Things About The Summertime, and Girls.

I have the most beautiful girls in the world. No doubt about it. Today we walked to the river, which is mostly an excuse to stop for ice cream on the way home, and we sat and picked through the Giant Pile of river rocks for a couple of hours. I've decided I like rocks even better than flowers. They're so pretty. So many colors and shapes and textures, and they last forever! Sort of like my kids. They're wildly different but all so pretty in their own individual ways and shapes. And also deadly when hurled with some force across a space. With a little bit of creativity, they're even useful. As paperweights, conversation pieces, or to fill in the holes that Dagny digs in the yard (rocks, not girls.) (ok, sometimes both.).

I look at the pictures of us all on the rocks in the sunshine, half-way between wet and dry and tan and pasty, and we are a whole pile of legs and hair and boobs and teeth. That pretty much sums up my whole life in this world full of girls and dogs. In the sunshine it's all sparkly and golden and beautiful, and in the rain it's kind of grouchy and gray and unthankful. In the snow it's bright and colorful and alive and in the mud it's tough and dangerous and a little bit crazy. I wouldn't trade it.

In fact, I notice that the more time that goes by it's terribly hard to get all of them in one place at the same time to take a picture. Halle is pretty much always missing anymore, and now When too. Next it will be Kizzie and Amanda that become harder to catch and Nat, Aspen and I will be all alone, feeling a little naked in the quietness. What life with only two kids and two dogs will be life is something I can't quite picture yet. I mean, we have the cats to help make up the difference, but they're loud in a sneaky, 3 AM, hanging from the picture frame kind of way.

It's not that my life will get less busy, necessarily, since there will still be three jobs and sports Every Single Day and feeling bad about not going to out of town games and missing meetings a lot. Those things never change, but there will be fewer meetings to miss and less games to feel guilty about. Someday, I suppose, there will be none. I kind of don't want to think about that day, because then I will have to come up with a whole new set of Life Complaints and it's going to be difficult.

Things About Being Home

It's july 28th. I've been home exactly a week from the Newby Lake Fire and 24 hours before that, Ireland.

In seven days, I've fought some major battles. The war isn't completely done yet, but I'm making headway into Enemy Territory. 

Day one was the ants. A quick google trip, a healthy dose of Borax, and getting rid of month old rotting food off the counters and I feel confident that I have the little bastards dominated until I leave for the next fire. 

When the carnage from that bloody skirmish was winding down I launched a counter attack on the dishes and laundry that were attempting a surprise attack from the Far Reaches. It took some mustering, but I think that after purginga both washing machines with a scourging of vinegar, and beating the piles into a mission, I can call myself ahead of the game. 

The next battle involved strategic maneuvering of resources to begin undermining opposing forces by some covert operations in the Big City, where I acquired materiel for the next course of onslaught and conferred with allies for intelligence that could make or break upcoming victories. This involved doctors appointments, lunch  and beers.

The next day was back in the trenches where I encountered the overwhelming sabotage of pets with health issues, fleas and GINORMOUS vet bills. I left the field bloodied and a little worse for the wear, but not completely defeated. 

After a night in hiding (I.e. Someone Else's house), I engaged subversive forces in the battle for control of my professional writing skills. There wasn't a lot of territory gained but I held my ground for future advances. Applying a few tactical tricks I have learned along the way, I managed to eek out some propaganda in spite of a fairly extreme case of writer's block. As a reward I met with cooperating parties for a Watermelon Blonde at Northern Ales. 

The next day I retreated from the frontline and basically hid in my bed all day long. I was finally able to lay to rest the outcome of Season 5 of GoT and slog through Season 2 of True Detective. Hard work but I pulled it off. It took a lot of popcorn and cherry jelly bellies.

Day 6 was a combination of intelligence gathering and reinforcement for the coming battle. I got a haircut, ran a bunch of errands, and buttoned up a story or two. And then the troops came home.

The Great Battle Started the evening of day 6 and continued into the morning, as we fought valiantly against invading head lice and a bedroom that was knee-deep, wall to wall. Being occupied by hostile soldiers, dishes and laundry were able to flank me and rush in for a resurgent attack. I was outnumbered and grossly underarmed, but somehow, by noon on day 7 the room was showing the hurt of our triumph and the head lice were all but routed. My one relief was the reinforcement delivered at the right moment from Papa Murphy's.

Avoiding "peace in our time" and persevering toward the goal of absolute victory, I launched a counterattack on laundry, forced my writer's block into submission for a couple more stories and even cooked a real dinner that Noone is going to love tonight, but might warrant a sneak attack on the dishes from turned Soldiers of the Opposition (i.e. conscripted children). Or it would, if the crock pot settings hadn't been rubbed off of the knob and my guess for the "high" setting wasn't actually the "warm" setting and the dinner had really cooked. Where are you now, Papa Murphy? There are enemies EVERYWHERE.

I am not convinced, in this heated moment, that the injuries I have sustained are not life-threatening, even though verified sources tell me that I am fine and a big whiner. But Dang, my shoulder hurts like a son-of-a-gun.

Also: I need a maid. and another fire assignment, STAT. 

Things About Getting MRIs

I was pretty sure I had done it before, but when they slid me into that tiny tube, I didn't remember it being SO DARN SMALL. I don't think I am claustrophobic, even though the thought of being buried alive has been one of my most vivid nightmares since I was little. Nothing gets to me like the fingernail marks in an exhumed coffin. I mean seriously. But when they put those squishy earmuffs on my and handed my a panic button, I started to have questions. I was in the tube faster than I could manage to sputter out my inquiries about why one would need a panic button, and then it hit me: Oh. Because, hello panic.

The instinctive, full-on freak-out started to take hold along with the realization that there were walls touching almost every plane of my body and I knew if I opened my eyes I would see cold plastic within inches of my eyeballs. I decided to engage my own mind in a battle of wills.

"Stop it. You're fine. It doesn't hurt. People do this all the time. Of course you can breathe - it just feels like you can't. Just do it. Take a breath. No seriously. A breath. You're not really trying. Quit being dramatic." I could imagine the face of my best friend laughing at me at the foot of the tube. Waiting to win $10 when I came screaming out, squeezing the life out of the panic button. I wasn't a baby. I was gonna do this. I have to admit that there was actually a minute or two when I considered a lifetime of shoulder pain was worth enduring to avoid what was certain death in this plastic shuttle to hell.

"Ok. 25 minutes. Take a nap. Nope. Alright then, distract yourself. Distractions... kisses on my neck, Jamie Fraser - Dang it. I need something more realistic, because God only knows if anyone will ever kiss this neck again. Small plastic tubes are no place for self pity. Switch gears. "

"What if this tube was actually a regeneration machine, and all of the loud noises and vibrations were the removal of layers of fat, wrinkles and blemishes. In 25 minutes I will emerge looking like a 110 lb 22 year old. I can almost feel it. Dammit. I am going to be so pissed when I roll out of this thing still fat and old. Forget regeneration. It's a time travel tube. You can go anywhere in history, you just have to pick."

This project consumed most of my time in the machine. I argued with myself about which era in history would suck the least for a woman, and after giving up on the dark ages, the dust bowl 30s and the old west, because they'd be too much work, and the renaissance because, well, hygiene, guys, and other eras simply because I have to believe that the food sucked,  I was struggling. To limit my options, I decided that I could only be transported to a time in the past in this exact location. Spokane, Washington. Then it was a toss up between the 1940s and the 1700s, until the food argument won out again, and I started thinking about what I would order for lunch at a diner in the 1940s. Or maybe even today, and what kind of beer would go with it. By the time they wheeled me out, my stomach was in full-on growl mode and I couldn't believe 25 minutes was over.

Needless to say, the next stop was lunch at The Blackbird, where I got heavily involved with a disastrously good mac n' cheese and a couple of killer brews. Hey man, I earned it.

Things About Being American in not-America

There are a few basic rules to international traveling. I am fairly certain that I don’t know any of them, but it was quickly evident to me that in addition to the real rules, like passports and visas and not being felons on the run or carrying any highly contagious diseases, there are a number of unspoken cultural things-to-avoid when outside of one’s own country. Most of these can basically be summed up into one: don’t be a jerk.

If you are going to travel to countries that are not the United States, it is important to remember several things, including the fact that you are traveling to countries that ARE NOT THE UNITED STATES. Sometimes, in these other countries, they do things differently. Like even speaking English. Turns out, this widely spoken language is actually spoken quite differently from place to place, which is interesting to discover when you, say, refer to that quintessential travelling necessity that us “Americans” call a fanny-pack, in a country like Australia and have succeeded in offended the young women in front of you by a careless mention of their genitalia.

clearly a language barrier problem here. 

Recently, being a world traveler, I was in Dublin with my family, and my parents were not particularly amused when my cousin and I kept referring to the “crack” that locals were telling us we could find downtown. The more enlightened among us readily understood that “crack” is an Irish term based on the Gaelic word  “craic”, which means simply “a good time”, and was most likely stolen and perverted by American druggies in the roaring twenties. Once this miscommunication was ironed out we were all relieved that even mom and dad could join us for a bit o’ crack in the pubs of Ireland.

have a bit o' crack! and a creamy pint!

Another keen traveling tip for Americans Abroad is the vital importance of matching luggage. This is the ONLY way to ensure adventures such as mixing up the bags of 6’1”, 190 lb. Uncle Jim and 4’9” 92 lb. Aunt Janet when we split off to fly to separate countries for more exploring. Not that Aunt Janet wouldn’t have killed it in green gym shorts and a bicycling cap, but I am not sure the Netherlands would have recovered from Uncle Jim in a size 00 zip off quick dry skirt  – this could easily be misconstrued as some sort of cultural terrorism. Matching suitcases also offers the reassurance that EVERYONE will know that we are related, even English speaking people who don’t really speak English. I saw several American families following this important travel protocol, and was somewhat envious of their Disney Themed carry-ons. Next time, family. Next time.

You have to admit, they do look like they know what they're doing. 

Dietary differences are an important factor to consider when traveling as well. One of our family members has celiac disease, which proved problematic, especially when we were on “the continent”, where A) they didn’t even pretend to speak English and B) continental breakfast is actually a THING. As is continental lunch, and dinner. The four major food groups in France are bread, croissants, rolls and cheese. Lucky for Aunt J, we already knew the word for cheese was “fromage”, which offered a relatively safe source of protein for her. Also, it turns out, hot dog is a nearly universal term. Shortly into our trip, after a text-a-friend to the most recent high-school French student, we were able to eek out the French word blé – which I think is wheat, because once we said that (actually showed them in text, because pronouncing blé is much harder than one would imagine), they smiled and said, in a very frenchy accent: “AHHH! Oui! Glúten Free!” which happens to be exactly what we were saying the whole time, but in American. Lord Love a Duck.

Sanna spilled her unidentifiable French green gelatinous appetizer. We do fancy, yo. 

Now, in spite of hailing from Northport, I would consider myself a fairly well rounded, cultured and adaptable individual. We live in a multi-cultural world, and I like it that way. I am of the firm belief that both the Native Americans AND the Spanish were on this continent before us white European folks, so there’s absolutely no reason that Spanish or whatever language shouldn’t be spoken and taught here. We are as much of a melting pot as the world has to offer, and it turns out, after being in Ireland, England, Scotland and France, there’s a lot of melting all over the place. We had authentic Italian food with authentic Italian waiters in Edinburgh, we had German wait staff in Ireland, and we had Czechish service in London. And in every place we went, “English speaking” country or no, we seemed to run into communication barriers, which makes me feel a bit like the common denominator, and also the cliché American jerk. No matter how loudly or slowly I spoke, they still didn't understand me. #youredoingitwrong

Like the time that we ordered hamburger steak in France and had it delivered to our table pretty much raw. The polite European thing to do might have been eating hamburger tartaré, but… well, I sent mine back to the kitchen for a little bit of cooking, because: e-coli, you guys.

um, so the differences weren't ALL bad. This is a "Knickerbocker Glory" and I want one every single day for the rest of my life. @Temple Brewhouse in London

Also did you know that American Plumbing isn't the universal standard? For instance, I ran across a pit toilet in France, that I was happy to use in my urgent need. And some places don't have stand up showers. And some places have sitting showers for your nether regions (not to be confused with Nether-lands). Not to mention the variety of how-do-you-turn-it-on and how-do-you-get-hot-water dilemmas we faced in different locations. It's all quite complicated and confusing for the average 'Merican. I mean, it certainly wasn't a village in Uganda, or even a Chinese suburb, for that matter, but it was also not Colville.

this is where common sense and picture instructions come in real handy. 

Maybe it sounds shallow to say that I like the way we do things here in the good ol' USof A. Or maybe it just sounds like I am closed-minded and stuck in an American rut, which is ok. It's fun to experience things like accidentally peeing on your ankles, or eating raw hamburger every once in awhile, but for the most part, I'll take what we've got going on here. I just have to remember that when I DO venture out into the Big Wide World again, to take my travel etiquette and a couple of basic translation dictionaries with me. Just in case. 

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Let's just say that you get up at 11:30 PM to go to the bathroom. Being the Only Human Being in the whole house, you find it odd that the bathroom door is closed. Odder still, the door opens Very Reluctantly, as if, on the other side, is a heinous secret that it is loathe to unveil. And then let's say that you get the door open and figure out that some Super Villain has pulled all of the towels off the shelf behind the door that you folded and placed there yesterday. You know, the towels that you were looking for when you took a shower after 10 days on a fire and you realized that Noone had been staying at the house and getting All Of The Towels dirty and hiding them somewhere. So the towels that you washed ALL of, folded and put them away, were unfolded and blocking the bathroom door from the inside. But being the Only Human Being In The House, this is kind of weird. Because if say, any one of my 6+ daughters were around, that's totally normal, but just me... generally if I am unfolding towels it's to make a towel fort under the table and I just haven't had the energy.

Anyway, you fold up the towels again, and think it odd, but since it's 11:30 and you have been asleep for an hour, it doesn't seem worth freaking out about, or even solving. But then you see this:

And you think: What in the actual bloody heck?

And as you remove them, roll by roll, all five of them, you wonder what maniacal two-year-old snuck into my house in the middle of the night and threw All of The Toilet Paper into the bowl? And then you turn to throw the water logged rolls into the bathtub, because at this point, nothing else really made sense, and you see them.

Languishing like two ingenious Jagulars on the bath mat. Smugly proud of the strong work they had performed. These two delinquent brother a**hats who have knocked every picture frame on my wall sideways, chased a thousand headbands under the couch. These two reprobate felines who think that sneak attacks on sleeping heads of hair at three AM are almost as much fun as plastic bag wars at four AM. These arrogant poopheads that guard the dog door to attack unsuspecting dogs going in and out. THESE CATS. Seriously.

Things That I Got to Do

I realize it’s been a long time since y’all heard from me. I know that there’s a lot to catch up on. I’ve been busy, guys, traveling the world and experiencing things that are so overwhelming, I am not even sure where to begin.

For anybody who doesn’t know, I got to go over to Ireland with my family. Ireland, Scotland, France and England, actually, all made possible by my parents. Specifically my mother who has spent the last year planning and scheming (in a totally legitimate, non-subversive way, of course) and coordinating the perfect execution of a nearly three week, four country tour of the British Isles and beyond. Most of the expense of this trip was covered by airline miles and award points accumulated carefully and meticulously through a strategy so complex and precise, that I would imagine even the spreadsheets were outwitted. My mother is a master in the art of thrifty travel and making things happen. I am in awe.

The first half of our trip was spent all over the rolling green hills of Ireland, touring the three Cs – Castles, Cathedrals and Cliffs. Then we spent two nights in the fairy tale town of Edinburgh, Scotland, where I felt certain I had stepped into Diagon Alley and was watching carefully for Ollivander ‘s Wand Shop. After Scotland, we spent three nights in France, along the Normandy Coast, visiting beaches where thousands of Allied Troops disembarked in June of 1944. Then it was on to jolly old England for two nights in London listening to Big Ben announce the imminent arrival of our departure.

At no point, as I wandered through these long-lived lands, did the dizzying knowledge of Someone Before escape me. How many places that I stood had seen death, revolution, romance and intrigue. Thousands of years of history happened beneath my feet in these spots, before the New World across the sea was even imagined. Cities haunted by the superstitions of generations, faith that hangs in the air as thick as the ghosts that it tells about – stories whisper out of every wall about the destinies that came and went from these places.

I got to put my hands on ancient stones that have known the light touch of Mary Queen of Scots and the hard fist of Oliver Cromwell.

I got to bury my feet in the once blood-soaked sand of Omaha Beach.

I got to look out the window of Anne Boleyn’s bedroom.
I got to stand on rocks that could tell the stories of people more ancient than we have even discovered.

I leaned against walls that saw the death-slumped shoulders of chain-mailed knights, and bricks that held up generations of legend-drunk Irishmen and their singing heads.

I sat on benches that were grazed by the silk of fine, corset-ensconced ladies and where war-tired noblemen held their aching heads in their hands.

My feet got to travel the paths of age-old monks, following their trail of knowledge and faith throughout history.

I got to look up into the ceilings of castles and cathedrals that held secrets of conspiracies to thrones, illicit love stories and religious turning points that defined the destiny of the New World across the oceans.

I got to see the armor that grew to enclose the graduating form of Henry the VII as he evolved through his legendary reign.

I got to feel the cold salt water waves of the hard Irish beaches that hold a thousand stories of sailors and soldiers and saints.

I got to walk the same worn-smooth cobbled streets as witches and kings, abbots and invaders.

I got to stand beneath the floating feathers of Mont St Michel as they drift weightless in the still air, the suspended remnants of the archangel’s battle with the dragon of evil.

I got to lay eyes on the sparkling crown jewels of a Tiny Island that have been the reason for countless murders and wars and changes in religious trends.

I got to bear witness to centuries of traditions grafted from native beliefs onto imported rituals, a melding of spiritual, physical and legal forces compelling the people to their prescribed faiths.

I got to hear the story of religion used as a political vehicle over time, in turn redeeming and condemning followers, offering salvation and grace one minute, only to take it away at the whim of a ruling monarch and replace it with judgment and death.

I got to visit churches that swung wildly between different observations of faith and fell mercilessly on the people beneath them, seeking refuge. Places of comfort that became places of torture, and vice-verse.

I got to experience breathtaking landscapes, Kincaid cottages, adorable villages, intimidating fortresses, cozy chateaus, ancient metropolises, and in many places, the awkward clash of new and old, mixed up together in a land that still seeks to reconcile the bloody past with the enabled present. Elevators in 700 year old castles. Flushing toilets in rustic rock cottages. Glass Office Buildings alongside thatched roofs. These places know where they’re going but they’re careful to not forget where they have been.

These are dichotomies that we see rarely in our young nation. Old is torn down to acquiesce to new, and progress is not halted for tradition. We are the melting pot of the world, and rather than learning from our mistakes, we scorn them as erstwhile products of some other entity, and we start from scratch as though our slate was clean. We deny our torture chambers and internment camps and legacy of slavery.  We hide our face from the shame of bad rulers and poor legislative decisions. Granted, we have not the luxury of centuries to ease the pain of embarrassment, but the failures of our nation are carefully erased and tactfully avoided in polite conversation. And with the avoidance comes the perpetuation. Without looking back it is difficult to look forward, and we stay forever locked in our “just fine” state of being where equality is a trendy word and not a trend. So much we could learn from our cousins across the pond of adding the new to old and retaining the beauty that comes from gradual change through time. But we are young, we are impatient, we are revolutionaries. We’d prefer to knock down the whole tower of blocks and start over if it wasn’t constructed according to our tastes. We see no value in the experience of those who have gone before us, either for their successes or for their mistakes.

I have no idea where that ramble came from... sorry. But anyway, I feel like a pretty lucky girl for all the stuff I got to do, and I've got a lot more to write up

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