Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Touch of Gray

I found my first gray hair yesterday.

There it was, shining out in radiant silver on my brush, immediately obvious among its dark siblings and the near-black bristles.

It was 21 inches long, and according to Robert, it came from right above my left eye.

I was incredulous.  How could I have not seen it for the years it had been growing there, so near my face?  How had I not seen it while braiding my hair one morning?  How could Robert have only noticed it last week?  How could he have NOT told me about it, leaving me to be blindsided by it getting shed onto my brush?

I cried.

I’m not sure why– I wasn’t really sad or scared or feeling another negative emotion– but it happened.

Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to my hair turning so that I can dye it without having to bleach it first.  I’ve been hoping I would be one of those people who grays in dramatic stripes at the temples, for maximum badassery.

But I suppose it was another reminder of my failure to force my life to conform to the plan.  The first indication that I might run out of time to buy that farm, build that house, learn to use my spinning wheel, find purpose for all the great things in my upcycling.

There’s plenty of time yet.  I’m not even 30 yet.  But though the days are long and practically innumerable, the years are short and oh-so-finite.

This is a season of transitions.  The election is coming, this is our last year of “unofficial” homeschooling before Númenor has to be registered with the state, today is the first day of autumn, next week is the start of Robert’s school year, and I’m aging.

Well, I mean, we’re all aging.  Everyone and everything is aging.  Hell, the universe itself is aging.  But you know what I mean.

It’s a little bittersweet, no matter the benefits that might come along with it, this dance of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new that we do each autumn equinox.  I love the bustle of harvest and holiday preparations, canning the applesauce, snuggling in bed in the mornings, mulching the raised beds, adding new insulation to stuff the cracks, the dance of the hand-me-downs with the smalls, the creeping nightly frost, boiling down the salt, cinnamon and leaf mold in the air.  But I’m going to miss the feeling of summer sun on my bare feet, spending the warm evenings at the drive-in, taking my knitting out to the backyard and letting the breeze play with my hair, fresh berries and sun-ripened tomatoes, the smell of warm earth and cedar sap.

I guess the bigger transitions are like that, too.  You look forward to the new things, but leaving the old ones behind means sharp reminders of how good they were.

I never really enjoyed being young.  Being young, you want so badly to be older so you’ll be taken seriously, so you can have your independence, so your life can really begin.  But now I’m seeing it as a time of beautiful potential– you could be or do anything with your life, when it’s all stretched out in front of you like that, but by the time you’re older, you’ve already made choices and spent time and set yourself on a path.

Ah, well.

To grow up will be a very great adventure.

Especially once I have enough gray hair for it to show up when dyed purple.

Open Letters

Dear Mosquitoes,

I know my curves are delicious, but they are not for you.  Consent is important.

–E

 

Dear Smalls,

When I say “please don’t kick me”, gently placing the soles of your filthy feet against my body and then pushing off with them is an asshole move.

Love,

Mommy

 

Dear Costco,

You do not stock enough of the chocolate-covered almonds I like.  This is unacceptable behavior.

— A chocolate fiend

 

Dear Bernie Sanders,

YOU HAVE LOST, okay?  Kindly sit down.

— Everyone

 

Dear Proudfoot the Australorp,

Your job is to turn kitchen scraps and weeds and bugs into delicious eggs.  Nowhere in your job description does it say “be a total dick by hopping the fence multiple times a day in some vain attempt to eat the peas growing in the garden.”

Knock that shit off, because you are a dual-purpose breed and three of us eat chicken.

— Your humans

 

Dear Donald Trump,

OMG STAHP.  Get some therapy and work on yourself, and in the meantime don’t be airing that shit you believe in public because it’s dangerous and disgusting.

— Me

 

Dear Sharis,

That strawberry ganache pie you make is fucking delicious.  But every time I order it, your employees are like “Oh, the strawberry chocolate ganache?” and that undermines my faith in your food because, and I loathe that I have to even say this outright, GANACHE IS CHOCOLATE BY DEFINITION.

I notice that these same employees are never saying “Oh, you mean an egg omelette?” which would make exactly as much sense.  Omelette = eggs + milk + whatever, ganache = chocolate + cream + whatever.

I don’t expect you guys to be Julia Child; I am aware that it’s a diner, but not telling your staff what the items on the menu are is clearly not working out.

— Me

 

Dear student loan companies,

Yeah, I know that I will pay more over the lifetime of my loan because I’m on a reduced payment plan now.  But if I could pay more now, I wouldn’t have qualified for the reduced payment plan, so I’m not sure why you’re wasting my time and your money sending me mail about this fact unless it actually is the purpose of your existence to trigger my anxiety and depression.

Fuck you.

 

Dear the ’90s,

I still don’t miss you.

Smooches,

Elizabeth

 

Dear Gen X,

You used to be cool.  What happened?

— Milennials

Attention People with Nimiipuu Ancestry

To anybody with a grandmother, uncle, etc. who is strong in the language:

Please record your elder(s) telling a story or singing (especially singing) in Nimiipuutimpt, and put it on YouTube. Please.

I remember– hazily– a song that my great-aunts used to sing to the babies at the family reunions. It was in Nimiipuutimpt, and I can only assume it was a lullaby, but that’s all I can really remember. It sounded a bit like the song the Cannibal sings in the story about the cannibal who ate all his brothers, at least in tune. It makes me so frustrated and sad to feel it right on the edge of my memories but be unable to truly recall it.

Now that I am studying the language again, I can hear this song in my dreams, but it will not come to my waking mind.  I would love to be able to learn it and sing it to my children.

I’m stumbling and awkward in Nimiipuutimpt, and I cherish every resource I can find as I strive to improve. Your grandmother, your aunt, your mother, even you might know this lullaby that’s so tantalizing me.

Please, for the sake of the language and my own personal sanity, record and share whatever you have permission to record and share.

Qe’ciyew’yew’

On the Frontier

I remarked to Robert this week that Oregon will always be the frontier of America– wild, lawless, not quite part of the Union and not quite foreign, where cultures collide and there’s still far more natural than human on the horizon.

That Oregon is a refuge of weirdness is well-known.  There’s a whole television show about the quirkiness of Portland, which, believe it or not, is the actually the most Americanized, most assimilated place out here.  In the small towns, composed of farmers, ranchers, fruit-pickers, teachers, nurses, midwives, distillers, and store clerks, things are downright eccentric.

People are a little bit skeptical of strangers, like in all small towns, but they make an effort to be friendly.  When you are introduced to someone, you lean far, far out of your personal space, feet firmly planted, to extend an overbalanced handshake.  When you greet a friend, you raise your left hand and hug them across the shoulder blades from your right side, and the pair of you briefly create two cache-coeurs around each other with your arms.

We celebrate weird, here.

We go to the drive-in, and we shop at the farmer’s market.  We have a parade to celebrate flowers, and we drive 50 miles on the freeway as if it’s nothing.  We walk home in the rain and we travel to seek out snow and surf.  We know that the best watermelons come from Hermiston and the best strawberries from Hood River.  We watch the fields stream by out of the windows of cars and trains and buses and we know: that’s barley, that’s hops, that’s rye, that’s cabbage, that’s grapes, that’s green beans.  We speak Spanish and Chinook jargon and French.  We chop wood and haul wood and mill wood and burn wood and plant saplings and listen to the forest sighing in the wind and count the rings on our Christmas trees and always seem to have some pitch on our hands.  We are Facebook fans of that hideous airport carpet, that, ugly as it is, means “home.”  We vote by mail to protect the salmon, and we hold nothing more sacred than our own self-determination.

I’ve lived all over this state, and traveled even more of it.  I’ve tracked deer in the Wallowas, I’ve boogie boarded in Pacific City, and I’ve stared up at the stars on the Nevada border.  I know the sharp smell of an approaching thunderstorm in the high desert, and the gentle susurration of ocean waves on a sunny afternoon, and the chill of dew on prairie grass under my bare feet.

And I can’t imagine raising my children anywhere else.

Today is the third anniversary of the day we bought our plane tickets home.  My eyes sting with tears as I think about that– how long it’s been, how we’re starting to take Oregon for granted again, how Númenor and Ithilien don’t really remember living anywhere else.

The fact is, back east was too much for us.  Too much in our business.  Too much snow.  Too much traffic.  Too much crowding.  Too much America.  Too much pollution.  Too much conformity.  Too much erosion of the mountains.  Too much lime in the drinking water.  Too much fuss to vote.  Too much fear.  Too much civilization.

When I stepped off that plane and saw that hideous windmill carpet in PDX, I could breathe again.  As we drove through rainy, nighttime Portland, trying to find the food we’d promised our beleaguered toddlers who had just endured a three-layover cross-country flight, it all came back to me.  How to navigate Portland, and that we should be looking for a Plaid Pantry, and what it felt like to know you belonged somewhere.

The state of Oregon will be turning 147 years old this month.  But somehow, it still feels like a territory.  It’s a place of changes and contradictions and clashing cultures and weirdness, where the rules don’t fully apply.  And it is my home.

So thank you, Oregon, for flying with your own wings.  And thank you, fellow Oregonians, for keeping this place a weird and wild exception to the rules.

Life on the frontier is a perfect fit for me.

100

This is my 100th blog post.

Rather than trying to write meaningful content here about self-reflection and intentional living, I’m going to instead post this list of 100 books I’ve read in my lifetime.

Because I am so very pregnant, and therefore I have no brain for words right now.

A Partial Annotated Bibliography for My Life

Books I haven’t read since I was a child, so I don’t trust my recollection of them, but I loved them at the time:

  1. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  2. Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by James Howe
  3. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  4. Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein
  5. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  6. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
  7. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
  8. Onion John by Joseph Krumgold
  9. Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
  10. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
  13. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  14. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  15. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Books I read as a child and re-read as an adult and still like, but now find problematic, largely for reasons of racism or misogyny:

  1.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
  2. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  3. All-of-a-Kind Family by Syndey Taylor
  4. The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
  5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  6. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  7. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  8. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  10. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Books I read as a child and re-read as an adult and still like, and would recommend:

  1.  Winne-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  2. The House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  6. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  7. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  8. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  9. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Frequently banned books I have read and don’t think actually earned the negative attention:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix by J.K. Rowling
  6. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  7. Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
  8. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  9. Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  11. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  12. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  13. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  14. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  15. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Banned or controversial books I’ve read and found deeply disturbing or challenging, and would highly recommend:

  1.  Beloved by Toni Morrison
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  9. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  11. Story of O by Pauline Réage
  12. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  13. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  14. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“Classic” or highly-esteemed books I’ve read and thought were totally overrated:

  1. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  2. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
  3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  4. Death be not Proud by John Gunther
  5. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  6. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  8. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Lesser-known books I have read and thought were brilliant:

  1. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Non-fiction books that have been pivotal in my life:

  1.  A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson
  2. The Way Things Work by David Macaulay
  3. Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph E. Stiglitz
  4. The Origins of Intelligence in Children by Jean Piaget
  5. Silent Spring by Rachael Carson
  6. In the way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects, and Globalization by Mario Blaser, Harvey A. Feit, and Glenn McRae
  7. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  8. Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations by Sharla M. Fett
  9. Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
  10. The Saga of Chief Joseph by Helen Addison Howard

Books I’ve read in a foreign-to-me language and highly recommend:

  1.  A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  2. La Symphonie Pastorale by André Gide
  3. El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
  4. La casa de los espiritus by Isabel Allende
  5. Murambi, le livre des ossements by  Boubacar Boris Diop
  6. Disparition de la langue francais by Assia Djebar

Books I’ve read in more than one language and highly recommend:

  1. El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
  2. L’aventure ambiguë by Cheikh Hamidou Kane
  3. La Chute by Albert Camus
  4. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The last five books I’ve read:

  1. The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hamalainen
  2. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English
  3. The Morbid Anatomy Anthology edited by Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey
  4. Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from birth to Tween by Melissa Atkins Wardy
  5. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

 

It occurs to me that I am setting a dangerous precedent for future milestones, but as I’m sure you know, I am an adrenaline junkie who lives her life on the razor’s very edge.

Thanks for reading!

Furiously Happy

I was immensely lucky and won a signed advance copy of The Bloggess’ new book a few weeks ago.

I devoured it, the way middle school English teachers who haven’t quite had all the passion beaten out of them by the system tell you to devour poems: with your senses, your heart, your imagination, and then finally your brain.

I laughed and cried and was angry and relieved and even though Jenny and I have very little in common, I saw myself in every story. Because I am broken. I am anxious and depressed and have panic attacks and PTSD flashbacks and spend most of my life trying to avoid strangers and the unknown.

But I have also come to realize in recent years that my brokenness is part of my beauty.

There’s a Japanese pottery tradition, kintsugi, in which a broken vessel is repaired with gold dust resin, making the finished article more precious than it was before it broke.

That is where I find myself. My parts are fitted to each other with golden joinery, showing forever where I have broken, but reclaiming the shards as evidence of a transformation rather than as scattered debris of violence.

 

I’m broken because I have lost, because I have been attacked, because I was under too much pressure.

I’m furiously happy because I create, because I surround myself with people who cherish me, because I have learned to seek relief.

And I am not alone in my beautiful brokenness.  There are a lot of us out there who shattered, who now live with gold dust in our cracks, making them shine out in the half-light.

We can’t hide our brokenness, but that’s okay.  Having broken makes us human.  We mend ourselves with show and with beauty, and we are all the more precious in the end.

One Year

It has been a year today since my first post on this blog.

I’ve never maintained a blog (or journal of any kind) for this long before, and honestly I am giving myself a generous pat on the back– which will, to the untrained eye, look a lot like I’m eating pain au chocolat.

This year has had its bumps, blogging-wise, but I managed to get something published in every month, which is an achievement.  My writing feels more natural now, too, and since I am maintaining this site primarily to exercise those muscles, that’s a crucial outcome.

Here’s to another great year, hopefully with more rain and snow than last year (!) and maybe even, dare I suggest, a bit more writing here in the winter months, but with a new baby coming, that might be overly optimistic.

Regardless, I’m sure it’ll be another worthwhile trip around the sun.

Thanks for reading.

January

This is a tough month for me.  I’ve heard people say that February is the hardest month of the year, but I really enjoy the brief and holiday-packed whirl through those four weeks.  January, though…January is hard.

It’s a long month of gray and white.

Winter is here, but the magical sparkle has worn off.  It’s far too early to wish for spring, but too late to be glad it’s winter.

After a busy Advent and frenzied holiday crafting season, there’s not much to do that really inspires me– I’m left with the mending, with its constant needling whine in the background, and the usual grind of household goods and foods and cold-weather supplies.

I tend to spend most of January in pseudo-hibernation under a blanket in a corner of my house, watching mediocre horror movies and eating chocolate-covered almonds.

It’s not until pretty late in the month– usually this third week, after Númenor’s birthday– that I start to regain my balance.

I’m rejoicing this week in some simple little gifts of these quiet winter days.  I can find joy in our little flock of pullets, who are just starting to contribute to the larder: two warm, honey-colored eggs every day.  I can find joy in finally making some new clothing for myself, and the serendipity of a newly-drafted pattern that fits perfectly on the first try.  I can find joy in watching Númenor learn what it is to be five years old and being grateful for his health, strength, and amazing growth.  I can find joy in planning for the growing season to come– matching the seeds we’ve saved to the space we have, and wondering if we might build raised beds this spring.

And I can bide my time until February.

We Live and We Learn

I learned an important lesson last month: I don’t keep up with the blogging during the holidays.  I need a new plan for how to make that work next year.

But that’s life.  As I am always telling my nearly-5-year-old perfectionist, making mistakes means that you are learning.

I have been enjoying the joyful calm that comes after the holidays themselves and before everyone returns to their usual activities.  It seems almost sinfully indulgent to have all this extra time– time to play board games and build block cities and try the treats people gave you.

dragon and block towerBut that’s nearing an end now.  On Monday Robert is back to teaching and I have to be a grown-up and make phone calls to sort out student loan payment issues and schedule doctor’s appointments and generally be responsible.

And so I went looking for The Words.  I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do spend some time developing intentions and collecting inspiration for the new year, so when I read this article this afternoon, it resonated with me.

I have this long list of things that I want to learn, to do, to be, to try, to become. Things I want to know, to create, to make, to build. But where was I just a year ago, just two years ago, just five years into my past? How far have I come? How much have I learned, grown, and become? Not all changes need to happen now.
                    — Sarah from Nurshable