Jumping Nimbly Bimbly From Tree to Tree

I’ve got a day off randomly, due to the disorganization of the company I’m working for, I guess. Back to work one more day tomorrow and then I think I’m laid off again for a day or two.

In the space of an hour this morning I’ve made myself vastly unpopular. Franny was at her dad’s for the weekend and came home ill. She dragged through school on Monday and then texted me about staying home on Tuesday, then later said she vomited. Today I was lying in bed reading the headlines when she swanned in sadly.

“I decided I’m staying home again today,” she said, flopping down on Horace, who was happy to be a pillow.

“No, sorry, you’re going to school,” I said. Cue tears! She did not expect that.


I gave her a little pep talk that wasn’t very peppy.

“So, we’ve got this thing that we’re going to have our whole lives. Some days you’re going to feel like shit. This weekend wasn’t your fault. You’re kind of a gluten prisoner over there. Remember how I ate that jerky at work a month ago and it said it was gluten free and it wasn’t? That was kind of my fault but kind of not. I had to suck it up and keep working, and go the next day.

“You may only be halfway there today, taking in half of the information, but you have to go. Some of it will come back to you later. It’s school. Phone it in, but you gotta show up. You’re going to feel glutened for days. It’s better to do something rather than just sit around doing nothing all day.”

I have to do this because the gluten brain WILL tell you to stay home, quit your life, gaze out of the window and sigh, while lamenting your 47 aches and pains. I’ve discovered I need a cheerleader to tell me life will go on and I need to go for a walk. Pete got sick recently from sanding drywall in the basement and I got him out of the house and walking as well, but the golden rule is: Not Too Far From Any Bathroom. I told her it’s like being a major pothead without the fun parts: all the spaciness and lack of motivation without any of the giggling or dreadlock beads.

OH STEREOTYPES! Where would we be without you?

Presently I hoisted my leisurely, news-reading self out of bed and made coffee so I wouldn’t be that guy who tells you to go to school, while you’re glutened, from bed. That’s a click away from wire hanger parenting. I did relent and tell her to cancel her guitar lesson right meow since that’s non-essential and I’m sure she’d like to avoid carrying her guitar around all day while achy.

Then I got Strudel, who could not find a tooth in a shark’s open maw.

“MOM do you know where the steak is?”

“In the fridge.” I knew she was standing in front of it, chillerating the whole kitchen already.

“I don’t see it!”

“Maybe ask your sister, since she put away leftovers last night?”

Franny was grumping in the bathroom and muttered something unhelpful through the door of her primp palace. Strudel marched back to the kitchen and sighed loudly.

“Do you want me to come look?” I asked.

“No…yes….no. It’s not in here.”

“If I find the steak, you have to make dinner.” Faustian!

She dithered some more, then finally agreed to the terms. I walked to the fridge and pulled the leftover steak out and handed it to her.

“FRANNY HID IT!” she said.

“No, she sensibly put it under the mushrooms, since this glass container is so much heavier.”

Then I danced around like this naturally

while yelling “I’m RUMPLESTEAKSKIN!”


“It needs to have at least three salads and a foam course,” I said.

“I’ll make foam with dinner when you do.” That’s fair.

Joke’s on her, though. I’m going to make dinner myself because I have the day off and I like making dinner.

I treated myself to a bread machine recently. I had one for years that someone generously cast off to me, and I used it for a long time until I got ill. I’m not sorry I donated it, because it was full of wheat residue. I am one of those people who likes eating bread, but doesn’t care for how dough feels. Like, to jibbly levels of no thank you. I have been a proponent of drop biscuits for forever for this reason. Hence, bread machine intermediary.

As I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve done some runs at dairy free, gluten free breads, and have found the results mixed and fairly depressing. HOW MANY TIMES have I been snookered by a blog post claiming, “Your friends won’t even know it’s gluten free!” Like fun they wouldn’t, even if I was cruel enough to serve it to them. But now that we have our flour mix pinned down, and now that we have dairy back in the form of sheep and buffalo, it’s going pretty well. I am going to hang out on this cloudy day, drink coffee, and attempt a cheese garlic loaf in my almost-new machine. It had a test run last night with a cinnamon raisin loaf while we watched the first part of The Case of Jonbenet Ramsey.

I’m also fooling around with pizza dough a lot. I’m going to try GF girl’s weekly pizza jam for a while (scroll 7 years to get past the twee if you want the recipe). Sounds fun.

I cut my stupid face at work. THERE GOES MY MODELING CAREER!


So I guess I’m blogging once a month right now. I still have that thing, that long, long entrenched habit, where I have racing thoughts about what I could write down, especially relating to the looking-glass that is work, but I’m not getting there. Something in my motivation has changed, post-corn. I used to feel like I was always running to something significant, like a good change, like more opportunities to do what I want with writing or travel or my hobbies. I’m not saying my life was always topsy-turvy, it wasn’t, just that there was something on the horizon. Lately I feel very static, like some pudding that has set up too much.

I spend a lot of time avoiding situations that will make me sick. Before I used to throw myself into them, because I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know how to describe this well…before, I was always ill. I always felt bad and just learned to cope and try to grit my teeth and be pleasant. Now I feel well most of the time but I hardly go anywhere or see anyone. I have been considering masks but I feel like that crosses a line somehow. Says the person who prepares all of her own food and travels with her own sheets.

me rollin up in the art museum with my homies

I am going to try some nasal filters to see if that will help. When we go out we make like Persephone but we all still have to breathe.

Sometimes I think about jumping back in and eating and drinking corn with gusto, if only to get that frantic feeling of being REALLY ALIVE for a few hours, but then I remember that my hair was falling out and sometimes I would go completely, momentarily deaf from tinnitus. Lots of people live secluded, unknown lives and always have, but it is hard to step back and out of the world. I used to feel driven to write something, anything, even if it was complete garbage or something like, well, a blog (Venn diagram overlaps sometimes). Now it’s pulling teeth. My brain doesn’t crackle, it just sits, gelling. I’m facing living longer (maybe) but being completely bored with myself.

I don’t burden my girls with my thoughts along these lines. It’s not for them. They’re not my friends, they have no idea what existential horrors and delights will come when they’re in their 30s (neither do I of course). I do hope I intervened with them young enough that they won’t feel as outside of the world as I do lately. I hope we will all be able to find an acceptable way to get through.

It’s their first days of school.

This new middle schooler is a little excited.

This Satanist is starting her junior year.

There is something on the other side that is NOT black:

Normally I am frantic for them to go back to school, but this year they’ve been so easy and fun to hang out with. I’ve spent the last week with them because I got laid off (building was about finished).

No more being up on tall roofs for the moment. Next week I go to a week-long class that’s meant to be a first year trade orientation, kind of like electrician boot camp was. I’m in a pickle at the moment because of course they didn’t process my automatic union dues correctly, and I can’t come to class without a receipt. Administrative problems are rife in this union as well it seems. I’m sure I can straighten it out with a phone call.

If I don’t get back in a month…Friday (9/9) is my 15 year blog anniversary. I have outlasted Samuel Pepys at this point, though he was more frequent and diligent. I have some images I want to replace this banner with, but am even failing at replacing them (this template is completely terrible and I think it’s not helping with writing more often), which seems like a good project for an idle Friday when I am waiting to go to school and the girls are gone. Happy fall.

I’ll see you in the trees

The Twin Peaks festival has become a delineation for me. Leave for the festival in late July, and summer feels full of potential and as if we’re at the top of the hill, with endless fruit-gorging and hammock-laying ahead of us. The Monday I go back to work, the light looks different. The sun is already hanging lower and the day is shorter. People say (and it’s true) that Seattle summer starts July 5, and we often get beautiful days into October, but by early August something about the light reminds you that fall is coming.

Since the whole point of the festival is to discuss and celebrate a 25-year-old show that is partly about murder and is set in February, it serves as another reminder that the dark is always coming back. Weirdly, it ends up being a really comforting way to reflect on the seasons here and what makes this area special.

I don’t have pictures to post because I admit I have finally emerged into the present and was popping out pictures as we went. I did not pull out my trusty camera once. Franny dressed as the Log Lady, in part because Catherine E. Coulson died shortly after last year’s festival and she was a little sad. This year she didn’t place but she had a nice time being part of the contest.

With another year of living with food allergies under our belt, I think I did a little better at the food part of our trip. Staying at the festival is a little bit of a fox/corn/chicken/farmer problem since lodgings are limited. There’s cheap hotels with nothing around them and no amenities. B&Bs are pointless because we can’t eat there. There’s a hotel with a kitchenette but the festival takes it over and people party there all night. There’s the Salish, which is incredible, and where the “cool people” stay, but expensive and has nothing within walking distance.

Our compromise is a boutique inn that was a filming site in Fall City. I used to enjoy staying there because the restaurant and bar was good, it is a quiet area, and the inn and town is extremely cute. As I started to realize I had to make like Persephone everywhere I went, I still enjoyed the inn and its proximity to a small grocery store with a fruit stand full of Eastern Washington peaches and plums.

I was looking at feeding myself and Franny for three days in a room without a fridge or microwave. I brought our cooler full of hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, baked tofu, and sauces: Seattle-style teriyaki joint salad dressing, honey mustard, and a vinaigrette. I was looking for mayo- or oil-based sauces to make salads filling.

Yes, I hammered my protein by overbaking it. It was fine once it was cubed.

I also brought a ton of processed snack foods that we can eat: chips, dried fruit, nuts, and jerky.

We also brought dry goods like utensils and paper plates. I brought a french press and coffee I could drink for myself, since I don’t trust Keurig machines. I could run to the market up the street, buy fruit, buy a ready-made prewashed salad, and make a plate with lettuce, a protein, nuts, and dressing. Or we could just graze on fruits and jerky. Every time we left the room I cleaned up and “packed out,” throwing the remnants of our meal into the Dumpster rather than leaving a mess for the maid in the tiny trash cans.

With all of our care, gluten really isn’t the enemy anymore. The biggest obstacle is corn, and it was everywhere that weekend. I am lucky in that sometimes I can forget about our allergies for days at a time now that I work outside. Twin Peaks is fun but being in close proximity to people all weekend is hard. I greatly underestimated how much it would affect us.

First, the room of the inn had very strongly-scented sheets from detergent and fabric softener, so we were breathing that all night as we slept. Every time we gathered in a crowd people were covered in perfumes, fabric softeners, vaping, smoking. The movie night is held in a movie theatre in North Bend, lasts 4-plus hours, and the popcorn is flowing. We were getting achy legs and shoulders, it was hard to sleep well, and Franny was using her inhaler.

It’s very hard to motivate her to do much about halfway through the weekend because she gets run down and doesn’t combat it by drinking copious amounts of coffee like I do. Next year Morgan and I are talking about splitting a small house/cabin/condo thing that should have some kind of outdoor space to recharge in, as well as a kitchen for me to cook in. I think this will be nicer…it’s time to say goodbye to the inn since we can’t really use it properly and Morgan found herself eating meals alone some of the time since Franny was getting very sick in the dining room downstairs.

If you have read all this you may be asking yourself, why bother going? Our lives have changed so much in the last three years and everyday life now involves never eating out, or sitting in bars or coffee shops. Every time I go out I ask myself if it’s worth it to be in this particular crowd for this particular event…so many times the answer is “no.” So for now this is a thing that is really special and we rally and go.

I like that I can take a small trip alone with Franny every year too. We enjoy spending time together. We spent a lot of time between events in bed watching Forensic Files. Franny is obsessed with anything that involves modern crime solving.

The trip also reminded me of what Franny goes through every time she visits her dad now. I was feeling a little worried because she is spending less time over there, since she often gets glutened, always gets corned, and comes back with a cold, achy, tired, and in a terrible mood. I still don’t feel great about how she’s somewhat barred from spending time with that side of her family now, but it would be very hard for me to drag myself out to do the equivalent exposure of a festival weekend twice a month.

It’s further complicated by the fact that Franny has accepted a volunteer position as a DJ assistant for Morgan’s show on KEXP on Saturdays. This is great news for Franny, since she gets to do a cool gig, gets some aunt time, and gets the volunteer hours she needs to graduate, but it was supposed to be when she saw her dad. Franny’s also on a teen committee at the library this summer (at my insistence that she get some kind of job). She told me last night she’s happy I “made her” do something this summer and is meeting people outside of her high school.

I will say in brief that I am working my ass off this summer. Five tens and then eight hours on Saturday (Saturdays are somewhat optional but I try to work if I don’t have serious plans). I was a steadfast defender of the forty-hour workweek and am protective of my time and health, so I am actually surprising myself with what I’m capable of this summer. I’m in architectural sheet metal right now, which is basically installer work–get panels onto building.

I’m working on schools and am on roofs much of the time in a harness with a rope tail. I like the crew and get along with them well. I got “the talk” from the superintendent last Saturday. I swear there is some bylaw that says supers have to be assholes. “So, I was looking forward to firing you, but the guys like you and they say you’re doing a good job.” Um, thanks. Again I have lucked out and landed with a really nice foreman who is driven but does not verbally abuse people, use slurs, and can communicate. The age thing seems to make a difference. Anyone under about 45 is going to be more professional, generally.

I’m about to get my school schedule for the next year and am really excited about that as well. I’ll probably do a six month rotation with this company unless they lay me off when fall comes and school starts.

I shaved the dogs down again in anticipation of the hot month of August and it is gloomy and misty today!

So Edith dons her small sweater.

Is that all lard is?

(oregon grape carnage)

When I was a very little girl I remember visiting the Des Planes relatives and sometimes we would let ourselves in, because they weren’t home from work yet. My mother would stomple around the house, sniffing and making remarks she wouldn’t dare make if my stepfather’s mother was there.

One day when we showed up there was a large sheet cake in a bakery box on the kitchen counter. I loved that Platonic ideal of a kitchen, with its DOUBLE OVENS, 60’s color scheme, and wrought iron railing overlooking the den. A sassy plaque on the wall read, “too little to save/too much to dump/that’s what makes the housewife plump.” I didn’t think about the irony of that plaque at the time, but my grandma was an executive at a cellular phone company. I wonder if she did?

I have my own in the kitchen stairwell that I keep hidden as a homage. Pete hates it. The price tag on back editorializes, “sexist plaque.”

Mother spotted the cake on grandma’s counter and went to inspect it.

“Lard frosting! I knew it! Gross!” she hissed.

“What’s lard?” I asked.

“It’s like Crisco, but made from pig fat. YUK.”

This answer from my mother spawned many other questions that even at nine I knew not to ask. If lard was like Crisco, but made with pigs, then what was Crisco made of? What part of a pig was lard from? Did it make cake taste like my mother’s desiccated, sawdusty pork chops? We ate bacon and steak trimmings. What was wrong with lard?? All I knew is that her mother always had a giant can of Crisco, “butter flavored,” on the counter next to the can of bacon grease when I lived with her, and it helped make things like fried chicken happen. I imagine it looked something like that.

In my three years of living with my mother, I noticed she had a tendency to slam a lot of the things I associated with my grandmother and Southern cuisine. Certain things were “poor people food” or just rated as disgusting and inedible. It seemed that lard was on the list.

The cake was so white and beautiful. I couldn’t believe my grandma, who cooked wonderful holiday meals for 25 people, would knowingly buy a cake with something disgusting on it.

I remember eating the cake later, but not what occasion it was for–possibly my grandpa’s birthday, since I think he was the only summer birthday and I remember it being sunny and pleasant. I tasted the frosting very carefully. It was good: fluffy, sweet, creamy. The ribbons and shells held up on the edges very well without being crunchy like royal icing.

At that point I was afraid of disappointing my mother about anything. She established her expectation early I’d be her clone, or an extension of her, without my own thoughts or preferences. I picked at the cake carefully, worried that if I enjoyed it too much she’d notice. I ate the cake and made a smeary mess of the frosting, but stealthily ate most of it.

I had plans. I knew I would grow up someday. I knew I would learn to cook, because that’s what women in my family all did. I was determined to be brave and check out this lard stuff for myself, even if it was in my own home with my phone off the hook and my shades drawn. It did rekindle an interest in the Southern-style food I ate when I was very small, like grits. I embraced lard when I did my Victorian year and really learned how to cook with it.

It’s been super helpful now in these post-dairy times. Are you ready? Where is my cross to climb upon? We are going another round with Gluten Free Cooking of the Damned.

I wanted to make a red, white, and blue dessert on the fourth like I used to. I got busy, and then three o’clock rolled around, and I realized I needed to put ribs in the oven to slow cook and braise. No time to make a cake! Damn. I told my family it would be a Fifth of July cake since I already had committed a couple flats of berries. Pete made emergency brownies for the fourth and they were delicious.

So I picked it back up yesterday–Martha’s Wavy Flag cake. Stupid name, but somehow appealing. A fun fact about this cake is that I can’t seem to find any evidence of it ever being made or documented by a real person online. I used to find a lot of people blogging her recipes, or rating them on her site. This one seems to have slipped through the cracks. I read recently that many links online that are liked or shared are never actually clicked. Was this a phantom cake? Was it untested like Beeton recipes? I doubted that, but still. We’ve reached the online recipe saturation point. There is now too much to cook, much like there is too much TV to watch.

I’ve made a discovery recently relating to baking. We’re going sheep cheese crazy over here because I found out we can eat it without reactions or upset stomachs. As I blogged about recently we visited a sheep farm and now buy their cheese at the farmers’ market twice a month. My discovery beyond that is that I can bake with sheep yogurt. All I have to do is “water” it down with almond milk (gross and blasphemy I know, but it makes it like buttermilk). Before I was just using coconut or almond milk. It is giving my baked goods a VERY tender and buttery crumb, rather than just crumbly.

I was excited to try out my yogurt scheme on this cake. It was still a little more delicate than a gluteny cake, but I know to move slowly now. The layers seemed easier to split–you cut two layers in half for four cake layers (three filling layers).

I made a fluffy lard buttercream for the middle layer. I do miss cow butter when I want to frost something, but this frosting was good in a smaller dose. You create a ring to hold in the berries and make a white stripe layer.

I made blueberry and raspberry “quick” jams by cooking fruit down with sugar, taking them off the heat, and sprinkling in arrowroot. Arrowroot works well if you don’t continue to heat it (the starch will relax and let go under continued heat). I like that in this way it’s close to cornstarch. Tapioca can take heat but too much quickly turns into snot, and is best mixed with something creamy, like in pudding, not a jam. I stirred fresh fruit into the quick jam I made and that was the fruit layers.

I filled in the edges as best I could with leftover frosting. This cake has a gangster lean.

I used my favorite “frosting” now, which is the quick meringue from the Joy of Cooking. I use it in lieu of buttercream frosting or as a top for ugly fruit flip cakes. I find it less sweet and very pretty.


In Other News

I get my stitch(es?) out today. There’s no knot! Are they just going to pull it out? ARGH! I’ll let you know. But seriously, look how normal my wrist looks. Two weeks!! That scar is going to blend right in with my ever-deepening wrist seam. I looked at post-op pictures for the open-palm style carpal tunnel, and, triple ARGH. People end up with frankenhands that look run over with all the bruising. It looks like a lot of people heal okay but that it takes longer for some. My hand is so great and stronger every day. I love it.

File Under: “Now it can be told”

A big deal to me, more so than layer cake, but I am devoting fewer inches to it. This summer while I’ve been working as an electrical apprentice, I was contacted by the local sheet metal/HVAC apprenticeship program. This program and career was my first choice, but I thought they passed on me. It turns out they only take people once a year. They invited me to interview, and I got a high ranking on their list. The apprenticeship was all ready to dispatch me, buuuut I had surgery scheduled. The apprentice wrangler was happy to wait and work with me. So now I am back on the list and waiting for a call.

Rather than go back to work for a week or two, I quit my job with the electrical company I was working for. So, I am not going to be an electrician after all and I am really okay with this. My next step is to have my apprenticeship “transferred” through the state with an official form that I signed last time I was at the union in Everett. I will make a dry list by way of explaining myself to you.


-Same pay (starts higher as an apprentice)
-Stronger union, better benefits
-More indoor work (depends, but generally speaking)
-Prefer the trade–working with metal/welding to electricity/pulling wire
-School is only 1 week, 4x a year vs weekly for 2-3 quarters
-Main office/school is closer
-Good CAD program
-Smaller point, but prefer using geometry to algebra
-Lots of women in the program/field and the program is actively recruiting them
-Automatic rotation every 6 months so you are well rounded

It will be somewhat harder to explain to people what I am doing now. “Electrician” is easy to understand, like teacher or accountant. But everyone knows what an HVAC system is. I am excited to learn welding and I have absolutely had my fill of a ton of school. I didn’t want the associate’s degree that the electricians were offering. I was dreading driving to Renton once a week for school and being deluged with homework. This is a much, much better fit. Now I have good experience on a job site and a fair amount of strength and endurance, and I am excited to get back to work.

Surgery gore natch


I had surgery last Tuesday. The surgeon tunneled into my wrist and cut a tendon.

I am told this is the “good” kind of carpal tunnel surgery since they don’t open you up as wide. All I know is that I walked out of the there and as the preservative-free (corn free) Lidocaine wore off, I could feel my middle finger again. Not so much with my pointer and thumb yet, but I’m told sensation might come back. My tongue didn’t go numb at any point so I knew they weren’t poisoning me.

They did something called a Bier block, which involved wringing some blood out of my arm and then applying a tourniquet. They warned me that would be worse than the surgery, and it was. It’s strange, having your whole arm dead. Mentally I understood it was resting on a little surgery meat display case thing, but it felt like it was higher up on some weird stand. By the time they were stitching me up my back was crawling and I felt like I wanted to get away from my arm. Endorphins kicked in as well and I felt like I did when I was in labor (without the giant abdominal pain).

The first night was the worst. I refused painkillers (corny) and I woke up around 3 with a throbbing wrist. I take Goody’s and basically…beer. At this point I cannot find any liquor that doesn’t give me a corn reaction. My dream item is a little strip that I could dip into things to test for corn.

On Saturday Pete took my bandages off for me. The little tapes underneath, which I think were supposed to stay on(?) came all the way off in the shower.

I didn’t expect the whiskers, but I did say “make it look like a wistful Admiral Ackbar” so there you go.

Maybe you can see that my palm is bruised. It’s turning yellow now. It can’t really bear weight, but I can already push buttons and turn some things. Scissors and writing with a pen are challenging. I’m looking forward to going back to work…I dreamt I was playing D&D with my boss last night (he was the dungeon master).

Sleeping has been a dream since that first night. Since I hurt myself in February (which was apparently the last straw for my hands) I’ve been waking up with pain a lot and have had the deadness. Last Thursday (right after surgery, genius scheduling), I went to the sports medicine guy who diagnosed my right arm for electrical nerve testing on the left. The left is A LOT better than the right (no consistent deadness, and fine if I sleep in a brace) but I’m going to have it done around Xmas when I am done with my current job.

Yesterday I ran the smoker because I was still nervous about dropping a frame. Bee jacket or not, that would be a disaster.

Blowing the bees down so Pete can close up the frames after inspection.

The orange hive is going GANGBUSTERS. The purple hive had a little setback…we think they requeened. We interfered and transferred a frame of babies over to kickstart them, but we suspect they were already fixing their problem. Their population is growing but it a lot smaller. We’re seeing a lot of orange, yellow, and tan pollen legs right now.

The yard is just starting to pop since we’re a little shady under some firs–daisies are opening and our squashes are blooming.

The lettuce bed is paying dividends. HOW is it that I never planted lettuce before??

We’ve flipped tomatoes to the front yard this year but have a bunch of volunteer tomatoes and cilantro in the back from last year. As you can see, Pete is still indifferent to our dandelion situation, for the bees.

Franny made me a succulent pot for Mother’s Day and I got a plant at the Ballard Farmer’s Market which is unlike any I have in the yard yet. I love it.

Also, I got to see Strudel’s middle school promotion the day after surgery. It’s weirdly good timing to be home right now, since they finished school on Friday.

Strudel was very happy. She’s had a really successful last year of grade school and is moving on to middle school at the same school as Franny did. We are having preliminary high school talks now, but we won’t tour for a couple of years.

Her class held a last market day on the last day of school. These last few months they’ve been operating under some kind of Hogwarts theme and the teacher sorted them into houses. She was sorted into Slytherin.

I was very proud!

I made (gluten and dairy free) red velvet cupcakes with a ganache top, and now I realize I forgot to snap them. But I did get a picture of some booth signs Pete wrote to generate sales. He left it on the table before going to work on Friday and she picked the “Granny Voldy” one.

So now we get another week together. We’re going to grocery shop today and hit Math N Stuff tomorrow. I have bought a couple of new Wii U games. It’s nice right now…it kind of feels like the good old days.

I’ve left a lot of stuff out, but I have to go eat something. I’ve been spending a lot of time blogging in my head for the past few months (sad). Now that it’s not literal agony to type, I hope I will be recording more of my life again. It helps. Thanks for reading as always. <3

Beestung lips sounds so attractive until you think about it

On Thursday night we were poised to see the last episode of The Office. I threw on some first season episodes around Xmastime when I was cooking and the girls got sucked in. Five months later, we watched all nine seasons. I was very disloyal when it was airing and would dip in and out, only to binge watch a season at a time. I think it was a lot more enjoyable pacing ourselves like this and getting all the way through.

So I popped out into the yard after dinner to water the garden, which is growing well after the little cold period we had recently. We have some volunteer cilantro and tomatoes in my lettuce bed, which I will roll with. I have to take pictures soon. It is awesome. Anyway, I watered and came in and the girls were watching something short and I put my hand on my hip…and…BZZT! Stung in the middle finger.

I brought in a hitchhiker. I scraped out the venom sac right away. Friday was kind of miserable at work, with my hand steadily swelling and the site around the sting turning purple. I thought that would be the end of it, but my hand got enormous. It looked like the hand of an obese toddler by Saturday, throbbed, and hurt all the way down to the tendons.

Normally I have knuckle dents and visible veins and whatnot, especially now that I’m not kind of swollen all the time like I was when I was sick. There were some bony-ass fingers hidden under my bloatpaws and I love them. They look like the hands of a 38-year-old, instead of a pile of dough.

This afternoon I was marinating some chicken thighs to grill later when I saw it: a black dot in the middle of the angry, red sting site, raised past the rest of the raised skin. I knew I would have to operate. I scraped the skin off and there was hardly any blood, to my surprise, and then I found the stinger! No bigger than a hair, of course, but causing a lot of trouble. Damn.

Isn’t it amazing that most of the time when you get something foreign in your body, your skin either eats it or serves it back up to you like some kind of gross offering? Feels better already.

Sheeps, out of town, and straw boaters

β€œTo think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”
― Goethe

Time is passing quickly right now. I feel like I’m rarely idle now that the days have gotten longer–constantly moving or doing something, cooking or cleaning, or in the yard. All of which is not contributing to sitting and writing or blogging. I feel like we’ve turned a corner with the yard, and it’s starting to look like how we want it to, rather than just something we’ve been chipping away at or occasionally brutalizing.

I haven’t written in over a month and I don’t want to plod over the last five weeks, so I will give a short summary. I am still apprenticing at the same place, for the same company. I’m slowly adjusting to manual labor, and am less tired in the evenings and much less sore. My neck seems to have made a full recovery from whatever strain or sprain it sustained in February, though it is a little stiff in the mornings. What I’m left with is problems with my hands–switching careers has unveiled some nasty carpal tunnel that seems like it was just below the surface.

I got curious and took a peek and it seems some researchers think there is a correlation between Celiac and carpal tunnel. It seems like anything that can be inflamed, will be, if you’re having a sustained autoimmune reaction. I had a test last week at a sports medicine place involving having the nerves and muscles in my arms shocked, and then stuck with needles, and it looks like it’s pretty severe, with ongoing damage. This is unsurprising since my right pointer and thumb are still numb. So I’m seeing a hand surgeon this week for a consult.

But for now I want to talk about yesterday. We nicked off to Whidbey Island to visit a sheep farm.

I’ve discovered we can eat sheep milk without any bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting with brands. Buying it in the store has given mixed results–there was one brand that gave us a corn reaction (iodized salt?) and others that seem fine. I found a cheesemonger down at a farmers’ market and bought from them, and then we decided to take their tour and visit their store.

It was good to get out of town. I feel like we were halfway in survival mode for the last year or so, with me deciding to make a career change and doing spotty tech work. It seemed imprudent most of the time to go out of town and spend money.

I have to admit I got stunningly bored with this arrangement, and I’m glad I’ve had regular, if smaller, paychecks coming in for the last four months. So yesterday felt like a watershed, even though the whole trip ran about $100, including gas and a TERRIBLE book I bought at a cafe in Langley.

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, What would a Judy Blume book be like if it was not interesting and nothing happens, I want that book? then this is the book for you. Pro: it has a character named “Puddles.” Con: If something doesn’t get pregnant or name a penis “Ralph” soon, I am throwing it across the room.

We wandered around Langley some, in and out of the tourist trappy shops and onto the beach.

LAZY HAZY CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER! I cannot see a straw boater without thinking of Gilmore Girls.

The antique store was WAY too classy, very disappointing. The proprietor was playing “Greensleeves” (??) and there was only one paint-by-number, a very sedate landscape (zzz). The trashy-looking antique shop had a popcorn machine, which is, of course, our kryptonite.

After Langley, we’d had enough and got back on the ferry. We have some other stuff planned this summer, too, like a camping trip and a short trip to Port Townsend while Strudel is at camp. It’s nice feel like life’s getting back to normal finally.

CoCoWArZ!, Necks, Silent Hill Shit, and Yeah

Franny and I have been having coconut milk warz (TM 2007). I left an unused container of coconut milk on the counter one night when she was on dish duty and she picked it up and laid it on my chest while I watched TV. Like it was a present. I see your bullshit and raise you SURPRISE. COCONUT MILK.

It went in her bathroom drawer next. Then I found it under my pillow. Then it went in her boot. Then it went in my work bag. Then I snaked it into her guitar case, where she had to hide it from her guitar teacher due to adolescent shame (?).

“How would I explain that, Mother?” she said.

I let it idle for a bit and then on Friday, CHALLENGE REACCEPTED. Her toilet lid.

She one upped me Friday afternoon by taping it into the pantry, which I did not notice until today. I like it there for now, but I tell you…Imma get her. Mark my milk.

IN OTHER NEWS: Some Silent Hill Shit

As I mentioned recently, all the damn bees died. Poor girls. Our theory is the hives weren’t big enough to make it through via huddling for warmth. Also we had a moisture issue.

I’m going to say something that may make you think I’m overly concerned about the stock my business card is printed on, but I actually feel less bad about losing this hive than before we started keeping bees. It’s hard to explain. I guess it’s just that I know they would all die anyway, since they’re so incredibly shortlived. Of course it would be better if they made it through the season, but I know they did a lot over the summer as it was.

I pulled the existing comb out to clean the boxes. It still contains a significant amount of honey, which will be a good start for the new bees. We’re trying Carniolans this time. They seem to be very popular in this area, since they have that magic combo of hardy yet docile, etc.

Here’s the fallout when your whole hive croaks midwinter. You get a mat of moldy bees.

I scraped them out with a spatula onto the nearby ground, at which point the bock bock clean up crew came in and ate many honey-encrusted bee corpses. So we’re locked and loaded now, assuming we don’t get robbed out. If we do, there will still be comb.

NECK UPDATE: Can this Neck Marriage Be Saved

Check this out, I have some neck bone spurs and straight neck syndrome. My physical therapist was kind of over the moon. No spinal/disk compression.

“Can I get the curve in my neck back?” I asked.

“In your case, YES,” he said. He really looked genuinely happy. I have many exercises to do now. The feeling is coming back a little more in my fingers over time. I got sworn in to the union officially the other night…I just might make it after all *flying knit cap*.

Part 4, Work

So here’s the thing. I want to tell you every goddam moment of every day, but I am so unholy tired right now. Which is normal. But I keep hearing these amazing conversations. And you know I remember conversations years later–so it’s all in here. But let me tell you a short story about a type of man I have met on the job now. I call them…Neggers.

You know what you really can’t say to a lady on a job site anymore? “Get back into the kitchen. Sit on my face. Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

But you know what you can say? A thing you heard.

“What’s it like being a woman in the trades,” a guy asked me, who is not an electrician. I’ve been working with him since I started, and sometimes we’re in the same “zone,” him doing his trade and me doing mine.

“Oh really great,” I said. “I love my job.”

“Anyone act weird towards you?” he asked.

“Not really,” I said, truthfully. “I’ve had a little random stuff like ‘Good morning, sweetheart,’ but nothing gross.”

We chitchatted a little more and I mentioned that Washington State has the highest number of women in the trades (~19%). He insisted on telling me there was a study going on about women in the trades at the UW and seemed to think I should hie myself over there. He told me that Some Guys say that the trades are no place for women, and they Don’t Belong on Jobsites, but that attitude was probably dying out. Oh really.

A plumber I just love jumped in and said, “We have a female plumber up the street. She’s one of the guys. It’s a little weird when she burps and swears though, I don’t know why.”

I had to get back to work but I closed by saying I felt like I fit in. “I never really fit in with polite society so I like the burping.” I keep it light.

I worked on Saturday and the guy was there and trying to start conversations with me. He did that kind of jackhole thing where he was insisting on figuring out what SJ was short for. “Nothing!” I said, but he didn’t believe me until my boss affirmed it.

“That’s a weird name,” he said.

“Thank you?” I said.

“Have a good day. SWEETHEART,” he said, and walked off. My coworker apprentice, who is all of 25, looked at me quizzically.

“It’s a conversation he and I had the other day. No big deal.”

“Ok,” he said.

Later I got off work and waited for my friend outside of a bar we like, for a little catch up and pre-dinner drink. She and I are Saturday walking buddies and I was SUPES SAD to not walk with her that day.

The bar was not quite open yet. One of the bartenders emerged and began unlocking the cafe tables, which involved dragging around chains. A random barfly from a nearby all-day bar walked up to spectate.

“I just love seeing a woman in chains. HA HA HA!” he chortled. “I mean, a pretty woman.”

I watched, ready to jump in and Jerry Springer a chair over his ass if needed. The bartender smiled at him and made a couple of comments. He walked off and she started sweeping near me.

“Men don’t have an ‘off’ button, do they?” I said to her.

She laughed so hard, and I was relieved that I hadn’t been too presumptuous.

“I just deflect,” she said. “It’s easier than trying to challenge them.”

Wow, story of my life. Er. Sometimes.

“I work construction,” I said. “I work with men all day. I might be wound up.”

“OH!” she said. “You should check out this pinball machine down at Add-a-Ball. It’s a construction site where a woman is in charge. She yells at them all day. I love it!”

“Okay, I will.”

“Ha ha, I love it,” she said. “You’re like a Julia Roberts character. ‘Men don’t have an off button.’ That’s great!”

What is happening in this thread

Things have been…interesting. I’m having a series of high highs and low lows. And I guess a lot of mediums. There’s my epitaph.

I haven’t really been writing/tweeting/whatevering about it much, but I hurt my neck about two weeks into my new job (mid Feb), and that’s been a struggle. It seems I slipped or herniated a disk in my neck and it’s progressing very slowly. I have an MRI scheduled tomorrow.

It’s kind of freaking me out because it’s causing neuropathy in part of my hands, as well as muscle weakness in my arms and grip. In short it reminds me a lot of when I was sick from food–I often had neuropathy in my hands and feet then. Typing sucks. Holding a phone sucks. Trying to read sucks. Trying to sleep sucks. A couple of my fingers are constantly dead right now, and have mostly stopped hurting and itching (thank you brain for finally shielding me from that) but that brought a new learning. Your fingers can be mostly decorative! WHAT!

Work is hard. I randomly drop things. I dropped a carton of almond milk at the grocery store a couple of days ago and it ruptured. That was not work but it made work for someone else. I went from feeling like I could do anything to now feeling limited again, and no, the irony of all of this is not lost on me of all people. However, my mental outlook without corn and wheat is about a million times better so I can kind of pace myself mentally now without ending up in a despair pit.

I have been thinking of myself as New Coke lately. It’s a new formula. Most people say they don’t like it, but they’ll get used to it. I guess on an average day, I think of myself as New Coke and on a not so good day I think of myself as Gregor Samsa. (Emo)

So I was washing the dishes the other night. Now, I never used to like washing the dishes. I mean, it was okay. I did it growing up daily, as a chore, and often lived in houses without dishwashers when I was younger. There’s chores I definitely like, like walking the dogs, cooking, or folding laundry (but not fucking napkins) so I know the difference.

I step in with dishes when Pete is busy or out or ill or has cooked. He cooked while I was at physical therapy for my neck a couple of nights ago and then I was faced with a big pile of them. They were greasy, too. I tell you, I was FURIOUS about the dishes. In the old days I, Old Coke, was low-, medium-, or high-level irritated all the time due to corn and illness, to the point that I didn’t really trust my feelings until I had mulled over them for days or even weeks.

I have gone from a mail-in correspondence course to FUCKING HIGH-SPEED INTERNET OVER HERE. You know what? I HATE DOING DISHES. If we didn’t have giant sticks up our collective asses now about the blink tag, that last line would have been blinked. That’s how serious I am. Headline: NEW COKE HATES THE DISHES. It was kind of empowering because I immediately trusted my feelings. I have been yelling more too (mostly at Pete), and I don’t love this, but nothing high stakes. Mostly about the presidential election. I just feel very passionate about certain things now.

This is dumb and I cannot believe I have even bothered writing any of this, but here we are. It’s complicated. I still feel like I’m rebuilding my life one brick at a time. I don’t really feel afraid of or distrust my feelings or myself like I used to, so that’s pretty huge.

I’m not doing a ton of stuff at home right now, because of ongoing pain and an inability to grip well, but Pete is doing stuff. Mostly working on the poor blighted front yard. He’s cut down both of the holly trees that were in the front. I was never a fan of them since they were eating space where the front fence could be solid (and will be soon), as well as dropping horrid spiky leaves, and as a bonus, generally looking like candy apples covered in shrapnel. Here’s the last one about a year ago (behind the persimmon baby), which he cut down recently, and you can also see the chunk of corner fence that was old and rotty that he took down.

Old fence chunks:

I implored him to snap a couple of pics as he worked in the yard last week. He is now taking rando vacation days and doing yard work, because motherfucker has so much vacation now it was starting to evaporate.

Shortly before:

Expanding the rock wall:

The fence will go above that. The yard is so wild now, but I’m confident it won’t be forever. We put blueberries and raspberries in and everything has gone crazy and has filled in like a freaky meadow. The persimmon is budding on time this year…last year when he planted it, it didn’t bud for months (normal for a first year).

As a contrast, this is what the front looked like when we moved in. HA! You can see the first holly he dropped last year was still alive then.

I snapped this pic of the front this morning. Even though the flower and fruit beds are a mess right now, I still like the yard SO much better without the hollies. Pete is planning on snaking out the lattice bits and putting in some solid fence all the way around to the corner of the house for a shield from the arterial and a yard we could even let the dogs into.

Also, we noticed a chickadee pair were scouting the birdhouse I made at Ladies’ Hammer Club last summer.

I made deviled eggs from Easter leftovers. French, American, bacon & fennel, and Mexican stylee.

Oh PS I finally joined instagram properly and am using it. Work pics, house pics, dog and cat pics. Asstagramme.

Sometimes you just have to throw things

My period has changed since I quit wheat. It’s weird now, yet totally predictable. I get two days of really light spotting, which is my warning. Then the floodgates open and I have about six hours of terrible cramps. The worst is over in about two days. It’s kind of like going down the chute all at once. When I was eating wheat my periods were super light and I would hardly notice them, but the PMS was killer–super sore boobs, sore back, headaches.

I’ve been dreading having my period at work, so naturally in my second month it hit me full force. All weekend I was spotting and wishing it would come on fully, so I could suffer quietly at home with sad yet noble dignity. NOPE. I woke up Monday morning and BOOM, there it was.

So I strapped on my big girl jeans (Goodwill, $5.99) and went to work. I was doing deck work, which means climbing around and over a bunch of rebar, trying to fix or place our conduit. A deck is basically a dark living room full of Lego times 1000, and sharp and rusty to boot. I was bending and squatting, cutting pipe, tying wire, and feeling generally miserable from forcing myself to move and work while my insides were trying to fall out of my body.

Luckily we were all busy so I was left to my own devices, especially since we were getting help from a fifth-year apprentice. My jdub would MUCH rather work with this kid than with me, since the other apprentice knows what to do without directions. I liked the temporary guy. He was about 25, cheerful, gave me a lot of simple stuff to do that my jdub doesn’t trust me with (“Are you BAFFLED?”), as if I’m a drunken toddler.

The heat was off me, so I was quietly gritting my teeth and trying not to even hear what time it was. I was kicking myself for forgetting to take any painkillers before leaving the house. I had also forgotten to pack a fork and so ate my chicken with a spoon for lunch. That’s what kind of Monday it was.

I started feeling better near the end of the day when the throbbing/stabbing ache was subsiding, and I was left with that heavy feeling like my crotch was made of sawdust and had sucked up a lake of something viscous and awful. The young apprentice mentioned it was 2:45, which meant it was 15 minutes to quitting time.

“Oh thank god,” I said, realizing I hadn’t spoken in hours. “I need this day to be over.” I was cutting the flaps off a box that I could fill with couplings to store in our little parts house.

My jdub delights in any misery or annoyance I encounter so naturally he demanded details that he could relish.

“What’s wrong with you today that you want it to be over?” he asked.


I am learning things right now,” the young apprentice said, not making eye contact with me.

“AND MY VAGINA FEELS LIKE IT’S ABOUT TO FALL OUT OF MY BODY!” I threw the empty box I was holding into an empty crate because it felt right.

“Okay, I’m sorry I asked,” my jdub said. And he was, too.

I’m much better today.