“Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”

1.

School happened again a couple of weeks ago, as it does five times a year. Three weeks post-surgery, but I knew there was no way I could make it up. It was the second part of the architectural unit, and now we’re done with that. I was super dreading it because the first part of architecture week was pretty hard, and also it’s miserable being indoors with a bunch of guys who smell like flowers and cigarette smoke.

We usually start with a classroom test, but this time we started in the shop, a refresher on what we’d done for the first part of architecture. I made another piece of coping (the cap that protects the top of a parapet) and it was frankly terrible. For my coping final last time, I got a D on it. This time I got a C. I can do better, but I didn’t. I knew the measurements were off, but the big machines that we use to cut and bend metal were kicking my ass. I showed my teacher my light duty/surgery letter, and he said, “You’re on your own with that one.”

Morale was feeling extra poop-scented, because one of our classmates left at the beginning of the week for a job at Boeing with a major pay cut. We attend classes with the same people every time. We have each other’s phone numbers. I’ve started a homework group at my house that involves, “let’s get this done together and then have some damn dinner and yak.”

I’m smart; those who can’t, network. I think I’ll have a new high of 4-5 people over next month. I like these people so much. Our teachers marvel at how well we all get along and help each other. I hear about their jobs, their babies, their dying relatives. I catch them up on my life. When we get stressed out in the shop we yell lines from Silence of the Lambs at each other. I play Clarice.

“CATHERINE MARTIN? FBI. YOU’RE SAFE!”

This is the time when people start getting weeded out who can’t make it through the apprenticeship for whatever reason. I heard a teacher make a comment that they don’t even tell us the “secrets” of the union and our trade until next year, the third year, for this reason. Please please don’t let there be Xenu at the end of this tunnel. I can’t take it.

Making coping was a new low for me. I was worried about how the week would go because I knew our next task was to take what little we knew about mitering and cover a small house in metal so it would, in theory, shed and repel water. We split up into groups and I jumped into flashing. We made the supports that held other people’s parts, as well as the finishing touches that would cover roof seams and corners. I did the math for our group since we had to calculate measurements and square feet of material used, as well as turn in sketches for the drafting test on Friday.

I lobbied for an all black house with a death star theme, but some people wanted silver. Adding silver turned out to be a great idea. In my head I was thinking about Disaster Area’s all-black ship from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but I figured no one would know what that was. Developing burnout motifs to decorate the house with kept the teacher busy, so he was happy (he encouraged us to make use of the burn table).

We almost ran out of time on Friday, but finished it with about five minutes to spare. The teacher bumped our grade because we all rallied around the guy who did an extremely elaborate dormer and helped him finish. It was like the British Bake-off but probably more swearing and screws flying everywhere. Less ice cream cake chucked in the trash.

The week followed a sharp uphill trajectory after Monday. I aced a quiz, and then got near-perfect scores on my Friday math (missed one) and 100 on my drafting. I have been averaging Bs, respectable, but barely limping through, miserable with being cooped up indoors and struggling to remember basic math stuff.

What changed? Repetition with the math certainly helps. We’re at that phase now where we’re building on what we’re learning. First year was triangle basics–critical, but pretty easy. Now we’re expected to apply triangles to things like the house project and more complicated math.

The other piece that’s helping is pain reduction and medication. I’m already doing so much better with daily pain levels post-hysterectomy and leg vein procedure. Strudel and I went to see a mast cell specialist in Oregon in late March and he prescribed some asthma medication and a rescue inhaler for me. It’s helping at work and school. Moringa and other flavinoids seem to be helping a lot as well–I have fewer hives now.

The one thing that’s still hard and exhausting is work. They threw me on harder stuff last week and I hit the wall and left before lunch on Friday. I thought I could handle it but it was too fast paced and heavy, and I started feeling pain in my lower abdomen, and making a lot of dumb mistakes. My body’s been dumping the fluid I accumulated post-surgery as well (I gained ten pounds almost instantly after surgery and my body’s been “puffy,” not just in my stomach area). I woke up a couple of days last week with my face visibly swollen, which was weird, and now have been peeing a lot. I’ve been sleeping A LOT. But overall I’m glad to be back to work. I’m going to push to be back on true light duty next week.

2.

Around New Year’s I get reflective about what I’m doing and what I want to be doing. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a long time, so I finally did. My friend Debbie and I are recapping the old TV show Roseanne. It’s called Queen for a Damn Day.

Kind of like when I was running the Victorian blog, it’s giving me a way to fuel one of my hobbies, as well as a closer collaboration with an old friend. I like that I’m more up on what she’s doing and thinking, rather than just peering through social media and talking too infrequently. She’s a very creative person who likes to develop ideas like I do. Our viewpoints are similar, but not identical, so while we are enjoying talking about feminism, class issues, sitcom history, the show, 80s fashions, and our dogs, we’re coming at things from different angles.

We’re mostly keeping politics out of it, even though I KNOW I KNOW there’s a LOT of issues with Roseanne Barr and politics. Debbie and I get a big heaping helping of that elsewhere so we’re trying to provide a respite from that for others to some extent.

It’s conversational and evolving over time. We’re discussing season 1 and season 10 concurrently, and will just keep going with it until we don’t want to anymore. Her husband pointed out that 10+ seasons could mean 4 years if we did them weekly, but right now we’re aiming for putting out three a week, which will go faster.

This is probably a small selection of the Venn diagram of people who still read this blog (hi!), like Roseanne still, and like podcasts, but I thought I’d let you know what I’m up to and that I’m not dead fro the neck up. There’s no ads (as usual I am a completely apathetic about monetizing myself outside of my, you know, actual job) and it’s available off our site to stream or DL or at almost any podcast spigot. We’re on twitter: @QFADDpod. I like to warn people that we are over-enthusiastic amateurs, so hopefully the production values will improve over time as we learn more.

I also like to tell people we’re the best Roseanne podcast out there. No matter that we are the only one out there. Happy spring.

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|

Sparks Fly

A Couple of Weeks Ago

In the trades you can make two divisions: one side is trades who do the first phase of work, much of which is buried behind walls or ceilings, like electrical and HVAC. The second is “finishing” work, which is the stuff you see in a building. Wooden shelves, painted walls, etc. As an early-phase person I work side by side with the sparkies a lot.

I was leveling out a unit and enjoying one of the 12,000 podcasts I listen to when a nearby sparky asked me something I didn’t quite catch. He was another one of those guys solidly in his career, probably mid-fifties. His face was twisted into its usual scowl, and I had the feeling he was engaging with me just because I was in his vicinity and he needed someone to work out on. I knew this guy, and I wasn’t crazy about him. He was kind of a yeller and a grump. I tried to reply somewhat politely to him, even though there was this part of me that didn’t care what the fuck he wanted or was saying.

“I don’t know,” I responded, because for a minute I thought I knew what he was saying. “Wait…what?” Not great, but whatever. Someone was running a chop saw through metal studs, which is possibly one of the worst noises ever invented.

Framer I can never resist a nice shower of sparks.

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Dude started to fully dress me down. I was faintly aware that none of my personal gang of burly dudes, ye olde sheet metale guyes, was in evidence on the floor I was on. I thought these two things might be related.

“That’s not a very PROFESSIONAL attitude.” I heard that through my earplugs, which I pulled out of my ear. “What year are you?”

“Second,” I said, flatly.

“If you want people to take you SERIOUSLY, you’re going to need to start acting like a JOURNEYMAN.” I said nothing. “DUNCAN is an apprentice and we take him SERIOUSLY and treat him like a JOURNEYMAN because he acts like a PROFESSIONAL.” Poor skinny, acned Duncan was several feet away from us and attempting to both bend conduit and remain invisible at the same time.

I continued to give the grumpy journeyman the blank stare I’d perfected during my many dressings-down as a child for being inadequate in some way. I thought about all the things I could say to him with no consequence. I could swear at him. I could tell him his mother was a professional…at being the town bicycle. I could threaten to report him to someone.

Instead I decided to be my definition of a professional: I put my earplugs back in, turned my back on the asshole, and climbed back up my ladder. I got back to work.

MEANWHILE

We’re doing punch list in the building we’re in now, which means inspectors come and pick all the nits and we have to fix whatever they say is the problem. This means more interaction with finished work. Walls are painted or tiled, carpet is installed. Laborers run around making sure the building stays clean. I do my part; I do a ton of vacuuming and sweeping my own mess because Your Mom Doesn’t Work Here. Laborers notice this and sigh with relief and are nicer to us.

There’s quite a few women laborers, and it doesn’t escape me that they get relegated to a lot of cleaning duties. Whenever I see a woman ANYTHING I go out of my way to say “hi” and maybe make one small speck of chit chat with them. It’s kind of Lady Builder Code. I see you. Your life is both hard and rewarding like mine. Hi.

So there’s a younger woman laborer who is kind of snappy and I was feeling her out, because some people don’t want to talk to me and it’s cool. On Friday morning I saw her pushing a giant floor polisher and this dick walked by and said, “Are you sure you know how to use that?” HASHTAG MICROAGRESSION

She said, “Oh I don’t know, I’m just a helpless female! Can you show my how to use this thing??” He had fucking NOTHING.

I was all

because she’s my new hero. I ran into her a few hours later waiting for the lifts and I said, “Hey, you cracked me up earlier.” There was another sparky near us waiting and holding a ladder who swiveled his head around. He is like the good twin of the guy who dressed me down a few days before, and at first I mixed them up. It was telling he was still there and Yelly wasn’t.

“What?” she said.

I felt a little silly for speaking. “When you were pushing that floor polisher? And that guy asked you if you knew how to use it?”

‘OH YEAH. TPPPBT,” she raspberried. Seriously, did this woman have a newsletter?

“Every time I get on a fucking scissor lift,” I said, “I get, ‘LOOK OUT, WOMAN DRIVER!!’ as if I haven’t heard THAT shit 7,000 times.”

“RIGHT?” she said.

Then the sparky interrupted. “That reminds me when I was a volunteer for the Kelso fire department, and they hired the first female fire fighter…”

There commenced a story about this brave woman who used to deal with peanut butter being put in her headphones for the whole shift. Sucks. But: Ladies, Interrupted.

I saw the laborer the next day running a lift. I was with my boss, who seems pretty feminist and is really chill, and a cool coworker who’s not offensive either.

“Can you believe that sparky yesterday?” I said. “We were trying to talk about lady stuff and…”

“I KNOW!” she said.

“He had to get his oar in. Could he be more un-self aware?”

She laughed so hard. “Right! (dude voice) ‘Ladies let me tell you about my experience with sexism.”

The guys on the lift had a little moment of “uh oh a thing is happening.”

I love her.

Ass gon’ give it to ya/Fuck wait for you to get it on your own

And now I see, for whatever reason, that I am not getting notifications of when people comment. Hello to A. and suenos! My blog incompetence continues…now in its sixteenth year.

A. We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. –Kurt Vonnegut

I always feel compelled to write when something significant happens. I got cut from my job yesterday, and it was time since it was almost wrapped up. I realized that I had my year anniversary in February of being in the trades. Recently I’ve finally been feeling like I’m not hopeless on a jobsite.

It’s really hard to explain how my skills are developing. I’m stronger, of course, and better at using tools, and knowing what the right tool is for the job. I think when I started on this path I thought there would be definitive answers and techniques. As if new construction was going to be like giant Lego bricks or putting together something from IKEA. (My blog throughline of “I am an idiot” continues consistently, I know you’re impressed.)

One thing that has changed is that I can look at a problem and be a little more creative now in solving it. A lot of times parts don’t work the way you expect, or fit right, and advanced skills include being able to make it happen.

There’s a phrase which I’ve always found really annoying and rednecky: “Get ‘er done.” But that’s it. You have to just make things work. Get it done, and move on. Just like life.

I feel a lot better at work now, overall, post medication. A construction site can be a very distracting place, and the key is knowing when to pay attention (here comes the crane) and when to just buckle down and work (the glaziers are talking VERY loudly about dealings with someone’s cousin who got ripped off by a bail bondsman and the merits and drawbacks of destination weddings).

I have asked myself if I could succeed in an office/tech now with my current level of allergy and brain meds. I really don’t know. I still don’t regret the switch when I think about being trapped indoors in a cubicle with all the fragrances and (for me) the pointlessness of my output being words or symbols or ideas that I don’t care about.

I believe I’m being kept by my current company for now, and transferred to another site, maybe downtown. Yesterday my boss didn’t have an answer yet, so I’m in limbo. I’m really relieved to be going, because while the job was great, and gave me a lot of hands-on experience that an apprentice might not otherwise get, one of my coworkers ended up being kind of a nightmare.

I’d like to say I’m a trusting person, but I’m totally not. As part of my assessment for Brain AIDS a few months ago, trust of other people was the thing I bombed on the personality test they had me take. It was one of those screeners where they’re looking for the big flags–schizophrenia, bipolar, anything else that can be caught. I looked antisocial and distrusting. I think part of this is my brain, which untreated can make me paranoid and full of social anxiety. When everything is confusing and all the balls are flying at your head: TRUST NO ONE.

Generally speaking, I am cautious with people and I don’t tell them my boring darkest secrets right away. I was getting that little prickle from my coworker that said, LOOK OUT. Let him talk more. I heard a lot about how much he liked working with women and how great he was at working with them and how some of his favorite crews have had women on them. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered this is a flag as well. Men who are easy to work with usually never mention the fact that I’m a woman right out of the gate, and later only if it’s actually relevant somehow. (My boss, who was awesome, mentioned a couple months in that he was the long-time apprentice of a woman who is nearing retirement age in our local and who is kind of a hero and legend because of how early she joined and how much butt she kicked.)

Then the pennies started dropping with my coworker. A couple of months ago he came up to me and told me someone in another trade onsite said something really nasty and sexual about me and him (meaning my coworker). My first response was, “Ok, that is very deeply weird.” I told him not to tell me ever if anyone says anything like that about me. Just don’t pass it on. I don’t need to know. I asked him who it was and it wouldn’t tell me. That was weird and vague.

So this sat in my craw and rolled around, like when that goddam pelican ate that pigeon. It niggled a little. But mostly I was relieved because I was able to look at it more calmly and objectively than in the past and I didn’t dwell on it. “Brain, we need to keep a brain eye on this,” I said. FILED.

A week later he told an elaborate story about how he got into it with the guys from that trade (one of whom supposedly made the anonymous sexual comments about me) and how he ended up hiding all of their tools and they looked for them for 45 minutes and he told them not to “fuck with him.” These guys were HUGE. Tattoo-covered absolute BRUISERS. Who were always very polite and sometimes joked with me.

Coworker retold the story during lunch and I watched people’s reactions around the tables. I watched how whenever someone told an interesting story he had a one-up. He didn’t just see one semi jackknife, he saw THREE at once.

He would talk and talk with no filter. If I made an offhand neutral comment (“I’m going to paint my basement this weekend”) he would launch into 15 minutes on the time he painted some building by himself overnight with no help and both hands. Uphill both ways. Everyone thought he was great. Hey, did he ever mention his mother was a compulsive liar? Hmm, no kidding. Let’s hear more about that. Well, I don’t have a choice, do I? That was a big tell right there.

His behavior towards me got worse over time. I felt like he was looking for some kind of angle where he could get at me. Sometimes he would start slamming me in front of the rest of the crew under the guise of teasing me. Or he would have some gross junk food or crap candy I couldn’t eat and said “You can’t have any of this, too bad. It’s not for you.”

He would nitpick little things, and not listen when I told him our boss had asked me to do it that way. He would pull me off work I was doing to make me walk around with him. This is not uncommon boss/apprentice behavior to look at the progress of the work and discuss what needs to be done, but he wasn’t giving me things to do. On Wednesday he was kind of thinking out loud about some changes that needed to be made in a room due to some lighting placements. “I’d ask you if you know anything about that, but you don’t know ANYTHING about lighting.”

I was leaving on time a couple of Fridays ago with some other crew and he was a little late, on the other side of the building. My boss had already left for a meeting and I didn’t see a reason to cool my heels waiting for my coworker. As I passed him, he sneered, “Leaving already, huh?” I was like, “Yep, goodnight.”

My independence and increasing competence was obviously becoming a threat somehow, though I am NO THREAT to someone with years of experience. I had heard him talk shit about every pipefitter who was on our crew, as well as every tinner who’d worked with us, so I assumed he was spending time badmouthing me to our boss as well.

On Monday after “leaving already?” he sidled up to me as I was working and looked friendly and pleasant, and almost too casual…the face I had seen him make with some other whoppers. I had learned his tells.

“So, our boss’s boss got an email from someone about us leaving early all last week,” he said. “We can’t do it anymore, so don’t clean up until 2:10.”

“Oh, weird. Who would send an email like that?”

“I don’t know!” he said, smiling slightly and shaking his head. “Probably one of the fitters.”

I followed this edict, returning my tools to the gangbox and locking up at 2:10, while noting that his tools were already in there and he was nowhere in sight on the floor. I came into the office and he was shooting the breeze with our boss, who was reaching for his coat and lunchbox. I had noticed that when we all parked in the garage he would always make a point to leave before me, or tell me when I could leave. I didn’t care. It was just noticeable.

A day later the fitter foreman, who is a real joker and general stickybeak, decided to talk to me as I was working away at 2 p.m. or so.

“Surprised you’re still here, SJ. Your boss is gone to a meeting, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that.” I put on a worried face. “Unfortunately, we can’t wrap up early anymore, even though we’re ahead of schedule. Someone emailed Boss’s boss and said we were leaving early, so now Boss said we have to stop it.”

“What! Who would do that? Who would care?”

“I don’t know. Coworker just told me yesterday. He said he thought it was the fitters.”

Our lunch is an hour before the fitters, so the next day at lunch the office held me, coworker, our tinner boss, and the fitter foreman. The two foremen were talking about work stuff when my boss said he was going to leave early that day. The fitter foreman took the bait and brought up the email I’d mentioned. “I thought you couldn’t leave early anymore.” My boss said he’d never received such an email in front of the three of us.

“SJ!” the fitter foreman said. “There you go, making stuff up to make me look stupid! That’s the last time I’ll believe anything you said, not that I did before.”

I shrugged and said, “Sorry, I guess I was mistaken about some things,” and kept eating my lunch.

That’s when things got more openly nasty, because I had proved for myself that this guy was lying about stupid stuff (as well as some gross sexual fantasy stuff). He vacillated between being super extra nice and making snide comments.

I grabbed the fitter foreman the next day.

“I need to thank you, man, about what you said about the email to boss’s boss that you brought up in the office.”

“Oh?” he said.

“It proved some things I’ve been really wondering about. Coworker told me that, you know.”

He jumped on that. “Yeah, everyone knows Coworker bullshits constantly. It’s just how he is.”

“It took me a couple of months to figure it out,” I said.

As the finale to my five-month sojourn at the campus of everyone’s favorite search engine, I decided to treat myself to a company-sponsored respirator fitting. I didn’t realize there was a physical involved so I had to pee in a cup (waiting for the phone call telling me I tested positive for meth since I haven’t had cause to disclose the Adderall yet).

The interesting part was the lung test. I had to blow into a device, which the nurse said I was doing wrong. She gave me some tips since I’d never had one. My lungs already hurt and felt squished, since I’d come from work (spray paint) and the waiting room was full of perfumes and colognes. Finally she got a reading and said, “We’ll see what we can do with this.” ???

The doctor came in and did some things, and looked at my breath read out. “Do you have asthma?”

“Well, allergies,” I said. “It’s hard to breathe when I’m indoors. My lungs hurt right now and when I was blowing.”

“Hmm, looks like asthma.” He said my lungs sound fine, and don’t rattle.

A few minutes after I left I felt fine again and was taking my normal, non-painful breaths.

B. Perfect is the enemy of $9 orphan paint

As I mentioned, we broke from the basement bedroom, took a left at Albequakey and ended up in the furnace room. Rain and snow are making us concerned about doing things like replacing the windows at the moment. Pete, the good sport, was on board for my paint idea, since the walls had been whitewashed at some point but were a sad ombre grey blah as seen in my last post. Let’s do something cheap, quick, and cheery to make it feel like a room that won’t give me the sad ughs every time I switch laundry. My idea was to check out the orphaned paints at the hardware store, since I’ve had great luck with the paint lottery for things like chicken coops.

Grape Green. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? And in a semi-gloss! Talk about your rooms to go insane in. Pete and I talked while we painted, about why people abandon paints after ordering them. Heart attack? Water broke? Maybe walking in to pick up Grape Green was the tipping point, your personal Dear Beyonce moment, when you realize your relationship absolutely cannot be saved and how were you married to an insane person for so long! I’m leaving. That tears it. I’m moving back to Skokie.

Their legal debt was our gain. We ALMOST got a sensible beige, with the thought that ZZZZZZZ

What was I saying? Who cares. Grape Green it is.


Fist pump for emphasis I reckon.

We got a couple of racks from the hardware store as well.

We built them slightly lower than their full capacity and then cut down the struts that were next to the window so we could still open it if needed. Kind of shaping the racks around the window.

Painting the room green made me realize I own a lot of red things! I also got a cheepy shade to cover the bulb and a new cheepy pull.

Not pictured are my laundry drying racks, which now do not live in the bathroom!! I really like the exposed joists as well, as opposed to the sagging ceiling. I was relieved at the relatively small amount of recycling, donation items, and garbage that was in the room. Mostly we needed Storage Solutions.

We were very industrious and also picked up our closet door, made to match the other basement doors.

“So, what are you going to do with your clown painting collection?” Pete said.

“Hum, I should probably consign them, I suppose.”

“Oh good.”

I felt sad. And bad. And slightly murderous at this thought. Like a clown.

I tucked them away on the wall next to the furnace, mostly behind the door. Now I feel happy!!

“ARRRGH WHY,” Pete said.

PROTIP: get your mental problems written into your marriage vows somehow, so you have backup later.

I scored some FREE!! destined-for-the-trash carpet from my previous job, and am going to make a runner out of that, carpet the dog stairs finally, and possibly make stair runners when we redo our horrendous basement stairwell.

I will snap pics of my carpet progress this weekend. Happy almost spring!

Kiss my giblets

Not always, but glass measuring cups sometimes make me think of my mother. I’m sure she used it pretty often since she seemed to enjoy baking, but I don’t really remember washing them. What I remember is it coming to the table during Thanksgiving, full of giblet gravy, because my mother didn’t own a gravy boat. I own an insulated one and use it weekly in the winter. I am a hardcore believer in gravy.

I got frustrated with gravy for a while, because I was accustomed to making it with wheat flour. I tried adding the various starches like tapioca and arrowroot, but I never liked starchy gravy. Plus, these starches have a tendency to go to snot really fast, or overheat and “relax” again. Finally, I cracked the code and have been happily making rice flour gravy.

My mother’s version of giblet gravy included not only the turkey offal but chopped hard boiled eggs for extra stink. We didn’t eat organs at any other time of year, and I saw this as some of her vestigial southern-ness, which would rear its head at unexpected moments. I couldn’t get the liver and gizzard bits down and would try to navigate around the chunks as I spooned it onto my potatoes. Somehow my sister, who had as little culinary organ exposure as I did, emerged into adulthood liking it.

This is a silly thing. I thought for years about getting a 4-cup measuring cup. O FRIVOLITY, I thought. What would I do with FOUR CUPS? Finally my ye olde 1 cupper lost all its measuring lines and every time I sent it through the dishwasher my sad Sharpie marks would wipe off again. I had to let it go, and I bought a SET! One cup! Two cups! FOUR CUPS! Sometimes I serve gravy in it, because my gravy boat often runneth over and it saves well.

You may have guessed I’m thinking of Thanksgiving. I was casting about for different ideas. What if…I used recipes from 1916? Hmm, pretty boring and standard and similar to what people do now. The only difference is that apparently it was like Halloween part two. I’m trying to find Thanksgiving recipes online from circa the birth of this house, and Gourmet is not really coughing up the goods. I loved all the weird racist/sexist/whatever shit I found in the old issues a couple of years ago, but I’m not sure I’m up for spelunking through all that at the reference section of the Giant Robot Poop again. So I don’t know what I’ll do yet.

I’m back to work now, which is great. I like money but I miss crocheting every day.

I’m plugging along on a little granny square throw for Strudel right now. I got an old picnic basket from my local junk shop that seems to have been for a promotion by Chiquita bananas in 1968. I asked them to keep the plastic ware inside, and they cut me a little deal. Now my yarn lives in it.

I’m working in HVAC right now and I like my journeyman. I’ll probably be on the jobsite until Xmas. This job is VERY cozy. There’s a roof, windows, and I’m working for a company that supplies safety equipment. I didn’t know until I started with them that grinders were supposed to have guards. Seriously. This is also my first job where I’ve had an official break. It’s pretty common practice to skip break and leave a little early among companies, I’m finding, which can find you working in 5-6 hour chunks. Sitting down for a few minutes and having a snack after a few hours of work really makes a difference.

My journeyman is sneaky watching me. I thought he was teaching me and then letting me go on autopilot, but he called me out. “I saw you fix what could have been a mistake earlier, glad you’re listening.” Listening has always been okay for me, it’s the boredom that was killer and distracting. I’m pretty happy just plugging along with my (quieter, more linear) thoughts and not messing anything up.

The only thing that’s a little wonky is that my body chews through amphetamines pretty fast, so a pill that is supposed to last about 12 hours lasts for 6, tops. I get up, take a pill at 4, and it’s all gone by lunchtime. I can get along (albeit more slowly) but after lunch the white noise in my head that makes it harder to figure things out comes back. I tried taking it later, like before I get on the road around 5, but then I’m anxious on the highway, or I miss a turn, or it takes me longer to find all of my stuff.


need oil

Another thing that’s new is my time sense. I’m not a chronically late person, but if I’m home with no schedule it feels like I suddenly lose two hours, and dinner gets on the table later, or shops close and I can’t run errands. If I was at work, the last 45 minutes could feel like an eternity. Now it feels like time passes steadily. IT’S REALLY NICE TO FEEL LEGIT HIGH-FUNCTIONING instead of just coping.

Speaking of distractions…right before school started, we got Franny a pretty basic laptop, and as I mentioned she recently got herself a smartphone. It’s helpful for her to have research and writing tools for school when she needs them, but she is super goofing off on them now, which I expected. I was surprised how much time she spends on Youtube. She watches music videos with her sister, which is cool, because it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure version of the MTV of my youth. I introduced Franny to /r/youtubehaiku, and this is her jam, since her friends seem to compete to find the weirdest videos with low views.

I don’t see her as often as I used to, but she still pops into the kitchen to talk, or I pull her along on a dog walk or errands. It’s funny that one definition of successful parenting can be seeing your children less and less and not having to worry that they’re making horrible decisions while they’re out of sight. I guess even parents with the best intentions can be authors of their own loneliness.

Asspophasis

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.


NAILED IT.

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.

Pros:

-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.

The Gobbling Game

PREVIOUSLY ON I, ASSHOLE: SOME STUFF

“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” –John Green

Dear Goddamn Diary,

Not much is happening but I have the urge to check in so I will do some of my patented writing about nothing. Let’s make some arbitrary chapters like it’s 2006.

1. HUBRIS

I got the flu last week. BAAAD. Really bad. High fever. Much cough. This, of course, comes on the heels of me assuming I was nigh-invulnerable. I think, because I always like a post mortem, that I got worn down when I got glutened and wasn’t sleeping well. The germs came rushing in! A sensible friend asked me if I got the flu vaccine this year…it doesn’t even occur to me anymore because it’s on the list of things that contain corn.

Will I still get booster vaccines against diseases as needed? Hell yes I will. The girls will too. I will try to schedule these things on a Friday and just know that everyone’s gonna have a bad time.

Franny seems to have brought this virus home from her dad’s. I feel bad for her. Every time she comes back she gets sick really shortly afterwards. I think maybe it’s just enough exposure to strange germs/little kids that she doesn’t get that preschool teacher resistance.

I haven’t taken any painkillers in over a year and I discovered that Aleve gives me floaty head and knocks me out like cold medicine used to. Whoa! I had 12 hours of that kind of allergy meds fuzz. I don’t care, because I had a few days of a real splitter of a headache, something else I no longer experience on a daily basis, and that helped.

2. Segue to the whole career thing

Going into the electrical field (there’s a visual) I was worried about always being perfectly healthy and able to think at 100%. I did fractions yesterday still kind of fuzzy and a bunch of other homework. I think I have dialed down the panic button on that one. Most of my days, especially at first, are going to involve repetitive tasks and things that are not rocket surgery. I will make sure I am as healthy as I can be this summer or fall when I start my classes. If I’m really sick and have continuous brain fog, I won’t be able to retain new things. If I am just normal colds/occasional “whoops, that contained wheat somehow” I can recover pretty quickly.

2a. An Aside

Speaking of wheat, I’m in that special “week after a glutening” place. I get depression in the form of apathy and a lack of motivation and just kind of general malaise and despair. It’s not disabling (like go to bed and don’t come out) I don’t do much on my list(s) that’s not urgent. I wish there was a temporary drug I could take that would put a Band-aid on things and make me normal. If there was, it would probably contain CORN. Ha. A reason I don’t worry too much is that now that I’ve been through a few cycles of this, there’s always this little muffled voice at the back of my head going “You’re going to feel better in about a week, take it easy man.”

I don’t really want to talk about it with people I love or see regularly, because it seems to happen due to my own carelessness or as a surprise at least every other month. When people ask me how I am, I say “Fine” or “Good” because I know it’s going to blow over and I don’t need any help. Well, beyond some kind of xray vision that lets me see secret gluten where there shouldn’t be any. That would help.

I guess I just see this as a chronic condition. I mention it to friends in passing: “Oh yeah, I got myself glutened again, whoops,” and then move on. So it’s not a secret but I’m not going to expound upon it to them every single time.

It is hard to write about this. For years I felt like I was deeply flawed because I realized I was experiencing mild to moderate depression in cycles and for no “reason,” starting in high school. I know that depression doesn’t always have an external reason but there was something about it that never quite made sense to me. It would seem to come and go on its own, wouldn’t respond to drugs or exercise or therapy or anything else I could think to throw at it. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t nigh-invulnerable in that way, either. It was my secret that I never, ever talked about.

I realized I set myself up with my own little life rings though. That part of me that is really intense about caretaking makes me feel an obligation to my little dogs, to keep walking them and pay attention to them. And that helps me in turn with exercise and vitamin D and an excuse to listen to silly podcasts.


Just waiting for me to shut my laptop and pick up the leashes, which I will.

2. Back to work

The topic, not actual work. I am still waiting to be dispatched along with three other guys. Boot camp marches on. I am told it isn’t unusual to make it through boot camp before getting work. I felt kind of lucky because I had such a high fever and wasn’t sleeping well, and not being dispatched gave me a chance to recover nicely.

There’s been classroom time and in the field stuff. I have learned the basic controls of a scissor lift and got a card.

On lift cert day we split up into the guys who have been working as tradies for a long time and know how to operate things like lifts and then my side, which I refer to as Team Awesome. The cool thing about us greenies is that when we get our hours, finish school, and turn out, we will know as much as the guys who have been working non-union or in related fields. So I don’t let the pecking order worry me.

When it was my turn I said, “Hold my beer” and jumped onboard, and fired it up. Mostly I did well on the obstacle course, but coming out of the parking spot, I gunned it and flattened the shit out of the first cone I saw. I may not have been putting 100% into it at first…I admit I had a moment of button mashing mania, where I just wanted to run everything over. As a kid I ran over cones constantly with my first car and I still occasionally like to stamp on a downed mustard packet. It’s my inner Godzilla.

I got my shit together and respected the turning radius, and then went through the rest of the course without incident. I got some assorted claps, like we all did for each other. I got a “LADY DRIVERS” from one guy, who told me that he is a Truther, that BTK was from DC and got caught there (FALSE. It’s funny that I am really fresh with BTK’s history since I’ve been reading about serial killers this winter), and theories about eating alkaline vegan diets. So that kind of razzing was just evoking pity, actually.

I feel funny every time I go to class, which I think of as Planet Dood. Last night I had a guy in front of me spitting tobacco juice into a CLEAR bottle (urgh, gut-churning) and the guy who always sits behind me was CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK with his pen as usual. He can never remember my name even though he is initials too, really similar to mine. I always remember Intials Club people.

The teacher only had about a half hour of material for a four-hour class, so we sat and would not be dismissed early. There was a lot of shooting the shit in the way that I’ve noticed that some guys will shoot the shit endlessly. It’s always interesting to me that a room full of bored guys will talk differently than a room full of bored women…it’s just different.

I’m discovering that I don’t have much in common with anyone in my boot camp, which is not surprising. I bring a book every night but I chat if someone wants to chat. As long as I’m friendly and people are friendly to me, I feel like I’m doing okay. Just opening my mouth establishes me as a bit of an alien (older, college degree, homeowner, older kids, etc), but it will be nice to be separate from the gossip and drama. I’m just in a different place and I’m boring. There’s no dick measuring attempts with me. Teachers keep talking to us about “the next 30 years” and hey, I don’t know if I’ll retire, but I hope to god I will not be working in this field that long. That would make me 68. I am very excited about this still, but I’m thinking about the next ten years.

Hey, what about swag though? BLING BLING I AM CARDED UP.

You may notice there are two flagger cards. Thanks for making me sit through a (worse) flagger class, Lady Hammer Club! I probably won’t be flagging and I probably should leave them at home so no one will ask me. Apparently I’m cheap enough to do the shit work like digging trenches, but expensive enough that I shouldn’t be flagging. I’m adding one more in the next couple of weeks–forklift. I am supposed to attach my state-issued electrical trainee card to the front of my chest at all times, like an ear tag on a cattle. And I am supposed to carry all my cards with me in case I need to whip them out for inspectors.

3. AG REPORT

3a. Chooks

I shuffled Laura Palmer off to Buffalo via craigslist a couple of weekends ago. I love the IDEA of turkeys, but she was super not working in my urban backyard.


One of the pics for my ad.

Also, I need to switch this up. The guy who contacted me about Laura informed me that she was a BOY. I didn’t realize turkeys develop more slowly than chickens do. I would have known that Laura was a rooster quite early, due to that and my experience with roosters. I mentioned that she was gobbling when sirens went by, and dude was like, “Nah, that’s a tom. Only toms gobble.” Duh. I didn’t see the characteristic black feathers coming in (yet) and I didn’t think he was big enough. He just wasn’t full grown.

However, lucky me, the guy wanted him anyway, since he is working on breeding his own little flock and said he could use another heritage breed tom. I wasn’t shitty with the guy at all or even embarrassed and was like “Okay, thanks, today I learned something, am dumb.” Pete needed to put him into the hen house most nights manually because it was a bit snug for such a tall bird, whereas the chickens just run in and go to bed. Also turkey poop smells horrific, and this is compared to chicken poop, which is not great. I was very relieved when the nice man (who turned out to be a union pipefitter) packed Laura Palmer into a crate in the trunk and drove off.

What has happened now is that I am left with three nice hens, Audrey, Olive, and Clem, and they are working on integrating with my old flock (Roger Sterling, Allison Hendrix, Fred Burkle, Gingersnap, Fawkes, Froot Loop remaining) now that they are not just following Laura around. I should have green eggs again in a month or two once the noobs start laying.

3b. Bees

Sad news there. The bees are no more. We think what happened is that they had low numbers going into fall, combined with the damp cold of hives that were not weatherproofed enough, and they could not stay warm. They were consistently going on cleansing flights through December, until the temperature really dipped and there was some freezing days. I noticed I didn’t see them in January and that was the end.

So, I think we made about every mistake we could have made in our first year beekeeping. We are going to try again in April with changes based on what we’ve learned.

And that’s all from me for now…I could start working tomorrow or next week or the week after that. I will probably not write until then unless something interesting happens. But this is my snapshot for February 2016.