Welcome Back to the Blog and Make it a Cool Font

Other than Pete, I’m going to talk to you about this first.

When I was younger, my weight fluctuated a lot. When I was poor, I ate less and lost weight. Then I had more money, and I shoveled in General Tso like there was no Tsomorrow and gained weight. I had a well-meaning but completely ignorant go at vegetarianism for about nine years. I was never what I derisively called a “french fry vegetarian” but there were many nights that were just salad and some French bread. Close enough. Like many people, I was also very uneducated about nutrition in general, which is something I tried to correct after I had Franny (how do you feed a kid? Let’s read several books on the topic and then get more confused).

So you take an ignorant person who’s not eating enough fat or protein, and combine that with mysterious and random pains and extreme tiredness, making it hard to exercise, and that person’s weight fluctuates. It was frustrating to me and of course I blamed myself. IF ONLY I could get my shit together and eat right and exercise, I would think. Everything would fall into place. That was the lie I told myself. I was on the right track, though. Everyone needs a good diet and exercise, but especially me, as it turns out.

For the most part, I fixed it. This is not news to you. The nutrition part was absolutely involuntary, but critical, and the exercise part is forced but, of course, voluntary with my career change. I’m very glad about those two things.

I thought some kind of magical transformation would take place once I started feeling better physically. I was super glad I was feeling so much better, and like I might want to and enjoy living past 50. But I felt like my progress bar was stuck on 79% or so, spinning, spinning…. I was depressed at times. Completely bored with my life but not wanting to or able to go back out into restaurants, bars, and movie theatres multiple times a week. I wasn’t suddenly going to discover rock climbing or anything. If I stayed home or worked outside, I felt better. But anxiety was still there, jabbing me, especially if I had to go out and function in the (corny) world. A visit to the movies could leave me in tears or vomiting, or both. I also knew I wasn’t functioning as well as I could be even after getting the corn out of my system.

I’m at a point now where I can’t struggle against myself anymore. It’s too hard. I’ve hacked and self-medicated myself for many years and I’m tired of doing it all on my own. I had a talk with myself. I’m super good at these.

BRAIN: Remember when we were on speed all the time and got so much stuff done and could remember people’s names and wanted to write bad scifi and there weren’t piles everywhere and people liked us and we could answer the phone?

Me: We don’t do that anymore, brain, now we have carrots and zinc supplements. Plus I think we were an acquired taste even then.

BRAIN: Yes but you have class coming up and things to memorize and your children are starting to work around your bad memory….


BRAIN: Maybe we could pretend…wait, what was I saying? You know what would be great right now? Getting into the shower and crying.

Me: We already did that today

BRAIN: You should get a tattoo! Or just start tatting. Tat-a-tat tippicanoe…

Me: ??? Thanks for nothing, asshole

Brain: *Hold please*

But my horrible, traitorous brain got me thinking. Speed and copious amounts of coffee was the only thing that kept me functional before I figured out I was allergic to life. Ready, this is where it gets REALLY pathetic.

Maybe…maybe I could FAKE adhd to get a legal script for speed. I started looking at signs and symptoms of adhd. I started reading message boards about people who have faked their way into the various drugs. I started reading people’s stories. Uh oh.

This was the lightbulb moment: I think…I actually HAVE adhd and wouldn’t need to fake anything. Shit.

I got tested a couple of weeks ago and it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done. Squirm factor rating was “Court” but with less emotional anguish. Think about a cavalcade of small tasks that you hate to do the most and do that for about three hours. For me it was things like mental math and memorizing, reordering, and reciting strings of letters and numbers. I kind of wanted to run out of the room. The battery was very thorough. And in the end, yes, inattentive adhd. I was honest about using stimulants for years and how they got me through graduate school and the doc said, “Yes, the fact that they work for you so well adds to the evidence that you have it.”

She said something insightful to me that made me feel a lot better and lose a lot of the guilt and shame of my lifelong, sad struggling. This goes way back, pretty much back to everything that happened after kindergarten. My complete disinterest in school, ever doing homework, complying with authority, being told I was smart but lazy. I was bored out of my mind, even in the face of new material (I had to really care about it to focus). Really my patterns of bad behavior were the origin for this blog. There are so many things I HAVEN’T told you about but that seal’s popping when Franny turns 18, ha.

What she said was pretty simple: “You told me you never did homework but skated into tests and passed them so they passed you on. You taught yourself what you wanted to out of books and ignored everything else. You’ve been successful at many things (referring to finishing grad school especially) and that’s because you’re smart. You’ve figured out how to cope.” She said she had one “aha” moment when I did well on the IQ test, pretty well on the memory tests, but as she watched me, she could see I was closing my eyes and chunking the numbers, like a phone number. I TANKED on the solo attention stuff. “You’re obviously better in a one-on-one setting,” she said, about my focus.

“This is the real me on no coffee,” I told her.

So now I get onto the (legal) medication-go-round. I feel so relieved. I am already having nicer conversations with my brain and trying to be more patient with it when I forget things right now or see a shiny thing. I am too old to think “YES THIS IS THE ANSWER NOW, we’re all done.” But based on my past experience I expect improvement. This is another lever I can pull.

Speaking of pulling people’s levers.

I did get Franny some actual factual birthday presents, but we hadn’t seen Mr. Coconut milk for a few months so I had to wrap it up. I was gratified by the “ARGGH” I was looking for.

I have a sixteen-year-old. Things are moving fast for her right now and it’s freaking her out. She’s leveling up. Her boyfriend has graduated and has a job. I took her to get a state ID the other day, which I figure she should have and will increasingly need. I turned over her social security card and implored her to memorize her number (she won’t). She is still volunteering at KEXP with her aunt but has just applied for her first paying job.

She asked me to shave part of her head last weekend, which I did. With the dog clippers, naturally.

I used to tease her about having a mohawk when she was little and it would always make her scream. I remember when my neighbor shaved most of my head in high school and my mother laughed at me until she was in tears. I still don’t get that reaction.

Franny’s flip phone is dying, and the “kid” service we have her on has gotten pretty lame. They no longer sell phones, and if you bring your own phone, it must meet a lot of criteria, like being older than one year, not certain models, etc. We don’t use any of the special features anymore either (we used to cut her texting off at a certain time of night so she would not have her sleep interrupted).

Pete, sensibly, doesn’t want to be a spurting artery of parental largesse for either of the girls, which is something I respect about him. We dithered about what to do. I thought about putting her on our phone service, but the reason it works for us is that it’s “pay for what you use” and we’re very light users (two lines, $45 a month on average). I knew her 5000+ monthly texts would really send us through the roof.

We made a deal with her. I told her I would buy her a very basic flip phone again, gratis, and she could pay for what she uses once she’s employed, which ideally will be before xmastime. I am also setting it up in the meantime so we get alert texts and features turn off if she goes near overages. Alternately she could buy herself a smartphone, and I would pay for text and talk, and when she gets a job we can turn on data and she can pay for the whole schmear. Naturally she went for the smart phone. I’m going to give her access to the usage page for our cell service as well so she can practice keeping an eye on that. As usual, trying to do the training wheels thing with her so adulthood doesn’t scream “BITE THE PILLOW, I’M GOING IN DRY” like it did for me.

Franny wanted to Do Something for her birthday, and we want to have more family trips, large or small, before she graduates. We haven’t gone anywhere since Maui Death Trip. We settled on a long weekend in L.A., which has Harry Potterport, Hollywood, and palm trees. Franny wanted to go to the Museum of Death as well. Strudel was tired a couple of days in and got headachey, especially after a day of roller coasters, so Franny and I took an afternoon to drive all of Mulholland Drive, which was really fun and beautiful. She sneaky peed at an overlook and I kept watch. “I’m a great outdoor pee-er!” she said.

We tried to hit LACMA after landing, but were tired and getting corned at the museum, so bailed out for the tar pits.

I skipped them the first time I went to LA, thinking they were pretty tourist trappy, but it was actually cool to see them bubbling.

One of my favorite parts was when we were on our way to Universal Studios and Pete realized that no one had packed sunscreen. We stopped at the West Hollywood Whole Foods and he ran in to get some. We watched a beautiful woman who had obviously just finished exercising pick out a selection of squashes and decorative corn. It was Friday morning.

“She’s having a dinner party,” I said.

“Her workout pants are very trendy right now,” Franny said. They had the little peekaboo mesh slashes. “I bet she’s a personal trainer.”

“I bet she doesn’t work,” I said. “Look at that ring.”

“Don’t pick that squash!” Strudel yelled from inside our car (windows rolled up). “It doesn’t go with the other ones!”

I was fascinated by the WeHo Whole Foods and I couldn’t figure out why. It was grubby. The produce really sucked. The clientele was weird looking in a LA way instead of in a Seattle way. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized…it actually looked and functioned like a city grocery store. Even the middle of town at Whole Foods here I feel like I’m in the suburbs somehow. Also we could not get much for gluten free beer (tiny violins, I know). Seattle is a very special bubble and I am very spoiled with great food and I know it.

It was nice to sneak in some 70s weather in the middle of October.

The air bnb was ADORABLE.

I know I have said next to nothing about Strudel, but she’s doing so, so well right now. She’s interested in picking up another day of violin, which we’re going to see if we can make work after xmas (also I am not working at the moment). She’s really a pleasure and taking to middle school beautifully. She looks a tiny bit stressed out every day because there’s still (always) Mean Girl drama. Recently a kid came back to her small school from the BIG cluster middle school, and we are so grateful to him because he gave everyone the lowdown about the fistfights and bullying and teachers completely phoning it in and she is glad to be where she is. Middle school is no picnic for anyone but she’s doing well. Challenged in math but a lot of the subjects are teaching the same units again.

She told me she goes to visit her incredible 5th grade teacher, the one who sorted them into Hogwarts houses and did math rpgs. He is back to having a group of very difficult kids this year, because this is the reward you get for being an amazing teacher apparently? Strudel’s group of gifted nerds was a brief respite year and cookie for him, we suspect.

“I’m bored,” she told him.

“Me too,” he said.

I feel like I can’t quite see who she’s going to be yet, which is how I felt about Franny in middle school. She’s still in the chrysalis. Franny is going to get more life experience, and more mature, but spending time with her solo in LA gave me a little preview of what our adult relationship will be like. Franny seems like she’s Alice, halfway through a wee door and trying to finish pulling through. She knows she’s the right size, but the door is kind of an odd size. Strudel is still Eat Me and Drink Me-ing herself dizzy. I’m not in a hurry, though. I’m enjoying Strudel and her weird tweeny ways now.

Jumping Nimbly Bimbly From Tree to Tree

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

OH STEREOTYPES! Where would we be without you?

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

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

“MOM do you know where the steak is?”

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

“I don’t see it!”

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

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

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

“No…yes….no. It’s not in here.”

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

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

“FRANNY HID IT!” she said.

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

Then I danced around like this naturally

while yelling “I’m RUMPLESTEAKSKIN!”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

me rollin up in the art museum with my homies

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

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

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

It’s their first days of school.

This new middle schooler is a little excited.

This Satanist is starting her junior year.

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

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

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

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

I’ll see you in the trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Edith dons her small sweater.

CoCoWArZ!, Necks, Silent Hill Shit, and Yeah

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

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

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

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

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

IN OTHER NEWS: Some Silent Hill Shit

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

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

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

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

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

NECK UPDATE: Can this Neck Marriage Be Saved

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

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

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

Part 4, Work

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

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

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

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

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

“Anyone act weird towards you?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s a weird name,” he said.

“Thank you?” I said.

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

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

“Ok,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, story of my life. Er. Sometimes.

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

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

“Okay, I will.”

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

We’re gonna sip genmaicha like it’s your birthday

Franny said something interesting after returning from her father’s house last weekend. As I’ve mentioned, she often has a challenge over there, in that their house is set up differently than ours. The air and the products they use are full of corn. I would be a wreck if I was still in an environment like that and I remember being pretty consistently depressed when I was her age. She comes back irritable, tired, and with a couple of zits dotting her usually-clear face.

There was some kind of conflict last weekend that led to her peacing out to her room, probably exacerbated by how she was feeling. The shocking thing, to her, was that her father followed and asked her if she wanted to talk about it.

“I was so surprised!” she told me. “Now that I’m 15, he’s finally acting like a dad!”

Well, her definition of what a good dad is. It’s interesting to me what different people need to feel like someone cares about them. For her, it’s being listened to, and for someone to try to help her get to the bottom of what she’s feeling. When I was her age, I think I wanted to be encouraged in my interests, and not feel like an alien or be told things like “art’s a waste of time” or “girls don’t do that” or “you’ll grow out of it” (atheism, ha).

For a lot of reasons, I didn’t really have any meaningful talks with my own mother past the age of 12. I think there is a part of me that worries that I’m intruding on Franny when I can tell she’s having a bad day and I peck at her a little to talk to me and then she does. She always says she feels better but I always ask myself…should I just leave her to stew in her room until she gets over it? I don’t really feel like she tells me things she regrets and it’s usually manageable problems (that can be large to a teenager) like a tiff with her boyfriend, or someone at school said something mean, or a teacher lost their temper with herding cats.

So, weirdly, this revelation that her father’s decision to listen to her and ask if she was okay constituted “real parenting” made me feel like I’m on the right track with her. I know that sounds grossly self-congratulatory, but that’s what I took from it. Especially since I don’t really have any stake in their relationship or hope that he’s going to consistently meet her core needs. They have their own thing, but I guess he can still surprise her occasionally.

In Other News: Strudel is Eleven

Strudel asked for a modest list of presents and a bento-style dinner, like we used to have at teriyaki places. I made sushi, miso, teriyaki chicken, and tea.

If you’re familiar, that is a Dwight Shrute card of my own design. A couple of months ago I threw on a couple of episodes of first season Office while I was cooking and the girls got hooked. ESPECIALLY Strudel. I didn’t think it would appeal to a then-ten, now eleven-year-old, but she probably loves it the most. I’m enjoying the rewatch.

We present the traditional pineapple upside down cake, which has been a staple every year but the first year (that year was an apple strudel). It’s actually just as good gluten and dairy free.

I’ve got more pictures up at ye olde flickr.

Edith spent a long time walking around like this last night. It looked like a pacifier from straight on.

Also, the new birds are starting to lay! Green eggs again. Last year I bought a pullet, Gingersnap, that we were told was an easter egger, but turned out to definitely not be one! I think she might be some kind of maran. She’s got a black shiny tail and a red head, and lays dark brown eggs.

It’s been really rainy, so the eggs have been a bit muddy. Coop’s clean again as of this weekend though.

How are things in your little bed?

The past month has been an absolute BLUR.

Get up
get dressed
swim around in rain gear for a while
hit thumb
carry bucket
carry pipe
carry propane tank
be told no hand tools are needed
leave tools behind
be annoyed with when unable to pull pliers from hammerspace
new thing hurts
old thing hurts
be mocked daily for TERRIBLE crooked pipe cuts
swear again
smash pinky
be asked if “baffled” (A: Yes, am baffled.)
swear AGAIN, LOUDLY this time
start to not feel like an alien when in full PPE
start to feel naked when not wearing 25 lbs of tools
get slightly better with channel locks
fall into bed
dream about PVC glue
Get paid weekly.

It’s going great.

In the spirit of The Onion’s AV Club, here are some Stray Observations (aka “It is Friday and I cannot write a coherent essay right now):

1. Pubes are not very nice on a typical day, but I have learned about further math: pubes + urinal cake = ARGH! The general foreman made me a key to the ladies’ portajohn and it really makes a difference not to have to sit down next to the urinal every time, since it’s removed from the special one.

2. On a typical day, I’m learning a ton on the site, but a pendulum has swung somehow. Now that I’m not on the internet all day, basically synthesizing information and constantly making decisions, or responding to tedious emails, I have a lot more brain space. I’m reading voraciously at a rate I haven’t for many years, as well as listening to audio books in the car on the way to and from work. Lately I’ve been reading about food and air travel, Queen Victoria’s court, and TC Boyle’s newest novel. I’m listening to Bringing up the Bodies which is now giving me a Tudor itch. (Gross.)

3. Mostly I’ve been dealing with PVC conduit, but I had a day of “pulling wire,” which is a lot like what it sounds. Wire comes on big spools and you pull it off and stuff it into or pull it through pipes, which will be its home as electrons zip along it. These were big wires, like imagine garden hose, but full of metal. I was also carrying big spool jacks around. Two days later I woke up and could not open or close my right hand properly–it was like a crab claw hand. My muscles had swelled and had pinched nerves in my shoulder/arm, which was making my hands dead. I went to the doctor for advice or treatment and was given corny muscle relaxers. YUM. I was very, very stupid for two days, but I slept well.

So I am coming along. I am already much, much stronger and I feel like excess weight is kind of melting off of me, in spite of somewhat Bacchanalian weekends involving lots of gluten-free beer and some cinnamon rolls I’m working on, that contain plantains and are chewy yet have a crunchy crust. (This is rare for GF.)

In Other News: Franny the Potter

Franny was kind of noodling around in her ceramics class, sort of doing jack shit until we watched The Great Pottery Throwdown together. It inspired her to jump on the wheel and actually throw pots! I was lamenting that most of my little sauce dishes were missing or broken and she said, “Mother I will make you some!” Hooray! They are coming along…I believe I’m due one more.

She and I are going to buckle down and get back to podcasting soon, this time about another rewatch of Twin Peaks, which we’re starting this month (missed our usual February thing because being new at work was exhausting). I keep getting older but TP stays exactly the same….

And in the words of that immortal God Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be lead to the guillotine; Or, I, Anonymoushole

BOOT CAMP. Argh! You know what, I have to go into instant aside here. Preface? I feel so FREE right now. I’m now part of a community where I am a tiny little cog and as long as I’m acting right and following the rules, no one gives a shit about me. I’m unvisible. I always felt somewhat self-conscious writing anything about tech world, because I was in that Venn sliver of “librarian” and “tech.” It’s a smallish community and those are people who know how to google stalk. When I started blogging, the internet was a little smaller and I was on the precipice of being a library science student. Now I am just one of many, and who even blogs anymore?

I had my introductory night where I signed what amounts to a ten-year contract. (We remove your Thetans or your MONEY BACK.) I dither a little bit in my guts about whether or not this is a good idea, but I am like, what else am I going to do for the next ten years that’s going to agree with me? A person’s gotta work, eh? I’m in the prime of my life, healthier than I have ever been EVER, I might as well pick up a trade that’s not quite recession-proof, but at least automation-proof. I have this close-up vision of learning and moving for a living, and a farther-off vision of being 50, buying an inn/B&B and doing the electrical myself.

So…boot camp. I like the apprentice wrangler. I like all the administrative people. They all seem reasonable and want to work with you to get you through. First Aid was interesting. I didn’t get the guy’s credentials but apparently he does a lot of union training in Washington. After 40 years in various facets of the medical field, he was really focused on common sense. He really denigrated CPR and how it’s taught in the US, but, if the save rate really is so low (less than two percent), I can see why. I got a little hinky sense that he didn’t like me, or was trying to ignore me, which whatever. It was interesting to me that after two days of shit talking CPR, I was the only one he yelled at when practicing on the dummy and the only one whose hands he moved.

I felt a little ripple go through the room the first night when I came in, and some heads turned and did double takes. There is the highest percentage of women in the trades in Washington, but it’s still low…something like 19 percent. Women interested in electrical are often pushed towards limited energy–low voltage network cable stuff. There’s not many inside wire(wo)men. But I’m not a unicorn either.

The good news is I already feel like I’m wallpaper. I keep my mouth shut most of the time. I have been cracking jokes when we’re clumped up together, not self-deprecating, just trying to be funny. One of my soft skills. The CPR baby was hideous, dirty, 30 years old, and missing a leg. “What do you think its name is?” someone asked. “Lucky,” I said. I helped a guy with tool ID just because I could and I knew it. I guess I already have a feeling that I need to prove myself, but I’m not going to wear myself out yet.

I can be dispatched starting Monday, once I have basic tool ID/usage and now First Aid under my belt. We are expected to continue attending boot camp in the evenings, even if we’re off to work. I got waived out of OSHA since I’ve had it recently. There’s about 20-25 guys on the list ahead of me at this point, so I imagine I’ll go out in February at the earliest. I’m going to get my apprentice tool kit soon, and I’ll take a picture of it–I just have to.

First night in the shop/lab tonight, dressed out with boots, bibs, etc.

In Other News: Cooking Thots with I, Asshole

Belonging to the Y is going really well. I am sore pretty much every day right now, but not to the point where I can’t move. When I used to exercise, my back would be toast by the end of the day. Now it’s like “I’m okay” and I sleep like a baby. I’m mixing it up between yoga, interval/circuit type training, and swimming.

I spaced on taking my vitamins for three days, that is all, and I woke up in the middle of the night with a numb hand and forearm.

My Muppet Brain: OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO.

My Thinking Brain: BRAIN, shut up and think…vitamins! We forgot vitamins.

The next night I was fine!

One thing that happened that is a SUPER BUMMER in my tiny world is that I put a book on hold with the library called Paleo Takeout in October. I was VERY EXCITED when I read about this book because I miss Americanized Chinese food especially.

My hold number didn’t come up until right after I started the Whole30 again this month. Paleo Takeout is that kind of “fantasy Paleo” shit I was being salty about around Xmastime, and it makes the True Believers hate rate and get pedantic. HOWEVER, again it’s great for the allergic. But I am avoiding honey and rice this month, and there’s a lot of that in the book. And cheese, which turns me into a tiny Hindenburg. I just can’t bring myself to convert something like sweet and sour chicken to comply with Whole30. (Hint: it would just be SOUR. Ha.)

The book is due back before my month is up, so I will probably end up buying it. I can usually eyeball recipes now and can tell if they look legit. The girls have been flipping through it and are excited to have some PMS YUM YUMS (though I am not a monster like I used to be…go figure). I’ve been trying to make quickie subs like this one (made it shortly after xmas to serve with stir fry) but a lot of “easy paleo” honestly has too few ingredients, and the sauce just takes like its components. I like that there’s generally a lot of seasonings and ingredients in Paleo Takeout because I know there will be a more satisfying complexity there.

So, for all my smug health talk, I did fall off the wagon one night. I took Franny and boyfriend Neo to see Star Wars. We got corned, boy did we get corned. I used to wonder why I would get into such a bad mood after seeing a movie, even one I enjoyed. HA. I felt HORRIBLE when I got home, and was fighting passing out. Cried in bed, and as I may have mentioned recently, though maybe just on twitter, I hardly ever cry anymore! Air corn makes me cry, and I’m not alone. Eating corn makes me sad, achy, and grindingly angry.

Pete was like, “Are you going to sleep tonight?” I was like, eventually probably. He made chocolate chip pecan cranberry cookies, which I think was good for both me and Franny, and I had a couple of cocktails. The sugar stabilized my gloomy mood immediately. All of this has made me realize why I leaned so heavily on sugar in the past. Of course the best solution is avoiding corn, but it’s nice to know I can, in theory, go to a movie with a big sugar bandaid after.

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

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

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

Cod pie

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

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

“I’m her mother.”

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

“No she isn’t.” PS I Derp You

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

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

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


A nerd with cheap custom fangs.

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


Franny is switched on permanent Owen Meany capslock right now.

P. birthday cuppycakes: Orange cream with pecans.

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

No I will not wear the cone of shame

This week we are focusing on things like multiplying binomials and solving inequalities in systems of equations. Have you flashed back to tenth grade yet? FOILing?? I woke up in the middle of the night last night a few times and I was kept awake by the idea that maybe I should be reviewing volume. WHAT IF THERE IS A VOLUME QUESTION? I think I was supposed to go through this 20+ years ago with the SATs but I never bothered paying for them. Too busy buying Boone’s Farm (sangria flavor, because that’s the classy one).

Post apple picking in August

I don’t think I felt this way ramping up to the GREs either. If you have seen the melodramatic, snot-silently-running-into-your-mouth fest that is Les Miz! then you know there is a super maudlin scene where a bunch of children in pirate shirts are all Morrisseying about how they need to pour one last one out for their homies, etc, before the next morning’s last stand, where they will be bayonetted into curly frites. That was my run-up to the math portion of the GRE in 2002; the freedom fighters were unprofessional and doomed, but had to make a good showing so historians wouldn’t call them little bitches later.

Stepping stones I made at the cement masons union way back in July

Now, I actually have a shot, because stuff is staying in my head now. I get what everyone meant about math building on itself. I have that crazy hoover-it-all-up cokehead feeling like the more I cram in the better because it’s only 30 questions! If I miss just one or two I actually know how to calculate that percent now! AGGH.

On the positive side of things I am getting a lot of rest right now. I think I had a successful in-person yesterday for a temp holiday gig, after a good phone interview with them. I have a better feeling about going back to tech now for a short time. Mostly because I feel like it’s going to be A SHORT TIME. And a paycheck to boot. They told me they want someone “yesterday” but I am hoping that means Tuesday (the day after my exam) so I can take full advantage of this time to obsess and lick my hot spots.

Dinner Doge would like more gravy plz

Of course I am focused on other things right now, also, like making sure the girls are transitioning back into school smoothly. Franny has an analytical writing class that’s based on the films of Hitchcock and Kurosowa. She is also taking bio and geometry, as well as her usual Japanese and art. She is about to turn 15 in less than two weeks and very shyly asked if Boyfriend, Neo, could come over for dinner and cake. Hell yes, as long as he takes the bus home later. It’s a Friday and what is happening is yoga pants.

Strudel is having a VERY good fifth grade year so far and is over the moon in her advanced program. She can now also hoover in and retain all the information now, like me, but better, because her brain is new and spongy. Her teacher is very organized and enthusiastic, and apparently has the whole class enraptured. We hear that her terrible teacher from the third grade, who told the dead bunny story and screamed at people most of the time, now has a classroom monitor. There is justice, albeit slow justice. I hope the angry emails I wrote from when I was sick in bed are stuck to her file like glue, along with the other parent complaints.

A turkey sleeping in my armpit who is much larger now: