Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guest Post From My Dad: Feed The Cows

(For those of you who don't know, I occasionally post funny excerpts from emails from my dad about life in Thailand.  Note:  This was written back in May.)

I just found out that tomorrow,  the ninth,  may be the Feed-the-Cows holiday.

What is the Feed-the-Cows holiday?

My question exactly.

Well, apparently the answer is that it is when the government offices are closed..... because it is the Feed-the-Cows holiday.

The government lays out a lot of food to......oh, you know.

They give them vegetables, rice, water, and whiskey.


My question exactly....again.

"They give whiskey to cows?"

Stepmom: "It is there in case they want it."

"To cows?"

 Stepmom: "They don't have to drink it."

 "But to cows?"

Stepmom, starting to get a little angry:  "Look no one make them drink it, but if they want it it is there."

Instead of starting an argument of logic versus Buddhism,  about how cows are idiots and probably won't even realize they are drunk, so why waste the money on whiskey,  I go with, "Oh.  I didn't know that."

Sometimes you can't keep this stuff inside.  You just have to tell someone.


The email from the next day:

As a kind of a follow up on the "Feed-the-Cow"' holiday I mentioned before....

Today as I was checking my email for anything interesting, or to steal a joke and pass it on, as if I was the one who was interesting,  I got called by your stepmom to see what was on the local news channel.
Sure enough, there is a ceremony going on with all of the government officials in full military-type dress uniforms, looking very somber and official.

Six people in a different official/ceremonial dress are leading three cows out to the front of a huge crowd. The officials hold a large platter of vegetables up to the cows, and let the cows eat from it.  

I get a "See, I told you," from your stepmom.

I ask, "So, where is the whiskey?" Forget the food.  I really want to see cows drink whiskey.

In fact, I also want them to drink enough of it to get drunk.  I want to know if they get happy, or worried,  or if they kind of get loud and  moos-ing.

All I got was kind of an evil look from her.... so I am back at my email account now.

Oh, yeah, the people in the crowd on TV got to run and grab handfuls of officially-sanctioned "good luck" rice,  but I am not going to ask about it.   If I do, I will just get some kind of explanation that is totally logical in the Thai mind and only causes more questions in mine.

I think I'll just let it go.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Apologies

"My nose hurts." 

As soon as I hear this, I know what it means.  "My nose hurts" is DragonMonkey-code for "I have to blow my nose."

Don't ask me how he came up with it - we call oatmeal "nonope", marshmallows "funfellows", and "my nose hurts" means "I have a booger."

Sighing, I turn off the kitchen sink and leave the dishes half-done, wiping my soapy hands on my jeans before grabbing a tissue.

I arrive in the living room just in time to see the DragonMonkey standing there, head tilted awkwardly to the side, staring curiously at a giant booger that he's dangling from his finger an inch in front of his eyes.

"Eww, give me that." I reach out with my tissue to take it from him.

"NO! DON'T LOOK!  IT'S NOT YOURS!  DON'T TOUCH!"  He snatches his hand away from in front of him,  cradling it protectively against chest, looking at the tissue in my hand in horror.

"DON'T LOOK AT IT!  IT'S MINE!"  Hand still held tight against his chest he darts around the corner, and by the time I follow him around it at my much more leisurely pace, he is sauntering back, back ramrod straight, chin set defiantly.

There is no sign of the booger.

And no matter how much I threaten, or speak sternly, or stand him in the corner, he refuses to tell me where it is.  It's his booger.  Not mine.  I'm not allowed to touch it.

So, my apologies.  If you ever come visit me and you find a crusty, dried booger somewhere in the vicinity of the guest bathroom, I apologize.

Also, please don't touch it.  Or look at it.  It's not yours.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Would Buy This

Friday, July 13, 2012

What I Will Do For a Starbucks

I needed coffee.

No, I didn't use the wrong verb. I know what I'm talking about. I didn't want coffee.

I NEEDED coffee.

I'd gone right past the desire for a nice, comforting warm mug to gently sip and moved into the I'm-jonesing-seriously-jonesing-someone-get-a-big-needle-and-mainline-this-into-me-NOW desire for coffee.

It wasn't so much that I crashing from lack of caffeine - although I was tired.

It was our second night in our new house in Portland.  The truck had arrived the day before, and by the end of the day we would have access to our beds, kitchen utensils, our coffee pot, and all the little things that make a house a home.... but that wasn't for several more hours.  And for all that the move had gone much more smoothly than we had hoped, it had been another long night on the world's worst air mattress.

I shouldn't complain, since it was actually a very expensive air mattress... and even better than that, it had been free.  A hand-me-down from my mom,  it was queen-sized, not-lumpy, and inflated to about two and a half feet off the floor, which somehow made it feel like it was an actual bed.

The icing on the cake was that you didn't need any special machinery to inflate the mattress---oh, no!  This was much too nice of an air mattress for any of that low-class stuff!  All you had to do to inflate it was to plug it into a wall, twist a knob, and go slowly deaf as the air mattress inflated with the gentle, soothing roar of a 747 airplane landing three feet from your head.

Oh, did I mention that the air mattress had a slow leak?

Every two to three hours the Bean and I would find ourselves mashed against each other, trapped in a sinking hole in the center of the semi-deflated mattress. Not only was it incredibly uncomfortable, but it seems like every time The Bean and I get within three feet of each other I end up pregnant, so it wasn't something that could just be ignored.

What made it even worse was that the Squidgelet was sleeping in our room, about two feet from the end of our "bed".  While he's normally a deep sleeper, every time we would turn that knob and the mattress would roar to life with its deafening whine, the Squidgelet would slam awake, jumping up to clutch the sides of his port-a-crib, shrieking in abject terror.  No matter how hard we tried, no amount of soothing and shushing and "there-there"s managed to convince him that no, there was no such thing as flesh-eating robots, no, they weren't in our room, and no, we weren't all about to die a horrible, gory, painful death.

Sag.  Click. ROOOOAR! SCREEEEAAAAM! Soothe.  SCREEEAAAAAAAM!!!!! Soothe.  SCREAM.  Soothe. Whimper.  Soothe.  Little whimper.  Soothe.  Sleep.

Sag.  Click. ROOOAAR!  SCREAAAAAM!.... etc, etc.

Thankfully, this didn't happen all night long.  Nope.  It only happened once every two or three hours.

Also, I think I should mention that we had been sleeping on this air mattress for nearly a week.

Are you with me now?  Do you understand why I'm saying I didn't want coffee, but that I NEEDED coffee?

When the DragonMonkey came barreling into our room early in the morning from his makeshift pile of blankets of our new living room floor, I sat up, blinked a couple of times, and realized that if I didn't get coffee, and SOON, bad things were going to happen.

Sure, I needed the jolt of caffeine, but it was more than that.  After packing, and driving, and uncomfortable beds, and our move, and waiting on the moving truck to arrive, and all the stresses that come from picking up your roots and moving to a completely different section of the country, I just needed one thing that would be the same.  I needed one comforting thing - something to relax into, something I could rely on.

I needed Starbucks.

A quick glance at Google showed me there was a Starbucks only a little over a mile from my house. 


You know, if I walked to the Starbucks, not only would I get my coffee, I could get skinny while doing it.

Doubly sweet.

I changed the boys and loaded them up in my brand new (used from Craigslist) super expensive stroller I had just purchased yesterday.  After years of making do with crappy used strollers, I had finally bit the bullet and shelled out some money for an expensive stroller:

The Phil and Ted's Explorer Stroller with inline doubles kit.

Doesn't it just sound expensive?

Here, take a look at it:

It just looks like money, don't you agree?
Let me tell you, it handles like money, too.  After more than a year of struggling to get my cheapo double stroller to round corners and leaning all my weight onto it to make it go over ridiculously tiny cracks in the sidewalk, I now had an all-terrain stroller that was light as a feather, folded up with room to spare in my Honda Civic, and so lightweight that I could maneuver it in little tiny stroller doughnuts with just one hand, like some kind of illegal street racing car.

I used to get excited about going dancing, good-looking men, and having guys check me out as I walked by in a pair of tight jeans.

Now I get turned on by strollers.


On my way out the door I grabbed Max, put on his leash, and took him with me.

It didn't really matter if I wanted to take him with me or not - if I wanted The Bean to be able to sleep, then I had to take him with me.

Max has never been good with change.... and by change, I mean anything that is different.  This could be as big as the recent move, or as small as the fact that ohmigawd there is a visitor standing in the living room. 

Change is synonymous with death as far as Max is concerned, and when your horrible, gruesome death is imminent, there are really only two ways you can handle it:

  1. Pee/poo in the house
  2. Scream-howl like someone set your fur on fire.
Since we had been very careful about keeping him in the kennel unless he was supervised (thus eliminating the "crap-in-the-house" emotional outlet,)Max was left with screaming.

Whereas he used to scream only when we got in the car and drove away from the house (Oh no!  I'm all alone!  Desolation!  Destruction!  The wolves will eat me! Oh no!), he had now started to scream every time we stepped outside, or got more than twenty feet out of eyesight.

I have a small video I took of his howling scream back when we were packing in Huntington Beach.  It's not the best, but I'm too lazy to set up a trap to get a better video.  The problem is that he will only make the sound when I am not around, so it's obviously hard to video tape.  Still, here's the not-so-great video so you can kind of get an idea of what it sounds like.  He shuts off howl just as he really gets started in the video because he happened to see me round the corner.  Usually he'll keep it up, without a break, for minutes on end.

Also, yes, that is me saying, "I don't like you," in the video, which sounds hateful, but it's really just truthful.  I love Max.  But on days when he acts like that, making that sound every time I disappear from view, I don't like him.  I don't like him at all.  If you can like a dog on a day when he has made that noise at least ten times, including when he was inside (in his kennel, because he had already piddled on several things out of nervousness), then you are a better person than I am.

Keep in mind that the reason he was making this sound is because I walked around the corner from the kitchen and had been out of sight for nearly ninety seconds, and he was now he was in the backyard all by himself, and obviously going to die.

So, Max came with us.  Kids securely strapped in, purse slung over my shoulder, dog at my side, I set off down the road in search of my local Starbucks, sexy little all-terrain wheels of the stroller transitioning smoothly from gravel to grass and back again.

About a quarter of a mile down the road I noticed that my directions were taking me out to the highway. 

Well, that wasn't going to work.  There was no way I could push my stroller along on the side of a highway while semi-trucks and cars whizzed by me at highway speeds.  Even if there was a bike lane (which there wasn't), and even if Portland is very pedestrian friendly (it is), I would still die.

Turning the stroller around (look at that sweet, sexy, sharp little turn! Que magnifique!), I walked past our house again and turned down a little side street.  Sure starting over added almost a half mile to the walk, but I could use the exercise, and besides---it was kind of fun getting to know my little town.

I wheeled down the beautiful little street, listening to the birdsong, breathing deep of that delicious scent of green growing things, and felt happy.

My life was awesome.

I had finally done it.

I was out of California.  I was living in Oregon.  I had made it out of the city and into a small town.

Life was beautiful.

About a 3/4 of a mile down the road I came out of my reverie and took a look at my cell phone map, trying to get my bearings again. 

That's when I realized that my cell phone navigation system was trying to send me down the OTHER busy highway at the end of town.

What the HECK, phone?!  Why was it trying to kill me?  What had I ever done to it? 

I mean, what had I done to it besides drop it in the toilet?  Oh, and I guess drop it on the pavement.... oh, and down the stairs... oh, and on the pavement again... and let the baby stick it in his grimy, sticky mouth.... and let the DragonMonkey play "Angwy Biwds" with his grubby little hands to keep him from throwing a fit in the store...

Well, okay.  Maybe I hadn't treated my phone that nicely, but death by highway seemed like a bit much.

Turning off into a little side street, I decided to try to circumvent the highway.

I walked past some cute little houses.

I walked past a trickling little brook.

I walked past a beautiful, green park.

I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked.

About three or so miles later, I was sweaty, and angry, tired, coffeeless, and there was still no friggin' Starbucks in sight.  Three or four miles when you're out for some exercise by yourself is no big deal.  Three or four miles when you're exhausted, and out of shape, and you hadn't had a single drop of coffee yet was torture.  Max was dragging beside me, and the kids had been whining loudly for the last mile.

"No yike!  Yet me out" whined the DragonMonkey.  "I wanna go home.... I hungwy... Yet me out!"

"No, no, no, no, no..." whined the Squid, twisting in his fancy little five point harness.  "No, no, no, no..."

"Just a little longer," I said tonelessly, for the millionth time.

And then, miracle of miracles, we rounded a corner...and hallelujah, there it was, shining like a beacon of hope in the distance.

"Stawbuuuuuucks!" cried the DragonMonkey joyously.

"Yes, Starbucks!" I agreed warmly, so happy to see it that I couldn't bring myself to care that my three year old could recognize the logo of horribly overpriced designer coffee, and what it said about me.

Tying Max in a discreet little alcove in front of a closed business next door and blocking him off with the stroller, I went inside to get the coffee, trusting that I could make it back outside before a stray dog came over and ate him or a stranger came and stole him.

Although, to be honest, with the amount of screaming he had done lately, I wasn't entirely sure I would mind if that happened.

Five minutes later I was back outside with the boys, having splurged on a couple of snacks for them, a large coffee for myself, and two small drinks for them.  With allergies to gluten, dairy, and food coloring, the DragonMonkey can't have anything "fun":  no chocolate, doughnuts, cupcakes, candy, ice cream, or any of that good stuff, so when he begs for a "Stawbucks", I have a tendency to give in, despite the fact that I'm paying nearly two bucks for a small cup of heated soymilk with a little vanilla flavoring.

Also, as tired and hungry as both boys were, I ended up ordering two, knowing that they would never share.

I did learn an important thing that morning:

Back in Orange County, when you are seen handing your three year old toddler and/or baby a Starbucks cup, it is viewed with a sort of tolerant amusement.  Everyone kind of rolls their eyes and smiles at the sight - it's extravagant and obviously a kind of spoiled indulgence for a kid to have their own Starbucks cup, but it's also kind of cute.

Let me tell you something:  when you are living in a small town on the outskirts of frugal Portland, it is not considered a cute little indulgence at all.  Patrons walking in were doing discreet double takes at the two little boys sipping out of the Starbucks cups, eyeballing me with a vaguely horrified look of, "Spoil those kids now and you'll pay for it later."

After a four mile sweaty trudge to get coffee that I desperately needed from moment I woke up, I could have cared less.  Bite me, I said with my own eyes back to them, too tired to care that I was making a horrible first impression in my new town.  The DragonMonkey will never go to a little kid's birthday party without having to bring his own cupcakes in a baggie, go to a Thai food restaurant and order the Pad Thai (soy sauce contains gluten), or have a beer.  If he wants a "Stawbucks" and we can afford it, then I'm buying him the overpriced little cup filled with gaggy warm soymilk.

Of course, I was so tired and grumpy that I could have been reading into people's expressions too much, so I might have just been shooting them angry glares for nothing.

About ten minutes later the boys had finished their snacks and were getting restless again.  The sky, which had been ominously grey for some time, finally gave in and began to spit out rain.

I decided enough was enough, and dialed the Bean to come pick us up.

The phone rang.

And went to voicemail.

And rang again.

And went to voicemail again.

I called him several more times, but his ringer must have been off.

Well, crap.

The rain began to ease up, and with a heavy sigh I looked back the way I had just come.

I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't go back on that stupidly-long, circuitous route home.  I was tired, the boys were cranky, and I just couldn't deal with another four miles of crying children while dragging the exhausted dog behind me.

I glanced out to the highway and chewed on the corner of my lip.

It was only 3/4 of a mile.  How dangerous could it be?

In answer, a semi roared by, hugging the road's shoulder and driving right over the spot I had just imagined myself walking.

I could see the headlines now:   

Stupid California transplant struck by car, kills both children and herself, all for a Starbucks coffee

But four miles.... four more miles, and in the rain this time.....

Glancing over at a little side road, I eyeballed it.  If I could just make it to a little frontage road I could see about a quarter of a mile away, I would be able to make it home.  Maybe I could play connect-the-dots with the parking lots and find a path that didn't exist on Google Maps?

I headed down, crossing behind a truck yard, pushing my stroller to the far end of the parking lot. 

Delighted, I found a little path through the waist-high weeds.

Well, what's an all-terrain stroller for if you're not willing to take it on all terrain?

DragonMonkey and the Squidgelet laughed uproariously as they bumped their way over the lumpy grass, teeth chattering as we hit hidden holes and divots in the earth. Max stepped unhappily and gingerly through the deep grass, throwing me pitiful city-dog looks the entire way.

We made it within 200 yards of the frontage road when I ran out of luck... or rather, ran into a hidden pond.

All-terrain does not include the ability to float on water, so with a heavy sigh, I had to turn back.

On the way back I noticed another little offshoot path and tried following that one.... only to find that in order to make it work I would have to walk right alongside the railroad tracks for several hundred feet.

Idiot Californian transplant now a quadriplegic after being squished by train - 
children and dog killed.  "I just wanted a Starbucks!" she claims


Ten minutes later found me in front of the same, stupid Starbucks, chewing my lip again.

Pushing my stroller slowly forward, I edged it closer to the highway, and that's when I figured it out.

Who said I had to push my stroller on the actual road?  Why couldn't I push it alongside the road, through the grass?

Giving myself a mental high-five, that's exactly what I did.

For about a quarter of a mile it went great.  Sure, the grass here in Oregon was not quite the well-trimmed grass from Southern California - it was much more rugged and beautiful.  It was also about knee-length, and the wetness from the rain made for some heavy pushing, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle.  I only had a half a mile to go, and then I could ease onto the frontage road and be home within five minutes.

I think you can tell from my heavy use of foreshadowing that it wasn't smooth sailing.  Let me quit beating around the bush and tell you what happened:

That knee length grass got thicker.

And thicker.

And thicker.

Oh, and the side of the road became slightly sloped.

And then sorta sloped.

And then it became 45-degree-angle-REALLY-sloped.

In fact, it sloped down, right into a ditch that ran alongside the road.  I have no idea how deep that ditch was, because it was filled with water - scummy, nasty looking water.

I should have turned back and walked the four miles home.  If I was smart, I would have done that.  It would have been a lot easier, and it definitely would have been a lot less exhausting....but I was frustrated, and irritable, and feeling sorry for myself, and all I had wanted was a simple cup of coffee, just one cup of coffee, and by-golly I'm not going to turn back one more time, even if the entire road in front of me bursts into flames.

Nobody every accused me of being not-stubborn.

The road got so sloped that the kids gradually became quieter, and quieter, and eventually I had to give up my position at the back of the stroller and start walking to the side of it, hefting the side railing up with my hands so that the wheels on the right hand side were about four inches in the air, using brute strength to keep it level enough that it could continue rolling along on the left wheels. 

Usually I don't like being 5'9" and built like a, uh, really healthy pioneer-type-woman, for lack of a better term.  I dream of being petite, tiny,  delicate, and ethereal.... all those adjectives that have never, and will never be applied to me.

But you know what?  Sometimes being build like a female linebacker has its upsides.

"Don't dwop me," said the DragonMonkey in a quiet little voice, eyeballing the steep slope that ended in the ditch filled with water.

"I"m not going to drop you," I gritted out between my teeth, sweat dripping down into my eyes.  "I'm going to kick myself when I get home,"  I said, shifting my grip slightly as I continued to support about 80% of the stroller's weight in my hands, trudging forward one labored step at a time, "But I'm not gonna drop you.  You're safe."

DragonMonkey mulled that over for a moment.  "Mama kick herself?"  Wait... was this a game?  Could he play, too?

"Nevermind, DM," I panted, wiping my forehead on my shoulder.  "Just sit still.  We're almost there."

Half a mile, people.

Half a mile I carried that damn stroller in my hands, simultaneously lifting and pushing it through the dirt and the grass.  It would have been hard if it had been level - having to support its weight pushed it into one of those Herculean "I-can't-believe-I-really-managed-this" feats.

If it hadn't been my kids in that stroller I would have happily dropped it down the hill, watched it plummet into the water, and thrown a rock at it for good measure before wiping my hands of the whole affair, even if the danged thing did cost $250 (and that's the used price.)

Since it was my kids in that stroller, and since you're not allowed to abandon anything that you worked really hard to push out your va-jay-jay, well, I sucked it up and I did it.

It took nearly thirty minutes to go half a mile, but I did it.

About fifty feet from the road the grass leveled out and I was able to take up my position behind the stroller again, leaning forward to shove my weight against the handlebars in order to push it through the wet, heavy grass.

My phone rang.

I ignored it.

It rang again. 

Glancing down I saw it was The Bean, so I picked it up, put it to my ear, and kept pushing the stroller.  I had no breath left to spare on pleasantries.  If he had something to say, he could say it while I listened.

"Uh... Becky?"

I grunted.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm walking."  Pant, pant, pant, pant.

"Oh.  Uhhh... I saw that you called?  Is everything okay?"

"It is now." Pant, pant, pant.

"Do you need help?"

"No," I bit out hatefully.  Where was he an hour ago? I knew it wasn't his fault, but I couldn't help myself.

He paused, then asked, "You sure?  You sound...out of breath."

"I did need help.  Not now.  See you," and I hung up the phone on him.

We arrived home about ten minutes later.  The Bean greeted us at the door, all lazy, well-rested smiles.  "Hey, guys!  Did you have a nice walk?"

"NO." I snapped, both Max and I pushing past him as we made our way to the kitchen to gulp down water.

Three full glasses later, I came up for air to find The Bean looking at me.  "Just in case you were wondering, Starbucks is not a walkable distance from our house.  Also, that stroller we got really is all-terrain.  And that's all I'm going to say about that right now."

I walked past him to the couch and collapsed on it gratefully.

I was exhausted.... really, truly exhausted, and it was only ten in the morning.

Man... I could really use a coffee.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Xerox the Cat

So, here's a little update on our new cat...because, honestly, as much time as this cat spends at our house, it's pretty obvious that this is its new home.

As you can tell from the title, the cat has a name already: Xerox.  Get it?  Xerox....because it's such a carbon copy of Coyote?  A copycat?  Get it?

Ha.  Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Yeah, that's how we roll around here.  We cool like that, homedog.

Sorry, sorry.  I know.  I'm entirely too white to even joke around like that.  My bad.

Anyways, don't worry, I'll still like you, even if you're not nearly as cool as I am in coming up with pet names.

I will say that I definitely, absolutely, positively did not actively seek this cat out as our new pet simply because the name came so easily to us... yeah, I totally didn't do that.  Nope.

Anyways, back to Xerox - someone obviously loved this animal at one point.  This is not a feral cat.

Not only did Xerox wander right into the house, completely comfortable with things like furniture, noisy kids toys, flushing toilets and whatnot, but, well, look:

It's obvious someone loved this cat before - probably someone with kids:

I think that's why Xerox's condition makes me so sad - this cat is skin and bones.  If it were a horse, it would be a 1.5 on the Henneke scale.

Also, this cat is not an it.  After closer examination (and trust me, this is no easy feat on a black cat) Xerox is not a neutered male.

Xerox is a pregnant female. 

I know, I know.  Laugh it up.  Well, at least I'm already married.  I don't think you can be a crazy cat lady if you're already married, right? 

It tears my heart out to pet her...she's just so stinking skinny.  You can't really see it because of her fur, but as soon as you touch her you can feel it.  I don't like to pet her down the back, because the individual knobs of her vertebrae or pressed so tightly against the skin that it creeps me out.  Her paws look too big for her because there's so little flesh on her legs, and every joint on her body can be visibly seen - even through the dark hair.... which is saying something, because black hair, like a winter coat on a horse, hides a lot.

It does my heart good to see her eat - and it's both gratifying and a bit depressing to see how much weight she's put on in three days of eating regularly.

Anyways, I'm hoping I'm wrong about the pregnancy, even though I don't think I am. She hasn't run puking to my toilet, or complained of swollen ankles, but her belly is really round and tight as a drum - much larger than it should be for her emaciated state, and her nipples are pinking up a bit.  I've been around a pregnant cat or two in my life, and the pinking nipples is more of a surefire sign than any round belly.  Sigh.

Oh, great.   I just realized I'm going to get web traffic from people searching for nipples.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I've been on a Haiku fix lately, so I might as well do it right:

Nipples, nipples, sex
Kim Kardashian nipples
Nipples, nipples, sex

There.  Now if you came to my blog through any of those search terms.... Quit it.  Seriously.  Quit it.  It's just sex.  Get over it, and go do something more productive with your day.

What was I saying?

Oh, I don't remember.  Here.  Here's a picture of both cats on our front porch. 

Now if you'll excuse me, DragonMonkey lovingly redecorated Squidgelet's room with an entire bottle of baby powder yesterday, and I get to go finish cleaning it up.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Who Can Resist?

Hello, Coyote.

You're looking kinda nervous today, what's up?

Wow, geez, little buddy... you've never run over like that before when I called you.  What's up?

You're never this needy.  Seriously - you're worrying me.  Here, I'm going to go sit out on the front porch.  Want to come with me? I mean, I like it that you're in this affectionate mood, but it's not like you.  You're really worrying me.

Quit threading your way between my ankles, you're going to make me trip. Scoot.  I said 'get.

No, Coyote, you don't have to leave.  Just go sit on the porch railing - that's your favorite spot.  Maybe it'll calm you down some.  There, that's better.

Aww, I love you, too.  Man, listen to you purr.  I can never hear you purr this loud.  I can hear you from across the porch. 

Seriously, what's gotten into you today?

Here, you obviously need some loving.  Kitty, kitty.  Here, kitty, kitty.  Let me pet you---

What the...?

You're skin and bones.

And wait...aren't your eyes normally yellow, instead of green?


Hello, stray cat.

No, no... I can't feed you.  If I feed you, you'll stay.


I said, shoo.

Oh, forget it.  It's obvious neither one of us believe me.

Let me get you some food.

Oh, man.  You poor thing.  Let me get you some more food.

Some water?

No, quit following me into the house, I'll be out in a second.

Here, here's some water.

There, that's better.  How do you feel?

You're welcome.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fire, Fire, Everywhere

I don't know about the rest of you, but until this morning I hadn't heard much about the fire in Montana. I thought Colorado was the only place in danger.

The Ash Creek fire in southeast Montana is only 55% contained, and it is nearing 250,000 acres burned.  Over 70 residences destroyed - and that's an old figure.

Janice from "Go West" Feral Woman survived - but it wasn't easy.  If you can take a moment to pray for her, please do.  Her story is harrowing, and there is a lot of work ahead of them.

Does anyone know if there is a place to donate, or any way we can help out?  I don't know about the rest of you, but sometimes I feel closer to my friends in the blogging community than I do to my own neighbors, and I feel useless just sitting here and reading news story and blog updates.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How NOT to Prepare For an Endurance Event

Some people should not be allowed out of their yard.

I’m considering buying myself one of those electronic shock collars that buzzes me every time I set foot out of my yard. I can take it off for responsible trips, like going to the grocery store, or the DMV. For everything else, when I start approaching the perimeter, I will be able to hear a series of warning beeps, and then finally an electric shock will be administered that warns me to stay home, because I am not nearly organized enough to ever safely leave the house.

I went to Renegade Rendezvous this past weekend.  It was awesome.

The week before I left, the ever helpful Aarene from Haiku Farm sent me some wonderful driving directions. They were perfect - detailed, with landmarks and a thorough explanation of how to get there.  She deliberately gave me directions that would take me through The Gorge (something I haven't seen yet), gave me specific street names, and even told me where to stop and buy fruit.

“This is great!” I said, scanning it quickly.

"What's great?" asked the Bean.

"The directions Aarene gave me to the endurance ride - they're really detailed."  Well, they looked really detailed.  I mean, the directions had lots and lots of words, so they had to be detailed, right?  I didn't have to read them thoroughly yet.  I could do it later.

“Hey, what are you going to sleep in while you're there?” asked the Bean practically…. and pointedly. We definitely didn’t have money in the budget for a new tent, and the only tent we have is one that we've only used once, and for good reason.  It was a very well-intentioned Christmas gift from my mom, who is as un-detail oriented as me.

Tent for two?  Yes.

On sale?  Yes.

"Children's Tent!" written in bold, yellow letters on the bottom of the box?  Unfortunately yes.  Our one camping experience sleeping in it was not exactly comfortable.  Oh well.  It's the thought that counts, right?

“Oh, uh, I’ve got it handled,” I said breezily, giving him my “I’m a mature person, don’t question my mature decisions” look.

“Okay,” the Bean said dubiously, heading off to the living room to watch the evening news. Discreetly, I grabbed my laptop and quickly googling “Tents for Rent” in the Portland area.  Before I got very far I got lucky when the insanely-sweet Jamethiel graciously offered to let me borrow her tent.

DOUBLY AWESOME. I actually did have this handled.

With the sleeping situation handled, I immediately set off to start packing, like the  mature, responsible person that I am.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. I amuse myself sometimes.

I didn’t pack a single item until TWO HOURS after I said I was going to leave town. Hey, at least I can say I’m consistent, if nothing else. The other problem I had with packing is that, well, I wasn’t really sure what I needed to pack.

Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Pad for underneath the sleeping bag? Check.

Food? Uh…. What kind of food?   Pursing my lips I thought about it… then shrugged my shoulders. I’d figure that out later. I’d just pick up some food at a grocery store near the campsite.

The next step was clothes. Jeans, shirts, socks, and unmentionables. How hard could that be?

Well, it would have been simple, if a very stupid and very selfish mouse hadn’t CRAWLED INTO MY CLOSET AND DIED RIGHT ON TOP OF EVERYTHING I WAS GOING TO BRING WITH ME.

Our closet is weirdly shaped, and the shelves I keep my shirts are hidden at the back of a deep recess.  As  I reached my hand and pulled out a shirt, I noticed it smelled funny. Lifting it up to my nose, I inhaled deeply.  

What on earth? I could swear that was the “dead mouse” smell. I remembered that smell – I’ve been around horses and tack rooms too long to not know exactly what that smell was… Except that was impossible. This was my closet, in my bedroom, and we didn't have any mice.  Maybe I was wrong?

I pulled out two more items of clothing, held them to my nose, and breathed deeply. Hmm. The scent was faint.  Maybe I was just imagining it?  Maybe the closet was just moldy? I pulled out one of the shirts that was coming with me to ride camp, and noticed a small splotch on it. Pressing my nose firmly against that small splotch, I breathed in deep. Yup. There was that scent again---what WAS it? My brain kept telling me it was “dead mouse”, but that couldn’t possibly be right. Trying to figure it out, I sniffed it again. And again.

I sat there for a better part of a minute, burying my nose in dead mouse scent, smearing my face back and forth against the stain created by whatever gooey things dripped out of it as the little rodent as it died, inhaling big lungfuls of the delicate aroma of rotting things.

I was not a happy camper when I emptied out my closet and found its disgusting little body. I swear I can still feel the scent clogging my nostrils.

Anyone want a kiss?

Free kiss from Becky! Come press your face against the girl who rubs dead mouse guts on her face!


What… no takers?

With most of my clothes smelling of little bitty mouse death and no time to do laundry, I did what any self respecting person would do: I stole clothes from my husband’s closet.

Hi, Bean! Thanks for the use of your shirts!

Tent, sleeping bags, clothes, boots, jacket, a can opener (I learned this one the hard way), and a loaf of gluten free bread.

Man, I was READY. Impressively ready.

I put the finishing touches on a color-coded meal chart I had created to help the Bean feed the boys over the next few days, complete with helpful hints about their napping schedule and how to get the Squidgelet to actually eat his food..... and then closed my computer without actually sending it.

Sorry, Bean.

I also accidentally packed both can openers.

Doubly sorry, Bean.

After one last quick stop at my local library for an audio book I was on my way, only five hours past the time I said I would originally depart. Woot! A new record!

The directions Aarene sent me had me going through Portland, but since I actually live in a small suburb outside of Portland, I checked my map and – hey! There was a route that would knock at least thirty minutes off the drive time! I used my phone to take a quick glance at Aarene’s directions again, and then logged out, figuring I could just write them down when I stopped for groceries.

Feeling smug about my new route, I crossed over the bridge into Washington, found the 5 freeway, and started driving. I figured I could stop at a city about an hour away from my destination, grab a few groceries, write down the last few instructions, and be on my way.

I mean, it was a three and a half hour drive. There would be several cities on the way there, right? I didn’t need a big city – just a town with a two or three large grocery stores to choose from. There should be tons of those along the way.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. Come on, native Pacific Northwesterners….. you can all laugh at me and my city-dweller naivete.

Southern California idiocy aside, the drive itself was gorgeous.

I'm not sure I'll ever get accustomed to all the green here.  It's beautiful, but don't the trees look a little creepy?  You may have carved a path through us with this highway, but we'll get even.  Just you wait.  We're patient... we're trees, after all.   Don't mind us...we're just going to lean in and hover ominously.

There were a lot of neat little rock faces like this - most of them had chain-link fencing on them with an ominous, single-syllable sign saying "ROCKS".  I'm sure the fence and the sign was supposed to make me feel safe as well as alert, but to be honest, it just made me nervous.  The tiny mesh chain link on the sheer cliffs looked kind of like a frayed, tiny rope on an angry bull elephant - you know it's not really going to do any good if anything bad goes down, and somehow it just makes it spookier.

As far as I could tell, this biker was about 512,000 miles from the nearest town. I wanted to roll down my window and holler "Are you CRAZY?", but his calf muscles were so big I was scared that he might actually be able to pedal and catch up with my car even if I floored it.

I took most of these photos through the windshield of my car.  This is not a photography blog.  If this were, you would look at the picture above and go "Oooh!  Aaaaah!  So beautiful!  So spacious!  How magnificent!"  All I can say is that the mountain range in the distance is REALLY far away, and that's a LOT of empty, pretty land.  Just use your imagination, okay?  Pretend it looks kind of Lord of the Ring-ish.  Can you "see" it now?  Isn't it pretty?

That's Mount Rainier in the background of the picture.  I am kicking myself for not stopping at the lookout point and taking a picture on the way up - it really did look like something out of a movie.  I was planning on taking a picture on my way back,  but because I'm still new to this whole cloud cover thing and I took the brilliant blue skies for granted.  Unfortunately, it was shrouded in clouds on my way home.

Here, here's a picture of Caradhras from Lord of the Rings. Just pretend that's Mt. Rainier in the background, and that instead of The Nine, it's me in a Honda Civic.  It pretty much looked just like that.  Wasn't it gorgeous?

This lake  (Rimrock Lake) went on FOREVER... or for six miles, according to Wikipedia. That's a lot of water.

About an hour and a half into my drive, I started to get nervous. I’d been driving up Highway 12 for quite awhile…. And it was still looking decidedly, uh, rural. Like, REALLY rural….The kind of rural where all you have for company are trees, and maybe some rocks and a few cute little mice who haven’t selfishly died in your closet all over your clean clothes. I hadn’t seen a single Albertson’s , or Safeway, or even one of those really cool Fred Meyer stores that I’ve fallen in love with since moving up here.

If you want to pause and take a moment to laugh at me again, I understand.

Luckily, when I slowed down to drive through a small “town” (composed of two cars and a house off the side of the road), I caught a glimpse of something down a quiet little back road.

Hallelujah! A market! People in Washington DID eat!

I pulled into the parking lot, ducking my head to ignore the “Who the heck are you?” stares from the locals in the parking lot. I grabbed a basket and headed down a small aisle. I threw in a couple of cans of Dinty Moore, a can of corn chowder, some peanut butter and jelly, a couple of bananas, and some Vienna Sausage into the basket. It wasn’t nutritious, but at least it would keep me fed. Grabbing a flat of water, I headed to the front counter…. 

Where the lady rang me up for almost $40.

I tried not to whimper too loudly.

As she bagged my groceries she gave me a wide smile.  “Hey, for spending so much, you get a free two liter bottle of Pepsi product!”

Lugging my "free" bottle of Dr Pepper and small bag of canned goods out to my car, I threw it in the trunk and started down the road again.

About twenty minutes later, I realized I’d forgotten coffee creamer.


Thankfully, I hit another tiny, out of the way, oh-mi-gawd-these-prices-hurt-my-teeth store and grabbed some vanilla creamer before heading back down the highway.

About thirty minutes later I realized I’d forgotten coffee.


I found another tiny little store and walked in, but they wanted $9 for a small can of Folgers coffee. I looked at the bigger can, thinking maybe they’d drop the price for the economy size, but it was almost $16. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Surely…surely someone in camp would have some coffee I could borrow. Since I felt kind of conspicuous about putting the coffee back after I looked the price and I didn't want to walk out the door empty-handed, I picked up some firewood.  If you're going to get firewood you might as well get some lighter fluid, since you never know how damp it's going to be once you get there.  Hunching my shoulders as the cashier gave me my total, I miserably handed over my credit card again.

I had promised The Bean I’d spend less than $40 on supplies. “It’ll probably be closer to $20…maybe even under $20,” I'd assured him.

Triply sorry, Bean.

And seriously, how do people in rural Washington afford to eat?

As I dropped down out of the National Forest, I came down into some of the prettiest landscapes I'd seen so far.  Maybe it's all my years of living in a relatively dry area, but there was something about the mountains in the hills above Yakima that really stirred my soul.

As I got closer to my destination, I realized I'd learned two things during this drive:

  1. Drivers in Washington have a bigger "space" bubble than I am used to.  Whenever I settled in behind a driver, setting cruise control so I could follow along at what I considered a safe distance, the driver would pull over so I could pass them.  It was terribly polite of them, but I actually didn't want to pass them - I figured I could use them to flush out deer and gauge the speed of the curves ahead of me.  I lived in the mountains for a couple of years when I was in my early 20s, and provided you didn't have two or three cars lined up behind you, "caravaning" was considered a safe way to travel roads you were unaccustomed to.  My Californian "polite distance" I was giving them was consistently misinterpreted as a "get the hell out of my way" distance.  It took several cars before I figured it out.

  2. LOOK AT THE FREAKING MAP AND WRITE DOWN YOUR DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU GET IN THE CAR AND START DRIVING.  At the very least, read through the directions completely.
As I got close to my destination, I realized I didn't really have any idea where I was going.  I hadn't had any cell reception for over three hours, and I didn't want to have to drive all the way to Yakima just to backtrack.  Maybe I could just wing it?  I knew I was going to hit an intersection.... was I supposed to take a left?  Maybe a right?  After that wasn't I supposed to turn down a road.... was it FS 1400?  FS 1600?  Was it on the left?  Maybe?

I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't gotten really lucky and found a tiny little store five minutes before it closed.  Armed with slightly better directions ("I think you head down this road for about five or ten minutes?") I actually made it to the meadow.  Since it was empty except for Aarene's rig and one other trailer, and I wasn't exactly sure where I was supposed to set up camp, I headed over to the other rider to say hi and ask for advice.

And thus I met The Dude.

His horse was very sweet, and The Dude did let me know that I could put my tent wherever I wanted.

Interestingly enough, within five minutes of talking to him I knew exactly who he was, even without any references to winning the Tevis cup.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thankfully, about fifteen minutes later Aarene returned to camp and showed me the space she had saved for me and I set up camp.

(I did fix the rain cover after I took this photo.)

The tent I had borrowed from Jamie went up easily, and after a little ribbing about how late I was, I settled in for a nutritious dinner of Dinty Moore. I was just about to pop open the can when someone handed me a pulled pork sandwhich.

Pulled pork versus cold Dinty Moore straight from the can? Score.

This was actually a common theme throughout my entire stay in camp. When I go camping, I tend to eat things out of cans. If I really want to be fancy, I put a hot dog on a stick and cook it over the fire. This is how you are supposed to eat while camping. Any food you don’t catch with a fishing pole must come out of a can or be in the shape of a hot dog or a marshmallow.

This is not the case in an endurance camp.

“Becky, would you like some ratatouille? Perhaps you would like a fresh-charbroiled hamburger? Feel free to add some organic spinach leaves and condiments to it. Perhaps you would like to make yourself a salad?” 

“Becky, here is some hot oatmeal. I’ve diced up some locally grown cherries, and have some fresh blueberries, if you would like some. Tomorrow we will have eggs fresh from the farm, served with shredded cheddar cheese and hot sausage links.”

"Here, Becky, you’ve been working hard. Would you like some tender-grilled pork loin? Take a double helping of the shrimp pasta in arrabiata sauce – it’s quite delectable.”

Every time people got together to plan a meal I gamely tried to pitch in.

“Would you like some Dinty Moore stew? How about a can of Vienna sausages? Maybe a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper? Would that go well with the shrimp arabiatta? Uh… how about some Dinty Moore? I have two cans of that. Want some?”

Strangely enough, nobody took me up on my offer.   They claimed that they were happy to feed me because I was “working”, but I spent several days in camp and not once did I do a lick of work.

“Here, Becky, get on this horse and go take a leisurely ride in the mountains.”   

Does that sound like work to you?  Me either.  How about:

“Becky, would you like to go on a refreshing hike and help us straighten up the trails?” 


“Becky, take this axe and go chop some tree roots. While you’re doing it, sit there and ruminate over the fact that only a little over than a month ago you were still stuck in a tiny office in Southern California, wearing uncomfortable business clothes and stressing over deadlines.” 

Well, okay, maybe they didn’t exactly say that last bit, but the “work” tasks they gave me were ridiculously simple. Riding trail and marking it with streamers on a clothespin? That’s not work. That’s something I would pay to do.

My favorite "job" happened on Friday. As people started to roll in and make their way over to the vet check, the ride manager  set me loose to go color on horses.

Seriously. That was my job.

“Here, Becky. Here is a tupperware box full of giant waxy crayons.  Go look at every horse that comes in, pet it, and then draw on it.”  My inner five year old was doing cartwheels. Technically my “job” was to put the numbers on the horse’s heinies, but I think we can all agree that getting to pet and color on horses isn’t exactly a hardship.

On a side note, there was something primitively satisfying about seeing my handwriting on every horse in camp.  It made me feel like throwing back my head and bellowing, "MINE!  THEY'RE ALL MINE!  BWAHAHAHAHA!" to the sky.

Do you know what might have been an actual hardship? Listening to me all weekend.

“Oooooh! Look at that horse! That’s a pretty horse!” 

“Oh, wow, pretty!” 

“What a pretty horse!” 

“Hey, Aarene, look at that horse! That’s a pretty horse!” 

“Hey, wow, look at that one! It’s pretty!” 

To be honest, I’m not sure if endurance riding just attracts pretty horses or if it’s simple deprivation. Maybe I’m like the creepy hard-up guy looking for a date at last call, and I just have my “horse goggles” on? I even started to annoy myself after a little bit, but I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.

If I sound a little gushy about my weekend, it’s because I am. There was a real camaraderie in the ride camp that was amazing to see as a first-timer. Everyone was so…. so… so NICE. It was almost eerie. I kept expecting someone to pull a brochure out of their pocket and try to sell me a timeshare. I mean, nobody’s that nice without a reason, right?

This post is ridiculously long, so I think I'm going to have to make it a two-parter.

To Be Continued.......