Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Desert and Its Infinite Dryness

One recent Saturday morning I was filling the coffeepot with water in order to make a pot of coffee when I noticed a distinct stream of water going down the drain. I checked, and sure enough, all the water coming from the tap was going into the coffeepot. The problem could only be a hole in the coffeepot. Indeed, the damn thing was broken.

Very soon after that I visited Cuisinart's' website and ordered a new coffeepot, and threw in some extra water filters. I hadn't planned on buying replacement water filters for my coffeepot, but I can be an impulsive shopper when it comes to the quality of my coffee's water. Apparently. A few days later I received confirmation that my new, $20 replacement coffeepot was in the mail.

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that if your coffeepot breaks in the first year of ownership, the company ought to give you one replacement pot for free. We've had this coffeepot for a year and a half. (Did I say first year of ownership? I meant first year and a half.) I didn't break it. I have near the same amount of reverence for that appliance one should reserve for a holy relic. I don't know how it got the crack which led to the gaping hole.

We've been living in the high desert now for two months. Could it be the dry, high desert air that caused the silica particles to separate, thus creating enough space for a crack to form?


Since the Desert Broke My Coffeepot incident, I've been driving to a local shop in town every morning for my cup of coffee. It's a drive thru, non-national chain located near my house. I need that warm elixir, not so much for the caffeine as for the heat.

(Today's high: 34 degrees! Humidity: - 4 million percent!)

I got to thinking that maybe I am finding my place in this town after all. Today being the 7th or so daily trip, the baristas remembered my drink order: 20 oz. coffee with two sugars. I can't help but wonder if it's lame to think that because of this, they are my friends? They must remember my order because I'm special and they like me, right??? Sure.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Defining One's Self

A few weeks ago we had our first visitors to our new house. My husband's youngest brother came to see us and brought two of his (low-20's aged) friends. He and my husband planned to go skiing that weekend, including a lesson for OC. I was going to watch her get her lesson, then knit inside the lodge while drinking hot chocolate.

His friends were very friendly and talkative, and I was enjoying the company. That is, until I was asked an innocent question that I still don't know how to answer.

We were getting to know each other, and there was the inevitable 'What do you do' line of questioning. We spent some time talking about their jobs while I cringed, knowing it was going to be my turn soon. And before I was ready, it was my turn.

"So what do you do?" The question was directed to me.

I thought to myself, Everything! Nothing interesting! All kinds of things! How much time do you have?

I could've launched into a litany of things that define my day: I raise a child by myself during the day five (sometimes six) days a week while my husband works long hours to get his new office off the ground; I spend an hour or two per day teaching her lessons to augment her chaotic classroom environment; I keep everybody fed including a lunch ready for my husband every morning, much like a proper 50's housewife; I keep the house clean (sort of); I unpack the boxes and put things away nearly all by myself; I'm lonely and haven't befriended another mom yet; and at the end of nearly every day, I drink, much like a proper housewife.

That would've been boring, and a conversation-killer. Since I rarely have conversations with adults these days, I didn't want to put this one to an early death. I gave it some thought, going over the complicated feelings I have over defining myself in a different way, and then said, "I stay at home with OC."

It was simple, straightforward, and not laced with any traces of shame or frustration. Because I'm a grownup.

"Oh," she said. "So you're just a mom."

Now, let me say in her defense that she didn't mean anything by it. I could tell by her tone that she wasn't being snotty or rude, she was being young. I could tell that difference existed when she said that, and believe me, I wouldn't defend anyone who said something like that unless the comment truly was devoid of malicious intent.

Nevertheless, her comment sliced deeply inside of me and hit a sore spot. I wanted to slap her but then what would have been the point? I am 'just a mom.' I 'just' stay at home and raise my daughter. I think we can dispose of the word, 'just', but other than that she is right. Except for that word 'just', I realize I shouldn't be offended by it.

I am a mom. I take care of another human being. I'm busy every day. I represent one side of a division of labor in this house which, if didn't get done, my husband would be over his eyeballs and couldn't function what with having to be up so late doing what I do every day. What I do is important, if uninteresting in conversation. I know that.

I do feel pride over my daughter and what I do for her. It goes without saying. What I find hard is to find it admirable to do something that anyone else can do. Things like, cook and clean and unpack boxes. Those are not things that are special. And lots of people have children. There are millions of moms in the world. I can see why it's easy to dismiss with the word 'just'.

To be honest, I am a little jealous of my husband. He goes to work (with his lunch already packed!), talks to adults, and works at things he likes to do. Not everyone can do his job, or knows the technicalities of it. He has things to add to conversations with persons he just meets, has a sense of satisfaction - and a paycheck - at the end of the day. He has a place to go every day.

I don't get a paycheck for what I do. I don't use any of the technical skills I used to when I was employed. The truth is, I miss it. I miss the work, being in the loop of new technology and learning things from coworkers. At the same time, I'm grateful for the chance to be at home with OC. I've missed so much time with her already.

While I was working, my daughter was in daycare. I am not giving an opinion on daycare in general. That is a boring debate. What I want to say is that my experience in putting my child in daycare as an infant was wrenching. I felt bad for her spending so much time in daycare. She needed me, and I missed her. I loved my job, but at the time I hated that it was at the expense of my daughter in daycare all day long. Most of my friends who had kids had unique structure to their schedules in order to either have their kids stay with relatives, or to stay in daycare a shorter time during each day. I didn't have that. Keeping my job allowed me to move on with my life and eventually got us here, all of which is a story for another day.

Now I'm married and I stay home and we live here. Why the hell aren't I joyous and over the moon about all this time with my daughter???

Well, for one thing, I'm a human, multi-dimensional being. For another, life is complicated, and that's the way it is. Society is another. Being at home with nowhere to go and no place to be is another. Now living in a new place and not having friends is difficult. The reasons are many. This is where I am with it right now.

My husband doesn't understand why it was a hard transition to stay at home because he looks at all the time I spent commuting and all the effort in order to get to work, that it got better as soon as I stayed home. From his point of view, it got a lot easier for me. It did, but all the other emotions can't be quantified like feeling good about a graphic design job well done, interaction with colleagues, things like that.

It's okay that he doesn't understand completely, he didn't go through it. He respects my feelings and that's enough. He supports me in finding what I need to do for myself now. After I told him how I felt he said we should set money aside to buy the equipment necessary to do design work from home. Or, I could go back to school for a four-year degree. Or, whatever. I appreciate that support.

I don't know what I'll do, but I have to keep moving forward. I enjoy volunteering at OC's school once a week. I may do SMART and tutoring. I may go back to college when she's in First Grade. I may homeschool her. I have no idea about that yet.

What I do know is that I won't let someone else define me.

Finally, I will find a good reply to that comment if I ever encounter it again. So far I've got "shut up, beyotch" and "it takes one to know one" but I feel that something more witty - and that makes sense - might be in order.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Television For Medicinal Purposes

We are attending a funeral for OH's grandmother tomorrow. She had a long life, living until 89. The last time we visited her was Labor Day weekend. It was hard to get over to the south coast where she lived. OH is having a really hard time with it. He wanted to visit her again, knowing we didn't have forever to be able to do so.

It's hard to lose someone you love. One of the things that happens is it reminds you of all the other people you've lost, and as one gets older, that list starts to add up.

How about a happy subject? I know I could use one. Okay, here's one: I hit gold at the library, if by gold I mean the kind of gold that drives you batty after awhile. I was in the children's dvd section where I found..... a copy of Schoolhouse Rock! It contains every song ever created in a special, 30th anniversary release of this magical show of my childhood. OC loves it.

I wasn't allowed to watch television before I was four years old for religious reasons. That reason being, television was worldly and therefore "of the devil". My mom came to her senses when I was four and a half and realized she couldn't live like that anymore. She cut her hair - and mine - and threw on some pants and some makeup, left her entire family and everyone she had ever known in the super-rigid, non-denominational Christian group (which she refers to as 'the cult' because of the many similarities to a cult represented in this group) in which she was raised and completely sheltered. She and was shunned by them all, except for the harsh rebukes, but we just laughed and went on painting our toenails with the devil's nailpolish and listened to Anne Murray on the devil's machine - the eight-track player - and then.....I discovered the wonder and glory of television and therein, Schoolhouse Rock.

And it was good.

I may or may not be going to hell for those things, but if I do at least I can sing some pretty catchy tunes with all my time down there. After some time spent in hell singing "Electricity" or something, I imagine I'll have to go beat up on some really bad people, like the pedophiles, because the songs are catchy but also - after numerous listens - pretty damn annoying.

And that is my happy thought for today. Wait, was that happy??? Basically. Yes. Childhood songs are good in small doses, much like alcohol. And Britney Spears.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Day I Met the Granny From Alabammy

A pinnacle of boredom was reached with the other day's post. I'm in a slump - a funk, a rut - if you will.

Saturday was a warm day, and after a few errands OC and I spent some time at a nearby park. Right off the bat she met a 5-year old girl and they began to play together. The girl was there with her grandmother, who was from Alabama. The grandma has lived here in Central Oregon for a year, and was glad to live closer to her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. In fact, she lived within walking distance to the park the kids currently played. We got to talking - she did most of the talking - and she told me all about her life.

A summary:

She is one of eight kids, grew up near Birmingham, has one child, has one grandchild, likes to cook, lived here a year, thinks people waste too much and aren't happy with what they've got. Those are only the highlights. She spent most of the time telling me all kinds of things. In that time, she shared with me a recipe she made up. I will share it with you. You don't need paper for this, trust me:

Put chips in an oven dish. Add a layer of chili. Add a layer of cheese. Another layer of chili. Another layer of cheese. Now bake until warm and melty. Yum, greasy!

I was a listening board for her life story. I wanted to talk, too, but she wasn't all that interested in following up on what I did say. Maybe it's a southern etiquette thing or an age thing, who knows. Maybe if I took her up on her offer to get together again, she'd ask me about my life, too. I'm feeling sorry for myself. Boo hoo, I'm lonely. Blah.

I haven't sat down with a friend over a coffee or anything else for over six weeks. I've talked with friends and family on the phone, and we've emailed, but no face to face meetings in that time.

I've met a few people here, but I haven't met a woman my age with whom I have things in common. I've met a couple of neighbors and the affectionately aforementioned Alabammy Granny, all of whom were warm and welcoming, suggesting future meetings. I feel reluctant to take them up because they happen to be older than I.

I don't want to dwell too much on the age thing. It sounds like it's a problem, and it's really not. My main complaint is that I haven't found someone who knows what I'm going through, who is in the same general place in life as myself. Anyone could understand me and be a friend, no matter what age. It's that I am looking for the companionship in the person with whom I feel a connection.

And then I wonder, why do I want that, a relationship with someone like myself? That would mean I'm looking for a whiny 33-year old, frustrated mommy and wife who feels very out of place here in this new place that everyone professes to love?

Don't I sound appealing? Who wouldn't want to be friends with me? I'm lucky to meet people here, what space do I have to complain about the people I do meet? And anyway, isn't this experience of living in a new place supposed to work better if I let go, and go with it? If I embrace whatever comes my way with an openness that allows me to find out what is in store for me, rather than being suspicious of the package?


Yes, that is the point. I get it.

In an unrelated note, this blogger made me laugh out loud. Warning: contains profanity. Or should I say: Hallelujah! Contains profanity! 'Cause I love some good old fashioned cuss words. (No one says "cuss" anymore, why is that?)

Here's what was so dang funny:

"...the blogosphere (which I can generally count on for celebrating half-assedness and slapdash, madcap, fun) is suddenly all about the Writing, for Christ’s sake, and how we can improve ours. Sweet Lord, it ain’t an MFA program yet, is it? Because, you know, I wouldn't get into a decent one, which is why I'm getting the longer, drier,, not the Always Longs with Wings, or whatever the fuck those pads are that poke you gently in the asshole. I am talking about the Ph.D., motherfucker..."

Ahhhhh. That was delightful. Just what I needed to get me out of today's funk.

It's a beautiful, sunny Sunday. OC and I need to get outside and do.....something.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What is the Meaning of This

I grew up in a town about 45 minutes from Portland; population 640. We lived on 11 acres with a great view across a valley. There was a great big deck off the front of the house to enjoy the view. There was a barn. For the bulk of when I lived there we had cats. There was always an indoor Persian or two, and outdoors were stray cats we fed and loved. We had a lot of strays over the years. The country was a popular place for heartless people to dump litters of puppies or kittens by the side of the road to magically disappear from their lives. We brought many of them home, but I can still remember the litter of puppies we saw at the river who had been drowned. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen. I think I was 10. The strays we brought home we had spayed or neutered, and it wasn't like we had a money tree in the back yard.

Before my parents got married, my dad and my future siblings had some chickens and rabbits, but the barn caught on fire. It didn't burn down, but the animals, tragically, died and were not replaced. I had a horse for about six months when I was in fifth grade. It turned out I was too young and wimpy to be able to clean out the stall well, and it had to be trained to be able to ride it, so the horse was sold to the neighbors who had horses. We had a dog for awhile that we adopted from someone. I can't remember what happened to him. Later, after all the kids were out of the house, my parents kept Cashmere Goats and various types of chickens.

We didn't use all the acreage for animals or farming. It was fenced, and we got our firewood from the trees that grew plentifully. There were tall fir trees, oak trees, madrones, and maples. My mom spent years landscaping around the house with native plants, advancing farther and farther up the hill that rose behind the house. Eventually they put a bench up there so you could sit and enjoy an even better view.

My dad retired in 1998 and began keeping bees. He planted clover in the garden area in front of the house, and lavender in a long strip along the driveway for forage for the bees, his "girls".

In December 2005 the Pacific Northwest experienced a major windstorm. It knocked down hundreds of trees and powerlines, some of those fell across houses and cars and destroyed them. The damage was extensive across a wide area, which included the city of Portland, but also places away from the city in a swath of 150 miles or more. My parents were afraid of the trees falling down on the house, since there were trees right outside, a few dozen feet away.

None fell on the house that year, although many trees did fall and fell close enough to scare anyone. That spring, my parents hired people to log the trees that fell; those that were still standing were limbed, and they assessed/removed any others that posed a hazard. After that, they felt much better about the threat of dying by way of falling tree.

Life rolled along until my brother died in 2002, after that we all sort of floated in our own strange space reeling from the loss. When dad died in 2003, it was another shockwave and none of us knew how we'd get through it. It hurt so badly, not only because they were both young and healthy, but because it was the same damn disease.

Unfair. Unfair. Unfair. But anyway.

My mom moved away and sold the house in 2004, not wanting to stay there alone and not knowing what to do.

Last month, I found out that a tree had fallen across the house and destroyed it. No one was hurt. The house is gone. Just like that.

I grew up there, my dad built the deck around the house, my mom landscaped; memories were made there. My brother died there. My daughter played there. Birthday parties; Christmas tree in the window; my dad in the kitchen cooking; my mom baking pies; the lifesize poster of the Portland Trailblazers my brother had in his room; the waterbed my sister had that practically took up the whole room; the way my sister and I used to fight over who got to sleep in the top bunk by going to bed WAY early at night and claiming it; the long driveway we used to walk up after school; my daughter licking her first beater of whipped cream at Thanksgiving; my sisters, brother, uncles, aunts, nieces visiting...all those memories, including people not alive anymore.

I know it's weird but it feels like losing a family member all over again. The house had been sold, we could never go back and live there again and I had accepted that (eventually). But now, it's completely gone forever and ever. I have to get used to that idea, again.

The people are what is important in life, but the setting where all of those things happened meant something, too.

Life keeps rolling on, whether we're ready for it or not. It's better that way. That doesn't mean this is easy to accept. This is hard - for now - until it gets easier.

It will get easier.

Monday, February 12, 2007

RMLS is Magical

We may have just sold our house.

It listed last Friday. The first offer came on Saturday when our agent was outside about to plant flowers. Have I mentioned yet how much I love our agent? She's energetic. The offer came from another real estate agent interested in the house for herself. Her offer was for full price, but she wanted the armoire in the bathroom and she wanted us to have a septic inspection. The armoire is not for sale, and our realtor said that usually the buyer pays for septic inspection. For an agent to ask for something that unusual was irritating. It was a moot point because her offer was misdated and actually expired before we received it.

The second party offered cash and a nearer closing date than the first offer. No unusual demands, as of yet. There was a third party walking through the house on Sunday afternoon.

This, in a slow real estate market!

We accepted the second offer late Sunday. Our agent hadn't had time to distribute fliers, or host a catered broker tour scheduled for tomorrow. She barely had the sign in the ground before people came by. The only thing we'd done was list it on and she sent an email out to a list of brokers.

There may be issues with a home inspection, but, whatever. We'll cross that bridge, blah blah blah. Selling the house now is much better than having it sit on the market for months while we continue to pay two mortgages (ouch!) and wait to shop for a new dining room table.

With the house-sale proceeds, our dining room "table" will go bye-bye. It's served it's purpose, but we need real furniture. I'm a grown-up and I'm ready to have grown-up furniture now.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Short Break

We're going to spend a week at the beach. I'm not taking the laptop.

I've got a lot to think about, the most important being OC's school situation. I'm really looking forward to a break from the cleaning, putting away, and sorting......also to feel energized to get more done when we get back.

I'd like to post pictures when we get back, but I can't find my camera. It was here a couple of days ago!