Sheeps, out of town, and straw boaters

“To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”
― Goethe

Time is passing quickly right now. I feel like I’m rarely idle now that the days have gotten longer–constantly moving or doing something, cooking or cleaning, or in the yard. All of which is not contributing to sitting and writing or blogging. I feel like we’ve turned a corner with the yard, and it’s starting to look like how we want it to, rather than just something we’ve been chipping away at or occasionally brutalizing.

I haven’t written in over a month and I don’t want to plod over the last five weeks, so I will give a short summary. I am still apprenticing at the same place, for the same company. I’m slowly adjusting to manual labor, and am less tired in the evenings and much less sore. My neck seems to have made a full recovery from whatever strain or sprain it sustained in February, though it is a little stiff in the mornings. What I’m left with is problems with my hands–switching careers has unveiled some nasty carpal tunnel that seems like it was just below the surface.

I got curious and took a peek and it seems some researchers think there is a correlation between Celiac and carpal tunnel. It seems like anything that can be inflamed, will be, if you’re having a sustained autoimmune reaction. I had a test last week at a sports medicine place involving having the nerves and muscles in my arms shocked, and then stuck with needles, and it looks like it’s pretty severe, with ongoing damage. This is unsurprising since my right pointer and thumb are still numb. So I’m seeing a hand surgeon this week for a consult.

But for now I want to talk about yesterday. We nicked off to Whidbey Island to visit a sheep farm.

I’ve discovered we can eat sheep milk without any bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting with brands. Buying it in the store has given mixed results–there was one brand that gave us a corn reaction (iodized salt?) and others that seem fine. I found a cheesemonger down at a farmers’ market and bought from them, and then we decided to take their tour and visit their store.

It was good to get out of town. I feel like we were halfway in survival mode for the last year or so, with me deciding to make a career change and doing spotty tech work. It seemed imprudent most of the time to go out of town and spend money.

I have to admit I got stunningly bored with this arrangement, and I’m glad I’ve had regular, if smaller, paychecks coming in for the last four months. So yesterday felt like a watershed, even though the whole trip ran about $100, including gas and a TERRIBLE book I bought at a cafe in Langley.

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, What would a Judy Blume book be like if it was not interesting and nothing happens, I want that book? then this is the book for you. Pro: it has a character named “Puddles.” Con: If something doesn’t get pregnant or name a penis “Ralph” soon, I am throwing it across the room.

We wandered around Langley some, in and out of the tourist trappy shops and onto the beach.

LAZY HAZY CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER! I cannot see a straw boater without thinking of Gilmore Girls.

The antique store was WAY too classy, very disappointing. The proprietor was playing “Greensleeves” (??) and there was only one paint-by-number, a very sedate landscape (zzz). The trashy-looking antique shop had a popcorn machine, which is, of course, our kryptonite.

After Langley, we’d had enough and got back on the ferry. We have some other stuff planned this summer, too, like a camping trip and a short trip to Port Townsend while Strudel is at camp. It’s nice feel like life’s getting back to normal finally.

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!”

What is happening in this thread

Things have been…interesting. I’m having a series of high highs and low lows. And I guess a lot of mediums. There’s my epitaph.

I haven’t really been writing/tweeting/whatevering about it much, but I hurt my neck about two weeks into my new job (mid Feb), and that’s been a struggle. It seems I slipped or herniated a disk in my neck and it’s progressing very slowly. I have an MRI scheduled tomorrow.

It’s kind of freaking me out because it’s causing neuropathy in part of my hands, as well as muscle weakness in my arms and grip. In short it reminds me a lot of when I was sick from food–I often had neuropathy in my hands and feet then. Typing sucks. Holding a phone sucks. Trying to read sucks. Trying to sleep sucks. A couple of my fingers are constantly dead right now, and have mostly stopped hurting and itching (thank you brain for finally shielding me from that) but that brought a new learning. Your fingers can be mostly decorative! WHAT!

Work is hard. I randomly drop things. I dropped a carton of almond milk at the grocery store a couple of days ago and it ruptured. That was not work but it made work for someone else. I went from feeling like I could do anything to now feeling limited again, and no, the irony of all of this is not lost on me of all people. However, my mental outlook without corn and wheat is about a million times better so I can kind of pace myself mentally now without ending up in a despair pit.

I have been thinking of myself as New Coke lately. It’s a new formula. Most people say they don’t like it, but they’ll get used to it. I guess on an average day, I think of myself as New Coke and on a not so good day I think of myself as Gregor Samsa. (Emo)

So I was washing the dishes the other night. Now, I never used to like washing the dishes. I mean, it was okay. I did it growing up daily, as a chore, and often lived in houses without dishwashers when I was younger. There’s chores I definitely like, like walking the dogs, cooking, or folding laundry (but not fucking napkins) so I know the difference.

I step in with dishes when Pete is busy or out or ill or has cooked. He cooked while I was at physical therapy for my neck a couple of nights ago and then I was faced with a big pile of them. They were greasy, too. I tell you, I was FURIOUS about the dishes. In the old days I, Old Coke, was low-, medium-, or high-level irritated all the time due to corn and illness, to the point that I didn’t really trust my feelings until I had mulled over them for days or even weeks.

I have gone from a mail-in correspondence course to FUCKING HIGH-SPEED INTERNET OVER HERE. You know what? I HATE DOING DISHES. If we didn’t have giant sticks up our collective asses now about the blink tag, that last line would have been blinked. That’s how serious I am. Headline: NEW COKE HATES THE DISHES. It was kind of empowering because I immediately trusted my feelings. I have been yelling more too (mostly at Pete), and I don’t love this, but nothing high stakes. Mostly about the presidential election. I just feel very passionate about certain things now.

This is dumb and I cannot believe I have even bothered writing any of this, but here we are. It’s complicated. I still feel like I’m rebuilding my life one brick at a time. I don’t really feel afraid of or distrust my feelings or myself like I used to, so that’s pretty huge.

I’m not doing a ton of stuff at home right now, because of ongoing pain and an inability to grip well, but Pete is doing stuff. Mostly working on the poor blighted front yard. He’s cut down both of the holly trees that were in the front. I was never a fan of them since they were eating space where the front fence could be solid (and will be soon), as well as dropping horrid spiky leaves, and as a bonus, generally looking like candy apples covered in shrapnel. Here’s the last one about a year ago (behind the persimmon baby), which he cut down recently, and you can also see the chunk of corner fence that was old and rotty that he took down.

Old fence chunks:

I implored him to snap a couple of pics as he worked in the yard last week. He is now taking rando vacation days and doing yard work, because motherfucker has so much vacation now it was starting to evaporate.

Shortly before:

Expanding the rock wall:

The fence will go above that. The yard is so wild now, but I’m confident it won’t be forever. We put blueberries and raspberries in and everything has gone crazy and has filled in like a freaky meadow. The persimmon is budding on time this year…last year when he planted it, it didn’t bud for months (normal for a first year).

As a contrast, this is what the front looked like when we moved in. HA! You can see the first holly he dropped last year was still alive then.

I snapped this pic of the front this morning. Even though the flower and fruit beds are a mess right now, I still like the yard SO much better without the hollies. Pete is planning on snaking out the lattice bits and putting in some solid fence all the way around to the corner of the house for a shield from the arterial and a yard we could even let the dogs into.

Also, we noticed a chickadee pair were scouting the birdhouse I made at Ladies’ Hammer Club last summer.

I made deviled eggs from Easter leftovers. French, American, bacon & fennel, and Mexican stylee.

Oh PS I finally joined instagram properly and am using it. Work pics, house pics, dog and cat pics. Asstagramme.

Sometimes you just have to throw things

My period has changed since I quit wheat. It’s weird now, yet totally predictable. I get two days of really light spotting, which is my warning. Then the floodgates open and I have about six hours of terrible cramps. The worst is over in about two days. It’s kind of like going down the chute all at once. When I was eating wheat my periods were super light and I would hardly notice them, but the PMS was killer–super sore boobs, sore back, headaches.

I’ve been dreading having my period at work, so naturally in my second month it hit me full force. All weekend I was spotting and wishing it would come on fully, so I could suffer quietly at home with sad yet noble dignity. NOPE. I woke up Monday morning and BOOM, there it was.

So I strapped on my big girl jeans (Goodwill, $5.99) and went to work. I was doing deck work, which means climbing around and over a bunch of rebar, trying to fix or place our conduit. A deck is basically a dark living room full of Lego times 1000, and sharp and rusty to boot. I was bending and squatting, cutting pipe, tying wire, and feeling generally miserable from forcing myself to move and work while my insides were trying to fall out of my body.

Luckily we were all busy so I was left to my own devices, especially since we were getting help from a fifth-year apprentice. My jdub would MUCH rather work with this kid than with me, since the other apprentice knows what to do without directions. I liked the temporary guy. He was about 25, cheerful, gave me a lot of simple stuff to do that my jdub doesn’t trust me with (“Are you BAFFLED?”), as if I’m a drunken toddler.

The heat was off me, so I was quietly gritting my teeth and trying not to even hear what time it was. I was kicking myself for forgetting to take any painkillers before leaving the house. I had also forgotten to pack a fork and so ate my chicken with a spoon for lunch. That’s what kind of Monday it was.

I started feeling better near the end of the day when the throbbing/stabbing ache was subsiding, and I was left with that heavy feeling like my crotch was made of sawdust and had sucked up a lake of something viscous and awful. The young apprentice mentioned it was 2:45, which meant it was 15 minutes to quitting time.

“Oh thank god,” I said, realizing I hadn’t spoken in hours. “I need this day to be over.” I was cutting the flaps off a box that I could fill with couplings to store in our little parts house.

My jdub delights in any misery or annoyance I encounter so naturally he demanded details that he could relish.

“What’s wrong with you today that you want it to be over?” he asked.

“WELL,” I said. “I STARTED MY PERIOD THIS MORNING AND MY SHIT HURTS! I AM HAVING A HARD DAY!”

I am learning things right now,” the young apprentice said, not making eye contact with me.

“AND MY VAGINA FEELS LIKE IT’S ABOUT TO FALL OUT OF MY BODY!” I threw the empty box I was holding into an empty crate because it felt right.

“Okay, I’m sorry I asked,” my jdub said. And he was, too.

I’m much better today.

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.

And that’s why you leave a note

Oh man, I am so wishing my new phone would get here, like, yesterday. I finally bought one after…gosh, five years? My phone won’t even go on the internet anymore. I really want to take some decent pictures. I’m in Ye Olde Yesler housing projects, which are partly still in existence, except now I am helping to densify them and make them 8+ storeys instead of 1-2. I can see Smith Tower, Columbia Tower/downtown, the mountain, the bay, and the old VA hospital. It’s a neat place.

Today we did something called pour watch. This means you stand at the bottom of the future parking garage and a big articulated straw thing comes over your head and spits concrete down onto the floor non-stop. IT IS SO COOL. I get to be behind the barriers and actually see what happens now, which I have wanted to do since I was a kid. And to be honest it was kind of fun just to stand there and make sure our conduit didn’t get knocked over or kicked so it would stay in line with future walls, while the cement guys scrambled around to smooth and level everything.

Later I had to put on a harness and climb about twelve feet up some pre-pour rebar walls/forms to attach some big pipe so power can come off the street into the building. My jdub thought I was going to be scared or act like a little bitch up there but verily I did not.

“You okay up here?” he said.

“Yep, I was just thinking about dinner…deciding on a marinade for ribs.”

“I guess you’re not scared then?”

“NOPE. I do think this thing is some form of birth control, though. Totally riding up.”

There followed a story about This One Time when the rebar caps were not replaced properly, and This One Guy fell, and it was INCHES! INCHES FROM HIS HEART! This happens every time we do something new–you get to hear about 27 ways people died doing this exact thing

It was totally fun. I busted into the job shack after with my harness all up my butt and my foreman was like, “And how was that.” I guess this is kind of a litmus test or something. When, when will we crack the new apprentice??

“Welp, I’m quitting,” I said.

“Really??” my boss asked.

“PSYCH, I love my job!”

I get to tell jokes like this at work as well:

A man was admitted to Harborview with six plastic horses in his ass. They say his condition…is stable.

via GIPHY

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
swear
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
swear
new thing hurts
old thing hurts
LUNCH! YAY, LUNCH!
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
repeat
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….

A Pig In Shit

I have been dispatched to a muddy hole full of rebar, puddles, giant machines such as backhoes that swipe and chomp at the mud feet from my head, and irritable electricians. I am being tasked with helping to create the electrical system for this apartment building as we all make it crawl up out of the mud. At the end of the day my main journeyman asked if I was going to quit and I was like FUCK NO can I come back on Monday? (A: yes.)

I actually thought that I would be put on one of the half-built new highrises downtown, starting with things like lightswitches and outlets and using my pliers a lot, but I am really pleased with this. It’s shovels and giant power tools, and pulling massive high voltage wires that are crazy heavy. I dug the trench and buried the grounding wire and grounding bars for the main power source of the building, and watched the journeymen finish connecting the main panel. In four months we will be “indoors”–there will be slab over our heads while we run conduit and systems through walls.

The company seems fine–very safety focused. My two journeymen have been with the company for about 15 years each. I had something specific explained to me that I didn’t know about L&I yet–the higher your safety rating is, the less Labor & Industries “bills” the company, and that deduction on your paycheck is lower. There are plenty of tools, parts, and safety equipment, which I am hearing from some boot camp attendees is not always the case.

There were a few women on the site, and a woman running the whole project. While I was filling out paperwork at the electrical company I now work for, she called one of my bosses who was “orienting” me and this other apprentice who was being dispatched. I could overhear her giving him an earful about me. I think the problem was they didn’t want an apprentice. My boss argued with her and said the ratios were right (two journeymen to one apprentice is totally legal), and it was his job to staff the site with electricians. “HER,” he kept saying. “The apprentice I am sending is a WOMAN.” He hung up and said to me, “…And that’s your new job.”

When I arrived on site to finish paperwork and got a brief safety/procedures/drug talk by the foreman, the woman I heard on the phone was sweet as pie to me. I wasn’t worried about it; she’s just managing her business. If I am unsafe the foreman can fire me. If I fuck too many things up the journeymen will send me back to the hall. She said she was happy to have another woman on site. “There’s more coming, too,” she said. “I have to get some more portapotty keys made.” There’s a small handful of women on site now. No iron workers, cement masons, or carpenters, as I expected, but what looks like some laborers.

I had been worried about this day since I decided to pursue becoming an electrician a year ago. It’s the moment of truth–what if I hated it? Then on Thursday night I found out I would be sent to a Seattle Housing Authority project mudhole or a tunnel project on an interstate, both projects that I knew would be kind of a grind mentally and physically.

I didn’t want to wear myself out by lunchtime, but I felt exhilarated running up and down the dirt hills, being a fetch n carry, climbing over rebar, and pulling wire. It reminded me of being a little kid and being really happy running around outside, building forts and wishing I was allowed to use tools. Now I have my own tools. I’m not too sore, even though I spent about a week being laid up with the flu. My back recovered immediately and now I have some very bearable soreness in my shoulder, biceps, forearms. It just feels like I had a good workout. I don’t think this physical transition period will be too bad.

Next plan is to get a couple of paychecks under my belt (I am making about 60% of what I was in tech, but will get regular raises) and then buy a phone that goes on the internet. My poor pathetic phone. All it can do is Maps, which is why I haven’t been forced to replace it. But it has to be plugged into my car while mapping or it will instantly have a seizure, wet itself, pass out, and wake up with about 30% battery left. Probably will only be of interest to me, but I want to start instagramming all this mud–my first job. Finally I am excited to go to work. I have never had this feeling before.

The Gobbling Game

PREVIOUSLY ON I, ASSHOLE: SOME STUFF

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

Dear Goddamn Diary,

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

1. HUBRIS

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

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

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

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

2. Segue to the whole career thing

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

2a. An Aside

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

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

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

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

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


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

2. Back to work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. AG REPORT

3a. Chooks

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


One of the pics for my ad.

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

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

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

3b. Bees

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

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

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