July 22nd, 2015

Something funny happened yesterday during my lunch break. We were at the shop, where I got to touch tools I’ve never used before, like random orbital sanders and hammer drills, and many I have, like your basic drills, circular saws.


Answer: Because I only needed one of those one time.

So pragmatic! sigh]

As another aside, I’m That Guy. I saw that some scrap lumber had nails it in and I gently pointed it out to the shopmaster before we lined up to do practice cuts on it with the compound miter saw.

“Is it okay if the wood has nails in it?” I asked, as if I didn’t know the answer.

“It’s okay, it’s just the one, on the opposite end,” he said. Cue sparks flying when my first classmate in line started to make a cut. “Okay, thank you,” he said to me. I also “fixed” the drywall saw when it was stuck in third gear by realizing that the torque couldn’t be shifted unless it was on a neutral setting.

This all sounds very braggy, YES, but it’s a relief that the knack I have for noticing potential trouble and intuiting how interfaces are supposed to work is carrying over into tool world. In tech world I always amazed my trainers at how fast I would pick up how UIs worked and would discover new functionality. (All hail the church of the Feckless Button Mashers.) I don’t think I’m magical or anything–this is just a strength I have. I’m hoping this will keep me out of trouble on job sites. I think it’s kept me alive longer than it should have, at any rate.

Anyway, something that amused me–during lunch yesterday, a woman in her 20s who reminds me, appearance-wise, of a young Sandra Bullock, brought in homemade cookies to share with everyone. This was me just a couple of short years ago, so I totally get her. I used to leave cookies or cake or whatever somewhere and let people know about it. If they wanted to partake, cool, if not, also cool. Me like bake. Sugar make human happy.

This is where Sandra and my paths in the woods diverge, however. She approached me as I was finishing my lunch and thrust out a container of cookies.


“No, thank you,” I said. Now that I am old I run out of the gate without dithering or explaining myself.

“Why not?” This was a new one. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to turn down a cookie.

“I have Celiac disease,” I said. “And some other allergies.”

“SJ’s complicated,” my seatmate chimed in. She’s a tech world refugee as well, close to my age, also with kids. She gets food issues.

“Well what do you eat?” Sandra demanded.

“Meat and vegetables, really,” I said.

“Like a Paleo?”

“Yes, I am a Paleo.” I was laughing inside. I want to get a shirt with this on. But I was glad she got what I do.

“I can make you Paleo cookies!” she said. I was becoming a challenge.

“Uh. Well, thanks, but if you use wheat in your kitchen at all I probably can’t eat anything made there. And I don’t really eat sugar unless it’s a really special occasion.”

Like Monday night, when my sister came to dinner and P. made her a little chocolate birthday cake topped with fresh berries. YUM. I don’t think I’ve had cake since May or before. It was amazing. I can wait til the next birthday now.

Sandra had also chided me earlier that day for turning down some plums midmorning. I feel like such an asshole every time I open my mouth about my diet so I really wait until I’m asked. Again she brought the “WHY.”

“I’m still full from breakfast,” I said.

“It’s just one plum!”

“I’m not really a snacker,” I said, regretting it instantly.

“Snacking is good for you! It ups your metabolism,” she told me.

I just nodded. As long as I’m still losing weight at a steady pace, I don’t really feel like I need to resort to any tricks to “boost” my metabolism. I feel great with limited sugar and I think my body and I are doing fine on our own. I suspect I haven’t heard the last from Sandra about what or how I should be eating, though.

“The only thing Columbus discovered was that he was lost!”

July 19th, 2015

Windom Earle: Garland, what do you fear most… in the world?
Major Briggs: The possibility that love is not enough.

Time is zipping along right now. I’m getting into week four of hammer club this week, and this is where it lets up a little. At first we were kind of immersed, going five days a week, and now it will ease off to three days, which is great with me.

In the second week we visited the cement masons, and had a day of work with an older vet and a guy around my age who’d been working with concrete for half of his life now. I was pretty sure going into it that I didn’t want to be a mason, and I left thinking the same. The guys were really nice, and showed some onsite GoPro footage about what it has been like pouring slab at the ass crack of dawn in the to-be Amazon buildings downtown. They did let it slip that the men in their org pour the slab, while the women were downstairs, patching what had already been poured. I know it’s inevitable sometimes, but I don’t want to spend eight hours a day cleaning up mistakes or what was missed. Working outside before and as the sun comes up sounds like a dream, though, really. I guess the die was cast when I got my first job at 15 as a papergirl.

We were all shoveling sand and rocks, and moving wheelbarrows around. I volunteered to slit open a bag of cement to pour into the mixer. It was fine, like mochi flour, and I was overzealous when I picked up the bag halves, and the cement went POOF and coated my chest and went into my eyes, past my safety glasses. I felt ridiculous, like a child, having to admit that I had cement in my eyes and being led off to the sink and air hose by the nice older mason. He and I talked baking and children; he has daughters, too. The ladies and I made stepping stones with our mixed concrete, and that was fun, but has very little to do with things like pouring slab day-to-day.

After troweling and beveling the edges, the next step was to lay a stencil and color the top of the stepping stone. I thought the provided brick stencil pattern looked very boring, so I made my own out of a cardboard doughnut that I cut into a spiky sun shape. “The warranty’s off yours,” the younger mason told me. I sprinkled powdered pigment on the top of the concrete, over the top of my bespoke stencil, and worked it in with my trowel. When I pulled it off it looked marvelous and weird among my classmate’s staid brick patterns. “Rebel,” the woman next to me said, and smiled. She’s a football player with a high fade and heavy gold chains.

Both of the masons shook their heads. “You’re speechless,” I said. “You’re amazed.” I got silent high fives for that. I know they didn’t want me, and I don’t want them, so I’m glad I could inject a little amusement into their day of leading hammer club through its paces. I need to remember to bring my camera places. I might as well–I couldn’t feel more out of place really. I don’t care.

Last week we spoke to the electricians, and I didn’t get anything into my eyes, so things were looking up there. I bent and cut conduit and worked with wire. This week we’re going up North to visit the sheet metal workers, and we get two days in the shop to have a serious introduction to a large variety of tools. Our shop time is supposed to culminate in a project that we get to keep. I’m going to make a storage bench with small spaniel stairs for the end of the bed. Even if they choose not to use it all the time now, I think it will become valuable to them in the next ten years.

This weekend Franny and I are making a big push to finish our Twin Peaks costumes. She is doing a lot of painting and I am doing a lot of assembling. I need to and will finish tonight, since I have “school” this week. Franny has more time to paint and dick around if she needs it. She’s grounded for busting curfew recently and is working on a lot of art as a result. Her boyfriend is writing her letters since I’ve got her phone on ice, which I think is actually very sweet. My sister is quietly delighted that Franny will not have her phone next weekend when we’re out of town together. I blabbed this to Franny and she said, “Well I wouldn’t be texting the WHOLE time. This is a special trip.”

I know I should be running the drill myself this weekend, but I like working with P. so I tend to just hold the wood while he runs it. I am doing sawing and general assembling, which is fun. P. is invaluable for consulting with, since I’m not working with any existing plans. I think without him I would tend to overbuild, and I need my costume to be as light as is reasonable, while not falling apart. It’s a lot more fun than building the beehives, to be honest, since there was a lot of, “Oh god, actual creatures need to live here once we’re done” and it was funny angled boxes that needed to be pretty perfect. So the costumes–I’ll publish the pictures on Friday, here and Flickr, before we skate out of town that morning.

This year’s festival marks the 25 year anniversary of the show, so it’s slated to run through Monday, instead of just Fri-Sun. On Monday I’ll be missing my forklift certification, which is unfortunate, but I don’t think it will hurt me in the long run. Yah-tah! I’ll be back soon.

ABV Always be vigilant

July 5th, 2015

Compared to the usual, things have been very exciting around here this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOVE boredom. Super into it. But a couple of things actually happened.

I got up early on Friday and fed the chickens and made coffee. I heard a car running outside the fence and peeked over–there was a sedan, running, empty, with the windshield wipers intermittently flapping. P. was actually wearing pants so I sent him outside the fence to investigate.

“It’s stolen,” he said. “The ignition is completely gone.”

Nightmere basking in the morning sun in the chicken pen

We called the cops and an officer came shortly afterwards, and told me that the car had already been reported as stolen. It turns out the owners were right up the street, because a man and woman walked up a few minutes later. Franny espied on what they were saying–they had last seen the car at 8 p.m. and had gone to bed later, and it was gone in the morning. They got in and drove their running, ignitionless car home. It still had half a tank of gas (I looked).

There’s been some progress with the bees. Somehow, we lost our first queen in the orange hive. It’s very possible that we crushed or drowned her, or maybe she up and died on her own. We could tell things were going wrong, because one week they were pretty mad, and then the population began dropping, and the only new bees being produced were drones. This means you have laying workers.

It’s kind of cool if you think about it. No queen equals no fertililzed eggs being laid (fertilized eggs result in girl bees). So the workers take over and create as many boys as possible, which will then go out and hopefully spread their genetics with a queen in another hive. Nature is smarter than just waiting for everyone to die. This condition is commonly referred to as a “colony of lost boys.”

However, you can maybe help turn things around if you have a “queenright” hive. We pulled bars with open larvae out of the healthy orange hive for three weeks in a row, brushed the adult orange hive bees off, and inserted that bar in between existing bars in the ailing purple hive.

Miraculously this can do a few things. The larvae emit a scent that smells like a queen and can suppress laying in the workers. The workers are aware they are missing a queen, so they accept the open larvae, and raise them up to be a new queen. Old hands say this process of adding new bars can take 3-4 weeks before things get corrected again. In the meantime we knew we were providing the purple hive with already capped cells filled with girl worker bees, which would hatch and help nurse new bees and feed the hive. Bees accept unhatched bees as their own.

Yesterday, on the third week after we had begun Operation Purple Queenright, we found many queen cups, which are special cells workers build when they are creating a new queen. Possibly the first strong queen to hatch took over. She then races around and kills any other hatching queens.

So there they were as we peeped in–hatched queen cups. They look like they have little porch roofs over the cells, unlike worker cells (flat) or drone cells (domed).

Here’s a close up of what was happening:

The arrow on the left points to a vacated queen cup. Worker cells are flatter. As a bonus, you can see an emerging worker bee. This is what I meant by the bonus influx of workers you get from sharing bars among hives. So, already in this first year I am very happy to have two hives. Three might be ideal, but that adds a half hour a week to maintenance, and I am not sure we’re ready for that just yet.

The weather is causing the bees to beard (aka “hang out on porch”) in the afternoon to cool things off. We are doing the same.

I bought a silly pool from the drug store.

We’re getting highs in the low 90s here, so the garden is doing great.

1. Zucchini; 2. Tomatoes; 3. Shiso; 4. Thai basil; 5. Lemon cucumber; 6. Italian basil

This morning I woke up to Strudel on the couch.


“Oh lord. Was it big?”


Uh oh. We did some investigating and I found poo behind her bed, which did not actually look like rat poo to me. I brought the dogtectives in. Strudel had slammed her door shut, and if the rat was truly as large as she described, it was probably still trapped in there.

Edith found the poo and gave it a good sniffing.

“Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, this is definitely poo, Mother” she said.

“Find Squirrel, Edith!” I said, hopefully. Extrapolation has never been her strong suit.

“Yes, Mother, I have found this amazing poo that you have seen and discovered on your own and it smells weird. My job is done here.”

I called in Det. Horace, who had been sent out to take a morning wee first. He inspected the poo.


Within thirty seconds, had had tracked the rat to under a dresser. P. sighed and got some gloves and tongs (?), not knowing what he would encounter. He emerged with a baby possum that was the size of a large rat.

“A cat definitely brought this in,” he said.

“Put it in our sucky neighbor’s yard!” I said. He did not. Det. Horace got a raise!!

Franny made a wee card. She said this is what you get when you die.

I love it!

The No 1 Ladies Hammer Agency

July 3rd, 2015

Today Morgan and the girls and I went downtown to buy spices. I went a little apeshit (nigella AND sumac) and Morgan went more practical. She’s getting into vegetables too, and that means SPICES. I suggested a field trip since we both have the day off. Everywhere we went people talked to us like we were tourists, of course, since it is high tourist season here.

A young guy with those nice evil “v” eyebrows at Pike Place made me feel a mango.

“FEEL this mango.”

“Okay,” I said, giving it a halfhearted pat like you would to a guinea pig recovering from mange. I was not going to be roped in to his bullshit.

“How was that, EH? EH?”

“It was okay.”

“Listen to this one!” he said about me, as if I was being clever.

“I’ve felt a lot of mangoes.” I just wanted to get my lettuce and to GTFO.

Someone else at a pawn shop asked us if we were tourists as well, of course. I am still on my mission to find those rapper name plate necklaces from the 80s. Where did they go?

“Were they melted down or what?” I asked the clerk behind the counter. He was quite rotund and looked sweaty even in the cool AC.

“That’s what I would do with them,” he said. I didn’t expect him to know or anything.

“Remember when we had lunch at that one place with Mom and some sketchy dudes wanted to pay for our lunch and you got mad?” my sister asked me. That sounded like me.

“Man, no,” I said. “I am such a jerk.”

“Well, it was really shady. Who does that! Mom was all delighted and you were all HELL NO.” I have taken the adage about free lunches to heart, I think.

I had to say that I actually had completely forgotten about it, and it only sounded vaguely familiar. I have blocked a lot of stuff that happened with our mother in my 20s out, and I think that might have been the very beginning of my memory really going sideways. I just have no interest in storing those memories I guess. It’s funny, though, that it was another time when our mother was taking things one way and I was demonstrating a completely different set of behavior and values. Morgan came down on my side.

I bought the girls slushy apple cider and was assured that it was 100% apple cider before I paid. I helped Strudel get her lid on and some slush dripped onto my fingers, maybe half a teaspoon. I licked it off without thinking about it. Strudel drank the whole thing down happily, as did her sister. I started feeling funny about an hour after we arrived home–what I call “balloon head on a string.”

“How are you feeling, Strudel?” I asked.

“Urgh. Bad. My stomach hurts and I’m spacey.” Shit. Franny is feeling unwell too. I think corn is the most likely suspect right now. I am sad to be corned this weekend. This is hard to write and I have found countless typos and poor grammar. I am sure I will leave some in.

I quick pickled a bunch of asparagus recently.

I’m not crazy about it so I haven’t tasted it. I am told it is “less Victorian than usual,” which probably means I backed off on the allspice a bit.

Edith is on a reducing program on the vet’s advice. About six months ago our vet said she was getting into the chubby zone. Not dangerous, but a good time to stop feeding her pecans, her favorite.

It may be hard to see here, but she has a bit of loose skin now.

Strudel is having a good summer of mostly boredom, and hanging with a friend who just moved a few blocks closer. She came into my bedroom and told me that she’s “a tween now.” Followed up with, “I’m going to go paint my toenails.” She is off to Celiac sleepaway camp at the beginning of August.

You may ask yourself, “What is this idiotic posing?” I started my class this week (Monday) and today is a holiday, thank god. I got my protective gear and boots right away. I think I am ready to apply for my chosen trade but I am keeping an open mind about the others we’re exploring, in case I want to apply for them too. I don’t want to be more specific because I am a tiny bit superstitious about counting chickens.

It’s nice to be back in class. I don’t want to be an eternal student, but I am ready to learn something new, which is what a trade is in the beginning. I am kind of thinking of it as paid collage.


I’m enjoying getting to know the ladies in my group. There’s youngsters and I think there’s a couple older than me. I don’t say much because I mostly just want to listen. They all have incredible stories about what they’ve done. Women with records (Our teacher: “Trades don’t care.”), women who are currently in shelters, past homelessness, women who live with their parents with their children, women with past lives in many other careers and jobs. There’s stories about dire warehouse jobs, wage theft, being pushed around by corporations, and life-changing motorcycle accidents. There’s even a Microsoft refugee with two children close to my age and of course talking to her was very familiar.

During the OSHA class, the teacher started doing some L&I payroll tax shit on the whiteboard that involved simple calculations.

“Who has a calculator?” she asked. I started doing them in my head and calling out the answers before the person with a calculator on her phone could get an answer. “Who’s good at math?” the teacher said, turning around to see who was answering. I raised my hand. No one has ever said that to me before.

So far I’ve gotten an OSHA 10 cert, first aid/CPR, and practice doing mock interviewing. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t hate interviewing. I’m just used to 1-5 hour loops, not 15 minutes, which is what I have to make a pitch to the committees I’ll be facing this fall when I graduate. There’s going to be math, but it’s easier than what I’ve done so far on my own. Some of it’s amazing and some of it’s kind of time filling. We literally run stairs almost every day, and it’s killing me, carrying this twenty-pounds-extra caboose. I’m doing really well, though, and losing at least a pound a week. I’m looking forward to job site visits and shop days (I’m going to build a bench).

Sometimes I want to not pay attention in class and just interview all the women all day, students and the guest teachers, and find out about their histories and lives. We keep being asked “why I’m here” and I want to say “because I got sick and almost died and when I could walk again I found out I could run and do math.” This is weird, so instead I say Career Change and I Like Math.

I wired this today and they all work, just some of the bulbs are burned out. These are the original ceiling light fixtures from the rec room downstairs. P. has implanted them into the wall and we will panel around them and put the brass and frosted glass covers back on, and then they will be ~arty vintage mood lighting~. My idea.

Mal Mots avec Franny: Franny In Revolt

June 16th, 2015

On Friday Franny came home and apologized for being late, and said she was exhausted. She had been told that day that she was going to help with the school’s packing efforts in service of their site move into their former building, now refurbished, for next school year. Her advisor told her that she would not be able to register for her classes next year if she didn’t, because the packing counted toward her required community service totals. So she had stayed behind packing for two hours after her classes ended.

My antenna went up. “Didn’t you already take two classes this year that count toward community service?” I asked. She was DJing at a very small local station and helping out with a school for kids with developmental disabilities.

“Yes,” she said.

“Hmm…I’m just going to shoot a little email to the Superintendent’s office clarifying if this is a district policy.”

I didn’t have a problem with her packing. Not at all. I think it would be/is good for her for a few reasons. I didn’t care for the way it was presented as a threat, at the last minute, and I felt uncomfortable with the reliance on student labor. The whole thing just screamed “future unnecessary lawsuit,” which. C’mon school district. You don’t need that. (NOT to be filed by me, I will add.)

I sent the email on a Friday afternoon (CC’ing the ombudsman’s office) explaining the situation. I asked if this was official policy because I was concerned about Franny being barred from registering from classes her sophomore year. I heard nothing back, which was fine. I had made my attempt.

Yesterday Franny’s classes ended and she made ready to start four hours of packing when the principal and her advisor cornered her. She called me afterwards because she was grumpy and this is what she said happened.

“I got an email from your mom. I heard she complained about you having to pack,” the principal said.

“She sent an email asking the Superintendent if I was going to be prevented from registering for classes if I didn’t pack,” she replied. I’m sure the SI’s office forwarded my email to the principal, so he knows exactly what I said. I figured if I sent it right to him it would disappear.

He asked her a few more questions and she told him to talk to me. “She’s the one who sent the email,” she said.

“I will email her, then,” he said. No reply yet. I don’t care either way.

Franny said once she wouldn’t discuss her thoughts with them on the matter, they double teamed her with some jive about building community and being a family.

“That is a thing people say when they want you to do something onerous and be quiet about it.” I told her about one of my first jobs in Seattle where someone tried that on me to build a case against a coworker who was suspected of stealing. “Anyone who is paid to spend time with you is not actually your family,” I said.

“It’s like they try to get close to you and get you to tell them your secrets so they can pull this shit on you,” she said.

“Manipulation?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She is very sensitive to manipulation.

“Do you want to leave?”

“I should stay.”

A vile person once told me that there is a Buddhist principle (and I am sure this is mangled) about giving of yourself or your time. And about how if you can give it freely, it’s a gift, but if you’re going to resent it terribly, it’s probably not worth it. It has a price. At this point it was obvious that it was volunteerism presented under false pretenses, and I thought it was her choice if she gave of herself or not. I shared this thought with her and she said she would stay. No problem. I told her I was proud of the way she had handled them coming at her.

She came home after six, exhausted, and while we were in the middle of Monday Night Dinner with my sister on the patio. “I feel like my spine is going to crawl out of my back,” Franny said.

I threw Buddhism for Assholes out the window and intervened.

“I forbid you to go tomorrow,” I said. “There. Your mom is being a Crotchasaurus Rex and will not let you stay. Done.”

“Oh good,” she said, relieved.

She left this morning bright and early for her last day of her freshman year. “Are you serious about me not staying?” she asked. Yes! I said. “Okay, I’m off to ‘protest,” she said. “I’ll call you.”

In Other News

I picked up P. from the train station on Sunday after his visit to Portland. He had his father’s bike with him. It had been kind of kicking around at his widow’s house since he died a few years ago. It’s one of those really nice ones that weighs about as much as a paperclip.

We hung around for the afternoon and I made salmon cakes for dinner. We ate on the patio, as we’ve been doing almost every day it hasn’t rained, which has been most days. Strudel had eaten an extremely late lunch (3 p.m.) and was behind on her weekend chores, so she was not sitting with us and would eat a bit later. As we were finishing, I noticed that P. had some salmon bones on his plate. I had worked really carefully to pick all the bones out before seasoning and mixing the salmon with veggies.

“Oh man, I got bones in yours!” I said.

“It’s okay,” he said.

I was being a little silly and overly solicitous, and carried on with things. “Your welcome home dinner should not have bones in it.” Franny picked her up empty plate and rose to walk towards the house.

“It’s okay, guys,” she said, over her shoulder. “You can have bones in your welcome home dinner. Everyone likes a good WELCOME HOME BONING! AM I RIGHT?” She finished by laughing like Gordon Shumway and went into the house.

I laid my head down on the table, next to my empty plate.

“I guess we were not as quiet as we thought earlier,” P. said, softly.

“Am I dead now? I would like to be dead,” I said. I felt my face catch on fire.

In OTHER other news

I applied to a program for women that is a “pre-apprenticeship” for trades and I got in. I’m very excited. It’s a 12-week course and it’s meant to address any gaps women might have that might make them fall short when applying for union apprenticeship in a trade.

They explore several trades and take you to job sites, and can help with things like math. Some women who are underemployed or single moms get grants to cover living expenses. Mostly I am interested in making connections with people in the industry, since I am doing decently in my tech math class. I made it clear I didn’t want to take away financial help from others and she said they don’t bar people based on income. Awesome. So I will pay for my boots, some opportunities, etc.

I had emailed last week to ask about the Tuesday orientation and the program manager said, “Why don’t you just come in for an interview on Monday?” It sounds like they need to fill seats. In the email she said there would be some paperwork and a “physical.” I interpreted this as a blood pressure check and peeing in a cup. Wrong!

I ran flights of stairs (timed), planked for 3 minutes (fell twice), did as many push ups and sit ups as I could, and more. I was not actually expecting a physical test and hadn’t eaten breakfast, only coffee, since I thought I’d be in and out in an hour. WHOOPS.

“Wow, this stairwell is really hot,” my test administrator commented. It was at least 85 F in there. “This weeds some people out right away. They refuse to even try the exercises,” she said. “But you’re doing great.”

Before that I did a math, reading, and tool ID test, which I passed. The math portion was pretty easy. I think the test I will have to sit for to get into the union will be much harder. I believe I am set on a trade, but I’m going to keep an open mind for the next few weeks, in case I see something that turns my head. I’ll let you know if/when I am accepted.

I’m very excited about this change. At the grocery store the other night Franny asked me what I wanted to be when I was her age. I thought about it. “A truck driver or a farmer,” I said.

My interviewer, who I think is going to be my case manager, asked me why I wanted to switch to trades. I told her I like to think and be on my feet, and work with my hands. “Tech was safe when my girls were little,” I explained. I could stay up with them crying or puking all night and come in to work and be a zombie and not worry about putting someone in danger. It was a steady paycheck. She has kids and she nodded along.

“And now you’re free to do what you want to do,” she said. “I get it.”


June 14th, 2015

Strudel fell into a hole on my street last week and sprained her ankle. Fortunately it was a very light sprain. I sprained my ankle a couple of years ago and Strudel theorizes it was the same hole. I don’t believe it–my street (and most Seattle streets) has lots of holes! Lucky for her, it was a very light sprain. It poofed up very dramatically on the first day, turned an alarming shade of yellow quickly, and then she was walking on it with no pain by day three. Lucky kid. A couple of years ago I don’t think she’d have healed up quite so quickly.

I don’t feel any of my old aches and pains anymore, which frees me up to make new ones. I am just at the beginning of the 100 Push Ups challenge. It used to hurt to do push ups, but I did them anyway, sometimes. My back, my elbows, my shoulders. Now I only stop when my muscles do. Franny and I watched American Psycho late last night and it was okay. I thought she would like it because she enjoys horror and “mindfuck” movies. What I really enjoyed was Patrick Bateman and his “I can do 1000 sit ups now.” I used to think bodies like his were genetic outliers or Hollywood magic. Now, I think I can get about as fit as time and my motivation will allow.

I used to have a very vivid “life of the mind” to the extent I was able, and even that was fading at the end, as my thought processes became increasingly clouded. I think I’m still mourning my old, more destructive, and just plain different former self. Anyone who has been reading me or knows me knows that I am a doer, and if I see a door I want to do through it. I see a lot of different doors now, and I am not hobbled by confusion or anxiety most of the time anymore. Discovering that I can do math this year (not fantastically, but well enough) and that my body will actually get fitter and do what I want–it’s pretty empowering.

I am left with so many questions. I believe people can change, or at least change their own lives. But now I wonder, who am I? Who was I for 30+ years? Was that really me? Am I a fake me now? How much do I sound like a stoned 15-year-old in someone’s basement, listening to Black Sabbath. (A: A lot.)

There’s a lot of before and after in life. I can think of before children, and after. Before divorce, and after. Hell, even before and after dogs was another big one. I am trying to accept this as another before and after, but it is taking time.

So. Up betimes and alone. P. is out of town (Portland). I wish I could have enjoyed the bed a bit more, but the dogs just smash up against me regardless, so by the time I wake up, I am on my customary 1/4 of the bed.

I watered the yard this morning and everything was looking very pretty.

We used to live a block from the rose garden, and when they switched over to not spraying, we watched our favorite roses very carefully to see which ones would continue to thrive without pesticides. Hot cocoa (above) seems to be one of the winners in our yard, as it was in the rose garden. “Silver” roses are my favorite but I am told they are very tricky here. I tried to plant ones that are made for the PNW.

Everything in the yard is absolutely going gangbusters this year. A hot summer is predicted. I am happy either way, as long as it’s dry. In 2009 my router melted. In 2006 I remember it was a glorious year for tomatoes. These things seem to cycle every few years.

I’m really enjoying doing this lately:

I’m not sure I’ll go back to fillets now. I was always daunted by the cost of a whole fish, and the…wholeness. Now I just walk in and ask them to scale and fin it, take it home, and stuff it with aromatics. This salmon was $40.00 (4 lbs.). We get about 4 dinners out of a fish like this. So it ends up being about $2.50 per serving. That’ll work. I figure if I can make giant roasts and always work with whole birds, then this is doable too. The fennel is from my garden! Since I’m not working right now, I am challenging myself to use every bit of everything. I mentioned I made gravlax recently and I dehydrated the skins and saved them for the dogs as treats. No wonder they like to sleep smashed up next to me.

The bees in the purple hive were also up beetimes. They are lean, mean buzzy machines over there now. It’s impressive. Franny helped me work the bees yesterday and it was really fun. She did great. She did say she was worried about getting stung, of course, but neither of us did. The comb hole that P. and I left last week was almost completely closed up. I’m not worried about them right now because I see a great variety of babies, pollen, and nectar, including some capped honey. You can hear the chickens singing along in the background.

I trimmed the roses out front around tax day, as some people say you should. It’s the first time I’ve touched them since I moved in. There was a lot of cross-caning and dead wood. This year they are looking great and are very pretty next to the raspberries. Year three here is when everything is taking off, plant and manimal.

Franny fetch me my ax

June 9th, 2015

On Sunday after doing the bees, and after giving the whole house a deep clean over the course of the week in addition to studying math, I decided to have a lazy Sunday. (Okay there was a little laundry.) I set up in the dining room and played games on my laptop, which is something I don’t usually have time to do for hours at a stretch, unless it’s at the expense of sleep.

My sleep has been funny this month. For the first 5 days of the Whole30 I was pretty sleepless, and now I am in Sleepy Valley. Last night my arms felt like lead and I could barely lift the big ceramic bowl of watermelon I served with dinner. I slept for about ten hours. This is pretty normal for day seven.

So I was a captive audience at the table.

“Mooooom can I give you a makeover???”

“Okay, but you have to do the whole thing. Base and all.”

She did it.

Check it out, I’m getting old. I even have some silver hairs sprouting at my part. Remember when I was in my early 20s and had a toddler and no crows’ feet? Ha. WATCH as this blogger ages before your eyes and forgets to move on to a new hobby.

This is one of her homemade crayon lip colors. Her boyfriend came over later and he got to dine with me in my Captain Hammer teeshirt and 27 pounds of makeup. Franny was very proud of her handiwork. The boyfriend and I talked a little about Reddit geekery as usual. Other than the animal heads (vegetarian) I think he likes it at our house.

I urged Franny to call her father on Friday and start figuring out her summer. She’s been having what sounds like typical teenage angsty squabbles over there with him and her stepmother, and is struggling with the food thing over there. She needed a break so hasn’t visited for about a month and a half. I’m delighted to have her, but I don’t want trouble from him. Also, I hate to say this, but I think it’s important that she do things that are not always fun or comfortable. The part of me that is her mommy and wants to pave every road in marshmallows and puppies for her fights with the part that knows she needs to fulfill her obligations and not always take the easiest path.

But I also get the dread of spending time in a place where you’re likely to eat something that can impact your health and mood for weeks, and are called an ingrate for avoiding things that may make you sick. It’s a tough one. I respect her for taking a break and some time to cool off.

So she called her dad to arrange her next visit (Father’s Day weekend). I think since they happened to talk he told her that her grandfather had suffered a minor stroke the night before. I told her to call him and check on him and offer to visit on Sunday (a couple of days ago). Her grandfather declined, saying he wanted to rest. The doctors thought he wouldn’t have any significant effects from it and she said he sounded fine. She was weepy Friday night but felt much better after talking to him on Saturday. She was dismayed her father hadn’t gone to visit him. She wanted to send him flowers so we did.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen after Franny’s grandpa dies. I do worry about him. He has always loved his fine dining and has been feast or famine about exercise. It’s worrying to me when someone is overweight or has high blood pressure and then hits racquetball really, really hard once a week. Perhaps the torch for organizing family vacations and whatnot will go to the Auntie Jaguar. Zod save us all if SeaFed inherits.

The monsters start on the outskirts of town

June 7th, 2015

I have an association with the word pro–as just a positive thing meaning “for” as in “pros and cons.” Today I learned that propolis literally means “before the city,” or “suburb.” I like this perspective on beehives. In the literature and on websites I can read, people explain propolis as “bee glue,” which it is, but if you look at a hive holistically, it is the coating that is used on the outside of the hive, before you get to the city.

We have to pop propolis seals every time we move the bars. P. and I talk every time we go in about what our goals are for the day. For the past couple of weeks, fortunately, our only goal has been to make sure things are going okay and not to fix the comb structure. Since everything was pretty mellow in the hives this morning, I asked P. if he wanted to try excising one of the hair clips we’d put in to save some comb, when we were removing doubles.

Originally we had clipped the comb and tied it to a bar. The bees fixed what we did and built more comb to attach it to the bar above it. I had heard that sometimes bees will totally submerge a clip, but ours left some bee space, so it was slightly easier to cut out. Unless something weird happens, the bees will now backfill the empty space the comb left.

The capped cells are drones and the empty brown cells are where newbees have already emerged (this empty area was the original size of the comb when we first added the clip). This is from the purple hive and they have put in a baby BOOM. I bet we saw ~500 capped cells. Next week at this time the hive will probably have 500 more bees in it!! This hive seems to have completely recovered from its early steep population drop. To the right you can see empty, new cells. They will probably contain a mix of pollen, honey, and more brood.

When we first attached the clip to the comb, the teeth went right through some brood and honey. Some brood cells were inside the hairclip itself, and it looked like the bees had successfully hatched from inside the clip and had been cared for properly.

I cleaned off the hairclip as best I could and put it back in my bee crate that I keep my supplies in, like the smoker and the bee brush.

This was white kitchen twine like you would tie a roast up in, and was used to hold the clip to the bars. Now it is yellow from propolis and fuzzy from being chewed upon.

When we are finished and put the roofs back on, and empty the remains of the smoker into the firepit, we check each other for stray bees before taking our beecoats off to prevent crushing them, getting stung, or carrying some into the house. I had three bees on the back of my coat. P. gently brushed them off and they all went plop plop down to the patio.

“I’m going to put them in this geranium so they don’t get stepped on,” he said. He lifted each bee up and put it on a leaf. It’s possible they were a little chilly yet, since it was before 9 a.m. Bees do best in some heat and part of the reason they get pissed when we look at them is because they like their brood areas to be around 90 F. We can often feel the heat rolling out of the hive when we move bars.

One of the bees was very soft and fuzzy, with a clearer body and looked perfect. “Uh oh, I think we picked up a new hatcher,” he said. Her first flight might have been to land on my back, and she might not have been completely ready to be that far away from the hive. A second bee on another leaf rushed over to her and began stroking her face.

Then she started feeding her. I could see her tongue going in, but my camera cannot. I am increasingly irritated by my point and shoot. It just doesn’t capture what I see.

Then a second bee came over and started feeding the new bee as well. I don’t know what happened after that, because P. moved the whole plant and put it on top of the hive, to give her a better shot at getting home.

In other news, my period came on little cat feet this month instead of with big cramps that make me want to lay in bed and moan. I am starting to notice a really tragic correlation between the amount of sugar I eat and how bad my period is. WHY GOD WHY :/

Stay Cool Bret

June 5th, 2015

I had a dog guest over last night.

It is hilarious to have someone else’s dog in your house. I don’t even know why that is! I guess it’s the novelty of it.

You’ll regret you ever messed with Bret from the Tough Brets.

Just kidding, they were all looking for salmon on the floor. I made gravlax, forgot I made gravlax, and so bought a couple of salmons at the store and stuffed them with ginger, limes, cilantro, and lemongrass. My friend was nice enough to say “salmon two ways.” Yes, I meant to do that. I made a rosemary peach white sangria for my guests. There were assorted noodles and salads and strawberry gelatins for dessert.

I skipped the sugary stuff/booze (except for the gravlax and nuoc cham because fuck that nuoc cham is God’s jizz.) I hope I’m over my initial Whole 30 energy slump. I think I’m cycling pretty fast because my biggest “vice” is sugar. This month is a reminder to practice moderation and the benefits of it (for me).

My friend asked me if I was drinking a G&T and I had a twinge because I think it’s weird when hosts drink things in front of you that they have not offered to you.

“It’s sparkling water and lime,” I whispered apologetically, like a weirdo.

“Ah,” she said.

“I’m low-carbing this month,” I said, briefly, trying not to be that crushing bore. (I save being a crushing bore for here.)

I thought I would have a drink with my friends but I didn’t want to totally break my streak and sugar crash. The girls ate lots of noodle and had dessert with my guests.

My sister came over on Monday for dinner as usual and surprised the hell out of me–she is attempting to quit smoking for the first time since she started ten years ago. She is a very determined person about her goals so I think she’ll find success in this in the long run, even if it doesn’t last forever. I know not everyone goes cold turkey once and licks it. I think you can learn a lot of lessons from trying at something, even if you don’t totally nail it the first time.

As I’ve mentioned several times I was an off-and-on smoker for many years, usually when I was out of town and away from the watchful eyes of my children. So I would smoke for three days, not smoke for 6-9 months. Sometimes I would smoke just at work, like when I was in court. It definitely made me feel better while I was doing it–giving me regular injections of serotonin and dopamine. I decided to quit for good before I changed my diet and had my health crash. And it was a struggle leaving it behind until I quit eating wheat.

I had a reminder of this around Mother’s Day, because I accidentally ate wheat at the end of April. It took almost three weeks for my mental state to recover and ate that time smoking sounded AMAZING. I craved cigarettes, which was a little upsetting because I hadn’t in well over a year. I knew it would just prolong the bad feelings–I would have guilt over smoking and then another sad crash when I inevitably stopped again.

Anyway, my sister is going through a lot of physical changes because this is her first time as a grown-ass lady without smoking. I really hope she makes it, not just for her health, but because she still wants a career in radio, and I think her voice is so nice on the air. Plus they are ungodly expensive. The lady side of my family smokes and mainlines black coffee. Most of them were skinny as rails, too. I remember my grandmother making mountains of southern food and then not eating it–it just didn’t look good to her. I was getting there with food myself. It sucks when nothing sounds good except coffee and smokes, but I understand.

Speaking of salmon and pigs, I caught Edith at this as usual this morning. Sometimes she actually gets her head stuck in the fence.

I like how this photo looks like it was taken in 1983. I am a no-filter filter master.

Snooki the chicken looking Edith over. Edith was sniffing at the chopped salmon skin I fed the chickens this morning, leftover from gravlax. Someday Lil Dorty is going to get pecked right in her piggy eye.

Hathor the Cudinator

May 31st, 2015

I can barely see a little wall in my house so I am still hard at work.

Started curing gravlax today for a dinner on Thursday, considered rendering beeswax (I need more supplies like cheesecloth and a pot I can ruin). Yesterday we worked the bees per usual and then Franny and I went to Display and Costume and Goodwill to find elements of our Twin Peaks costumes for the contest. I will make a mini album of the process. Both of our costumes are going to be complex and we will model before striking out for Fall City in July. I will publish right before we leave. I know this sounds paranoid but I don’t want anyone to scoop us since they are such good ideas. I don’t know if we’re approaching the Cockeyed levels of awesome, but we are excited.

I’m hopping back into a Whole 30 tomorrow to reset some of my habits, so today I made farewell banana/pecan/cinnamon waffles with syrup and P’s strawberry peach jam. Tomorrow I will be a good monkey and finish up lessons in natural logarithms. I will be glad to have log out of my life for now!!