Friday, December 20, 2013

One Direction (They're So Dreamy) -- An Update on our Concert Fantasies

For those who need catching up see the post here.  In addition to the first set of tickets (4th row!) two nosebleed seats have been purchased for the chaperone and her ten-year-old companion (aka me and Little).  These additional tickets were purchased with cash as no further credit is being extended.  The money came from two sources:  babysitting money and cash for goods sold.  Also the first credit card payment was made (interest plus 1% of the balance).  Thus far the girls are on track to see One Direction in September.  Of course they have a long way to go. 

Here are their financials thus far: 

The Quest for One Direction

Concert debt:
$243.10 -- second set of tickets
$1252.50 -- first set of tickets
$1495.60 total expense

$196.00 Chloe
$90.00 Lily
Total: $286.00

- $286.00 (this covers the second set of ticket for chaperone and companion ($243.10),
as well as, the first credit card payment ($42.90).

Total remaining: $1209.60

The girls figure their total expenses will be somewhere around $4000.00.  This includes concert tickets, airfare for four, hotel, meals and incidentals.  


It's interesting the feedback I've gotten on this project (some positive and some not so much).  One friend pointed out that with a traditional after school job the girls couldn't even begin to hope to earn enough money for the trip.  My friend is right.They won't earn enough money without thinking outside the box. And that's just what I'm hoping they'll do.  After all the the power of the young mind is amazing (let alone two minds together).  

I have no idea what will transpire.  But I have to tell you -- I'm eager to see what comes.  All too often we give kids a hard time for their mistakes and forget to celebrate their achievements.  

And I'll leave you with this. One Direction's #1 Fan: 


Thursday, November 28, 2013


We are having Thanksgiving at my parent’s house; a house with which I am familiar but not the home I grew up in.  My sister and her family are not here.  Instead, indefinitely,  they are in Panama on a sailboat.  Someone is here in my sister’s place, Cindy.  Cindy used to be my sister’s nanny.  Now she has a family of her own; a husband, baby Grace, and two foster girls.  What must these girls think of our motley crew?  

The foster girls go up to Cindy and give her gigantic hugs.  They are sweet and polite and full of affection. They’ve only lived with her family for two weeks.  I wonder what has happened in their life such that they would end up here.  I do not want to ask, especially not in front of them.  I am in awe of Cindy and her husband and the way they are contributing to our collective whole.  

I listen to their story and realize I could not be a foster parent.  My chaotic and well-lived in house simply wouldn’t pass inspection. But these girls?  Oh I would take these girls.  They are running around with my own girls as naturally as if they were cousins.  For today at least, they are family.  

I am tired, from traveling and from getting up early for fun run. From eating too much.  And from the wine.  

The television is on, football, and I am partially deaf.  This makes conversation difficult.  I find myself saying “what?” all too often.  Middle jumps in and translates for me.  It’s nice to have an interpreter.  

Tonight some knitting.  And some pie.  Tomorrow a movie.  No shopping for me. I can’t handle the crowds.  

And I am thankful.  For food.  For family.  For friends.  For days off work.  I am grateful to those who are working in my place; I’ll pay you back at Christmas when the roles are reversed.  

I am grateful for my senses; sight, touch, taste and smell.  I am grateful for the hearing which remains.  I am grateful for the balance that, more often than not, stays under control.  I am grateful for this body which propels me through this world; a vessel of experience.  

I am grateful for children who require me to step out of the box and to think differently.  I am grateful for other children who allow me to stay in the box, crouched in earthquake position, hands covering the back of my head.  

I am grateful for the internet and connections and opinions right and left.  I am grateful for the kindness of most folks (I'm sorry for the others).  

This life. It's messy and challenging.  It's tiring and worrisome.  It's heartbreaking.  But it is good. Oh so good.  


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So, Technically, My Daughter is a Felon.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook already know the story, at least the beginning. For those of you who haven't heard, here's what went down yesterday.  

While I was sleeping (I'd worked the night before) my 13-year-old daughter took my credit card and bought two 4th row tickets for One Direction to the tune of $600.00 a piece.  That's right. $1200.00 for two concert tickets.  Did she ask permission?  No. No she did not. 

This concert takes place in Phoenix, Arizona which is a mere 1111 miles from here. After she bought the tickets she started to cry. Not from remorse.  Rather from pure joy.  One Direction! Harry! Niall! The marketing machine that is One Direction has my daughter hook, line and sinker.  

Now, obviously, I was not nearly so pleased as she; especially when I found out I was the financier for this little operation. My husband and I considered many options from canceling the transaction to selling the tickets.  But where is the fun in that? Where is the lesson in that?  And so we came up with a different solution. 

Following is the contract we presented to our daughter this morning: 

I, the undersigned, acknowledge that I willfully committed fraud.  I used my mother’s credit card, without permission, and racked up $1200.00 worth of charges.  I understand that my parents are being lenient by not filing a police report. I also understand that stealing a sum greater than $1000.00 is a felony in the State of Oregon. Furthermore I understand that if convicted of a felony I could face up to a year in prison.  

My parents have been clear with me; $600.00 a ticket for 4th row One Direction seats is an unfortunate and irresponsible use of money.  There are many ways this money could be put to better use.  However it has also been acknowledged that I am my own person and as such I am allowed to spend my money as I choose.  The money used to buy these tickets, however, was not my money.  

By signing this document I irrefutably admit I have the coolest most wonderful parents on the planet.  They are the best because they are allowing me the chance to earn this money for myself.  The money put on the credit card will be considered a loan.  As a loan this money will be subject to interest.  Given that I am 13-years-old and with a questionable credit rating the interest rate will be 28% per annum.  Any given month that I do not cover the minimum payment a late fee of $30.00 will be charged to my account.  In addition I will be charged interest on the interest should the minimum payment not be met.  

I acknowledge that buying concert tickets to a stadium several states away is only the beginning of expenses I would expect to incur should the concert be attended.  If I am to attend said concert I will have to buy concert tickets for my mother and my sister.  In addition I will have to buy plane tickets for all four of us (my mother, my sister, my friend and myself). I will be responsible for all transportation costs (gas, rental car, vehicle insurance, etc). In addition I will be responsible for lodging, food and incidentals (concert tee shirts, etc).  

Once I calculate these expenses I will put them in a spreadsheet and present them to my parents.  Then a mutually acceptable timeline will be agreed upon and monthly financial goals will have to be met.  

I am allowed to be creative in earning the money for this trip.  I can set up a Go Fund Me or similar account.  It has been suggested that it will take all my creative spirit to convince people I unequivocally NEED to attend this concert.  I may not beg my parents for money.  I may not beg my relatives for money. I understand that the chores completed at home are my responsibility as a member of this family and as such do not come with monetary compensation.  If I am to sell items such as crafts or baked goods I am responsible for the seed money needed to create said items.  No additional loans will be granted. 

I also understand that my schooling can not suffer.  I must, from this point forward, get no grade less than a B.  If my grades are lacking I understand the tickets will be immediately disposed of.  I will, however, still be responsible for the monies borrowed.  

Finally, if I am unable to earn the money required for this trip the tickets will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation so that a truly deserving child will be able to see this band. As previously stated - I will still be required to pay back the loan.


Truth-be-told I will be shocked if my daughter is able to comply with the terms of this contract.  If she earns the money and maintains her GPA then good for her. I'll see you in Phoenix next September.  If she is unable to earn the money then I hope she will at least have learned something about life and its concomitant costs. And, perhaps, she'll even have a bit of extra change in her pocket.

Oh the joys of parenting!  


Note: we've already had a spirited discussion about interest on loans.  Indeed it appears lessons are being learned. :o)

Addendum: after this blog post my daughter has decided to start her own blog and write from her perspective.  You can see her post here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why I Write

Words live inside me.  In my chest.  They bounce around like pinballs; vaulting off my heart and springing against my ribcage. I can’t sleep with them pushing, shoving and pulsating.  They tear at me and eat away the fleshy parts of my lungs leaving me breathless.  They bore into my heart and cause palpitations. They test the integrity of my diaphragm, leaning into it until my stomach cries foul and heartburn rears its ugly head.  

I can’t really blame them, these words. They are looking for order in a chaotic world.  They want to find their way out. They want to have meaning.  And they want to be heard.  That is why I write.  

You see, writing has a magnetic pull.  Words are automatically drawn by this mystical force.  Pen in hand these words line up neatly along my arm and march out on to the page.   

And then they are free.  And I am free.  And we both can rest. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Animal ER

“I need someone to take the biting end,” said the traveling neurosurgeon to no one in particular.  I looked around the hospital. The cages were full and my technicians were busy.  

“I guess that’d be me,” I said and followed him to our patient, a 178 pound Great Dane.  The surgeon was going to pinch the dane’s rear toes, clamp down on them as hard as he could with hemostats, to determine if the dog could feel deep pain.  Deep pain was good.  It meant the neurologic circuit between the feet and brain was intact.  This dog couldn’t walk.  We wanted deep pain.  

My job was to ensure the surgeon did not get bit.  I’m not particularly interested in revealing my weight but suffice it to say I am five foot two and weigh less than this dog.  

I sat down on the speckled brown floor, a surface made for fancy garages.  We thought the material would be good in our hospital; classy, not too slippery and not showing dirt. I eyed a region that looked suspiciously like dried blood.  So much for hiding muck.    

I wrapped my arms around the dog’s neck and said a fleeting prayer.  I felt like a little girl with my arms wrapped around our Great Pyrenees -- Pepi.  An amiable dog that put up with all my prepubescent poking and prodding.  I only hoped this dog would be as gentle. Because the truth of the matter was if the biting end wanted to bite he was going to do so.  And I would be the likely recipient of said interaction.

But luck was on my side.  Our patient was just that -- patient.  He had deep pain and he did not bite.  Win-win.  

I heaved a heavy sigh and found myself utterly grateful for this gentle giant.  After our encounter I was beginning to feel bonded and was glad for his prognosis.  He probably had a fibrocartilagenous emboli (a stroke to the spinal cord). Given time he might recover. I rested my head on his, thanked him for being good, then got up to talk to his owners.  

The treatment portion of our hospital was separated from the exam rooms and reception area by swinging aluminum doors.  I went through the first set of these doors and skittered past the exam rooms with as much stealth as I could muster.  The rooms were full of clients waiting for my attention.  I went through the second set of swinging doors and out into the lobby. 

The dane’s people were sitting by a large plate glass window that overlooked the strip mall parking lot.  It was dark outside and I instinctively looked for the tree covered in white lights -- my beacon in the darkness.  But the tree wasn’t lit up.  Damn.  

I pulled up a chair, a gaudy fabric covered seat upholstered in a contemporary design, and began to review their case.  

I’d only just begun when the front door swung open and a gust of frigid air poured into the lobby. I shivered. It felt as if a spirit had passed through me and for a brief moment I was creeped out. 

A woman with a nose ring barreled through the door.  In her arms was a small scruffy dog who was actively seizing.  I excused myself, pried the dog from her arms and went back through the aluminum doors leaving them swinging in my wake. 

We gave the seizing dog an injection of valium. The medication worked immediately and our patient’s tremors began to slow.  He looked like an over medicated parkinson patient -- limbs flailing this way and that.  

Then I did it.  I opened my stupid mouth. 

“I’ll bet this dog couldn’t bite if he wanted to.”  

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Though we practice medicine, science, we also wholeheartedly believe in the power of the jinx.  I had just cast a spell which all but mandated that this dog was going to bite us.   

My technician shot me a nasty look, a well deserved one at that, and took the dog to the scale where, as per my prophesy, he exploded. He threw himself off the scale, a mere inch off the ground, and slammed his head onto the floor. He bit his tongue and began to bleed profusely.  He shat himself and expressed his anal glands perfusing the clinic with an aroma of unsullied fear. 

Though this dog could not walk he began to scoot himself across the clinic with surprising speed, blood and feces smeared in his wake.  Each attempt to catch him was met with a mess of gnarling gnashing teeth.  He was barking, screaming and growling.  I knew, with fair certainty, everyone in the hospital could hear his tantrum, including his owner who remained in the lobby.  

I began hopping back and forth on my danskos muttering “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  The tasmanian devil of a dog was headed across the treatment area -- straight for the great dane.  The dane, who was too big to fit in a kennel, was lying on the floor. 

Now the dane had been gentle with me.  But I had no idea how he felt about other dogs, much less, those of tasmanian descent.  Time slowed and I imagined this dane opening his mouth, cranking it back 150 degrees like a snake, and swallowing the terrier whole.  

And this entire incident would be all my fault. Vexes aside the buck stopped with me. If either of these dogs were injured I would ultimately be to blame.  

I ran over to the dane hoping to intercept any potential interaction but did not move fast enough.  The biting, slithering, mess of a terrier slid right up to our gargantuan patient.  And that gentle giant of a dog simply cocked his head in curiosity.   

Oh thank you!  Thank you!  I was becoming more and more bonded with this fabulous black beast.  

We threw a towel over the terrier and tackled him.  He was muzzled and subsequently subdued with medication.  Oh me oh my!

A bit worse for wear I returned to the lobby, reassured the terrier’s owner and resumed my conversation with the dane’s owners.  

Though his medical situation was not ideal the dane had a chance for recovery. With supportive care and time he may be able to walk again.  The couple didn’t say a word. Instead they looked at me, blinked, and then looked at each other.  And I knew.  Fuck.  Fuck it all to hell.  They were going to euthanize.  

They wanted to be present and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I pulled the sickly pink solution into a 20 cc syringe.  I sat in front of this wonderful dog and he looked at me, his mouth open and panting.  He trusted me.  We were friends.  

His owners stood over him and I gave the injection. I caught his bowling ball of a head as it fell to the ground.  His owners turned on their heels and left, leaving me on the speckled floor next to their precious dead dog.  I lowered my head to his once again and began to cry.  

Then the aluminum doors burst open and another emergency beckoned.  I stood, wiped my eyes and, with no other choice, returned to work.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What I've Never Told You.

What I’ve never told you is I believe in magic. Irrational irrevocable magic.  

The sun, when it shines through the windshield spreading a layer of warmth across my chest -- that’s magic.  That’s the universe cradling me, holding my heart, as I make my way through the world.    

The stars, that twinkle at 2:00 am, as I step in the back alley of the the strip mall, a brief respite from the night shift.  These stars are crepuscular magical beacons. Luminaries from the heart of the beast.  

The dog, who twitches and trembles and growls in his sleep, chasing the squirrel of his dreams.  Then wakes -- abundantly happy, bouncing and bounding. A life lived in the moment. He is unadulterated magic.  

The frost that covers my windshield in intricate patterns, making me stop in my tracks to wonder at it’s magnificence. Pure magic.  

The child who hugs me with her whole self, the one who still holds my hand in public, the one who looks at me with those baby blues and melts my soul.  Tender magic. 

The early morning sun bouncing off snow capped mountains; a golden pink alpenglow punctuating an unwelcome morning commute.  Unexpected magic.  

Leaves that twist and turn; waving at me like a beauty contestant.  The universe shouting hello.  Discounted magic. 

The orange, rusts and golds of fall.  The pure white of fresh fallen snow.  Verdant buds pushing through frozen ground.  Abundant greens bursting everywhere.  Sun and sand and water and heat. Colorful seasonal magic. 

An owl hooting in the night.  Wondering who.  Who?  Who?  

A spotted baby deer frozen in her tracks.  A doe who bounds an elegant retreat; all four limbs off the ground.  Instinctual magic. 

The smell of onions and garlic simmering on the stove.  Hot apple cider, pumpkin pie, and pomegranates.  Coffee and cream.  Friends and family and red red wine.  Teeth purple with the first sip. Ritualistic magic. 

Welcoming fires that crackle and pop.  Glorious smoky perfume.  Pajamas and slippers, blankets slung over shoulders.  Books in hand.  Football on TV.  Comforting magic. 

Sheep who give wool.  Wool which turns to yarn.  Yarn that turns to blankets and hats, gloves and sweaters.  Enterprising magic. 

Words that spill onto the page. 

Serendipity, providence, coincidence.  Being at the right place at the right time. 

It’s all magic.  

So when you ask; How’d you do that?  Where’d that come from?  How’d you know?  

My answer will always be one simple word:  Magic.  

Monday, October 28, 2013



Puttering, knitting, cleaning the bathroom, 
sweeping the kitchen floor.  
Snow flurries, fingerless gloves, 
a fire and toasty labrador.  

A new cardigan that fits just right, 
a necklace with a cause.
The second coffee of the day,
a little time to pause. 

Picadillo on the stove, 
shoes nowhere to be found.
Tears shed for sweet old Jack 
and the world goes round and round.  


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mama Guilt

The school year has started and my Mama guilt has begun.  It always surfaces this time of year. Somehow fall (which in my mind begins with the start of school) is a time to nest.  It's time to care for the house; to prep and preen and get ready for the coming of winter.  It's a time to bake and make stews and have piping hot fresh from the oven cookies when the kids get home from school.

And then there's school -- papers to sign, teachers to meet, field trips and sports to pay for, arrangements for extracurricular activities, people to transport.

All of this -- the care of the house and family -- requires time.  And when Mama also has to work time becomes very precious.

Today I will have time to clean and to bake cookies.  I'll also be able to pick the kids up from school and talk to them about their day.  It won't take long.

"How was your day?"


"What did you do?"

"I dunno."

Little will be more verbose.  Yesterday she told me all about her new teacher (she likes cats) and their PE routine (it's hard!) and decoration for her locker and how she just loves fourth grade.  I love that she still tells me all this stuff; I need to take it in and hold it close because I know these conversations will come to an end all too soon.

Alas what I'm not going to have time for today is dinner.  I won't make it to the parent teacher meeting at the school.  I won't make it to my son's water polo practice.  I'll be going to a work event with my husband because it's the only time for me to see him.

Over the weekend both Mr. Peculiar and I will be working and we won't be especially available for the kids. I'll sacrifice some time sleeping so I can spend time with them but a tired Mama is not a Mama in top form.

I know there is beauty and benefit to my work.  Because I am employed my son can play water polo and Middle has a phone from which she can tweet about One Direction (I am forever calling them New Direction which a) tells you my age and b) elicits the most exaggerated eye roll from my daughter).

Because I am employed we have cars and food and a roof over our heads.  We have insurance and medical care and all those lovely things that come with modern society.  And yet.  Yet.  That guilt still rests in my abdomen; it has settled somewhere between my kidneys and my adrenal glands and always wedges its foot solidly in my intestines leaving me nauseous.  Should I, could I being doing more?

The answer is yes and the answer is no.  Really there is no answer.  There are people who are better parents than I.  There are people who are worse.  I need to accept that it is what it is and I am doing the best with what I've got.  A challenge to be sure.

In the meantime I'm off to take a shower and go the store for some chocolate chips.  Today I'm going to do what I can do.  Because really there is nothing else.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I am open and raw.  I've just come home from a weekend meditation retreat; two days sitting in zazen and two days driving by myself.  Four days of aloneness.  Me.  Just me.  And it was good.  I do well with peace.  With silence.  It was nice to be responsible only for myself; to be pulled from my environment and put into one that was neat and tidy. 

At the retreat nobody left their towels on the floor.  Nobody pooped in the hallway.  Nobody burned noodles onto the bottom of a pan and left them languishing in the kitchen.  Nobody told me I was cruel to charge for my work. Nobody screamed at me. No life and death decisions had to be made.  Nobody died.  

And then I came home. The older kids were studying for finals and feeling the pressures of society and numbers and grades.  Middle had a cold. Little had a second degree sunburn on her shoulders. The Mister was packing for a business trip and feeling behind, nervous and stressed.   

There were dishes in the sink.  The laundry was piling up.  Dog fur bunnies mocked me as I walked through the house.  The tomatoes needed to be watered.  The chickens needed to be fed.  Four quail had died and another wasn't doing well.  An unexpected medical bill arrived in the mail.  A sixty hour work weekend loomed in the future.  I forgot to attend an online class.  

My mind began to spin.  Why are we working so hard?  Why can't we seem to catch up? Why can't we clean up?  Why does everything cost so much?  Why don't we make more money? Why does everybody else seem to have so much more than we do? Why are we failing? Failing! All this effort and for what?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  We've fucked everything up -- our kids, our lives, our jobs, our house ... 

And then I remembered to breathe.  In and out.  In and out.  We are employed.  We have a roof over our heads. We have three amazing kids.  We have insurance should something go wrong.  We have food on the table. We have love. 

It doesn't matter that the floors are scratched, the furniture is mismatched and the house paint is fading.  It doesn't matter that the grass is overgrown.  It doesn't matter if someone gets a "C" rather than an "A".  It doesn't matter what school we go to or if we even go to school. It doesn't matter what our bank account says.  It doesn't matter what others think about us. It doesn't matter if we are fat or thin.  We are not numbers or letters.  We are not our clothes, our house, our jobs or our car.

It's all an illusion.  We are nothing but our thoughts.  I am a woman; a woman with a menagerie. A woman with a beautiful mess.  

Now I'm going to go to the kitchen.  I'm going to place my hands in front of me in a position of prayer and bow to the sink. Then, quite simply, I'm going to do the dishes.  

My name is Shalet and my practice is counting my breath.  Thank you Maezen


Friday, April 19, 2013

Who do you want to be?

I'm struggling to express how I feel right now.  The suspects in the Boston bombing have been caught.  But I'm not cheering in the streets.  I am not jubilant.  More than anything I am sad.  Sad for these men (boys really) who went so far astray.  Sad for the people they hurt.  Sad for our country and our world.  And I am, once again, resolved to do what I can.

We *all* need to spread peace and happiness, love and joy.  Each and every day.  Next time you're angry, pissed off and ready to snap -- stop and think.   Because you know what?  That belligerent guy on the phone -- the one cursing at you?  Turns out he's not really angry.  He's not angry but he is scared. He feels like a little boy trapped inside a man's body and what he really needs, more than anything, is a hug.

And those people who broke into your car and destroyed your stereo?  Perhaps they were hungry. Or addicted to meth.  Or schizophrenic and off their medication.  No matter the reason they were not in a good place to be breaking into cars.  They need light and love.

And that woman who cut you off in traffic?  Maybe she was worried about her Dad who was just hospitalized. Or maybe she was your co-worker who thought you should move over and you, in your own daze, didn't.  But guess what?  You didn't run into her and she didn't run into you.  So the minute she cut you off was the minute the incident was over.  No need for anger. No need to dwell.

And what about that guy who flashed our kids inside the school?  Turns out he did us a favor.  He showed us our flaws. Our children are safer for his misguided actions.

Maybe I'm just a silver-lining kind of girl.  Someone who looks for rainbows through the storm.  But I believe we have the power to positively change the world one interaction at a time.  Of course, with each interaction, we can also perpetuate hatred, anger and negativity.  So, before you act, stop and think.  What do you want to put out in the world?


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

It's no secret I want a hobby farm.  Just five or ten or forty acres to fuel my dreams.  Only, at this point in our lives, we're not in a position to buy.  At least not yet.  However I've decided to be positive; to act "as if."

Now if we were to buy a farm we'd have to move.  And we'd either need to rent out our house or sell it.  Either way we'd have some cleaning and sprucing up to do.  So, acting as if we are going to move, I'm spring cleaning.

I started in the girls' room which was scary to say the least.  Cleaning that room resulted in a monumental pile of laundry.  And, thus, I began a laundry binge -- determined to clean every last bit in the house.

Now midway through my laundry fest my washing machine starting giving me a "sud" error message.  I'd just made a new batch of detergent using a new brand of soap.  I figured it was a little too sudsy and made a note to myself that I wouldn't use that soap in the future.  Then the machine took it one step further -- "F2".

According to Google the drain line was clogged.  I found a drill, an appropriately sized bit, took apart the front of the machine and cleaned the filter (which, by the way, was disgusting).  I put the whole thing back together, proudly dusted off my hands and continued to launder.

Of course things couldn't be that easy.  Next the dryer stopped drying.  Turns out I'd been a bit exuberant putting it back in place (after moving it to repair the washer) and the exhaust line was pinched off.  That little issue was fixed without too much trouble.

By this point most of our clothes were clean and I, in the laundry zone, moved on to other household items -- specifically the rugs in our house.  Bad idea.  Very bad idea.  

The rugs have (had) rubber mats on their undersides which came apart -- into tiny tiny pieces.  These pieces subsequently clogged the drain -- again.

But no fear!  I can fix it! I intrepidly removed the front of the washer, pulled out the filter, cleaned it and put the whole thing back together.

Only the washer still wasn't draining. Ugh.  I got back in there and cleaned the drain tube in front of the filter with a chop stick.  The clog broke free and a HUGE FLOOD of dirty smelly water spilled out onto my laundry room floor.  Yippee!

I mopped up the floor using every single towel in the house.  While mopping I discovered a slimy mess of now wet dog food under the washer.  That got cleaned too.  I pulled out the washer and dryer and cleaned behind them.  Then I discovered a hole in the dryer hose and repaired that.  Finally I put everything back together.

Then I washed the grungy dirty towels. Halfway through the wash cycle the filter clogged again.  And, yet again, I pulled the whole thing apart.  This time using sheets to catch the water because there were no more towels.  Of course it was more of those evil rubber pieces.  

As I type I am hoping my laundry adventures are complete.  The towels are still in the wash and appear to be completing their cycle.  I've purchased new rugs.

I've learned a few things along the way:

1) Sometimes it's better to spend a little money (i.e. I should've simply bought new rugs).

2) New rugs cost much less than a new washing machine.  Thankfully, hopefully, a new machine won't be needed.

3) "... you can't always get what you want, if you try sometimes well you might find, you get what you need."  In other words -- though a sparkly clean laundry room wasn't on my to do list, nor were lessons in washing machine repair, I got both.  Win-win.

4) And, finally, once the Rolling Stones are stuck in your head good luck kicking them out.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Love Yourself and Carry On

A confession:  Today I did dishes and laundry.  I vacuumed.  I had coffee with friends. I weeded and raked leaves.  I hung a window on the chicken coop and built the girls a new perch.  I went to my son's lacrosse game.  I took an hour and a half break when my ear was acting up.  I shuffled kids to and from school. I made $2.63 (money found in the wash).

Today was my day off.  My weekend.  My time to decompress. It's 10:00 pm and I'm settling in with a cup of tea.  I feel guilty as there are things left to do.  Before I go to bed I'll switch the laundry and dust the book shelf.  Then I'll lay in bed trying to decide whether or not I should pop up, just for a moment, to give the toilet a quick scrub.

Only here's the thing.  If you were to come to my house you'd look around, smile politely and think "does this woman *ever* clean?"  You'd likely wonder what I do all day.

You see my efforts are just enough to keep this place from completely falling apart. Nothing more. Nothing less. I am one woman.  One woman with three kids, a husband, two dogs, two cats, two cockatiels and seven chickens. The odds are *not* in my favor.

Tomorrow will be the same.  There will be new laundry.  New dishes.  New weeds to pull.  People will want to be fed and driven around.  There will be shoes in the living room, dirty underwear in the bathroom and dishes upstairs.  If I'm *really* lucky someone might even pee on the floor. Friday I'll return to work and all that was done will be undone.

I will work, come home and begin again. Should the kids be helping me?  Absolutely!  Is it like pulling teeth to make that happen?  Oh yes.  Yes indeed.  Does Mr. Peculiar help?  Sometimes.  Though he feels his time off should be just that -- time off.   And yet someone has to get stuff done.

My point? Judge not lest ye be judged.

I've been chatting with lots of moms.  Many of us are in the same boat -- working and trying, as best we can, to maintain a household.  We are not lazy.  Rather quite the opposite.  But we are all decidedly human and can not accomplish Herculean feats.  So let's be kind and understanding and forgiving; both of ourselves and others.

It's easy enough to clean a corner, take a picture and throw it up on a blog.  I'm as guilty as anyone for editing out the clutter. I just want you to know that behind most pretty pictures lies disarray.  Embrace it for what it is - a beautiful mess. Love it, love yourself and carry on.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Juice Recipe: Beautious Beet

Today was a day to eat the rainbow;  a green-colored juice, an orange-colored juice and a gorgeous raspberry-colored juice (which I am currently enjoying).   We've had spinach, kale, ginger, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, a pineapple, oranges, coconut and celery.  Quite varied and quite delicious (if I do say so myself).  

Tonight's juice is another creamy one; a texture that satisfies the tummy.  And the color?  Well it couldn't be prettier.  Serve in a clear glass and add a straw for maximum enjoyment.  

Ingredients: (makes ~ two 20 ounce servings)
3 medium beets (including tops)
2 oranges, peeled
2 apples
2 stalks celery
4 carrots
A nub of ginger (approx the size of your thumb)

Rinse beets and celery well.  Slice apples to fit in juicer.  Juice all ingredients.  Serve and enjoy!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Juice Recipe: Orange Julius

Our Orange Julius juice recipe has quickly become the family favorite.  It seems to take on whatever flavor you desire.  For me this juice tastes like, well, an orange julius.  Mr. Peculiar thinks it tastes like a peanut butter smoothie.  To each his own.

At any rate this juice has a gorgeous orange hue and a lovely creamy texture. It's chock full of vitamins (Vit A, Vit C, Calcium, Iron, Thiamine, Niacin and Postassium).

This juice tends towards the sweeter side and therefore makes a great introduction to juicing.

Makes two servings (~ 15 oz each)

Two medium red garnet yams
5-6 carrots
3 medium oranges

Peel oranges.  Cut yams (leave skin intact).  Juice oranges, carrots and yams.

Serve and enjoy.

*** *** ***

Note:  If you are going to start juicing I recommend you either a) start a compost pile, b) get a worm bin or, my favorite, c) get some chickens.  You'll have lots of pulp leftovers that you won't want to waste.  My chickens are gobbling up our pulp and I can't wait to taste their vitamin enriched eggs.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The long post in which I explain to you why I am subsisting on juice

For the past three days I've been on a juice fast.  That's right -- nothing but juice.  Mostly vegetables and some fruit.  I was inspired by Joe Cross and his film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  Joe went on a sixty day fast and lost a significant amount of weight (nearly 80 pounds) But not only did he lose weight, he also weaned himself from his medication (he was taking prednisone for a rare auto-immune disease).

This struck a chord with me.   I have a poorly understood disease that may very well have an auto-immune component.   Medication is hit and miss at best.  And, honestly, I'm looking for a cure rather than something to mask my symptoms.

Then I came across another documentary -- Forks over Knives.  The creators of Forks over Knives have compelling evidence that a whole foods plant based diet can halt (and possibly reverse) a multitude of diseases from coronary artery disease and diabetes to breast and prostate cancer.

Would I?  Could I heal myself with food?

I've always known that food plays a role in health -- after all you are what you eat.  But I've been reluctant to change my diet (which was, in my mind, not particularly bad).  However I've also come to realize I like feeling good.  And if this is what it takes to feel good then so be it.

I bought my juicer from Bed, Bath and Beyond (don't forget your coupon).  There are two different kinds of juicers: centrifugal and masticating.  Masticating juices do a better job overall.  Masticating juicers are also more expensive.  I went with the less expensive centrifugal juicer (if it's good enough for Joe it's good enough for me).  I find that I can get more juice by running the pulp through once or twice after the initial juicing.  This is especially true for vegetables.

Honestly I've been enjoying the juicing thus far.  I started slow -- juicing for two meals and then eating a meal at night.  Then Monday -- full bore.  Well, not quite.  The hubby and I agreed that we'd allow ourselves coffee (cappuccino made at home with local goat's milk). For the first two days I had a small cappuccino in the morning and mid-afternoon.  Today I skipped the afternoon caffeine.  Baby steps.

Things we've noticed so far.  First and foremost my ear feels great.  I have very slight tinnitus, minimal hearing loss and no dizziness or balance issues (now this disease waxes and wanes so I can't claim any benefit here yet).  As for my husband -- today, day 3, he had no pain in his knees. He always has pain in his knees.  Yet today, while at work and going up and down stairs, no pain. Psychosomatic?  Maybe.  But he's a doubter and therefore I doubt it's psychological.

We've also both lost some weight -- him 5 pounds in three days.  Me -- 9 pounds in three weeks.  Not too shabby.  Am I hungry?  A bit.  Late afternoons/evenings are the hardest. Food smells SO GOOD!  Nonetheless the benefits are out-weighing the hunger.

I plan to juice for as long as I can (30 days?).  I'd still like to lose another 15 to 20 pounds.  When we are done juicing we plan to switch to a whole foods plant based diet -- lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.  We'll continue to eat meat but in smaller portions.  I'm already careful to make sure our meat is from local grass fed sources (read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food to find out why grass fed beef is better). 

I'm also going to reduce our gluten intake though not go completely gluten free (unless it becomes readily obvious we need to do so).  I'm pinning tons and tons of recipes in anticipation.

This fast will reset my weight and, I think, my taste buds.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing the end result.

Tomorrow I'll post recipes of a few of my favorite juices (thus far).


Monday, January 28, 2013

Till We Meet Again -- Goodbye Sweet Mew Mew

Mew Mew napping in 2010

Last night we euthanized our sweet old kitty Mew Mew.  It was time.  She was but a wisp of her formal self, skinny and with no reserves.  She'd been sneezing for months and yesterday her nose clogged completely.  She couldn't properly breathe nor would she eat.  She was weak and wobbly.

And yet, despite her struggles, she remained affectionate.  We sat as a family on the kitchen floor, ignoring the escaped onion peel, the random popcorn kernels and the dirt.  We rallied around our kitty. We pet her, scratched her chin and cried.  The dogs were curious and lay nearby.

She let us pick her up and hold her (not typical Mew Mew behavior).  She rode on my daughter's lap to the clinic.  I tucked my family into the euthanasia room and brought Mew Mew to the back for a catheter. Then we rejoined the family. My husband held Mewey as I gave her the injection.  She went quietly, peacefully and in the arms of those who loved her and whom she loved.

Mew Mew was a week shy of nineteen-years-old.  We've known her since the day she was born (her mama gave birth in the very first veterinary clinic I worked at).  She preceded marriage and children.  She outlived a multitude of kitties and a few dogs as well.

Last night there was a conspicuous absence as we lay in bed.  No soft thump as she jumped up to join us, no gentle purr to lull me to sleep.  She will be missed.

*** *** ***

We got home from the clinic just before 9:00 pm.  I was ready to escape and snuggled in on the couch for an hour of Downton Abbey.  How was I to know (spoiler alert here if you haven't seen it) Lady Sibyl was to die?   Another hour spent sobbing my eyes out.  

My heart ached for the characters (and for the actress as she was out of a job -- later I googled it and discovered it was she who quit the show so at least there's that).  

Then I went to bed, eyes swollen from too much crying.  Should you see me today -- extra puffy about the face, a bit peaked, you'll know why.  

This is a strange world we live in.  So much sad along with the good.  I suppose one must have both the yin and the yang.  All I can do is appreciate the moments, both good and bad, and accept them for what they are.   

Today there's cleaning to do. I have a book on tape.  I'm hoping for quiet contentment; if you see her tell her I'm looking for her.  And then send her my way. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

How Starbucks is Teaching My Children

I have a twelve-year-old child, nearly thirteen.  She's recently been diagnosed with ADD and her attention deficit (or rather attention overload if you want to term it properly) is the cause of much angst.  She's smart as a whip but rarely does her homework.  As such her grades are not reflective of her intelligence.

Now I could stand over her, tap my foot and demand that she complete her projects.  I could cross my arms and huff and puff.  But, truly, that's not the person I want to be.  

I could do the work for her.  But that's not the person I want her to be.  

I could medicate her and shove a square peg into a round hole.  Somehow this doesn't seem right.    

Or I could try something different; unschooling.  And I'm seriously considering it.  You see I want my children to find, and maintain, a life-long love of learning.  And I'm worried Middle's current circumstances may be doing just the opposite.  

This is not to say the schools are failing.  In fact my other two children are thriving.  But they are natural pleasers who are ready and willing to conform to the classroom.  Middle not so much.*  

Last week my kids were out sick with the flu.  I decided to try an unschooling experiment.  We went to Starbucks.  

Middle pointed out that the Starbucks logo was a mermaid with two tails.  How many times have I stared at that sign and never, ever, noticed what it was?  We googled it.  Turns out the logo is a siren from Greek mythology. Interestingly sirens are not benign creatures. Sirens sing sweet songs to sailors until the sailors crash into the rocks and die.  Hmmm.  

Today, again, Little was out sick (there are some nasty bugs going around).  Once more we went to Starbucks (clearly lured by the sirens).  We began discussing the origin of "venti", which is Italian for twenty, thus a 20 ounce drink.  And we discussed Italy in general and how Italians love their coffees (especially espressos and cappuccinos).  

"So," Little says, "Starbucks is an Italian place with a Greek symbol."  Little is nine.  She remembered last week's conversation. And, like her sister, she clearly has a brain.  

Little ordered a frappuccino (her tummy hurt -- how could I deny her?).  Then she asked the origin of the word frappuccino.  Good question.  I did not know the answer but thought that frappe had something to do with being whipped.  Once again we googled it. 

Frappe means chilled or partly frozen.  It is derived from the French "fraper" which means to strike.  

Therefore Starbucks is an American company started with Greek, Italian and French influences.  

While getting our coffee we also did a bit of math to figure out a tip.  My nine-year-old was able to tell me that 50 cents was fifty percent of a dollar and 10 cents was ten percent.  Nice job sister.  Nice job.  

So from a trip to Starbucks one can learn about Greek mythology, French word origins, the Italian language and percentages.  Not bad for a quick jaunt for coffee.  

Unschooling may be the road less traveled but, based on my observations, a road worth taking.  

*** *** ***

* The questions arises -- what of the real world?  What happens when Middle must go out and get a job?  Does she need to conform then?  By pulling her out of school are we simply compounding an issue (her inability to complete tasks not pleasing to her)?

I do not have the answers.  By the time she has a job she will be older and therefore, hopefully, more mature.  And who is to say she'll work for somebody else?  Perhaps she'll be her own boss and therefore mold the workplace to suit her needs.  

*And will she learn all that she needs to learn to be successful in life?  Yes, I think she will.  In fact she might learn more than while in school.  She taught herself to read at four.  She taught herself to use a computer and video production.  She has a crazy memory and retains what she learns.  

*What about college?  See here.  If she wants to learn, if she loves learning, she can definitely go to college. 

* Might I go crazy having her home all the time?  Yes.  Yes indeed.  

*** *** ***

Oh and PS -- I am pleased to report that after six long weeks my sore throat finally went away. And on to nurturing ... 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Word: 2013

Simply, Imagine, Appreciate and Shine.  Four years and four words.  The world has once again circled the sun.  The clock has struck.  It's time for a new word.

I entered this year with a sore throat; the persistant remnants of a December cold.  It's a reminder that I am not fully in control.

I've been to the doctor (I have an in with an ENT).  He couldn't find anything wrong with my throat.  I'm on a trial of sudafed and antibiotics.  He suggested that if this doesn't clear then I'll need endoscopy to look for, you know, cancer.  Now the chances of me blowing with a cancerous lesion immediately after a cold are slim to none. This is likely viral or bacterial or a combination of the two.  Or it could be reflux or allergies or a number of other things. But there's that word.  The big "C".  Another reminder that I am susceptible and fragile and at the mercy of the Universe.

Then I was left alone for a bit too long.  Long enough to contemplate what I would do if I actually had cancer.  My first thought?  I'd like to make a quilt for each of my children and knit Christmas stockings for all of my potential grandchildren.  A physical reminder of my love; something to remain after I'm gone.  And I thought, perhaps, cancer or not, my word for 2013 should be "create."

But then I thought some more.  And I realized I am not afraid to die.  However I am not yet ready.  There are people who need me. Here.  Now.  People who need help growing.  People who need tending.  People who need to be nurtured.  And thus came The Word for 2013:  Nurture.

To nurture means to care;  for my family, myself and my home.   It means to love and to extend this love to my community and the world.   It means taking what we've got, what's already available to us, and growing it.  And that's just what I'm going to do.

Perhaps next year's word will be "blossom" - a natural extension of nurture.  Then again, perhaps not.

For now I am simply looking forward to 2013.  Here's to a happy, healthy prosperous year!