Thursday, October 8, 2015

Raising An Only - When Your Kid Is Not Like You

When you have more than one kid, most times, you get one like you, and one like the kid's other parent.  My Kid is like her dad - academically smart, can name any song from any era within the first three notes, tightwad with their money (oh, sweet Jesus, tightwads, both of them).  It kind of leaves me out in the dust because I am none of these.

Growing up, my life was made up of basketball, volleyball and doing my best to make it through high school with enough of a grade point average to get me into some small, unknown college.

My kid, on the other hand, is into anything that involves a music instrument, music program and is attending college classes at a real college at the age of sixteen.  Taking advanced English, calculus and music classes.

In other words, I have no idea how they switched her at birth when she never left the hospital room I was in.  I did fall asleep for half an hour.  Maybe they did it then.

That's gotta be it.

Because I don't relate to this kid one iota.

When she was younger and much more influential, I signed her up for soccer, basketball and ski lessons.  She snapped on skis at age three and we let her go from the top of the hill (I wish I could say I'm kidding, but, really, that's sorta how it happened.  Dad was right with her, though, so you don't have to go calling CPS.).  At five she was playing basketball AND soccer and, by eight, she was playing both on the same day.  Talk about an over achiever (her or me, that could have gone either way).  She loved it at the time because it was what she knew.  She was with friends and getting more exercises than she knew what to do with.  It was all a game (literally).

This was all before she got her hands on a clarinet in fourth grade.

By sixth grade, the sports were dropping like flies.

Sixth grade, she dropped select basketball.

Seventh grade, she decided she was not going to play select soccer.  

Seventh grade brought in an alto saxophone.

Eighth grade us parental units had to tell the coach she wasn't going to sign up for middle school soccer because The Teenager was too scared too (she had good reason; I'm still scared to see that lady).

By ninth grade The Kid had accumulated a saxophone, flute, oboe, trumpet and trombone and was spending her summer in music camps and music classes, and dropped basketball.

Today, a Junior in High School, she plays three instruments for her high school, in three programs, is in three adult music programs, as well as a junior orchestra (on top of being a 4.0 student at High School and taking three college classes at the local college.

In the interim, in 2014, the Seattle Seahawks, our state football team, made it to the Super Bowl.  They were playing the Denver Broncos and kicking some serious Bronco ass.  Friends and family were all at the house and we weren't exactly quiet and we yelled them on.  In the third quarter The Teenager came out of her room.

"Why are you guys yelling?" she asked.

"The Hawks are kicking Denver's butt," one of us said to her.

"Are they in the Super Bowl or something?"

What the HELL, I thought.  Who is this kid to not even know this?  I mean, we have been wearing our Hawks shirt every day for weeks, there are "12" flags on every house and car and pet in the state.  The news, radio, Internet, reader boards, supermarket, hardware store, mall, was plastered with information about the season.  People were getting Super Bowl XLVIII tattoos already.

And my kid asks "are they in the Super Bowl or something?"

But this was not her bent.

It was mine.

Her bent is music, something I know nothing about.  I can finally get the right saxophone reeds (alto, not baritone, 3.5 not 3) and know the difference between a hard or medium, wood or plastic oboe reeds.  I know the big case is the sax, the smaller one is the oboe and the tiny long one is the flute.  I don't know what the other two under her bed are, though, because she collects instruments like I collect coats.

 I support her in whatever she does, including paying more for an oboe than I would have for her first car.  I attend all the concerts.  I've gone to marching band competitions in the pouring down rain and tried to "get" the movements. I've paid for music camps rather than update my kitchen because it's important to her to get better at her music (although now that she can get a job, I need a new kitchen, dammit).

I even embraced the same question when the Hawks made the Super Bowl in 2015: "What are you guys watching?"  

This is her bent, not mine.  I've always said I didn't give birth to her thinking I would get to keep her.  I also know I get my life to live, she gets hers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Day In The Life - Adding to the Menagerie

We have a dog.  We have a cat.  We have chickens, ducks, roosters, geese.  We have cockatiels.

I think somewhere we still have a lizard.

Which means we need another pet.


Spoiler alert:  Yes, we got another dog - A puppy.

So life is starting over with all the training (both the puppy and the humans) and the awake-ness and the activity (read: hyper) and the exhaustion.

To back this train up, a little of the history.  The Teenager has been wanting a bigger dog for years.  She never bonded with our second schnauzer after we lost the first one during a routine surgery at the vet.  And she wanted something bigger; something she could take hiking (did I mention she doesn't hike all that much???).  When the schnauzer turned three we did start thinking about another dog, so this was fine.

She decided on an Australian Shepherd, standard size.  Great.  Now to find a breeder in Washington State and bring home a puppy.

Someone out there is laughing really hard because I can hear you.

It wasn't this simple.

Aussies aren't as easy to come by as we thought.  Plus they are damn expensive.

Fast forward TWO YEARS.  The Teenager had inquired about a batch in Idaho in February of 2015.  They were all spoken for, but she breeder would contact us when she had a litter.

Conversation forgotten.

Until the end of July when I get a frantic, all caps text from my kid: I GOT A PUPPY!!!!!!

Pick my frantic ass off the floor, because WHAT? Like, right now, in the car?  Don't we need to have a discussion about this?

It wasn't that bad - the breeder had just let my daughter know a litter had been born.

Now fast forward through the longest eight weeks of my daughter's life as she waited to bring the ball of fluff home.

She (the puppy, not the Teenager) was a Red Tri Australian Shepherd.

And she was in Idaho.

We are a wee bit east of Seattle, Washington.

To me, Idaho is just next to Spokane, a six hour drive.

Nope, not the breeder.  The breeder is at the bottom middle of Idaho.

An ELEVEN hour drive.

On a weekend.  See, school had started and we only had two days in which to make this trip (having the little gal shipped was not an option, in The Teenager's World).

So we were left with three options:

1. Drive both ways, a 22 hour trip, including food, gas, and hotels
2. Fly one way, rent a car, drive two hours to breeder then drive eleven hours, including food, gas, rental, possibly hotel.
3. Fly both ways, renting a car, driving two hour each way from airport to the breeder, including a rental car, some gas, some food.

We started out with option Number Two.  Flying with a puppy seemed scarier than being in a car with it for eleven hours.  Plus there was the whole crate thing and it was going to be around $200 more than then other two options.

By the time we landed in Boise, we opted for Number Three.

All in all, we left the house Saturday at 5:00 am, caught a 7:00 am flight, picked the puppy up at noon and were back on a plane in Boise at 5:20, landing in Seattle at 5:50 pm (totally forgetting there is an hour time difference).


This puppy better have gold teeth.

Anyway, she's been here for a week and we are all adjusting (some more than others).  Follow along on our Adventures of Autumn.

Here's Autumn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Life Without A Smartphone - 9 Reasons Why

I have had a portable phone since way back in the day (like, 1996).  Back then they were not called cell phones, they were called transportables.  It was the size of two bricks and weighed just about as much.  It had a spiral cord that attached the mouthpiece to the unit, almost like a home phone.  It was heavy, it was cumbersome, but, dang that thing got great reception!

When I was pregnant in 1998, we got ourselves a smaller phone for the Big Day.  It lost some of it's signal oomph, but it was smaller and more convenient.  I'm not sure when, maybe 2001, we got ourselves the flip phone.  Now were were living it up and we looked damn cool doing it.  Flipping it open to talk to anyone at anytime.  Heck, sometimes the Hubs and I would talk to each other - in the same store - "I thought you were staying in electrical".  "No, I moved to plumbing to get a washer for the faucet."  "Well, I'm in gardening, so meet me in flooring when you're done."  Stuff like that.

Life changed when we implemented texting into the program.  Now I didn't have to talk - I could write.  "Bring milk", "Running late", "Traffic sucks".  Short, sweet and to the point because I could type a character a minute with the numerical keypad doo-hickey.  Anything more intelligent would require a qwerty board.

So we did that (to get more intelligent).  The Hubs still has his; mine got "lost" (meaning it fell behind the crack in the back seat of  the car) for a month until I had to buy a new one with qwerty and a touch screen.  (Murphy's Law - found the old phone a week after the purchase).  Still no data package.  Still talk and text.  Still a crappy phone camera.  No wifi.  Totally basic.

And I hope the thing lasts FOREVER because I don't want a smartphone.

Say what?

In 2015?  Nope.

In this age of information?  All the answers are at your fingertips.  You can be humming a song in your head, wonder who the original artist is, ask Siri, and have the answer in seconds.

And I don't want any part of it.

Here's some reason I'm hoping to stay off this Transportable Information Highway

  • It's a trap.  Once I get locked in at $30 a month, I am locked in forever.  There's no going back to the old-style phone.
  • It's going to cost an extra $30 a month.  Times two (myself and the Hubs) = $720 MORE than what I pay right now.  FOREVER.
  • I don't want my memory stuck on a phone.  I don't want to rely on Siri or all access Google to answer every one of my questions.  I want to have to remember stuff.
  • I am not that important.  I don't need to know the moment I get an email,  Or someone updates their Facebook status.  Or someone replies to my blog.
  • I don't want to be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  My boss knows I turn my phone off and I'm unavailable except for working hours.  IF there's an issue, call the house (in ten years, there's been ONE).
  • I don't want all my photos in a phone that I never download or print.  Yes, its super easy to snap a photo of my kid at a concert, but then what?
  • I don't want ALL my data accessible.  From photos to emails to texts to updates to bank statements to open passwords on all my sites.  What happens when I leave my phone at Dennys? (Not that that's never happened, but it did - and I didn't have to worry about any of that.)
  • I don't want to have to upgrade every six months to get the latest and greatest and updated.  What I have now will work as well in three years.  And I don't have to worry about programs becoming obsolete.
  • In line with updating every six seconds, I don't want to have to learn a whole new operating system, or change files, or apps, or whatever else is on those things.  Or wonder Apple or Droid (or wonder if that is even a thing?).

Bottom line:  I don't want to get caught in the trap. I mean, where do we go from here?  From a land of constantly being connected, of having everything at our fingertips, yet still not feeling in control of our lives.  Sometimes I watch parents volunteering at their kid's school, out at recess, and the parents are doing nothing but checking their phones.  For what?  

Be in the moment.

 I, personally, don't want to be that parent/wife/person.  I know I would be, so I don't even want to go there.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Get Out Of My Bank Statement - And Other Jealous Stuff

Recently we were at a State Park and we spotted a bear.  Actually two other guys spotted the bear, and we spotted them spotting the bear.  So when we pulled over to see what they were looking at, they told us it was a bear.  I yanked that car over to the shoulder and my husband and daughter grabbed their cameras.

To set the "camera" stage, these aren't your typical point and shoot cameras.  Both my husband and myself are professional photographers.  Because of this, the Teenager has had access to all our equipment since the beginning of time - well, her time.

She got her first big camera, a Nikon D300 as a fluke.  Well, sort of.  It was actually a mistake that she would end up owing her own rather than borrowing ours.  See, The Hubs has sort of an eBay/Craigslist addiction.  He's been off-and-on banned for years.  When we knew we needed to upgrade from a D70 to a second D300, he was on the off-banned list for a short while (he got himself back on right quick).

He "accidentally" bid on two used D300 cameras (I am using the word accidentally sooooo loosely, here), low balling the price on eBay.  Just as we were headed out the door to drive to pick up a D300 in a town an hour away.  As we walked out the door, he told me the "dilemma".

Short story, long.  I retracted his bids, but somehow they didn't retract.

We ended up with three used Nikon D300 cameras.

Mind you, they were a hell of a deal, but still 3 big cameras is one too many.

So we gifted one to the Teenager for Christmas and she uses it daily for her Yearbook class at school.

Okay, back to the bear.

The Teenager pulled out her camera with a lens on it.  When I say lens, think football game sidelines lens.  The really long ones.  She photographs all the sports games at her high school (because the adviser knows she has the equipment) so she knows how to use this thing.  Well, in order to see a bear in the bushes up a hill, you need this lens.

So she's happily photographing away.

Other people are stopping now and looking for the bear.  By this time the Teenager, the Hubs and I are in different spots on the side of the road.  But I wasn't far enough away from my Teenager NOT to hear a woman say to her two little kids:

"Some day when we win the lottery, we can have a big camera like that one and we can take really good pictures.  For right now I'll just use my cell phone."

The Teenager did a fantastic job of keeping her mouth shut.

Her mother, me, not so good.  As the mother walked past me I said, as I pointed to her brand new Samsung 6 Galaxy Edge and held up my old flip phone, "One year of only paying for this, instead of that new phone and the data package, and you can afford a nice camera like that."

Yes, I should have kept my mouth shut.  I fell into her trap.

But really?

I could have said, truthfully, to this young mother, "Her great uncle had to die so she could get that lens."  Because the lens was inherited from an uncle who traveled extensively, who died at age 53.

I could have pointed to the Starbucks cup in her hand and said, "Lay off those for a year and you'll save some cash."

I could have pointed to her Lexus and said, "Buy a Camry instead of a Lexus and you can afford a big camera."

I could have gone so many directions.

But why did she even need to splay her jealousy in the first place?  At my kid.  In front of her kids.

She doesn't know the life I lead any more than I know hers.  She doesn't know everything blooming thing we purchase is used (including the cameras and all the lenses we own).  She doesn't know we eat out a total of three times a year to save money.  She doesn't know my car is 11 years old and has 175,000 miles on it and I'll be damned if I'm going to replace it unless it stops moving forward.

We were two strangers looking for a bear in the bushes.

Get out of my bank statement.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Day in The Life - The Day The Well Ran Dry

As we come up to the third anniversary of this occurrence, I realize just what an impact it had on us.  I wrote is originally in September of 2013.

I stood in the shower this morning long after the hair was shampooed and conditioned and the body wash was washed off.  I just let the water cascade off me and down the drain. It was a heady moment.

Sound mundane?  Probably to most people.  And this year, yes, a little mundane.

Last year?  Not so much.

Because it wasn't happening.  We had no running water in our house one year ago today (actually one year and two days, but who's counting?  Me obviously).

Literally, the river induced aquifer that supplies our abode with that glorious running water had failed to flow.  Dried up.  Smashed by (literally) tons of semi delivered rock to shore up our dike.  The river stopped running through it.

For those that have never experienced the lack of water, it sucks.  Think of all the times you just swivel the handle on the facet and water comes out.  To wash your hands after you've been gardening, to wash the carrots you've just gardened, to rinse off the dish the carrots cooked in and then to pour yourself an ice cold cup of water to wash it all down with.  Nothing.  Faucet handle still swivels, but nothing comes out.

That was our dilemma.

For six weeks.

Let me repeat - for six weeks we had no running water.

It sucked.

The river in the back yard was low, but we figured, this is Washington, it'll rain soon.  Why spend thousands of dollars just so it could rain the next day.  It had to rain soon.  It was Washington.

82 days and no measurable rain.

What the river usually looks like when it's not all dried up.

Here's some things you learn when you have no water (besides the fact that it sucks).
  • No matter how long the faucet hasn't worked, you still turn it on automatically.
  • You can wear jeans more than one time and not wash them.
  • Which leads me too...You know where all the local laundromats are and how to work the machines.
  • The dishes in the dishwasher stink when it hasn't been run in three weeks.
  • And there's no way to wash those dishes that stink to high heaven.
  • The $92 a month you've spent on your gym membership that you used to use once a month, comes in handy when they have a shower.
  • It is nice to have lots of 5 gallon buckets to fill with enough water to flush the toilet four times a day.
  • Keep at least two buckets covered for clean drinking water.
  • Having an outhouse on the farm is a God-send, spiders and all.
  • Bathing in an ice cold river in the back yard is really freaking cold in late September.
  • You spend more time on the weather channel and weather websites than social media sites.
  • You are in a constant state of pissed-off-ed-ness from the stress of trying to figure it all out.
  • And finally...You happily spend thousands of dollars to get a new well dug.

Because being without water sucks.

It led to some changes in our lives, though.

One.  I'm much more empathetic to the homeless.  Smelling yourself after two days without a shower is awful.  Not being able to stuff your t-shirt in the washing machine along with the bath towel you just used, really limits your outlook on life.

Two.  We'd never looked at moving before, let alone to a foreign country.  We booked ourselves on a trip to the Cook Islands because of a teaching job opportunity.  Opened up a world we didn't know existed.

Three.  Spend the money on Day 5 to fix the problem.

Follow up, three years later:  The water level went to unprecedented levels again in 2015.  This time they got even lower.  The neighbors on either side of us had their wells run dry.  It led to the purchase of a 1500 gallon water tank (read about that one here:  The Water Tank).  We do what we can to be prepared and this whole (*^%#@%) experience taught us things to do. While it sucked (did I mention it sucked?), it did make it so the well is now deep enough that  the river could go even lower.  

We also decided not to move (well, today anyway; ask me tomorrow and it might be a different answer).  We did go to the South Pacific - we loved it.  But in the end, I turned down the job.  It's not the right time in our lives, what with a teenager and all getting ready to head to college.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Day In The Life - Harvesting For The First Time

We had a friend's kids come over last night to "forage through the garden" (meaning pick all the stuff I grew because I hate that part - go figure, I hate harvesting).  I knew we were in trouble when they said "WE get to pick it?"

"Yes. I'm lazy," was my answer.

They didn't word it like "are you kidding, that's beneath us".  It was worded like "I've never heard of such a thing".  I didn't realize these kids had never done anything like this  Even though we are an hour from Seattle, "living in the sticks" people say (with loving abandon) I forgot that there were "city areas" around here.  Housing developments that didn't allow for a garden, covenants that don't allow for backyard poultry, front doors that have to be painted within guidelines (say what?).

This was one of those families.

Top quotes of the evening:

  • Is that corn?
  • Dirt.  Am I standing in dirt?
  • What's an outhouse?
  • Does the outhouse work? 
  • Do I take the stringy stuff off the corn?
  • You can eat a rooster?
  • Is this poop on my shoe?

They ranged from age seven to a high school senior.  I loved every minute of having them here, even though it seems like I am picking on them.  I loved showing them how to pick the corn and shuck it, and how to hunt for cucumbers, and which onions were ready.  It got me to thinking:

When did that happen?

While we were eating dinner that evening, my husband, who grew up in the same town we live in, said "I don't remember anyone who has never picked their own vegetables."  I argued (naturally) "what about the kids who lived in town?"

"They had family who lived on a farm somewhere.  I've never known anyone whose never picked
vegetables before."

I realized he was right.  (Let's keep this between ourselves, shall we?)  Growing up, almost everyone had a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, blood-relation who had a farm.  We spent summers "at Grandmas" bucking hay, picking berries, shelling peas, getting the cows in to milk.

In the same way city people know how to cross the street and catch a cab and ride a subway, and live in the bubble that everyone-knows-how-to-do-this, I live in a different kind of bubble.  I think everyone has a three year old that knows how to milk a goat, a ten year old who knows how to drive a tractor, a sixteen year old who drives to the neighboring town to bring home baby geese.

That's not reality.  And I realized it yesterday.

It's a different reality.

I loved having the kids here last night, watching their eyes light up as they pulled up an onion, or went scrounging for a cucumber or shucking corn.  I just wish I could gather all the kids in the world and have them experience the same thing.

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A Day in The Life - Painting The Barn - Part 2

When we last met, the barn was still a funky shade of mauve.  In case you've forgotten, go here to catch up and then come back:  A Day In The Life - Painting The Barn.  I didn't know it would only be a Part 1 or I would have labeled it as such.

Who knew we would have gotten the damn thing finished before one of us died?

Well, I gave the ending away.  So much for the suspense.

Okay, to continue, everyone we asked (friends, neighbors, people in line at the grocery store that won't talk to us now) hinted that it should be darker.

So we went back to Sherwin Williams to find our buddy Anthony.  As luck would have it (at least for Anthony) he wasn't in.  Jeff was.  Jeff was a wee bit unsure about how to handle us and our buckets of paint (we left the primer at home).

Until he saw the photo.

Then Jeff was all about helping us.  He didn't want a mauve barn in his county any more than we did.  He said he would try (we gave him our "pipe dream" paint color and said "anything close to this").

Jeff called the next day and my Teenager answered.  "It's ready," he said, "I had to add two and a half gallons of dark and had to mix it in new buckets.  It's going to cost $60"

Sixty bucks - here's a check!

We drove in that day with high hopes/low hopes/no hopes/abject curiosity.

It was definitely darker.  And browner.  I didn't give a rat's ass.  It wasn't mauve.  Brownish red it was going to be.

Cue the boom lift.  Wait, what?

Yup.  There was no way in hell I was going to paint the thing on ladders, and scaffolding is so very inconvenient.  We rented a boom lift in 2004 when we did some work on the house and we were renting one now.

I didn't sleep the entire night before it came.

I was sure I was going to push the thing through the east wall of the barn.  Wait, the east wall of the barn is the corral.  How am I even going to get the thing through the corral?  What happens if I get stuck 28 feet up when The Hubs is at work?  The paint gun sucks.  How am I going to get a bucket of paint up there along with me and the spray gun?  Happily, so nothing/no one falls out?

Regardless of my lack of sleep, at 7:15 in the morning The Unit arrived.  It was brand fricking spanking new.  And I was going to get paint all over it!

Well, after I pressure washed the barn.

I know, I know, I'm breaking, like, 19 painting rules here, pressure washing then painting in the same 36 hours.

Here's the deal.  We got the thing at 7:15 on a Wednesday morning.  Which meant I had until 7:15 the next Wednesday morning to complete the entire barn.

It was going to be 95 degrees (in Washington State?) that day.  The water would dry.  I spent all of Wednesday pressure washing the barn, getting to know my new love, The Unit, all that jazz.

Thursday, The Guy I Let Live With Me had to go to work.  Wait, what?  I get The Unit all to myself?

I did and I didn't kill anyone or the machine or the sprayer.

The paint sprayer.  In hindsight, I should have dropped that thing from 28 feet so I could buy one that wasn't so fussy.  But we got into a relationship and, there was some love, lots more hate, and a barn load of tolerance.  From both of us.  But I still should have stepped out of the relationship during the honeymoon and smashed the thing all to sucky-paint-sprayer-hell.

See, pink primer!
I had a pretty good plan, utilizing the weather and all.  I would wake up at 5:30, prime/paint the side that was in the sun.  Then I would drive it around and paint/prime the side in the shade.  By this time it would be about 2:00. Three times I went out around 8:00 and worked until I couldn't see anymore.

I really had to pace myself because the paint sprayer would have me homicidal.  On two occassions it would vibrate the paint-holder-cup off, and the cup, full of paint, would go splashing to the ground.  Or the roof of the wing.  That was fun. Plus The Unit did not like going over the old silo concrete, and would get all pissy-beepy if you didn't lower it and set it straight.  4x4 my ass.  That thing pissy-beeped at me at least five times.

By Tuesday night, I was ready for the relationship with The Unit to end.  We both had our thrills, saw the sights and were ready to see other people.

Besides, I was done painting.

It was an exhausting week.  One of the hottest on record in Washington State.  There was never any dinner, lovingly cooked by anyone in the house.  We did set aside one day where we saw a 4:30 movie and went out for hamburgers.

The good news about only having the lift for a week:  I HAD to get it done.  I  had a deadline.  I couldn't decide, "oh, I don't feel like doing the tippy top today, let's wait until March".  Nope.  Doing it now.

As you can see, I kind of had an awesome view.

Needless to say, the barn is painted.  It will never again be painted in my lifetime.  What's done is done.  Next.

By the way:  28 feet.  It was 28 feet from the top of that roof, the the ground.  I know; I measured.

Oh, and more BTW:  Sherwin Williams only charged us $22.  So, figure we spent $180+/- on paint (neither one of us can remember if it was $20 or $30 for a 5 gallon bucket), $22 on the color change and $1400 on The Unit.  We came out putting $1602.00 into a paint job on a 50x50x28H building.  Not bad.  I've already booked the cruise with the money I would have spent on professional painters.

As you can see, it looks AWESOME!

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