A Story: In Which I am Challenged by the Land of my Fathers and Emerge Victoriously

Where I grew up, it is very wet. It is so wet that a typical week in November looks like this:

It is so wet that the fairway on the golf course moves like the surface of a water bed. It is so wet that people sit in bathtubs filled with air just for the variety. But this November, it has not been wet. The weather this month has looked mostly like this:

Until this past week. Finally, finally, it started to rain good and proper, a genuine Northwestern soaker.

Now, I've already established that my years away from home has degraded my immunity to the rain... as in, when I go stand in it nowadays, I clutch myself tightly, look like a bedraggled cat, and whine, "This is weh-he-he-het!" When I make fun of eave-hugging, umbrella-loving, dry boned non-Northwestern pansies, I can now point at myself and say "Ha!" And then I say, "Huh?" and then I go run in the corner and weep.

But not this week. No. The rain, knowing me well, kicked back and began working as lazily as rain can work. The day outside could be blue-skied and sunny, each dew drop a prism of rainbows beckoning me out to frolic - or, in this case, hang my Christmas lights - and as I leashed up the dog and pulled my galoshes on, it would invariably happen. There I would sit, one foot shoed and the other socked, and suddenly the rain would start hamming down on the roof. Sometimes I would try to wait it out, but finally I would pull off my one galosh, curl back into a blanket, and then, of course, then the rain would stop and the sun would shine and the birds would burst out of the bushes like a feathery fireworks display. The rain was doing as little work as possible to keep me inside.

Finally one day I took a stand. I was sitting with my one shoe on, and the rain had just began hammering the roof, but did I let it stop me? Ho-ho! Not this time, you rain, you cloud! You damp enslaver! I pulled on sweatshirt, raincoat, leather hat, work gloves, sunglasses, safety glasses, and all other manner of apparel and leapt into the front yard with my Christmas lights in one hand and my slingshot in the other, ready to do battle.

I should explain, hanging the lights in my yard, with its tangle of tall alder and maple trees, is really more a matter of trying to figure out how to get them up so high. The traditional method was throwing a tennis ball attached to a string, but this year I thought I would get serious with a slingshot and a 2lbs lead weight.

So there I stood against the elements, facing straight into the sky and the pouring rain, shooting my slingshot, and what should happen? Naturally, the drizzle turned into a torrent of apocalyptic proportions, while simultaneously the sun burst through the one hole in the clouds, exactly where I was trying to gaze into the tree branches.

The hat came off. The glasses came off. Off went the gloves, the rain jacket, as each wet layer hampered me more and more and I untangled string for the 500th time, my adrenaline surging. I might have also been laughing maniacally, I'm not sure. "Bring it on! Bring it on!" I cried to the forces of nature. "I'm an Oregonian! Bwa-ha!"

At last, defeated, the rain let up and slid away over the horizon in a dark gloom, thinking perhaps to dampen some inlanders. I had won the day. I was wet and cold and tangled in a spool of cotton string, but I had won.

And so I went inside and had some hot chocolate.

A Thanksgiving Buffet of Posts

I have been having many random thoughts, visits by late-night vignettes, which in the spirit of the holiday I thought I would collect into one multitudinous feast. And so...

Adventures in Cooking!! After all this time, I finally learned how to cook tempeh, which mostly involved simply finding a place nearby that sells it. Actually cooking it is easier than boiling ramen, if that's possible. However, in my fridge my hazelnut syrup (for coffee) is stored right next to my soy sauce. The two bottles look remarkably similar. Having already established that dumping soy sauce on tempeh was a good and honorable thing to do, one day as I was cooking I grabbed the bottle, turned it over the tempeh, and lo - the liquid came out clear. Brown sugar works with chicken, and honey works on potatoes, but hazelnut syrup does not, does not, work on tempeh.

I am currently reading the Bible through from cover to cover, my first concrete linear reading (having a good bookmark helps), although I'm reasonably sure that I've already read all of it in bits and pieces throughout my life. I'm in Psalms, and yes - I'm proud to say that I made it through every word of Leviticus and the long, mind numbing genealogies. Strangely, my biggest struggle was with Job, but only because I've read it so frequently that my mind was spacing out as I went over it again. It doesn't help that I read right before I go to sleep which, while it puts the holy words into my subconscious, also typically turns the last few verses of the night into a hazy slush. But my nightstand lamp went out a few days ago, and I have repeatedly forgotten to replace the bulb. The other night I reached for my Bible, then realized I had no way to read it. Another distraction attempt by the Devil, I mused to myself, lying there in the dark. "The Devil Blew Out My Bulb" would be a great title for a book, though definitely not an autobiography.

The other day I was thinking about manatees and African politics. It occurred to me that most nations form around the ethnic groups they contain - the Vietnamese are a distinct people, the Koreans are a distinct people, etc. The only place this doesn't hold up is the Americas, where the original ethnic groups have been smeared out of prominence, and Africa, which has distinct peoples and country borders that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, the continent having been carved up post-WWII by, I picture, a bunch of mustachioed Europeans in smoking jackets drawing random lines on a big map between glasses of sherry. Now the countries cruise along on autopilot, the status quo too strong to buck. Imagine if everyone just shrugged off convention and redrew the borders to make some sort of sense, or even bolder, if the continent rejected the idea of nations and existed in a tribal state, as in the days of old. It could never happen; someone would start grandstanding for power or money, and there'd be fights and micro-dictators and blood feuds all over the place, the strongest take all. People are so ostentatious. This wouldn't happen if we were manatees. Manatees are always relaxed, never flustered, never irate. They will not even raise a flipper to defend their own young. Manatees would never try to make a power grab. Their motto is eternally "Whatever." We should try to be just a tiny little bit more like manatees, with care.

Today I walked past a log on the beach, a chunk of wood bleached and broken by the jetty waves. On a whim, I counted the rings - 327. I placed my finger on the spot where the tree had been a sapling circa 1680, thinking about what it must have been like. I touched where the first white men came to the coast, the early 1800's. I covered the last part with my hand, the twentieth century, and the part that included me was hardly as wide as my fingernail. It was a clean cut, a tree that had probably been logged. Most of our Oregon forests are in a ~50 year rotation, no more 300 yr trees for the foreseeable future. It felt like such a special piece of wood, but I had to leave it behind to decay.

Maybe this will be the year that I seek out the legendary "Tofurky." Like chai and hazelnuts, it's an Oregon speciality!

Happy Thanksgiving! God bless all you happy readers!

Raccoons on the Roof

I have been sitting very quietly
Listening to the noises outside

The wind is blowing
But it's not the tap of tree branches
There are raccoons running across my roof.

I look up and follow the sound
Tracing their path on the ceiling
They run with purpose
They are charging down the shingles

The footsteps stop above the window
And I half expect them to come swinging through the glass
SWAT team style
I'm not sure what they would want
Maybe dried apples, or pickles, or chocolate?

They come every night
When the clock has three digits
The pond fish live in constant fear
Of snatching claws in the water

There are raccoons on the roof
And the dog cocks his head
He is not sure how best to defend the house

I have been sitting very quietly
But my imagination is running across the roof

Here's My Soul, Cheap as Free!

Ugh. I just filled out another job application to, you know, stay in the game. Even if it's half-hearted, it helps me rub off the rust. And I feel like such a resume whore now, like I'm standing on a street corner saying, "Hey big boy, come check this out!"

Blah blah blah, look at me and all my skillz, I am so teh bomb. This whole cover letter/resume system we've set up is utter crap. Am I right? (I hear the voice of Turk from Scrubs saying, "Hells yeah!" Uh-hmm.)

Truly, I am an artist at heart. We artists don't report to anyone and we don't keep hours. And we also don't get paid. Being of the artistic ilk is a poor endeavour, sadly.

Surprising Alice

All right, you guys, I have a challenge for you. My good friend Alice over at Backstory has written a wonderfully humorous and insightful story of her childhood Barbie doll that I love every time I read.

If you get the chance, go check it out and drop her a comment. She will be amazed if many random people start to comment on her blog. It is my goal to amaze her.


The Shout it Out! Project

I can't decide if this idea is brilliant or terrible, but it'd make a great basis for a thesis paper...

I was over at deviantART surfing for artistic inspiration (and finding it, and wondering why I don't draw every minute of my waking life) when I came across this, a project called Shout it Out!

It's all about writing down on paper the things you don't usually say about yourself - the good, the bad, the quirky - the things that you keep hidden for fear that people will judge you poorly, look at you differently, or ignore what you have to say. It's the chance to shout out who you are as a person, proudly and without fear. Because it's a deviantART project, and because deviantART is geared towards artists, the Shouts are all heavily influenced with each person's own artistic style.

The artist who started it says this:

"Someone told me once, that she believed we make life hard for ourselves by keeping things bottled up inside. Whether it be due to shame, embarrassment, fear, pride or some other emotion we don't share the things that are on our hearts like we should. We wallow in them and never realize that everyone else feels the same way. Our conflicts, our dreams, and the things that make us who we are should be free to be spoken out loud."

When I first found out about this, I loved it. It seems like much of the conflict we have as people stems from a lack of understanding, the not wanting/not trying to get to know each other for who we really are. The more you know a person, I am convinced, the more you will be sympathetic to their point of view, even if you don't agree with it. You will be more likely to compromise, or at least stand your ground with kindness, less likely to hate. I believe that communication without competitiveness is a powerful tool. Knowledge to understanding, understanding to love. It was one of my reasons for beginning to blog, and I wrote about it in my first post.

But as I read through some individual Shouts, I began to have doubts. Many of the artists on this site are teens and college age, lots of angst and emo, and no shortage of frustrated sexuality. People seem drawn to revealing their brokenness, their struggles with depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. There were too many of these in the few samples I read, and I wondered, is it more common to find these dark thoughts in artists? Is it because of their age? Is the next generation struggling more than my own?

Other Shouts were bursting with angry thoughts. The freedom opened floodgates for the type of hate and stereotyping normally held back by our PC culture. One person admitted to being fascinated with Nazism. Another mentioned that they partly enjoyed causing people pain. Reading through these made me increasingly gloomy. True glimpses into the thoughts of others, and yet so much darkness to be seen, so much anger.

And so I wonder... is the Shout it Out! project a good thing? Does revealing yourself free you, or does it make you turn your focus inward too much? If your hidden thoughts include hate, is there anything to be gained by revealing them to people who do not know you, who never will? At that point, the thought becomes stronger than the invisible internet person, and my idea of knowledge leading to love requires a living, breathing person. A person can change, can be reasoned with, but an isolated thought is immutable. It can be ignored or rejected but never killed, and in repetition without argument only gains strength.

Which leads me to think that Shouting it Out best serves a purpose only among people who know you, a tool to help people better understand you. But if you knew who was to see it, would you be honest? Would you expose your deepest self? Wouldn't you still hold back, defeating the whole point?

I'm torn. I can't decide. If you guys have any thoughts, please weigh in.

A Pumpkin Carvin' Fool am I

Pumpkins a'plenty, here they are, proof that my last few days before Halloween were full of carving craziness.

A dove and cornucopia.

A bull rider and a knight on horseback. Aren't carving kits fun? I used patterns for everything this year except for my face pumpkins and the big "Welcome 2 Trunk 'n' Treat" carving, a pumpkin that made the front page of the local paper!

Here's my personal favorite - George Washington praying at Valley Forge.

It was fun looking for ideas appropriate to put in front of the church. I ruled out all the blood sucking scary ghost zombie murderer patterns, plus all of the celebrities. Toyed with the idea of something patriotic, but finally decided that Halloween + political symbols + church had potential to be misconstrued on oh-so many levels.

Here's one of the Disco Pumpkins, white pumpkins filled with changing multi-colored lights. I Never did get a very good picture...hmm...maybe I should try again?

Here are the two Disco Pumpkins in daylight, looking mighty fine.

One nice thing about so many gutted pumpkins - endless supply of roasted seeds. Well, not endless, but the entire family's been devouring them since All Hallow's and we're still not making much of a mark. And right now I have a loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven, and pumpkin soup in the fridge, and we had pumpkin in the stir fry at lunch... You can never have too much pumpkin in life, says I.

Today's pumpkin bread nearly stopped at the eggs/sugar/butter stage. Such a delicious concoction, why bother going on?

Aaa...! I am the Ghost of Rotting Pumpkins, here to tell you to not to wait until the last minute to carve next year....aaaaaaaaaaaah!


Having an active imagination does not help during a job hunt. I'm not actually job hunting, I'm vocation/career/purpose hunting, but the first step of both boils down to the same thing. The problem with an active imagination is that as soon as I see a promising opportunity, I imagine myself working it, imagine myself living in that community, commuting (if necessary), imagine what my living space would look like... in short, I imagine everything so far in advance that I feel like I've actually been there, done that, so what's the point? There's a fine line, I guess, between realistic expectations and a fore-lived experience.

One thing frustrates me, as I find myself increasingly mired: It seems the world has so much support to offer young high school and college students when it comes to career advice, but once you graduate - bam! You're on your own. If you don't get it figured out in a hurry, your options are slim. Ah, it kind of makes me miss those days of college coddling - (how I hated them then!)

Pity they never taught Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps in college.

Aunt Me

Big news!!

Here's my new little (>5 lbs) niece - Penelope!

I guess I'm still stunned. She was born a week ago and it's taken me this long to post anything. She was a month early, that's my excuse. I hadn't wired my brain to think "baby" yet.

Now, how does one go about being an official aunt?

Halloween Hangover

Parties are murder on a perfectionist. The last few days have kept me so busy preparing for my church's "Trunk 'n' Treat" party that I nearly imploded, having lain starkly awake in bed each night thinking about what I had left to do, hunching over pumpkins for hours on end, and mostly forgetting about food yesterday except for the occasional piece of candy I bumped into. I woke up this morning aching all over on an adrenaline withdrawal, the taste of Butterfingers still lingering in my mouth.


Last Saturday me and the fam visited a corn maze and pumpkin patch over in the valley for some Genuine Family Fun. After determining that the dog could not, in fact, guide us through the maze, (he kept attempting to lead us into the thick of the stalks), we loaded up the back of the car with many, many pumpkins, some of which later turned out to be mischievously rotting beneath their lovely skin. My plan for the pumpkins was to carve them all and line the walkway to the church, just like swp and I did a few years back at the ol' Gould Farm. Wasn't that fun? I still remember turkey parts floating in jars in the haunted house, and roaming madly through the dark woods. But I digress.

It turns out that carving 14 pumpkins in one's mind is much easier than carving 14 pumpkins with one's hands. By the end of the World Series (why must you suck, Rockies...why?!?) I had hollowed them all out, and then began the obsessive actual carving, in which I somehow gravitated to all of the most complicated patterns I could find - can we say "George Washington Praying at Valley Forge?" Oh yes. It's a lucky thing that the carving kit included two saws, because the first one bit it halfway through my flurry, while working on a rodeo rider at 4:30 in the morning, I think. Cheap Chinese piece o' crap.

Ah, but it was great fun. The idea of the Trunk 'n' Treat is for the people of the church to park their cars in a row and hand out candy from their trunks. Inside, parents can sit down for a while and get cookies and a hot cup of something (not the "something" that some might have been longing for, though, it being a church event and all). It's a safe place for the kids to come to, easy for moms with strollers, and lets folks in the community take a look at our church - building and people - in a non-imposing way.

And man, did they come! Our town only has 5000 people, and over the course of an hour we saw nearly 400 kids. (It felt like they were all their simultaneously, but then, I was a bit frazzled.) I decorated one of our cars with a gigantic spiderweb and child-eating spider (so I said) that kids had to reach underneath to get their goodies. Our other car was a bit more harvest themed, with a gigantic Cinderella pumpkin and two "Spooky" pumpkins, all-white pumpkins that I carved with spots and stripes and lit from the inside with changing multi-colored lights. They were my disco pumpkins. (W, hooray for our trip to the island!) That car was playing some nice Gregorian chant in the background, and one of the kids leaned in and shouted, "Halo 3!" I feel old.

Last night I learned a valuable lesson - If you volunteer to take over a fishing pond, you will never, never be able to escape. Every time I thought I could make a run for it, another clothespin tied to string would come launching over the sheet. (I ended up putting on my unicorn mask just for eye protection.) I quickly abandoned my instructions, "Give two tugs and throw the fish over," to adopt a more realistic fishing situation where I tugged and fought and made the fish leap a few times before finally chucking it over the edge. I was preparing kids for reality. (They needed it. One kid said, "Mommy! The fish won't let go!" Evil laughter.) Finally I ran out of fish and rose up out of the "pond" saying, "Go away you dumb kids! You bother me!" ( More or less.) Luckily, there was another fishing pond outside, so I was able to redirect the rabid candy-buzzed crowd safely away.

The whole thing could best be described as well-mannered absolute chaos, and by the end of the night I was saying, "AaaaaAAAA....Freak OUT!" But it was a satisfying feeling, sort of like finishing a marathon, and I survived with 14 pumpkins to take home and relight on the front porch, plus a very cute giant fake spider.

Most common costume of the night - the white mask thing from "Scream."
Best costume - a little cowgirl with a big inflatable horse in front of her. Her legs made up the back legs of the horse, so it looked like she was riding it.
Scariest costume - a teenage boy in a dress. I'm assuming it was a costume.
Best adult costume - goes to my mom, who made a very convincing baby.

Today may be All Saint's Day, but it's felt a bit more like Day of the Living Dead. My mind says wee! but my body is going eeeh? One of these years I'm going to start thinking about Halloween preparations before October 26...