Sunday, December 30, 2007


So the black-capped chickadee is my first entry in my new bird list. I got a bird book for Christmas, so I am going to try to write down the birds that I actually watch and identify.

Yesterday we were hiking at Tryon Creek State Park. Fiona was telling stories, so we didn't see very many critters, but we walked around a corner and came into an open spot just chipping and swarming with tiny little chickadees. They looked like little black-dipped, winged thumbs moving around. They were so cute!

We saw a bunch of robins, too, but I had to look up the chickadees, so I'm counting them as my "first bird."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Grr thoughts

The phone company is my grr thought of the day. Why is it that their records show that I made a payment but they can't apply it to my account until a special team investigates the transaction? And why did I have to call two times about this?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I'm having a moody day. I got a fundraising letter from Care yesterday, asking for funds to help end poverty and female genital mutilation in Africa, and it kind of put a damper on my outlook. It didn't help that today, bringing home our Christmas tree, we walked past crocus and daffodil sprouts. That's right. Nothing says "global warming" quite like daffodils in December.

I didn't give Care any money. That makes me feel down, but this year's charitable giving has already come and gone. We upgraded to green power, which will be (for us) a chunk of change, but we felt like it was the biggest and most important thing to do with our money. I have to remind myself what I was thinking when I did it--that world poverty will worsen, that people's suffering will worsen, that war and strife will spread if I don't do something to help with global warming. It's the most dangerous thing facing the human race. Ever. There won't even be an Africa for those poor mutilated women to live in if we don't do something about our god-awful carbon emissions.

And so, looking at our tree, brightly lit, beautiful with paper garlands and snowflakes, I just feel even more guilty. That's a lot of electricity and a lot of CO2 sitting in my living room. The only thing that comes close to making it worthwhile is the joy in Fiona's eyes. But is that worth it?

I don't know. I just don't know.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No words in the writing desert

Man, I haven't posted on here in 11 days. And you can pretty much count on the fact that I haven't added any words to my novel, either. I got lost in the word desert the last couple of days, working on my tan.

But I guess that's normal this time of year. I don't know about the rest of you, but December comes, and I am sucked into Christmas. Big time.

To some people, that's a little weird. I mean, my sister asked me if we were still going to celebrate Christmas even though I'm now out as an atheist. (As an aside, may I point out that my parents have never, ever, ever claimed to be Christians and raised us to *fear* the church, but they are as coo-coo for Christmas as anybody I have ever met?) Of course! I love Christmas. I love the fact that for one month of the year it is okay to be happy, sing out loud for no reason at all and give people stuff. It is okay to eat fat and sugar. It was socially acceptable to wear red and green together. I love the fact that Christmas legalizes dorkiness and loving behavior. The rest of the year, those guys get swept under the designer rug of cultural norms, but this time of year, it's acceptable.

Of course, I hate all the commercial junk and the non-stop marketing blitz. Kind of. They're part of the window dressing for me, and in some ways I wouldn't trade them for anything. That said, I don't watch tv, listen to the radio or go to the mall, so that pretty means my entire exposure to marketing consists of Internet ads and stuff they put on buses. It's really pretty tame.

Happy sigh. I gotta dash. I have Christmas cards to finish.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Macy's ate my childhood memories

If anybody out here in Portland grew up going to Meier and Frank at Christmas time, I have some advice: stay far away from Macy's. It will break your heart.

I can remember taking my niece and my baby brother to the Downtown Meier and Frank to ride the rickety old monorail and cruise through the bizarre Christmas scenes. Just getting to the Christmas floor--okay, half a floor--was an adventure. We would always take the escalators, which reached a point around the eighth floor where they narrowed and grew squeakier, as if a sudden twist in time had taken us back to the building's birth in 1932. Then you had to pass through the toys and Christmas decor sections, which was a test of will power. And then! There it was! A football-field of a room, filled with Christmas, crowned by a lengthy line to a sort of stage where you could watch children taking their turn on the jolly fat man's lap.

Now the entirety of "Santaland" is cramped in a basement room the size of my front room, where a secret turn of the faux-North Pole dwelling hides Santa from any chance sighting. And the price of a chance at Saint Nick? $16, although fancy packages are available. (Who gets wallets of their kid wheeling and dealing for presents with a stranger? Jeez!)

Santaland itself is bad enough, but upon leaving the store, which, by the way, has been so thoroughly refurbished and "renovated" that it is indistinguishable from Nordstroms, just 1 block away, I felt my heart crack with the memory of M&F's Christmas windows of yore. The sweet mechanical "12 Days of Christmas" is gone. In its stead are heartless and artless displays of this year's fashions.

We all knew that Macy's would not be the kind of business that aimed to be a part of our community. But this year, it became real to me. Community, tradition, fun--trivial details to a corporation that believes that homogenized shopping experiences are the secret to commercial success. And maybe they're right. After all, they're the ones in the position to buy out our local stores.

But they still lost my dollar.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's official!

I am shaking and a little bit crying. It's 12:56 AM, November 30th, and I have won Nanowrimo.

So now I've a day off before NaNoFiMo! Kt, if you're out there, that's the challenge site for the two of us!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas gifts

You know who's having a green Christmas this year? The library, that's who. They are making BANK off me this year. Woof. When did all those books get overdue?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holiday musings

There is something about winter, the quality of its thin gray light, the depth of its long darkness, that turns the mind to the spirit. For me, every year around this time I look into my heart and my soul and ask questions and listen for some kind of answer.

This was a weighty year in the spiritual realm for me. I explored yogic teachings and read Christian thinkers like Thomas Moore. And some time in the summer--not a time I usually think about anything more serious than sunscreen--I came to a realization. I do not believe in God.

For years, I have said something different. Something along the lines of "Of course I believe in God! God is the perfect metaphor for the beauty and harmony of the universe!" (This is analogous to my feelings about Santa and fairies and forest spirits.) And then it hit me that believing in a metaphor isn't the same as believing in something. Metaphors are not things in themselves; they are the tools we use to describe these things.

So I believe in science. I believe in a beautiful harmony and order of the universe, bound by the activities and entities than we may not understand in their entirety, but do not undermine the truths we have fought to carve out. I think that makes me an atheist.

Some people feel like atheism is a selfish, shallow, hopeless state of being. I don't see it like that. When I look at the stars in their whirling patterns of light and heat, I am awed by the forces around me, and I can name them--gravity, inertia, entropy, electromagnetism. When I hear the whoosh of my own pulse inside my body, I am thrilled to know that the same forces are at work on all the tiny motes of own being. There is such beauty there, such power and majesty.

And I can have absolute faith in the universe and its rules. Gravity will never leave me, never stop affecting me even if I should choose not to believe in it. The laws of physics will not abandon me or reject me or send me to eternal suffering for not believing in them. And they are the same for every person, no matter what book is the rule of the land around them. Now that is beautiful. That is powerful. That is awesome.

I am proud to believe these things. I am proud to say that there is plenty to have faith in that is not God. I am proud to say that I believe morality and justice and order have a place in a world that is not religious. But in many places of this world, I would be killed for saying this. In my own country, I would never elected. Many communities would not allow me to teach their children; if I was found writing about atheism on my personal website, I would be encouraged to leave my job. Even among my own friends I feel nervous saying these things. Somehow it is easier to say "Hey, I'm a Muslim now!" than "Hey! I'm an atheist!" I could wear a cross on a necklace to work--even though the cross is a torture device that has also been used to harass and frighten people, primarily blacks, in this country--but if I wore a similar item that said "Atheist," I would be asked to remove it.

That's why I put the scarlet 'A' on my page. I wanted to show people that I am proud of what I believe, even if it's not normal in the United States. I wanted to show people that a nice smart woman like me can be an atheist. And then maybe they would feel okay with themselves.

Happy holidays, everybody. Peace be with you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy T-day!

A few days ago I had the random desire to see the movie "Tremors 3" again. Okay, so it wasn't random--I have the bad habit of quoting from the movie after certain ordinary bodily functions (all right! I admit it! If they stink, I shout 'Blast your own damn ass, ass blaster!'), and it had been a doozy of a day. Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the need to see Bert and company in action.

My family doesn't have a whole lot of traditions, but I feel safe saying that in the Wagner family, nothing says "holiday" quite like the Tremors movies (or tv show). I can remember the long ago Thanksgiving my oldest sister introduced us to the first movie. It was a beautiful day.

Then when I was living with my mom and brother, he was a hardcore Tremors fan, hooking me on the sequels and the show. Wow. That's some good television. Catch it if you still can--I don't think it's on the SciFi channel anymore. But you can still get all four movies on DVD (and if you've only seen the original on VHS, ruuuuun to the video store and get your hands on the DVD; the picture quality is just so much better). In fact, we were able to rent the Tremors pack, which has all four movies on it.

Yes, I did allow my four-year-old to watch Tremors (the swearing was the worst part!). I did try to cover her eyes in the scary parts. However, all that happened is that she said she'd like a pet graboid to keep in the back yard. She thought they were kind of cute.

Is she my kid or what?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Whoah ... Turkey!

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is just two days away! I am super-duper excited. This year, I am making a kale/swiss chard gratin, mashed tatoes & gravy, sweet potatoes and cranberry bliss bars. The piece de resistance: Organic Valley Eggnog. We tried this kind of eggnog at the farmer's market Saturday, and it's incredible. Not too sickly sweet, not too fakey rumish. Not yellow, either. Just mild and nutmeggy.

I love Thanksgiving! I love all those warm happy feelings of Thankfulness. And a full tummy. And our annual trip to the zoo (it's almost all volunteers running the show, so I feel slightly less bad about going out on Thanksgiving). And having breakfast with Heidi! It's just a lovely, lovely day.

The only trouble this year is how to fit in a couple hours of writing in between all that family stuff?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

She failed me!

So for years--about 16, now--I've been in love with a book called Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. It's the most amazing book I've ever read, and I re-read it almost every Halloween. (It's also landmarked in my head as one of the books lost in our housefire, when I was twelve.)

But I've never read any of Dean's other books. I never even tried to find any at the library, and I'm not sure why. I usually pick one author and gulp down every known work in an orgy of author-love. So this year, I decided, what the heck? Why not read more P. D.? And I checked out Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary.

It was fine, I guess. I mean, I love Gentian, the main character, and I liked her friends. But OMG! She used the same tricks! Even some of the same quotes! And once again, she spent pages summarizing plays that the protaganist is reading. Uggh! Uggh! Uggggggh! And to make it worse, the ending was totally unsatisfying, and the girl pisses off her cat. You just don't go around separating a girl from her cat unless it's for a really effective and satisfying climax, and this ending did not merit it. Jeez.

So I put another book on hold by Dean just in case this one was a fluke. I've got my fingers crossed. I don't want my heart to break!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Brain twisters

Why is it so much more tempting to make a blog entry than work on my latest novel-in-progress? Hmmn. I suppose part of it is knowing Fibee will wake up any moment, ruining any attempt of mine to even think coherently. Actually, now that you mention it, that's probably the biggest reason. If a bird makes a clicking sound remotely similar to the sound Fi makes when she turns off her nightlight, I spasmodically save every document and prepare to slam the laptop closed. Whew. It's exhausting.

Another difficult-to-answer question: why do my parents torture me? Why do they keep saying "Why don't you visit more often?" Or "Well if you were up here, I could get you a llama for about $5." Or worse: "Well, if you'd come up and help me build the coop, you could play with the chickens all you wanted." Yeah. Torture, especially when you consider the fact they live in WILBUR, Washington! In case you aren't familiar, it's in the the northwest corner of BFE. You know, the part with no trees. Or jobs.

Sigh. These are the mysteries that torture a woman.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I have had the Dora theme song stuck in my head all day. It's painful.

It is so creepy. I have become the face of the Portland Children's Museum. Birthday parties were featured in Portland Monthly, which is kind of my thing (actually, my face is on the birthday party brochures), and now my Bendy Wendy program is featured. And I'm on the newsletter. It's just kind of ... weird. Like almost being famous.

Me! Almost famous!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Holy freakin fong!

I'm online in my very own house!!! Wow! Wow! Wow!

This Tuesday in Garden Club we're going to talk about worms. I am so excited. I actually couldn't fall asleep last night because I couldn't stop thinking about how great the lesson will be! Then I had dreams that the worms in my bin crawled out and I was searching all over the house for the escapees.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Back ... a little bit

So I'm making an effort to get back on blogger. Dial-up is coming soon to our household ...

Do you ever have one of those days when you want to abuse the ellipsis? I think it's because I got up at a quarter to 6 this morning. I could have slept until 6, but I was starting to get nervous about this green thing the museum sent me to for breakfast, so I gave up. And I was right to be nervous. The meeting was at the Multnomah Athletic Center, and it is a frightening wealth-center. I just kept chanting to myself, "You have an invitation. At least it's not the City Club." I was nervous as hell until I saw some a couple of people wearing jeans. There's nothing like a room full of business suits to make you uncomfortable, and nothing like the comforting presence of people who are dressed worse than you.

I am cruising along, slowly, slowly, but honestly with my NaNoWriMo project. I won't make it to 50K, but 40 is not unreasonable, and I'm in LOVE with the book. It is worth waking up early for!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sorry gang!

For now the only blogging I am doing is on my myspace blog:

Monday, October 01, 2007

I miss my blog!

Man, I miss blogging every day. Since I stopped, it feels like my writing brain has just ... shut off.

Last week was an overwhelming kind of week. I had my second meeting with Growing Gardens, and I am super psyched for the class to begin. I am also extremely gung-ho about starting a worm bin. John and I sewed bags for the preschool, which sucked up some time. John set up a stand at the Alberta Art Walk and sold a painting. I had lunch with my sister, and then my neice spent the night. We took the girls to the Polish festival on Saturday. And then yesterday was crazy day at work!

So, all in all, busy. But not too busy to learn how to play Boggle!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back from outer space

So still no Internet at home, but I am back from vacation. We took a great trip to Eastern Washington--and no, that's not an oxymoron. Stay tuned for pictures!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back to the 50's!

There it is folks, the image you've been waiting for. The one that's going to change the world, free up the landfills and rock your fridge.
In case you're rubbing your head, wondering what in tarnations I'm talking about, this is a picture of a bowl of leftover macaroni and cheese that's about to go in the fridge. But what the heck is on top of it?
That's right. A saucer. An ordinary, garden variety saucer. Not plastic wrap. The saucer is--get this--like a LID for the bowl. No plastic involved. No matching lids. Nothing along those lines. A reusable saucer and a reusable bowl. Wow.
In case you wondered, that's what people used to do when they had leftovers, before the plastic era came along. If there was no handy crock or jar, they just topped a bowl with a plate or saucer and considered that food covered.
Rock on, housewives of yore!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I was sniffed by a ostospermophilus beechiyi!

And he sniffed John's camera, too! I'm not really into taming wild animals, but this little Californian ground squirrel was so darn cute! He had no fear of people whatsoever and happily scrounged for food in the parking lot. Unsurprisingly, he was at least three times bigger than the other ground squirrels. I had never seen an animal with fat rolls on its arms before--he doesn't look that fat in this picture, but he had double chins AND little pudge-rolls on each limb. Poor guy. I see a short life for him. I thought about bringing him home, but once again, the no-pets rule trumps all.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a bad reader

I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible, uncritical reader. Unless I run across a major typographical or grammatical error, my first reading of a text is basically thoughtless. I just read a friend's critique of HPatDH, and I noticed none of the problems she noticed. Plot holes? What? My total experience was this: adrenaline, tears, adrenaline , tears. Giggle. Tears, tears, tears. And that was it.

These things continue even in the world of nonfiction (philosophy and music excepted). Right now I'm reading an amazing and terribly amusing book called The God Delusion, by Dawkins. It's a hard-core denouncement of religion and an appeal to atheism, and I'm eating it up. Six months ago, I was reading The Soul's Religion, by Thomas Moore (the contemporary Christian writer, not the 19th century one) and eating it up.

That's not to say that I never read critically. I practically lived and breathed critical analysis in college, and when I pick up anything on philosophy of mind, the derisive comments are scathing. When I read my own writing or those of people I'm editing, I can be downright brutal (in a warm and considerate way, of course). Some might even use the word 'nit-picky.'

But I guess when it comes to escapist literature, I box up my brain and let it snooze. It's pretty pathetic, and it's a bad habit. A habit I think I should break now, before it causes me permanent damage.

Kt, you've inspired me! From now on, I shall try to be a better reader!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There's no place like home

Sometimes I become overwhelmed by a vast sense of loneliness. It invades me at times I least expect it or at times when I'm feeling a little weak to begin with. It's not a loneliness for any person I know--it's a loneliness for small living things and for tall trees and the sound of rain hitting the ferns. I suppose it's homesickness.

I love living in Portland. It's a charming city, full of all the things that are good about a larger community. There's a great library system, fantastic restaurants, art, music and, most important of all, a good coffee shop on every corner. But it's not home.

Home gets a little mixed up in my head. Mostly, it's Ash Valley, with its narrow canyons and second-growth trees. I spent most of my childhood exploring a space the size of three city blocks: a wonderful expanse of swamp, stream and forest. I can remember a few hikes with Jan Tetrault, who took us kids out of our backyards and up into the hills (they'd be mountains in Pennsylvania). She told us the names of plants. What a gift.

Sometimes, home is the even smaller stretch of Gardiner that I walked with Fiona in her baby pouch. Throughout the cemetery were old garden classics like grape hyacinth and hydrangea and plum trees that were the children of the pioneers' orchards. Then there were the tenacious weed-fields that were slowly taking back the old mills.

Further afield but equally loved was the beach and the spruce forests abutting the shore. I can think of no place more enchanted than the woods behind Haceta Head. The forest spans no fewer than 4 microclimates with varying guilds of plants and lichens, and the duff is so thick that your feet spring up on every step.

And of course home has never been home without the animals. My first real memories include the lambs, butting up against smell and all milky-smelling. After that, there were the cats, so many I can hardly count. Squirrels and deer and rescued baby bats and ducks and snakes and horses. And chickens. And donkeys. The city can feel a little lonely with all the pets just hidden away.

That loneliness is always there. Most of the time, it slumbers, held under the surface by the distractions of city life. But sometimes, when things get quiet, it wakes up. And I am homesick again.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Guerrilla gardens update!

Sorry for all the delays on guerrilla gardening at its finest! But I've gotten things up and running and should have more regular fantastic posts on everybody's favorite topic: the shady side of plants!

So check out what's new on!


It's hard to believe, but I think deep down I want to be a survivalist. You know Bert from Tremors? I want to be him.

A lot of that has to do with my childhood out in the Oregon woods (when you put it like that, it sounds sooo rustic). My parents weren't really the back-to-the-land types--mostly because they'd never left it. I mean, right now they live in a house my dad built himself, and he only added a bathroom last summer. His designs for an outdoor shower with a homemade flash water heater were pretty cool, too. And my mom? Well, she grew up without electricity.

Needless to say, childhood memories of helping in the garden and licking jam out of pots aren't all idyllic, but as I get older, I find myself drawn more and more strongly to that life. It's not just nostalgia. Exposure to "The Morning After" and "Max Max & The Thunderdome" at an early age seems to have triggered a profound paranoia about the end of civilization as we know it. Deep down, I'm just waiting for the petroleum to run out and my knowledge of hand-sewing to come into play.

Anyway, if you get a chance, I recommend the book that I'm reading: The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, by Albert Bates. It's like a summary of all the stuff I'm obssessed with, give or take a few pointers on loom construction and operation of your own printing press.

Oh yeah. I'm getting more Bert every day.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

White trash vegan

Tonight I had to dip down into the bottom of my recipe cheats and make something tasty and easy to go with macaroni salad. I was feeling mighty lazy, so here's what I came up with:

Po' White Beets
1 bunch baby beets and greens
1/2 Tb olive oil
1/2 C lemonade
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste.

Scrub beets and remove all but 2-3 inches of stems. Heat oil in pan on med. high heat; when warm, toss beets around for about 2 minutes. Add lemonade. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until beets are fork-tender (about 4 minutes if very small). Add beet greens, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer an additional minute until everything is soft.

Lazy Kidneys
1 can kidney beans
1 Tb ketchup
1 tsp onion powder
2 dashes hot sauce

Stir to combine and heat in the microwave.

The creepy thing about these foods is that they turned out the same color. Still, they tasted mighty tasty and took less than 10 minutes to prepare; they were low-fat and healthy. It almost made up for the Safeway macaroni salad. Yummmmmmm.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Best of Opera Buffo

Man, I was doing some maintenance on the site and started reading old posts from my first year as a blogger. What great memories! Some of the stuff Fiona used to do just cracked me up. I might have to repost some of the better entries, because they are worth reading again.

Oh, and if anybody misses the scintillating conversation about water conservation, I'm sorry, but said site maintenance may have eaten it. Oops. Just remember to take shorter showers, and if it's yellow, let it mellow!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wasting away

John and Fiona spent yesterday in the basement, staying cool. John also tackled an experiment. He decided to see how much water a load of laundry uses.

He recently picked up some fifteen-gallon drums from work, so he brought some down to the basement and placed the outlet hose inside one. When it got full, he moved it to a second drum, which fortunately, was just big enough. A full load of laundry takes about thirty gallons of water to wash and rinse.

Thirty gallons.

A camel will go four months without water and then drink thirty gallons without stopping. It may go another four months without needing to drink again.

According to Missippi State, a productive, full-grown apple tree needs about 30 gallons a day to live and make apples.

According to the Afghanistan Human Develpment Report, 20 liters of water a day is a basic human right. One load of laundry = water for about 5 people for one day.

Thirty gallons, so I can smell good.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Recycling for chimps!

Today's big excitement: I made arrangements to collect the museum's toner & ink cartridges and donate them to Chimps Inc! Chimps Inc is a chimp sanctuary in Bend. I just read about them in the Oregonian today (they are embroiled in a lawsuit to keep two of their ape charges, who may or may not 'belong' to another chimp sanctuary in Texas), and I was so excited to learn that there was a sanctuary HERE, in Oregon! For about twenty minutes, I was all set to move to Bend so I could become a volunteer.

It's funny. Growing up, I was always afraid of chimpanzees. (This might be because of a horror movie with a murderous chimp.) My mother always disliked them, too. But lately, I have become very drawn to chimpanzees. For some reason, of all the creatures who have suffered at the hands of humans, chimpanzees now touch me the most deeply. In some ways, I feel so strongly about them that I really would pack up and move to Bend if I thought that was the best way I could help them. And I don't know. Maybe it would.

Why can't they live in Corvallis? Or someplace that's not the desert?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm gonna have the greenest lawn in town!

No, aliens have not confiscated mybrain cells and replaced them with a suburbanite's. See, our landlord included a "you must water your lawn" clause in our rental agreement. He spent about 15 minutes going over it. (You should have been there for the section about signage--political signs are okay, business signs, no. That took at least half an hour.)

Anyway, John has turned into a super water-recycler. He decided he would empty out our baths and put the water on the lawn. That was only a couple of days ago, and already, the lawn in front of our half of the duplex is three shades darker than the anemic stuff by the neighbor's.

I don't know Steve would feel about our littl graywater processing system, but I hope he appreciates that this summer his water bill ought to be a little lower--and his lawn a little greener.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Putting a face on my veggies

At first the subject was "Food With A Face," but since I don't eat foods that actually have faces (i.e. critters), it didn't make sense. What I meant is that I finally got my first box of CSA produce and I got to meet our farmer.

Now, Lyle is not the lovable hippy who first turned me into a CSA nut, back when I was living in Minnesota with my sister. I think he is a recovering New Yorker, and he treats his subscribers with the brusque attitude you imagine when you think "New Yorker." The attitude is essentially "you'll get your vegetables when and where I tell you to get your vegetables, and you'd better like it." I want to take umbrage, but it's pretty hard to complain when you're holding the most beautiful bok choy you've ever touched and the man's giving you instructions on the preparation of Indian Mustard. Which, by the way, is at least as spicy raw as horseradish.

And he stuffed a giant bunch of hot pink wild roses into our produce box just because I said they were pretty.

Yesterday, leaving the farmers' market, my head was spinning. I really wasn't sure what to think about our new grocery set-up. But this afternoon, with the roses on the table and a single purple bloom nodding above the a bunch of chives on the kitchen counter, I feel so smitten I have no room for complaints. And the perfect kale I stirred into our curried vegetables was so tender and tasty, I knew there was no turning back.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My kind of W

I have a confession. I read Vogue. And W. And Teen Vogue. Okay, those are just the fashion magazines that I have subscriptions to. You can put Lucky in my hands, and I’m salivating. Even Town and Country makes me grin.

What is it about me and these magazines? After all, they stand for everything I’m against: consumerism, selfishness, fur. They trade on the frailty of young women’s body images. They substitute journalism for advertising, and worst of all, they are loaded with perfume samples!

But I can’t get enough of them. I can’t get enough of Stella McCartney. Dolce and Gabbana. Alexander McQueen. I can not tear my eyes away from a photograph of Coco Rocha, and if it includes Agyness Deyn, so much the better. (So, so much better.)

On a good day, I like to chalk it up to a love of beauty, art, design. On a bad day—the kind of day I catch myself waxing nostalgic for "America’s Next Top Model," Season 3—I wonder if I’m really the person I think I am.

Then I reach for The Vegetarian Times with a shrug. Everybody’s got their weaknesses. Mine are just a little glossier than I’d like them to be.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Curse of the blogging 'meme'

So Kt got hit with a blogging "meme," which I personally think is a bastardization of the word. The idea was coined by Richard Dawkins and used a lot by one of my favorite philosophers of mind, Daniel Dennett, and really has been used mostly to discuss the parasitical function of religion (i.e., how many religions contain ideas that are actually harmful to the individual organism, but spur along the religion itself--hey, I'm just quoting D.D. from his last visit to Portland, folks). Anyway, I digress. It sounds like I'm supposed to answer the following question:

Why do you blog? Give five answers.

1. Because I am narcissistic and love to subject others to my own rambling thoughts.
2. Because I can vent philosophal thoughts with facing other philosophers--or go back to school.
3. Because it keeps my writing muscles sharp.
4. To share my real thoughts with friends that, because of distance, would probably only get a shallow Christmas-card-level of communication any other way.
5. Because my own handwriting is fairly terrible and I have gotten too lazy to use a paper journal (and hey, it saves paper!).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

That's what it's all about

At the museum, there is an area for children to use a computer to take their picture and type a little caption, then print out their document. Today my coworker found one a girl had printed and lost. It said: I am 6 years old. I love my mommy very much. I wish she would come down from heaven so I could see her again.

My little girl is sick and miserable today. I hugged her extra, extra tightly.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day!

So today is my *4th* Mother's Day. Whoah.

It's so mind-boggling, I'm still kind of reeling from it. Being a mom is so great! Yes, there are all those tantrums and whiney moments, but 9 times out of 10, it's good stuff. It is just a treat to watch the formation of this special little creature.

If you're not a Mom today, why don't you take the chance to reach out to the kids in this world? It might be a pain in the butt to add a volunteering gig to your schedule, but even a one-time stint at your local children's museum or hospital can put a little spark in your life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I am reading an amazing book: "Apes, Language, & the Human Mind," by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, et al. It is the story of Sues' work with a bonobo named Kanzi. Kanzi's mother was in a language study at a Language Research Center in Atlanta, and because of Kanzi's early exposure to humans and the English language, Kanzi has picked up an amazing ability to communicate. He has a grasp of complex grammatical structures that is superior to many 2-year-olds, and his abilities keep growing. He does not have the brain power of a human adult--for one, he doesn't have a strong short-term memory (at least linguistically). But he can communicate and interact with humans as well as a young child.

Kanzi is more able than most bonobos because of his early-childhood experiences. He was raised in a very rich environment where he was given a lot of language stimuli & great impetus to use it. Reading about his life, I can not help thinking of the chimpanzees at our zoo, who live in a concrete bunker and whose "enrichment activities" are mostly about finding food that's been strung from the ceilings or placed in a box. Of course, it's better than the old way of just locking the poor creatures in a spartan cage. But it's a far cry from the kind of place that could really stimulate them.

What if all the zoo monkeys got to live in a space like Kanzi's? What if, instead of being on display for our entertainment, the apes were allowed--in some safe, appropriate way--to interract with humans? What if they were given a chance to learn English? What could possibly be so wrong about allowing animals to be ambassadors and not statuary?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blogging to blog

Most of the times I only put an entry on this blog when I have some deep thought or opinion that I want to express clearly and somewhere others can comment upon. That's why there aren't nearly as many blog entries as I wish there were! Of course, the kinds of opinions I have are usually sappy leftish mish-mash, so that might actually be a blessing to anybody who ever reads this.

But today I was reading Snarpinions, the reviewing arm of, and just felt so ... lame. I mean, I always think I'm going to do some writing. I have lots of swell ideas. But then I don't. I have turned into a writing blob. Okay, I do have some notes for the mind-body-yoga project, so I don't suck that badly. I've just been slacking a little the last three weeks. Or four.

Maybe I do suck!

Friday, April 27, 2007

People suck

So Kate, my niece, went into a pet store that focuses on reptiles and fish. And they were selling rats--for reptile chow. Now that's something Kate can live with, even though she's a rat maniac, but when she needed to wash her hands after a close encounter with rat pee, she saw in the back room something sad: clear plastic under-the-bed storage tubs crammed full of rats. That's right: plastic tubs full of miserable, sickly rodents. Is that any life for any creature--no matter what its fate will be?

The pet industry is cruel to animals. Do your research before you give your money to people who sell animals and who sell animal products. Don't allow businesses who perpetuate cruelty to make money!

On that note: Don't shop at the Tropical Hut!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Scent of Luxury

Luxury smells like an herb from Madagascar. It is a light fruity scent, not cloying at all, and according to the Dior company, that aroma plus a Nobel prize will combat 11 of the 20 signs of aging. The other 9 are battled by a combination of other extracts and acids, also available from the brilliant minds back in France.

Luxury feels like a trip to fairy land. It is the gentle brush of kitten fur against your cheek. It is the soft tap of butterfly toes on your eye lids. It is the soft exhalation of a pretty girl looking over her work, and the little burst of giggle bubbles in your mouth as you take the gold-rimmed mirror and see yourself as you have never seen yourself before, as beautiful as an elf-queen.

Luxury is pretty damn great.

But be prepared for luxury's fall-out when you come back from fairy land. Be prepared for the one-eyed beggar girl and her sweet smile. Be prepared for the wave of overwhelming guilt. Luxury is not for the weak. The faint of heart will succumb to luxury's power or cower away from its persuasive touch.

The better option is to hold it quietly in your heart, a secret treasure. A source of knowing you never guessed at before. Luxury transcendant.

And as you give the girl your last fifty cents, she looks beyond the shopping bags and says: "You have a beautiful smile."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yesterday's blog-a-roo!

So, in response to yesterday's big blog post about health and energy and the mind, I am really excited about this! I saw on the library catalog a book by a lady who uses YOGA to treat mental health issues in children, and then I found a web page for yoga therapists! I am super geeked out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Minds, bodies & children

So today I read an article about parents whose 4-year-old daughter died because of a lethal overdose of prescription drugs. Her psychiatrist had diagnosed the girl (and her two older sibligs) with ADHD & bipolar disorder, and testimony for the prosecution claims the parents kept the girl overdosed on meds to keep her asleep and docile for long periods of time.

This case is obviously the extreme tip of the iceberg, but it is indicative of the way the mental health system functions in our society today and I hope it is drawing attention to a critical problem: the massive consumption of prescription drugs for mental symptoms.

The human brain is arguably the most complex biochemical-energy system on the planet, and neuroscientists have barely begun to figure it out. Drug therapies for the brain have come a long way, but they are still crude tools for a delicate situation. Every drug has a complex array of side effects (and intended effects) that change the brain's chemistry is ways we aren't prepared to even analyze.

I believe that when it come to tinkering with the brain, everyone involved should take the most conservative path. Somebody's going into seizures? Fine, give them drugs. Somebody's blacking out and losing memories and completely afunctional? Drugs might be helpful. Somebody can't concentrate in school? Try something else. Feeling down all the time? Don't just reach for a prescription--try something else first. If you're under the age of 25 (neuroscientists have suggested that in our information-heavy society, the brain does not show the signs of final maturity until about that age nowadays), and your brain is still growing-- try something else first.

It is hard to accept that the mind is part of the body, and that bodies have their own healing wisdom. If you take away the things that block the body's healing mechanisms, it will take care of itself. If you fuck with it, you're going to cause more trouble than it's worth.

There are many successful alternatives to drug therapies for many of the mild afflictions of the mind. There are a lot of great psychologists doing work out there, and that's awesome. But let's not forget that the mind is primarily an energy system. As a supplement to work with a pschologist, retraining the pathways of brain and giving patients better coping strategies, most people could greatly benefit from treatment with an energy worker. Systems like reiki, qi gong and yoga can give people the tools they need to change the way energy works inside their body and inside their mind.

I don't feel the need to go into details, but I know for a fact that energy work can change the health balance of your mind. I know that it changed mine greatly for the better.

As for the parents with the dead four-year-old, well, it's a sad story. And whether they are guilty or not, it doesn't really matter. They have lost their little girl in a horrible tragedy for which they are certainly responsible in some way. They'll live with that forever, and that's a long, long punishment.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Busy is good!

Yesterday was awesome. I got a little bit of everything on my list done: did some newbie-yoga; wrapped up the 2nd draft of Part I of the novel; took notes for the potential philosophy project; painted; killed zombies; and ate Doritos. It was such a good day.

Today, I'm not working quite so hard. Instead I'm socializing, which is a good thing. A few nights ago I went out with my co-workers for drinks, and it kind of sucked. Today I went out for lunch with my sister and now I'm hanging with her, which is much, much better. It definitely reflects the difference between socializing with people you know and are very comfortable around, and socializing with people you don't. I have been out with one of the girls before and we've always had a great time, but when you throw a whole group of people together, it just isn't the same.

Jeez, this is a lame post. Time to surf the library webpage and drink coffee!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Dogs of Babel

Yesterday I threatened John with a long post about how phenomenal this book (The Dogs of Babel) is and how much it resonated with me and how perfect it was. Well, he lucked out. I used up all my fuel yesterday in a forty-minute in-depth summary/plot analysis/symbolism discourse/harangue that made his eyes roll up in his head. Poor guy! Anyway, today all I will say is READ THIS BOOK!

Actually, "The Dogs of Babel" was recommended to me by a co-worker, who also recommended "Ella Minnow Pea." They turned out to be wonderful books. They broke the 2+ year novel drought that I've been in. I can't remember the last time I read a novel in the literary genre that I liked. There was a period of about four months right after Fiona was born when I was reading books from Ed & Claudia & Rekah's libraries (those are some of my brother-in-law's family members) and reading some wonderful stuff. And then ... nothing. Every book I touched turned into crap. Stuffy, pretentious, tedious crap. So I pretty much switched over to only reading fantasy, mysteries and children's books, because they might not be pretty, but at least they don't think they're LITERATURE.

But "Ella Minnow Pea" and "The Dogs of Babel" are pretty. They are witty. And they are wise. Read them!

PS: I know book titles should be italicized, but the italics are being screwy on blogger today. Also, the possessive of "brother-in-law" should probably be "brother's-in-law". I apologize.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

At long last!

So after screaming at my computer and threatening to throw it out the window, this blog entry is a little shorter than I planned it to be. I mean, it's my first post in close to a month!

Anyway, here's a silly quote:
"One is never enough for those who shop in the supermarket of crime."
--Moo, The Case of the Missing Jelly Donut, by Denys Cazet

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

David Wolfe is alright

So I hate to admit that the guy who wrote "The Sunfood Diet Success System" is right about anything, but he really is right about a lot of stuff. (Just don't read the poems. Ouch.) Oh sure, the raw food stuff, he's got science to back him up, but it's his career advice that's really proven itself.

See, he suggested that to figure out what you should be doing with your life, you should look at the things you enjoyed most between the ages of 7 and 14.

It sounds simple, but the other day, it really helped me think through a crazy idea I've had lately. You see, when I was 11, 12-ish, I started taking karate classes. And I loved them. LOVED them. For the first time in my life, I felt excited about doing stuff with my body. I always wanted to be a dancer or a gymnast or an ice skater, but we lived too far away from a place to learn, and plus, I was always sick and I was always fat. But I started to be really good at karate. And then somebody gave me their second-hand gi, and I started feeling self-conscious (because the pants so noisy and attention grabbing) and then I stopped wanting to go.

The same thing happened when I took karate when I was 23. I loved karate, but I got sick a lot and missed a lot of classes and just felt really self-conscious and awkward and got too ashamed to go. It didn't help that I was still the fattest person in my class. I always felt awful about being fat in karate class.

Lately, I have really missed karate, but I have also been busy exploring other things in my life. But about a month ago the weirdest thought crossed my mind: I'd really like to be a yoga teacher. What? I've never even taken yoga. But the thought started rolling some balls in my head, and they connected with some other balls that were set in motion a while ago by chance interactions at the museum. And now I am really thinking that I want to study Qi Gong and eventually become a Qi Gong practitioner.

Qi Gong is a lot like tai chi (in fact, tai chi is a subset of qi gong) and is connected to Kung Fu. It can be a martial art, but it is also a form of energy work and can be done silently without moving. Qi Gong experts can use the movements of qi to heal people.

I have really been interested in Reiki, which is an energy healing practice from Japan, related to qi gong. I am planning to save some money and take a few Reiki classes. I would like to build my own Reiki practice. But I think qi gong would really help me in many, many respects, and would only build my Reiki abilities.

All of these thoughts draw on experiences I had when I was between the ages of 7 and 14. Not only did I fall in love with karate, but I had a number of strange interractions with sick animals that made me want to learn more about alternative healing modalities. After years of not knowing what to do with my life, I feel really excited to reach back to these dreams that have haunted my memories. I am finally in a place where I can start to work toward making those dreams happen.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Joy from the mailbox

The Seed Savers Exchange catalog came today! Yippee! Hooray!

Do you think my landlord would notice if the back lawn disappeared?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Carbon continues!

Kt, your comments are so great! They just make me want to think!

About third world countries: I think there's a lot of evidence out there that suggests the US has heavily "encouraged" third world countries to be so dependent on their exports. Think about all the nasty stuff England did to the Colonies to keep us an export-based economy--we are doing all that and more. Our fellow American nations (okay, I mostly mean Latin American nations) are in a situation that goes far beyond my ability to make a prescription for their betterment. But I do know that they are not going to be able to help themselves until we stop trying to control their governments and their economies. We need to treat our neighbors like equals and not like ... well, the way we do.

I think that refocusing our efforts towards local production of EVERYTHING (as much as feasible) is the most important step to creating transparency in the production system and breaking down the crippling grip of corporations. To make a fresh stab at my analogy to the American Revolution, England's control of the Colonies was eroded by the efforts of the citizenry (and by that, I pretty much mean women!) who mobilized to create and source colonial produced goods. Groups like the Daughters of Liberty worked together to make the Colonies self-sufficient.

Right now, we give up the production of everything we consume to manufacturers and mega-corporations who manipulate us though advertising and who work against us to make a profit. Things like protecting our resources are not a priority for these companies. The only way to be sure that your money is not conspiring against you, your values and your best interests is to source your goods from people you can really trust, that can show you where your stuff came from. Make it easy for yourself: do it yourself!

Also, if all this posting about food production seems a little theme-y, it's because I'm reading a book called "This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader," by Joan Dye Gussow. She is a seventy-year old lady who grows all the vegetables (and a lot of fruit) that she and her husband eat all year long in her own New York State backyard. That's right, when she goes to the grocery store, she's stocking up on grain products and milk, and that's about it. It is incredibly inspiring, and I hope that everybody out there can take a page (or even just a paragraph) from her book and start growing even a little bit of their own food. It will connect you the earth; it will please your tastebuds, and it really will help the environment. And it's fun. And it's good exercise!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


And yes, before any wiseacres get on here and scold me for driving to Freddie's, let me just say that my family is working to use alternative travel resources. I use mass transit to get to work, John rides his bike 3 times a week, and Fiona and I have started carpooling home from school on Mondays. And all last minute trips to the grocery store are done on foot, at the food co-op. Some weeks I do our real shopping there, too.

See? We're working on it!

Internal combustion power

So my friend Kt pointed out that the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, the biggest contributor to the carbon load, is the internal combustion engine. I think she was trying to draw my attention to things like driving habits and the need for mass transportation, but I of course saw it as the perfect way to simplify all my talk about food. (Yes, I really do think about food 98% of the time. Okay, that might be an exaggeration--but not much of one!)

You see, pretty much anything you buy was produced, processed and shipped to you using an internal combustion engine. The wheat in my sprouted wheat bread today was harvested using a (probably diesel-fueled) combine, which shot the wheat berries into the back of an idling truck (also probably diesel-fueled--if anybody needs biodiesel, it's a wheat farmer). The truck takes the wheat to the farmer's grain co-op or grain buyer, which probably sells the bulk of its grain to an international food conglomerate, like Archer Daniels. They're the middleman. My wheat somehow went from the grain co-op to Bob's Red Mill, who probably doesn't shop from Archer Daniels. In fact, my wheat was very likely magically loaded by a mysterious middleman, trucked from the middleman to a barge on the Columbia River (because my wheat is probably from Eastern Washington), and then barged down to Portland. The barge was also probably diesel-powered. From Port of Portland, it was trucked to Milwaukie (this is the best possible scenario; there is a good chance this stuff wasn't sent directly to Bob), where it was put into barrels for the bulk bins at Fred Meyer. Then Bob's loaded the barrels onto a truck, which probably went to the central Fred Meyer werehouse, was sorted into orders for the various stores and finally trucked to my Fred Meyer, 1 mile from my house. John drove me to Freddie's, and I bought it, drove it 1 mile home, and began sprouting it 2 days ago.

[Sidenote: This whole process, with a little planning could have gone like this:
ME, on the phone: Dad, could you buy 10 lbs of wheat berries from your neighbor when you help him with his harvest? I'll give him $.89/lb, plus $6 for Priority mail.
DAD: (choking on his coffee): $.89/lb? Are you crazy? I'm going to start growing wheat and selling it to you crazy cityslickers! I'll be a millionaire!]

Now these are raw wheatberries. The flour in the bread went from Eastern Washington on a diesel-powered train to the Midwest, where it was processed into flour, then shipped back to Oregon ... etc, etc.

We're talking about food with mileage, and that's not even food that was grown in another country. I shudder to think about the trip a banana takes, or how much gasoline was used up in its journey. BTW, non-food items really get nailed. My laptop, for example, when you take into account the trips the original raw materials took to the US to be made into components, then the trip the components took to China or the Phillipines to be assembled, then the trip from China to the US port, from the port to the regional werehouse, from the werehouse to the store, to my house, has more mileage on it than your average second-hand Honda Civic.

So what I'm saying is, you don't even have to own a car to use gallons and gallons of gas just about every day. Everything you buy is guzzling the stuff like crazy. You have to remember that it matters where things come from. It matters who sells it. It matters how much it's been processed.

So this summer, when I turn my back porch into a vegetable garden, you'll know why. I like knowing my tomato only had to travel 5 feet before I ate it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


So my New Year's resolution this year is to reduce my carbon load. Amazing, isn't it? I mean, I remember hearing that term at OMSI eight (ten?) years ago and thinking "Carbon load? Who comes up with these names?," but now everybody uses that term, and everybody's got it on their mind. [Okay, maybe I should clarify: everybody worth knowing, that is.]

Anyway, it's amazing how many different things you can think of that jack up your C.L. This morning, I was thinking about our pancake syrup, which is organic goodness brewed up from maple and corn syrups. Tasty. But it takes a lot of energy to turn tree sap into syrup. They cook down something like 16 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon syrup. And I shudder to think how much energy it takes to make sugar cane juice into sugar crystals for my coffee.

Speaking of coffee, how much fuel was wasted shipping that stuff here from South America? And then on roasting and grinding and brewing? Yikes, I've got to stop drinking the stuff!

Showers. Travelling. Watching TV. Farting. Breathing! It all adds up. And every single choice you make, every single day--it adds up. What am I going to do about it? And what are you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So my family is out playing in the snow right now, and I'm snugly at home, drinking tea and looking up recipes for digestive biscuits. I can't say there's anything more wonderful in the world!

I was just reading The Fat Free Vegan, who was discussing how much has changed in both her world and the online vegan world in the last year, and I definitely agree. I feel like in the last year or so, more and more people have become accepting of vegan eating. Here in Portland, we have vegan restaurants and grocery stores and even raw-food options--all over the place. They have exploded this year. And that is great. That means that the world is becoming more accepting of a beautiful, loving, healthy lifestyle. If people can do that on the visceral level food, what can they do if they open up at other levels?

We saw people take these thoughts to the polls this year. I hope we see them take these thoughts and values into their families and their shopping habits and their hearts, because if they do, the world is going to get a lot more beautiful.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Terminal Airhead

I tend to do a little "New Year's thinking" around this time of the year, and I usually find my best insights have come from the January thoughts that I stir up out of the winter mud. And this year, I think I've come up with a doozy.

I am going to give up being smart.

Let me explain that one. You see, being "smart" has been a big part of my identity for as long as I can remember, and the last few years, it's been a serious weight around my neck. Yes, I have a fine mind. It can do a lot. But I am also an airhead. A serious head-in-the-clouds, floating around in outer space, at-one-with-the-birdsong-and-rainbow, airhead. And when the airhead and the "I know everything, damn it" parts of my life come together, the result is not pretty.

I feel dumb a lot.

You see, while I do know a lot about a lot of stuff, I also don't know a lot about a lot of stuff, and I often don't like to admit it. And then when I've half spaced out what's going on and then try to pull a "I know everything" off, I just wind up looking like an asshole.

There are a lot of other good reasons to let the know-it-all go. You see, knowing everything gets in the way of learning new things. It gets in the way of being open. It gets in the way of letting the universe sweep you along its glorious plan, and that creates a lot of suffering. Being a know-it-all has really kept me down.

Being an airhead, however, has done nothing but bring me joy, a fresh and happy mind, lots of friends and the gift of magical insights that take me to new and glorious situations. That's pretty good in my book!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The mold, the mayhem

Another delightful day spent combating the onslaught of mold around our windows. Ahh, the scent of rotting wood trim in the air. I just love aluminum frame windows that no one has taken care of in 40 years!

I did think of one cool idea: the condensation that collects on the windowsill is essentially distilled water. If I could just run it straight from the window frame to a clean jug, I could be generating my own drinking water WHILE I SLEEP.

Jeez, I think even Martha would be impressed.