Tuesday, July 28, 2009

i've said it before and i'll say it again

Anybody who is lobbying for forbidding the use of cell phones while driving has NEVER DRIVEN WITH CHILDREN. I'm all for safe driving. I think it should be harder to get a driver's license. I'd be supportive of additional requirements to maintain said license, say, bi-annual testing or something. I do believe there are too many people on the road and that, in general, cars are not much respected and are totally overused. We sit behind these giant, heavy potential murder machines and we zip around like it's nothing. I like being a biker and a pedestrian when I can. But I also really, really love driving. Fast. And Far. It's a wonderful feeling. I like to think that I balance my enjoyment of motoring with my conscientiousness of other drivers, the rules of the road, the environment (but I'm not a hypermiler. No. I leave that one to the mister). And as much as I'd like to believe every other driver on the road is similarly mindful, I know that's not true.

I see stupid drivers all the time. Some of them are using cell phones, most of them are not. Studies apparently indicate that driving while using a cell phone is the same as driving while drunk.

And yet, I find myself the most distracted not while talking on a cell phone (our only household phone these days is one cell phone I share with my husband and sometimes, yes, I have it in the car with me) but while attending to the needs of my children. And any parent probably knows what I'm talking about. And any parent of carsick-prone children definitely knows what I'm talking about. Have you ever been hurtling down the freeway when you hear that unmistakable pre-puke chokey cough from the backseat?! Have you ever been the sole adult in a vehicle with two green kids with their hands over their mouths?! No? Because I have. I have scrabbled for some sort of vomit-catching vessel, I have flailed my short arms backwards and tried to dispense bowls and cloth napkins. I have tried desperately to keep my eyes on the road while assessing the damage behind me (did it all get in the bowl? do i need to stop to take the car seat cover off and give it a rinse with the water bottle?).

So I'll tell you what, Hang-Up-And-Drive-ers, I'll get on board with your agenda when you find someone to ride shotgun with me all the time. Or when you ban kids from the car. Because when they're not puking? They could be crying (my babies aren't babies anymore but I did not have little ones who tolerated the car well at all. There was screaming. A lot of screaming) or, maybe, singing, like, I'm Henry the 8th I am Hen-er-eeee THE EIGHT I AM I AM I GOT MARRIED TO THE WIDOW NEXT DOOR SHE'S BEEN MARRIED SEVEN TIMES BEFORE AND EVERY ONE WAS AN 'ENERY ('enery!), WOULDN'T 'AVE A WILLY OR A SAM (no sam!) over and over and over again (SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST) until driving into oncoming traffic begins to sound like a sensible alternative.

So you know what I think? I think current road rules need to be enforced. I think driving has become a right and not a privilege (and really, rights vs. privileges is a subject that crosses many topics and deserves its own post). I think making rules against cell phone use will not make the roads safer. I think it should be much more difficult to become a driver in the first place.

And for the record, I'm not serious about banning kids from the car. Even if I relish solo drives by cranking up the speakers louder than growing ears should hear, I am in the car with my children more often than not and I like it that way. But let's call a spade a spade, ok? Distraction comes in many forms and good drivers need to be prepared to handle most of them.

Friday, July 24, 2009

it's friday i'm in love

When life gives you lemons, watch youtube clips of somebody else's peaches! Or pick your own blueberries! Or um, amuse yourself with silly words you write and share with other people. I do all three! And by 'peaches' I mean 'music videos' and not, well, I'm not looking to shake any trees, ok?

So, instead of totting up a pile of troubles, I present a few things that are glad things which I am loving right this moment:

my bag and my bucket

Blueberries. Maybe my favorite fruit. They're so easy and snackable and versatile. I like other berries, too, but blueberries aren't messy and seedy and thorny. We have a place right local that picks on shares: pick and leave half and take the other half for free. And you know around here we've got more time than money these days, so it's a great trade.

Most of our berries go in the freezer for post-summer snacking and such, but I have been banging out a batch of muffins about every week (I'd make them more often but then we'd just eat more). I make some delicious muffins. If I do say so myself. And I do. I use this recipe as a guide, but I sub and fiddle as I go. Following recipes exactly makes me itchy.

my muffins are delicious

And while we're in the kitchen, let's give a shout-out to the newly installed and fabulous DISHWASHER. A fanflippingtastic electric machine that washes dishes WHILE I AM IN THE OTHER ROOM like magic. Beautiful. It's been a long time coming, in the idea and the design and the securing of salvaged and secondhand materials and building and the putting in and everything. Because, oh? My handy husband constructed an island to house said dishwasher and then had to finagle electric and plumbing to the middle of the kitchen. He is an ace. And now I have more very useful counter space. I had a lot of counter space already, but having an island in the middle, accessible from all sides, is extra great. The island has an outlet, also, so I can operate my stand mixer from it, which is more convenient than hefting it across the kitchen, where it doesn't work so well anyway because the above cupboards are too low for it to slide underneath. So, dishwasher island? All around Win!!

there's a dishwasher in my kitchen!

Eventually, we'd like to procure a fat butcher block, the island top is currently a scrap of old varnished and trimmed plywood we found in the garage. It has faint perforated cutting marks all over it, so I think it was Mrs. Duerst's pattern cutting board for sewing. That's my guess anyway. I'm sure she'd be glad to see it getting new life in the kitchen, instead of gathering dust up in the dusty rafters.

OH! Bonus! I almost forgot: check out the dishwasher picture again. Notice anything else? Anything wonderful and yellow and smooth and clean? That's right, chickens, somebody got a new kitchen floor! We've been living with it for a few months now and I never got around to posting about it here. Having a floor that actually is clean-able and is not the texture of sandpaper is pretty terrific. The before and after contrast is astounding and, trust me, every bit of complaining I did about the old floor was justified. Really, the old floor was so awful it deserved more grousing about and public humiliation. I've lived in a lot of different homes and I've had as many different kitchen floors and I've never felt so defeated as with that nasty surface. Really, if your floor gets dirty and cleaning it is a trial, remember: it could be worse! It could be so rough and pitted and scratchy nothing will clean it! Floor cleaning was sure put into perspective for me.

Okay, and this is sort of kitchen related, too, because if you were in my kitchen now you'd hear Neko Case's newest, Middle Cyclone. I've been listening to it all this past week and I'm not done yet. She has, so says me, maybe one of the best singing voices in the history of voices and singing. She sounds like a huge sky and deep blue and perfect clouds and I love her. I could listen to her singing all day. Oh wait, I have! I'm nothing if not repetitive! Anyhow, this song I'm sharing isn't my favorite off the album, but the video is tops. You'll like it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

oh, southern new mexico.


I am from goatheads in bicycle tires, from Sunny Delight and sunburns.

I am from a single story ranch with stucco exterior, so dry, the sand in windstorms attacking legs like a thousand tiny knives.

I am from yucca pods and anthills and hundreds of acres of green grass in the middle of the desert.

I am from restaurants with salad bars and not talking about it, from Johnnie and Dave and Ruth.

I am from funny and acting like everything is fine.

From too big for your britches and ENOUGH!

I am from a southern baptist deacon and the church secretary and vacation bible school and being there every time the doors were open (of being the ones who opened the doors).

I'm from The Land of Enchantment and Hatch Chile and pizza delivery.

From a large man with a larger personality who broke his back in the rodeo, lived loud and wild and then settled down with a small town girl. They eloped three months after meeting.

I am the school pictures in frames on shelves in my grandma's house, alongside so many jars of marbles. Faces stuck in contrived smiles, bad haircuts, dated styles holding little bits that I thought I wanted to forget, but as it turns out, I do not.


I snagged the bones of that poem whilst booking some face yesterday. (Also, and only precariously related to the subject at hand, hence the overused parentheses: how much do I simultaneously love and hate the facebook? A Lot. On one hand, I am tempted to get all Tyler Durden-ish and flip the whole insane concept the bird. Knowing where we come from is one thing, but keeping tedious record of every step along the way is something completely different. We are so much more than status updates, than folders of photos, than lines of basic info on profile pages. . . We are thoughts and words and relationships. We are not things to be collected. But, then, I do like having a list of folks handy, like a loaded, useful Rolodex. And I do play some mean Scrabble. So. . . I stick around).

You can make one, too. A 'Where You're From' poem. Let me know if you do. I had my girl write one, and asked her if I could post it here and she declined. Maybe later, she said. She had some tweaking still to do.

For your creative writing enjoyment (the following copied and pasted from a friend's facebook post, which I will assume she lifted from elsewhere and so on):

"If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going." Wendell Berry, among others, has voiced this idea that we need to understand our roots to know our place in the world. A poem by George Ella Lyons is called "Where I'm From." The poem lends itself to imitation and makes a wonderful exercise of exploration in belonging.

I'd like to suggest that you give it a try. The prompts have a way of drawing out memories of the smells of attics and bottom-drawer keepsakes; the faces of long-departed kin, the sound of their voices you still hold some deep place in memory. You'll be surprised that, when you're done, you will have said things about the sources of your unique you-ness that you'd never considered before. What's more, you will have created something of yourself to share--with your children, spouse, siblings--that will be very unique, very personal and a very special gift.

The template is below. Give it a try, and post your own "Where I'm From" poem. Then tag a few friends, and see where they are from...

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description... adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I'm from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

home bittersweet home

come on in

Having 13 different addresses in 13 years has blurred my concept of Home. I am more attached to things than place. I am always one foot out the door. I am tired of starting over (with people, routines, what's familiar). I am envious of those who can Stay.

Almost every time I listen to a To The Best Of Our Knowledge podcast, I hear some little piece (or sometimes, the whole thing) that I want to talk, to someone, about. A friend of mine said it's a little too "baby boomer"-ish and, well, it's true. The intended audience might be a few decades ahead of me. But when I was in the 5th grade, I honestly wrote, for an autobiographic school report, that my favorite television show was 20/20. Which is to say: I've always been a little old for my years (what's quirky at ten is maybe less so come thirtysomething).

The other night I listened, riveted, to an episode about Home. The segments were not so compelling, but the subject is just so confounding to me.

Confession: I always feel like an interloper.

The last 13 years of my life have provided very little continuity, the setting keeps changing and the supporting cast revolves and I stand on the periphery, out of place. I don't know what it's like to be an integral part of anything beyond my own little family of four.

I was so attached to the place I grew up, I bolted at first chance. This is not uncommon (but neither is a grown-up desire to move back, which I don't have and would not consider). My story is not unique. We've changed homes a lot. So what?

So I'm done. I don't want to pack up and move again. I don't want to cram my stuff into the back of a U-Haul one more time. I don't want my furniture to get more bangs and scrapes from smashing through doorways, up staircases.

But I don't know if I can call this place Home. We just ended up here. I said I wouldn't move to this town and then, so quickly, here we were. Here I am.

Who knows how much longer we can keep the bank happy. As it turns out, joblessness is not so compatible with paying one's bills. Which means the shuffle shimmy balancing act will topple one of these days and our house will be on the chopping block. And we'll be. . . ?

Home is rest. Of not thinking about where you might be living down the road, of the question not even entering the equation. Because it's always in the back of my mind. I'm always wondering, anticipating the shift in the wind that will cause circumstances to change and have us scrambling for a new place. My how we've scrambled.

So it might happen that I'm not done. That there's more moving in store for us. It's a worry. And not such a great lurking shadow to have around if becoming more invested in this place is the goal (is it?).

Yeah, I don't know.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

don't be afraid of what you've learned

Some while ago, NPR All Songs Considered shared for free download a collection of songs from the SXSW music festival in Austin. (It is endlessly amusing to me that my number one source for new music is national public radio.) I listen to it often and this is probably my favorite of the bunch.

I had this great idea that I'd share a song I'm currently enjoying on Sunday nights here, and that has worked out some, but I'm so sporadic with my posting, it's better to just put stuff up as it occurs to me.

Tonight we loaded up the bicycles (3 plus a trailer for the boy) and zipped down to an outdoor concert. We sat on a blanket, near friends, and listened to fun music (not music I'd share here, or want on my ipod, say, but just right for hanging out with a picnic dinner in an oak grove) and basked in the perfect loveliness of a summer evening in this part of my green state. I am not musical. I sing in the shower. I think about singing karaoke (but have never done it!), and wish I could *play* something. I can't. The radio. That's it. Yet, even so, music is such a force. Such a perfect background. Like the right color paint on the walls. And I'm glad for it. That's all.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

the freshy fresh

(plus bonus proof that my kids are all kinds of awesome)


I never ate a fresh pea, right off the vine, until I was an adult. I grew up with a peripheral, suspicious, disdainful relationship with vegetables. There were salad vegetables (assumed mostly for my dad, who can build and eat a salad the size of a breadbox) and there were side dish vegetables, which arrived to the table via their interim life in a Del Monte can. Globs of slimy spinach, Flaccid asparagus (which, it's true, I still sometimes get a craving for, though I haven't indulged in well past a decade), and Mushy peas, too limp to bother rolling off the plate.


It's a stark contrast, then, how my two run outside. How the little one asks me, before he plucks a pod, "is this one fat enough, mama?". How they sit on the front steps, together, dropping the shelled peas into a bowl. How they eat them up by the handful, how they always want more.


So, it's like a triple whammy of wonderfulness here to me. Fresh, delicious veggies in my own yard. My children being sweet and cooperative, a little pea-picking team. Knowing that fond memories, of food and family alike, are being created every day.

Friday, July 03, 2009

the garden post

watered kale

Earlier this spring, a lady drove by my house, screeched to a stop, threw her car into a fast reverse and pulled over by our curb, "I love what you're doing here."

We love what we're doing, too, even if I have a hard time seeing past all the Undone stuff to appreciate the accomplishments we've made in our 20 months of living here. Of course any outdoor improvements are for our own sake, but a little compliment goes a long way. It was nice to hear something positive, even from a stranger.

And then she asked, "Were you inspired by the First Lady?"

Ok. I admit that my first reaction to that question was something like, really? Results from all those pushups I've been doing are that noticeable? Dang.

Oh wait. Random friendly stranger lady was not talking about my biceps. Michelle Obama's upper arms have sure had a lot of media attention in the month's following her husband's inauguration. But let's just say that I wouldn't want to arm wrestle her. Yet.

She was talking about our raised beds. She motioned toward the the first baby kale leaves coming out of the ground, "She's planting vegetables in the White House lawn, you know."

I do know. I think it's wonderful.

But the presidential garden was not an inspiration for our decision to use a chunk of front lawn for food. No, I told the lady, we were doing it already.

Our garden is in our front yard because our backyard, while giving us grapes and plenty of hazelnuts, is too small and shady for much of anything to grow. The orientation of our house on our lot is such that we have more open space in the front than we do in the back. As in, the exact opposite of the way most city houses are situated.

If we wanted to grow anything -and we did!- we had to depend on our front yard space. Last year we put in one raised bed in a funny unused strip along the front side. And this spring we added two more, and beds around the perimeter.

Certainly front yard gardens are not so unusual. I notice them here and there. But it's much, much more common to have vegetables in the back.

We did what worked for us. And it's working, still. What I didn't expect, though, was how people would react. Not just the I Brake For Gardens lady driving by, but others. They ask us what we're growing. They nod their heads and say, oh, my back yard is shady, too. They smile.

I like having food growing in a place that is so visible to the street. I like owning our decision to have a garden in a way that makes our gardening part of the landscape of my neighborhood. I can't grumble about my neighborhood if I'm not doing anything to make it better. The more we're out in it (and we spend so much time out front these days), the less I grumble.

My front garden isn't going to wow anybody. It's humble and weedy and cobbled together. But it might encourage somebody else to use some of their front sunshiney lawn for something a little more useful (I'm not a lawn hater! Everything I ever had as child was a direct result of lawns! My dad was/is a sod farmer!). And it will certainly give us some food (which is important!), and a shared activity, more pleasure in our own space.

Here are our front beds 3 months ago:

3 raised beds

And a picture from today:

july 3 garden