipping sauce.

Today all I really have for produce is cauliflower, potatoes, onions, and some little baby carrots that I try to keep around for Max just in case he'll get interested in them. While I really wanted to make some Aloo Gobi, I needed to make something I've made many times before that would use rosemary because that's what I wanted to smell and taste. I wanted soup. So I made my favorite rosemary chickpea soup with cauliflower, potatoes, chopped up baby carrots, and garlic in a tomato base. I used a jar of my diced tomatoes for it.

The kitchen smells great.

I'm drinking a cup of tea and imagining that I am in an asphyxiating awesome cloud of zen calm.

I do believe that everyone should grow rosemary in either their garden (or their window if they have no garden). Unless they hate it or are allergic to it. I never loved rosemary before I had a bowl of buttery rosemary garlic polenta at an Italian restaurant on Powell Street called Kuleto's. The rosemary they used was fresh, tender, and fragrant- everything fresh herbs should be whenever possible. I've been hooked on it ever since. Dried rosemary is only fit for making a tea bath to soak yourself in.

I am fully aware how bossy that sounds.

I'm too busy being zen to care.


Come to my house and I'll make you food with fresh rosemary that will cause you to agree with me.

Excuse me, I need to go rub my fingers on the extra rosemary stem I cut so I can keep my zen.

Oct 19, 2008

Roost Gathers Steam

This is a little pastry I made for a slow foods pot luck last Sunday. I wanted to make something that used what I already had on hand and the potluck theme was apples. I didn't have any fresh apples so I used apple sauce.

They turned out quite well but I learned a few things from my experimental pastry and before I offer this recipe up I will have to make them again to perfect it. I am going to save this for inclusion in the first issue of Roost. Since the first issue is the winter issue I think it fitting that a number of recipes be included that use home preserved goods. Or at least use the kinds of things many people do make themselves (apple sauce, pickles, etc.). That's the tricky part about preserving your own food- it's one thing to prepare something for storage but it's a whole other thing to-

a) remember to use it
b) know how to use it well
c) remember why you made cranberry flavored saur kraut

Today I will be working on my raised beds with the lumber I have remaining. I don't know how far that will take me into the project but I will take some pictures for an instructional article on making simple raised beds. This is not a project that has never been covered in print before but I have had enough people wonder how I do mine to warrant a piece on doing them my way. Because I need to finish this project in a timely way I may buy new lumber for it if needed. However, my blog friend Blaize did bring up a very good point which is that I don't look for salvaged lumber and it would be much more economical and ecologically sound if I did.

I have checked in with my local Habitat For Humanity restore and while they do have salvaged lumber, most of what I found was pressure treated. I won't use that for garden beds no matter how cheap because of the much worse chemicals used in them than are used for the regular lumber. What I haven't done is keep my eye on both Freecycle and Craig's list. So what I'm thinking is that for next year's raised bed projects I will wait to do them until I find the materials. Of course...if I could find stone or brick...oh yeah. A girl can dream, right?

But the monastery garden needs to be built and filled soon so that it is ready to plant in early spring. Since the weather is going to turn soon, time is of the essence.

Checking for used sources of supplies for projects is definitely an area I need improvement in. Thanks for the nudge Blaize! Impatience is my worst enemy when it comes to finding stuff on Craig's list or elsewhere.

So here's a little teaser for what is going to be in the first issue of Roost:
(I have each subject with the author who is writing it!)

Preserving citrus

Information about natural cleaners

How to choose hens for a small flock

Sage- herb of the season

Pantry recipes

*I have decided to go anti specific holiday. I realize that this is one of those things I do that keeps me from being a billionaire, and I'm ok with that. As Max puts it "We're hundred-aires!" and it's good to just dream of paying bills in a timely unstressful manner. I want to cater to the seasons with respect to what that means in terms of cooking, housekeeping, and raising animals. Crafts are great because we can make so many cool things ourselves but why gear it towards the holidays? I need gifts to give in exchange for other things I want and need from my friends. Gifts to give for birthdays and anniversaries are so much more personal. And sometimes giving gifts is best of all when there is no occasion for it.

Oct 18, 2008

I Haven't Changed...It's You

It's possible that some of you think I am suddenly becoming crazed and extreme in my desire to simplify my life and to save money where it is unnecessary to spend it. If this is so then you must not know my background well. I think, then it is time for a wee primer on my origins, my life as the daughter of an herbal hippie mother. The only thing my mother would probably not do is to use cloth wipes and cloth pads. But that's because she hates doing laundry. She used cloth diapers (at least with me) so I know that in concept she's totally fine with the idea.

  • I grew up with a mother who believed in going to the doctor as little as possible. Only for extreme cases did she take us in. We got our required vaccinations and that was it. When we were sick we hardly ever even got an aspirin. We got herbal tea, soup, hot baths, and bed. We almost never got antibiotics.

  • My mother grew as much as she could in her own garden. She has always had a garden and there has always been at least some herb and some vegetable growing in it. Most people we knew in Ashland Oregon did the same.

  • We kept chickens for years for the eggs and the fun of having them. Yep, chickens are damn fun animals! Although my mother (at the time) was vegetarian so we didn't butcher any of our hens or roosters, many of our neighbors butchered theirs. No one thought it was extreme to keep and eat their own animals.

  • My mom routinely made her own yogurt. Yes, you can buy it, but why buy it when you can make it for cheaper and better at home? I haven't begun making my own yogurt yet but I do make my own ricotta which is cheaper and better when I make it myself. Lots of people back then made their own yogurt. It would have disgusted almost everyone to have bought plastic tubes of blue yogurt for their kids.

  • My mother canned a lot of fruit and juice every year. She doesn't have fond memories of making the grape juice but she made the best fruit butters, sauces, and her canned spiced peaches that she got from the local farmer's market will live in my memory as one of the greatest treats of my childhood. I only wish she had written down her recipe.

  • My mother kept a clean house. Well, I always have to point out that eventually it was me who actually did most of the hard core cleaning... but she had (to my memory) only one nasty chemical cleaner in the house that she saved for only the gnarliest jobs. We always used Bon Ami to clean the bathrooms. She used Bon Ami because it doesn't have any toxic chemicals in it. She used it because her mother had always used it. What do you need Ajax for when you can use plain old chalk to do just as good of a job without poisoning your family?

  • My mom never bought antibacterial soaps. Why? Because they are really bad for you. Our country has become increasingly obsessed with a fear of germs. Regular soap and water takes care of them just fine. How do I know? Because if our home and our habits were breeding grounds for bacteria then I would have spent a lot more time being sick as a kid. Kids now get sick all the time. We got sick once a year. Antibacterial soaps are just helping the bacterias to become stronger, more virulent in nature, and harder to fight off naturally. I have never bought antibacterial soap myself and never will. The more chemicals we use to keep the bacteria at bay the more sick our country seems to be getting. Doesn't anyone else see the connection?

  • Eventually my mom got her herbalists certificate. She made ointments and first aid supplies, and tinctures herself. She gave them all to us kids too. I used her comfrey salve quite a lot and it was great. It is my mom's influence that had me making my own shampoo when I was 19 years old. It is my mom's influence that has me always growing medicinal herbs in addition to the culinary ones. She has been my inspiration for learning to make medicinal salves and lip balm. (Although I still have to perfect my lip balm before I'll be truly satisfied.)

  • My mom has used tooth powder on and off for years. She is always willing to try the natural version of any commercial product. Not all of them are as effective as could be wished. But it is always worth trying something new that is made without the use of harmful chemicals. My mom has been a trailblazer in this department. I have so many friends who, like me, are interested in finding the less toxic version of every household item, and for me my mom has been the greatest inspiration.

  • Nothing ever entered the house I grew up in that had High Fructose Corn Syrup. Nothing. OK, wait...once a year we were allowed to go trick or treating and my mom never cruelly took away our candy. But nothing came into our house that used highly processed ingredients through the usual grocery list. In fact, we never even had regular white cane sugar. We had: date sugar (not my fave), honey, and molasses. I think we once in a while had brown sugar. She did it on the principle that the more processed a food is the less good it is for our body. She actually did research on the subject. The more processed your food is, the less it has to offer your body. Period end.

  • We used cloth napkins and dishtowels growing up. We always had paper towels and paper napkins available, but I remember that we either often or always used cloth. We also used dish towels in the kitchen. In my own kitchen I use dish towels for almost everything. Less hygienic than paper towels? Not true. If you have any common sense at all you would figure out that you need to change out your dishtowels every day or every other day depending on how much you use them. I do buy paper towels, but rarely. I have very special uses for them and so I buy one roll every few months. Extreme? Life of deprivation? Hell no. Dish towels are much nicer.

  • I was raised by a woman with a strong connection to the earth, what's healthy for both us and the earth. This isn't new radical thinking, people. It is only in the past century that people have disconnected themselves from their food sources (how many of you have plucked a chicken? Ask the same question 100 years ago and nearly half of everyone you ask would say yes!) and away from common sense. It is only in the past sixty years that we have become germ obsessed to the point of making the bacteria situation way worse.

  • I was raised by a woman who was exploring all of these ideas long before me. Long before my friends. My mother, and many other people in the late sixties and seventies, were looking at the same situation we are now: the necessity to stop dependence on fossil fuel to run our society. It didn't go mainstream back then. I hope it does now. It isn't like you have to go back to the dark ages and throw your piss out your window into the streets, be sensible!

The subject of change is not one that, for me, has only come up now that everyone else is freaking out about a depression. I have been working along this path for many years now and through the influence of my mother it's more like getting back to my roots than an extreme life makeover. It's a slow process. You don't make tons of change over night. I'm not going to do cloth wipes tomorrow. I'm not ready. But I have the grace to recognize that it is not only a valid option but one that may eventually become necessary. Those who do it prefer it to scratchy toilet paper and they are quite hygienic people.

I made my own shampoo when I was nineteen using castile soap and herbs I made into a decoction myself. It was fun. My spirit came alive. I felt like a kid mixing potions from the dirt and the plants in my mom's garden. I really loved the shampoo, actually, it smelled great and felt great. It made me feel capable.

When I moved into our first house and had my very own garden for the first time in my life I found myself immediately rediscovering my mom's secrets: always plant sage. Always plant lovage. Always grow something you can eat. Always grow flowers for the birds, bees, and butterflies. It is as natural as breathing, these concepts. It took no effort for me to not plant any lawn. Every success I had felt like making another little connection with the ground under my feet. Botany, food, beauty. Are these things puritanical or crazy?

The difference between those who survive things like economic depressions and those who do not is a) common sense b) understanding the need of reciprocity* c) resourcefulness. I just read a passage of MFK Fisher's on some one's blog the other day that really struck home and I entreat you to go read it near the end of her post. Common sense is not something the people of the current generation in my country are famous for. We've lost touch. I'm lucky that I grew up the way I did. It's like coming home to make my own body products. It isn't crazy, it's better living. It also happens to save you money in a lot of cases.

So, for me, this economic downturn is just another excuse, (as if I needed any), to refocus my efforts on making my household more natural and less resource sucking than ever before. It is merely offering me the inspiration to redouble my efforts to simplify and learn more of what I've already been learning and doing for years now. I haven't changed, it's a lot of people around me who are changing, or refusing to change.

Like the people who refused to leave the mountain when Mt. St. Helens erupted, those who refuse change now will suffer more than those who embrace it early before the fire really touches them.

My previous post offers a way to narrow down different things you can tackle. It isn't an entreaty to do all these things right now. In fact, it isn't an entreaty at all. I'm not making more than half those changes right now myself. But the first step to making change is to recognize where change can be made.

If all you do this year is stop using toxic chemicals to clean your house you will have made great strides in improving the health of both your family and the earth.

I have already made that step so I'm on to the next one.

It isn't being extreme to make these changes, it's extreme to make none.

*Reciprocity is necessary to get along in tough times. Sharing resources with your neighbors. Trading eggs for fabric, or sharing tools...people have depended on it for thousands of years. It is how we help each other through rough times. When we pool what we have we have a lot more. Although this is the concept behind "Communes" which I think are an awful way to live. It is entirely possible to have your own home but still practice being a great asset to your local community and share your resources with your neighbors. I only lived in a commune until I was five years old but it has left an indelible bitter impression in my spirit. So I believe in fostering communal support without communal living.

Oct 17, 2008

America Feels The Heat

It seems to have finally hit America that our old comfortable life by the cabbana is not particularly going to cut it in this new world that is starting to feel a little like the world our Grandparents love to discuss after a greasy Thanksgiving dinner. Talk of paring down our purchasing habits is spreading across the airwaves like wild California fires. Some people have even gotten rid of their house boys.

If it takes a depression to get our asses moving then I'm happy we're headed towards this tough financial period as a nation. Personally I have already gone through my own personal depression and as I try to figure out how to deal with my credit card debt it is clear that we are far from out of the woods.

So. What to do? I'll start by saying that I do not cut coupons. Coupons, in case I didn't mention them on my extensive list of anxieties, make me anxious. I have coupon phobia. I hate them. It's why I didn't last for more than one shift at Safeway. I'm not kidding.

The first three customers came up clutching fistfuls of coupons for different products, or the same products bearing different bar codes which are only good with the matching coupon, and there were coupons that added value to other coupons but only if the weight of the product is the 11oz version, and then there were the coupons that canceled out some (but not all) of the competitor's deals, but some of those are only valid if you buy on Tuesdays and bring your dead mother with you for proof of age.

When the following two customers came up clutching their own enormous handfuls of coupons I was already planning my resignation. My palpitations were very bad that day. I believe that coupons kill people slowly over the years of paper cuts and a thick lust for saving 28 cents at a time. I think coupons are addictive like gambling. What I think is: if you want to give me a deal, just give me a god damn deal. I'm not your monkey.

So no coupons.

I have been reading a lot of great ideas on other people's blogs and it has got me thinking that one way to approach saving money is by making a grocery list, including the monthly household purchases you make, and look at it hard. Look at it like you're a serious Russian Author. (Yes, I mean: with a bottle of Vodka by your side. It's the only way.) I'm sure that if you need help picturing this I can do an informative self portrait by Sunday illustrating my point with my newly whacked out eyebrows.*

The next thing to do is figure out what you can start making yourself for cheaper. Here are a number of common grocery list items that can be made for cheaper than you can usually buy them:

lip balm
toilet paper
menstrual pads
air freshener
Clorox wipes
canned beans

Those are just some examples. Now find out if you can make any of these things on your own to help the environment and or your budget. I cheated, I only put down things that I know can be produced at home for cheaper. I know you're thinking "Impossible!" C'mon. Play. Imagine.

Toothpaste: using baking soda and salt is how people were caring for their teeth long before Crest and its ilk came along. Personally, I love the toothpaste I use (Tom's Of Maine which is now Tom's of Crest). I loathe the sensation of baking soda in my mouth. However. My toothpaste costs me between $3.98 a tube and $4.98 a tube. Which lasts roughly two weeks with two of us using the same kind. Baking soda is sold bulk at my cheap store for 5o cents a pound. A POUND. A pound of baking soda could clean a whole hell of a lot of teeth. So I have been trying to brave up to make the change.

Shampoo: baking soda made into a paste. You can read about it here. Baking soda bulk is really cheap (see above) and apparently it performs a whole lot of great household tasks. Plus it's nontoxic which you can't actually say of most shampoos. Even the ones that claim to be natural.

Lip balm: You can buy a bar of bees wax, get some sweet almond oil, and make a hell of a lot more lip balm than you can buy for the same price. At some point I'll be organized enough to cost it all out officially for you. Because you have to make so much at once generally, this is a great project to do with friends and split the cost. Or, make a bunch and store them in a very cool dry place and they will keep for a long time.

Toilet Paper: Don't use any. Yep. Don't use any at all. Instead make yourself cloth wipes. I know that people (like me) generally can't grasp this concept all at once. It requires some serious thought. I have two good friends who do not use toilet paper any more and only have it in their homes as a kindness to less advanced guests like myself. I have to say that if I can get my whole household in better order so that I feel some sense of calm I might be able to do this. Read all about how it's done here. Maybe it seems wild but it's not. How long have we all been using toilet paper? Not that long actually.

Menstrual pads: Another item that can be made from cloth. Wash them. Use them again. I may not be ready for cloth wipes but I am ready for cloth pads. Every month I buy some and it isn't exactly the cost that bothers me but the waste. Although, why not save the $4.00 every month? I have been meaning to do this for a while and what keeps getting in my way is the general chaos of my sewing room and house. This is one I plan to tackle before my next cycle.

Air Freshener:
Dudes...it's called OPEN THE WINDOWS. Even if you live in a frigid region you should open your windows for brief periods of time to let in fresh air. It is what we need most of all to keep a house fresh. But if you insist on using a spritzer- make it out of water and essential oils. Shake it up and spray. Don't use that creepy bottled crap because a) it smells super creepy and b) the ingredients are going to contribute to your death.

Sponges: This is a weakness of mine. I love sponges. I am very particular about them too. I love the Scotch brand yellow ones with the scrubbie on the back. But this is still a cost. And I don't use them until they are black with grime. The obvious answer is to use dish clothes. They last longer, can be washed in the washer, and you can make them yourself. I'm not ready for this but I could eliminate it from my shopping list and I will... as soon as I get over my fixation.

Clorox wipes: These are evil incarnate. Yes, I have lambasted them. They are squares of synthetic material soaked in toxic chemicals. Don't wipe your house or children with them. Unless you wish to do them damage. You don't need wipes. Clean dish clothes are just as good for wiping down surfaces and children. Or plain wash cloths. Just stop buying these. Waste of money.

Ricotta: I no longer buy it. For a 15 oz container of it I have to pay at least $4.00. But I can buy good quality local milk for $2.69. It takes little effort or time to make ricotta. And when I make it myself it tastes better.

Canned beans: Buy bulk dried beans. They are easy to fix. Busy? Find a crock pot at the thrift store and put your beans in there while you're at work (on low, with lots of water) and when you get home they'll be ready for you to use. A can of beans generally costs at least 50 cents (usually more for me). You can buy beans bulk for the same price per pound and get four times the amount of beans for the price. Without using a single coupon.

Herbs: I do buy spices when I need them but I rarely buy herbs anymore. I grow them. And then I dry them. It costs me about $2.69 for each thyme plant and I usually grow four or five of them and use it fresh when I need it and dry the rest twice a year. The plants generally last a few years in my climate. I also grow rosemary, sage, tarragon, oregano, and marjoram.

There is so much we can do ourselves. I'm getting inspired by all the gloom out there to make change and I really hope it makes everyone else stop and think too. It isn't about "doing without" so much as it's about taking better care of ourselves for less money. Most of the solutions to spending less are also solutions to wasting and polluting less. What would life without luxuries be? I agree. But what meaning is there to luxury if we have it all the time?

I'm not proposing to make my life more difficult or unfun, the truth is, doing these things for ourselves and making these kinds of changes are mostly fun. Some of you won't believe me unless you try it for yourself. Obviously I'm going to write here about things I try. It's what I do. And if I try something and it's a disaster, I promise not to sugar coat it for you. The magazine (Roost) will also have lots of great information in it on making some of the things I've mentioned here because I have several amazing contributors.

Let's all reinvent ourselves as amazing capable tough people able to get through rough times with a sense of humor and with our teeth still in our mouths.

Well, it's time to get in my jammies and watch some CSI.

*I get my hair cut and my brows waxed about four times a year and I have been meticulously letting my eyebrows get wider because a few years ago they were waxed to thin by a pencil-brow whore. My trauma was severe. I do not look nice with thin brows. I only like them to be cleaned up so they are less HAIRY. Well, today they have been made super thin and it is humiliating to think that people will think I think my brows look great. Ironically, I generally get a crappy haircut and today my haircut was pretty good.

Oct 16, 2008

These Dirty Hands

I want to end this day with something like an elegant word. I feel one chapter in my life slipping away in a long sigh, like a hypochondriac finally being permanently admitted to the emergency room, it has somehow been validated by the amount of pain I have experienced in it's grip. Some chapters you want to have last forever, like the one in which Mr. Rochester is under the tree in the dark with Jane and talking of those threads holding them together. I never want that one to end.

But this passing chapter, this period of time we have lived through and wept through and literally limped through is one that I would like to kick in the ass on it's way out.

My son cracked my nose with his knee today during a wresting match I was trying not to have and it hurt so bad I almost cried. My nose bled and I was trying not to vomit or cry from the pain and when I saw the look on Max's face I assured him that I was fine. But that I might have to cry. And he said "You cry when you get hurt?" I said that I sometimes do. Then he said "Like you cried about money?"

This is something he'll remember for the rest of his life. The day that crap-ass incident with the "Knitting Junkie" t-shirts happened I broke down and howled and cried like I hadn't cried in a very long time. I shook my fists at the universe and said I'd had enough of being beaten down.

My kid almost never sees me cry. Hardly anyone ever sees me cry. If I cry in front of people I want to die afterwords. I want to hurt myself and cast myself out of contact with humans. I feel the most intense shame for crying. I lash out meanly at innocent bystanders sometimes. I become gruff and feral. So Max saw me crying in the kitchen and wanted to know what it was about. I had to explain it to him.

In fact, the worst thing about not knowing at any time if you're going to lose your house and your belongings and all hope is having this be something like a shadow over your child's head. Children shouldn't have to worry about such things but reality is that if parents are worried about something all the time their kids will know. If you think they don't then you're an idiot and probably half blind.

So when I say I'm happy to see this chapter easing its vice grip from around our throats I say it with the most urgent sincerity. It isn't as though everything is suddenly easy. Because it's not. Right now there are bills I can't afford to pay. Yet. They will be paid late. It will take time to untangle the mess this last few years has left us in. But the difference is that I can feel the change in the air. I can smell the end of this sewer.

I can feel this change in my bones and skin. I have never wanted to get to the bottom of my laundry pile more than I do right now. To set up my guest bedroom. To unpack my boxes. To actually clean the woodwork. I want to paint the walls in my house and actually put the linens in the linen closet. I want to clean everything out and shape everything up.

Depression and anxiety make bones feel like they are filled with lead. Over two hundred pieces of lead held together by adrenaline spiked veins, muscle, and skin. Your mind chooses constant flight because of the shoddy nervous system's false messages of danger but it can't get anywhere because of the heap of heavy metal your bones have become. In fact, it's exactly like doing a speed-ball. I'm not even going to tell you how I actually know this. And you aren't going to ask me. All I can say is that if people want to feel like I do all the time for recreation, they are piss-idiots and I will happily trade nervous systems with them.

Then again, maybe not. We'd probably have to trade brains too and frankly, if feeling like a hunted antelope in a mastodon's body is what someone wants to do for fun, I don't think I want any of their equipment.

When life gets easier, when the energy is flowing downstream with the rest of the world and the air is carrying with it that great breath of change, even depression can't resist letting its grip slip every so slightly. Enough that I find myself dusting furniture that I haven't cleaned in months. Everything gets just enough easier that I can make use of what time I actually have.

For this reason I hope you will all pardon me if the first issue of Roost is a little late making its debut. I have begun a cleaning of my house, the great unpacking, dusting, vacuuming, and tidying that I've been not doing well or regularly for three years. My house is feeling the same love I am. It is speaking back to me. It's asking for a little care. It's telling me that while the weight is lifted to please put it in some kind of order. Because the better order I get it in now the easier it will be to ride out the next storm.

I'm a realist. (Believe it or not). There is always a next storm. A next war. A next family fight. Another catastrophe.

Because life is a dirty affair.

And that's really what I wanted to say this evening. That my hands are always dirty. There is always dark dirt under my nails from canning jam, processing vegetables, picking fruit, digging in the dirt, grappling with dust, planting plants, feeding chickens, playing with glue and paper, or smeared with blood from my kid's bloody noses* or from sewing until I've made my fingers into pin pitted messes. I don't have a lady's hands. I have a worker's hands.

I love a beautiful hand. I would enjoy having hands with gorgeous (but natural) nails, skin as soft as a newborn's belly, and delicate like my sister's hands which might be the most beautiful I've ever seen.

But I have the hands I was born with. I like them. I like what they do. I like what they accomplish. I like how they find joy sometimes before my eyes do. I like how they care for me when I'm sick and how they don't mind being covered with my baby's spit and shit. I like how they can sometimes fashion beautiful food for my husband and also care for his sickbed by changing all the sheets and opening the casements wide to let in the fresh air. I like how they can use thread to bind fibers together. I like how they can tackle repetitive actions like birds flying south through the night.

I think the earth is ever moving. I think it moves through me as much as it moves through you. We are all like the soil, connected to rock, vegetation, and spirit, through hands. Our hands grab fistfuls of it and every cell vibrates. If we sit very still. If we let the whole world sit very still with us, our fingers will tell us everything.

I'd like to think that I'm under the canopy of good fortune again. I want to trust that this isn't like spring break: fleeting beer-soaked abandon ending in the reality of failed finals and unwanted venereal diseases.

I'd like to think that canopy of good fortune is one that spreads and shares and divides itself between us all.

Note: My friend Riana has a post about why many of us might be experiencing a fresh start right now. Also, my friend Kelly has a wonderful Flickr project about hands- check it out and consider adding to her great gallery of hands doing amazing things and looking beautiful!

*Thankfully he's getting fewer of them so that I go several days at a time completely forgetting what it used to be like.

Oct 15, 2008

Comfort Finds Us

When I had my baby, almost eight years ago, I imagined my world was going to change. I mean, doesn't every parent look forward to having their world rocked by this new experience called "parenthood"? Yeah, but what I didn't know was that I was going to go from getting sick once a year to being sick pretty much ALL THE TIME. It is definitely unfair that I also started developing seasonal allergies at the same time that went undiagnosed for the first two years of constant doctor's visits.*

Not all mothers experience this, but many do: you get sick every time your baby does. Which totally sucks because they have to catch up to you with their immune system and literally have to catch EVERYTHING.

For almost seven years I caught everything Max did and also had to deal with seasonal allergies which are a lot like getting constant mini-colds. Then a little over a year ago, nothing remarkable happened. And continued to not happen.

I didn't get sick. Not for a whole year. I was too depressed and anxious to truly appreciate that absence of bronchitis and the flu and strep, which is par for the course. But it slowly dawned on me that my 8-9 yearly colds had diminished.

Well, now Philip has a nasty chest cold, and I will probably get it too. This is always much worse for people with serious asthma than it is for the rest of us. He stayed home from work which is a true indication of how bad he is feeling because the man has a very hard time admitting to being sick.

So with hardly any teasing at all I made sure that my Camille in training got some good soothing comfort food. Luckily neither of us finds beans hard to digest. I served Philip some black bean stew with fresh cilantro over a layer of mashed Golden Hubbard squash with salt, pepper, and butter. I made it look super pretty so I could show you how amazing my culinary skills are.

Then I slopped some in a bowl for myself. Because I've been getting extra personal around here lately, I figured, why not show you my petticoats in the kitchen? Yes, I slop things in bowls for myself. This picture is not posed. In fact, I wasn't going to show you the underpinnings but when I saw how I had practically thrown my mashed squash in the bowl with bits oozing out it made me laugh and I thought you might enjoy seeing what a true slob I am at heart.

I ran a bunch of errands and then, when I returned home I made some soup. Not just any soup but some unphotogenic soup. The kind that frightens colds away and warms your body from the inside out. I made a curried winter squash soup with coconut milk, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers. My mouth is still burning from it and I feel empowered, like my alter ego could be named...

...(Nothing leaps to mind)...**

I don't know if I'm going to get this nasty chest cold or not. I've decided that if I do, I'm going to have a great attitude about it because there's nothing I can do to stop it besides eat well, sleep well, and get through it. I'll still have to work and it's OK. The fall is beautiful. Spicy Thai soup is the best remedy for the encroaching cold (though remedy implies that I don't want it to come, which I do!). Things around here are mending and healing on a cellular level. That's way more important than a stupid painful gut-aching sleep depriving virus.


Go eat good food and don't get sick, OK?

*The doctors laughed at me for thinking something was wrong because I was sick all the time. They'd say "But you have a baby, right?" and then "Well, you have a toddler...right?" Because that obviously explains the constant swollen throat.

**That is a bald faced lie. What leaped into my mind was "...Ginger Power Unincorporated!!..." but I immediately thought "Boy am I glad I didn't say that out loud!".