and ask our esteemed panel, why are we alive?

We had an outdoorsy day today: from taking a 9 mile roundtrip to get Nels from school straight to the bike shop where Terry and I (mostly Terry, although the kids and I were there for a lot of it and I even helped and learned parts of my bike, yay!) Franken-biked my Giant into an Xtracycle! Since my bike was torn apart before my eyes this involved me finding a way in poor weather to Sophie’s school and back home without wheels – in horizontal rain for part of it. Bitar’s Bike Shop is also slightly colder than the outdoors, and the outdoors were cold. Short story, it’s almost 9 PM and I’m still not warmed up.

The bike conversion is – so far – as lovely as I’d hoped. As in, I might have trouble sleeping tonight. In Bitars as I removed parts from the box I gazed upon them and fondled these parts (Oh, sleek Snap Deck!) as if they were so much excellent and rare porn, finally delivered into my hands after a seeming lifetime of waiting. The Xtracycle was fun; the g-d euro child’s bikeseat (I shall not name specifically and therefore print libel here about the annoying setup instructions) ended up taking us past 6:30 PM and Terry’s departure time so my S.U.B. will not be street-ready until tomorrow (pictures later; I’m kind of exhausted). I’m hoping dearly for a better day than today’s offerings (of which I had to bike, walk, bus with children) but I will test-ride that thing come rain or shine.

Oh, and Monday I was interviewed on by a college student (with his ladyfriend taking photos) for some coursework that involves Sure Nail & Fire. My zine is being featured as a small-town effort extolling the virtues of Harbor life; I listened to my interview today. I was really impressed with the editing job, especially after the NPR experience and how much coaching that entailed for just a short blurb; and considering Monday’s relatively low-fi recording device. For the record both interviewer E. and his girlfriend (photographer) K. were the most charming, sweet visitors we’ve had in a while. Smart and easy to talk to as well as cute as if kittens could be made into people (I bite my tongue to not refer wistfully to their youth).

It's ALIVE!!

"You know, I cried when I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. And then I laughed…really hard."

Today dawned hopeful, cold and clear – and plopped down on stuffy, whored-out and pissy. I am having a terribly discouraging time with aspects of Nels’ preschool environment. I am having a lot of difficultly lately interacting with my son and expecting respect while getting along (when did he turn into a messy-headed wolf cub?). I am having an annoying time with the local printery. But mostly, I’m having the worst time overcoming my residual head cold and my poor attitude.

So, it’s time for a little gratitude. Here are some great things that have come out of the last few days:

  • Helping my children learn more chores (they are surprisingly adroit!)
  • Explaining money-saving to them both (Nels’ goal: a squeaky duck; Sophie’s, winter boots)
  • Explaining “flashing” to them both (thank you, John Waters cameo!)
  • Sophie’s term for a productive cough: “hork ball”
  • Nels’ kisses and cuddles (when he’s not directly defying me at every turn)
  • New sewing patterns in the mail – Victorian garments (ooh, practical!)
  • New laser printer (zine approaches self-sufficiency)
  • Ralph’s support (very well-rendered this week)
  • Friends either helping or offering to help
  • Ladies’ Night at deli tonight
  • Brown sugar ham sandwich. ‘Nuff said.

I feel a lot better typing that out.

In other news: Sophie is getting a new loft bed in her room now shared with Nels (P.S. I like sewing or the possibility of sewing more than a potential for my own children’s coddled existence!). I was recently re-reminded of why we are glad to live our lives more simply (and no, I’m not referring to our phone and DSL services’ disconnection for non-payment, which has now been remedied). We’re considering going to one car although I will have to draft up my last will and testament now that I’m biking in Grays Harbor. Harris and Blackie have to go to the vet under false premises to have things cut off them (nuts, cancerous growth resp.). My brother never writes nor calls from Portland, the ass. And we are actually very sad here at Casa Del Hogaboom over Heath Ledger’s recent demise (rare pop-culture reference, here).

a lovely man in so many ways

I recently found an anti-Walmart piece by an author I respect, for publication in my zine. In fairness, ideally, I’d like to put in a pro-Walmart or rebuttal piece (Walmart is a big deal here on the Harbor). So yesterday I’m telling my parents about my desire to find someone to write an article I could put side-by-side in the publication.

“You know…” I say, “Someone who can tell me some positives or a piece by a Walmart supporter.”

“Problem is, they don’t know how to read or write,” my dad snorts.*

“Oh come on,” I roll my eyes, annoyed with the put-down and wanting real conversation.

“Gap-toothed hicks…” he’s continuing on, mostly to himself.**

“Um,” I say, “As opposed to your gaps, and all the metal, and the pieces coming out like a messed-up drawer of silverware?”

He draws himself up with dignity: “A missing tooth isn’t a gap,” he imparts, offended. ***

* I hope the fact he’s currently dying from cancer alleviates some of my readers’ annoyance at his asinine, snide nature.

** No really. I am so sorry. He’s terrible.

*** My father did indeed stop being a jerk and come up with the idea to publish a call for a rebuttal or feedback, in case I don’t find someone to pen the pro-W piece this time around.

i’m proud of that old man

My father recently was published in our local paper regarding a conflict on the east side with one of our local industries. In addition to sending that letter, he sent a personal one to the paper’s editor, Mr. John Hughes. Here is his letter in its entirety:

Dear John,

I have been meaning to write a letter to you personally for a long time. This is not really a letter for publication in your paper, but you are free to do so if you choose.

I have been troubled by a couple of trends that I have noticed in your paper. First, I feel that your paper is losing its focus on just what is news and what is not. I fear you are becoming a “tattler “type magazine, what with your articles about celebrities in rehab or some such. The check stands at the market are full of articles about the deeds (or misdeeds) of the rich and famous. Personally I do not think that finding out some social lions are, after all, just like everyone else with faults or feet of clay is really newsworthy. I think these kind of stories just contribute to feelings of everyone is bad and things are going all to hell in general. Does the story of Paris Hilton getting a DUI really help your readers to discern what things they need to be concerned about? I doubt it very much. I think you should leave these kinds of stories for others to bandy about.

The second and more important issue to me at least concerns your paper’s stance on issues that are more relevant to those whom your paper reaches. I find it shocking that your paper takes no stance toward the situation in Iraq. Personally I feel it is one of the most immoral things ever but I am willing to hear other viewpoints. I have never seen your paper or you come out specifically with a view on the war. Why is that, John? Do you think the newspaper should not express a personal opinion about it? Pity. I think the newspaper has a social responsibility to the public to present articles which are germane to the community well being. I also think our situation in Iraq is very important to the well being of our community. An even more disturbing aspect of your silence about social issues and responsibilities lies in the field of politics, both national and local. I have yet to see any meaningful discussions on your part concerning the upcoming national election. Your paper seems to sit on the sidelines and wait for some candidate to make a gaffe, which then you report with chortles of glee as if you have reached the heart of the issue, be it health care or defense or whatever. This does the community no service. Pointing out the faults and missteps of the candidates does not make an informed electorate. This is even more disturbing when you do this on a local level. I am a strong believer in the theory of “think globally-act locally”. In this latest election you really dropped the ball. Rather than present an in-depth series on the issues of the candidates, you took a more superficial approach. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Hoquiam Mayor’s race. Right off, let me say that I voted for Jen Anderson but I do not have any deep seated hatred toward Jack Durney. Like many people in Hoquiam, I have a different view of what our priorities should be as far as directions the city should pursue. There is a classism at work here and your paper fails to see it. Why is it the paper has never taken a position concerning Ocean Protein and whether the east side citizens have a valid complaint when they say it is a nuisance? You should interview people like Tom Coyle. You would find him fair minded and informative and, most of all, concerned about quality of life issues in his city. You know that citizen involvement in civic affairs is at a dismal level. Voter turnouts are a major source of shame for a country that allows all people a right to speak out about their government. Yet when the election was over, your on-line paper showed a smiling Jack Durney, surrounded by supporters and gave the impression that all was well and those upstarts who had the temerity to challenge the status quo were put in their proper place. Don’t you find it at all significant that so many people voted against the incumbent? Not just in Hoquiam but other communities as well. Was it not only about 25% of the population that elected the victorious? Hardly a landslide. Jack should spend some time meeting with those who opposed him and really listen to their concerns. I think your paper should do the same. This Ocean Protein conflict is not over by any means. You would do well to go out into the public domain and talk with average citizens rather than sit sequestered in your Daily World offices and sharing your opinions among yourselves.

One final thing. This letter is not meant to bust your ass so much as to express my feelings about the value of a free press. I do enjoy many articles in your paper. I like your Q and A articles where you nutshell someone who has impact on the community and also I like some of your Perspectives articles. Also, John, for the most part I like it when you write an article on the opinion page. I see you as a thinking person and not a knee-jerk reactionary who spouts off wild and crazy ideas. I think the press has a social responsibility that is a few rungs higher up the ladder than a lot of businesses. Your job is to inform the public about the world around them so they can make good decisions about our country’s direction. This is not something that is the responsibility of a company like Wal-Mart say. I am merely asking you to concentrate harder on your civic duty. I would like it if we end up having more conversations about you, me and Grays Harbor. My e-mail address is: deafman01@comcast.net. My home phone is 532-7150. I would enjoy hearing from you anytime. Thank you for putting up with my simple desultory philippic.

David Fisher
Hoquiam

After publishing my father’s first letter, Mr. Hughes personally called my father to invite him on the Reader Advisory Board, a term that starts at the beginning of next year.

I can’t believe my dad wrote that many words without one of them being profane. Oh wait, he did say “hell” and “ass”. Good job.

"tell me little bird: is today the day?"

Today I read a bit of Miles Levin’s story (his blog is, in my opinion, worth registering at carepages.com and reading; after logging in do a search for “LevinStory”). I am sorry to have only heard about this young man on the day after he died. I am glad to have found his website and I wish I’d been reading earlier.

This entry struck me today, penned by Miles’ mother two weeks before his death:

I read an article once in Mothering Magazine many years ago when I was studying to be a mother. It made a huge impact on me, shaping my platform for mothering. It identified four key ingredients in an effective mother/child relationship [ … ] They are: PROTECTION; NOURISHMENT; STIMULATION; AND CHERISHMENT. I could write about each one more fully as I have meditated and reflected on each quality. Each, one no more than another, is essential – in equal measure – to the development of a child into his/her full potential. Each is a requirement of the parent, though some come more easily to each one of us, in order to provide the safety and encouragement, the roots and the wings, that allow the child to develop into a person of responsibility, extension, and self love.

No one has asked me what my view of parenting is, but I’m telling you. I hope that young parents who are reading this site will take to heart the critical role that parents play in raising children who are at once filled with self respect and respect for others: a tricky balance.

I read this while feeling deeply moved after having followed a few months of the successive entries of the mother, father, sister, and that of the brother / son / boy / man himself in this story. And I thought, Is that all? Almost laughing to myself with relief because I do these things, and I relish them, every day.

The thing is, I second-guess myself as a wife, mother, and person – every day. Each one of those identities (and many more: daughter, sister, American, friend, lover… the list is complex and varied) comes with it’s own pitfalls and successes – each self-noun I write here I have wrestled with in both public and private struggles. Motherhood is, however, very much with me since my children are at an age they cannot care for themselves or even be left unsupervised for any length of time. It is not only an identity it is my full-time job. This job is the cornerstone of our family right now.

Reading Nancy Levin’s words had a special meaning for me today. Lately I’ve been feeling so odd that most of my day is spent laundering, cleaning, cooking – Cooking! No one tells you that the more you bake bread from scratch and create home-cooked meals the faster these foods just disappear. There are no half-eaten casseroles in my fridge; food is rarely thrown out but eaten voraciously; I cook and it’s more more more cooking – washing hands, laying out clothes, brushing teeth, clipping nails, holding and cuddling and instructing and educating. I devote most of my day to those things and there are some imaginary voices (and some real) I hear who tell me these concerns are so small, so provincial. Where is my brain? Where is my proof of life? Where is my contribution to society? Why do I care about making pizza sauce from scratch? Why do I think so much about the clothes on my children’s bodies or the state of their bedrooms? Why do I have my hands in dough again and why are my successes getting the dutch oven going before our bike ride to the library?

But I also know there is nothing more important in life than relationships and kindness; nothing more important than striving to be a spiritual and loving person who gives and re-gives to those around me; to my family, to my friends, to the community, to the planet, to the world’s people. I know that if my last day on earth was spent baking bread, walking with my children to the hardware store, and talking with my husband on our bike ride together I would not regret this last day.

So today I am taking Nancy Levin’s words to heart today and remembering to protect, nourish, stimulate and cherish each of my children. I hope you can and will do the same for your loved ones in your life.

a brief and open letter to my loved friends

Kalaloch, Afternoon

My life kind of swallowed me up just now. I’d like to write a bit about the camping trip – a trip where you get your rain-and-pine-needle soaked stuff cleaned up by the end of the weekend, yay! A chance to see friends you hadn’t seen in months. A chance to learn what it’s like to wash your hair and underarms at the public spigot (cold!). Running full-clothed into the ocean to join Sara only to hear my children crying out at my un-Mama-like behavior, my oldest wading in after me with her mouth open in an alarmed square and wailing, sure I’m to drown.

I am penning a new zine. I’ll bet you are excited! No really, you are, perhaps you don’t know it. Donations are accepted for a subscription – but if you want one and can’t pay (or don’t want to), I’ll send it to you for free because I ruv roo!

And I’ve rediscovered an old album I had and I’m loving it dearly. One day I’ll have some sort of stereo system and it won’t sound so tinny as it does on my Mac.

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I’ve written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones

earning my way

News, news, news.

Last month I (in bullheaded fashion) decided I simply had to enter a SewUseful contest (sponsored by Etsy and Instructables). Part of the contest requirements was to put up a listing for the item along with an accompanying Instructable. OK, fine. Surprisingly, my “invention” (bike chaps) sold out in a few hours.

Sadly, on the last day of the contest I (and others) had mucho technical difficulties uploading image libraries and editing text. I almost gave up; my husband insisted I soldier on. Today they fixed the last of the bug and I uploaded the final pieces of my Instructable. I think I got one hand-clap so far so, if you view it and like it, comment on it. I think that involves you registering, which you likely don’t want to do, unless you’re some DIY dork that already is registered. Um, not that Instructable members are dorks. I mean, I’m one.

My other income this month were earned in zine form; my writing is featured in the new Aussie MixTape zine. Oooh! Oooh! They like me!

So yeah, this week I made like, $34.

why I feel so fiercely protective, sad, and angry when I see the fat woman in stretch pants buying the family-size Oreos

We have moved to a locale with specific health issues that become apparent almost the minute we slushed into our driveway. Parents seem as a whole less involved in providing their children with healthy food (my own recent example precipitated more comments from my readers than any blog entry in recent history). Diabetics shoot up insulin then consume soda and candy for dinner. Shoppers “save money” at Walmart but are forced to do so by driving motorized carts, their visible disability being obesity and no, not all of it is “glandular”. Naturally, Ralph and I are concerned with both the health and well-being of our community and the influences on our own family’s habits.

Compare this to the culture of the town we moved from – a populace that seemed more progressive and active about eating locally, organically, sustainably, macrobiotic(ally?), and responsibly. Along with the education, concerns, and passion came a fair bit of smugness, often bolstered by economic advantages that helped foster abilities and attitudes that the working poor simply don’t have the luxury of. I remember a comment by a parenting group peer – in a single-income lifestyle with an at-home parent, a comfortable income, living in a brand-spankin’-new house in a lovely neighborhood with two working cars – completely flummoxed at why “some people” (poor) would eat such processed and horrible-for-you foods. “I mean, it isn’t cheaper to eat that kind of food… apples are 39 cents a pound, potatoes are a couple bucks for five pounds…” I didn’t even know where to start with this comment but I knew it was unfair. Perhaps I should have at least pointed out that single-income families have one person at home who can peel and boil potatoes, and yes providing three healthy squares does take considerable more time, planning, and work than Kraft Mac ‘N’ Cheese does – or gee, what the fuck takes up half my life these days? I also remember feeling very sad as this person was reflecting an attitude many of us share; we who can and do stave off junk food and empty calories either silently or vocally judge those who have neither the education or ability to do so, carving ourselves off as separate / smarter / more moral than, well, the white-trash fatties.

Fortunately, this article (by Michael Pollan, author of the well-received book The Omnivore’s Dilemma) does a more elegant and helpful job approaching the subject*. I feel his explanations for how we really screw over the poor is ultimately undeveloped – mostly likely simply in the interests of brevity, since it’s already a lengthy article. One quote that summed up a bit for me and the responsibilities of people in my socio-economic slot:

“Yes, there are eaters who think it in their interest that food just be as cheap as possible, no matter how poor the quality. But there are many more who recognize the real cost of artificially cheap food — to their health, to the land, to the animals, to the public purse.”

Thank you, MK for the link.

* P.S. This peer was also incorrect: as we see in Mr. Pollan’s breakdown, calorie-for-calorie, it is cheaper to eat processed and unhealthy foods – not to mention often more convenient than fresh-prepared. Couple this with how overeating can be one form of “entertainment” most Americans can afford (as opposed to entertainments some Americans can afford, like oversea vacations or a boat or a weekend at a B&B) and the drug-like addiction and short-term soothing nature of corn syrup, saturated fats, and high-salt snack foods. Still. Michael Pollan is doubtless smarter and more well-researched than I and I encourage you to finish the article if you can; read his book(s) if you’re so inclined.

breaking my first rule of blogging, briefly

Today I discovered a sobering truth that only marginally relates to my life, but I’ll mention it anyway. You may not know there there a hefty amount of mommy and daddy bloggers – some of my readers perhaps know a few of the more infamous ones – who through ads on their site are getting paid to blog their family stuff (thereby earning the term “professional blogger”). Well, I was sort of aware of this, but apparently there are also a healthy amount of mommyblogger-haters who are simultaneouly blogging about the mommies and daddies. You know, criticizing these parents for exploiting their children shamelessly to make a few bucks (or a bonafide salary) with Google ads. And from my ten minutes checking it out these two factions seemed to be going back and forth, snarking at one another, some of them disallowing comments or deleting ones that don’t meet standards of nicety, many of them seeming to revel in the shit-slinging, padding their blogrolls, and collecting “fanship” of some sort. It’s a small but rather active faction of the Inter-Tron and the whole thing depresses me.

It has never seriously entered my mind to put ads on my site and make money. I could present the scorecard as to why this would be a bad idea for me (my writing = marginally good; my photoblogging equipment = nonexistant; my willingness to keep a cute gimmicked format = not there; my ability to sensationalize my life for profit = weak). The concept of earning money from my blog is only slightly tempting since I have a decent readership here. Or perhaps I should say, the number of people who read my blog is surprisingly high; and the actual people who take the time to talk to me are stellar. But the difference between a well-liked blog with a modest fan base and a money-making blog is a huge gap. Unless I posted pictures of my boobs or made up lies I’m not likely to pull in any decent capital (whoring my blog out has occurred to Ralph and I think he did the math – currently I’d earn something like $5 a month). My entries are enjoyed to the extent they are because I write marginally well and regularly post; even lately I’ve failed to keep my frequency up.* In short, my writings are gratis, and it turns out you get what you pay for.

And the bottom line: if I don’t try to actually make money off my kids by my sarcastic, rapier-like wit, I may just not get publicly hated. Maybe.

(As I typed this, my son was asking my husband for dinner. “Mama has a fresh pizza for us!” Ralph cheerily informs Nels. “You go cook!” the boy orders me, pushing me into the kitchen. Now, why is it that if my girlchild had asserted my social subjugation in this way I would have been less offended?)

* The top reason I don’t read many of my friends’ blogs – because I really, really desire my friends to keep one and keep them well – is the lack of posting frequency or regularity. Reason #2 more distantly follows: content is too poor (boring, navel-gazing, lots of webcam self-shots, bleh).

facelift for blog, maybe i’ll actually write in it?

OK, it’s been a while. But it’s time to blog.

What’s new? We’re liking the new, happy, spring-ish weather. Gardening and stuff. Sophie is growing her own strawberry plants which she faithfully waters, talks about, and expounds on to any stranger who will (or won’t) listen. Sophie turned three last week (*and* weaned *and* potty-trained). We’re having a little get-together for her at Chetzemoka park.

We also just put out a new Breeder in Feb. We have enough content for a March issue which should follow soon. This latest issue was featured in the latest Vigilance, a local indie rag with a much larger distribution than our pathetic readership (5,000 to our 200). Will fortune and fame find Kelly and Amber in their most worthy enterprise? It remains to be seen, dear reader.

My good friend Jodi should be here within a half hour! I am so excited. She and her 2 year old daughter Cyan are staying for about a week.