When I Am Old I Shall Wear Safety Orange; OR Cancel Christmas

A. Deconstruction

I’ve got the day off today, involuntarily. It’s slow at the shop still. I got very few hours this fall, and then I realized I was about to lose my health insurance in January regardless of how much I worked in December, so I decided to take the week of Xmas off. My vacation started on the 21st since the shop was closed that Thursday and Friday anyway.

This was the longest vacation I’ve had since I was indentured. Just an observation, not a complaint: my butt literally hurt from sitting on it (I am a pretty terrible sitter now). I have enough hours banked that I still got my regular, scheduled apprentice raise on the first, which is pretty awesome. It’s taken three years and some change since I quit my full-time, salaried tech job, but I am up to that 2014 money again. And now I can party like it’s 2014? *

I could have done this faster if I’d taken the admission test for my trade immediately, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I’m glad I took some time to figure it out along with a couple of detours, many of them paying ones.

There’s been mad layoffs at the shop, which is what happens when work is slow. Some days we were running out of work and getting cut at 9:30 in the morning, driving home in normal rush hour. My boss gathered us in the breakroom yesterday and said there would be no more layoffs unless journeymen wanted them. She said we are the “A Team,” which is nice. This way you know there will be no more layoffs…unless there are. I worked last winter consistently, but I’m with a company that has less work right now. As an apprentice I am not allowed to quit a job but I’m sure we could get voluntarily laid off for lack of work too.

I am weirdly (and probably somehow wrong to be, do @ me) proud to be the lowest-level apprentice left there. Some of the higher-year apprentices who prefer field work opted to be sent out “on field assignment” so they can get more hours.

One of my drinking comrades, a drummer who reminds me of a long-lost Van Halen brother, said to me: “Attitude and attendance.” Notice he did not say “skill and ability.” I am very privileged to be able to stay in a situation right now where I am learning a shit-ton but not making normal paychecks, since they want to keep me and I have a two-paycheck household to lean on.

Some of the ladies I work with who have made a career out of the shop are pretty down on working in the field. Mostly they hate other trades, who are not nearly as nice and ungross as most sheet metal workers. I get it. I also kind of don’t care when I’m out there. It’s a coin toss for me. I’m much healthier in the field because the air quality is way better and my guns look sick because I’m not all histamine-puffy. I love building shit! Yeah! But in the shop I’m not tripping over 7,000 cords in poor/no lighting, freezing cold or boiling hot, and using portajohns that have been sawed in half and reassembled to get them up the lift. I have gotten to know people better because I’m not in Machismo Zone. In the field they warned me there can be high school drama in the shop, but guess what, there are human beings everywhere, and a crew of roughy toughy guys can be just as gossipy and backbiting as anyone.

B. Get up on his lap/ don’t let him touch you

I don’t know how to write this section so let’s have an interview and I’ll be glib until I can be real and then I’ll probably delete all of this.

Q: What is it like when your kid splits abruptly and then it’s the first Christmas without her?

A: Well Skip, it’s challenging. As you know, I’m very, very blessed to be surrounded by so many talented family. It’s been a real gift to me and my craft as a human being. There’s been a lot of personal growth this year. But hard times too. Overall I gave it 112% and at the end of the day sometimes that isn’t enough.

There is no way for me to say this without sounding like a complete asshole. Just get ready to slam the internet shut and throw it across the room. How was Xmas: it was a relief to not have her here. A real, profound relief. ~MY THERAPIST~ (who earns every cent listening to the ramblings of an insane person) is reminding me that a thing (some) teenagers do is push you away and reject you and go off and form their own identities and all that healthy stuff that can look like a slow-motion trainwreck at the time. Intellectually I understand that, but it’s still very hard.

Living with someone for the past couple of years who said “NO!” to almost any kind of family activity or just one-on-one time unless it involved buying her something was exhausting. Living with someone who thinks you’re a stupid hypocrite is exhausting. Being lied to often is exhausting. Taking care of someone whose rebellion is, in part, harming her own health, is exhausting and heartbreaking.

I am wracked with guilt over this relief, of course, because I’m not just the president of being Wracked with Guilt, I’m also a client. I did not text her on xmas because I remember when she’d get any kind of text from her dad like “Happy birthday” in the past couple of years her blood would boil and she wouldn’t reply. I felt bad about that, but I also feel like she needs some space right now.

Aside: I remember being in the car with my mother after she’d moved to back to Seattle with us and her saying, “Are you ever not feeling guilty about something? You’re like a closet Catholic!” (I think she was dating a recovering Catholic at the time.) In hindsight I don’t think she recognized what having a conscience looked like.

Anyway, I’m not trying to vilify Franny in any way now that she’s living with her dad. We weren’t any kind of victims, just a family with a teenager. She is being held hostage to her own need to grow up and figure out what the hell is going on. I tried my hardest and will try again in time. I’m not trying to flip the script and say good riddance. It’s just gotten easier around here and less serious. Strudel seems to be feeling better and her aunt and a family friend have commented that she seems to have more of a sense of ease. I didn’t realize how strained her relationship with her sister was as well, but Strudel opens up about it now.

We need to be careful with her now, too, I know. Now the laser beams are TARGET: STRUDEL, ONLY CHILD so I need to balance supporting her where it’s appropriate and letting her live her life and try things. Check back in three years when I’ve messed that up.

Positive: I have a lot more energy now. This sounds terrible. “My house is so clean now, and all I had to do was kill and eat my entire family!” But I do. My memory is better. Grief and worry gnawing at you can take its toll. I can both love and care with my whole self and still say, yes, and that shit is really hard sometimes.

The whole house is kind of in recovery now and we’re playing house shuffle. Strudel eagerly moved into Franny’s larger room, and I’m going to turn her old room into an office. We moved the bed into the basement finally and our old upstairs room will be a guest room. Right now it’s gutted and looks terrible because it contains nothing but our clothes and some odds and ends. This mess is waiting for the walk-in closet downstairs (getting bids this month). There is half of a bedframe in my kitchen right now. Oh god. I have this long term fantasy/goal that everything in my house will someday have a place and then I can just lay down and die.

So things are getting better. I’m going to stop picking at this Franny scab for now unless something really shifts. Now I’m at that point where each day moving forward isn’t acutely painful and full of regret. To quote Spike (yes I did), “It’s just living.” We’re doing ok.

C. Mantra: A Lack of Planning on Your Part Never Constitutes an Emergency on My Part

In related news, I had a funny little SeaFed hiccup that I’m probably going to get a call about today. Apparently he tried to schedule an appointment with our allergist and told them we have shared custody (no comment. Wait: “LOL.”). This threw the brakes on things when a person they’d never heard of before called to take a minor patient in and he was all “NEW DAD, WHO DIS?”

The allergist’s office sent me a letter saying that since they have discovered we have “shared custody” (“LOL”) both parents must be present at any subsequent appointments. It was crickets after this. No one called me and asked me to come with or for help. Sooo. *whistles*

This is pretty typical half-assed SeaFedry. I am not even trying to be mean. He’s just never been able to manage his time or have the executive functioning to navigate through systems like this. I predict: he did not get the letter, because he did not provide his address when he called; OR, he did not read the letter; OR, he read the letter and forgot about it, and so will show up at the appointment today and call me once he’s there and they turn him away; OR, they will ghost on the appointment.

This is making me think of when she was small and I took her to the dentist and sent him a copy of the bill and asked for half and he sent me a check for $14 (I think) because he “calculated” what the copay would have been if either of us had insurance at the time, which we didn’t. Insane.

D. Subject Change

So we had some fun times on vacation together. On NYE we went to the Ballard house where they’ve done everything Diagon Alley in their driveway. It was for Halloween, but they’ve kept it up through this month and are raising money for charity.

Strudel and I went to the mall and got some makeup at MAC, and I had her choose some clothes as pre-xmas fun. She’s just teetering on that age where I can’t reliably choose clothes for her anymore. This holiday was smaller than the usual ones because she’s not really into toys anymore, is not outgrowing things like mad, and because my work hours/paychecks have been so limited.

I took menu suggestions for xmas on the chalkboard and they basically looked like this: fried squid, pho, ham, satay, pickled Korean beef, sandwiches, spaghetti. What do you do with this? I split it up.

On xmas eve we had Asian food: satay, pickled beef, sesame chicken.

Pete went out and grilled satay in the snow and he and I were both impressed with him.

If the food photography on this blog ever improves, call the police because I’ve been killed. *blinks SOS slowly*

Then we did jolabokaflod, which was fun as fuck.

Strudel said, “I don’t have any money!” I asked if she’d be open to going to the library, and she was. She got me an Isabel Allende. I have never read her, because I am not super into sad, serious literature, this is a thing I know about myself. “I am expanding my horizons,” I said. By chapter two there had been meditations on loneliness, the displacement of being alone in a foreign land, dismay over the physical aging process, a cat drinking antifreeze and growing staggeringly, foamingly ill, and I knew someone was about to get hit by a car (book flap). I quietly put it down. Whoa.

Pete played it very safe and got me Salt. I am a sucker for food plus history obviously. I got him The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 and 3/4 which is one of my favorite books of all time and he read the first page, laughed really loudly and put it down (?). Pete got Strudel some really compelling YA vs A Short Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson (mine) so he won that round too. Next year I will pander!

On xmas we voted for a cheese day had Monte Cristos for breakfast and pizza for dinner. I got kind of poofy and a little joint pain but it was actually worth it. Gluten and corn never tempt me (recovery is too horrendo and unpredictable), but twice a year or so we have cheese.

Two days after xmas we saw the new Nutcracker. It is VERY interesting now with the new set pieces and costume designs. Usually I think ballet is a little boring unless some shit is coming out of Natalie Portman’s arm.

E. Meditations on Fruity Crap

A couple of summers ago, there was a stack of books on my buffet and a ZZ plant innocently thriving on the floor next to the buffet. Of course, along came a fat Mère the cat (motto: “I don’t understand physics!”) and knocked the books down, crushing the ZZ plant in the process. I let it limp along for a while and hoped it would recover. It pretty much stopped growing, like “WTF fuck you people. I was doing good work here.” I downsized the root ball into a smaller pot, hoping it would force growth, and saved the few remaining green leaves. I set it in my dark bathroom window, since it’s a low-light plant.

Finally, there was only one leaf. I kept watering it and then pulled it down on New Year’s day.

This is how we get emotionally attached to plucky plants. Thank you, plant. Happy new year to you!!

* 2014: Go out to dinner, get ill, blame self for eating too much. Go out in public, breathe air, get ill, call self “melodramatic and probably anti-social.” Have drinks, get ill…eh, you get the picture. |back|

Narcolepsian Candidate, Asshole Digest v. 1

A For Effort

Last month I was at school for my first welding week, which I was super jazzed about. I couldn’t wait to learn welding! I liked brazing last summer, so I thought I would like welding too. Oh man, I really did. We welded all morning. I was terrible, but I looked around and most of my classmates were too. My favorite person in class, who is my homework buddy, had perfect welds since he was an underwater welder for years.

At lunch I ate in my car like I usually do, to take a break from being indoors with fragrances and the smells in the lunchroom. I don’t eat heavy on school weeks, since I’m not burning as many calories. We reconvened in the classroom for some PowerPoints on welding and I started to feel really unnaturally sleepy. My ears were ringing and I felt drunk–anaphylaxis. I knew my brain was shutting down.

I wasn’t thinking clearly and couldn’t decide what to do. School is very strict about being there and participation, which I get. I thought if I could lay down for an hour and sleep I would be ok again, but I knew that wasn’t compatible with getting through the afternoon. I was kind of propping my head up with my elbow and my teacher was giving me shit about falling asleep (“SJ do you know you snore?”).

I decided to wake myself up a little (this never works) by going to the bathroom and splashing cold water on my face. I would only be gone for a minute–perfect. I staggered out of the classroom and to the loo. I looked shitfaced–red cheeks, red eyes, couldn’t focus my gaze. As I threw the paper towel away I decided to sit down on floor for just a second. The tiles looked so cool…

I woke up to my classmate and a third year asking me questions.

“The EMTs are on the way, SJ. What’s going on? What are your symptoms?” Get this–my classmate is a former nurse and was completely collected.

The EMTs came and asked me a ton of questions. They got some kind of heart monitor on me and saw that my blood pressure was skipping from the 80s to the 100s rapidly. They checked my oxygen levels and they were normal. I was relieved about this–I’ve always wondered if there’s a component of airway blockage happening that I don’t know about when I go to sleep. I was slurring a little as I was answering their questions.

So, long story long, school doesn’t want me welding anymore. And now my classmates know to check on me if I look too sleepy, because I’m probably mast cell drunk out of my mind. I can recover from almost anything if I can sleep for an hour in a safe space. There are masks that are kind of like SCUBA for welding that may help, but they start around $1500. It’s a big investment to make in something that might not work.

I talked to my homework buddy about this because he was worried about me. He said, “It’s too bad we started with stick welding, because that’s the dirtiest kind of welding and makes me sick too.” He has a special respirator that fits under his welding mask. My respirator does not.

For now I’m in welding limbo. I think I’m going to have to find a way to weld on my own so I can come back to school and prove I can do it safely if I want to do it there.

Relevant Experience

Not too long ago, I would scoff at the old tradies I worked with who would sleep through every movie. There was a lot of “Yeah, I saw the first fifteen minutes of that, it was pretty good.” Right now I’m doing the same. I have seen the opening shot of The Orville for the last three weeks in a row. We call it The Slipper Show because the spaceship is silly looking. I see the space slipper and it’s Queen of Hearts time for me on the rug. Good night.

I kind of have an excuse right now–I’ve been transferred to the shop. It’s basically like Eminem’s job in 8 Mile, except Seattle strip club lighting levels instead of Portland, and no wall jobs or brooding.

Time to make the fuckin doughnuts

It’s making me somewhat to seriously ill most days. I leave with a headache that lasts until I go to sleep. Some nights I crawl into bed before dinner, shaking and feverish from welding fumes, and then I get up and do it again. I blow black metal dust and smoke out of my nose all the way home. I know I’m not the only one who gets sick, but it’s not a good place for me. I cannot believe people make careers out of it in my trade.

It’s kind of good news/bad news that I hustle so hard in the field. It’s really slow right now, and my work style has kept me from being laid off (yay) but my reward now is being sick most days. I’ve been told I might go to week on/week off, which means I can collect unemployment when I’m not working. I’ve been noodling around with crochet again now that I have more time.

D for Effort

I went out twice in one week last week, holy shit! I finally saw Morrissey live, and it was everything I expected and more. He didn’t cancel, which I know he is notorious for because of his health and his whatnot. I got gassed out by the fog machine and felt pretty drunk by the time I got home.

A couple of days later I saw John Hodgeman on his book tour. I was excited that he was “in conversation” with John Roderick. The website said something about him doing readings and answering questions. I was dragged along to see him about nine years ago, and thought Hodgeman was pretty terrible live, and I was completely uninterested in his books because I’m not into fake humorous facts. His supporting players–incredible. Sean Nelson and John Roderick were rocking out on some hardcore early-80s Billy Joel, which set me off on a five-year Billy Joel jag.

I thought the Hodge would be better live after nine years, and I also am a fan of advice, so I like his podcast now a lot. I like that he’s written a midlife contemplative-y memoir, so I was into this. Well, he was jumping up and down and jamming his hand down the back pocket of his terrible pants like a ADHD kid giving a book report.

Roderick was gently trying to get him to sit down and put his mic on–it was kind of cringy. They did one song, and it was terrible, and Hodge was just not focused. I bought two books so I could get the silly badge they were giving away and in the end I didn’t want to wait in line to get it. I don’t have enough time to appreciate things as Kaufman-esque anymore. In summary: I’m glad there was no fog machine, and I probably should just find a way to see John Roderick live.

Somehow it Makes Sense to Juxtapose Autumnal Pictures of Things Being Ripped Out of the Ground with This News

THIS WAS THE SUMMER I took over the front bed. I promised Pete I would last winter. 2017, baby. It was going to be my year. We would make the front yard more attractive and lower maintenance in terms of weeds (read: wood chips and flowering shrubs ahoy). We’re trying to divide church and state a little more because I have a bad habit of seeing an open space and needing to fill it with flowers, and Pete says “HAY THAT WAS GOING TO BE PUMPKINS.”

YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK YOUR PUMPKINS. COSMOS, BITCHES. Just kidding. I like pumpkins, I just don’t want to wait three years for them. Then he comes through and pulls or steps on a bunch of sunflower seedlings I’ve stealth planted by announcing loudly that I am planting sunflowers and marking the space.

So the front yard is supposed to be flower and fruit tree town. Typical me typical me I’m doing black/purple, white, and dark green–goth garden. I had to leave the original roses even though they are off-scheme because they’re nice and tolerate the front yard and neglect very well. I think other than the clematis, they may be all that’s left of the original front yard.

I solemnly swear I will leave the vegetable garden alone and stop sneaking in four o’clocks, which are fucking magical. I am killing part of the grass next to it to make a dedicated herb bed. In five years I hope there will be no grass left in the backyard or front! I am taking home sheet metal trash to create underground grass barriers.

These pictures are from about a month ago before the leaves started to turn, but when it was getting cool and rainy. Perfect transplanting weather.

Digging up blueberries and razzleberries

Part of making the front yard flowery involved transplanting the berry bushes, which were overcrowded and overwhelming the now-toddler persimmon tree we planted a while ago.

Long shot of how order segues inelegantly into chaos

Raspberry bare rooted

I decided to move the blueberries into some of the remaining open space in the back, for ease of picking. Plus this spot gets some really nice light from about ten to four.

The raspberries in the former chicken pen.

A thing I have not told you is that after ten-plus years of keeping chickens, I rehomed them all in the late spring. They went to a tinner friend who has a compound in the middle of nowhere (his shop has about the same square footage as my house). His wife was excited about gently used, free, grown chickens and just likes eggs and the hobby like I did. I felt very good about letting go of this extra demand on our time and energy, especially as we are making the yard nicer and want to use all the space without the rampaging claws and beaks.

Since this picture was taken, Pete has demo’d the coops as well.

A naked space ready for smaller shrubs and flowers, and a persimmon that can breathe now.

Also I transitioned my summer pots into fall pots. This year I decided to only buy things that I will transfer into the front yard, including the pansies, which last all summer and beyond, and appear on salads all summer. Some of the grasses will make a little skirt around the persimmon tree.

And here I come to the end without telling you my hard news. How do I say this? My uterus is falling out. It’s been on the drop for a while now, like since high school. Slow and low/this situation blows. It’s really uncomfortable now. I am in consults this month to get a hysterectomy. They are considering some kind of mesh to hold my urethra in place as well if needed, which I’m probably going to have to pass on, since historically I don’t seem to do well with plastic in my body. (See: IUD dramz and temporary crown. Also I used to stick pens in my mouth until about ten years ago, gross, I know, until I realized the plastic was making my tongue and mouth tingle. Eep.) My ovaries will be left in, which is good. I’m going to try to schedule surgery for around Xmas this year. I am scared that the surgery will make me massively degranulate, and sad that there are no pain meds I can take, much like with carpal tunnel surgery.

Early uterine prolapse can be one of the indicators for Ehlers-Danlos, which is interesting. I don’t have circus trick joints like other members of my family, but the baby box is falling out. Cool times. As a plumber I met recently said, after volunteering that she had a hysterectomy: “They took out the nursery, but left the playpen. Best decision I ever made! Ha!”

I got drunk the other night and bought this shirt. I am still figuring out my feelings. The end.

Ruminant butts/black and white butts

Yesterday Strudel and my sister and I all had the day off and we went to Northwest Trek, which was pretty awesome. It’s like a mini zoo/habitat that you can take a tram tour through. We saw mountain goats, elk, moose, bison, small cats, wolves, and otters munching on fish, beavers scratching themselves, and more.

I spy a lady moose butt

We saw the allergist and Strudel has just started Ketotifen, which I am SO EXCITED ABOUT. It’s pretty much the gold standard for mast cell stabilizers as well as being an H1 blocker, and works for a lot of people. Naturally it needs to be compounded…we can’t just go get it at a normal pharmacy and it has to be $200 a bottle. I am looking forward to the letter from my insurance companies telling me why they can’t pay for it. The allergist advised us to keep her on Zyrtec, Zantac, and quercetin as well.

Strudel’s knee is out again so we rented a wheelchair and rolled her around all day. It was still good to get out of the house. I thought back to when I was in tech and I would take their school holidays off and we would do something fun. It’s nice to do some of that again, even though I was given the day off due to slowdowns. Gotta make the best of it.

“I see you’ve managed to get your shirt off”

You know those Victorian corsets with all the boning, but not in the good way, that would squish women and girls to the nth degree? Where does the fat go? I will tell you, but you probably already know. It displaces.

So like the poor lady’s maid assigned to tighten said corset, I’m struggling a little right now after going back indoors. I felt really good this summer, strong and like I was getting stronger every week, literally. Like it was easy for me to build muscle and my lungs were huge. The first three weeks I started I thought I was getting sick by every Friday. Sore throat, fatigue, aches, lymph nodes rising on the back of my head and neck. Fuzzy brain and memory leaks. I’d be a dead ducky on Saturday and then on Sunday I’d be refreshed again and would cram ten hours worth of chores and errands into about six.

Cod pie

I think…I figured it out. The minute I walk in to my building I’m hit with fragrance and my face starts to dump. I sneeze and scratch my face all day. People are covered in corn-based deodorants, lotions, perfumes, aftershaves, laundry detergents. I think being around adhesives, industrial lubricants, dirt, and welding fumes actually agrees with me more. I’m going to die of something. It’s probably going to be my colon shredding and bleeding out like other members of my family have gone, but I think I want to feel good and spin the wheel with construction in the meantime.

I have to tell you though, it’s shaking my confidence. Corn makes me so weak. How can I go back onto a jobsite and lift buckets and rebar and do math and whatnot? I’m trying to remember that I’m going to be really sore at first but I’m probably going to feel great and be able to think super clearly in about a week. I’m still hanging out waiting to hear if I have interviews with anyone. In the meantime I have the best temp job I can get in terms of hours and pay. I’ve found some temp warehouse work which pays similarly, and is calling to me, but it cuts off a bit sooner and it looks like there’s some graveyard shifts. I’m weighing the advantages.

“I’m her mother.”

Desk jobs are comfortable in that you’re warm and dry but I don’t feel comfortable being forgetful by the end of the week, feeling my anxiety rise for no reason, and having physical symptoms. I’m having trouble explaining to some people why I want to leave these types of offices forever. I guess I don’t have to explain it to anyone.

“No she isn’t.” PS I Derp You

There is an interesting side effect when I get ill again, but not too ill to function. The corset squeezes and the fat displaces and it makes my wheels spin creatively. I read that the flu virus can make you more gregarious. I think my brain gets kind of frantic when my immune system goes off–“we’re dying here, make something!”

I’ve been kicking around doing something fictionalized with Samuel Pepys diary for almost five years now–kind of a story that takes place in that world. I thought it might lend itself to a podcast, sort of a “17th century mecha dystopian London meets Night Vale” thing (what’s that you say? Kevin Costner’s Waterworld?). But I realized I don’t want to work alone right now, so I wrangled a cohost to podcast with. And it will have NOTHING to do with Samuel Pepys, don’t worry. I’ve got a domain locked down and recording equipment on the way.

I’m excited. I need a carrot. I need to continue perusing my ridiculous hobbies. I will link when the first one drops, which I’m hoping will be around Thanksgiving, and put it in the sidebar, etc, but as usual I won’t really push it and see if it finds an audience. If nothing else it will be fun times with my cohost and a chance to dick around with Squarespace, which I’ve been wanting to do since my site’s design is STALE as hell.


A nerd with cheap custom fangs.

Me: We’re going to be seeing a lot of these fangs, aren’t we?


Franny is switched on permanent Owen Meany capslock right now.

P. birthday cuppycakes: Orange cream with pecans.

“Bonus” Franny birthday. I forgot about this batch because I probably shouldn’t be driving two cameras at once.

Read my fax! You’re fired!!

Two nights ago I dreamt I heard a noise in my sideyard and I walked to my kitchen window to look out. There was an old-fashioned black car parked there with the deepest tinted windows. I heard a pop from the car and my kitchen screen split, and a bullet went into my chest.

I slumped and P. was behind me, holding me up under my arms.

“I’m dying,” I said.

“I’ll call an ambulance.” He is always very calm when someone is dying or really hurt. Then I got lightheaded and woke up.

After I woke up, I realized it was a hearse. Then I remembered it was my birthday. THANKS BRAIN. This does not bode well at all, does it?

Last night I watched Back to the Future 2 with the girls, as many people did last night, I think. The opening credits played as the DeLorean flew through clouds.

“This was like, the best moment of my young life when these credits rolled,” I explained.

“I couldn’t even follow this movie the first time I saw it,” Strudel confessed.

“It’s convoluted as fuck,” I said.

P. popped in and out of the room as he made cookies. “I always forget that most of this movie is Marty fucking things up.”

Franny had her own observations. There was a scene where Marty returns to what he thinks is his home, but it belongs to a different family and is in a run-down and crimey neighborhood in a dark 1985 timeline that he returns to. He slipped into his window to discover an African-American family living there.

“Mom, so that’s actually racist,” Franny said. “Now that the neighborhood’s bad, there’s a black family in his house.”

“That’s true,” I said. “The director made the choice to put that family in there to show how upside down everything is in this 1985.”

Later we noticed when Marty was tailing Biff, the antagonist, Biff lived at his grandmother’s house, who had a lawn jockey in her yard, which was framed by the camera as we were shown the obligatory “keep off lawn” sign. The viewers were meant to understand these were bad, backwards people.

I still enjoyed it. I always do. It was a happy childhood memory.

In Other News: Bothering P on chat, who actually has things to do unlike me

I sent him the link to this image, which I think is an internet golden oldie at this point.


Outlook hates my name.

More Corn Dramz

When I mentioned “troubleshooting myself” in the above chat, I was being kind of silly but I really did figure something out this month. When I started work I didn’t bring a mug right away, but wanted some tea. I always bring a mug, just like how I always bring a bag, and always retick my mattress with sheared pubes and lentils. It’s just what you do in Seattle.

After many years of working in the same corporate veal-fattening pens with the same pretty okay corporate tea offerings, I thought the English breakfast was making me ill now. I was disappointed. My face broke out and burned, I got very tired, my lungs got “smaller” and congested. My joints hurt. And I was so crabby I could laser someone in half with a single glare.

I started having my crazy thoughts. “Maybe I can just GROW MY OWN TEA.” (wat) “Maybe I can just whittle down to one basic meal template of rice, chicken, and broccoli three times a day like I’m a dog. SJ Chow.” (No)

“I think there’s something going on with the teabags or something,” I complained to P. I stopped drinking tea for a few days and completely improved. Then I brought a mug in yesterday and cautiously experimented on myself. No effects but +5 to Caffeinated.

Then I fell down the rathole…okay International Paper Company, what are your cups coated with? Surprise, a polymer made from dextrose (corn). Don’t worry, gentle citizen, it’s inert and safe for allergy sufferers. Okay. I feel much better now.

I want to also tell you a story about how Franny asked me last night if I think she should be participating in more “teen activities” and all the outrageous high school stories she’s been telling me lately, but I think that will have to wait til the weekend! Happy Thursday?

Stay Cool Bret

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.

Today’s fun fact is that iodized salt contains dextrose

Thetans! Thetans errwhur!!

Weird week. I had really vivid nightmares all week, and night sweats, and just generally woke up a lot. I realized partway through the week, once cool lesions started opening up on my scalp and my lymph nodes started raising again, that I had gotten corn from somewhere. The list of symptoms is long, and it’s unmistakable now.

I’m discovering more and more that things I buy are often cut with or cross contaminated by something, even if there’s no listing. I’ve been reading about the adulteration of honey, and olive oil, and the practice of adding (corn-based) glycerin or HFCS to some red wines. This made me think about why, even if I was making every sauce and meal from ingredients that read “contains 100% whatever this is called,” I was still having adverse affects sometimes.

So this week it was tamarind paste–I happened to be at a Whole Foods, which carries a different brand than my home store. It said 100% tamarind paste so I bought it and added it to a chutney, which was nothing else but fresh herbs, a little safe seasoning, and whole dates. I made it to go with some onion pakoras that were a terrible fail in the fryer (not enough batter). I salvaged them by mounding them like drop biscuits and baking them on a high temp. Strudel and I ate the chutney for a couple of days with leftovers and she got sick too.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her when she came home. I had gotten a call from the nurse earlier that day, who said she had fallen, knocked her loose tooth out, and swallowed it.

“Well, pretty bad. And dizzy. Which is why I fell down. Also my throat is sore from swallowing my tooth.”

I poured out the leftover chutney.

At this point, I think my best bet is to compile a list of brands with the reactions they cause (and more importantly, brands that do NOT cause reactions) and make it accessible by phone for shopping (I’m about to pull the trigger on a new smart phone so it should do more than just make calls and send texts that my janky old grey mare has been reduced to).

I woke up this morning feeling super hungover (no booze for the past two days) and in theory I am supposed to be running in a 5K on Sunday. I felt marvelous last weekend when I had a houseguest and was wrangling bees. Now I have not been running enough and have been falling into bed exhausted. P. keeps asking me about the race and I am so demoralized right now I don’t even want to think about it. It felt completely attainable last week. Maybe things will turn around by Sunday.

Franny was hanging onto corn for the past few months. She told me she wanted to see how she did, to see if maybe just cutting out wheat and most dairy would do it. She had a pretty serious crash over spring break on a day when she treated herself to a giant Arizona Iced Tea “juice” (HFCS). She came home and tried to do the crossword puzzle in People, of all things, which could really be worked out by a moderately clever grey squirrel, and got frustrated and was going all dyslexic in the letter spaces. Then she wandered around the house for a while, and cried for what she admitted was “no reason.” She was in bed by 8 p.m. that night.

I used to get these odd narcoleptic crashes after lunchtime sometimes where if I was sitting my body would shut down as if I’d been drugged for about ten minutes. Things would literally start to shut in on me and go kind of black–aggressive unconsciousness. If we were on a road trip I could stop midsentence and then come back to life about ten minutes later, snapping awake as if I’d never been asleep, and finish my thought. I used to sleep on the commuter bus from Microsoft daily a few years ago.

So it was all kind of familiar. I talked to her about it the next day after she’d slept it off. “Sooo, I noticed you had a large corn drink earlier that day, and your crying for no reason and brainfog and tiredness seemed familiar….” Later that day she said she was going to try to deliberately cut out corn.

“I have no idea what I’m going to eat at my dad’s house now,” she lamented. “He already gives me a hard time. ‘Don’t you get tired of no variety?’ he says. My choice is to feel like crap or eat nothing sometimes!” She eats a lot of rice there.

This is…kind of frustrating, but kind of just silly. We have a ton of variety here, in the world of spices and flavorings, and every kind of seasonal veggie, and loads of gluten-free grains. As I’ve written about, we make gluten free breads or cookies sometimes. From what she describes, there’s not much chance for “variety” over there because ingredients that don’t work for her are in most meals. I don’t like that she’s being treated like she’s making a strictly moral dietary choice or is being a picky teenager for no reason. She feels her stepmother still has no understanding of what she’s dealing with. (“What is Celiac anyway?”)

P. and I put our heads together and asked if it would help to have some kind of grocery list. Her dad takes her to the store every Friday that he picks her up, which is nice, but expecting a 14-year-old to meal plan on the spot, not knowing what is in his pantry, is challenging. I didn’t really get good at weekly meal planning until I was in my late 20s (and finally had a fixed, consistent cashflow and budget that was barely above the poverty level I’d been living at for years, that was key).

So I sat down with her and made a short list of staples that she could prepare as sides with little fuss or cost, like baked potatoes, or putting fried eggs on rice. I winged a really simple beans and rice recipe for her. I told her to take Kind bars out of our pantry as backup. We tried to think of things her little sisters wouldn’t want to raid–not to be stingy, but so Franny’s “special” stuff would not get eaten, leaving her with things she could not eat.

Okay, okay, so I admit that I am often overzealous about hacking my kids’ lives so they will run better and smoother. It’s definitely an overreaction to having zero help with things when I was a child. Sometimes my brain goes, “Hey, you came out of it fine”…except those times that I was unsafe, or underfed, or hiding the fact that I needed medical attention because asking for a lift to the doctor was a bad idea. I am trying not to do everything for them. I know they will go out into the world and step on 28 rakes on the first day, but I want them to have a shot at realizing that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. And that it is okay to ask for help with things.

Anyway, I am happy that most of the time I can go for a run, especially in light of the fact that I was laying in bed most of the time a year ago, and that most of the time my scalp is not covered in lesions. (HA. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write. wtf) I’m happy that Strudel is kicking ass and taking names most of the time now as well.

P. and I “worked” the bees midweek to see what was happening in there and to see if the queens were out loose from their cages. We took the tops off the hives and straightened comb out as much as we could. I didn’t see any eggs yet, but if things are going well we should see larva tomorrow. I will bring my camera for that. I wouldn’t say we were in a rush on Tuesday, but the sun was setting and it was rather cold and miserable. It has been thrilling to see foragers bringing in their fat pollen legs on the nicer days this week. P. says he can feel his brain crinkling because there is so much to think about.

And, for posterity, here is Shan and I on Sunday in my yard after she spent the night. HER phone will deign to take pics. Unfortunately for her she was swamped with monitoring posts for her site/various social media on Saturday night, so I said HEY LET’S BE VEGETABLES. I turned on a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords and we just kind of giggled and had a glass of wine and didn’t talk exhaustively to 1 a.m. or anything. It is nice having the type of old friend who you cannot see for a year and a half and then just sit with them. I am very grateful to her. If she hadn’t gotten in my face on my blog in 2003 or so, I never would have gotten to know her. I get my head pretty far up my obtuse, increasingly introverted ass sometimes, so I am happy that some people have decided to B&E into my life.

Place de la Ladd’s

We were queuing in front of Tasty n Alder this morning, which I love, even though they glutened me. (It’s not their fault. Everything I ordered was wheat-free but they are not officially gluten-free or anything).

Franny asked me what my favorite word was, and I realized it has been flâneur for many years, I think partly because I like the word and partly because I’d like to be one. And then I took the picture and it seemed very appropriate somehow, like a lost Degas from the future. Maybe we were flâneuring for the moment, anyway.

P. brought up the idea of redubbing Frozen so it “didn’t suck.” I think he was just spitballing because we were kind of bored. We took the girls to see Frozen shortly after it came out and I was really underwhelmed. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and ultimately I feel like this article came the closest to what bothered me about it: The Problem with False Feminism. He and I were pretty much on the same page.

“GASP,” gasped Franny. “I didn’t think it was that bad!”

“Well, it’s just not very feminist,” I said.

“I guess I’m not completely a feminist,” Franny said. “Because I liked it.”


“Do you believe men and women should be treated equally?” I asked.

“Yes, but….”


“Yes, okay?”

“Then you are a feminist. Sometimes I like Eminem. This does not make me half a feminist or a bad feminist. OKAY?”

“Okay, jeez.”

Then we went to Sauvie Island and walked around in a nature preserve. It was really hot and I felt the effects of the gluten coming on me. My chest felt like it was being crushed, like a panic attack. Then I was very cross for about a half hour, and then I was anxious again. This after 2-3 weeks of preparing every meal at home.

Someone who is very dear to me told me recently that they hoped I was getting some good fall color and I had to explain that we don’t really get that here, and that it is still summer here. We were sweating like dogs and the pups were panting.

We’re staying at P’s father’s widow’s house, which is an old Portland home that used to accommodate servants. I have been having a very strange visit because I am losing some of the old apathy that I felt for so long. We went to our usual favorite store, Title Wave, which is the library sell-off store. I think of it as the anti-Powell’s since it is the size of a small neighborhood library. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. I get lost in Powell’s.

It was swarmed with people and we soon discovered that they were having a half-off inventory-burning sale. We got 40 books for $11.30. Franny even found some ten-cent zines.

I keep contrasting this visit with the last time we were down here. Most importantly, Strudel did not get hit by a car, but it’s different in other ways. I just feel happier. I was browsing the shelves with intent and purpose. All I found was an Ellery Queen mystery, but that feels like a huge triumph, to enjoy browsing a bookstore and to not be an ADD crackweasel about things.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on my own, with the dogs, while P. took the girls to see his mother. She’s one of those people who can reduce me to tears in about 30 seconds, so I tend to avoid visiting. However, I did not feel like I VONT TO BE ALONE, it was just nice. In April I wanted to hole up in my room and I did.

I never get tired of the dogs, though. Edith spent the afternoon patrolling the backyard and barking at invisible, far-off dogs.

I don’t know why she’s gotten all toughy all the sudden.

Foreign lands, I guess. They have the opposite effect on me.

There are pictures everywhere in this house, much like most houses where anyone has formed a connection to another human. There’s pictures of her first partner, too, who died a long time ago.

I think about P’s father as I knew him in his 70s and it’s nice to think I have a tiny glimmer of what Strudel might look like well after I am dead and she is an old wizened lady. If only if only we could time travel without seeing the horrible beach crabs and the moon all cracked up. This place is a bit of time machine since there are pictures of him everywhere and it makes me feel so sad. Not just for P., because he lost his dad, but also for myself, who has only had tiny doses of people who are like loving parents.

I know these ears; I live with two sets of them.

WHEW SCHOOL STARTED; Or, In Which No One Was Killed/Died


JESUS CHRISTO MAN. I thought it was bad when they were little. This tail end of summer was probably one of the worst. But still, very survivable. I am in very good and even temper lately, for the most part. I still get into these hard black moods occasionally where I know I am white knuckling and not yelling at them veeeeery deliberately. Because that would just be mean and pointless. They are just kids, after all.

I did yell last night when Edith’s squeaky alien made its 36th reappearance in the kitchen while I was fixing supper after I had asked Strudel to play fetch outside. I have PMS.

Franny got out of her bitchy mood (mostly) by going to school, though she is very tired now and laments the long, standing-room-only, bus ride home. I try to remind her that if she went to her neighborhood school, it would be 40 minutes instead of an hour, and it would be on foot in the rain and snow (uphill both ways) and she gives me a YEAH YEAH LADY.

She has already made a passel of new friends and they are following her around. It was discovered on the first day that the freshlet group she has fallen in with does not smoke pot or cigarettes (so she says). I said, “Good, that will make it easier to not start, if you’re surrounded by healthy people.” Kids there have hair every color of the rainbow, so she fits right in, appearance-wise.

Yesterday I was having a bad reaction to ghee I had made and was lying in my yard like a useless loaf, with brain fog and covered in fresh blisters that had ripped across my ribcage overnight. Franny came home and loomed over me, dumping her day on me and announced that she had picked her class schedule.

“Japanese, algebra, yoga, a history class where we’re going to design a game like Settlers of Catan but it’s about Ancient Rome, printmaking, and I don’t have time in my schedule for Black Studies and it’s pissing me off. Maybe Farm if I have space. And there’s no women’s studies this semester. Boo.”

“Can I come with?” I said.

JUST KIDDING. I said: “That sounds great, honey,” and then I started crying a little again, because 1. PMS and 2. I am so happy for her. I think she’s going to have a great time. I am so happy she did not choose our neighborhood high school.

“I have a tear,” I said.

“OH MOM. And I’m frontloading science because it’s BORING, so I can take mostly art classes later.”

I hope that this weirdo school makes her fall in love with science. That would be so awesome.

I guess I have less to say about Strudel, because she’s in the same school, just up a level. She’s in a 3-4 split, and is in a minority of fourth graders. The cool thing is that she is kind of over the moon with how respectful, thoughtful, kind, and engaged her new teacher is.

I was sad, sick, and tired in the last school year, and pretty up my own butt (I am still all of those things but in a different way right now), so I did not tell you how AWFUL Strudel’s third grade teacher was, I don’t think. I kind of couldn’t bear to write about the situation.

I nicknamed her Von Hoots because she had a long German name, and we had to make light of things somehow. I was a squeaky wheel about this teacher, sometimes squeaking from where I was stuck in bed, even. I wanted to go down there and arf arf at them in person when things were really bad, but I was having trouble walking when things were the worst. So it was email.

There was an additional complication in the form of an interim principal last year. I really don’t think that helped matters. Von Hoots was a yeller, and would call the kids names, like little brats and so forth. She had a bunny that she would bring in twice a week, which the class enjoyed. After xmas break she announced to the kids that the bunny had died of starvation because she went out of town and forgot to feed it. Strudel said there were tears in the classroom. I don’t think children should be shielded from all reality, but Jesus Fuckity. Sugarcoat the passing of the beloved classroom bunny A LITTLE.

Von Hoots was random about homework. Some weeks she “didn’t feel like” running copies. She didn’t bother scheduling spring conferences, not that we would have deigned to go. Strudel got very high scores on her statewide assessment tests, which was not communicated to us (or anyone) in the spring. We just found out that she qualified to take the advanced learning tests again this year. She takes them almost every year and has been falling shy by about a point or two each time. I am going to contest it this year and see if they have room for her. The kid is already complaining that there is only 30 minutes a day devoted to math. (“ASK FOR EXTRA!” I said.) She wants to find a Mathletes club like Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks. LOL times infinity.

“Today I heard Von Hoots yelling at her new class,” Strudel said yesterday.

“ON DAY TWO??” I asked.

ANYWAY, out with the asshole, in with the newhole.


Gardening! I’ve been doing a tiny fragment of gardening. I planted an orange mint plant and a Greek oregano in my patio pots, and P. went out front and made some changes. I had started digging up the front yard but stopped because P. wanted to transplant the mature, large herb shrubs that were in that bed (rosemary, lavender, sage, some bonus heather). I HATE digging in this yard because you go down 4 inches and it is all rock. We have a theory that much of the rock from when this neighborhood was created got dumped in our yard, and topsoil was placed over the top of that.

So he dug holes in the back at the outside of the chicken pen and transplanted them! The yard is looking a bit more garden yardy nice, the way we like it, instead of serious mature shrubs and sad, vast patches of grass.

So here is the before, from when I attacked in July:

The left open square is now short sunflowers that were planted too late! But it’s okay. We might get a couple of blooms before October.

Here is now:

Winter greens surrounding the quince tree that we planted in the spring, and garlic to the right of that. I think this is the best use of the front yard. We also want to put up a grape arbor that will shade the living room window in the summer and admit light in the winter.

I was very glib about owning a house, and he agreed to do the paperwork, since I could barely think and was so le tired. Frankly, I was overwhelmed with terror about the paperwork. I think this was more bad brain stuff. I had a lot of anxiety with the bathroom as well, because OMG decisions. I said I would handle the decorating and the bills later, which I have been.

But now: I SEE A BENEFIT!! He planted weird trees!!!

HAZELNUTS, YAY! Okay, not so weird. But I have not lived in a rental here with hazelnuts in the yard.

They get to be friends with the cherry trees at the other end of the yard. We (okay, HE) is going to plant a medlar in the chicken pen. We also have plans for persimmon and gooseberry. We will can like it is 1899.

Also…I mean this for reals this time. BEES. Bees are coming. It was on my list when we moved in, but now I think we can pull it off.


I am spending a lot of time with the dogs, as is my life plan, but now they don’t have the stimulation of work, nor do I have Franny to lean on to walk them. When she was here this summer I was having her walk them an hour a day, which was my sneaky plan to get her out of the house into the sunshine for a minute before she went back to Mario Kart and sulking.

I have been trying them out at dog parks, where they can run a bit and I can sit if I need to. Yesterday they made a friend. Cavaliers always find each other.

That is Jackson. His dog walker/sitter said, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. He always finds a person on a bench and sits with them, otherwise I do it for him while the other dogs run.” He hung with us. It was cool.

The spaniels enjoy the dog park, but they like to watch. Edith does a little frolicking but Horace stays glued to me and makes terrible singing noises of anxiety. He likes dogs he knows.

Here they are, creeping on the other dogs like ChiMos. Bonus: my teal boob.

They are such good comfort dogs, which is their point. I feel so lucky to have them around, especially in this past year. It is doing me really good to have living stuffed animals that I can hug and hug and that love this treatment. I felt bad when I was too sore in February to have them in my lap, but they adapted. They lay near me now, touching me, and get into my lap with permission. Before February, they would just assume they could jump up, but I said OUCH too many times when I was acutely ill.

Edith is SO SPOILT that not only does she get a lap during Citadels, she also gets a napkin chin pillow.


I thought he was alarmed so she put him down and then he begged for more by doing a little dance on the blanket, so she rewrapped him and he was very happy. When Horace wants something, he does a jolly tail wagging dance, and Edith spins in circles. I need to video this.


Speaking of things I cannot eat right now, like tacos, my sister and I went to Leavenworth on the 25th last month. We tootled around for about eight hours, and had a late dinner. I had most of our bottle of wine, since I was not driving, and then I lost my noodles and ate two pieces of bread that were left on the table.

I had been doing so well ordering the right things all day, and ignoring crackers at wine tastings, etc. And I thought, PFFT, who cares, I will have a bummer day tomorrow and then get over it. Well, I slept 12 hours and then struggled out of bed. I was shaking, had cold sweats, a fever, and broke out in blisters on my torso. My brain was sludge and I was instantly depressed. I have drunk more since then and have not felt hungover or flulike the way this was.

So that was my last bite of bread for a long while. Maybe ever. I wrangled P. up for a Whole30 this month, and Strudel is voluntarily joining too, though I am sending her to school with kefir in her lunchbox. She seems okay on fermented dairy. She knows wheat bothers her, as I’ve mentioned, and she said she suspects corn does too. So we will readd that in October.

I did my first Whole30 in May. We’ve been doing Paleo-ish for a few months now, but I let wheat creep back in incidentally, by not checking labels and going out to “unsafe” restaurants and rolling the dice with being cross contaminated. Let me say, I believed all allergies and Celiac was very real, but I thought diets with strict proscriptions and industries around them were extremely unappealing. I remembered Atkins from its big wave of popularity, and thought it sounded CRAZY (I don’t think that anymore now that I understand more of the science around it). Worse, I thought it was a temporary fix, and then where did you go from there?

I am rarely more than 20 pounds overweight (I usually hover between ten and twenty over), but I tried watching my diet for so many years, not really to lose weight, but to feel good and get more energy. I tried counting calories to see what I was doing wrong. I could not shake the last ten pounds even when I was training like a maniac to take the cop physical test in ’08. One fall I tried going back to healthy vegetarian, as opposed to the “french fry” vegetarian I was in college, and I felt worse and gained weight and bloat. I ran screaming back to meat.

Ultimately, sadly, the only diet that was working for the past 2-3 years was to eat as little as possible throughout the day so my stomach wouldn’t hurt. I worried about how little I ate sometimes and marveled at how I still didn’t lose weight. Perhaps I had shot my metabolism, I thought. I was afraid of “acid stomach” (searing stomach pain that could last 24 hours) and producing room-clearing gas in public and at work. I started my day with a giant coffee, a yogurt, and a shot of apple cider vinegar, which was a hack I’d found for preventing the acid stomach and heartburn (another attempt to chip away at my symptoms, like tea tree for my rosacea). I let myself eat on the weekend and felt horrible. This chart could have been written about me.

Meat, LOTS of veg, some fruit and nuts is working. So this diet I can see doing for life. No measuring anything, except eyeballing proportions of carbs/fats/proteins. No calorie counting. I am not bothering with “gluten-free substitutes.” I had long lost my taste for pastries and those kinds of sweets, anyway. I think I knew on some level what was making me ill. My hair has stopped falling out. People who see me often have complimented the state of my skin, which looks better than it has for ten years. My spark still comes and goes. There is nothing like brain fog to kill your joie de vivre. Sometimes I am sad and sometimes I have okay energy and have to tell myself “Okay grandma, don’t overdo.” The diet aspect is pretty easy because we’ve been doing GF in fits and starts with the girls to see if it helped their stomachaches (it always did).

My clothes are already looser, and it’s not just bloat lost. It might be weird to be thin, since I have pretty much looked the same (carrying my winter coat around with me) since I was about nineteen or twenty. I gained that weight in college and I remember my mother panicking about how “obese” I had gotten (that lady is just a delight). I just accepted that I was kind of round. I yam what I yam, I figured. So that is a smaller consideration. I still wake up marveling that I don’t have a splitting headache every day, that I can drink moderate amounts of wine with no hangover, that I don’t spend all night rolling over on a huge puffed stomach after dinner. I keep touching my skin, which is smooth, unless I have a hives day. Hives day used to be every day.

ANYWAY. Whew, coming down off the soapbox. Also, no judging. And no Crossfit. I like my walks and yoga, thank you. I don’t care what you do, as long as it’s right for your body.

I forgot to bring my camera to Leavenworth, so we went and had our likenesses made. I need to find a frame, because this is going in a place of honor in my house. My face already looks less puffy than it does here. This picture is extra special, because it is also secretly August 25th The Last Day I Intentionally Ate Wheat. I will never have a Victorian year again, unless it’s a gluten-free one. HA.

Dumber and Dumbest

Edith has now lived through her first fireworks extravaganza. In fact, she was not alive a year ago on the fourth. New Year’s came when she was six months old, and was pretty quiet up here in the northlands of Seattle, with only a few scattered bottle rockets and bangs, but the fourth pretty much goes on all week. I think it was a little calmer leading up to it because everyone knew it was on a Friday this year, kicking off a longer weekend.

Hot doggy

I keep prescription dog drugs in the house for fireworks. We call it Sleepy Cheese and it is a joyous event to receive druggy dog Communion in the form of half a pill in a cheddar packet.

I doped them up well before sundown, but with Edith, I’m not sure I needed to bother. She’s just so unflappable about things that seem like they’d be a big deal in Dog Land. Mysterious, unseen booms send Horace skittering under a chair, or better yet up on the bathroom counter, or, ideally, up on a person. Edith, outdoors, raised her head slightly at a sound that could be downtown being attacked by bomber jets, blinked slowly, and squatted to pee, her complete lack of fucks evident.

Horace is also terrified of most other dogs, even ones he knows well, except Edith, of course. I took him to a dog beach recently, and he spent most of the time skittering at my legs with sandy paws, or on my lap, crying like a toddler past his naptime, howling in terror when another dog approached to say butt-hello. A dog belonging to a person I know from work approached us and Horace turned away, facing in to my chest. “SAVE ME FROM THIS,” his eyes pleaded. So I did.

Edith stood on the edge of the lake as the water lapped in, her perpetually wagging tail greeting all passersby. She didn’t much care where we were or what was happening, and was just as excited that we were leaving, since that would mean ONWARD OMG.

“Aw, look at the cute little Cavalier,” dog owners said as Edith smiled at them as we left.

“What was that? Was that dog having a seizure?” others said, as they saw Horace squirming in my arms, eyes rolling around in his head to expose the whites as we quickly made for the exit gate.

They do work as a team, though. For a while I thought Edith was about as smart as a bag of hair, and then I realized that Horace is simply her guide dog. She does not have to think or look at me, she can just follow exactly what he’s doing. She is nearly silent, but her bark is slightly different than Horace’s, and she never barks on cue. There is something about her bark, no kidding, that sounds like Judy Garland’s singing voice (pre-1960s comback concerts). It’s nice.

“Speak!” I say to Edith, and she sneezes at me. Noting that cookies are being issued, Horace runs up and begins skittering around, doing his pre-bark behavior, which is sneezing and quiet woofling. Finally, he barks and I give him a cookie, as if to say, “See, lady, this is how you do it.”

“Speak,” I say again, to Edith, giving her the hand signal at the same time. Every time she looks at Horace, and he speaks for her. If he dares to remain silent, she kicks him and bites his ear.

Horace looks at me as I give commands throughout the day. Inside, outside, up, down, sit. Edith watches him every time. If I speak directly to Edith she runs to Horace and begins kicking him frantically. “This is the guy you want, see? I was nowhere near the park at the time the mugging took place.” He succeeds in her stead and she literally steals the cookie out of his mouth. He opens the food puzzles at work, and she follows in his wake, gobbling up his spoils like Ms. Pac Man on dots.

Recently at work Edith ran over to someone in my area who was giving their dog a treat. “I don’t have any for you, sorry.” Edith saw the hand signal that I use for “No more,” which can apply to food or the end of one of our futile training sessions. Edith took this in and immediately turned and came back to me.

“So you do know things, you devil!” I said to her, louder than I meant to.

Edith looked away from me and promptly kicked Horace like a recalcitrant jukebox. “Translate,” she said to him.

Edith is a family dog, no one’s dog. She seems to love everyone pretty much equally, especially if they are holding food. She’s happy as long as we’re somewhat nearby, and will lean on someone’s leg or sit in a lap if it’s convenient and not too hot. She doesn’t make demands, really, just shows up and is confident someone will pet her or say hello.

Horace, the Edward Cullen of Cavaliers, is MY DOG and wants everyone to know it. When he sits on a foreign lap he stares intently at me constantly as if to say, “I know if looks like I’m visiting someone else, but I’m thinking of you the WHOLE TIME.” He likes to be glued to me. I think if he could be, he would meld his furry body into mine, or climb into my mouth.

This morning I let the dogs out and left the back door open, so they could let themselves in through my curtain style screens. I went back to bed, which is a luxury of summer Sundays when I don’t have to wait by the door or outside in the drizzle to let them back in. After a couple of minutes I heard jolly trotting in the hall and SPROING! Edith popped up and flopped down next to me in the crook of my elbow. Horace’s spot.

Horace followed about a minute later: SPROING! He thought he would scootch in to his customary place but there was a hateful red dog there, Precious. I could see his tiny brain working and his eyebrows crinkling as he decided what to do. It was simple–he would climb over the other dog and lay on her head. I stopped him, my hand out like a traffic cops’s, at the edge of where she was resting comfortably. He gave me a hurt look of confusion and spent several minutes stewing at the end of the bed, staring at me, glaring at Edith, making impatient little huf huf noises and sneezing. I ignored him and continued reading.

After a couple more minutes, Edith got too warm as she always did, and moved to her preferred space nearer to my feet. Horace whooshed in to be spooned, making a satisfied grunt as he settled in, gazing into my eyes creepily.

Moodily waiting for me to get this blasted laptop off my lap.

What is comes down to, ultimately, is that Horace is very concerned with what we are doing and what is happening, and Edith just isn’t. Edith is not smart enough to be scared of sensible things, and Horace is smart enough to do a bundle of tricks but not smart enough to know what will and won’t hurt him. Edith’s got a strong interest in dog work, like running and rolling in disgusting crap and hoovering the floor after I cook. Horace is afraid of my feisty cat, Nightmere, smoke alarms, chickens, fans, Ceiling Dog (there is a mirror on the ceiling of the elevator at work), and of being ignored by me.

However, I walked the dogs to Strudel’s camp the other day, and saw a different side of Edith the Glib, Edith the Feckless, Edith the Casualier. As we crossed the parking lot, Edith lost her mind. If she hadn’t been leashed, she’d probably be halfway to the border by now. I looked for a squirrel, a cat, another dog–nothing. A perfectly ordinary orange cone was tipped on its side in the parking lot and was apparently giving Edith the hairy eyeball.

“THE FUCK IS THAT THING?” Edith barked, yoyoing around to the limits of her leash and back. “THE FUCK IS IT DOING?”

Horace looked similarly puzzled; though, to be fair, puzzlement is not an uncommon look for him. I subtly cheated our route towards the sinister cone so we could all investigate further. Edith dropped to her belly and crept towards it like it was a giant hissing cobra. Horace walked to it nonchalantly, barely sniffing it, since it was so uninteresting.

“What is that, Edith?” I said. She continued to squirm on the ground, trying to be brave with every fiber of her doofy being.

Horace gave it a little kick and Edith’s face went WOOOOOW and set off another round of barking. He gave me a look, which, if he were human, would have involved him jerking his thumb at her and saying, “Can you even believe this lady?”


I spent some time in the backyard today, hogging all the vitamin D to myself while P. did more demo work in the basement. I came downstairs after to take a shower and change. I was freshly out of the shower and in the midst of switching laundry when he called to me through one of the open studs.

“Are you naked over there?” he asked. Wishful, bored thinking.

“No, but I am wearing a very unflattering robe,” I said.


“No, I said ‘unflattering.’ Also my cellulite is especially prominent today.”

“Wow are you doing this wrong,” he said.



Strudel had a bunch of reward tickets stolen from her on one of the last days of school in June. The tickets were awarded for good behavior, extra effort, and various jobs throughout the year, and were meant to be spent on the last day of school in a classroom prize “auction.” It was especially a bummer because she had earned the most tickets in the class, and her name was written on all of them, so whomever stole them could not even spend them.

She borrowed a ticket from a friend and left it out on her chair, while she went to another part of the classroom, and watched her desk. Sure enough, a kid came along and looked in her desk and ganked the ticket. This led to a full search of his desk, which turned up all 300-plus tickets with her name written on them.

She excitedly told me the story, which was great to hear after the previous day when she had returned home defeated and glum about the theft. P. and I discussed buying her some prize to make up for it, since it really wasn’t her fault.

“You’re like Sherlock,” I said, high-fiving her. “You solved the crime and now you can go play your violin.”

“I went into my mind palace for ideas,” she said.

Keep practicing, kid.

It’s Poofy, Bitch

Hey, it’s my last steroid pill. Bye, jerk.

I am told it will take about a week for the Prednisone to leave my system completely. Once I realized I was going through withdrawal during the two week tapering process, which was causing joint pain and muscle soreness (ha ha the thing it was suppose to relieve) I felt better. Every three days I tapered down by half a pill and on that day it felt like someone came up behind me and gave me a good hard shove in the middle of the back off a curb. Brain fog, achiness, irritability.

So I want to say, as if this is my award speech, thank you to everyone who called, visited, emailed, texted, commented. It means a lot to me and it really did make me feel better. If you know someone else who is sick, do exactly what you did again for them.

My prize is a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni and ten pounds. I am distinctly more vibealicious than I enjoy being. However, if this is what I get over death or a chronic condition, I’ll take it. It’s a small setback in my four-year plan to become a furce cougar by forty with the ropy neck tendons and Courtney Cox weave and spray tan. At least all my clothes fit. Okay, most of them.

And this is much better than last week when I was so poofy due to the Prenisone bloat I looked like a 7 months pregnant Chipette giving a blowie. I discovered activated charcoal. I don’t care if it’s monkeyscience, it seemed to be depoofing my poor guts. I’m trying to do things like put in probiotics and take vitamin B.

Another upside of this is that I have barely noticed my last two periods. I think the steroids were having a good effect there on cramps, maybe? No cramps + menstrual cup= me forgetting I was on my period. Oops. I would wander off and not put it back in. The Gift of the Menstrual Cup. There, I have just named your bestselling self-help memoir. YOU’RE WELCOME.

I will be interested to see what life without a hammering heart is like again. I’ve been off coffee (drinking herbal tea or less caffeinated tea) but I bet that won’t last long. I’ve been having fewer frightening crashes as I’ve been tapering down, but I was in bed at 8:30 last night, which seemed like a “mini” crash. I predict a couple of days of a LOT of sleep. Yay.

In Other News: Edith at the Hotel

I anti-socialed out and hid at the hotel with the dogs, which was the best thing for everyone. I could not really carry on a conversation, I was so tired.

Edith was amazed by baths. I think she thought only she goes in there.

“What are you doing?”

“Horace, are you seeing this?”

“Seriously, what the fuck are you doing?”

Eventually she got close enough so I could grab her with my bucket. I washed her with the fancy shower gel and then looked down. My bathwater was brown. I am stupid. The dog was clean, though. Then I took a shower and put the lotion on my skin.

“Is that yuzu lemongrass I smell?”