Recursive; or, Damn Dirty Grapes

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.

“Meathead.” “Do not call me this.”

July 15th, 2014

My sister and I stayed up tooo late last night talking shit about the apocalypse and some other stuff. And drinking rosé and eating rosemary fried chicken.

I forgot how much she remembered about way back in ye olde days when she was like, six. She gave Strudel an earful of how I was in some kind of Harry Potter situation. I was kind of cringing as she was telling her niece about my parents’ plans to lock up the food, so I would go away like some kind of stray cat, and the other plan to spend all the college money. Among other things, but she didn’t mention those.

It was true though. I can’t imagine how this sounded to Strudel. Probably completely fucking absurd. There’s A LOT the girls don’t know, because why?

It’s a weird thing to think about, the fact that my sister was subjected to watching me be treated very poorly. I know my mother had a lot of “survivor’s guilt” over how brutally my grandma would beat her step siblings. And I think about how my mother put my sister through that. Rinse, repeat.

I don’t hurt children; I have always turned the knife on myself.

“You are VERY lucky,” Morgan told Strudel.

It’s not very hard, I said. Step one: don’t be crazy.

Afterwards I went out to lock up the chickens, late, and there was a disgusting slug orgy happening on my porch. They were LITRILLY

fucking in a slimy pile.

I got out one of my work gloves and threw them all VERY FAR over the fence. PROPER. My porch is the perfect storm of chicken pellet crumb, since the bucket is stored there, and moisture from plant pots. There are jizzy slug trails over the sides of my house, on shoes, on window screens, errrwhere. YUCK.

Speaking of stray cats and chickens, Goethe decided to stomp around in the chicken run tonight.

What are you DOOIN?

Last weekend, after months of saving money and waiting for it to get warm, Strudel and I collabo’d on a lemonade stand. She is saving up for a laptop so she can geek out with her creek out. I bought her a bank in April and glued the buttplug in so she could not embezzle from her LLC. She has been counting down to smashing it.

Don ye now our mom’s onion goggles.

HOLY SHITBALLS I MADE MY FIRST DOLLAR

It was successful. I piled the table and such into the Elco and took it to a busy corner in our neighborhood. “You should write on the sign that it’s fresh-squeezed” a guy in a van said. We’re going to do it every weekend until the rains come.

Krumpy was in town and we met at Matt’s, which has to be one of my all-time favorite Seattle restaurants. I hoped she would like it, since she has fancy NY taste. I wore a silk dress and was on the verge of sweating the whole time, but not quite. This is a pretty awesome summer.

The ice cream of the weekend was salted black licorice. I like ouzo and fennel and absinthe but I cannot hang with salted licorice.

JESUS FUCK LICORICE CUSTARD GROSS

It was for Mr. P., who has like only seven taste buds.

Look who got a summer buzzzzzzzz.

FIN

Dumber and Dumbest

July 6th, 2014

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


Hot doggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN OTHER NEWS, I’M THE WORST

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

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

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

“Flattering?”

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

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

#bonerkiller

IN OTHER, OTHER NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

Keep practicing, kid.

Happy Fourt…zzzz

July 5th, 2014

Shit shit shit I am sick again. I have lumps on the back of my neck (swollen lymph nodes) and I am dragging ass. I kind of ignored it for a couple of days but it’s not going away quickly, anyhow, and I am just sleep sleep sleeping, and turning to my usual coping mechanism, cooking. With mixed results.

I keep touching my neck bumps and going YEP STILL HURTS like a dog touching its hotspots. Why does human nature compel us to lick chancres and probe burns? I’m sure there’s a reason. Don’t answer that.

I’ve been pondering how much time I’ve spent in the 19th century, not in a just glue some gears on it sense, but just reading and cooking and thinking about that whole cool syphilitic cobblestoney situation. Now I kind of feel like I’m unraveling, slowly, in fits and starts, but I don’t have a lady’s maid and I have a job and children, so I can’t sit around writing gloomy poetry and sucking on a shisha all day, like some kind of plump overeducated caterpillar, which is probably what I would be doing right now if it was 150 years ago. This too shall pass? Don’t answer that either.

This weekend’s ice cream was chosen by Strudel. It’s fruity miso. The cookbook’s authors recommend using whatever ripe fruit that will mix well with the miso and is in season–pear, apple, or peach. I used two smallish nectarines, which is what I had (it called for two “large” peaches), and augmented with a couple of small red plums.

You caramelize sugar, and then mix the fruits in and cook them down, caramelizing them as well.

This was all well and good until it was time to stir the miso in and then blend everything. BLEH! It really called back to some unfortunate times later in high school when payday meant takeout sweet and sour chicken and a couple of bottles of Boone’s sangria. The flavor part of the ice cream base really reminded me of that–fruity but also kind of sour. I made myself taste the custard once it was all blended together before it went into the fridge to cool and steep and it was…okay. A little vomity, though, really.

I’m not going to say anything to the kid. By the time I was her age I was a professional vomiter (allergies, poor parenting, etc) but I think she’s only technicolor yawned three or four times in her life so far.

Oh hey, look over here! Shiny thing.

I was a plus one at a BBQ yesterday. We didn’t stay too long in part because I got really cold and tired. The weather suddenly turned and I had dressed for sun. I brought this cake, which is a Texas sheet cake, and comes together very quickly. The frosting and part of the batter is boiled. Patriotic sprinkles for the win.

I like to experiment on people at parties, so I also tried a cherry slab cake. My pan was too big and I didn’t like the way it looked, with the juice leaking and and slightly burnt at the edges, so we kept it at home.

Strudel declared that we would have to have black coffee and cherry pie for breakfast, like Agent Cooper. She is getting into character to be him for Halloween. She spent the entire meal exclaiming that she was drinking a DAMN FINE CUP OF COFFEE. I really can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning. I told her I would rent her a small FBI agent’s suit for trick or treating.

I am also getting excited to go back to the Twin Peaks festival this year.

Talk about pussy power

June 29th, 2014

I HATE DANDELIONS! I know, I know, everyone does, unless you’re one of those twee morons who says things like, “But what is a weed, anyway, man?” or you’re an UBERFORAGER and you make underpants out of bark, or, most likely, you’ve never been forced to keep up a rental yard that the owner just won’t up and pave/gravel/whatever. A thing I hate even more than dandelions themselves is a landlord’s dandelions. It is a trial, like hanging out in a whale.

When I was in middle school my mother ran away from home for the third time and we ended up in middle of the city that was adjacent to the village I grew up in. There were actual city things there, like crosswalks and stores, and more than just bar, bar, church, bar.

Right down the street from our temporary robber’s cave was a big, decaying house that served as a media junk shop. It cemented my love of two things: Nixon political memorabilia, and science fiction and fantasy books. I would beg my mother for money or for the chance to do paid chores so I could buy deliciously stinky, shredding pulp novels by CJ Cherryh, Robert Asprin, or Terry Brooks.

I read EVERYTHING. All kinds of trash. Really good stuff that made me cry, like The Golden Apples of the Sun. I was completely non-discriminating in that way that kids are. Mostly I would dive into the sci fi/fantasy section, and pick things by cover and blurb. If I liked something, I would try to buy all of the books there by an author.

One day I picked up a book that had something very weird on the cover. It was a painting of a sexy dandelion, with boobs and feminized humanlike features under where the yellow flower part was. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was called or who wrote it, but I know it involved a time or space traveler who found himself in a world with lower tech and a bunch of political drama that could be solved in two minutes if anyone understood how to make a gun or how pregnancy worked. The part where the traveler was consulting with the sentient, lurid weed seemed tacked on, as if the editor said, “This is okay, but the painting for this book is already done. Your story needs a fuckable giant flower with tigol bitties that issue some kind of mind control sap.”

?? !!

I think this was my first encounter with any kind of interspecies sexytimes (though it was not the last, to both my delight and dismay), but this one broke the seal and made an impression. Every time I am out weeding, I think of this horrible book. I’m actually a little squicked by the larger ones that get away from you with the huge roots…just argh. I cannot knowingly eat any part of them.

That’s kind of generally insulting anyway. “Here, I found this crap at the side of the road that is kind of bitter and annoying and I made you a salad with it.” And yet I like wild mushrooms and berries and drugs I find on the ground. I DUNNO MAN. I am still a mystery to you.

My point being, dear diary, today I weeded my disaster of a front yard because I could not stand to look outside and see dandelions. And I planted sunflowers (acceptable yellow flower). The WORST flowers are ALWAYS yellow. It’s just a fact.

Acceptable yellow flowers: sunflowers, forsythia

Marginally acceptable yellow flowers that are ok but look cheap even if they’re not: lilies, roses, carnations

Unacceptable yellow flowers: marigolds (YUK), dandelions, everything else

IN OTHER NEWS

I love bags that are PSAs:

Here is your Zen riddle for today: if I had common sense, I would not have the contents of this bag. GOOOOOOONG!!! Goodbye.

You can fly

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.

A mystery for the ages

June 17th, 2014

A wag is graffiti-ing the alleys in my neighborhood with this stencil.

This book is different from other books

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.

Stick a Cursed Tiki Fork in It

June 1st, 2014

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Much later, after the plumber problems and the leaks and the inspection hell, I’m finally using this room. This is what I started with. Not bad, not bad.

I hung up my tiki masks today. I think I took a bath that was 1% cocoa butter yesterday. And yes, I decided to go with an orangey red contrast for the green. The water closet is more of a coral. It’s hard to find towels in eye-searing coral. A lot of the stuff in my bathroom is from the junk shop. It’s easy to find 60’s Hawaiian kitsch around. Also, extremely low-light loving plants. I have a couple of seaweed balls (marimo) on the vanity and I find them totally pointless and charming.

I like that if I get bored of this I can style the room with greens, grays, purples, all white, etc. Once I started getting the hang of the 50’s tile thing I realized there’s a lot of choices. I have a couple more angles at the end of my Flickr album. I’m going to tweak a couple more things, like spray paint the inside of the metal window wells outdoors, and add some Gauguin prints to the w.c.

I had a taco today. Whoopie, I know. I was curious if it would make me feel funny at all. But my month of clean eating is over and I feel pretty good. For now I’m going to limit a lot of carb to special nights, like eating out, and stick with a lot of veg at home. Dairy does not seem to be bothering me, which is good, because I am going to crack into some serious kefir now. The dehydrated kefir grains I ordered are up and running, and already multiplying nicely. I love that quick fermented stuff just involves a lot of leaving inappropriate things on the counter in a glass jar and walking off. I can handle that.

Anyway, another extremely boring weekend comes to a close. I’m glad I’m starting to write again. I think it’s a sign I’m really getting over that last little lump that sometimes you need to have one final push over to say you’re better. And it’s good since I have no vacation and no money to take one after being sick. That’s okay, I’m perfectly happy being in bed at eight p.m. some nights. HA!

P.S. Whenever I start typing to bring my admin console up for I, Asshole in Chrome it gives me the tab title in the results. It seems to be stuck on “iasshole.org is not available” from when there were some kind of server problems. I like that and it makes me want to change my banner.

Function is the key

May 31st, 2014

UP BETIMES and writing for an hour. ~860 words. When I am at my peak I can crank out about 1,000 words an hour, preferably to the accompaniment of my 90’s R&B station on Pandora. Bel Biv Devoe really sautés my scallions at 6 a.m., YAKNOWWHATIMEAN? When I was really pushing it I could barf out about 2,500 words a day in addition to working 40 hours and being generally awesome. I am writing under a new pseudonym since this is a new genre I’m writing in. This is how I want you to think of me, up at dawn listening to Color Me Badd and writing terrible fetish porn for money.

I almost feel like this should be my last entry ever ending with that sentence. BUT NO. Sorry. What is the end like? I think it’s death. I should probably do like the NYT and put my obituary in a drawer.

I’m morbid on this beautiful, sunny day. I think it’s because I was sifting through the long ago, trying to sort my way into the future. Now that the bathroom is done, P. is chomping at the bit to demo the other half of the basement.

“Do you have ALL MORNING?” I asked.

“What!” he said, innocently. “We just need to move some furniture.”

False. I knew there was sorting to do, and a Goodwill pile, and more things to go in boxes. It would require THINKING. That’s the worst kind of cleaning, isn’t it?

We spelunked into the file cabinet. Here is the Jacob Marley part, showing you his cobwebby scrabblebag:

Why, it’s my court paperwork! Most of it, anyway. This is all from the first action (divorce). I saved all this because I did not think the bullshit was over. I was right, because then he moved, and then child support, and THEN 2.5 years to settle the parenting plan, and FML. That’s the synopsis.

I had a friend who was considering her own divorce from her husband, about a year after mine was finalized in 2005. I remember pulling this stack out and saying, “Look, this is a physical representation of the shitstorm that’s coming.” Hers was worse than mine in some ways, though I don’t think her husband claimed she was a Satanist. (Hail Vigoda.)

So today all of this went into the recycling bin. Fuck it. It’s done. Things are so nailed down now there’s no reason to refer to this stuff. Any action going forward will be a new action. I think there was a point to keeping it all at one time. How much have I spent on lawyers…maybe $25k in the past ten years? That might be low. My advice is to stay in your house as much as possible and wear your helmet when you go out. There is no birth control like an ever-present helmet, plus safety.

Of course P. had to rip at some of the walls after most of the stuff was moved out.

It turns out the studs are laid flat side down, so there’s no room for modern insulation at a proper thickness. The idea is that the walls, which are just studs and this terrible cheap paneling (a pale shadow of the nice fir stuff that’s on the upstairs walls) will go. The ceiling is panels, but after some research and due diligence none of it seems to be asbestos. I am fond of the lights, but they’re just not very functional in a low-ceilinged space that is meant to be a bedroom. I’m thinking about kicking some of them upstairs to the kitchen to replace the dire boob lights.

The window to the right will become an up to code egress. I am thinking about lightly limewashing the fireplace, since that is reversible, and will lighten up the room. I’m really okay with a dim bedroom, since the living areas of the house are so bright.

He pulled some paneling on the east side of the room, where there is (was) a wall between the living room and the furnace room, but now there’s nothing!

Here’s a view into a finished bathroom. YAHOOEY! The closet will go on this side, and it’s going to have to do double duty as a linen closet for the basement. It should be fine.

I want to hang a couple more things in the bathroom and then I will snap it….probably tomorrow, fingers crossed.