Life…remodeled

Hanging around in the cloud…

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New Rules

OK enough already.  I’m making a new rule.

Nothing bums me out like talking to my dad on Father’s day yesterday and having to answer the endless questions about work/career (or more like the lack thereof.)  And for me that’s been humiliating and uncomfortable territory for over eleven years.  ELEVEN YEARS!

And through all of these eleven years I’ve tried to answer the question creatively, or just plain made up bullshit because not having a permanent job or a title or anything  is embarrassing when most of my friends and relatives have it all, except my brother, who’s in the same boat as I am–a sinker.

I have worked.  I’ve been a contract grant writer.  I did an Americorps year.  (Doesn’t THAT show how desperate I am/was.)  I work temporary gigs.  But I’ve had nothing with benefits or a future for over a decade.  And all of the jobs I qualify for I apply for.  And in two years, I’ve had three interviews.  Three.  I was supposed to hear about the latest one three days ago.  I’ve heard nothing.

So of course, the writing on the wall says I didn’t get it.  The person that did found out last Friday.  In about three weeks I’ll get a form letter saying I’m a loser, I suck, and I should go shoot myself, or at least that’s how I’ll feel when I read it.

So goddammit, I’m making a new rule.  I don’t talk about work–period.  This topic will be permanently off limits to EVERYONE who talks to me–friends, family, even the dogs and cats.  When they bring it up, I’m bringing this rule down.  If they don’t honor my rule, all conversation will cease.  I will walk away.

Anyone who persists will find out how serious I am about this rule.  I am never having this conversation again as long as I live.  And while I’m at it, I’m throwing in the benefits/retirement part as well.  Since I don’t have any, I don’t want to ever talk about it.

If I’m at a social function and am introduced to a new person, the first thing out of my mouth will be “Nice to meet you.  I don’t talk about work, careers, or employee benefits.  If you ask me “what do you do?”  I’m going to say:  “I enforce my rule about not talking about work, careers, or employee benefits.”

So just so we’re all on the same page here…

No conversations, questions, or comments about jobs, working, careers, or employment.   No conversations, questions, or comments about retirement.  No conversations, questions, or comments about health insurance benefits.

Got that?

Good.

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Bread and Soup

The starter sat loosely covered in a plastic tub in a windowsill away from the cook stove.  The tub was good sized, and had once held cottage cheese in “Costco” quantities before it happened.  Tea colored water had risen to the top of the slightly fermented flour and water mixture.  Jeanne added a quarter cup of flour and the same amount of warm water, stirring it in to feed it.  After a few hours in the warm kitchen, the starter bubbled and expanded, and she fed it again.  When the starter had doubled in size, Jeanne  cranked the handle of the grain mill, slowly changing the red wheat berries into fine flour.   She ground six cups, resting for a few minutes between each cup.  Shylock begged to crank so she stood him on a chair and helped him crank until he tired of it, and went back to playing with his blocks in front of the cook stove.

She scooped about half of the starter into a large bowl, and added the fresh flour and warm water slowly, until it formed a large sticky ball.  Then she sprinkled flour on a cutting board, slapping the slightly gooey dough onto it.  She kneaded this mass for fifteen minutes, slowly adding flour onto the board, and letting the dough take it in as she pressed and folded.  Satisfied that the dough was developed, she rounded it up and put it back in the bowl, covered it with a clean moist towel, and set it near the stove to proof.

Unlike working with store bought yeast, the starter worked slowly.  The first proof took four hours, and Jeanne periodically used a spray bottle to re-moisten the towel.   She punched it down, pulled it out of the bowl, and shaped it into three long loaves, wrapping each in special cotton cloths imbued with flour.  She kept these french bread cloths in a precious zip lock bag under the rolling pin in the second drawer down.  Before, that drawer had held parchment paper, plastic wrap, foil, and wax paper.  Now, carefully recycled foil pieces, plastic bags, and bits of plastic wrap hid in the back of the drawer, only used when cloth or a container couldn’t be used.  Arly had a knack of flattening wrinkled foil with her fingernail, painstakingly smoothing it back out, but all of them were very careful with these things because they knew nobody would have any for barter again.

Choosing a good sized stock pot from the array of pots and pans that hung from the kitchen ceiling, Jeanne dropped a big venison hip bone into the pot, filled it with water, and set it on the surface of the cook stove to simmer.  After an hour or so, she added a little precious sea salt, pearl barley, dried peas (not designated for seed), and a bay leaf.

The loaves slowly expanded inside their wrappings while Jeanne started the soup and stoked the stove to bring the oven temperature up.   She removed the racks and leaned them against the wall behind the wood stove, keeping an eye on Shylock even though he knew they were hot.   She ground a little cracked corn in the mill into a coarse meal, then sprinkled a third of the meal onto a wide wooden paddle.  Carefully she unwrapped a loaf and placed it on the paddle.  She slashed three diagonals on the top with a serrated knife, opened the oven, and slid the loaf onto the oven floor.  Quickly she repeated the process for the other two until all three sat evenly spaced on the floor of the oven.  She took a half a cup of water and threw it on the side of the hot oven wall, where it made a lovely hiss and spattering sound as she hastily shut the oven door to keep the heat and humidity inside.

The old white cook stove had no window to see into the oven, so she set a kitchen timer for fifteen minutes to remind her to throw more water in.  When the loaves had become a beautiful brown, she scooped them out one by one with the paddle and set them on racks on the counter to cool.  The whole house smelled of wonderful sourdough desem bread, and the aroma pulled Brian in from whatever he’d been doing outside.   He peeked into the soup pot, and added a couple of handfuls of home made noodles, dried zucchini, dried carrots, and some home canned Lima beans grown on a trellis in the greenhouse.  He took a wooden spoon and tasted the broth.  A smile spread under his beard and shaggy mustache, revealing slightly crooked teeth.  He added another pinch of salt, crunched up some hot peppers to substitute for black pepper.  Digging around in the big bottom cupboard he popped back up with an onion.  He set a skillet on the top of the stove to heat up while he diced it, then went into the front room to get a bulb of garlic from the braids that hung behind the flat screen TV.

The onions got happy with a little lard in the skillet, and soon had the minced garlic for company.  Finally, the whole joyous mixture went into the soup, and Brian added some dried thyme, sage, and basil, then chopped and added half a head of cabbage before putting the lid back on for a final half hour of simmering.

Clear November

A soft blanket of fog had boiled up from the river and flowed over the prairie causing the pines and Mary’s willows to float on an ethereal ocean of wispy white against an impossibly blue sky.  The house sits above the fog, looking north towards the approaching winter, with the sun poking through the pines and into the west facing windows.   I stand looking out thinking how each day ferries me further away, as if the house was a spaceship. I drink my latte watching the world recede beneath me from this beautiful observation port facing north.  Perhaps that’s why they call these mobile homes, even though the wheels are gone.  The sense of motion seems to speed up each day, and I have to surrender because I can’t keep up with the dizzying rush of time and the complicating factor of my body becoming a heavy sludge encumbered lump wracked with pain.  A rustling noise breaks the foggy silence so I galumph and lumber on stiff legs back to the center room.

Ragneesh pecks and putters on the porch, his crop filled with Feline Science Diet K giving him a nutritional edge over the others that live across the road.   He’s itchy and not finished with his first molt, and several tatty tail feathers cling stubbornly despite his efforts to extract them.   Back in August, I would find the plumes here and there, and put the best ones in a vase filled with them in the living room.  He should have finished shedding all of them then, but not being a peacock expert, I don’t know if this is something to worry about.  I wonder if I should try to catch him and pull them out for him.  But I can’t move that fast, and besides, he would think I was trying to kill him or something.

I can’t not worry about winter.  The storms, the power outages, the creeping arctic air and our waterline not quite deep enough under the long slope up to the house from the pumphouse all crowd into my thoughts.  But today the sun is trying to burn through fog, and the air is starkly transparent bringing the mountains with their skiff of snow north of the river even closer and into sharp focus.  That snow line drops lower each week, and soon a big wet system will hit the dry cold air, and snow will be back for the duration.  Winter adds more distance, sometimes burying prairie roads with huge drifts that push the plows aside like toys, and the county has to hire bulldozers to hack their way back through.   I slide the door open and shut it behind me to gimp my way over to the woodpile still wearing PJs and slippers.  Ragneesh steps off the porch, which looks more like a drawbridge to a double wide castle than a porch, to watch me get an armload of split pine, and totter back to juggle with the wood and the sliding door before dumping the wood loudly in a metal tub next to the stove.  No matter what, this little stove will heat the house.  I wonder about some of the neighbors who don’t have wood stoves.  How do they stay warm during the frequent and sometimes lengthy outages?   Snow gets rid of the lightweights in winter, and fire could get rid of all of us one day, if it isn’t kept safely in the stove.

 

 

Afterlife sketches 1.2

Arly suggested clearing the house of unused appliances, gadgets, and electronic devices to make room for everyone over the winter.

Arly was very strong for her size, and fearless.  She brought the dolly in from the garage, slid it under the empty refrigerator, and wheeled it out the open sliding door onto the deck, and then headed down the slight incline towards the garage.  Her one year old, still top heavy and tipsy toddled behind.

“No, you stay in the house!” Arly snapped in her odd, gravely voice.  The child ignored her young mother and happily broke into a trot.  Her arms, covered almost completely in tattoos looked black and blue from a distance, and contrasted starkly with the alabaster white chubby hands reaching askance to be picked up.  Arly picked the baby up and swung him up astride her hip, kissing his golden brown curls and admiring the ridiculously long curly eyelashes framing huge green eyes.  The little booger had a face adults couldn’t stay mad at very long, even when he shed his soiled diapers and left them on the couch.

Little Shylock did not like shoes or clothes, seeing no point in them as he developed this preference over the summer.   Arly had no idea how she would find shoes for the kid anyway, and hoped that someone saw her post at the Fire Station about getting some at the next Barter Gathering.  Jeanne had made him clothes, and Grandpa Brian had crocheted booties, but Shylock not only refused to keep them on, but outgrew them quickly.

Jeanne could run the sewing machine with the battery and inverter, so everyone’s clothes got mended, or replaced with new ones, often sewn from strange, inappropriate fabric.   Jeanne had collected fabric for years, and before everything changed wondered what the hell she’d do with all of it.  Everyone was glad she had.

Arly carried Shylock as she wheeled the fridge down the slight hill to the shop, but had to put him down to maneuver the thing with both hands through the doorway and into the big, but cluttered garage.  Marshall’s twin sports cars still sat side by side, taking up most of the shop’s space.  He was adamantly stubborn about moving them out, and they had all given up arguing the sense of housing useless cars in precious interior space.  It was his place, his garage, and his decision, even though Jeanne rolled her eyes and flipped him the bird behind his back as soon as he walked off in a huff after each and every attempt to reason with him.

Shylock ambled towards the barbed wire fence, causing Arly to chase him down.  The kid was drawn to danger like a magnet.  She held his hand as they walked back up to the house, and he blabbered in a fizzy, nasal voice that promised to be as strange as his mother’s, given time.  Clothes hung on the clothesline, parachute cord suspended between big Ponderosas alongside the south end of the house.  Jeans, flannel shirts, and raggedy tidy whities flapped in a rising wind from the southwest.  Arly had spent most of the morning washing laundry, an endless task because the washer and dryer now sat behind the garage under a tarp, totally useless like the refrigerator.

Someday, Arly thought, the power will just come back on.

Art Jag

Shekere    Painted bottle gourd beaded with African Trade beads

"Quadrille": Acrylic on canvas with mini slab sculptures.

 

Quadrille (detail)

Abstract Dazzle  Triptych Acrylic on Canvas

Lena’s Trees  48″ x36″ acrylic on canvas.  This is a technique study of a painting by Lena, hers is a triptych.  Her work inspires me, and I wanted to practice her impressionist technique before applying it to my own compositions.  This piece is sold (at cost).   If you’d like to see Lena’s work, check out www.artbylena.com/

Landscape  Acrylic on Canvas

This Day will Last Forever  Acrylic on Canvas panels

Winter Coming  Acrylic on Canvas

Abstract  Acrylic on Canvas

Outside the Society. Inside my Skin.

I quit the game last night.  Done.  Finito.

Insanity is performing an action over and over and not getting the desired result.  The game was rigged, and I was insane.  So I quit.

I could tell I wasn’t a winner in Kindergarten.  But I naively thought this would change, that I could be in a clique of little girls having fun if I just said or did the right things.  I never figured out those “right” things, and my life has been lived under the misconceptions of a clueless kid who thought she would grow up to be somebody, somebody who would eventually win the game.

But I remain a nobody.

The theme song of my life so far was sung to me by those four little girls that I so wanted to play with:

“Tick tock the game is locked, and nobody else can play.
And if they do, we’ll take their shoe,
And beat them till they’re black and blue.”

I was a dumb little kid.  Someone should have slapped me and said: “Hey little kid, you’re not going to get in.  You are going to spend your life like a sperm trying to bust into an ovum, but not get in, until you die and stink like week old fish.”

Only one sperm gets in; the other millions are stinky losers.  And they are getting pumped out in enormous spurts, with only an occasional winner, like the Powerball game.  They don’t give you free tickets to play, so why play?

This means yesterday was the last day I gave a shit what anyone else says, does, or thinks, since they are all wrapped up in the game.  All my life I have talked too much, been too eager to please, paid too much attention to others, and tried too hard to make people like me.   I have spent my life trying break through an unbreakable barrier.

I’m done with that now.  I surrender completely to being a loser.  I’m outing myself, although I think it has been written on my forehead all along.

I am a loser.  I will never pass “Go”.  I will never collect $200.

There are a scant few people in this world I care about.  If I died, these people would be at my funeral.  My dogs would miss me, and possibly the cats too.

The rest of you can blow it right out your ass.

I can say this because I have admitted losing the game and have left the table, or the field, or whatever it is.

So I’m back to the question of why I’m here.  These soul searching questions suddenly have clear answers.

Why am I here?

Because my mom and dad wanted another kid, along with everyone else in the 50s.  Clearly, this was not my idea.

There’s no other reason or purpose for any of us.  Some people are born golden, but most people are just like me, average, boring losers.   The world is full of losers and I am lost in a sea of faceless losers all stomping on each other in a race to the bottom.

Even the government wants to cut us all loose.  America loves a winner, but is never nice to losers.

So why in the hell did it take me 53 years to figure this out?

It’s so simple.

It’s Nature.  Nature is all about competition, survival of the fittest, going for it.   But we can adapt.  Nature is aloof to whether we play the game or not.  We are on our own as individuals, and as a species to do as we please.

Because of my natural instincts as a high order primate, I tried to compete.  I tried to make alliances.  I tried to keep up with the smart, attractive, talented, popular people and fell miserably short.

I was a real dumbshit.

Why didn’t I quit the game in Kindergarten?

The game was a colossal waste of energy.  Without the game, I have no purpose or function at all, other than to seek food and shelter and to love those certain people and and my pets–who adore me.

This will have to suffice.

All of the “whats”, the art, music, writing, and job skills–my efforts to perfect my game (and perhaps just achieve mediocrity in them) don’t count at all.  53 years to figure this out!  What a chump I am!

I clearly see why people become hermits and disappear, or shoot themselves like Kurt Cobain.   Maybe guys like him self destruct because that small circle of people that supposedly love them really don’t.  I don’t know about Kurt Cobain, I only know about me, for the very first time in my life.

There is no grand scheme of things, no divine order, no past, no future.

There is only now.

Everything is just a random bunch of shit ruled by the law of the jungle.

I can adapt.


Other People

Other people have smart phones.
Other people are tall and thin.
Other people dust where no one can see.
Other people laugh at jokes that aren’t that funny.
Other people drive a long way to work every day.
Other people walk or take the bus.
Other people have root canals.
Other people let their dog poop and leave it in the park.
Other people have really great health insurance with no deductible and low co pays.
Other people watch American Idol and Lost.
Other people need to vacuum and wash the dishes.
Other people just got laid off after working 30 years for the firm.
Other people plant their tomatoes when the danger of frost is still high.
Other people drive huge SUVs.
Other people have liver failure due to cancer.
Other people train for triathlons.
Other people have jobs with benefits.
Other people have children that will never grow up and leave.
Other people find money on the sidewalk.
Other people stand on street corners with signs that say “Anything helps”.
Other people are mourning for someone that died today.
Other people are winning a jackpot in Las Vegas.
Other people have shoes that hurt their feet.
Other people have no shoes at all.
Other people have big houses with granite counter tops, hardwood floors, and indoor pools.
Other people sleep in their cars, or under bridges.
Other people fly to Hong Kong and Tokyo on business.
Other people search for a safe place to shit every morning.
Other people are in terrible pain.
Other people are planning a big fancy wedding.
Other people are driving through Zion National Park.
Other people walk through the south side of Chicago.
Other people got their Master’s degree in Applied Physics and will work at NASA.
Other people can’t find a job to apply for.
Other people believe everything they hear on Fox News.
Other people don’t pay attention to politics.
Other people are young, blonde, and beautiful.
Other people take their kids to Six Flags and Disney World.
Other people drink too much.
Other people are old, bald, and African.
Other people take their children to oncologists.
Other people carry dirty water twenty miles every day and then drink it and get sick.
Other people are Hollywood celebrities.
Other people wish they were other people.