Archive for the ‘Franny’ Category

Recursive; or, Damn Dirty Grapes

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

DEAR GODDAM DIARY,

Last weekend’s ice cream was chocolate malt. I am starting to think that these recipes have a wee little bit too much salt for me, in general. But it’s still good. I’m buying the nice cream in glass bottles, which I also use for piima yogurt and such.


Egg in sugar and malt powder and chocolates.

It was a really nice weekend in that way that people go crazy about here–upper 70s, overcast. I am worried about the tomatoes. A cold snap now that they are on the vine and green will turn them into mealy pulp.

Franny’s back for two weeks. She was weird for a couple of days, like a little satellite who had ranged too far out on her tether. I am glad she was gone for almost a month. If she was here all the time, we would have moved on, but it seems like kind of a reset. We are still talking some about what happened at the end of the year with her grades and the Japan trip and the mood she was in at the end of the eighth grade. I think she was just way outgrowing that nest.

So she seemed a little aloof and distant at first but seems to have settled in. I feel bad about how hard it’s always been for her to transition from two different lives.

“The floors are so clean here!” she said. They are not super clean, but they are free of toys.

She said she had a marvelous time with her dad and I believe it. She said he seems calm and like he has his shit together now. It takes some people a really long time to grow up. I grew up fast but it took me a long time to realize I was human, too. I happened to come outside when SeaFed was dropping her off and I always feel so irritated when I see him because he looks so old now, which means I do too. This is not about vanity but mortality.

I’m home today. I wanted to work every day this month but I didn’t make it. I woke up with a pain on the back of my head like I’d been hit with something. My lymph nodes are huge back there, like olives, and I’m just off. It’s not like a normal headache that feels like it comes from inside your brain somewhere or like a band squeezing. It’s like my actual head aches.

I’m giving it a little time, because I need a little time, and then I am going to dive back into the world of doctors and testing. People ask me about my health and I say, “It’s fine.” I cannot say how I’m really feeling all the time. They say they’re glad I’m feeling better and I nod. This is how the transaction goes, I think. I cannot pretend I am getting better, though, and no amount of taking care of myself or altering my diet seems to be completely licking it. I’ll make an appointment for after Twin Peaks.

I’m going off of some medication to get myself to flare up again. I know for the next round of testing I will need to have accurate inflammation levels. I’m dreading this. I cannot go back on steroids. I know I was on too high of a dose, but I really don’t want that look into my id again. I have this pattern of some life-changing event and then I get what I am afraid is a look into who I really am. I don’t like what I find there. It’s an asshole who likes to wear fringed leather jackets.

I don’t want my life to be about being ill. Some days I cannot bend over because of my joints and I feel afraid. I need to figure out how to be unafraid again.

Franny was saying the wants to see the new Planet of the Apes movie that’s out now. I think I would rather eat ground glass than sit in a theatre right now, so I offered to show her the original at home. I think Charlton Heston is appropriate for any season, but especially summer. We have now watched the first two and the girls have made me promise to show them ALL FIVE this month.

I always enjoy watching movies with them. I had Strudel convinced that she had misread the title and that it was Planet of the Grapes, and it was all about winemaking.


A thirteen-year-old hath given me a mani-pedi during Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

I am counting down to going out of town, but not too far away. I am really looking forward to taking a trip in the Elco. FDR had mineral springs, I have an El Camino with a couch for a seat. I have a long history of traveling alone and sometimes it’s horrible but usually it’s fine. It’s always transformative, at least, which is what I need right now.

You can fly

Friday, June 27th, 2014

We’re going to start with eggs and end with a BEEYOOTIFUL swan.

Recently I read that double yolkers are the results of first-year hens trying to get their albumens together. I think this must be one of Fruit Loops’s, who is around a year old. The eggs are big this year.

I ordered duck eggs recently, because they were on mega-sale through my CSA, and if you know duck eggs you know they are large.

The duck egg is in the middle and mine are flanking it. The biggest one on the left, which ended up being the double yolker.

Last weekend we popped out and picked up three more pullets, since I recently lost a couple of chickens again. We’re back up to eight again.

These are kind of my garden variety deviled eggs, except with some goddess dressing in place of lots of mayo, and with some beet horseradish and a pickled jalapeno on top. I found the horseradish at some random store called…The Europe Store (?), in Mill Creek, maybe, after an unsuccessful mushroom hunting trip in BFE. I am always sad when stores like that don’t sell what’s in their name. Imagine buckets full of dirt from Belgium or deeds to castles in file cabinets for sale at the Europe Store.

This sinister mess is custard steeping with coffee grounds. Beloved Shan stayed overnight almost a year ago on her way to a vacation elsewhere and she brought a really cool hostess present. I am cooking (ice creaming?) my way through it this summer and the first one is Vietnamese iced coffee ice cream. It is KAPOW. A good start.

It’s a pretty nice here, for June. Cloudy today but it’s been really sunny and the tomatoes are going crazy.

My scented geraniums are going bananas. I have flavors like nutmeg, mimosa, chocolate mint. I am trying to figure out how to overwinter them without bringing them indoors.

I’m also slowly digging up the front yard. This is a weird one, because there’s going to be an egress window from the basement happening in this yard, which will make kind of a big covered pit, so the plantings need to move out from the perimeters of the house.

So other than the quince tree behind the birdbath, and the boxwood hedge, I am not sure what’s going to stay. When we moved in, it was four square raised beds with pebbles between, centered with the birdbath, but the bed frames were rotting and it needs to be shifted. I want something kind of more organic and less formal, but I really don’t know what I’m doing here. I stopped digging it up, because I could feel the bees frowning at me. P. wants to transplant some of the herbs in the fall as well. So I am leaving it bee for now. GET IT BECAUSE “BEES.”

Finally, since it is early summer, they actually let my kid graduate. I got her report card and she mostly recovered from her disaster, EXCEPT her Japanese grade got WORSE. A complete flunk out there!

I have been wondering if she sabotaged her own trip, honestly. She was becoming increasingly anxious about going. I’m still sad, I really wish she would have pulled it off.

She’s been really clinging lately–to childhood, I guess. She’s been mad at me for lots of things, including insisting that she check her email once a week and suggesting that she start a book of faces account to keep track of her middle school friends. I want to hand her a crow feather and say, “Beat it to the mall like a normal kid and come back before dinner, ok.”

Her father, the notorious SeaFed, was there, which was a nice surprise. He was trailed by his three youngest daughters. Two of them look like toilet paper commercial angels and the other one looks like his wife. Strudel met them for the first time.

After graduation we were invited to the cafeteria to have cake and punch, but SeaFed fled to the parking lot, where he waited for Franny to come out so he could take her to ice cream. Franny ran back and forth between the cafeteria and the parking lot until I told her to STOP IT ALREADY, I would just come out and see her off with her father. She was obviously anxious about her worlds colliding and tried to slip off, to just leave, but I kept up.

I offered to take a picture of all of the SeaFederales, and he said, “You might be surprised to learn I remembered my camera.”

There was so much in that single sentence, it was kind of stunning. It was sort of a dig at me, because I used to have to keep on top of him about the tiniest shit (until I stopped and found that the world didn’t end, not even close). It was a dig at himself as well, famously forgetful and on Planet Mars half the time.

“Oh no, I meant all of you together,” I said.

“Oh!” He handed over the camera and I snapped him and his four girls.

Franny left a couple of days later and has not been in touch as usual. I don’t think she knows how to bridge the gap, to stay in touch. Just like her running back and forth between the parking lot and the cafeteria. I should be collecting her from the airport on July 15, but instead I will be meeting her at the ferry terminal as usual.

Here is a taco holding an Abe Lincoln.

This book is different from other books

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story.

There are dangers, choices, adventures, and consequences. YOU must use all of your numerous talents and much of your enormous intelligence. The wrong decision could end in disaster – even death. But, don’t despair. At any time, YOU can go back and make another choice, alter the path of your story, and change its result.

–RA Montgomery

I got an email from Blogher yesterday and it gave me a nightmare that I was there! Spam-induced nightmares! Probably not the first. The last time I was there I had anxiety so bad it was like the sucking chest wound of anxiety. So not me. I’m glad I wrote for the site for a while, I guess it was experience of some kind. At any rate it let me know I wasn’t interested in pursuing freelance internet writing for large media groups. For a long time before that I was chasing that rainbow, writing punchy blurblets and submitting them to gossip sites, which I think were respectable to have on your resume 10 years ago? Anyway.

Presently I’m experiencing parenting choose your own adventure, which I’m sure will culminate in my head being crushed by a giant ant. What I am about to say probably won’t make much sense (par for the course or rare moment of self-awareness, you decide).

Franny has had a rough year. She is So Middle School right now. As I’ve mentioned, I just feel a deep sense of compassion for her since I remember these feelings. I’m impressed how frank she can be about her feelings, without being hurtful or nasty. She thinks everyone is stupid and annoying at times (welcome to life), and has that feeling like she wants to scream and run out of the house, and she does. Currently it’s just within the neighborhood, but I suspect she’s on the verge of becoming a bus rider, to the extent that will be possible here with all the cuts. I don’t want to make excuses for her, but she definitely seems challenged by her hormones.

We were all set to launch her to Japan with part of her class for two weeks, starting at the end of this month. All I had to do was pay the last bit of deposit. At the beginning of the year we made a deal that she would keep her grades at a B or better, and I would consider an occasional C on a case-by-case basis. I didn’t think this was an impossible bar, since she’s been doing this for most of middle school as long as she pays attention and turns in her homework.

Last week I checked her grades again, which were pretty bad around progress report time, and had been pretty bad since xmas. When her progress report came home we had that fight where her nose started bleeding, dramatically, and I kind of blew it by “OH POOR POODLE”-ing her. I told her then that Japan was on chopping block if she couldn’t turn it around this quarter. I had told her she was in danger during third quarter when she turned in her first bad report card, but that I would grant clemency if she finished the year strongly and her semester averages were okay. She knew what to do, what was missing.

This is the nice thing and the sucks thing about electronic grade tracking, in a way. I’m kind of perversely envious of my parents, who had the pleasure of acting really surprised and blowing up once a quarter when grades came home, since what was going on the rest of the year was a complete mystery to them. I am expected to monitor her list of assignments and failed quizzes and nag her about them. I fell down on this when I was sick for a month or so and I noticed the difference. I often ask myself what the difference is between kids who can self-manage and those who cannot. I knew kids in school who never missed an assignment, while I was sometimes surprised when assignments were due because I didn’t remember hearing about them in the first place. Franny seems to be in the latter camp, unless she focuses until she sweats a little, which she can only seem to maintain for a short time.

I have seen her do last minute hail marys with her grades and the lenience of her teachers, who often let her turn work in late or make up tests. I don’t love this practice, because then you have a kid who is doing weeks of assignments at once, in addition to their normal homework load. I don’t really care about the letter grade itself, but it’s obvious she’s learning when she’s doing the homework and passing tests, so it’s a good barometer. She is happy and relieved when she’s up to date on her homework and trying in school, so I know there’s a feeling of reward there.

Unfortunately, last week she finally passed the point of no return with her grades. School is wrapping up. She got a D in Washington State history last quarter, and is pulling an E as of now. I emailed her teacher to see if summer school was on the docket for her and he said that she might be able to pull off a D if she aces a presentation today, which means no summer school but is still pretty bad. I asked her about it on Friday and she said, “What presentation?” Abandon all hope etc.

When she went back to school yesterday her teacher told her I emailed him and asked if he “ruined her weekend.” HA. This teacher also has a countdown chart on the wall that reads ‘Days Until No More Shane.”

“What’s up with Shane?” I asked.

“Oh, none of my teachers like Shane,” she said. It’s just a fact. Poor kid!

So, after a lot of thought and discussion with P., Japan has gone from being on the chopping block to having its severed head in the basket being hooted at by the crowd. I sent the email this morning including my address for the partial refund check.

We’re very sad. I really wanted this for her, and I’m sad that it came to pass that I had to be tested on the grades issue. I really thought she could pull this off. I am trying not to be that dick parent who says “Okay head on up to Olympus and bring down fire, then you can have some ice cream.” I almost feel like it’s bad timing more than anything else, since the hormone dial has just now gone up to 11. But I also feel like this will set the tone for high school and what the expectations will be there.

She was teary over the weekend and asked to be reassigned from the nontraditional arts high school she was accepted to and put in our traditional, neighborhood high school.

“No,” I said. “That’s not possible at this point.” (It probably is, but, NO.)

“I thought you said if it wasn’t working out I could…”

“Yes, that’s true. But you need to try. At this point you haven’t even gone there. If you’re bombing at your school now, going to our neighborhood high school will be the same experience–a traditional assignment schedule, quizzes, regular grading system. That’s not working very well for you now. Why don’t you give something different a try?”

“Okay.” Gloomy.

I feel a lot of angst over this even though I think it’s the right thing. I emailed her grandfather (my former FIL of many years) and told him what was happening and that we would be sending him a check to “refund” the money he had generously contributed to the trip. It was a heartfelt email and I said I hoped he understood. He is a big fan of education and travel, so educational travel was basically chocolate and peanut butter for him. He replied shortly after:

Thanks for letting me know. I know this is a tough decision, but I think you are making the right decision. It reminds me a little bit of almost exactly the same issue with [Franny's aunt] at exactly the same age.

I have heard tales of the terror of the middle school aged Auntie Jaguar. It also made me feel better that I have just a tiny, tiny slice of parenting left in my own life, which is something I have always been running on a deficit on.

Franny and I have had longstanding plans to have dinner alone tonight as “one last hurrah” before school’s out and she’s away at SeaFed’s for long stretches. We are also going to get her a graduation dress for a week from today. She reports that all of her friends are wearing lace and shopping at Papaya, the very hip mall store.

“Want to start at Red Light?” I asked. “Maybe we can find something vintage and unique.” She said yes, but I have a feeling I may end up taking her to Papaya. She is not dysfunctional like I was and wants to fit in with her friends more. I just want her to see there is something outside of Papaya. I guess she can vacation outside of Papaya, but doesn’t have to live there, like I felt I did.

I have told the girls more than once that I don’t enjoy punishing them and that I would like us to all follow the rules (meaning our family compact, of course) so we can go through life skipping and holding hands. And that when we have conflicts I feel more tired, and we all do, and there’s less fun and happiness to go around. They laugh sometimes at this image of us skipping around, but it’s true. I don’t like dropping the parental boom but I am not going to be her pal. I hope some of the gap that I feel between us right now can close a little tonight.

Tall Tan Young Strudelly

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

So, dig if you will the picture of time traveling back to Mother’s Day. The girls went spelunking into the chicken coop and there: there be dragons.

They found a demon egg. Seriously, that is an egg. Shell on the left, red yolk on the right. Whisky tango foxtrot!!??!!

Naturally we had to dissect it.

Very auspicious.

So last weekend, since my life is not boring enough as it is already, I decided to re-line the bathroom drawers as part of moving into the basement bathroom. Most of my stuff was in the pink Eisenhower bathroom.

I have approximately 4,000 small bottles of beauty snake oil. FUCK. And they are ALL necessary, because you never know when you’re going to have a day that you specifically need a heat protection cream that works for crimping irons. YOU NEVER KNOW.

So here’s what I think is the original contact paper.

It gave up easily and peeled out dignified-like and without a fuss. I was telling a friend the other day that it was strange to have a bathroom with extremely high-quality, unfinished wooden drawers, as opposed to plastic shelves or lined ones. I think I could sell every drawer on ebay for at least $280 dollars. That is how nice the wood is.

Naturally I felt compelled to recover them. Franny has already spilt makeup in one of the drawers of the mocha bathroom, so I covered all those too with a different pattern that I did not snap for some reason. I am capricious.

A “bonus” was that I found an ad from 1987 behind a drawer (hollerrrr d.o.b. Morgan).

GIRL YOU BETTER LEARN HOW TO TAKE A HARD DICKING FROM THE PATRIARCHY I MEAN NICE PANTYHOSE

God I’m so angry. It’s making me tired.

(reverse)

PROTIP: How to prevent wrinkles: kill yourself. Because wrinkles be happening.

Let’s have some boring jive about my digestion.

Franny made beautiful heart-shaped sugar cookies on Monday and I ate three. Big whoop, right? They hung me over! WHAT. I had a headache and brain fog all day on Tuesday. Crap. I am broken, I think.

She frosted them with pink frosting and brought them to her friends at school, though, and someone innocently asked her what the occasion was. Her snappy, perfect best friend patted Franny’s stomach and said, “There’s another little one on the way!” Cookie fell out of the friend’s mouth. MAD PROPS AND GOOD BFF CHOICE FRANNY.

So I am fermenting the shit out of everything. A couple of weeks ago Franny and I hit a simple cheesemaking class in West Seattle and we came away with piima culture and a bunch of recipes. So I’ve been making kefir (not pictured) and piima butter (l.) and fruit kvass (r.).

Let’s talk about the other one, who writes notes to herself.

I found this on the table on Wednesday. Strudel is very close to the children’s librarian at our neighborhood library. This librarian, I am told, has just gotten pregnant, and is considering naming her baby after Strudel. Then there may be two of them in the U.S. We are very pleased.

Finally, it’s me. I wake up with my hair all crazy and I call it good and head off to work.

Born to be a god among salesmen

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Hooboy. For those who are not familiar, in the popular video game The Sims 2, there is an item your avatar can use to literally suck the skill out of another Sim. I mean, I’ve definitely sucked the skills out of people before, but it’s usually temporary and they recover with a nap or some therapy. So I guess I am looking at my last post date and feeling like someone has done that to me. Time is flashing by again, and all I’m doing is working, in spite of having a grillion ideas about what to write. I’m going to figure this out, mark my words.

So, check this cray shit: my bathroom, as of Monday, is FINALLY done. I think it’s been more than a month since construction finished. We failed the plumbing inspection three times because the plumber is a cock. It all involved something very boring called a mixing valve, and him installing the wrong one, and then fighting city hall and the League of Inspectors and losing. All of this took time. In the meantime we took a shower a few times, because YAY NEW BATHROOM.

ASIDE: an exchange I just had with Franny.

Me: Are you going to eat those Cheerios dry?

F: I don’t like almond MALK, MOTHER.

Me: Why don’t you just put some cream on that business?

F: I’ll have the shits all day. DO YOU WANT ME TO HAVE THE SHITS ALL DAY?

Me: …Is this a trick question?

That kid yells everything now.

ANYWAY. After taking a shower less than ten times, water started coming out of the wall. So the plumber had to come fix that too. I am kind of afraid to take a bath because I am afraid of water in the wall. I better bite the bullet, though, because this room is only under warranty for year.

The good news is that once the plumber started his cavalcade of shittery, we have not paid for any of it, thanks to our contractor. He told us more than once that he’s not using this plumber again. I looked at his Yelp page and I’m sure his reviews are all fake.

I’d rather just have things done, of course, than have my contractor foot the bill. But now they are…maybe. P. took a wall panel down in the basement last night and nothing was behind it, so now we can see directly into the furnace room. I need to take some pictures. This weekend is going to be moving the furniture out of the basement “living room” so demolition can start properly in that room.

Moving furniture is a sucky thing I can do now, because I’m feeling pretty much back to normal. I’ve been realizing I feel like I had some kind of weird mental reset, and now I super care about stuff I didn’t before and I don’t care about other stuff I did. I’m still trying to sort out what goes in which column. It’s really alarming, in a way that’s completely unapparent to the casual observer. I suspect my reserves were really low in February and I was headed for some kind of crash. It’s not good when your whole family licks food poisoning and you can’t shake it off.

I’m eating well. Kind of a lazy Whole 30. I don’t want to join the food/exercise cultists, I just want to eat and feel okay. I have a work comrade I like to go out to lunch with, and I thought I’d get a Thai beef salad, but the lunch menu was all rice and noodles. I just went with it, but it was really surprising. Other than the curry, I didn’t really enjoy any of it. I guess it’s been about a month now on a lot of hardcore veg and it’s becoming a habit. It’s shifting the steroid weight gain and I’m having very few sugar crashes. Very few headaches. I don’t “need” coffee like I did and I don’t drink it most days. I don’t feel like I’m about 90 and I’m a fucking walking thesaurus on the fly in conversation like in ye olde thymes. I was actually getting quieter around the time I got sick because I was struggling for words or the complete parts of a story I wanted to tell.

Franny’s ramping up to middle school graduation next month, and her trip to Japan. I had to have a talk with her about how she busted her promise to keep her grades up this year as a condition of this trip. I calmly told her she would be fundraising completely on her own to have future opportunities like this one.

She went into a tirade about how the Japan trip was my idea (it wasn’t) and how she didn’t really want to go in the first place (lies). I told her that was all irrelevant once she’d decided to go and agreed to the conditions. Her plan lately is to start yelling and try to blame everything for whatever the problem is rather than take responsibility for her actions. In short, she’s acting like a young human being.

I’ll tell you the truth, though, she’s so histrionic lately it’s hard to keep a straight face. I know she’s really feeling these feelings, but it’s over the top. She had taken a deep breath and was at the start of some fresh tack when her nose started bleeding. Franny has a fair amount of nose bleeds in the spring and summer, much like her father, so I wasn’t super alarmed.

“Oh honey, your nose is bleeding. Have a tissue.” I found myself making schmoopy “poor baby” face at her. I didn’t mean to. She was just so funny with her crazy yelling and then she had hysteric’d herself into a nosebleed.

“WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING AT ME ARGH!” STOMP STOMP STOMP SLAM.

P. came home shortly thereafter and she had recovered and was yelling some phrase at the table in between our sentences. He told her to pipe down.

“WHY? I’m not INTERRUPTING.” ($PARENT takes ten points of OBNOXIOUS DAMAGE!)

“You know, I’m not exactly thrilled with you and your grades right now, and this is not helping,” he said.

This set off an episode of “EVERYONE HATES ME” that involved more hysterics and us trying to calmly and briefly state that we no one hated her, we were just unhappy with her actions. As if I needed more multitasking during dinner. I am such an asshole–I had to turn around at the sink so she wouldn’t see me smiling. I do not know what my problem was yesterday.

P. even called her out on using “POOR ME AND MY SMOOSHED FEELINGS” as a distraction from what the real problem was, which was the decisions she made. It was pretty awesome. I knew he was going to be a good dad. He was pretty much a grandpa when I met him already.

“Are we DONE?” she asked, when we had, in fact, said our piece.

“Not until you’re 18,” P. said. ZING!

Other than the fact that her general obnoxiousness level has risen significantly in the past few months, which I can pretty much ignore, she’s pretty cool to be around most of the time. It’s obvious she’s just absolutely intoxicated with hormones and barely able to deal most of the time. I feel for her. But I am not going to let her skate, either.

Strudel, on the other hand, is an absolute dream right now. She practices her violin and is polite and wants to play games with us and is doing pretty well at school considering she has an absolutely 5-car pileup of a teacher this year. She’s got some of that nine-year-old spaciness, but I’m going to enjoy the crap out of this now, because when she hits 13 it will be like living with a psychotic corporate lawyer who can beat you at Scrabble.

I Shaved My Dog Now I’m Not Sad; Or, Where’d You Go, Asshole?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

There is a lot of music that reminds me of other people, but the other people don’t know I was ever thinking about them, nor have they heard the music themselves. I realized this this morning when I was listening to Felicia Carter, who I haven’t listened to since last summer really. It’s like someone else wrote the secret poems for you.

Yep, we’re calling it spring. I even went outside in the 6 a.m.s and could see things. The birds are going crazy, but my chickens, who do get the pellet, not the worm, are sleeping in.

I think the plum tree is going to have a good year. I made like Obama with the turkey and gave it a pardon after its extremely lackluster performance last year. I figure if it wasn’t actively diseased or foaming at the trunk or anything it could stay.

“We could just plant a new one,” P. said.

“Let’s give it one more year,” I said. “It’s old. Maybe it’s just tired.” If plum trees ever sit in judgment of my root system I hope they will come to the same conclusion about me. Next year. One more year.

He sprayed it with salad oil. I don’t question these things, really. I mean, maybe he knows something, or maybe he is just crazy. (Cue the sound of “HEY” many hours later when he discovers this.) Something seems to have worked.

I am considering spraying salad oil all over my own face at the moment. I’ve got the Prednisone poof. I’m not full-on Om Nom Hamster but it’s not great, either. There’s this rise where the chipmunk action starts and then it stops and I can actually see normal face and cheekbone behind, so it’s not like when my face has just been fat. I woke up the other morning and my nose was swollen–I actually noticed it in my peripheral vision. I am down to one pill and I feel pretty normal and sleep isn’t too bad anymore. By Monday I will be on half a pill, and then done by Thursday. I hear it can take a couple of weeks for the swelling to go down. In the meantime I feel like I have grit in my eyes so I wear my sunglasses everywhere, but am considering a bag for my head. I think I have had more veins burst in my cheeks but it’s hard to tell at this point. When no one is looking I kind of fondle my fat cheek parts and they sort of feel like dumplings or like mochi or something. My anpan filling is: bile.

[As a fun aside, P. came by while I was editing this, marveling over how my face is totally back to normal now. He is insane and can somehow sense when I am feeling bad about myself and will take that moment to say the most untrue thing.]

Franny left on Friday morning and I happened to be here since I had a vet appointment for the spaniels, who had ear infections and ear mites. I kind of understood their ears were off when I was really sick and I was trying to keep them clean, but I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until Horace yelped twice at work when people were petting him. They got shots and I have ear cream and I am getting drugs for them, all is well. I am ace at cats but still kind of a dog novice, sigh.

This is one of those things that is so easy to deal with when everything is normal. But getting sick, followed by lice, and now dogs. Whoosh. I think everything is under control now. (HA HA, did I really just type that.) After work I washed my car and made dinner and just that was exhausting, but not in a bad way. It’s weird to go from being able to do 12,000 things in a day to having to pick three things and then being forced to stop.

But this is all an aside to say that we decided to have a fight on the way out the door. I, Official Monitor of Toothbrushes, happened to notice that hers had been untouched for a couple of days, since I had put a replacement head in the bathroom for her. I should have left it alone. Am I actually capable of not answering the siren song of neglected oral hygiene? I am not.

“Hey, you went to bed early last night,” I said.

“Yeah, I was tired,” she said.

“You ate a bunch of candy and then I know you didn’t brush your teeth and then you went to bed.” Wait for it, it gets worse: “That is a recipe for cavities, friend.”

“I’m not going to GET cavities,” she said.

“SAY WHAT, CRACKER?”

“I don’t get them,” she rephrased.

“Well, if you keep up on your teeth you are less likely to get cavities. Magical thinking like that is not going to protect you from anything.”

“I need to be POSITIVE, MOM. I can’t tell myself I’m going to get cavities.”

“No one thinks they’re going to get them, honey,” I said. “But there’s steps you can take…”

“ARGH. It is so hard having divorced parents,” she said.

I think this bout of drama is coming from a friend at school whose parents are fighting unceasingly, causing the girl to worry her parents are splitting. It is also causing Franny to be in the ladies’ bathroom with her during 4th and 5th period while the girl cries, which I don’t love. Franny is the resident expert on divorce.

“I told her what it is like to go through a divorce,” she said, on Thursday evening.

“Do you remember?” I asked, innocently. “You were only three.”

“YESSSSSS,” she sighed at me.

But back to oral hygiene.

“So what is so hard about having divorced parents?” I asked.

“You’re so STRICT, Mom! If I forgot to brush my teeth, my dad would just say, ‘Oh well, do it tomorrow.”

This is where I interject in my head only: There’s an epitaph for you.

“Your dad and I are different people,” I said. “You know that.”

There was a little more scrabbling and then she stomped off to her room declaring she “didn’t want to talk about it anymore.” This is her tack lately–get very defensive about something, then declare the conversation over.

Strudel was sitting across from me at the table.

“Do you want to live somewhere else?” I asked her sotto voce.

“Where would I go? I belong here.”

“The train station?” I offered.

“There is no one who loves me at the train station.”

Later Franny came out to pack her backpack for school.

“You know, honey,” I tried again. “Your dad and I are so different, that even if we were still together, we would have drastically different ideas about how you should be raised and treated. We did when we were together and trying to raise you. This isn’t just a divorced parent thing. This is a different people thing.”

She said nothing. I went on, because when things are going down the crapper I like to enhance the situation by sticking my head in tiger mouths I guess.

“P. and I don’t always agree on you guys, but we find compromises. That’s the key.” Silence. “Um. So. We’re not going to see each other for a week. Are you sure you want to leave things like this?”

She walked out.

“Bye, Mom!” Strudel said, following her.

Franny was like this last summer as well. Really, really shitty before long breaks or vacations. This was bound to happen if I’d brought up the tooth brushing or not. I have heard all the theories and I’m not going to spend the week fretting. I assume we will have a talk at some point. I hope someday we can have more of a “Bye, have a nice trip, see you in a week,” interaction.

Later, after school, Strudel surmised that Franny was jealous we are taking a trip to Portland without her. Maybe so…maybe not. I know Franny is going to Walla Walla for spring break.

In other “stupid things I have done lately” news I decided to “loan” my sister my ye olde butcher block table.


VANISHED! Now all the plants have moved and are in a terrible jumble.

It’s actually really good because their apartment needed an additional countertop. Their space is like ours–50′s apartment, instead of house, with a galley kitchen and an open nook and no counterspace. So the butcher block will be a counter and a workspace in the nook. You can make bread on it and chop things, which is what it was used for when SeaFed’s mother had it in her kitchen. Since I’ve had it, it’s been off to the side somewhere, holding plants, not actually being used. It was acting as a plant stand in this house, which is a shame. I just gave her the whole “If you move and you think you want to get rid of it, let me know first,” but really we will be here a while, and this kitchen will never magically expand to hold it as an island, and my ass needs drawers and shit. I did give her the “This is an Alexander heirloom” lecture since we West Coast meanderers have such few possessions that actually mean anything. I did have a sigh when I tucked it away into a corner in another house yet again.

So P. is like, “Yo, what is your plan for this corner now that you have given away a thing we had that was working.” This is a very legitimate question. Sadly, I do not have an answer. Yet. I think I need a Countertop Solution. I really like what’s going on at this house. I’m imagining sealing the “permanent” counters that are by the sink and stove, and leaving my standalone guy sealed with food-grade oils so P. can continue making bread there as he likes. But maybe something in the corner too. Well, I have done it now. Godspeed, little butcher block table. You made my mother-in-law’s 80′s kitchen look fabulous, and I’m glad I inherited you when she remodeled in the aughties.

I’ve signed up for fruit and veg delivery, which was kind of a little epiphany I had when I was sick and getting stacks of frozen Trader Joe’s food in. It’s not a proper CSA in that they use multiple sources, but it’s nice. I’ve been meaning to do it for years but the time was never quite right. It’s making me really creative, because I take it as a challenge to use everything up before the next delivery. I’m thinking about going back to Amazon Fresh too. I may never leave my house again, except for work. (I am working on a secret mole tunnel; it’s only four miles).

Anyway, I forced myself to quick pickle this asparagus before I left town so it wouldn’t go bad.

HAVE A GOOD DAY.

My Bark is Worse Than My Barf

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Oh a twist–Monkey #10, who successfully traded hats on stage with eleven monkeys for two matinees and an evening performance last week, not to mention all the practicing, has suddenly come down with lice. What a crazy random happenstance. I dropped a dime on her with the school, because I am also hearing that there is a full-on outbreak and girls are “hiding” lice so they won’t need haircuts.

Things kind of festered because Strudel has not really been having me braid her hair at night for the past week or so, and I was just suggesting a Nice Bob to resolve her tangling and pain issues.

“NO!” she said last night, as her dad picked her nits.

Franny, meanwhile, has not had a haircut since September, and her ends and layers were getting a little tired. She asked me to give it a blunt trim across her shoulders, which was easy to do once I had gotten laundry load #4000 in and dishes were done.

“Oh that looks nice, Mom.” She thought for a minute. “Should I have…BANGS?” She started pushing little wispy bits down to preview what it might look like.

“I think you should, but I’m going to tell you what my hair stylist tells me: commit fully. No wimpy little bangs that you will have to style endlessly and they will still kind of look crooked and weird and not behave. You should make it a hairstyle.” I pulled a chunk of her hair forward to show her how it would look full and frame her face.

She went for it.

I like it. It’s very hipster anime Cleopatra. I showed her about a little heat, and a little style product, and BANG (no pun intended, but there you go).

THEN, not to be left out, Strudel clamored for a bob. I JUMPED! This is probably the quickest haircut I have ever given and she said the same thing she ALWAYS says every single time.

“I HATE THIS. Wait. This is actually okay. This is pretty good.” Sigh. “I think I like this. Thanks, Mom!”

And then after I was done, P. swooped and picked even more nits. This was after a round of smothering with tea tree oil and almond oil, too, of course, since I was out of Listerine (note to self). It will probably need a wee bit of clean up when she wakes up.

I tried to take a picture, but she turns into a blur. I get that she doesn’t love the camera, or holding still, and a lot of times I just leave her be and “miss” stuff. It’s okay, some of it stays in my head. I really wanted to snap the bob though and I was a little disappointed in myself for pressing it.

“Can you just…hold still?” I asked.

“Not really!”

“I want to see your hair in this, can you just, like…act normal?”

“I AM ACTING NORMAL!!” Hmm. Touche, there, Calvin.

Lady Lice-a-lot is coming to the rheumatologist with me this morning. Guess what? I “have something” now, I think. Parvovirus B19 came back positive, finally. I will let you know more when I know what the heck this means, overall.

Also I am burning with desire to show you my bathroom, but I am missing VANITY LEGS. OH GOOD GOD. SJ problems. I am going to shoot it later anyway, because there is an inspection today and tomorrow and then it is DONE, vanity legs or not (legs are backordered til next week).

ETA: Okay, it’s NOT parvo. It was just showing that I have had it. Dammit. Still, I’m getting better.

Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that my sister is a DJ for a local radio station. I think she’s been official for about a year now, but she’s been with the station for much longer. It’s been a cool thing to see unfold, since she worked at the University of Washington station and interned at KEXP for a long time. I know people pick and choose which radio personalities and hosts they like, and some people don’t like certain voices or styles, but I think she’s good at her job. Friends and people I don’t know tell me they like her on-air too. I think she’ll be there for a while.

I mention this not only because I think it’s a cool thing, but also to say that Franny is getting interested in being a DJ now. We’ve been watching Veronica Mars together, and in the third season a college radio station is prominently featured.

“Being a DJ would be so cool,” Franny said one night after we were done with an ep.

“You know, your aunt…is a DJ,” I said.

“Oh yeah!”

“She knew she wanted to do music in high school and she did a job shadow in Olympia with Calvin Johnson. Maybe you could ask if you could watch what she does at the radio station?”

And she did. I have been trying to talk her into signing up for an email address, because I know she’ll need one for high school next year. This was my chance–I asked her to email her aunt about this. Morgan was wildly enthusiastic and she managed to get Franny in for a pretty typical (but exciting) day on her show where a band comes into the studio and plays live and there is a little Q&A. Franny was even able to introduce a Depeche Mode song. I believe she is being recruited.

I let Franny borrow my camera and she took a ton of pictures. There’s just a couple here (I will throw the rest onto Flickr for posterity) but I uploaded the ones she came home with and turned them into a little printed album for a keepsake.


Franny with The Thumpers

My sister has just moved within a couple of neighborhoods of me for the first time in…ever? I am excited to be seeing her more, but I’m also glad that Franny can make more of a connection with her. Morgan’s kind of a bridge (nine years younger than me, thirteen older than Franny) and knows about things I don’t and can give her advice that I can’t. Yay for family.

Cautious Optimism

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Good news, I suppose. Things seem to have stopped getting worse. I am in kind of a holding pattern now and am still crazy tired. The doctors have officially settled on viral myositis, which is nice because it goes away eventually. I am really hoping this will be the last week of my convalescence. I don’t think I’ve had a fever for 24 hours, but it’s gone away and returned before, as has the pain. We’ll see.

Strudel’s birthday is Wednesday and she will be nine. She wants to go out to dinner, which is a typical thing here at Rancho Asshole. If I am having trouble walking I’m going to take some codeine and suck it up. We’re going to have FUN. Dammit. I am also on the hook to make her usual pineapple upside down cake, which blessedly she is not making me dye blue or anything this year. Don’t tell her I said this, but YUCK.

She has demanded Indian food and submitted a long birthday list before we went out of town, which I cherry picked from as usual. Several years ago Franny began including “surprises” on her birthday lists, which I think is a very legitimate ask. Strudel twigged to that idea and has run with it. I like to be surprised sometimes as well–a good one is a gift in itself.

On Sunday night P. and I were laying in bed at the late hour of 8:30 or so, and we had done all the necessary marshaling to send the girls off to blow zees. Strudel came in to have her fine, thick, long hair braided into two chunks before laying down, which makes it less of a tangled nightmare when she wakes up. She took in the picture of her destroyed parents in repose. For a moment I imagined we looked like Charlie Bucket’s grandparents, just ancient and broken.

She said goodnight and turned to leave the room, but lingered in the doorway for a moment.

“Are you two going to…flake on my birthday?”

“NO!” we said in unison.

I’m not going to lie, that hurt. The thing about this kid is that she says things like this, which is exactly what’s percolating in her roiling, evil brain, and has no idea how things may come over.

Franny, hypothetically in the same situation: “I am worried that you two are too sick to execute my birthday in a satisfactory fashion.” Franny’s first word was “poopbubble” (while pointing at an airplane) and while I don’t quite remember her second, I’m pretty sure my little Betazoid’s second word involved an “I” statement.

Strudel: “Sup, flakes.” Ouch.

But you can decode the message easily enough. I have never flaked on a birthday, though I think she was less than impressed at our tired, lackluster Xmas decorating in the first year in this house. There was presents and Feast though.

Franny was feeling better this weekend. She never got the voms like the rest of us, but she was still pretty knocked out with the virus. This weekend her volume went up again so I knew she was doing okay. She was chattering about Stephen King’s IT, which she read recently and brings up anytime she sees a clown, some balloons, or even something like a funny-shaped cloud. I think it’s made itself home in her psyche.

There were balloons tied to an open house sign on the way home from the store.

“BALLOONS! ‘They all float, motherfucker!” she said in a funny voice.

“Is that what Pennywise says?” I asked, laughing. I skipped the whole IT experience.

“Well, I added the ‘motherfucker’ part.”

She made me laugh so hard I peed a little. She doesn’t drop the MF bomb too often lately, but when she does, it’s pretty effectual. And a good sign for her health.

The Plan of the House, the Body in Bed

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Let’s get this over with.

Things came to a head with the neighbor, so I am hoping this will be my last dispatch about her. A couple of days after the shrub incident I discovered that something else had taken place earlier that day. I spoke to my contractor the following Monday morning and he said that she had trespassed into the house and yelled at the electrician on Friday, demanding to know where we were and telling him that she “had to talk to us.”

I filed a police report and the cops spoke to the electrician, who gave his account. Now we’re on no contact. I am left scratching my head over what made us so infuriating on that particular day that she had to burst into the house and begin yelling. I cannot come up with an answer, so I am going to go with “is crazy.” Naturally she had the no-contact order extended to us as well. The funny part (in a way) is that the only time we’ve contacted her was to knock on her door to ask her to stop digging up our yard.

Anyway, lately it probably seems like all I think about is my crazy neighbor. I guess in reality it’s something less personal and dramatic I can write about. There’s a lot of old ground I don’t feel like retreading lately. It’s for the best, not to bulldog everything until it’s shaken into shreds. Also, I am an insane Bisy Backson. I feel like my time is claimed from the time I wake up until I lay down in bed. I stand at work all day so some days I feel like I don’t even stop moving until it’s bedtime. I suppose there’s dinner, too, though.

I had my sister over for dinner last night and we talked about being on cruise control and what the year is shaping up to be. She was saying she doesn’t have any burning goals right now, nor any huge obstacles.

“I keep thinking I should get a hobby, but there’s nothing else I really want to be doing,” she said, while I stirred my bologese.

“She’s 26,” I said to P. by way of explanation, who was listening.

“You’re just living!” he said. “That starts to happen in your late twenties if you’re doing okay.”

It was funny to hear her talk about her life with some wisdom and calm clarity, as opposed to the kind that comes with “this crisis is happening and I just had this epiphany at 3 a.m.” That shit is exhausting. Not to hear about, but to live through. I’ve done a combination of holding my breath and cringing for my sister for the last ten years or so as I’ve watched her move out from my mother’s shadow and grow her own life, as you do.

I remember that strange feeling when I started to realize the years really had a rhythm to them and if I chose, I would be doing the same thing over and over again every year. I would be making the same meals, or something just like them. I would be pulling the same weeds out of the garden beds. When it got cold, I would pull out my sweaters for the fourth year in a row. I would spring clean the same house, or at least in the same way. There are small victories and disapointments, but the only real difference is that I’m getting wrinkles and the girls are getting taller. I guess one of the keys is to ask yourself if you still like what you’re doing every now and then. Cruise control does have a seductive quality that can turn into inertia.

I was considering taking up a new hobby this year as well, since I so love new years, but I made the same decision as my sister. I don’t have any serious medical complaints right now, other than my normal bag of genetic weirdness/early old age. I don’t have any goddam court cases. Maybe this is just a year of normal doing, and being grateful for that.

Franny and I have been touring high schools around town right now. I feel really lucky to be in a position to let her make a choice about which high school she wants to attend. It’s been fun spending time alone with her, and hearing her reaction to the schools.

We went to her neighborhood school, which allows thousands of students in. It is an old 1950s building, which I find inherently charming because I am mushy-headed, but even I can see the drabness of the grey and yellow bathroom tiles under the fluorescent lights. I was embarrassed to feel the unpleasant visceral reaction I was having to being in a building like that, like I immediately wanted to graffiti on something or go outside and smoke. We were wandering the halls after the initial orientation was over and she got the standard “Oh my god, that girl has teal hair,” from some students who were there late at a robotics club, which completely irritated her.

We popped into the art classroom and looked around. It looked like a very cool studio space, and was obviously some kind of haven for freaks, as it always is. The walls were covered with handmade posters the teacher had done about bullying and about the studio being a safe space. It was nice to see that being addressed head-on.

The girls in the robotics club went by the art classroom door to spy on us and did that loud griefer thing that kids do when they want to harass someone without directly confronting them. It reminded me of nature shows with monkeys screeching with displeasure when there is a foreign monkey in the next tree scoffing all the best breadfruit. Franny’s cheeks colored and she rolled her eyes.

We went to the opposite of that the next night–a very small school housed in The Seattle Center, which is where the Space Needle is, if you are unfamiliar. We were shown slides of test and SAT scores, but I imagine the makeup of the feeder neighborhoods surrounding the center (mostly white, wealthy) may have had more to do with test scores than the amazingness of the school. I suspect most of the kids in the school have enough support to do well wherever they went. Franny was very charmed by what was presented, and I’m sure she’d do fine there. I think the dealbreaker was the attitude of the kids themselves, who were allowed to present a large portion of the curriculum and programs, and the fact that there is no Japanese program.

I’m informed that this reads, in part, “You are a butthole.”

We picked up some dessert on the way home. Strudel and her father had been out to multicultural night at the girls’ school, but they arrived home first. When we walked in she was making a face like she was going to pee herself with excitement and she started whispering at her dad. Something was afoot. I put my coat away and Franny walked into her room and promptly screamed. Strudel had picked up a life-sized standee of Justin Bieber abandoned on the side of the road on the way home, and had installed it in her sister’s room. All her idea. Franny took it with good humor. The funny part is that Franny is one of the only ones in her peer group who doesn’t like the Biebs. We like to tease her about the Biebs since it’s what she’s “supposed” to be doing. She still has the card I sent her last summer at her dad’s house.